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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deepens your appreciation of the _Lord of the Rings_, September 17, 2003
This review is from: J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century (Paperback)
This book analyzes many of Tolkien'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 Tolkien 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 Tolkien 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 Tolkien's plot development strategy. One passage that I particularly liked was Shippey's description of how Tolkien 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. I found several other sections to be thought-provoking as well: "wraithing"; "luck & courage"; and "eucatastrophe".

If there is one disappointment I had in reading this book, it is that some finishing touches seem to be missing. The later chapters in the book seem less well-developed, and not as well focused within the argument of the book as a whole. Near the end of his first full chapter on LotR Shippey summarizes the development of his argument thus far. But from there on, there is no further explicit reference to his argument. To be sure most of the remaining material still implicitly contributes to the theory, but I found no satisfying conclusion explicitly made in the end of the book.

In spite of that disappointment, this book significantly deepened my appreciation of the _Lord of the Rings_. I have for years considered LotR my all-time favorite book. As a result of reading Shippey's book, I understand better WHY LotR is such a great work, that it has great relevance and meaning in addition to its sheer wonder as entertainment.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 28, 2008 4:19:14 AM PST
A. Selleri says:
What about learning to spell the name of the author whom you say you appreciate so deeply?

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 14, 2012 10:16:24 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 14, 2012 10:19:46 PM PST
Sorry. Typos corrected.
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