Date of Publication: 1980, Houghton-Mifflin
Number of Pages: 472, including appendices and index
Synopsis (from back cover): A New York Times bestseller for twenty-one weeks upon publication, Unfinished Tales is a collection of narratives ranging in time from the Elder Days of Middle-earth to the end of the War of the Ring, and further relates events as told in The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings.
The book concentrates on the lands of Middle-earth and comprises Gandalf’s lively account of how he came to send the Dwarves to the celebrated party at Bag End, the story of the emergence of the sea-god Ulmo before the eyes of Tuor on the coast of Beleriand, and an exact description of the military organization of the Riders of Rohan and the journey of the Black Riders during the hunt for the Ring.
Unfinished Tales also contains the only surviving story about the long ages of Númenor before its downfall, and all that is known about the Five Wizards sent to Middle-earth as emissaries of the Valar, about the Seeing Stones known as the Palantiri, and about the legend of Amroth.
Review: For fans of Tolkien and his mythology, this is an indispensable work. Unfinished Tales provides incredible details about many aspects of The Lord of the Rings, such as the hunt for the One Ring and how the Ringwraiths got to the Shire. There is also a history of Galadriel and Celeborn, a full account of Tuor’s journey to Gondolin, the history of the Wizards, and the history of the long friendship between Gondor and Rohan, as told in “Cirion and Eorl”. All readers of Tolkien must read this collection if they are going to understand Middle-earth and its history and people.
One can read this book as a companion to The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, or The Hobbit, but it can also be read on its own. There are notes from Christopher Tolkien which explain the progress of each story, and the different versions of them. The only complaint I have is that my edition only provides a general map of Middle-earth, after the breaking of the West. There is no map of Beleriand. But there is a map of Númenor, and it’s a great help as a reference when reading “A Description of the Island of Númenor”. I had a lot of fun reading this again, and I found the stories, which are found almost nowhere else (with the exception of the “Narn I Hîn Húrin”, the history of Turin Turumbar). I would recommend this not only to hard-core readers of Tolkien, but also those who are simply curious about the history of Middle-earth.