By no means do I claim to have read all of Tolkien's work but I have read quite a bit, I have not read any of his essays or crtical works though I have read the Tales of a Perlious Realm (Leaf by Niggle, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, Smith of Woodtown Major and another tale I can't quite remember) as well as a couple of the History of Middle Earth books and Roverandom. Though I can say the books I have reviewed below I have read quite a few times.
Lord of the Rings
The Fellowship of the Ring - When I first read this I was a little disappointed as it went on for too long about Hobbits so by the time they got to the Prancing Pony I was sorely sick of them, but luckily Strider made that all better (he's my favourite). There are some differences between the movie and book and mainly in the sequences up till Rivendell as the Hobbits met some elves on the way, singing Tom Bombil and it is Glorifindel not Arwen that rides off with Frodo but the changes work out for the better in the movie. On first reading I don't remember an elf and a dwarf though I did remember Boromir and liked him. On the second reading though I got more engrossed and enjoyed it as I should have the first time.
The Two Towers - Some of the movies' ending comes from the beginning of this book as it really should have been at the end of Fellowship. The book is broken up into two sections: Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli 'hunting orcs' to try and save Merry and Pippin. They meet the Rohan and some Ents along the way and bring a traitor to justice. The other section deals with Sam and Frodo as they travel East to Mordor and meet the most unlikely of companions along the way. This book was more fast paced than the last as it starts getting into some action so I can't wait to see how they have put this into movie format. Best quote: "And I would give gold to be excused and double to be let out if I strayed in." Legolas on the caves of Helms Deep.
The Return of the King - Yet again it is split up a little as the conclusion to the quest comes somewhere in the middle of the book. There are battles, Aragorn comes into his own and Frodo faces a terrible decision and some deaths as well. But during the quest the world has changed and the Fellowship go back to their homes to find them a little changed. As back at the Shire things aren't as they should be so the four Hobbits have to bring things back to the way they should be. The funniest thing is when Legolas and Gimli go off to 'see the world' together and Legolas comes back from one of these looking disjointed and Gimli beaming, but then he perks up as he drags Gimli to the Fangorn forest. It has a great ending and it will be interesting to see how this is played out in the movies.
The Hobbit - Bilbo Baggins is a quiet little Hobbit who one day it set upon by a witty wizard known as Gandalf, Gandalf gets Bilbo to join a band of dwarves (13 of them!) to the Lonely Mountain where they get ready to battle the dragon, Smaug, for its treasure. They find goblins and danger but just before the big battle Bilbo gets lost and discovers a creature named Gollum deep in its depths as well as a special ring. They travel through the throws of Mirkwood and are captured by the Elven King (Legolas's dad) and have to rely on the wit of Bilbo to get them out. On they travel to the man of the Dale and up to the cave of the Dragon. There is fun, adventure and loads of interesting characters and a huge battle at the end for the blood thirsty types.
The Silmarillion - IF you don't want to read it but want to know the basics READ THIS. Interesting basis but VERY hard to digest I am on my third attempt at reading it. There are so many people and so many confusing lands but here is the basis: Iluvatar made the world, he made the Valar powerful sprits of the Elves, Men would call them gods. Two of them were equal in power, Manwe and Melkor, though Melkor turned to evil and is not thought of as being Valar. Along with the Valar lesser spirits known as Maiar were made, the most famed being Melian of Lorien. Out came the Elves and Man and they dwelt on the Middle Earth, but Alue made the dwarves. The Elves (the Noldor) battled Melkor and brought him to justice and most left the Middle earth to go back into the West. As time went on Melkor was granted pardon and corrupted Feanor who believed the lies and traveled with a host back to the Middle Earth to the elves that still dwelt there. Along with him went Galadriel who met Celeborn among those 'dark elves'. Years later men started coming over the mountains to live amongst the elves and Morgoth (Melkor) saw a chance to reek havoc again, so he sent fires over the plains of Ard-galen and sent his minions after the elves and men and tookAngband. Fingolfin went and challanged Morgoth and was defeated at its gates and after many long years Morgoth's attacks stopped. After the defeat of Dorthonion the man Beren took up his father's ring (Felagund - Aragorn wears it in the movie) and attacked orcs at any pass he ventured into Thingol's realm and met Luthien, daughter of Thingol and Merian, whom he fell in love with but Thingol found out and sent him on an impossible quest, to get a Silmaril from Morgoth's crown. (Recommend reading this chapter for more information) In the end Beren gets the jewel and he leaves with Luthien. Thingol then had control of the Silmarilmuch to the other elven leaders. Dwarves, men and elves stood together against Morgoth's forces but were forced to flee all accepts the man Hurin who stayed and was captured. Hurin's son Turin was then captured by Morgoth when he went against him and was saved by his elven friend Beleg (Click on the Picture to Enlarge), who had also saved another elf, Gwindor, but in the confusion of the escape Turing killed Beleg and was taken with grief. Turin gained a name amongst the elves and killed the great dragon, Glaurung, thinking him dead his sister jumped off the cliff and Turin awoke only to cast himself upon his sword (its a great little tale, very sad though). More wars were fought and Dior son of Beren and Luthien was slain by other elves because he protected the Silmaril, his daughter, Elwing, escaped and took it with her but Doriath was no more. Meanwhile the great Valar Ulmo set Hurin's nephew, Tuor to find the hidden realm of Gondolin and whilst he was there, Tuor fell in love with an elf and gave her a son, Earendil, Half Elven. Gondolin's location was betrayed and Morgoth sent his forces and the poeple of Gondolin were forced to flee back to the Blessed Isles. Earendil married Elwing and they had two sons, Elros and Elrond (meaning star-dome). Yet again elves fought against elves to get the Silmaril but again Elwing and her sons took it with them when they escaped. Elrond and Elros were later captured and Elwing was saved by her husband and they traveled to see Manwe, and Earendil was given the choice to become mortal or immortal because he was of both blood and all of his descendants could choose, he became elven and convinced the Valar to save those on Middle Earth. Morgoth was finally beaten as the Valar and elves of the West attacked him and trapped him in the Dorr of Night forever more, his minions fled and hid. After the final war most of the elves of Middle earth went back into the West, but some stayed.
Akallabeth: Men of Numenor, founded by Elros and were given longer lives and land by the Valar, they were men of peace and were great mariners but in a time of unrest the people became dvivded, King's men and Elf-friends. They stteled on Middle Earth where Sauron had already made Mordor, when Ar-Pharazon became King, Sauron took the opurtunity to spread his Master's lies and the people of Numenor started worshipping Melkor (Morgoth), though the Elf-friends did not believe and among them were Elendil and Isildur. After a time Elendil took the Elf-freinds to safety as the forces of Numenor attacked the Blessed Realm of the West, Iluvator broke apart the waters and the Numenoreans were killed all accept those that remained faithful and went with Elendil. The reamainign founded the Kingdoms of Middle Earth and dwelt in peace as Sauron reatreated to the deapths of Mordor.
Rings of Power and The 3rd Age: The rings of power were made, under Sauron's watch (all accept the elven Rings) and he made the One Ring in secret. Gil-galad, now ruler of the elves befriended Elendil and helped him found Arnor (Elendil) and Gondor (Isildur) and the White Tree of the Valar was planet in Minas Ithil. During the great war, Sauron destroyed the White Tree but some of its fruit was spared. During the 7 year siege of Mordor, Gil-galad and Elendil were slain and the ring was cut from Sauron's finger making his retreat. The White Tree was replanted in Minas Anor (later called Minas Tirith) and Minas Ithil became Minas Morgul (Tower of Sorcery). The rest tells of the Lord of the Rings.
Unfinished Tales - Okay I'm not going to do a summary of this book like the Silmarillion because it is best that if you are interested that you read it. The Book is split up into four parts so I will treat it as such.
Part 1: Extended versions of the tales of cousins Tuor and Turin, though not much on Beleg in Turin's tale (damn!)
Part 2: Description of island of Numenor, inc. map. Tale of Aldarion and Erendis (not it is NOT a happy tale), Kings of Numenor and a fragmented history of Galadriel and Celeborn
Part 3: The disaster of Gladden Fields (Isildur's end), Friendship of Rohan and Gondor, The Quest of Erebor (The Hobbit) and how Gandalf got Bilbo involved in the whole scheme, The Hunt for the Ring with the Black riders being sent on a chance for the Shire, their meetings with Grima and the like and finally Battles of the Fords of Isen which details the movements of Rohan forces against the might of Sauraman and Sauron.
Part 4: A small history of the Pukel Men, some information on the Istari including the names of the two elusive Blue and a final section on the Palantiri
It is highly detailed and mainly essays and short tales and I recommend that you read each section with your finger in the notes bit of each section so that you can easily refer back and forth and back and forth again and again.
Other Tolkien Books Include:
The History of Middle Earth:
- The Book of Lost Tales I
- The Book of Lost Tales II
- The Lays of Beleriand
- The Shaping of Middle Earth
- The Lost Road and Other Writings
- The Return of the Shadow
- The Treason of Isengaurd
- The War of the Ring
- Sauron Defeated
- Morgoth's Ring
- The War of the Jewels
- The Peoples of Middle Earth