The story of Middle-Earth is far from over. Just as Amazon builds its massive $500 million Lord of the Rings TV series, the family of J.R.R. Tolkien is still churning out new books for the legendarium as well. Later this year, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will publish The Fall of Gondolin, a new unpublished story of Middle-Earth edited and revised into book form by Tolkien’s son Christopher.
The title may sound familiar to Tolkien fans, as the destruction of the hidden city of Gondolin is referenced in The Silmarillion. Here it is again for both the uninitiated and the forgetful: During the years that the dark lord Morgoth (Sauron’s predecessor and mentor) reigned supreme in Middle-Earth, his fellow godlike Valar refused to intervene against him on behalf of the peoples of Middle-Earth. Only Ulmo, the Lord of Waters, worked in secret to help the Noldorin Elves. The Noldor stronghold is the beautiful city of Gondolin, built to be undiscoverable by Morgoth’s forces. Ulmo guides a man named Tuor (cousin of the doomed Turin Turambar) to Gondolin, where he grows into a great hero and marries Idril, daughter of Gondolin’s King Turgon. Soon, however, Morgoth finds Gondolin and his armies lay waste to the city in one of the most epic battle scenes Tolkien ever depicted (including, among other things, the noble Elf Glorfindel dying in battle against a Balrog). Tuor and Idril are among the few who escape, along with their with the child Eärendel. That half-Elf, half-human child will go on to have a great destiny. Tolkien never actually wrote The Tale of Eärendel, but The Fall of Gondolin will contain Christopher’s best sketch of it based on his father’s outlines.
In the wake of Tolkien’s death in 1973, his son Christopher took on the role of analyzing, compiling, and editing the corpus of unfinished Middle-Earth work into something approximating his father’s original version. The first product of this was 1977’s The Silmarillion, the epic story of the myths that made Middle-Earth long before Frodo and the Ring ever showed up. Since then, Christopher has taken some of the specific stories told in The Silmarillion and given them their own full-length book treatments — reconstructing the story to the best of his ability and also walking the reader through the process of reconciling different versions left by Tolkien. The first of these was The Children of Húrin in 2007, followed by Beren and Lúthien last year. In his preface to Beren and Lúthien, Christopher suggested it might be his final work, but now The Fall of Gondolin will complete this trilogy. Like its two predecessors, The Fall of Gondolin will contain drawings and color plates by Alan Lee, who won the 2004 Academy Award for Best Art Direction for his work on Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films.
The Fall of Gondolin is due out Aug. 30 in the U.S. from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.