This is not a review.
I pre-ordered this book back when it first came available to do so, and it dropped into my hands on the day of release. According to Christopher Tolkien, The Fall of Gondolin was the first story his father ever wrote for the canon of Middle-Earth. With the publication of this book, it becomes the third and final collection of the “great trilogy” of Middle-Earth tales from the era of The Silmarillion.
It occurred to me this morning as I was pouring my first cup of coffee… this may very well be the final book we get from J. R. R. Tolkien or Christopher Tolkien. Why did I think about that today? Then it struck me. The world lost Professor Tolkien 45 years ago today. It happens to be exactly four months before I was born, but that’s neither here nor there.
To consider all that Professor Tolkien achieved in his lifetime, and all that he left unpublished is astounding in and of itself. To consider how much has been published since his passing thanks to Christopher Tolkien… I am truly awed and humbled. Some authors are capable of quality, others produce quantity. So very few ever get both, especially with a multi-generational effort. Middle-Earth is, to my mind, the greatest literary achievement of the 20th century. It may be the greatest example of single-creator world building ever conceived in fiction. And then to consider how much more beyond Middle-Earth was offered, my mind is blown. Much of my love of the Middle-Ages comes from Professor Tolkien. I was able to read Beowulf because he translated it first. My appreciation for the stories of Arthur and Camelot are most certainly enhanced because of the tales and commentaries I’ve read from the professor. This includes my favorite novel, The Lord of the Rings. I was doing rabbit hole research in a library from a young age, before I knew the name of Tolkien. Today, much of my research is inspired by Tolkien. My personal library has an entire section devoted just to his works.
As I drink my coffee this morning and write this, I’m listening to The Lord of the Rings: The Complete Songs and Poems, a four-disc musical production from The Tolkien Ensemble. I thumb through The Fall of Gondolin, admiring the lavish art from the maestro Alan Lee, basking in Tolkien’s poems in musical form, and it makes me stop and consider the legacy of Gondolin, both in story and in our own world. More than a century after this journey began for Tolkien, it comes full circle, perhaps to a close.
I don’t know if there words to express what I feel now that I’ve made this realization. It’s not sadness. I don’t feel like it’s goodbye, especially since I’ll be reading Tolkien for the rest of my days and probably still writing about him just as long, uncovering new layers. Nostalgia, perhaps? That bittersweet understanding that all of what was available may at last now be offered? I really don’t know. I only know it feels anything but empty. It’s the kind of creative greatness that is endlessly inspiring.