Novelist and professor J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the prequel The Hobbit, and legendarium The Simillarion are regarded as some of the most iconic works of fantasy fiction. While he never finished another proper book series based on Middle-earth, his son Christopher Tolkien did edit and release several works such as The Unfinished Tales.
However, it is in The People of Middle-earth where we find a true gem: a sequel that the elder Tolkien began titled “The New Shadow.” A hefty first chapter is written before the author seemingly decided to discontinue it, not wanting it to take away from the original trilogy.
What does it consist of? Through the unfinished manuscript, we get a glimpse:
Taking place 105 years after the fall of Sauron, Gondor finds itself in a time of Great Peace where Orcs are just legends, seemingly making the citizens complacent. A young man named Saelon and an old man known as Borlas, son of Beregond, have a discussion in an orchard, believing something sinister is growing in Gondor and sense a Dark Tree rising. Saelon hints that he knows more than he lets on about it, mentioning the phrase “Herumor,” a Sindarin word for ‘Dark Lord.’ He offers to meet Borlas after dark and take him to see something of interest. The older man thinks this might be a trap, but decides to go along anyway. As he returns home to get his coat, he senses that something sinister is in the wind.
No one knows his intention, we only speculate based on his letters or books. In the novel, The Mouth of Sauron’s fate is unknown after his encounter with Gandalf and Aragon. Perhaps he could have been involved. Tolkien hinted to one colleague that the Blue Wizards may have become corrupted while they were in the East, making them a possible antagonist for the novel.
Whatever the case may be, the only thing we know for sure is that Tolkien opted not to continue with the project.
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien reveal his thoughts: “I did begin a story placed about 100 years after the Downfall, but it proved both sinister and depressing. Since we are dealing with Men it is inevitable that we should be concerned with the most regrettable feature of their nature: their quick satiety with good. So that the people of Gondor in times of peace, justice and prosperity, would become discontented and restless — while the dynasts descended from Aragorn would become just kings and governors — like Denethor or worse. I found that even so early there was an outcrop of revolutionary plots, about a centre of secret Satanistic religion; while Gondorian boys were playing at being Orcs and going around doing damage. I could have written a ‘thriller’ about the plot and its discovery and overthrow — but it would have been just that. Not worth doing.”
While it is a shame that fans of Middle-Earth will not get to enjoy this possible novel, I do understand his thought process. When something as great as The Lord of the Rings is written, it is hard to follow up on the great success of creating an instant classic.
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