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New Tolkien book goes on sale

Broadcast: 19/04/2007

Reporter: Razia Iqbal from the BBC program Newsnight

In an extraordinary literary event, a new JRR Tolkien book has been released, years after the death
of the author. Best known for The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien's new offering was edited from his
notes by his son, Christopher.

Transcript

KERRY O'BRIEN: The smash hit Peter Jackson Hollywood version of the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy
helped make the work of the English author, J.R.R. Tolkien, accessible to a whole new generation of
readers around the world.

It's now been followed by a quite extraordinary literary event - a new Tolkien book. Many years
after the author's death, edited from his notes by his son Christopher. The BBC's Newsnight program
was given access to the book and an interview with Tolkien himself, which has never been broadcast
before.

Razia Iqbal, from the BBC's Newsnight reports.

(Miranda Otto singing. Taken from 'The Two Towers' (2002) New Line Cinema)

RAZIA IQBAL: A plaintive lament from the epic movie trilogy 'The Lord of The Rings'.

There is though little to lament about the Tolkien brand. A staggering 150 million people have
bought the books. Fifty million of those since the film trilogy wowed fans and critics alike.

J.R.R. Tolkien's classic work of fantasy started out in his mind as a book written for his
children.

PROFESSOR J.R.R. TOLKIEN, AUTHOR: I read it to my children. I read to the two elder ones who took a
kindly and, on the whole, favourable an interest in it. But they criticised very severely and first
opened my eyes to the whole situation which led to my essay on fairy stories, criticised very
severely all those things in which my, owing to bad models, I though was suitable to put into a
children's story. They hated asides, anything like, 'so now I've told you enough.' They loathed
anything that made it sound as if you were talking to a, an actual audience.

RAZIA IQBAL: The audience for Tolkien's books remains voracious and committed. And now some 50
years after the publication of the 'Lord of the Rings' the Tolkien literary estate have published a
new work, 'The Children of Hurin'.

Tolkien began writing it in the trenches during the First World War. Parts of it, though, have been
seen before.

ADAM TOLKIEN, GRANDSON: 'The Children of Hurin' hasn't been published as a stand alone tale and
it's been published in works and also a long time ago before, among other things, before the films
made Tolkien doubly, triply popular. And it's published in what are scholarly works and you can
read the stories just for the stories, skipping the notes, but you're not going to get a simple
start-to-finish story. And they're published with the name of very exact literary analysis, which
means that if the story, it's one version of the story and if it's interrupted it stops there
whereas 'The Children of Hurin', the new book, is worked together from all the author's words. But
to become a stand alone story that can be read as such.

(Music from the film)

RAZIA IQBAL: However, fans of Bilbo Baggins may be in for a bit of a shock with 'The Children of
Hurin'. It is a dark tale of incest and betrayal and one in which most of the protagonists kill
themselves or each other.

ADAM TOLKIEN: I think a bit too much is being made of the incest. That is, it's part of the tragedy
of the story - that this brother and sister don't know that they're brother and sister. But it's,
it is definitely a tragic tale.

But I don't know, I don't know what people will make of it. It takes place in a part of Middle
Earth that doesn't exist anymore when 'Lord of the Rings' takes place, but it's very much Middle
Earth, it's very much the same world. And it is, it's a more serious tale in a sense than the 'Lord
of the Rings'.

RAZIA IQBAL: While 'The Hobbit' and the 'Lord of the Rings' remain the most popular of Tolkien's
books, his more obscure works dealing with the ancient history of elves and men were to him all
part of the same mythic tapestry.

PROFESSOR J.R.R. TOLKIEN: There are in existence a very large collection, now a collection
impractically written, but legends about the, the world of the past, particularly after the Exalios
came back and conducted their war against the devil in the north-western part of this, this world
we live in. And the connection of the, of the men who joined in with them.

ADAM TOLKIEN: We hope it will strike a chord in people who've discovered the stories of Middle
Earth with the 'Lord of the Rings', but who don't really know about the other works or who've been,
found them too difficult. And we, we think that this tale in particular, which was one tale that
the author did work at enough so that we could produce a full length story, it's a beautiful tale
in itself. And it may or may not strike a chord. People may think it doesn't have enough Hobbits in
it, because there aren't any.

(Music from the film)

KERRY O'BRIEN: And that interview with Tolkien was conducted just five years before his death.

Razia Iqbal of the BBC with that report.