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Literature / Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth

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Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth by J. R. R. Tolkien, or Unfinished Tales for short, was the first posthumous publication of unfinished and fragmentary material that forms part of the Backstory of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and Middle-earth. It was compiled and edited by the author's son Christopher Tolkien, who had also assembled The Silmarillion from such material (with the help of Guy Gavriel Kay). It was first published in 1980.

The stories take various formats: Some are pseudo-history written in a scholarly manner while others are actual narratives. They can be entertaining in their own right and give interesting details like the political organization of Gondor and Rohan, details about the ancient realm of Númenor, and a rough draft of The Children of Húrin, among other things. A gift for any true Tolkien-geek. Much more material of the same type would later be collected and published, more systematically, in The History of Middle-earth.


The following tropes can be found within:

  • Action Girl: In some versions Galadriel wielded a sword at the Kinslaying at Alqualondë on the part of the Teleri, her mother's people.
  • Anti-True Sight: There is a brief reference to 'shrouding' objects from the vision of a palantír.
  • Batman Gambit: It's clarified that Sauron released Gollum because he sensed that Gollum would go searching for the Ring himself, and he hoped that Gollum would unwittingly lead him to it.
  • City of Adventure: Bree in "The Quest of Erebor" and "The Hunt for the Ring."
  • City of Spies: Bree in "The Hunt for the Ring."
  • The Chessmaster: In "The Quest of Erebor" (a "special feature" of The Hobbit) when Gandalf and the dwarves met at Bree before visiting Thorin accuses Gandalf of having more in his mind than Thorin's troubles. Gandalf replies that of course he did - he was a chessmaster and that was why his advice was so good.
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  • Curse: Túrin.
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: Turns out all those years Aldarion was missing from home (time his own wife spent instructing their daughter to hate him, and men in general), he was helping the Elves and Men of Middle-earth prepare against the upcoming threat of Morgoth's former servant: Sauron.
  • Did You Just Scam Cthulhu?: It's revealed that Gollum lied to Sauron under torture regarding the Shire's location. He gets away with it because Sauron doesn't consider why Gollum would be motivated to do so.
  • Dirty Coward: In two different drafts, one of Saruman's men (either Wormtongue or the "squint-eyed southerner") betrays him to the Witch-king under threat of torture, and reveals that Saruman had been lying about not knowing where the Shire was.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The Curse on Túrin was given by Morgoth because he was angry at Húrin for defying him. This would also be Revenge by Proxy and perhaps Sins of Our Fathers. Morgoth, of course, was not normally known for being nice anyway.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: Not the Trope Namer, yet the original, which resulted in the creation of Rohan. While losing badly in a war with Easterlings, Gondor made a last-ditch hopeless call for help to the northern horse-lords (known then as the Éothéod), with whom they were friendly but had no formal relations. Eorl didn't send an answer back, which made the Gondorians despair even more, but that was because Eorl was coming himself with all of his warriors. The ruling Steward of the time granted Eorl the mostly-uninhabited lands to the north, turning the Éothéod into the Rohirrim.
  • The Handler: In "The Hunt for the Ring" the Witch-king captures an agent of Saruman's and intimidates him into serving Sauron.
  • Hidden Depths: The Quest of Erebor reveals that Thorin was far more conflicted and doubtful than his proud and egotistical behaviour in The Hobbit lets on, to the point where he almost called the whole thing off in Bag End.
  • Last Stand: "Disaster of the Gladden Fields."
  • Master Archer: Duilin of Gondolin is referred to as the "swiftest of all men to run and leap and surest of archers at a mark."
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Aldarion and Erendis on Númenor. Aldarion as a member of the royal house of Númenor lived 398 years; Erendis lived only 214 years. Making matters worse, Aldarion spent many of those years on long voyages to Middle-earth. Erendis was not happy; their daughter, the future queen Tar-Ancalimë was severely scarred.
  • Meta Fiction: "The Quest for Erebor" is told by Gandalf to the Hobbits and Gimli at Minas Tirith.
  • My Girl Back Home: "Aldarion and Erendis" is about a Númenórean prince who ruins his marriage because of his love for the sea.
  • Noble Fugitive: Túrin.
  • Noble Savage: The Drúedain, also known as Wild Men and Woodwoses, who are somewhat like Neanderthals in appearance. They also have magic powers.
  • No Hero to His Valet: During his lengthy sea voyages, Aldarion wins the respect and love of the Elven and human lords of Middle-earth for his wise counsel and assistance in shoring up their defenses against a new post-Morgoth threat. Meanwhile, his parents, his wife, and popular opinion turns against him on Númenor because to them it looks like he's neglecting his heirdom because he likes sailing.
  • Oh, Crap!: Sauron's reaction when he learns that Gandalf has had access to Gollum. He immediately orders an attack on Thranduil in the hope of killing Gollum or at least preventing his enemies from getting any information from him.
  • Perspective Flip: "The Quest for Erebor" is the events of The Hobbit (and preceding it) from Gandalf's perspective.
  • Plot Hole: One draft of the story noted that the Witch-king knew the location of Bree and the surrounding area, which makes it odd that he didn't know where the Shire was.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Aldarion could have avoided his father's and possibly his wife's anger if he'd ever considered telling them that the reason his voyages always lasted longer than he promised was because there was a new threat to their Middle-earth kin that he was helping them prepare for. Meneldur doesn't learn this until Aldarion huffily tosses him a letter from Gil-galad.
  • Pride: If everyone in "Aldarion and Erendis" had been slightly less stiff-necked about their respective positions, they would have been a much happier family. (Aldarion even confesses that he was trying to provoke Meneldur into an argument after one of many late returns.)
  • Something Completely Different: Heroic Fantasy-style adventures, epic tales of the struggle between the Free Peoples and the forces of Morgoth and Sauron, histories of the ancient land of Westernesse, explanations of how palantíri worked and who the Drúedain were... and in the midst of it all, an incredibly mundane tale of how a man and woman fell in love, got married, came to blows, and split up.
  • The Spymaster: The Witch-king in "The Hunt for the Ring."
  • Worthy Opponent: In "Cirion and Eorl," an ancient campaign between Gondor and its allies against the Wainriders is opened by Gondorian agents engineering a slave revolt in the Wainriders' country while the men were away at war. The Wainrider women defend their homes against the rebels and are praised for their valor. Interestingly this is one of the few times Tolkien uses this trope in detail, although it is implied elsewhere that Easterlings and Haradrim have Worthy Opponents among them.
  • You All Meet in an Inn: "The Quest of Erebor."

Alternative Title(s): The Unfinished Tales, Unfinished Tales


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