Reading order for Tolkien's books

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Reading order for Tolkien's books

Postby NLight95 » Wed Oct 14, 2009 10:06 pm

I've been using the following as a guide to reading Silmarillion, The Hobbit, LotR, and the stories that came afterward.

http://home.earthlink.net/~dbratman/tolkien_order.html

This guide has helped me to get a sense of chronology for the HoME but I'm wondering if there may be a better guide, or one easier to use.

What guides have you used? Any pros/cons?
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Postby Elmtree » Thu Oct 15, 2009 8:52 am

I disagree with the site linked as far as reading them in the order they take place. I was always ticked off at the re-ordering of the Narnia books, to make the chronological, because in the written order they progress from simplest to most complex.

With Tolkien, I recommend reading the Hobbit first, then LOTR, then the other works... similar reasons. "Chronologically" is not the only way to read a series of somewhat independent stories. You go from the simplest to the most complex if you start with the Hobbit.
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Postby Gandalf'sMother » Thu Oct 15, 2009 10:03 am

I agree with Elm. I also think that the sense of wonder, and the feeling of a deep and mysterious past, is greater when reading LOTR if one has NOT yet read the Silmarillion. I would also go Hobbit, LOTR, Silmarillion, and then the rest.

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Postby heliona » Thu Oct 15, 2009 10:16 am

If you are new to Tolkien and start with The Silmarillion then you're really diving in at the deep end. A person is also likely to be put off by how difficult it is to read. I always recommend reading The Hobbit first, before LOTR and then The Silmarillion. Only then would I move on to Unfinished Tales and after that HoME.

(Well, that's the way I did it, and it seemed to make the most sense to me.)
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Postby rowanberry » Thu Oct 15, 2009 11:00 am

From simple to complex, that's my opinion as well. The Hobbit and the LOTR make you familiar with Middle-earth, and give glimpses of its history; The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales tell that history, and the parts from HoME deal with its mythology. In this case, reading the stories in chronological order is like trying to start climbing a tree from the top.

After you're familiar with the world of those stories, you can re-read them in chronological order.
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Postby Ponyboy » Thu Oct 15, 2009 11:16 am

The order with which I happen to have read the stories was The Lord of the Rings, then the Hobbit, then the Silmarillion.

I would think reading the Silmarillion first would possibly turn a reader off (as much as I adore the book).

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Postby Elmtree » Thu Oct 15, 2009 9:42 pm

How did you feel about the Hobbit after LOTR? Was it difficult to get into LOTR without reading the Hobbit first? (I assume you read the stuff in the prologue that fills in some gaps).

I think we may have discussed this before at some point, but I can't recall
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Postby JudyA » Thu Oct 15, 2009 10:39 pm

I didn't find it so, Elmtree. But then, they were all read aloud to me (and my brothers) when I was eight and a half... :whistle:

Anyway, to me it just seemed logical - that we were continuing on. And the thing about LotR is that it starts in the same lighthearted way as The Hobbit, with elements of dark in it, and gradually becomes deeper and more complex as it goes. By then, if you're anything like me, you're totally hooked :D

I have to agree with the others about NOT reading The Silmarillion until you've got these under your belt. You may not even feel like delving into it for some time. You may choose never to read it. But for most people, they really need to familiarise themselves with Middle Earth, its characters and creatures, before they tackle it. It can be pretty heavy going for some. I couldn't read all the way through it until I was in my 30s! :P
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Postby Ponyboy » Thu Oct 15, 2009 10:41 pm

I can't really say how I felt about it because that's what was. If I recall.. I felt, at the time, that I had more background to the Hobbit by reading LOTR first. It also made certain things in LOTR make more sense... esp the Gollum/Bilbo backstory.

I know this will sound like sacrilege, but I still have a soft spot for LOTR and The Simarillion. I read them regularly, while I've only read The Hobbit 3 or 4 times. I think The Hobbit reads much differently than all of Tolkien's other works... and I prefer reading it LESS out of them all
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Postby NLight95 » Fri Oct 16, 2009 9:19 pm

Actually I only started using this guide after reading first The Hobbit then LotR. At that point I wasn't even't familiar with The Silmarillion, let alone Tolkien's other works.

Currently I'm reading through The Notion Club papers and was almost put off until the story began to unravel, so-to-speak. In it there seems to be some close parallels to On Faerie Stories. Even so, I find it easier to understand than The Silmarillion, which I will visit at a later time.
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Postby ngaur » Sat Oct 17, 2009 6:20 am

I first read a LotR;s comic album, then I read the whole LotR:s. I think I skimmed through the Hobit after that but my memory isn't very good. I do remember after reading the Hobbit that it didn't add a lot to LotR:s beyond Bilbo and Gollum.

Then one day I was fed up with school so I stayed home that day to listen to music and read through most of the Silmarillion in some sort of speed read. I liked most of it so a little later I returned and read it properly.

And then much later all the other published stuff.

Anyway it worked for me, so I recommend the order:

The Hobbit and LotR:s (you can skip Hobbit if you like).
Silmarillion (This one's the hurdle)
The you could go with Unfinished Tales
or HoME 3 and HoME 10
Notion Club Papers and stuff like that is only for zealots.
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Postby earendil81 » Sat Oct 17, 2009 3:44 pm

I guess it all depends.
I started reading LOTR because in France we were not that much exposed to foreign literature and it was the first that came my way.
I read it in 1994-95.

Then when I finally read it in English, I decided I would go and read The Hobbit, that was about 2000. And then when I was in Ireland, I was given the opportunity to buy and read The Silmarillion. And while I found the Hobbit a tiny bit childish (I read it at 19 so might be logical ;)) I loved The Silm.

On the other hand, my brother has never read The Hobbit or LOTR but he had read the Silm I think 10 times since I introduced him to the work in French. I know him well enough and I figured that it would interest him more than a full story. He prefers shorter stories where people would only find complexities ;).
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Postby Fir-Bolg » Sat Oct 17, 2009 5:02 pm

I read The Two towers first, followed by Farmer Giles of Ham, Ancrene Wisse, then the Hobbit. I managed three chapters of the Silmarillion, before I found half a dog-eared copy of the Return of the King. Smith of Wootton Major interloped, and I had a niggle with Leaf. Knowing I had Unfinished Tales to address (the second half of Return of the King) I went to a library, and found that very second half. What an amazing coincidence! This prompted me to hunt down the Fellowship. By deed poll, I changed my name to Sauron, as I'd heard hunting fellowships was part of the job description. It worked! The library had a copy. So that's where the ring came from! I quickly leafed through my Hobbit, and was left a touch confused. What was all this Bilbo and birthday presents stuff? It seemed to me that this Bilbo was actually a bit of a rogue, and changed his story to suit his circumstance. My suspicions raised, I examined Gandalf's behaviour, and I was wont to believe he was in league with my new namesake! This ring was demned important, yet Gandalf disappears for 17 years. 17 years! How lucky he was that Sauron was busy playing monopoly. Buying Far Harad, whilst ignoring the Shire Electricity Company. And the only water works was Sam seeing Elves!
Er, that is Lord of the Rings, right?
Anyway, I discovered, over decades (or at least it felt like decades when I first read the Silmarillion) that this Tolkien stuff is parasitical. You start off by reading any one of the Profs tomes, and it is good. Some of it is obtuse (Ancrene Wisse!), but most is pretty accessible. The best is, in my humble opinion, the Silmarillion. But also the hardest to read. Except Ancrene Wisse, who nobody except the badge wearers bother about.

Hobbit.

Lord of the Rings

Silmarillion

The rest is indulgent. ;)
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Postby Cock-Robin » Sat Oct 17, 2009 6:34 pm

Myself, I also went from the simple to the complex. Hobbit, then LOTR, Tolkien Reader, Silmarillion, then Unfinished Tales, HOME, Children of Hurin.

Interspersed with those, I also read the non-ME works like Farmer Giles, Roverandom, Father Chrismas Letters, Gawain and the Green Knight, Letters, and others.
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Postby Voronwe_the_Faithful » Mon Oct 19, 2009 9:36 am

Fir-Bolg wrote:Hobbit.

Lord of the Rings

Silmarillion

The rest is indulgent. ;)


Well sure, if you are satisfied with a highly condensed, highly edited version of Tolkien's mythology with the vast majority of the most interesting philosophical/metaphysical material removed, that is certainly sufficient. But for us badge-wearing self-indulgent fools who are interested in what Tolkien really had to say, not so much. (P.S. I've not read Ancrene Wisse nor am I particularly interested in doing so at this time).
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Postby sairah » Mon Nov 16, 2009 8:02 pm

Well Im choosing to read Lord Of The Rings first.
Then, I'll read the Hobbit next. Im not exactly sure what the Silmarillion is[I am abit new to this fandom after all].
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Postby Erufailon.Atanvarno » Mon Nov 16, 2009 8:18 pm

I first had the Hobbit read to me when I was little. Then I read LotR on my own, and then picked up the Sil and then UT. I have yet to red HOME, but I do want to reread the Silmarilliion sometime soon.

Oh and of course, throughout all of this, we can't forget to read Voronwe's published book. :D
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Postby Roccondil » Tue Nov 17, 2009 1:53 am

I first read The Hobbit when I was about eight. It was the Puffin paperback that was bought for me by my mother. When I was about eleven I read the Lord of the Rings from the local library. Unfortunately, the Fellowship was out on loan for ages, so I read it in the order, Two Towers, Return of the King, Fellowship of the Ring. Then there was the endless wait for the Silmarillion...

This is not an order I would recommend...

Unless the reader is a child, I would recommend starting with The Lord of the Rings and not The Hobbit as the style of writing may be rather off-putting to modern readers. Tolkien recognised this himself and began to rewrite The Hobbit in the style of The Lord of the Rings about 1960. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your point of view) he never got past the first few chapters.
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Postby Morwenna » Tue Nov 17, 2009 8:25 am

I'm in general agreement with most people here: Hobbit, LotR, Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, everything else.

In my own case, I read them as they came out in Ballantyne paperbacks: my college roommate when I was a sophomore had the Hobbit and LotR and affirmed it when I asked if they were any good. So I got my own copies and fell into that world so hard I'm still reeling nearly 43 years later! :D The only other thing that was available then was the Tolkien Reader, so I grabbed that, and then Smith/Giles when it came out (and it amazed me that they'd reprint Giles when it was already in Reader, but they never updated Reader to include Smith and simplify things!). And then there was The Road Goes Ever On, because I'm also a music nut and also because of all the tantalizing notes, pre-Sil. So when Sil came out I grabbed it, and Unfinished likewise. Since then I've gotten Father Christmas, and Mr. Bliss, and Roverandom, and Gawain/Pearl/Orfeo. And lots and lots of books about him, including the Biography and Letters.

But I don't have any HoME volumes, and there's a book of his essays out that I don't have either. Why? Well, I simply haven't found the essays yet. And when HoME started coming out, I figured I could wait; they were scholarly, after all, and frankly I wasn't all that interested in the history of the development of the mythology. By the time the volumes concerning the development of LotR came out, in which I was interested, the covers had gone from being plain solid color (appropriate for a scholarly tome) to illustrated covers which were fancier than those of LotR itself!! And that turned me off. Can you believe it?? :) I finally got Children of Hurin, used, but haven't read it yet.
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Postby RAY » Sat Jan 30, 2010 8:50 am

I have been re-reading the Hobbit and just finished the part where Thorin is lying wounded with many wounds and Bilbo has been brought to him. A very touching part in that Thorin takes back all the bad things he said of the hobbit and dies making peace with Bilbo. Almost a tear jerk moment.
Also makes me feel that the Hobbit should be read before LOTR, definitely.
The Sil can be read before the hobbit since it deals with the ages long before Bilbo's time. After that is up to the individual.
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Postby Morwenna » Sun Jan 31, 2010 2:14 pm

The same thing happened to me when I read The Hobbit for the first time. Weeping in the wee hours of the morning, over Thorin's farewell to Bilbo!
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Postby JudyA » Mon Feb 01, 2010 4:52 am

Hey all... I know this is slightly off topic, but I just had to come in and have a :happydance: over the fact that my older daughter (11) decided that she ought to read The Hobbit and LotR.

No pressure from me whatsoever. But she always knew they were there - and the films too - plus my oddball devotion can't have passed unnoticed :whistle:

So: she hoovered through The Hobbit in a couple of days, and is now halfway through FotR...

*is ridiculously excited*
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Postby Morwenna » Mon Feb 01, 2010 8:17 am

I don't blame you! :D
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Postby Elmtree » Mon Feb 01, 2010 8:21 am

JudyA, you should be! :) You're raising her right. :D

My mom read the books before I did, she passed them to my older sister, and she passed them to me.

When my two eldest (now 22 and 24!) were about four and six, they were misbehaving in the backseat of the car ('he touched me!' 'no, she touched me!' 'MOOOOM!!!!' ) so I just said "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit...." They stopped... and listened. So I went on, reciting as much of the opening as I could remember. They loved it... and we went from there.

It's awesome to be able to share your love of the books with your kids. In 2001, when the movies were coming out, our local newspaper did a feature on multi-generational Tolkien fan families... my mom (who has since passed away), my daughter, and I were featured and they ran a photo of three of us in Elven Cloaks (two of which were made by TORC's own "Ringgamer" ).

It's nice to have that sort of family bond. So BE excited! :) I hope she likes the books. If she's devouring them that quickly, sounds like she does.

-ETA- Just added that picture to my profile. I'm the one without glasses, my mom (age 81 at the time) in the middle, and my daughter (14 at the time... she's now 22) on the right side.
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Postby JudyA » Mon Feb 01, 2010 4:14 pm

Elmtree wrote:
When my two eldest (now 22 and 24!) were about four and six, they were misbehaving in the backseat of the car ('he touched me!' 'no, she touched me!' 'MOOOOM!!!!' ) so I just said "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit...." They stopped... and listened. So I went on, reciting as much of the opening as I could remember. They loved it... and we went from there.


That is SO cool, Elmtree :)

I've actually made a point of not pushing the books at them, because I'm hardly objective or anything, and they really may not be my girls' cup of tea. But Poppet (the 11yo) read all of Harry Potter in about 10 days last year, so I guess she was looking for something a bit more chewy.

She's already come to me when she was reading The Hobbit and asked about the Ring, and why it only seemed to have power at that stage to make Bilbo invisible. :P I said to keep reading and gradually things would fall into place. She's now at Elrond's house - I wonder what she'll make of the Council? Wordy, wordy, wordy :whistle: But I've always loved that chapter, because you discover so much...

My family certainly can't claim mega-Tolkien fandom like yours. Mr JudyA is tolerant but uncomprehending, bless him. He'd read The Hobbit as a kid but not LotR, so I read it to him over some months after we got married. He persevered, but it's not really his thing. :wink:

Mum read it to the family when we were kids. My eldest brother hasn't pursued much, although my other brother has. We used to test each other on Tolkien trivia when we were kids (practice that has come in handy on this website!!). He borrowed my extended DVDS to watch - and made his wife watch them with him!!!! :lol: He also buys me books or things about Tolkien from time to time. Very sweet.
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