The Book of Lost Tales Vol 1. by J.R.R. Tolkien

Sorry for the silence on the book blog, my friends. I’ve been working very hard on my own manuscript, editing it to get it to betas and working on reading some friend’s manuscripts. I haven’t been reading much. This may continue for a few weeks, as I have two books to beta for friends and I’m far from finishing my edit. Please be patient with me. I’ve got so many great books to read!

book of lost tales 1

My last read was The Book of Lost Tales. Here is the link to Goodreads, and below is the blurb.

The Book of Lost Tales stands at the beginning of the entire conception of Middle-earth and Valinor, for the Tales were the first form of the myths and legends that came to be called The Simarillion. Embedded in English legend and English association, they are set in the narritive frame of a great westward voyage over the Ocean by a mariner named Eriol (or AElfwine) to Tol Eressëa, the Lonely Isle, where Elves dwelt; from them he learned their true history, the Lost Tales of Elfinesse. In the Tales are found the earlies accounts and original ideas of Gods and Elves, Dwarves, Balrogs and Orcs; of the Silmarils and the Two Trees of Valinor; of Nargothrond and Gondolin; of the geography and cosmology of the invented world.

I’m sorry. I’m starting with a major rant. After a few of the tales, I quit reading the notes. As usual with these Lord of the Ring Prequels, the editors and compilers  abandoned their  job for a painful obsession with minutiae. Christopher Tolkien treats Middle Earth like a history subject instead of a world filled with stories. I hate to tell him this, but his father, besides being a professor and creator of an amazing world was a STORYTELLER. Christopher Tolkien doesn’t give a flying frak about storytelling. He interrupts the beginning and middle spot between tales to tell us how they were connected, what kind of a notebook they were written in and all abut the original form of the story before J.R.R. Tolkien revised them – known as the first draft, and totally unnecessary to present to the reader. At the end of each story, he gives an endless list of name changes the characters went through during the story revision process (in paragraph form). He also compares the stories you just read with stories you know nothing about (stories that come later and the tales or the Silmarillion, which I have read but have not memorized.) It. Is. Painful. The tales should have been edited, given forth as they were in their final edited form, with MAYBE a footnote here and there to say “If you’ve read the Silmarillion you will realize that A and B have changed after revision.” In the case of multiple versions, they should have chosen a fricking version and stuck with it, rather than giving us  multiple paragraphs written in multiple  ways. I mean, he has footnotes to make note of changes to sentences. He does the same thing with poems – in one case listing three different versions of the same poem.

Sorry. Rant over. On the tales themselves. We meet our main character, Eriol, who is traveling in Tol Erresea, the land of the elves. Did you know Tolkien originally called them gnomes? Eriol comes across the Cottage of Lost Play – the singular best name ever given to a house. Even better the Wellinghome (Treebeard’s house) or even “the last homely house east of the sea” – which is more of a description than the actual name, but Imladris or Rivendell might be a better name… anyway. He meets all kinds of magical folk and hears the stories of the creation of the Ainur, a few of whom  became known as the Valar (who became like gods) when they went to Valinor (kind of the garden of Eden) on Earth (our planet) after Iluvatar (THE God) creates it. The gods bop around for awhile, mucking around with the raw materials Iluvatar has left them, and trying to overcome the treacheries of Melko (a fallen Ainur who is pretty much like Satan) Then come the awakening of the elves, and long after, men. After awhile, staying among the elves and hearing their stories, Eriol wants to drink the magic drink, limpe and stay with them forever. He is told to be patient, to wait; that he has not been among them long enough to make that decision. Because once he drinks the limpe, he cannot leave. He needs to hear the long sad tale of the darkening of Valinor and the decline of the elves.

It is a sad story. And a bit of a confusing one, as the story kept changing and Christopher Tolkien keeps pointing it out. In short, Melko, who is like Satan with a little Loki thrown in, is jealous of the elves. Especially when they start making pretty stuff out of twinkle-light and the mists off the water, and the light dripping from the magical trees. He pretends  he wants no part of it, but in his jealousy, he wants to make the elves unhappy. He tells them they are being kept captive by the Valinor, and peppers in some lies and half-truths about the outside world. He even teaches them some things that only the gods should know, which lessens their happiness. Some of them listen, some don’t. Then some of the elves decide to go to the big god, Manwe, and ask him for permission to leave. Melko knows this is going to come back on him, as the elves aren’t supposed to know some of the things Melko has taught them. So Melko goes to Manwe first and tells him that the elves question his rule and judgement, and that they have been saying they should be held equal to the Valar, being first of Iluvatar’s beings awoken on the earth. Manwe, who should know better in my opinion, is not in the mood to listen to the elves when they come. The elves go away with their bums stinging from a paddling, and their discontent continues to grow.

The story gets sadder from there. For all their beauty and ability, the elves are doomed, as we know from Lord of the Rings. The coming of men only muddies the waters further. There is more treachery, kinslaying, jewel-stealing, love, death, etc. I really enjoyed the tales, but I strongly suggest you either don’t read the notes after the stories, or just skim them. Reading them is like trying to learn German while hearing nothing but French. And you only speak English.

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2 thoughts on “The Book of Lost Tales Vol 1. by J.R.R. Tolkien

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