Tolkien Gateway

Unfinished Tales

Unfinished Tales
of Númenor and Middle-earth
Unfinished Tales.jpg
AuthorJ.R.R. Tolkien
EditorChristopher Tolkien
PublisherGeorge Allen and Unwin (UK)
Houghton Mifflin (US)
Released2 October 1980 (UK)
18 November 1980 (US)
FormatHardcover; paperback; deluxe-edition; audio-book
Preceded byThe Silmarillion {1977)
Followed byThe Book of Lost Tales: Part One (1983)
"They say it is the first step that costs the effort. I do not find it so. I am sure I could write unlimited 'first chapters'. I have indeed written many."
― J.R.R. Tolkien on writing A Long-expected Party, and on his tendency to abandon and revisit his writings.[1]

Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth, or simply Unfinished Tales, is a collection of stories and essays by J.R.R. Tolkien that were never completed during his lifetime, but were edited by his son Christopher Tolkien and published in 1980.

Many of the tales within are retold in The Silmarillion, albeit in modified forms; the work also contains a summary of the events of The Lord of the Rings told from a less personal perspective.


[edit] Overview

Unlike The Silmarillion, also published posthumously (in 1977), for which the narrative fragments were modified to connect into a consistent and coherent work, the Unfinished Tales are presented as Tolkien left them, with little more than names changed (the author having had a confusing habit of trying out different names for a character while writing a draft). Thus some of these are incomplete stories, while others are collections of information about Middle-earth. Each tale is followed by a long series of notes explaining inconsistencies and obscure points.

As with The Silmarillion, Christopher Tolkien edited and published Unfinished Tales before he had finished his study of the materials in his father's archive. Unfinished Tales provides more detailed information about characters, events and places mentioned only briefly in The Lord of the Rings. Versions of such tales, including the origins of Gandalf and the other Istari (Wizards), the death of Isildur and the loss of the One Ring in the Gladden Fields, and the founding of the kingdom of Rohan, help expand knowledge about Middle-earth.

Of particular note is the tale of Tar-Aldarion and Erendis, the only known story of Númenor before its fall. A map of Númenor, the only one Tolkien ever made, is included in the book.

The commercial success of Unfinished Tales demonstrated that the demand for Tolkien's stories several years after his death was not only still present but growing. Encouraged by the result, Christopher Tolkien embarked upon the more ambitious twelve-volume work entitled The History of Middle-earth which encompasses nearly the entire corpus of his father's writings about Middle-earth.

[edit] Contents

  • Introduction
Part One: The First Age
Part Two: The Second Age
Part Three: The Third Age
Part Four

[edit] Inscriptions

There is an inscription in the Tengwar characters in the title page, it reads:

"In this book of unfinished tales by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien which was brought together by Christopher Reuel Tolkien his son are told many things of men and elves in Numenor and in Middle-Earth, from the Elder Days in Beleriand to the War of the Ring and an account is given of the Druedain, the Istari, and the Palantiri."

[edit] Publication history and gallery


  • George Allen & Unwin, 1st edition, 1980. ISBN 0048231797
  • Green cloth hardcover,1981. ISBN 0395299179
  • Unicorn/Unwin 1st Paperback edition, 1981. ISBN 0048232084
  • Unwin Hyman, Hardback in dustwrapper, 1st edition 8th impression,ISBN 0048231797
  • Unwin Paperbacks, 1987. ISBN 0048232084. Paperback. Cover illustration by Roger Garland.
  • Grafton, 1991. ISBN 0261102168. Paperback. Cover illustration by Roger Garland.
  • HarperCollins, 1992. ISBN 026110215X. Hardback in dustwrapper.
  • HarperCollins, 1993. ISBN 0261102168. Paperback. Cover illustration by John Howe.
  • HarperCollins, 1998. ISBN 0261103628 Paperback.
  • HarperCollins, 2000. ISBN 026110215X. Hardback in dustwrapper. Cover illustration by J.R.R.
  • HarperCollins for Book Club Associates, 2000. Paperback. Cover illustration by J.R.R. Tolkien.
  • HarperCollins, 2006. ISBN 026110215X Hardback in dustwrapper. Cover illustration by J.R.R. Tolkien.
  • HarperCollins, 2020. ISBN 9780358448921 Hardback in dustwrapper. Cover illustration by Alan Lee

[edit] See also


  1. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 23, (dated 17 February 1938)