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The Real Middle Earth: Exploring the Magic and Mystery of the Middle Ages, J.R.R. Tolkien, and "The Lord of the Rings" Paperback – Oct 7 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; First Edition edition (Oct. 7 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1403966834
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403966834
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,658,866 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Review

"This is the only book that I have ever read that manages literally to evoke the magic of Anglo-Saxon England, rooting the medieval texts firmly in a landscape, a people and a sense of experience. It situates the English in one corner of a vast enchanted world.”--Ronald Hutton, Professor of History at the University of Bristol and author of The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles

Book Description

J.R.R. Tolkien claimed that he based the land of Middle Earth on a real place. The Real Middle Earth brings alive, for the first time, the very real civilization in which those who lived had a vision of life animated by beings beyond the material world. Magic was real to them and they believed their universe was held together by an interlaced web of golden threads visible only to wizards. At its center was Middle Earth, a place peopled by humans, but imbued with spiritual power. It was a real realm that stretched from Old England to Scandinavia and across to western Europe, encompassing Celts, Anglo Saxons and Vikings. Looking first at the rich and varied tribes who made up the populace of this mystical land, Bates looks at how the people lived their daily lives in a world of magic and mystery. Using archaeological, historical, and psychological research, Brian Bates breathes life into this civilization of two thousand years ago in a book that every Tolkien fan will want.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Hardcover
First of all this book talks relativly little about Tolkien or any of his books. What it does is try to capture the "magic" of the places and time periods that Tolkien drew inspiration from for his work, namely post Roman to pre Norman Great Britain, and to a slightly lesser extent Scandinavian and Icelandic society and culture from the same time periods using historical sources, so called "myth", namely the pagan beliefs of the Celts, Norse and Anglo-Saxons and other assorted folk beliefs and tales.
From what I can gather from reading this book the author seems like he has a similar belief that I have always had that Tolkien on one level was conciously trying to help to write a missing part of our (assuming you are of anglo-celtic-norse ancestry) heritage due to our own ancestors poor job of writng down and recording their own history, and in part to the fact that much of what is known of our pre christian history was written by outsiders to the culture, or people with a biased political agenda, and above all Christian church hierarchy who were more or less under orders to discredit our whole culture as of being of the Jewish satan and to force this alien Jew Yahweh/Jesus god upon our people. Even though Tolkien himself was a devout Catholic, I believe he was conciously trying to "fill in the blanks" in a sense, even though the inspiration and the imagination of the Hobbit/LOTR came from his subconcious ancestral memory as well as the written sources of the time that we have.
So enough of my pschoanalyzing, on to the book itself.
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By Kris Oller on May 30 2004
Format: Hardcover
I've read quite a few books on Tolkien and Lord of the Rings, but this one is by far one of the two worst (with the other being Finding God in LotR). I didn't even get through half of it before I had to put it down. There are quite a few facts in the book that could be very interesting, but the writing style set me on edge. What I think I found most annoying was the fact that Bates continually used the term "the Real ME," instead of just saying Norway, or England, or Scotland, or wherever else he was talking about. ME is not real. It is imaginary. It has its roots in real places (and the different groups of ppl are based on real groups of ppl), but that is as far as it goes. If you are talking about a specific place that really does exist (other than someplace in our hearts, as Sir Ian McKellen said), then use that place's real name, and not "the Real ME" over and over. I would actually recommend getting something like Myth & ME. While it deals more with myth, and not so much the history, you can learn a lot about a ppl by their myths.
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By A Customer on Jan. 3 2004
Format: Hardcover
My sense on reading this book was that the author already had a manuscript in preparation on the Dark Ages, and included references to Tolkien in order to help sell it. After reading several pages, one comes across the occasional, out-of-place paragraph with a loose connection to Tolkien's work, as though it was dropped in after the manuscript was already completed. Many of his references to Tolkien are actually somewhat forced and occasionally off the mark.
Bates is a psychologist, and I found his overview of history rather general, to say nothing of his familiarity with Tolkien. Moreover, he suppresses certain terminology (such as the Norse term "Midgard" which he replaces with "Middle-Earth") in order to drive the point home. This might be forgiveable if his point was academic, but the reader begins to suspect a marketing strategy instead.
While some of his insights are informative, I felt this book suffers from trying to accomplish something that may not have been the author's original intention.
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By A Customer on Dec 20 2003
Format: Hardcover
Reviewer: A reader from England This is a superb book. Vividly written, it explores the magical and spiritual beliefs of people who lived in the 'real' Middle-earth. This was the Anglo-Saxon and Norse cultures of a thousand years ago and more, which so inspired Tolkien. The author Brian Bates is well-known for previous books on this subject (especially his best-selling novel The Way of Wyrd). It is different from other books purporting to compare Tolkien with ancient mythology, because the world it reveals is one in which people saw their EVERYDAY LIVES as being charged with a mysterious power they called Wyrd. It was manifested by a magical landscape, in which trees, plants and animals all had powerful symbolic presences. Elves, dragons, giants and dwarves were encountered in reality as well as in dreams and stories. Shapeshifting, spellcasting and healing are explored as they happened in real life.
Bates also explains really well how such a magical outlook on life relates to our own perspectives. In a time where The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter confirms the potency of magic for our lives, we see how we once had a wisdom lost over the centuries as first Christianity and then science became dominant world views. But Bates does not paint a utopia - he makes clear that life was hard in Anglo-Saxon times. Yet he shows what the usual history or mythology books are missing - the magic at the heart of life in those times.
The book is refreshingly written, free from academic pomposity and dry argument. He offers vivid anecdotes, examples, and beautiful descriptions which make the reader feel present in those times.
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