Reviews for The Book of Lost Tales, Part Two, by J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien

traveling_in_books's review

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informative slow-paced

4.0

shardan's review

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challenging informative slow-paced

4.0

nwhyte's review

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3.0

https://nwhyte.livejournal.com/1654508.html

Second in the series edited by Christopher Tolkien. Here we are looking at two of the core stories of The Silmarillion, and several other narratives which were largely or completely set aside as Tolkien's work developed. I found the very first story, "The Tale of Tinúviel", particularly interesting. For the first time I was struck that it is a tale if love between one character with a short name starting with B and another with a longer name starting with T, whose father opposes the romance just as Tolkien's own guardian opposed his relationship with Edith Bratt. Beren goes off to prove himself in battle and returns maimed, as Tolkien returned with trench fever from the Great War (though after his marriage rather than before). And of course Tolkien was himself always explicit that Tinúviel's dancing in the forest was inspired by Edith dancing for him one day in 1917 when they were out in the woods near his base. His personal identification with this particular story can be seen on his tombstone. I was always a bit disappointed that the version in The Silmarillion doesn't convey much emotional freight, but The Book of Lost Tales is worth getting for this chapter alone.

(We also meet the earliest version of Sauron, as Tivaldo the evil king of cats and servant of Melko, a counterpart to Beren's heroic dog.)

The other story treated in depth here is "Turambar and the Foalókë", which however has since been published in a pretty definitive format as The Children of Húrin; I found the joins between Beowulf, Kullervo and Tolkien's own imagination much more visible here.

The most interesting of the other chapters is "The Tale of Eärendel", another story which is curiously flat in The Silmarillion, a lost tale that underlies a fair bit of Middle Earth mythology but never seems to have found a definite written form; one almost senses Tolkien feeling more comfortable with it inside his head, so that Bilbo and Aragorn could make in-jokes about it in Rivendell, rather than spoiling it by putting too much down on paper.

(Also a shout out for "The Fall of Gondolin", with its gripping account of hand-to-hand combat as the city is taken.)
Despite the density of the prose I have found both Lost Tales volumes fairly quick reading, Tolkien's prose being as fluent in his twenties as it was later in his life, and Christopher Tolkien's annotations being complete enough to satisfy curiosity without being overwhelming. I'm glad to have got back into this series of books.

pcarney's review

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3.0

It took me like a month but I did it! I enjoyed the different versions of familiar stories - Beren and Luthien (though clearly JRRT was not a fan of cats, boo on him), the Fall of Gondolin, the Nauglafring, and the Tale of Earendel. I don't think I'll ever enjoy reading about disaster-man Turin and I did not care at all for Eriol's tale and the whole, let's try and make this England, glad JRRT seemed to let go of a lot of that as time went on.

bookaneer's review

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4.0

Well, the reason I read this book is because Richard Armitage, the actor who plays Thorin in The Hobbit, has read it. If he is fluent in Tolkien lores, then why can't I? :-)

The story that I wanted to read is actually the Nauglafring (Necklace of the Dwarves). But it was interesting as well to read a more thorough version (at least from the version told in The Silmarillion) of Beren-Luthien's and Turin Turambar's stories. I found out that Beren was a gnome (don't freak out yet, gnome here apparently means that he was one of the Noldors) and that he was helpless without Luthien went to rescue him and left her kingdom shattered, broke her parents' hearts and her brother lost. Spoiled brat. Melian should have put her girdle around that girl. Anyway, Turin's story is awesome, it's always is. Children of Hurin, if you haven't read it then fly you fools to the nearest book store! Sad, extremely harrowing. Tolkien at his best.

And then came the story of Nauglafring. A bit shorter that what I expected but alright. It explained to me the origin of the enmity between the elves and the dwarves. Both sides were wrong, that's the gist. The elves were ungrateful SOBs and the dwarves clearly overreacted. Alliance with the orcs? Seriously, guys.

Then the book went downhill for me. The Tale of Earendil was really boring. Or maybe because there were just so many versions of it in one chapter so it became hellishly repetitive. And I still didn't understand why he got separated from Elwing and why she drowned.

The weirdest part from the book to me is not the scholarly remarks and analysis given by Christopher Tolkien on various subjects from etymology of names to different versions of poems, but it was the fact that Elves became fairies. So while Men were getting more evil and stuff, Elves were fading, became transparent and smaller, until finally Men could not see them. I had a feeling by then that there would be some connection made with the real (our) world. And I was right. So apparently Tol Eressea is now the modern day England! Weird huh? So that confirms the theory that Middle Earth is now the modern day continental Europe. Ha! Can you guess which country is Hobbitton? Mordor?

Anyway, this is not a book for everyone. You have to at least read The Silmarillion first. And you gotta love Tolkien alot.

regitzexenia's review

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4.0

The story of Lúthien Tinúviel and Beren is probably one of my favourite of Tolkien's stories. And for that reason alone, I love this book. It presents several version of the story, esentially the same but with important and characteristic differences. And a different version still it the one found in The Silmarillion, but more on that book.

I think, on the whole, I like the stories in this book better than the stories in part I. But they're all connected and I think it is an important strength to this entire story of characters telling each other important myths and tales from their Peoples. You really can't read part II, without having read part I, I believe. At least you get a very different persepctive on the tales of part II, if you haven't read part I.

I think the most interesting stories in part II is the ones that aren't written. The last two tales that is, they're mostly notes and outlines and plans of Tolkien's for stories he wanted to write. Some exist in the form of poems, some don't. But really, they're ridiculously interesting. And if I remember correctly, feature in The Silmarillion, but as it has been years, I can't say for sure.

Christopher Tolkien does a marvelous job of stitching the tales together from various manuscripts of his father's, J . R. R. Tolkien, and with the help of a well-structured note section following each tale, as well as a commentary manages to bring back a large portion of the stories that J. R. R. Tolkien wrote in the trenches of WWI. And which was, many many years later, to become The Silmarillion, simplified: the origin on Middle-earth as we know it from LotR and the history of the elves. And thus, reading these books has made me want to reread The Silmarillion, but that probably is a way off.

NB: when I simply write "Tolkien", I of course refer to J. R. R. Tolkien.

For more thoughts on Lost Tales, see my review of Part I here.
Also reviewed together on my blog Bookish Love Affair.

ashd5545's review

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I’m not exactly sure how I would rate this (which is why I’m not). The language could be stiff and a tad boring at times, which is understandable, since Lost Tales are centered around the earlier drafts and ideas of Tolkien’s stories, most of which end up in the Silmarillion.
I will say it was fascinating seeing the changes and also seeing where some of the drafts were going.
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