Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power takes place during the Second Age of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth—which is not necessarily a time every Tolkien reader knows about, even if you were the kind of kid that read the Lord of the Rings trilogy every year. (Yes, I mean me, I did that.) You would have had to dig deeper, into The Silmarillion and assorted other posthumous volumes.
HarperCollins is making it easier to answer your Second Age questions with a new collection of Tolkien’s writings. The Fall of Numenor and Other Tales from the Second Age of Middle-earth collects stories from this fictional era, edited by Brian Sibley and with new art by Alan Lee
There’s just one odd little catch: You’ll have to wait until November to get your hands on this volume, which won’t help much if you find yourself with questions while watching The Rings of Power when it premieres in September.
The book’s lengthy promotional copy explains all the places Sibley’s collection pulls from:
J.R.R. Tolkien famously described the Second Age of Middle-earth as a “dark age, and not very much of its history is (or need be) told.” And for many years readers would need to be content with the tantalizing glimpses of it found within the pages of The Lord of the Rings and its appendices, including the forging of the Rings of Power, the building of the Barad-dûr and the rise of Sauron.
It was not until Christopher Tolkien published The Silmarillion after his father’s death that a fuller story could be told. Although much of the book’s content concerned the First Age of Middle-earth, there were at its close two key works that revealed the tumultuous events concerning the rise and fall of the island of Númenor. Raised out of the Great Sea and gifted to the Men of Middle-earth as a reward for aiding the angelic Valar and the Elves in the defeat and capture of the Dark Lord Morgoth, the kingdom became a seat of influence and wealth; but as the Númenóreans’ power increased, the seed of their downfall would inevitably be sown, culminating in the Last Alliance of Elves and Men.
Even greater insight into the Second Age would be revealed in subsequent publications, first in Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth, then expanded upon in Christopher Tolkien’s magisterial twelve-volume The History of Middle-earth, in which he presented and discussed a wealth of further tales written by his father, many in draft form.
Now, adhering to the timeline of “The Tale of Years” in the appendices to The Lord of the Rings, editor Brian Sibley has assembled into one comprehensive volume a new chronicle of the Second Age of Middle-earth, told substantially in the words of J.R.R. Tolkien from the various published texts, with new illustrations in watercolor and pencil by the doyen of Tolkien art, Alan Lee.
The Fall of Numenor and Other Tales from the Second Age of Middle-earth will be published on November 15th.