Brian Sibley’s “Fall of Numenor”

I received a copy of Brian Sibley’s “Fall of Numenor” today, its official publication day. In interviews, Sibley has explained how he used the published books as his starting point, and has been very keen to point out that he has invented nothing but also isn’t publishing any new Tolkien texts. In fact, at the start of the project he purchased fresh copies of the printed books so he could heavily annotate them by hand as he worked. The book’s full title is “The Fall of Numenor and Other Tales from the Second Age of Middle-earth”, but it is really a chronicle of the whole of the Second Age, with Numenor taking a central role because so much material is available about it.

After introductory material discussing Sibley’s aims and the history of Tolkien’s writing, there are 213 pages devoted to a greatly expanded version of the Tale of Years from Appendix B. This expansion is primarily based on the Akallabeth and Of the Rings of Power from the published Silmarillion, and the Second Age material in the Unfinished Tales. However, some extra detail has been obtained from the History of Middle Earth volumes and the more recent the Nature of Middle-earth. The aim is clearly to assemble material from these various sources in one place, in one timeline, in a consistent way. As Sibley explains in the preface, he has attempted to follow Christopher Tolkien’s principle that published works override unpublished drafts in authenticity. As such, the book is an attempt to further extend the Greater Canon of LOTR, Hobbit, Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and the three Great Tales of the Children of Hurin, Beren and Luthien, and the Fall of Gondolin.

After the expanded Tale of Years there are two Appendices: a brief account of the Third Age, and material from the Lost Road about Numenor, which Sibley has not attempted to fit into the later accounts of its history and fall. Finally, there are detailed notes, collected at the end of the book rather than presented as footnotes. This allows the reader to enjoy the main text as a Secondary World document, but stop and check the notes if a particular passage raises questions about its origin.

After a first evening with the book, I do like the way Sibley has approached this all and the book is further enhanced with more of Alan Lee’s wonderful paintings. The cover image which appears on the dust jacket is also reproduced on the first endpapers and so you still have is easily accessible even if you remove dust jackets and put them in a poster tube, which is a nice touch, not least because it shows the tiny figure of Sauron at that famous moment when the waves inundated Numenor.