Physically Middle-earth resembles modern Earth. It is the inhabitants that add the touch of unreality that a reader expects in what Tolkien calls a “secondary” world. In making a world for his hobbits, elves, wizards, dwarves, ents, orcs, ringwraiths, and other unusual beings, Tolkien assumes the creative rights which he says in his essay “On Fairy-stories” belong to the storymaker: the right to be free with nature; to use the world as a basis to make something new, while giving this new world its principles of inner consistency. Much of this mythology and history of Middle-earth comes through songs that pervade the narrative, but a more organized “history,” complete with dates for the four ages of Middle-earth and genealogies of major families of elves, dwarves, hobbits, and human beings, is included as an appendix to the third volume.

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