It has been my privilege to review most of the posthumously published dozen or so Middle-earth-related books by J.R.R. Tolkien. Like many another young reader, I finished “The Lord of the Rings” (sometime in the 1960s) and saw mentioned in the appendices that there was more. More? “The Silmarillion” was described there as the history of the First and Second Ages of Middle Earth . I immediately began sending letters to the author — to “Mr. Tolkien, Oxford, England,” if I remember — begging for more information. A few thin, blue aerogram letters arrived to be read and reread, shared to tatters with fellow fans, until the last one arrived, in May of 1973, in which Tolkien “despaired of ‘The Silmarillion’ ever seeing the light of day.” Three months later, September 3, 1973, the BBC announced that the great man had died. As with the death of Kennedy, I recall exactly where I was, what I was wearing, what book I was holding, when I heard the news that this author whose work had enthralled me (and inspired me to study philology and Old English) had slipped away. A few months later, we learned that on his tombstone, carved […]

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