With the release of the first instalment of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" later this year 2012 looks like being a splendid year for fans of J.R.R. Tolkien, who have been waiting the best part of a decade since the final instalment of "The Lord of the Rings" swept the Oscars with all the panache of an eored of Rohirrim charging across the Fields of Pelennor.
Perhaps even better and certainly more overdue than the films is the release of the Lego Lord of the Rings range (presumably the two are not unrelated). Indeed I fully anticipate that come Christmas Day I'll be hacking my way through Lego Orcs and Uruk-hai on the Wii just as Tolkien always intended when he first set pen to paper.
I know this was his undying wish as I've just finished reading "The History of Middle Earth" (Volumes 6-9) in which Christopher Tolkien reveals the development of the story of "The Lord of the Rings" as well as some interesting "deleted scenes".
Ok - I'll admit now that there are in fact no mentions of Lego in any of Tolkien's works but there are plenty of other interesting "what if's?" to be getting on with.
For a start Aragorn, the warrior king, was originally a hobbit and a long lost relative of Frodo. Even when the character had made the transition from hobbit to man he was still lumbered with the name "Trotter" (This time next year Rodney - you'll be king of Gondor!).
Perhaps more intriguing is the fact that for a long time Tolkien was unsure as to who it was that fought with Gandalf in the depths of the Mines of Moria. Before the honour was claimed by the Balrog other candidates included the Lord of the Nazgul, who would later confront Gandalf during the Siege of Minas Tirith, and Saruman. Tolkien even toyed with the idea that Saruman was the Balrog.
Although the book reveals some of the clangers thankfully rejected by Tolkien there were also some excellent ideas that were developed to a considerable degree before they were dropped.
The story of the visit to Bree and the subsequent attack on Weathertop by the Ringwraiths was very different in its early stages but arguably more exciting than the final version and even involved the kidnap of a hobbit by the Ringwraiths.
By far the most dramatic scene to be cut though comes right at the end of the book.
Frodo stands by the Cracks of Doom, the ring has been destroyed along with Gollum and Mount Doom is tearing itself to pieces. As he turns to escape there at the door stands the Lord of the Nazgul "We perish together at the end" he hisses, only to be told "You first!" as the unnoticed Sam stabs him in the back.
Despite the many interesting facts to be found it has to be said that the Histories are not a gripping read the whole way through. It's not difficult to understand why "The Notion Club Papers" were abandoned for example.
Overall though, even if for no one else, it's well worth reading for any serious Tolkien fan.