Classic Remarks is a meme hosted over at Pages Unbound. Every Friday they ask a question about classic literature. Participants are asked to discuss the themes, canon formation, the ‘timelessness’ of literature, and modes of interpretation.
I decided to join in this week because the question is about Tolkien!
Which Tolkien book would you recommend to a reader after they’ve finished reading ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’?
I think this question isn’t as straightforward as simply recommending a book. First, you have to find out what the reader most enjoyed about the Tolkien they’ve already read. Did they love the accessibility of the Hobbit, in my opinion a very non-pretentious high fantasy? Or maybe they loved Tolkien’s creation of languages and cultures in LOTR and wish to learn more about Middle Earth? Maybe they just love high fantasy epics and are looking to slake their thirst with a story packed with interesting characters performing heroic deeds?
Luckily, there’s a recommendation for each of those questions!
For readers who loved the accessibility of The Hobbit I would recommend Tales from the Perilous Realm. The five stories within have the kind of whimsy that I loved in The Hobbit, and I think it’s a wonderfully fun read.
For readers looking to learn more about Middle Earth but still seeking a story, The Silmarillion is my recommendation. Here, the reader gets to explore some of the fascinating history of Middle Earth. I’ve seen a few reviews in which the writer stated they approached reading The Silmarillion as if it were The Bible or a historical text, and that is absolutely the way to view it. Extremely worth it if you’re interested in the subject, but undeniably a bit dry.
For those wanting to read an epic tale, I would recommend The Children of Hurin. A captivating book, it will certainly deliver a story worth reading. This is really not a happy book – it very much reads like a Greek tragedy. What can go wrong will do so in terrible ways, but for those that are willing to cry on public transit the payoff of a great story is all that’s needed.
There you have it, three Tolkien recommendations that I think encompass his tales of Middle Earth quite completely! Though he did of course write on other subject matter, and many more volumes of his work were published posthumously, I think that with these three novels the door is opened to those seeking more of Tolkien’s work.
If readers continue to seek out his work, I’ll be waiting here with even more recommendations.
What would you recommend?