The Tale of Gondolin assembled and revised by A.Lewis (12.02.05 by Pieter Collier) - Comments

"Of Tuor and his coming to Gondolin" is one of the true gems you can find when you have finished your "Hobbit" and "Lord of The Rings". It is found in different versions:"The Silmarillion", "The Book of Lost Tales II" and in "Unfinished Tales". But it is in the latter you find it in full length. This story is one of the most moving stories I have ever read. It is a beautiful story about how the Valar Ulmo, The Lord of Waters, out of love of the elves, sent for Tuor, a man, to be used as a messenger to warn the Elves that their hidden City, Gondolin, would soon be discovered by Melkor, who sought the destruction the the Elves. Melkor had no interest of Men and a messenger from the human kind had a greater chance of successfully warning the Elves in Gondolin. It is truly a fascinating story that ones you read it will stay in your heart forever. It always made me sad the story was never completed by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Most people take there time to read all three books "The Silmarillion", "The Book of Lost Tales II" and "Unfinished Tales" and try to connect the story Of Tuor and his coming to Gondolin. Yet there is a more beautiful solution to enjoy this wonderful piece of literature, namely by reading The Tale of Gondolin.

The Tale of Gondolin is a book most Tolkien lovers did not hear of yet, maybe because it is a private publication and strictly LIMITED to a Worldwide printing of just 50 COPIES. It is a book Compiled from the writings of J.R.R. TOLKIEN assembled and revised by author Alexander Lewis, illuminated and illustrated by Ruth Lacon.

Since its high collectable value (prices vary between 950$ to 1500$, last week I even saw one up for sale for 4136$) and because few actually arrive up for sale. I never had the chance to acquire a copy. Thanks to gollum from I got the opportunity to have a good look at the book and found myself reading number 18 of this publication for the last few weeks.

I had seen pictures of the book many times before but was still surprised by it once it arrived. The book is quit large compared to many other Tolkien books and much thicker and way much heavier then i had expected. After that the book kept me reading for hours and hours. It would be great to see this book being published to have a larger crows enjoying it. Now it will remain pleasure for the lucky few who own a copy.

This article will shed a light on the writer Alexander Lewis, the illustrator Ruth Lacon, the story line of The Tale of Gondolin and the history of creation of The Tale of Gondolin. One day it will be nice for people to actually compare all texts and write a critical review on that subject. Yet first the book should be published for all Tolkien lovers to read!

More about Alexander Lewis

A. Lewis is a former Chairman of the Tolkien Society (1988-1992) and a prolific and accomplished communicator with an admirable list of publications, seminar presentations and radio interviews under his belt. He is the creator and driving force behind some very collectable and interesting Tolkien ephemera and collectable's such as the "The Ruins of Osgiliath" (Vol I, II and III; issued as 3 volumes of 100 numbered copies each, created to fund a quality present for Miss Priscilla Tolkien during the 1992 Tolkien Society Conference, celebrating tolkien's 100th birthday), "The Complete Ruins of Osgiliath" (12 copies were produced, and 10 were sold) and 'The Tale of Gondolin" (limited to 50 copies).

Alex Lewis is mostly known as the creator of The Nigglings (which started after the successful production of "the Ruins of Osgiliath"), an ongoing series of publications which he edits and which have the world of Tolkien as their backdrop. Often the stories that appear in Nigglings expand upon a theme that Tolkien mentioned in his Middle-earth sagas but went no further with.
Alex Lewis has produced 16 volumes of Nigglings to date and 12 volumes of the Nigglings Special Issues that allow writers more scope for longer stories. Each of the normal and special volumes run to around 60 pages or so and are all limited and numbered.

Alex Lewis is well-known in Tolkien circles, with renowned articles like "The Palantíri - a study", "Good People" - "Elves of the First Age", "The Lost Heart of the Little Kingdom", " Tolkien and the Development of Romance" and books like "The Uncharted Realms of Tolkien", but you may not have realized that in addition to being a prolific and talented writer Alex is a very accomplished musician and song writer. This can be seen in his "The Fall of Gondolin Song Cycle".

The Fall of Gondolin Song Cycle

The Fall of Gondolin Song Cycle was composed mainly during the early summer of 1985 and came to initial completion by the summer of the following year. Songs from the Song Cycle were first performed at Oxonmoot 1985, and at subsequent Oxonmoots at least two or three of the songs were performed.

The development of the song cycle originated by reading the detailed and moving account of Tuor and his coming to Gondolin in The Unfinished Tales. This story could   finally be completed when in 1985 The Book of Lost Tales volume 2 was published.

Subjects for the songs were drawn from the many incidents in the Tale of Gondolin. Twenty four songs were first written that covered Tuor from his capture by the Easterlings to his departure on the Sea Wing with his wife. More songs were written after that to complement the collection. The subsequent recording of the Song Cycle took seven years to bring to completion.

Once the Fall of Gondolin was ready even a further stage of refinement in the texts was pursued and The Tale of Gondolin was written out in full. Completed in detail the Tale of Gondolin was presented to the Vice President of the Tolkien Society with an explanation of the Song cycle and its genesis. This was primarily done in order to seek out inconsistencies in plot within the lyrics.

The Tale of Gondolin

The Tale of Gondolin is drawn from the various references to Turgon and his life throughout The Silmarillion, and sewn into the fabric of what was drawn from Unfinished Tales the chapter "Of Tuor and the coming of Gondolin" which is reproduced as printed therein with little alteration, though where necessary, some of the notes to the Unfinished Tales were worked into the narrative where it was thought to clarify the text.

The tale was originally written by J.R.R. Tolkien in 1951 and left unaccountably unfinished; it would have given in fine detail all that appears as the brief chapter 23, yet tragically it only reaches Tuor's entry into the hidden city and it goes no further. The rest of the tale is therefore drawn from the account given in The Book of Lost Tales Part 2 . This account was first written in about 1916, or slightly later, and amended in 1920 for presentation as a paper to the Essay Club of Exeter College, Oxford, and then used as a basis for what appears in The Silmarillion.

However as Christopher Tolkien has pointed out, this tale was written in an extremely archaistic style, and it employed conceptions quite out of keeping with the world of The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. Therefore this assembly attempts to convert the latter half of the earlier story to match all that appears in the Unfinished Tales and elsewhere, but to preserve all the fascinating detail and finesse of what the original story contained as far as it was possible to do so.

Christopher Tolkien has often maintained that detail given in earlier versions was by no means discarded because a later version may have been condensed. It is this principle that guides the present work to produce a complete Tale of Gondolin "as it might have been".

The publication of The Tale of Gondolin

The first proof copies of this work were produced in 1987. The author refers to these books as the 'First Edition'. Only two copies were red, leather bound copy that was presented to Priscilla Tolkien and one clothbound copy for the authors own reference. Both books were A5 size and neither copies were signed or illustrated.

The idea for an illustrated and illuminated book, with illustrations by Ruth Lacon to put the story into - in the style of medieval illuminated books, such as Lindisfarne Gospels etc. - came later on. The designs were presented to Priscilla Tolkien and verbal permission was given to produce The Tale of Gondolin as it now is.

The 50 copies were printed in 1994. However, they were bound on demand as sales went along. The first copies of the Limited Edition were produced in 1994 and 'Number One' went to Priscilla Tolkien as a thank you - other copies went to either Tolkien Society members or members of the Mythopoeic Society in the USA.

By the end of 1995 already 28 of the 50 copies were sold. The books were not sold in numerical order. These copies can be called the "First State" of the second edition.

In late 2003 or early 2004, a US book collector found out from Alex Lewis that there were still 22 copies remaining unbound. He decided to buy all the remaining stock. Since the original book binder had passed away, Alex Lewis had the remaining copies hand bound by another book binder in Manchester. The binding was done in 2004. These copies are the "Second State" of the second edition.

More on the illustrations by Ruth Lacon

Ruth Lacon is a skilled illustrator and calligrapher, highly influenced by early Persian manuscripts. Her work can be seen in The Ruins of Osgiliath, the Nigglins, Amon Hen, Mallorn and in books like for example "The Uncharted Realms of Tolkien". The Tale of Gondolin would not have existed as we know it know if Ruth Lancon from Edinburgh had not been inspired by The Fall of Gondolin Song Cycle. In 1993 Ruth Lancon send 17 fine illustrations to Alex Lewis together with the suggestion of publishing The Tale of Gondolin for members of the Tolkien Society. All the rest is history now...

Final words

Thanks to I had the opportunity to review this wonderful book. Thanks so much for this. I enjoyed this book very much and am convinced this book is made by someone who breaths and lives Tolkien, Alex Lewis. Thanks to Ruth Lacon this books looks great and gives it the right feel, while reading the story. Great thanks to her for suggesting to create THE TALE OF GONDOLIN as we know it today! My heart hopes this story will soon get authorized and see the larger crowd it fully deserves. Until then you will have to read The Tale of Gondolin in this form, it is not published any where else. You either need to purchase one of the copies when they come on the market, or beg steal of 'borrow' a copy of this book! (thanks once again!)

If you want to buy a copy of this rare Tolkien book, please contact me.

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