Jrr Tolkien-author Of The Century Paperback – Sep 13 2001
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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 an alternate Paperback 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 an alternate Paperback edition.
Top Customer Reviews
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.)
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.
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I'm actually using it to write my thesis paper and it has become an invaluable source. Because I'm doing my thesis on The Hobbit and Tolkien's shorter works, I haven't been able to... Read morePublished on Nov. 2 2013 by Shilo Pearle
The title of the review is "A great companion to the trilogy" ... (this book is loyal as a Sam, but wise as a Gandalf) because it literally inspired me to finish the... Read morePublished on May 24 2004 by listost
And being both, it goes without saying that Shippey's book is refreshingly unacademic, or better, NOT hung up on Tolkien fantasia. Read morePublished on Dec 22 2003 by halda
When I bought this book at Border's book store, I was told that it was a biography of Tolkien. Unfortunately, when my expectations were not realized I became rather disappointend. Read morePublished on Nov. 13 2003
Just what I hoped for when I purchased the book! A very readable book about Tolkien with a good prespective.
Thoroughly enjoyed! ... and passed on to friends.
Tom Shippey is the first Tolkien critic that actually understands where Tolkien was coming from when he wrote his masterful works. Read morePublished on April 13 2003 by deb den herder
In this excellent volume of criticism on Tolkien's work, Tom Shippey seeks to explain just what made Tolkien tick, and what made his stories the way they are. Read morePublished on Jan. 27 2003 by bixodoido
Some will say that Joyce's Ulysses is the greatest novel of the 20th century; by some standards, that may be so, but it is also a rather unaccessible work. Read morePublished on Oct. 25 2002 by mrliteral