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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]

Brian Bates
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 7 2004
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.

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"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.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent Jan. 22 2005
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
great short book about European religion before the christian (...)
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Middle Earth July 9 2004
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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1.0 out of 5 stars Thesis Paper 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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2.0 out of 5 stars There's Anti-Christian bigotry, too. April 26 2004
Format:Hardcover
I wish I could like this book. The topic (the culture of Britain before the Norman conquest) is one in which I have recently become very interested, and Bates seems to know his stuff. However, the feast is spoiled by an ugly flavor of anti-Christian polemic that's sure to alienate anyone who's open to both streams of wisdom. In fact, he come across as the shadow-side of a Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell, setting up a radical either/or between the traditions of Christianity and the pre-Christian Celts and Anglo-Saxons, rather than a much more fruitful attitude of both/and.
If you're interested in the ways Bates' "real Middle Earth" and the Christian tradition can enrich, rather than contradict, each other I'd recommend writers like Esther de Waal, John Matthews, Ray Simpson or even Tolkien himself.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Get Real Feb. 10 2004
Format:Hardcover
This book never claims to be about Tolkein - it is about the Real Middle Earth that Tolkein uses as a background for his fantasy work.
This book is engaging and filled with lots of wonderful information that leads us to the truth about the time in which our ancestors lived. It communicates to us how they viewed the world.
If one looks at Brian Bates other book "THe Way of The Wyrd" you begin to realize this is fundamental to his life work not a rip off of Tolkein.
I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to understand our indigenous backgrounds - or just likes a good book to read for that matter.
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5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant and timely Jan. 28 2004
Format:Hardcover
This excellent book turns the anthropological magnifying glass back on the West. This is about "our (if you are of anglo celtic ancestry) Dreamtime". If we understood our cultural heritage as well as this book articulates it then may be we wouldn't have treated others (such as indiginous peoples) so poorly. A very important book that should be studied in High Schools...
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Is Odin a God or not.
The book is rather good.
The author goes into detail about the lives of the Saxons, Norse and Celts who lived on the Island of England at various periods. Read more
Published on Jan. 8 2004 by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars cashing in on Tolkien's popularity
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. Read more
Published on Jan. 3 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars Not about Tolkien
The title and blurbs are misleading: it isn't about Tolkien at all. It's an attempt by an English redbrick university psychology professor to use Tolkien's popularity as an... Read more
Published on Dec 20 2003 by David Bratman
3.0 out of 5 stars Long on mysticism, short on Tolkien
I agree with a previous reviewer that this book is not really about Tolkien's Middle-earth. You can read for pages and pages without a single reference to hobbits or dwarves! Read more
Published on Dec 20 2003 by J. Butler
5.0 out of 5 stars vivid account of anglo-saxon magic
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. Read more
Published on Dec 20 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Great history but not much Tolkien
As a person of celtic ancestry, I have always been very interested in the mythology and history of the middle ages. Read more
Published on Nov. 25 2003 by Elizabeth R. Walter
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