Last year, with the publication of Beren and Luthien, 93-year-old Christopher Tolkien believed he may have finally come to the end of editing and releasing his father J.R.R. Tolkien's tales from Middle-earth. This year, one more Tolkien book, containing one of his most important early stories, will be released.
The Fall of Gondolin, a story Tolkien called one of his three "Great Tales" of the "Elder Days" alongside Beren and Luthien and The Children of Hurin (published by Christopher in 2007), will be published by HarperCollins in August, the publisher announced Tuesday. Originally written while Tolkien was in the hospital after serving in the Battle of the Somme during World War I, it was described by the author himself as "the first real story of this imaginary world," and is described by Tolkien biographer John Garth (Tolkien and the Great War) as a clear precursor to the epic tales he would later produce, including The Lord of the Rings.
“It’s a quest story with a reluctant hero who turns into a genuine hero — it’s a template for everything Tolkien wrote afterwards,” Garth told The Guardian. “It has a dark lord, our first encounter with orcs and Balrogs — it’s really Tolkien limbering up for what he would be doing later.”
The "dark lord" in this case is Morgoth, one of the first beings created by the deity Eru. He was intended to help shape Arda, the world that includes Tolkien's Middle-earth, but betrayed his creator instead and sought to corrupt it. He's the Dark Lord so dark that he became Sauron's role model, essentially. In this particular story, Morgoth seeks to find and destroy the titular Elven (in this case, Noldorin Elves) city of Gondolin, but is opposed by the Valar known as Ulmo, the shaper and controller of the seas of Arda. So, it's a Dark Lord versus a Sea God, with the reluctant hero Tuor caught in between. Here's a snippet from the official synopsis:
Into this world comes Tuor, cousin of Túrin, the instrument of Ulmo's designs. Guided unseen by him Tuor sets out from the land of his birth on the fearful journey to Gondolin, and in one of the most arresting moments in the history of Middle-earth the sea-god himself appears to him, rising out of the ocean in the midst of a storm. In Gondolin he becomes great; he is wedded to Idril, Turgon's daughter, and their son is Eärendel, whose birth and profound importance in days to come is foreseen by Ulmo.
In addition to the heroic tale of Tuor and the powers of both Morgoth and Ulmo, the book includes what Garth calls Tolkien's "biggest battle narrative outside of The Lord of the Rings," as Morgoth sets upon Gondolin with his army of dark creatures including orcs, dragons, and Balrogs. The book will also include a "sketched out" version of "The Tale of Eärendel," a sequel of sorts to the story following the child of Tuor and his wife, Idril. Tolkien never actually wrote the full story, but Christopher Tolkien has compiled a version of it from various sources.
The Fall of Gondolin will be released on Aug. 30, and is available for pre-order now. If you're a Tolkien completist, this might actually be the last Middle-earth book we get, so you might want to add it to your list. Check out the cover by legendary Tolkien illustrator Alan Lee below.