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"Yes, there are Orcs in it"

June 1, 2008 |  3:41 pm

I thought "The Children of Hurin" was it. With its 2007 publication, the depths of J.R.R. Tolkien's Orcs_2 excess materials had been thoroughly plumbed. Who was I kidding? At their booth, the Houghton Mifflin team proudly announced the publication this fall of "Tales from the Perilous Realm." Then, I realized that this was not a new work, but new packaging for old stories that have been around for many years, some dating to the 1940s. The book gathers several of the master's shorter works--"Farmer Giles of Ham," "Leaf by Niggle," "Smith of Wootton Major" and "Roverandom"--as well as a book of poems, "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil." On the one hand, it seems like just another publishing tactic to keep the Tolkien industry's momentum going long after fresh discoveries have dried up. On the other hand, here will be a good opportunity to reconsider some of his more obscure works.

Does Tolkien even need to have the final word on the universe he created? At the booth for Orbit Books, the publicists displayed galleys of "Orcs," which gathers a trilogy by Stan Nicholls that has sold well around the world. This will be its first U.S. publication. The striking image on the cover (right) drew a steady stream of visitors. When I approached sales director Gina Wynn, before I could even say a word, she smiled and said, "Yes, there are Orcs in it. Want a copy? I haven't been able to keep them on the shelves." If the convention response was any indication of future success, "Orcs" should do just fine this fall.

Nick Owchar