The Children of Hurin Special ReportWednesday, May 2, 2007
NEW YORK CITY — A lot like Haley’s Comet, certain events just don’t come around often. Like a sighting of a heavenly body, a newly published book by J.R.R. Tolkien qualifies as both wondrous and celestial. So when the Christopher Tolkien-edited, brand spankin’ new volume titled The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien hit the streets fans were thrilled to have something new like this for the first time since The Silmarillion was published in 1977.
Like that book, the new volume that enlarges the knowledge of the early ages of Middle-earth has gone directly to the top of best sellers list. The first Houghton-Mifflin printing of 250,000 copies has more or less sold out. You can get some copies at some book stores in some areas but others are completely sold through and the next printing of 200,000 is on the way. But as elusive as a first edition might be already, readers at a Barnes & Noble in New York City snagged what may go down as the ultimate modern Tolkien collectible.
Christopher Tolkien and artist Alan Lee (cover art plus sketches and painting inside) signed around 500 book plates for this first edition and fans lined up to snag, as far as anybody can figure, one of the only things signed by Christopher ever. And of course Sideshow Collectibles was there to support our friends at TheOneRing.net and Houghton-Mifflin and to help make the banner day even better.
Of those 500 or so books, some went to other retails stores around the country to be used as promotional items in places like Salt Lake City and Seattle. The remaining 450 books sold out in under an hour in Manhattan. Shawn came from Houston, your humble author traveled from Salt Lake (somebody had to buy donuts right?!), Dimitri who led the line was from Russia, while families drove from Canada and the locals came from New Jersey(!) folks joined the queue to be certain to get one of the most precious items ever.
Sideshow Collectibles is sympathetic to long lines (hence the innovative San Diego Comic-Con Collect-n-Go system) and tried to ease the pain for those determined to get their hands on one of the books with prizes, fun, and frivolity. Sideshow gifted every single person in line with a $20 gift card and also sent along a dozen prizes to be distributed. Breaking the line down into small groups, sections played Tolkien trivia. And this was not easy stuff. Don’t believe me? Try it. (Answers at the end)
- What Elven name does Legolas call Ents?
- To where did Eomer ask Aragorn to return the horses he lent him?
- What was the name of the Entwife that Fangorn loved?
- What did Boromir shout as he went to the rescue of Gandalf on the narrow bridge, in Moria?
See? So those who knew – or who know how to make lucky guesses – snagged a Crown of the King of the Dead from the Sideshow Collectibles collection. There were also trial copies of “The Lord of the Rings Online” game and TheOneRing.net t-shirts, left over from conventions or on-site sales.
TheOneRing.net sprang for donuts, keeping the shop around the corner pretty busy all morning as the line got larger and larger leading up to the noon hour. Shawn from Houston delivered a recitation of “Earendil Was a Mariner” from The Lord of the Rings, which is several hundred words of Old-English style poetry written by a philologist who translated Beowulf for fun. Shawn would have received prizes for his efforts but he was already a trivia master and didn’t need anything extra.
At noon the Barnes & Noble security team took the patient and dedicated line folk into the store and allowed each person to buy two books. When finished with the transaction, customers were free to go to the end of the line and wait for other copies if they became available. And, as quickly as the registers could ring them up, all 450 copies were sold through. Fans lingered in the book store aisles and chatted, drinking in the last of the bonding experience.
This week the book was #1 on the New York Times list this week.
On Amazon.com, Hurin dislodged Harry Potter from its 12-week pre-order top spot. It has since fallen to #3 but of course people are snatching it up in person while Potter doesn’t hit shelves until July and Amazon remains its primary outlet. If sales on The Silmarillion are any indication, The Children of Hurin will be on shelves for several decades to come.
1. Onodrim; 2. Meduseld; 3. Fimbrethil; 4. Gondor!