Although at first blush this might seem like four volumes of stupefying dullness, it has some saving graces. First, despite its limitations as literature, LotR has been enormously popular since its publication, some sales numbers showing it outdone only by the Bible, and any aspiring fantasy writer should like to know how he did it. Second, Tolkien began writing his sequel to The Hobbit without any idea of where he was going with the story, and in the 15-year genesis there were many twists and turns before the story took on its published form. Third, the gigantic backstory of the legends of Middle-earth that became The Silmarillion were mostly written before LotR was penned, and one can see how the tale of here-and-now adventure is stitched into the memories of ages long past. Finally, there is an intimate note, in that the young Christopher participated in the writing of LotR, giving feedback, helping draft maps, etc, and this history includes his personal recollections of the process.
The drafts can be somewhat jarring to read; while much of the plot will be familiar, the characters are often quite different. For instance, Aragorn in his "Strider" guise is called "Trotter" instead - and he's a hobbit instead of a man - and he has wooden feet - because he had once been to Mordor and been tortured there. We find out that the hobbits travel east initially because that was the part of the world that had been mapped out, because of The Hobbit, and that the areas to the south were literally being mapped out only a few miles ahead of the fellowship.
Still, even though publication of the drafts exposes some of the improvised carpentry behind the stage sets, for the Tolkien enthusiast they offer a fuller understanding of the story, and a renewed appreciation for Tolkien's creativity.
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