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Previously Unseen Middle Earth Essays BY J.R.R. Tolkien to Be Published in 2021


Elijah Wood in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

One would think, after four books and multiple appendices published during his lifetime and four works published posthumously, that everything J.R.R. Tolkien wrote about Middle Earth would be out there, but one would be wrong. A previously unpublished series of essays by the father of modern fantasy will hit shelves in 2021 and delve into all the questions you still might have about Middle Earth.

The Nature of Middle Earth will be released next June from HarperCollins and will contain several essays—on, yes, the nature of Middle Earth—that have never been seen before. The publication will be overseen by the Tolkien estate, and the collection will be edited by Carl F. Hostetter, a Tolkien expert who has the coolest nerd title I’ve ever seen: “head of the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship.” That’s really a thing, and it’s awesome!

Tolkien first published The Hobbit in 1937 and returned to Middle Erth in The Lord of the Rings in 1954 and 1955, but that was just the beginning of his writings on the Fantasy realm. Tolkien continued writing about Middle Earth until his death in 1973, and as his works and the world he created only grew more popular over the years, much of that work has slowly been published.

Most of Tolkien’s posthumous output was overseen by his son, Christopher, who passed away in January of this year at age 95. The first posthumous work was The Silmarillion, which was published in 1977. That was followed in 1980 by Unfinished Tales and then History of Middle Earth, both of which contained fragmentary content of what was essentially Tolkien’s drafts folder. Following the success of the Peter Jackson films, however, The Children of Húrin was published in 2007. Other Tolkien translations and poems have also be published since.

And still, there’s more that we’ll see very soon! The new material due out next summer will deal with new topics, which, according to the announcement in The Guardian, will include things like the geography and zoology of Númenor and Gondor, the nature of the god-like spirits of Middle Earth known as the Valar, and of course … beards.

Yes. Indeed, who could grow a beard is a hot-button issue in Middle Earth scholarship, mainly in regards to whether Elves can grow them and the even more controversial question of whether Dwarven women grow beards. I personally am particularly interested in that one! The release next summer may also coincide with renewed interest in Middle Earth thanks to Amazon’s forthcoming Lord of the Rings series, set in the second age.

Now, if only we can get Tolkien’s take on what he thought about Leoonard Nimoy’s 1967 hit “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.”

That’s the real mystery.

(images: New Line Cinema)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.