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J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography [Paperback]

Humphrey Carpenter
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Standard Biography Aug. 15 2003
Format:Paperback
This is the standard biography of Tolkien, and not just because Carpenter had the cooperation of the Tolkien family. He has presented a full picture of Tolkien's life and gets his facts straight. Without a doubt this is the best starting place for discovering the man behind the myth.
On the other hand, there is a certain remoteness and lack of focus that prevents me from giving the book 5 stars. In trying to capture all facets of the man, Carpenter prevents any one from shing out brightly. The work is adequate on facts (the best I've seen) but short on insight. Not that biographies benefit from the drawing of daring conclusions from slender evidence, but after having read this one, one doesn't feel that one has gotten to know Tolkien better.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Many insights to what made him tick May 11 2004
Format:Paperback
If you've loved Tolkien's books all your life, and wondered what kind of person it takes to come up with works of genius like The Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit and The Silmarillion, this book will be just what you wanted.
Carpenter makes illuminating connections, linking Tolkien's early fascination with languages to the fact that the author first studied languages with his mother (who died while he was quite young). That nostalgic attachment to language led him to a lifetime of study of all sorts of Scandinavian and Germanic myths and epics, which ultimately inspired him to create his own mythology.
Carpenter also mentions that Leaf By Niggle, one of Tolkien's short stories, expressed his own bittersweet feelings about having spent most of his life writing the Silmarillion and Lord Of The Rings; especially given that advancing age made it increasingly unlikely that they would be finished in his lifetime. This was news to me, so I tracked down the story in a secondhand copy of The Tolkien Reader... it was really quite touching.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining Biography Jan. 8 2004
Format:Paperback
A wonderful book that captures the essence and life of Mr. Tolkien, Rhythmically paced read as well as extremely informative. More focused on the man rather than his works. A must read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tolkien Dec 9 2003
Format:Paperback
The reason why I chose this book is because I respect Tolkien for all his accomplishments as an author and I wanted to know a little more about him then I already did. This Biography did a wonderful job of making me get to know Tolkien as a person through showing me his life. This book was entertaining... because I wanted to learn about Tolkien. It was also educational because I learned a lot about Tolkien and it was thought provoking because it made me think about the reasons certain things were in his stories and also what my life would be like if I had the motivations and drive to work for what I wanted just like he had. I recommend this book to any one who is interested in Tolkien in the slightest.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
This is the only biography of Tolkien which I have read. It was good and I enjoyed it, but it feels like something was missing. Carpenter does a fine job of sketching the events of Tolkien's life and there are plenty of quotations from letters and diaries, and I now understand a little more about the actual creation of Tolkien's mythology and the production of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and The Simarillion . . . and yet, I still feel like I don't know Tolkien that well. The author fails to provide the emotional connection with Tolkien and his world that would make this biography really excellent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meet the man behind the masterpiece Jan. 1 2003
Format:Paperback
Considering the fact that Tolkien abhorred the idea of someone writing a biography on him, considering the fact he thought it ridiculous that someone should read a biography on a writer, and considering his sentiment that the best biography on an author is his works of fiction, calling this book the 'authorized' account is pretty presumptuous.
Still, Carpenter manages the subject very well, chronicling Tolkien's life from his early years throughout his life, with a special amount of attention given to the period in which he was creating his 'hobbit' stories. This is as much a look inside Tolkien's literary mind as a look at his life, and one of the most fascinating aspects of this work is that the reader is able to follow the development of Tolkien's creative genius and see the very elements that inspired him to write his masterpieces "The Hobbit," "The Lord of the Rings," and "The Silmarillion."
For his biography, Carpenter was able to meet personally with Tolkien before his death. He also had full access to all of Tolkien's papers and letters at Oxford. He was able to talk with many of Tolkien's friends and family. Because of this, Carpenter is able to present a very accurate, extremely reliable, and very personal biography. He is very fair with his subject, and treats Tolkien neither as a deity nor an eccentric old man. The man who created Middle Earth was human, and Carpenter captures this brilliantly.
This work on Tolkien is very highly recommended to any fan of his work who wants a peek inside the life of this remarkable man.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I cannot recommend this book enough for fans of Tolkien. Gaining access to his inner life and the days of his childhood is utterly marvelous! You can see his love of Philology and his genius for many languages. The author of this biography has done an amazing job of presenting the public with a touching glimpse into Tolkien's life. This book is worth every penny!
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Happy Shopper
Thank you for this illuminating Biography. The edition- both, actually- you know- share the wealth with a friend- arrived in very good time and condition. Read more
Published 16 days ago by Elizabeth Eriksson
3.0 out of 5 stars The wrong biographer for Tolkien
Sadly, Carpenter's standard biography of Tolkien is written by a man wholely unsympathetic with Tolkien's life work and beliefs. Read more
Published on Dec 27 2002 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Look Into Tolkien's Mind
My favorite thing about Humphrey Carpenter's biography of J.R.R. Tolkien is the way we gain insight into the inspirations for Tolkien's writings. Read more
Published on July 22 2002 by Art Turner
3.0 out of 5 stars falls apart in the last few pages
This book could be divided into two: one documenting the story of his personal and professional lives, the othe explaining the history and development of his mythology. Read more
Published on June 3 2002 by H. D. Hairhowser
5.0 out of 5 stars A personal, illuminating view of Tolkien's life and writing
If you've loved Tolkien's books all your life, and wondered what kind of person it takes to come up with works of genius like The Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit and The... Read more
Published on May 28 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars A tremendous look into Tolkien's life
I bought this book many years ago but it never quite worked its way to the top of my reading list so it sat on my shelf unread all this time. Read more
Published on May 25 2002 by Joseph Boone
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