J.R.R. Tolkien's Unpublished Middle-earth Essays Will Finally Be Released

We’ve clearly established that Gandalf can grow a beard...but who else?
We’ve clearly established that Gandalf can grow a beard...but who else?
Image: New Line Cinema

It’s counted as one of the biggest debates among Lord of the Rings fans: Who can grow a beard? Well, J.R.R. Tolkien himself has the answer in a previously unpublished essay expanding the world of Middle-earth, part of a new collection of works that’s set to come out next year.

As reported by the Guardian, HarperCollins is getting ready to release a new collection of previously unpublished Tolkien essays called The Nature of Middle-earth, edited by Tolkien expert and head of the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship Carl F. Hostetter. The release has been authorized by the Tolkien estate, which took over Tolkien’s collection following the retirement of its previous caretaker, Christopher Tolkien, who died earlier this year.


This collection of writings, which were drafted later in Tolkien’s life, explores the world of Middle-earth and divulges some of its secrets. Topics include: Elvish immortality and reincarnation, the geography of the kingdom of Gondor, and the long-standing question of who can grow a beard in Middle-earth. HarperCollins’ deputy publishing director Chris Smith called the collection a “treasure trove” for Tolkien fans and scholars.

“For him, Middle-earth was part of an entire world to be explored,” Smith said. “The writings in The Nature of Middle-earth reveal the journeys that he took as he sought to better understand his unique creation.”

The Nature of Middle-earth comes as Tolkien’s world anticipates yet another resurgence; Amazon Studios is working on a new Lord of the Rings series, which saw some production delays because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. The Nature of Middle-earth is set to come out in summer 2021.

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Video Editor and Staff Writer at io9. My doppelganger is that rebelling greeting card from Futurama.

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Also, the 4K UHD LotR set drops tomorrow. No extras, but the set includes both the theatrical and extended versions. The reviews have been fantastic. All the weird purple and green hues from the DVDs and Blu-Rays are gone. 

The Hobbit trilogy also comes out tomorrow, but um yeah.