Greetings and welcome to my Book Discussion! So, I’ve been hearing that a lot of people got Nature of Middle-earth for Christmas. It’s a great book, and honestly, the first time I read it I could hardly put it down.
I’m so happy that you get to experience what Nature of Middle-earth has to offer, and that you get to learn all about the Middle-earth characters, languages and lore! You’ll learn all about the foundational matters, systems, and lifestyles of the characters.
And for those of you who prefer video, here’s the link to the video from the new Youtube Channel below.
Personally, I liked how it’s sort of helping you put yourself in the shoes of the characters – as we get to experience them as characters that lived out their day to day lives. It sounded very promising to me that it’s as close to a guide to living in Middle-earth as you get!
I’m so excited to start an online book discussion on the Nature of Middle-earth! It was (in my opinion) sort of…easier to read than The Silmarillion, but you may or may not have a different experience reading it. One thing to expect with this one is a lot of tables. But you’ll also experience a lot of the “human” aspects of the Middle-earth characters.
But it’s the previously unpublished versions of J.R.R. Tolkien, compiled by Carl F. Hostetter. In 2020, he was sent the publication texts from Christopher Tolkien. They are from his writings from 1959-1973.
From what I’ve heard, in the first few volumes of Histories, you kind of get a lot of first drafts of The Silmarillion, Beren and Luthien, The Fall of Gondolin, and the like. From my experience so far, the writing styles seem very similar to The Silmarillion.
But afterwards, you start to hear more and more about the events that led up to The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, focusing on the War of the Ring.
This series is designed for further discussion on all things concerning the Nature of Middle-earth. Whether it’s your first time reading it, or the nth, all are welcome to use and peruse this information.
However, this book just came out in June 24, 2021 (and on Amazon around September), so I highly doubt anyone’s read it more than a few times haha.
And lastly, we will be having discussions monthly (the last Wednesday of each month), but seeing as it’s an open post/discussion rather than a regular meeting/book club, don’t feel pressured to keep up with my postings especially as they can be accessed at any time after that.
Table of Contents
- The Posting Schedule
- Do I have to read the chapters before viewing the posts? How will you manage spoilers in the Nature of Middle-earth?
- What is the outline of the Nature of Middle-earth discussion?
- Will there be discussion questions?
- What concept or time period does The Nature of Middle-earth cover mainly?
- Are there any prerequisites to reading The Nature of Middle-earth?
- Do I have to know Elvish or any of Tolkien’s languages?
- Where can I get the book?
- Related articles
The Posting Schedule
- Foreword; Section I: Time and Aging (1/26)
- Section II: Body, Mind, and Spirit (2/23)
- Section III: The World, Its Lands, and Its Inhabitants (3/30)
- Appendices (4/27)
Do I have to read the chapters before viewing the posts? How will you manage spoilers in the Nature of Middle-earth?
It is helpful to have read the chapters before, as there will be some spoilers. But if you prefer to have a general outline before reading, then that would work too – as they are blog posts; they can be accessed at any time after the posted dates above. Posts will be written as a summary of the planned chapters.
What is the outline of the Nature of Middle-earth discussion?
We will have a summary (outline) of each chapter, and the entire section at first glance. Then, we will discuss any terms that will need to be looked into further, finally leading up to the discussion questions.
Will there be discussion questions?
Yes, every time there will be some discussion questions per chapter. The number of questions depend on each section. These are usually just questions to think about – usually about a question per chapter (or few chapters), especially as the book has tons of short chapters, unlike what you would expect in Histories of Middle-earth or even Lord of the Rings.
What concept or time period does The Nature of Middle-earth cover mainly?
While it glances over the beginnings, it was the first published book to really focus on J.R.R. Tolkien’s final writings. Arguably, Unfinished Tales is the unofficial 13th volume, while Nature of Middle-earth is the unofficial 14th volume. Tolkien wrote it to better understand his own creations and increase the precisions of it.
Expect the first section (or the first part of the first section) to be largely on the gestation of the Elves, as well as some foundational matters such as the time and aging of the people of Middle-earth. I was reading this expecting it to be on post-LOTR times, but it ended up being more of a wide variety of time periods being discussed.
As you approach the second section of the book, you’ll find out more about the Elves and their immortality.*
(When I first wrote it, I misunderstood thinking that the chapter on them is saying that the Elves aren’t immortal. However, in The Waldman Letter, Tolkien explains that the Elves are, indeed, immortal. But reading the chapter may help us see the concept of immortality in a different way than we thought before.)
The book isn’t so much biological, though it talks a great deal, especially in the first section, about the gestation of Elves. You’ll find that it also talks about the habits, time, economy, population, mortality (and immortality), as well as some of the spiritual aspects of the characters as well.
Later, you’ll also find out about the other characters, and the appearances of them. Also included in that third section includes:
- A Middle-earth solar system
- Primal Impulse
- What is being defined as the end of a physical life
And lastly, that last chapter (“The Rivers and Beacon-hills of Gondor”) was an essay that Tolkien wrote in 1969. The appendices talk about theological and metaphysical influences and themes on his various works.
Are there any prerequisites to reading The Nature of Middle-earth?
For some reason, we don’t read those books in order of time period due to the fact that it’s easier to find and read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Books like these (about anything aside from the War of the Ring in the Third Age) are typically read after the reader enjoys Lord of the Rings, and wants to know more about the world of Middle-earth.
While Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are in novel form, The Silmarillion and The Histories of Middle-earth involve more mythology – reading more like history. Nature of Middle-earth (in my opinion) still definitely involves more of the latter, but what made them easier to read were the shorter chapters and the tables.
However, there has been some rare instances (such as availability) when the reader insists on reading books like these and The Silmarillion first – and there’s nothing wrong with that! But from what I’ve heard you may have a hard time following through if you’re not used to Tolkien’s writing yet. But it’s still definitely doable! I have a list of what order I read the books in my resources page.
Do I have to know Elvish or any of Tolkien’s languages?
No, you do not have to know any Elvish. The words will be spelled out for you in the series. Though it’s helpful to know the terms hröa (‘body’) and fėa (‘spirit’), as they will be used interchangeably throughout the book.
He does use a lot of Elvish terms in this book, but doesn’t go as far in-depth (in my opinion) on the languages in Nature of Middle-earth especially compared to some other works like the beginning of Histories of Middle-earth.
Also, Carl F. Hostetter (editor of Nature of Middle-earth) said that the Elvish Languages (contrary to my initial belief) while an integral part of Tolkien’s world building, were not fully developed, because they seemed to be mainly an expression of his linguistic asthetic.
Where can I get the book?
Amazon has one – which is where I got my copy. Many other stores include eBay, Target, Barnes and Noble, Blackwell’s, christianbook.com, and more. Tolkien Collector’s Guide will give you some more options here.