J.R.R. Tolkien is most well-known for his Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit. However, he wrote many other books and published several stories and translations of older works. Unfortunately, because he was also a professor, it’s hard to pinpoint precisely how many books he wrote in total.
Tolkien wrote at least 29 books. As sources disagree on the exact number it’s difficult to give a single figure. The Tolkien Library puts the number at “more than 29.” The Tolkien Society, on the other hand, credits him with at least 48 books, some of which were published after his death.
This article will discuss some of Tolkien’s most famous works, his published supplemental stories and books set in Middle-Earth, and more. Keep reading for more information on one of the 20th century’s most talented writers.
Tolkien’s Most Famous Works
The Lord of the Rings books and The Hobbit are by far Tolkien’s most well-known novels. Readers and non-readers alike are familiar with these stories, largely thanks to Peter Jackson’s brilliant reimagining of the books into movies in the early 2000s.
There are three Lord of the Rings novels; however, what many people don’t know is that each one contains two books in one, for an actual total of six books. These books are broken down into the following titles:
- The Fellowship of the Ring: being the first part of The Lord of the Rings: Containing The Ring Sets Out and The Ring Goes South
- The Two Towers: being the second part of The Lord of the Rings: Containing The Treason of Isengard and The Ring Goes East
- The Return of the King: being the third part of The Lord of the Rings: Containing The War of the Ring and The End of the Third Age
The Hobbit: There and Back Again was a standalone book published years before the first Lord of the Rings novel. Though only a few characters from The Hobbit would appear in Lord of the Rings, the events in the book set up the foremost action to occur in The Lord of the Rings.
Tolkien’s Other Works Set in Middle-Earth
Though those four books are the ones most people are familiar with, they weren’t the only ones set in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. Tolkien adored his fantasy world and wrote many other stories, appendices, novellas, etc., that took place in that world.
Many of them weren’t published until after Tolkien’s death in 1973, and his son, Christopher Tolkien, heavily edited and even finished some of them. However, to our knowledge, he at least began all of them himself.
There are 12 volumes of works collectively called ‘The History of Middle-Earth’ that were compiled, edited, and published by Tolkien’s son after his death. These chronicle Tolkien’s journey writing the Lord of the Rings books and often include characters and stories that never actually appeared in the final product. These books are, in order:
- The Book of Lost Tales, Part I
- The Book of Lost Tales, Part II
- The Lays of Beleriand
- The Shaping of Middle-earth
- The Lost Road and Other Writings
- The Return of the Shadow
- The Treason of Isengard
- The War of the Ring
- Sauron Defeated
- Morgoth’s Rising
- The War of the Jewels
- The People’s of Middle-earth
Other Middle-Earth stories include the following:
- The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book
- The Silmarillion
- The Children of Húrin
- Bilbo’s Last Song
- The Road Goes Ever On: A Song Cycle
- The History of the Hobbit
- A Middle English Vocabulary
- The Nature of Middle-earth
- Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-earth
- Beren and Lúthien
- The Fall of Gondolin
- The Tolkien Reader
People are often surprised when they see how many books there are with ties to Middle-Earth, as many only know of the four famous works in the series.
Tolkien’s Other, Non-Middle-Earth-Related Works
Besides being a successful author, Tolkien was also a professor, specifically of Anglo-Saxon Old English. Perhaps his love of languages and literature was what inspired him to translate so many other texts and write about many others.
The following includes books Tolkien translated into English and those that he wrote that had nothing to do with Middle-Earth:
- Sir Gawain & The Green Knight
- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl and Sir Orfeo
- The Fall of Arthur
- Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary
- The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún
- Tales from the Perilous Realm
- The Old English ‘Exodus’
- Tolkien on Fairy Stories
- The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays
- Farmer Giles of Ham
- Mr. Bliss
- The Story of Kullervo
- Tree and Leaf
- Ancrene Wisse: The English Text of the Ancrene Riwle
- Smith of Wootton Major
- Finn and Hengest: The Fragment and the Episode
- A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages
- The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun
- Poems and Stories
Finally, publishers released two books of Tolkien’s letters and one of his pictures and illustrations. These include:
- The Father Christmas Letters
- Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
- Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien
As a professor, it’s likely that Tolkien also wrote numerous other essays, critiques, and commentaries. However, those are either lost to history or not counted among his numerous titles.
Some Tolkien scholars and enthusiasts argue that many of these ‘books’ shouldn’t count as part of Tolkien’s published works because they were largely edited by his son or were never meant to be published, as in the case of his letters.
However, Tolkien is one of the most beloved authors of the 20th century. Therefore, it makes sense that people want to get as much Tolkien as possible, even if much of it was published after his death from unfinished manuscripts and letters to his friends and family.
Determining how many books Tolkien wrote isn’t as straightforward a process as it may seem. Still, the 50+ titles in this article encompass every title collected in the Tolkien Library and the Tolkien Society’s lists of Tolkien’s works.
It’s up to the reader to decide whether all of them deserve to be counted as part of Tolkien’s actual work or not. Just remember, even those pieces heavily edited by others originally stemmed from Tolkien’s brilliant mind.