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“This is a remarkable book—part memoir, part biography, part literary appreciation. It offers a fascinating perspective on Tolkien’s life, scholarship, and fiction by someone uniquely placed to understand and connect them. As a philologist of international standing, Zettersten presents valuable insights into Tolkien’s academic career; he reminds us of the immense contributions Tolkien made to the study of medieval language and literature, and how his scholarly life intertwined and interacted with his imaginative fiction. The whole exposition is grounded in Zettersten’s vivid recollections of his friendship with the ageing Tolkien in Oxford, and what emerges is a deeply affectionate, personal portrait of a master storyteller and his work.”--Richard Dance, Senior Lecturer in Old English, University of Cambridge
“Zettersten's new biography of Tolkien is specially enlivened by the author's personal knowledge of him as a man and a scholar, through meetings in Oxford between 1959 and 1972; a common knowledge of the Scandinavian languages so important to Tolkien in his experiments with invented languages; and an extraordinary coincidence of interest in the same particular medieval text. This scholarly affinity gives to Zettersten an insider's view of the fruitful connection between philological research and myth-based, language-rich fiction. The writing is personal, and conveys a deep affection for Tolkien and a perhaps unusual insight into his absorption, in his later years, while ostensibly talking to his friend about philology, in his mythical, yet 'real' worlds.”—Derek Pearsall, Gurney Professor Emeritus, Harvard University
"A fascinating personal perspective on one of the most creative authors of the twentieth century. Zettersten draws on recollections of his Oxford encounters with the aged Tolkien to portray a man obsessed with an inner world of fantasy that, for him, was almost as tactile as daily life. Well-written and intellectually stimulating, especially in regard to Tolkien’s 'code switching' between different languages and realities.”--John D. Niles, President, International Society of Anglo-Saxonists
“Many have written about the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien, but Zettersten's brilliant and enlightening book assesses Tolkien through the eyes of a fellow philologist. Both worked on the Middle English Ancrene Wisse, meeting frequently in the 60s and early 70s, Zettersten as a young scholar in his twenties and Tolkien after retirement. He calls their relationship 'some kind of father-son spirit or community of interests'. Zettersten brings to life the figure of Tolkien as a sympathetic colleague and congenial host, enthusiastic about ancient languages, gifted at creating private languages and an inspiring story-teller. Although it was historical philology which brought them together, Zettersten admirably demonstrates the close connection between Tolkien's philological research and his creative writing. Both are ardent 'word lovers' and what emerges as we read this book is that the words, or the invention of languages, create the vessel into which the fiction is poured -- indeed the etymology of every word is a story. Altogether a stimulating, exciting and perceptive assessment of Tolkien's academic and fictional writing, and, above all, the values of friendship and loyalty which Tolkien held so dear.”—Graham Caie, Vice Principal, University of Glasgow
Arne Zettersten has been Professor of English language and literature at the University of Copenhagen since 1975. From 1992 to 1995 he was the President of the International Association of University Professors of English and from 1980 to 1992 the President of the Nordic Association for English Studies. He is Acting President of the International Council of the English-Speaking Union.
Among his publications the following may be mentioned:
Studies in the Dialect and vocabulary of the Ancrene Riwle, 1965, The English of Tristan da Cunha, 1969, A Statistical Study of the Graphic System of Present-Day American English, 1969, East African Literature,. An Anthology, 1983, An English Grammar for Microcomputers, 1983. New Technologies in Language Learning, 1985, Different Places--Different Voices, 1996, Politikens Engelskn Dansk Ordbog, 1999.