If you have ever wondered whether the dwarf women of Middle-earth could grow beards, wonder no more. Superfans of JRR Tolkien are to learn more about the rich world he invented for The Lord of the Rings and other novels when a collection of unpublished essays is released next year.

The Nature of Middle-earth will feature essays by the British author that have remained unknown for more than 40 years. They answer questions, long argued over by Tolkien scholars and fans, about hirsute dwarf characters, the geography of Gondor and the nature of the elves’ immortality. They have been brought to light thanks to the patient editing of Carl Hostetter, a Nasa software engineer and one of the world’s foremost Tolkien experts, who was given access to the manuscripts by the author’s son.

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