When J.R.R. Tolkien died in 1973, he left behind mountains of notes, poetry, and stories set within his larger Middle-earth fantasy world that he never got around to finishing. Since then, Tolkien’s son Christopher has worked to edit and collect his father’s writings, which became posthumous books, like The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, that built and expanded the world that we see in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. More recently, we’ve been seeing more standalone novels based on those manuscripts, such as The Children of Húrin, and 2016’s The Tale of Beren and Lúthien. Now, Christopher Tolkien has announced the release of a new standalone Middle-earth tale: The Fall of Gondolin.
The story is one of the first that Tolkien wrote when he started dabbling with the larger world as he recovered from the injuries he sustained during World War I. In his book Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth, John Garth wrote that this period of inactivity allowed his ideas for a fantasy world to come together. The Fall of Gondolin “came out of his head almost fully formed,” he explains, and it “established the moral parameters of Tolkien’s world, enshrining aspects of good and evil in faery races and demiurgic beings who are locked in perpetual conflict.” Like the story of Beren and Lúthien, the writing that will become The Fall of Gondolin helped shape the larger world that he would eventually set his more famous works in.
First published as part of a collection of Tolkien’s earlier writings, Book of Lost Tales, the story is about the founding of a secret Elvish city named Gondolin by an Elvish king named Turgon, the arrival of Tuor (grandfather of Elrond, the Lord of Rivendell, who was first seen in The Lord of the Rings), and the betrayal of the city to Morgoth — an evil spirit that preceded Sauron — by Turgon’s nephew Maeglin. Shaun Gunner, the chair of the Tolkien Society, says that they never “dared to dream that we would see this published. The Fall of Gondolin is, to many in the Tolkien community, the Holy Grail of Tolkien texts as one of Tolkien’s three Great Tales.”
While Tolkien began the story shortly after the First World War, he ultimately set it aside, only to return to it in the 1950s, with the intention of writing it “in the novelistic style of The Lord of the Rings,” Garth told The Guardian. Tolkien never finished the story before his death, which meant he never officially finished writing the actual fall of the city. When he included it in The Book of Lost Tales, Christopher Tolkien noted that its unfinished nature was “one of the saddest facts in the whole history of incompletion.” With this new release, that story will finally have an ending, pulled together and assembled from rough material from various versions of the story, decades after it was first begun.
The Fall of Gondolin will hit stores on August 30th, 2018.