Love not too well the work of thy hands and the devices of thy heart, and remember that the true hope of the Noldor lieth in the West and cometh from the sea.
This book collects in one volume two previously published stories of Gondolin. The first, an early version of Tuor’s journey to Gondolin and of the fall of the city, is from The Book of Lost Tales, Part Two. It is longer and more detailed than the version in The Silmarillion, but it was never revised to fit in with changes to the other stories of First Age Middle-earth (i.e., changes to the major events and character names). The second story, previously published in Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth, fits in better with The Silmarillion. It tells the story of Tuor’s journey but breaks off when he enters the city. Other drafts of the story follow, with an account of how the tale of Gondolin evolved over time in Tolkien’s writing.
There are some great moments in this story. The highlights for me are probably the moment when Tuor finds Idril during the attack on Gondolin (in the Tale of the Fall of Gondolin), and Ulmo’s words to Tuor (in The Last Version.)
As with Beren and Lúthien and The Children of Húrin, there is a prologue explaining “the story so far,” for readers who haven’t read The Silmarillion. However… I’m not sure it makes as much sense for this volume. In my opinion, the story of Gondolin does not stand alone as well as the other two. The Children of Húrin and Beren and Lúthien don’t go all the way to the end of the First Age, so I was surprised to see that The Fall of Gondolin includes a chapter that covers the Tale of Earendil and the War of Wrath. I really think that tale is more powerful at the end of the main narrative in The Silmarillion, and makes more sense that way. Besides, this chapter is definitely less polished than the corresponding chapter of The Silmarillion, so this book is probably not the best place to start.
My favorite First Age story is probably the core story of the doom of the Noldor. After that, I would say The Children of Húrin, then Beren and Lúthien, and then the fall of Gondolin, pretty much in that order. I do like the story of Gondolin, but for me it doesn’t hold the fascination of the other tales.
some reviews from other readers: