J.R.R. Tolkien's Last Hurrah

Article excerpt

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- More than 30 years after his death, a "new" book by J.R.R. Tolkien went on sale last Tuesday which may well be the author's last complete work to be published posthumously.

Tolkien's son and literary executor Christopher, now in his 80's, constructed "The Children of Hurin" from his father's manuscripts, and said he tried to do so "without any editorial invention."

Already told in fragmentary form in "The Silmarillion," which appeared in 1977, the new book is darker than "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings," for which Tolkien is best known.

"It's not Harry Potter," said David Brawn, director at Tolkien publisher HarperCollins, a division of News Corp.

The story is set long before "The Lord of the Rings" in a part of Middleearth that was drowned before Hobbits ever appeared, and tells the tragic tale of Turin and his sister Nienor who are cursed by Morgoth, the first Dark Lord.

Brawn said the initial worldwide print run for the new book, featuring illustrations by Oscar-winner Alan Lee, was 500,000.

He told Reuters that Christopher, who does not give interviews, wanted to put the spotlight back on Tolkien's writing after Peter Jackson's hugely popular film trilogy based on "The Lord of the Rings."

"The Hobbit" is also likely to be made into a movie.

"As publishers we've been through the most extraordinary time with the films," Brawn said. "They created this parallel strand of publishing and exploitation and once we had gone through that we said, 'How do we get people back to the books? …