J.R.R. Tolkien's estate has authorized a book of previously unpublished Lord of the Rings material to be released. Since their midcentury publication, the novels in Tolkien's fantasy series have deeply influenced the popularity and style of the genre as it exists today. The books were later adapted into an Oscar-winning movie trilogy directed by Peter Jackson and are currently being turned into a TV show for Amazon.

The trilogy, which Tolkien referred to as a "heroic romance," takes place in Middle-earth: a world of elves, dwarves, hobbits, and wizards that is actually a fictional reimagining of the real planet Earth 6,000 years ago. (Middle-earth is its largest landmass.) Humans co-exist with these fantastical species, albeit not peacefully: Middle-earth is beset with war, poverty, and famine exacerbated by the creation of twenty magic Rings of Power. The trilogy begins when Frodo, a hobbit, is tasked with destroying the most powerful of the rings and sets forth from his comfortable home toward the site where it was forged. The subsequent books in the series follow Frodo on his journey to Mordor as others either support him in his quest or attempt to seize the ring's power for themselves. Despite the epic nature of the novels, they only cover a short period of Middle-earth's history that Tolkien contextualizes with maps and guides explaining the lore that precedes them.

Tolkien's posthumous essay collection is titled The Nature of Middle-earth; The Guardian reports it will be out next June. The essays are edited by Carl F. Hofstetter, an expert on Tolkien's work who heads the not-for-profit Elvish Linguistic Fellowship dedicated to studying the fictional languages Tolkien created in his books. Hofstetter and the fellowship's journal editors were previously appointed by Tolkien's son to edit all of the author's writing on constructed languages. HarperCollins will publish the book with the permission of Tolkien's estate. Deputy publishing director Chris Smith says the essays give readers insight into Tolkien's process:

For him, Middle-earth was part of an entire world to be explored, and the writings in The Nature of Middle-earth reveal the journeys that he took as he sought to better understand his unique creation.

download (1).jpg

The book includes never-before-seen writing exploring Middle-earth's lore. The writings focus on logistical and biological topics such as the specifics of elvish life and death and whether elven and dwarven women can grow beards. Tolkien also goes into detail about various heavenly beings mentioned in the books and adds to the body of information about the land of Númenor, specifically Gondor. Smith says that Tolkien never stopped expanding on his project: the author continued fleshing out the details of his mythopoeia (alternate history of Earth) until his death in 1973.

Hardcore and even casual fans know that Tolkien went to great lengths establishing Middle-earth's history. The very concept of inventing folklore, i.e. the collected stories and mythology of a culture, as a basis for a fantasy work was widely popularized by The Lord of the Rings. Studying the lore behind a given fantasy series, whether books, movies, TV, or video games, can be a fascinating hobby or passion for serious fans of the work. The additional information about the subjects covered in Tolkien's upcoming collection will be an exciting piece of the Middle-earth puzzle that will hopefully bring new meaning to his stories.