The definitive Tolkien companion—an indispensable guide to The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and more, from the author of The Road to Middle-earth.
This “highly erudite celebration and exploration of Tolkien’s works [is] enormous fun,” declared the Houston Chronicle, and Tom Shippey, a prominent medievalist and scholar of fantasy, “deepens your understanding” without “making you forget your initial, purely instinctive response to Middle-earth and hobbits.”
In a clear and accessible style, Shippey offers a new approach to Tolkien, to fantasy, and to the importance of language in literature. He breaks down The Lord of the Rings as a linguistic feast for the senses and as a response to the human instinct for myth. Elsewhere, he examines The Hobbit’s counterintuitive relationship to the heroic world of Middle-earth; demonstrates the significance of The Silmarillion to Tolkien’s canon; and takes an illuminating look at lesser-known works in connection with Tolkien’s life. Furthermore, he ties all these strands together in a continuing tradition that traces its roots back through Grimms’ Fairy Tales to Beowulf.
“Shippey’s commentary is the best so far in elucidating Tolkien’s lovely myth,” wrote Harper’s Magazine. J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century is “a triumph” (Chicago Sun-Times) that not only gives readers a deeper understanding of Tolkien and his work, but also serves as an entertaining introduction to some of the most influential novels ever written.
In a wonderfully readable study aimed at not just the Tolkien fan but any literate person curious about this fantasy author's extraordinary popularity, British scholar Shippey (The Road to Middle-earth) makes an impressive, low-key case for why the creator of Middle-earth is deserving of acclaim. (Recent polls in Britain have consistently put The Lord of the Rings at the top of greatest books of the century lists.) Having taught the same Old English syllabus at Oxford that his subject once did, Shippey is especially well qualified to discuss Tolkien's Anglo-Saxon sources, notably Beowulf, for the elvish languages and names used in the fiction. The author's theory on the origin of the word hobbit, for example, is as learned as it is free of academic jargon. Even his analyses of the abstruse Silmarillion, Tolkien's equivalent of Joyce's Finnegans Wake, avoid getting too technical. In addition, Shippey shows that Tolkien as a storyteller often improved on his ancient sources, while The Lord of the Rings is unmistakably a work of its time. (The Shire chapters, like Orwell's 1984, evoke the bleakness of late-'40s Britain.) In treating such topics as the nature of evil, religion, allegory, style and genre, the author nimbly answers the objections of Tolkien's more rabid critics. By the end, he has convincingly demonstrated why the much imitated Tolkien remains inimitable and continues to appeal.
Brilliant book by a passionate and brilliant author.
One of the best books on JRR Tolkien