Here's your first look at the jacket art for ''The Children of Hurin,'' the completion of ''Lord of the Rings'' author J.R.R. Tolkien's unfinished novel, due out April 17

By Gilbert Cruz
February 12, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST

In the 33 years since Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien passed away, his youngest son Christopher has relentlessly plugged away at deciphering and organizing his father’s voluminous notes into further tales of Middle Earth. On April 17, the release of The Children of Húrin — begun by the elder Tolkien in 1918 — will bring those tales to a close.

According to the Tolkien estate website, The Children of Húrin ”takes the reader back to a time long before The Lord of the Rings, in an area of Middle Earth that was to be drowned before ever Hobbits appeared, and when the great enemy was still the fallen Vala, Morgoth, and Sauron only his lieutenant. This heroic romance is the tale of the Man, Húrin, who dared to defy Morgoth’s force of evil, and his family’s tragic destiny, as it follows his son Túrin Turambar’s travails through the lost world of Beleriand.”

Quite a mouthful, huh? If the only word you recognize in that paragraph is ”Hobbit,” then you probably shouldn’t even think about picking up this book without first reading the other books Christopher Tolkien has worked on over the past three decades — The Silmarillion (1977), which contains both the Middle Earth creation tale and beautiful love story of Beren and Luthien; Unfinished Tales (1980); and The History of Middle Earth (a 12-volume set released between 1983 and 1996). It’s a lot. You’d best get started now.