Written in 1917, while Tolkien was recovering from trench fever after the Battle of the Somme, The Fall of Gondolin has never previously been published as a stand-alone book, though it appeared in 1984 as part of the 12-volume History of Middle-Earth.
The new edition has been edited by the author’s 93-year-old son Christopher Tolkien, and illustrated by Alan Lee, the artist who illustrated The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and also designed the fantastical architecture for Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of the latter.
Tolkien expert and Telegraph contributor John Garth called The Fall of Gondolin «Tolkien’s attempt at an epic – something like the Iliad,» adding that the story was «a template for everything Tolkien wrote afterwards».
«It’s a quest story with a reluctant hero who turns into a genuine hero,” Garth said. “It has a dark lord, our first encounter with orcs and balrogs – it’s really Tolkien limbering up for what he would be doing later.”
The book’s publishers HarperCollins have described The Fall of Gondolin as a clash between «two of the greatest powers in the world»; the Elf god Ulmo, and «Morgoth of the uttermost evil» – who uses his «vast military power» in an attempt to destroy the beautiful Elven city of Gondolin.
Morgoth uses cumbersome metal dragons created by «smiths and sorcerers» in his assault on the city. Garth has suggested that these dragons, which «clang» as they moved on pieces of «cunningly linked» iron, could have been inspired by the British tanks first deployed at the Somme.
The Fall of Gondolin is published by HarperCollins on August 30