Professor John Ronald Reuel Tolkien has been gone 47 years. Nevertheless, the Guardian has reported that there will be a new Tolkien book next year. The Nature of Middle-Earth will be a collection of previously unpublished essays “tackling topics ranging from Elvish reincarnation to which characters had beards, is to be published next summer.”

Can you tell Dwarven women from Dwarven men because their beards are shorter?

Was the jibe that you could tell male Dwarves from female by the length and fullness of their beards just Gimli pulling his human friend’s leg? Or is it true? Can Elves grow beards? Can elven souls be reincarnated into the bodies of newborn Elves, or possibly into Hobbits or Humans? Inquiring minds want to know.

J.R.R. Tolkein

HarperCollins’ deputy publishing director Chris Smith said “For him [Tolkien], Middle-earth was part of an entire world to be explored … and the writings in The Nature of Middle-earth reveal the journeys that he took as he sought to better understand his unique creation.” Smith called these essays “a treasure trove” for fans of Lord of the Rings. The essays will discuss both the natural history and the spirituality of Middle-Earth. Topics to be explored in the new book will include “Elvish immortality and reincarnation; the nature of the Valar, the god-like spirits of Middle-earth; the lands and beasts of Númenor; the geography of the kingdom of Gondor; and even who had beards.”

The Nature of Middle-Earth is being edited by NASA engineer and Tolkien scholar Carl F. Hostetter. Hostetter previously worked with Tolkien’s youngest son Christopher, who curated the author’s posthumous output until his death in January, aged 95.

As SCIFI.radio and other sources have already reported, there is a movement to purchase and preserve Professor Tolkien’s former home in Oxford, and convert it into a literary center dedicated to Tolkien scholarship. If they are successful, this may not be the professor’s last posthumous book. Professor Tolkien has already published eight books from the grave.

Gamers, as well as Tolkien scholars, may find The Nature of Middle-Earth useful.

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