The Peoples of Middle Earth

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The Peoples of Middle Earth is the twelfth and final volume of the History of Middle Earth series by JRR Tolkien.

The History of Middle Earth is a collection of the previously unpublished (and most unfinished) writings of JRR Tolkien. The texts were collected and edited by the author’s son, Christopher Tolkien, and released approximately one per year between 1983 and 1996.

The final volume, The Peoples of Middle Earth, primarily concerns the writing of the “Appendices” to The Lord of the Rings that appear at the end of The Return of the King.

This volume, like the previous volumes, is broken into sections to easily separate unrelated writings.

The Peoples of Middle Earth contains:

  • Part One: The Prologue and Appendices to The Lord of the Rings
  • Part Two: Late Writings
  • Part Three: Teaching of Pengolod
  • Part Four: Unfinished Tales

PART ONE: THE PROLOGUE AND APPENDICES TO THE LORD OF THE RINGS

Part One, concerning the writing of the Prologue and Appendices of the LotR, is by far the most substantial section of the book, consisting of nearly 300 of the book’s 480 text pages.

This section takes on the task of documenting and presenting the Appendices in their earlier versions and tracing the development of certain themes and ideas.

Given the scope of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien knew that he needed to fill in the blanks of his created history, especially those of the Second and Early Third Age.

He needed to know more about hobbits, genealogies, “The Last Alliance of Men & Elves”, the Ring, how the descendants of Númenoreans had come to Middle Earth, the end of the Second Age, and the Chronology of the Third Age up to the point that the Lord of the Rings narrative begins.

This was information that was essential to the story itself, and information that Tolkien felt would be of interest to his readers. He decided, therefore, to publish this material as numerous “Appendices” to the finished text, and they appeared as the “postscript” to The Return of the King.

These texts include the early drafts of:

  • The Prologue
  • The Appendix on Languages
  • The Family Trees
  • The Calendars
  • The History of the Akallabêth (Downfall of Númenor)
  • The Tale of Years of the Second Age
  • The Heirs of Elendil
  • The Tale of Years of the Third Age
  • The Making of Appendix A – Covering the wealth of revisions that took place after The Lord of the Rings had been assured of publication.

PART TWO: LATE WRITINGS

The second part of The Peoples of Middle Earth concerns itself with some of the Professor’s late writings (most dating, according to the editor, after 1969). These are essays on the nature of some of the Middle Earth’s inhabitants, consisting of:

  • Of Dwarves and Men – An essay providing some information on the development of the languages of Dwarves and Men, “arising from consideration of the Book of Mazarbul” (PoME pg 295).
  • The Shibboleth of Fëanor – An essay exploring linguistics and the “historical phonology…in Quenya” (C. Tolkien, PoME pg 331).
  • The Problem of Ros – One of the details that obsessed Tolkien late in his life was the consistency of his invented languages and the importance he attached to names. Tolkien felt that all of his character names must be linguistically significant. This essay is an attempt to trace the significance of the ending “ros” (Elros, Maedros).
  • Last Writings – Essays exploring some questions such as the Istari, Glorfindel of Gondolin/Glorfindel of Rivendell, and Círdan the Shipwright.

PART THREE: THE TEACHINGS OF PENGOLOD

This is a short tale concerning Pengolod of Gondolin’s response to Ælfwine of England concerning the sundering of the Elven tongues.

PART FOUR: UNFINISHED TALES

Part Four concerns some unfinished text that Tolkien began sometime in the 1950’s, and written as a sequel to The Lord of the Rings,. It is only a few pages long, set “one hundred and five years…since the fall of the Dark Tower” and quickly abandoned because, as he noted in his Letters no 256), “it proved both sinister and depressing”.

The second of these “Unfinished Tales” is called “Tal-Elmar” and is set in the Second Age, before the fall of Númenor, and written from the point of view of the “Wild Men” of Middle Earth who witness the arrival of Númenoreans on their shores.

The Peoples of Middle Earth concludes The History of Middle Earth.

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