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Jrr Tolkien-author Of The Century Paperback – Sep 13 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: UK General Books (Sept. 13 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0261104012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0261104013
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 2 x 12.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 281 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #761,983 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

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. (May 16)Forecast: With the long-awaited part one of the Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, due for movie release later this year, this, like all Tolkien-related titles, will benefit from hobbit fever.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Shippey, an expert on Old English literature and the author of The Road to Middle Earth, has written a critical appreciation of the popular creator of The Hobbit and "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. The subtitle refers to Tolkien's ability to write about concerns of the 20th century (evil, religion, etc.) in stories that at first glance seem to be mere fantasy. Shippey examines Tolkien's published and many unfinished works (such as The Silmarillion), as well as the shorter poems and stories. He convincingly argues that Tolkien deserves to be ranked as a major literary figure. Shippey also castigates those critics, the so-called literati, for their vituperative and ill-informed attacks on Tolkien's reputation and achievements. This study is definitely not an introduction to the "Rings" books; because of the detailed readings on the major and minor works, it should be read by those who have already enjoyed the titles surveyed. Recommended for all public libraries, especially in the wake of the upcoming film version of "The Lord of the Rings"; undergraduate academic libraries will also want to obtain this fine work of criticism. Morris Hounion, New York City Technical Coll. Lib., CUNY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

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Format: Paperback
This book is quite simply the seminal criticism and analysis of Tolkien's major works. Shippey is Tolkien's successor at Oxford, and in a very real sense "speaks the language" (no pun intended) that Tolkien spoke. He is able to disassemble and analyze Tolkien's writings in a way that is head and shoulders above any other similar works. His linguistic and literary analysis is the best ever made and is absolutely vital to truly understanding Middle Earth and the man that made it. Add to that a brief but very profound analysis of the religious themes, imagery, and inferences that is better than anything else out there (it completely surpasses Joseph Pearce's fine book on Tolkien, all in less than 10 pages.) Plus you'll get the most insightful discussion of the Anglo Saxon and Old Norse literary traditions and characters that would become Gandalf, Frodo, and the rest of the Fellowship.
If you truly love Tolkien's writing, then you simply must read this book. It is the first most important step in a real understanding of what Middle Earth is, where it is, where its characters came from, and what happened to them in ways that will really open your mind to the vastness and incredible beauty of Tolkien's world. After reading it, you'll have even less patience with the lunkheads who think LOTR is just another fantasy story. It's so, so much more than that.
And if that wasn't enough, you'll learn what Beowulf's name would mean in modern English. ("Beowulf" is usually the only word in the poem not translated, in case you haven't noticed.)
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Format: Paperback
By far the greater portion of Tom Shippey's book is analysis of _The Hobbit_ and _The Lord of the Rings_, though the book does examine other of Tolkien's writings. I am limiting my commentary to his LOTR analysis.
Shippey probably spends too much time with the question of why so many supposedly sophisticated critics do not take _Lord of the Rings_ seriously. The answer, I suggest, is simpler than he thinks: contemporary criticism has developed the notion that any piece which tells a logically constructed story is, by definition, bad. (And this is not the place to discuss what that says about 20th. Century criticism.)
Now that that's out of the way, what about Shippey's study of _The Lord of the Rings_? I found it excellent. Shippey is strong on interpreting the vision of evil offered by Tolkien. He suggests that Tolkien is offering an ambiguous picture of "evil": evil is internal failure, the failure to recognize good or to do good; yet evil is sometimes an external force, an entity like the Dark Lord. Tolkien does not tell us which definition
is "true"; rather he paints the question, and paints it richly.
Shippey also offers us the kinds of details that should delight LOTR fans, such as explaining the interweaving of the plot and Tolkien's carefully constructed time sequencing.
Mostly he tells us, in no uncertain terms, that _The Lord of the Rings_ is a creative masterwork. With that I agree, and I thoroughly enjoyed Shippey's effort in telling us why.
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Format: Paperback
This book analyzes many of Tolkein's works, but focuses the majority of its attention on the _Lord of the Rings_ and its two companion works: _the Hobbit_ and _the Silmarillion_. Popular polls taken at the end of the 20th century frequently place the _Lord of the Rings_ (LotR) at the top as the number one best book of the century. Many book critics look in horror at such a ranking. Shippey's book is in large part a rebuttal of this dismissal of Tolkein's work by most of the 'literary establishment'. Shippey argues that LotR is quite worthy of the honor as best work of the century.
This book is academic in nature and vocabulary, but it is also fun to read. As a Tolkein fan I found the book to be quite enlightening. Shippey delves DEEP in to the text, finding many treasures that I had not yet observed. I found it true, as one endorsement on the book jacket says, that Shippey "deepens your understanding of the work without making you forget your initial, purely instinctive response to Middle-Earth."
Professor Shippey, whose academic field is the same as that of Professor Tolkein himself, mines the philological earth and finds the likely background sources of numerous middle-earth creations, such as: Beorn, orcs, Rohan, etc. He also explores Tolkein's plot development strategy. One passage that I particularly liked was Shippey's description of how Tolkein used "interlacement" (the interweaving of different story lines) to convey an important thematic message of the work: that it's never wise to give up trying, no matter how bad the circumstances may appear. The examples he describes are very illustrative; for example: Aragorn's self-doubts as he pursues (in vain he fears) the orcs who had taken Pippin and Merry.
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By Brandon Wilkening on Feb. 26 2003
Format: Hardcover
I'm a novice when it comes to Tolkien criticism, so maybe my opinion is less valuable than others who have read more on this subject. Nevertheless, as a relatively new devotee of Tolkien, I found this book highly insightful. Shippey examines the sources that inspired Tolkien to write the large and disparate body of work centered on Middle Earth, of which LOTR is only a small part. The bulk of it centers on how Tolkien borrowed characters, themes, and words from old Norse myths. While I admittedly had little or no interest in these ancient legends, I am amazed at Tolkien's mastery of the subject, and Shippey does a good job of making Tolkien's lifelong engagement with these stories highly interesting. There is also an excellent chapter looking at Tolkien's conception of evil in comparative perspective. Shippey points out that Tolkien's ultimate take on evil is ambiguous; there are signs that he viewed evil as merely the absence of good, but other compelling signs that he saw evil as a power in and of itself. Finally, Shippey examines Tolkien's work as mythology. Despite Tolkien's purported dislike of allegory, Shippey argues that this need not prevent us from gleaning important lessons from Tolkien's themes and characters. There are individual sections on The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and his shorter works and letters. Readers will obviously prefer the chapters on the particular body of Tolkien's work they most admire. While more experienced literary critics might find fault with this work, I highly recommend it to anyone looking for an informed analyses of Tolkien's inspirations and intentions.
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