HarperCollins UK announced today that it would publish The Fall of Gondolin, J.R.R. Tolkien’s tale documenting the rise of a great but hidden Elven kingdom and its terrible fall, for the first time as a standalone edition. Edited by Christopher Tolkien using the same “history in sequence” mode that he did for 2017’s standalone edition of Beren and Lúthien, and illustrated by Alan Lee, this edition will collect multiple versions of the story together for the first time.
Tolkien has called this story, which he first began writing in 1917, “the first real story of this imaginary world”; i.e., it was one of the first tales to be put to paper. The only complete version of The Fall of Gondolin was published posthumously in The Book of Lost Tales; however, different compressed versions appeared in both The Silmarillion and the collection Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth.
Taking place millennia before the events of The Lord of the Rings, The Fall of Gondolin marks the beginning of the end of the First Age, or Elder Days, of Middle-earth. Alongside The Children of Húrin and Beren and Lúthien, it is considered one of the three “Great Tales” of that time period. The official synopsis, from HarperCollins UK:
In the Tale of The Fall of Gondolin are two of the greatest powers in the world. There is Morgoth of the uttermost evil, unseen in this story but ruling over a vast military power from his fortress of Angband. Deeply opposed to Morgoth is Ulmo, second in might only to Manwë, chief of the Valar.
Central to this enmity of the gods is the city of Gondolin, beautiful but undiscoverable. It was built and peopled by Noldorin Elves who, when they dwelt in Valinor, the land of the gods, rebelled against their rule and fled to Middle-earth. Turgon King of Gondolin is hated and feared above all his enemies by Morgoth, who seeks in vain to discover the marvellously hidden city, while the gods in Valinor in heated debate largely refuse to intervene in support of Ulmo’s desires and designs.
Into this world comes Tuor, cousin of Túrin, the instrument of Ulmo’s designs. Guided unseen by him Tuor sets out from the land of his birth on the fearful journey to Gondolin, and in one of the most arresting moments in the history of Middle-earth the sea-god himself appears to him, rising out of the ocean in the midst of a storm. In Gondolin he becomes great; he is wedded to Idril, Turgon’s daughter, and their son is Erendel, whose birth and profound importance in days to come is foreseen by Ulmo.
At last comes the terrible ending. Morgoth learns through an act of supreme treachery all that he needs to mount a devastating attack on the city, with Balrogs and dragons and numberless Orcs. After a minutely observed account of the fall of Gondolin, the tale ends with the escape of Tuor and Idril, with the child Erendel, looking back from a cleft in the mountains as they flee southward, at the blazing wreckage of their city. They were journeying into a new story, the Tale of Erendel, which Tolkien never wrote, but which is sketched out in this book from other sources.
Following his presentation of Beren and Lúthien Christopher Tolkien has used the same ‘history in sequence’ mode in the writing of this edition of The Fall of Gondolin. In the words of J.R.R. Tolkien, it was the first real story of this imaginary world’ and, together with Beren and Lúthien and The Children of Húrin, he regarded it as one of the three ‘Great Tales’ of the Elder Days.
“We never dared to dream that we would see this published,” Tolkien Society chair Shaun Gunner said in a statement. “The Fall of Gondolin is, to many in the Tolkien community, the Holy Grail of Tolkien texts as one of Tolkien’s three Great Tales alongside The Children of Húrin and Beren and Lúthien. This beautiful story captures the rise and fall of a great Elven kingdom, taking place millennia before the events of The Lord of the Rings. This book brings all the existing work together in one place to present the story in full.”
The Fall of Gondolin will be published August 30 in both the US (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) and UK (HarperCollins UK). In addition, the official Tolkien Calendar, which will feature paintings from The Fall of Gondolin, will be published on the same day.