Review: The Fall of Gondolin by J.R.R. Tolkien - 9/10*
I was delighted when I heard about the release of this book because in Beren and Lúthien Christopher Tolkien erroneously stated that it was going to be the last restoration of his father’s work he undertook. He changed his mind. And I thank him for it because this is a glorious tale, showcasing much of Tolkien’s brilliance.
Firstly though, many readers will have a pertinent question on their mind: is The Fall of Gondolin worth buying for those who have read The Silmarillion? It most definitely is.
There is a very brief section dedicated to this tale in The Silmarillion. In my edition, there’s only six pages of the story. And that’s it. It’s like a historical plot summary without the finer details of real storytelling involved as per the mythopoetic style Tolkien was using through the work. So, yes, this is absolutely worth reading because you will never have seen the full details of this story before. There is new material here, though it is largely unfinished and lacking the immersive powers his completed works possess.
So whether or not you decide to pick this up depends on your level of dedication to the author. I knew I couldn’t miss it because it sounded so compelling. The plot is similar to Beren and Lúthien and The Children of Hurin in the respect that a powerful romance strengthens it. The lovers are Tuor and Idril. Idril is the daughter of Turgon, king of Gondolin. Tuor had been sent to the kingdom by Ulmo, one of the Vala, to encourage Turgon to initiate a pre-emptive assault on his enemy Melko (Morgoth.) The king ignores the advice and ushers in his own doom.
The beautiful city of Gondolin is sacked years later by an army of Morogth’s, comprising of dragons, balrogs and orcs. Tuor fights to save Idril through the siege and fails to defend her father the king. He and the survivors are hopelessly outnumbered and are forced to flee. The battle is vivid as the language artfully captures the intensity and drama of such an epic moment in the First Age of middle-earth. Many heroes fall and many legends are made, several of which acute readers may remember brief mentions of in The Lord of the Rings.
As a huge Tolkien enthusiast, I know I speak for many other readers, when I extend my undying thanks to Christopher Tolkien for allowing his father’s unfinished work to be published. Although this work is far from a shinning jewel, I can imagine how fantastic this would have been as I read the segments (and various drafts) of the story: I can see what this would have been. And, as ever, the artwork of Alan Lee brings the words to life.
However, this is the very last we will see of it. Christopher Tolkien explicitly states that this is the final piece (and that he will not change his mind this time.) The destruction of a fine city is an appropriate last glimpse of such a vast world, as the walls of Gondolin crumble and the tower collapses, it marks the very end.