Goodreads: The Fall of Númenor
Age Category: Adult
Collects previously published material to present the Fall of Númenor, as well as other events of the Second Age, such as the forging of the Rings of Power, in chronological order. Illustrated by Alan Lee.
The Fall of Númenor contains no previously unpublished material, instead compiling excerpts from The Silmarillion, The Lord of the Rings, The History of Middle-Earth, The Nature of Middle-earth, and J. R. R. Tolkien’s letters in an attempt to present a (sort of) cohesive account of the Second Age of Middle-earth in one place. While it seems likely that this volume was commissioned mostly to profit off the release of The Rings of Power, the concept still has a certain appeal. Even many avid Tolkien fans have not read The Silmarillion or The History of Middle-earth, and those who have may appreciate having the material together in one volume. Brian Sibley’s editing admittedly does not seem to have the same easiness as Christopher Tolkien’s, but I suspect most readers will overlook that and enjoy the story–not to mention the beautiful illustrations by the iconic Alan Lee.
Having read most of the books that the material for The Fall of Númenor comes from, I was initially hesitant about this volume, and even the necessity of its existence. If it has come down to simply repackaging Tolkien’s previously published works, I worry that fans are being taken advantage of by an industry that simply wants to milk Tolkien for everything he is worth. Sibley’s editorial notes, after all, did not add anything to my reading experience or give me any greater insight into Tolkien’s world or writings.
And I frankly found the editing confusing–sometimes the smaller text indicates that Sibley is interjecting (mostly to summarize what readers had just read or were going to read–as if they cannot be trusted to comprehend it themselves), but sometimes the smaller text actually is J. R. R. Tolkien’s own words from letters he wrote, and at least once the small text indicates an editorial intervention Christopher Tolkien had apparently made in a different book. The writer is never clearly delineated, and I sometimes had difficulty figuring out if the editorial interjections were meant to be part of a cohesive story, were just for fun, or were an attempt to squeeze in every single mention of a particular object ever made in a text by Tolkien, so readers could be impressed by all the hard editorial work. Because, honestly, quoting Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings just never seemed to make sense in context, unless an editor was trying to be a completionist and catch every reference ever made.
What really made me appreciate the work is, not surprisingly, Tolkien’s writing. The Fall of Númenor brought me back to Middle-earth, and I relived all the wonder and drama and magic that I have come to know and love from Tolkien’s writings. Even though I was familiar with much of the content already, I found I did appreciate having it one place–despite knowing that the story would never be complete or cohesive, since Tolkien never finished it. There is still enough to immerse readers in a gripping tale, equally full of joy and sorrow.
I also loved the hardcover volume itself, with the illustrations by Alan Lee and the ribbon bookmark. Each chapter starts with a sketch, and there is even some blue text to make the font fancy. Collectors will likely not be disappointed by the format, even if there is no new material.
So, readers who are unfamiliar with the events of the Second Age, or who want it all in one easily accessible place will likely enjoy this volume! The History of Middle-earth is, after all, usually considered more suited to a scholarly audience than a general one, and even avid fans have not all read all the volumes. The Fall of Númenor, meanwhile, while not exactly for a general audience like The Hobbit is, still reads enough like a story that the average Tolkien fan can likely follow it and appreciate it.
(Side Note: Fans of The Rings of Power should be aware that the show did not have the rights to Tolkien’s writings aside from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Consequently, most of the show’s plot points were created by the showrunners. The Fall of Númenor bears little resemblance to The Rings of Power.)
6 thoughts on “The Fall of Númenor by J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. by Brian Sibley”
I think that I’m definitely going to add this to my wishlist in the hope that it appears for my birthday. Thanks for an interesting and useful review.
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Birthday books are the best books! 😀
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Great review! I have the children of Hurin but nothing else that isn’t part of LOTR/Hobbit so this sounds interesting. I feel like the editing would drive me nuts though!
Yes, I enjoyed this more than I thought I would! I do now miss Christopher Tolkien’s editing, though.
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For the most part, I liked it. I probably would have integrated quotes from The Lord of the Rings differently and maybe tried harder to integrate it into one narrative (for instance, when looking at the “Concerning Galadriel and Celeborn” section, I might have edited it to be consistent with “Of Amroth and Nimrodel” which was written later (although when talking about the history of Galadriel and Celeborn, I suppose we should not expect it to make sense). I might have also given it a different name. However, it seemed a good enough place to start for those unfamiliar with the Second Age if they have finished The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and perhaps The Silmarillion but do not want to tackle the History of Middle-Earth series.