For those that love "Lord of the Rings," I was fascinated and intrigued to hear about Tolkien writing...and abandoning...a sequel to his most famous work, set in a time when only Men live on Middle Earth during the era of the Unified Kingdom ruled by Aragorn's descendants.
Because there was very little wonder left, the work, "The New Shadow," was crushingly dreary and dark, but in a fascinating way like a good chiller book. The story fragment, set in a time when Goblins and Orcs are legends, features a fighting man in Gondor that discovers remnants of a Satan worshipping cult, of humans that behave like Orcs and cut down trees for no reason (which in Tolkien's world, is quite possibly the most dickish deed possible).
The thing that strikes me the most as interesting about the New Shadow is how similar it is to Conan the Barbarian. Bear with me here. The main character is a solid, regular fighting man whose primary virtues are his simple honesty, traditionalism, and fighting prowess. He lives in a complacent era, with rulers that are merely competent administrators. Most impressively of all, the main villains are frightening Satanic cults dedicated to the worship of scary pre-human societies.
All in all, I'm sorry Tolkien abandoned his Lord of the Rings sequel after 16 pages. It would have been a great insight into an era of Middle Earth that was phenomenally underdeveloped and been a great middle ground between the mythic pessimism and tragedy of the Silmarillion, and the realism and grit of the Lord of the Rings.
Tolkien's reasons for abandoning the New Shadow strike me as incredibly harebrained. According to Tolkien, the reason he gave up was because he felt the sense of wonder that existed in Middle Earth no longer existed come the Age of Men, and because without Sauron there wasn't a single source of evil in the world that transcended the possibility for human evil. For the first point, the very curiosity that many people have about events after Lord of the Rings ends shows there's obviously some creative potential there even without Elves and Wizards.
The second point is enormously wrongheaded. The worst part of Lord of the Rings was a central villain who was inaccessible, remote and entirely in the background with inhuman "Evil with a Capital E" motives. How much stronger that book series would have been with an ever-present "Doctor Doom" type villain with an actual personality and comprehensible human motives.
Also, the idea that all evil has to have a single source and that evil is a unified force is one of the greatest errors in conservative and Christian thinking. One of my all-time favorite examples of this phenomena is the Tea Party's current unification of high-level bankers with socialism, and the inability to tell the difference between fascism and communism. How a banker can be a socialist defies my understanding, but there it is. It reminds me also of the evangelical protestant view that pornography, radical feminism and the coarsening of our culture are ultimately the doing of a conspiracy headed by Satan himself. Again, the idea that feminists and pornographers both do the bidding of a single Master requires mental gymnastics I'm not capable of.