Ask and ye shall receive.
I sent an e-mail query to Christopher Tolkien to see if he’d be willing to be interviewed by WU in advance of the eagerly awaited publication of his father’s last work of his stupendous Middle Earth mythology, The Children of Húrin. The best I hoped for was a polite ‘no thanks’. But HarperCollins UK now has a web publicity team, and the nice folks there sent a us a comprehensive FAQ sheet about the upcoming release that we wanted to share with you. Enjoy!
Q: How did The Children of Húrin come about?
The Children of Húrin, begun in 1918, was one of three ‘Great Tales’ J.R.R. Tolkien worked on throughout his life, though he never realised his ambition to see it published in his lifetime. Some of the text will be familiar to fans from extracts and references within other Tolkien books but this is the first time the entire story has been presented in its complete form.
As Adam Tolkien elaborated in a recent interview: ‘This is a more difficult question than it seems. As you know, versions and pieces of the story of Húrin and his descendants have been published in various works (The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, The Book of Lost Tales, The Lays of Beleriand, etc). The text of The Children of Húrin is in part compiled from these extant texts, and particularly that which appears in Unfinished Tales. But it is a new reworking of the complete story. Many parts of the text will be – if not identical – recognizable to the knowledgeable reader, but there are also pieces that have never appeared before. Also the format of the text, as a standalone and complete text with no editorial commentary to interrupt the tale, should in itself and in my opinion considerably transform the reading experience. The text as a whole can be said to be “new” as it is a recomposition of published texts and other “pieces” that weren’t published previously. The completed puzzle, in a sense.
Q: What is Christopher’s contribution to the book?
Christopher Tolkien has painstakingly edited together the complete work from his father’s many drafts, and this book is the culmination of a tireless thirty-year endeavour by him to bring J.R.R. Tolkien’s vast body of unpublished work to a wide audience. Christopher Tolkien says: “It has seemed to me for a long time that there was a good case for presenting my father’s long version of the legend of The Children of Húrin as an independent work, between its own covers, with a minimum of editorial presence, and above all in continuous narrative without gaps or interruptions, if this could be done without distortion or invention, despite the unfinished state in which he left some parts of it.” Having drawn the distinctive maps for The Lord of the Rings more than 50 years ago, Christopher has also created a detailed new map for this book.
Adam continues: ‘The text of The Children of Húrin is entirely in the author’s (J.R.R. Tolkien’s) words – apart from very minor reworkings of a grammatical and stylistic nature. Christopher’s work has been to produce a text that is a faithful rendition of his father’s writings – using many sources spaced out over decades.’
Q: What is Alan Lee’s involvement in the book?
In addtion to the text, The Children of Húrin will include a jacket, colour paintings and pencil drawings by Alan Lee, illustrator of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Centenary Edition and Oscar®-winning designer of the film trilogy. The eight paintings, together with the dramatic front cover illustration and 25 drawings, have been a real labour of love for the artist. He says of his work, ‘It is always a privilege being asked to illustrate the work of such a distinguished and well-loved author. I had already worked on illustrations for editions of The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings for HarperCollins so was familiar with the particular challenge of interpreting the characters and places unique to Tolkien. Illustrating The Children of Húrin was quite a responsibility but I hope that I have produced artwork that will successfully complement this wonderful tale for the reader.’
Q: What formats will The Children of Húrin be available in?
The Children of Húrin will be simultaneously published in two editions – a standard hardback edition at £18.99 (ISBN 0-00-724622-6) and a de luxe slipcased edition at £60.00 (ISBN 0-00-725223-4).
Q: What will be included in the hardback book?
The book will include the first standalone tale of Middle-earth since 1977 – the complete version of Tolkien’s most dramatic tale
- A specially-written introduction by J.R.R. Tolkien’s son Christopher
- Appendices on the history of the tale also written by Christopher Tolkien
- Exclusive new two-colour fold-out map of Beleriand and the lands to the north
- More than 30 new paintings and drawings by award-winning illustrator Alan Lee
- Three genealogical tables specially drawn by Christopher Tolkien for this new work
Q: What will be in the de luxe edition?
The de luxe edition will be housed in a custom-built slipcase; it will include the cover painting as an exclusive frontispiece; be decorated with a unique foiled motif created specially by Alan Lee for this edition; include a silk ribbon marker; and will be produced using superior materials and binding. It will be the perfect companion to de luxe editions of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It is being published alongside The Children of Húrin hardback in April 2007. At this time there are no plans for there to be a signed edition.
Q: Where can I buy the books?
The best place to order the book prior to the publication date is Amazon.co.uk. From the April 17, 2007 the book will be available in all good bookstores, including Waterstones, Borders and WHSmith.
Q: When will the new website be up and running?
We are currently working on redesigning the Tolkien website and we are aiming to have the new site live at the beginning of March 2007. If you would like to receive further information and be kept up to date with news about the impending book launch then please visit the site from March and register your details.
Q: Will Christopher Tolkien be doing any signings?
Christopher Tolkien will regrettably be unavailable to attend any signing events. However, Alan Lee will be signing copies of the book in the UK and further details of these events will be available on our website from March.
Q: Will any review copies be available in advance of the publication date?
No review copies are being sent out as we want fans to read the book when it is published and not have had their reading enjoyment spoiled by details of the story being revealed in early reviews.