Edited by his son Christopher, Tolkiens tale of a reluctant hero defending a city was written while the author was in hospital after the Battle of the Somme

JRR Tolkiens The Fall of Gondolin, his tale of a beautiful, mysterious city destroyed by dark forces which The Lord of the Rings author called the first real story of Middle-earth, will be published in August.

The Fall of Gondolin will be the second new Tolkien work to be released in two years, following the release of Beren and Lthien in May 2017. Edited by Tolkiens son Christopher Tolkien, and illustrated by The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings artist Alan Lee, its announcement came as a surprise even to Tolkien scholars: Christopher Tolkien, who is now 93, had described Beren and Lthien in a preface as (presumptively) my last book in the long series of editions of my fathers writings.

That preface had a certain valedictory quality to it he was reminiscing about his first encounter with his fathers work, said John Garth, author of Tolkien and the Great War. But here it is.

Garth said the story was written by Tolkien while he was in hospital and convalescing directly after the Battle of the Somme. Its a quest story with a reluctant hero who turns into a genuine hero its a template for everything Tolkien wrote afterwards, he said. It has a dark lord, our first encounter with orcs and balrogs its really Tolkien limbering up for what he would be doing later.

The book, said publisher HarperCollins, sets the uttermost evil of Morgoth against the sea-god Ulmo. Morgoth is trying to discover and destroy the hidden city of Gondolin, while Ulmo is supporting the Noldor, the kindred of the elves who live in the city.

The story follows one of the Noldor, Tuor, who sets out to find Gondolin; during his journey, he experiences what the publisher described as one of the most arresting moments in the history of Middle-earth: when Ulmo, the sea-god, rises out of the ocean during a storm.

When Tuor arrives in Gondolin, he becomes a great man and the father of Erendel, an important character in Tolkiens The Silmarillion. But Morgoth attacks, with Balrogs, dragons and orcs, and as the city falls, Tuor, his wife Idril and the child Erendel escape, looking back from a cleft in the mountains as they flee southward, at the blazing wreckage of their city.

They were journeying into a new story, the Tale of Erendel, which Tolkien never wrote, but which is sketched out in this book from other sources, said HarperCollins.

Timeline

JRR Tolkien

3 January 1892

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien is born in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

1896

Tolkien’s father dies. His wife and sons, John and younger brother Hilary, come to England and settle in the west Midlands. Tolkien attends King Edward’s School for boys, Birmingham.

1900

The family is received into the Roman Catholic church.

1904

Tolkien’s mother dies.

1911

Tolkien goes to Exeter College, Oxford to study classics, Old English and Germanic languages, receiving a second-class degree which he later increases to a first.

1914

Tolkien enlists as a second lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers, and writes in his spare time.

1916

Marries Edith Bratt in Warwick. He fights in the Battle of the Somme, catches trench fever and is shipped back to Birmingham to recuperate in hospital.

1918

Appointed assistant lexicographer on the New English Dictionary, soon to become the Oxford English Dictionary.

1920

Becomes reader in English language at the University of Leeds.

1922

Publishes A Middle English Vocabulary, which makes his name as a scholar in the field.

1925

Publishes a translation of the medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, with fellow academic EV Gordon, and becomes professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University.

1930

Tolkien creates an informal writing group, called The Inklings, with a group of Oxford friends among them CS Lewis, Owen Barfield and Charles Williams. They meet every Tuesday morning at a pub, The Eagle and Child, for conversation, drinking, and readings from their work-in-progress. One day, while marking examination papers, Tolkien discovers that a candidate has left one page of an answer-book blank. On it, he writes: “In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit.”

1936

A publishing assistant reads the incomplete typescript of The Hobbit and urges Tolkien to finish it. He gives a landmark lecture, The Monsters and the Critics, which is a trenchant look at the critical tradition on Beowulf: Tolkien argues that scholars focus too much on historical inaccuracies rather than celebrating the beauty of its language.

1937

The Hobbit is published to great enthusiasm, and receives several awards, including the prestigious New York Herald Tribune prize as the year’s best children’s book.

1938

Tolkien’s publishers seek a follow-up, and he submits The Silmarillion, his epic history of the characters that later appear in The Lord of the Rings. However, his publisher George Unwin declares it “commercially unpublishable”. It finally appears in 1977.

1949

Tolkien publishes Farmer Giles of Ham, an Arthurian fairytale.

1954

The first part of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, is published to mixed reviews. Leading critic Edmund Wilson dismisses it as “balderdash”, but poet WH Auden compares it to Paradise Lost: “For anyone who likes the genre to which it belongs, the Heroic Quest, I cannot imagine a more wonderful Christmas present… No fiction I have read in the last five years has given me more joy.” Fellow Inkling CS Lewis also gives it a rave review.

1955

The second and third parts of The Lord of The Rings are published: The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

1959

Tolkien retires from his professorship.

1962

Publishes a poetry collection, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil.

1964

A collection of essays and poems, Tree and Leaf.

1965

American readers discover The Lord of the Rings via an unauthorised paperback version and it is adopted it as the bible of the “alternative society”.

1967

Publishes a fairytale, Smith of Wootton Major.

1971

Edith dies, and Tolkien returns to Oxford.

2 September 1973

Tolkien dies.

1977

The Silmarillion is finally published, edited by Tolkien’s son Christopher.

1995

Roverandom, a story Tolkien wrote for his family about a dog who is turned into a toy by a wizard, is published with the author’s own illustrations.

1997

The Lord of the Rings comes top in four separate polls of books of the century; The Hobbit is close behind.

Garth said The Fall of Gondolin contains Tolkiens biggest battle narrative outside of The Lord of the Rings, but he predicted the capstone of the book would be the exquisite piece of writing in which Tolkien attempted to tell the whole story again, in the novelistic style of The Lord of the Rings. In the first [finished version] of the story, you feel like youre reading The Iliad, he said. This one [which is unfinished], is more naturalistic.

According to HarperCollins, Tolkien saw The Fall of Gondolin as one of his three great tales of the Elder Days, along with Beren and Lthien and The Children of Hrin. The latter title was also a bestseller, after Christopher Tolkien completed the text left behind by his father and published it in 2007.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/apr/10/the-fall-of-gondolin-new-jrr-tolkien-book-to-be-published-in-2018