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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 April 2007, 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK
Fans flock for 'new' Tolkien book
By Fiona Pryor
Entertainment reporter

The Children of Hurin front cover courtesy of HarperCollins
Illustrator Alan Lee, who worked on the movie series, created the cover
The late Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien continues to generate huge interest among devoted fans.

His final book The Children of Hurin, which his son Christopher completed using unfinished manuscripts, has been launched in London.

The book, set long before the events of the Rings trilogy, brings with it an army of loyal devotees who cannot wait to read it.

At the launch at the Waterstone's book store in Piccadilly Circus, fans queued out of the door to meet Alan Lee, who illustrated the book, and hear a talk by Tolkien's grandson Adam.

Asher Solomon from Australia, a "huge fan" of Tolkien, came to buy a copy for his older brother Izzy, who introduced him to The Hobbit at the age of 10.

"It was a life changing moment because it was the first sort of real book that I ever read," he says.

"He introduced me to the whole genre of fantasy, but the first one's always the best one."

JRR Tolkien
JRR Tolkien began working on the Children of Hurin in 1918
Iain Harris from west London started reading Tolkien at university, where Tom Shippey, who wrote about the authors works in The Road to Middle-Earth, was his personal tutor.

"He ranted loudly in a very table-thumping fashion about how great Tolkien was," he says.

"He made it all come alive and he explained why it was exciting linguistically. I just found the whole thing fascinating."

Di Reynolds from east London was eight when she started reading Tolkien's work has been "hooked ever since".

She used to run the British Fantasy Society and is keen to read the most recent book - but is not sure it should be the first port of call for new converts.

'More scholarly'

"I am worried that some people will try to read the later stuff and will not discover the really classic stuff, which obviously is a lot more approachable," she says.

"I feel this is a bit more scholarly than approachable."

Adam Tolkien
It's a shame that it should become a brand - it's a work of art
Adam Tolkien on his grandfather's work
It is clearly not just Tolkien she admires, as she queues up to have her book signed by Alan Lee.

"I think if he was illustrating the phone book, I would probably want it signed," she says. "I think Alan Lee is such a brilliant artist."

For many others, attending the book launch gives them the chance to find out a bit more about the late author through his grandson.

One fan even asks Adam Tolkien what sort of presents he received from his grandfather at Christmas - to which he replied he "could not remember" because he was only four when the author died.

He later tells journalists his grandfather was a "friendly man" and "very gregarious".

"He liked spending time with his friends drinking, talking and smoking," he says.

The character Turin and Alan Lee (r) with Orcs from Lord of the Rings
Orcs from the new Lord of the Rings stage show joined Alan Lee
"He was also very intensely devoted to his work, both as a professor, his love of languages and his writing. He was a good father," he adds.

Asked how he feels about the publicity his grandfather's work had generated over the years, he says it makes him "sad".

"Everyone talks about the brand, the franchise and the films," he says. "People obviously forget there's a man behind it, that he wrote it for his reasons and the books are wonderful.

"I'm certainly not unhappy about the success they've had, but it's a shame that it should become a brand. It's a work of art."

And despite this book being published worldwide, Adam is adamant both he and his father have "no plans" to re-edit anything more in the "immediate future".

The first broadcast of a JRR Tolkien interview

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03 Jan 06 |  Oxfordshire

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