Tolkien Almost Wrote A Fourth ‘Lord Of The Rings’ Novel

” ‘I wish life was not so short,’ he thought. ‘Languages take such a time, and so do all the things one wants to know about.’ ” —JRR Tolkien, “The Lost Road and Other Writings”

In A Nutshell

JRR Tolkien wrote many more works besides his two most popular (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings). These mainly included more short stories, most set within his fictional world of Middle Earth. However, after his death, his son Christopher Tolkien published many of his notes and unfinished works, one of which included the failed, discarded draft of a final novel in the Lord of the Rings series.

The Whole Bushel

Originally “discovered” in some of Tolkien’s published letters, the author expressed his unhappiness with the ideas he had contrived, and referred to it as a “thriller.” The manuscript was only a first draft, and highly incomplete. It was roughly 13 pages long, and did not have much, if any editing done on it at all.

The basic plot of the 13 pages was laid out in the manuscript and by Tolkien himself in some of his letters. It was set roughly 100 years after the events of The Lord of the Rings. None of the characters from the original trilogy are featured in the manuscript, though the possibility of Gandalf appearing likely crossed Tolkien’s mind. The book centers around a young man named Borlas, and chronicles the aftermath of the fall of Sauron. One of the major themes was, according to Tolkien, the fact that Men far too often become satisfied with peace and splendor, almost as if they have been lulled into a false sense of security. Thus the main conflict arises from the lionization of aspects of the previous novels, such as young boys playing as Orcs, eventually culminating in what can only be described as a satanic (or perhaps Sauronic) cult, which creates the main dilemma and conflict for the plot.

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Considering all that we really have are the first 13 rough pages, it is tricky to determine just exactly where Tolkien was going to take the story, but it would undoubtedly be a bit tricky to follow up the massive, culmination events of the previous novels. Tolkien mentioned that he stopped writing as he considered the writing to be “sinister and depressing,” and the plot nothing granting hope or inspiration to the reader.

It is rather strange to think that Tolkien, who was widely considered less a commercial writer than a man with a world in his mind, simply allowing people in through his words would do something that we often see Hollywood film executives doing in an effort to make more money. Fortunately, Tolkien spared us, and axed his own project before he became too serious about it. To hardcore fans, however, this writing is highly interesting, as it delves into the time period which is referred to in the mythos as “The Fourth Age,” the previous novels taking place in the Third Age. Granted, this is not Tolkien’s only venture outside of those books which are well recognized, as he did write many other works, and there are a great deal of unfinished publications (which were likely never meant to be published, were it not for Tolkien’s son). Hopefully Peter Jackson won’t find these 13 pages for his next trilogy.

Show Me The Proof

The New Shadow
Exploring Tolkien’s Fourth Age
Photo credit: Zanastardust