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J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century Paperback – September 8, 2002
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Top Customer Reviews
The bulk of this book, of course, centers around Tolkien's stories of Middle-Earth: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. Shippey attempts to explain why Tolkien wrote these stories the way he did, and the result is very insightful. Shippey explains why he wrote archaically, how the more modern hobbit society, with its postal system and manners, fits in with the rest of Middle-Earth, and how to classify the various cultures and nations (like Rohan and Gondor) appearing in the works, to name a few. The rest of the book deals with Tolkien's other, lesser-known works, including the two semi-autobiographical ones. For true fans of Tolkien, the criticisms of these shorter works are an invaluable resource.
All in all, this book is very insightful--there is definitely a great deal to be learned about Tolkien's works from a man who succeeded him to his Oxford chair, and who understands Tolkien's professional field as well. If you want to truly understand Tolkien, this is a book worth reading.
Yes, I said "maligned". Those, like me, who are not great fans of fantasy fiction as such, tend to find it a bit difficult to take Tolkien seriously. My own trajectory as a Tolkien reader has gone from utter worship (aetat 11 or so) via contempt and ridicule (aetat 24) to enjoyment and respect (aetat 31), and Shippey's book is partly to thank for this. One of his sharper insights is that a taste for Tolkien seems to be something that people have to be "educated out of" - i.e., that exposure to a modern literary studies curriculum is almost guaranteed to eradicate those more primitive parts of the imagination that respond to the kind of populist yarn-spinning that Tolkien was, almost despite himself, supremely good at. (This certainly accords with my experience.)
I say "almost despite himself" because one of the things I learned from this book was that Tolkien worked far harder on developing the mythological background to "The Hobbit" and "Lord of the Rings" than he spent on actually writing those books; indeed, that long after he'd published "The Hobbit" and was at work on its august sequel, he had to go back and revise it so as to make it fit in with the overall plan. I have a certain polite interest in "The Silmarillion" and the voluminous posthumous books of early drafts, but for me, by far the best of Tolkien is to be found in his two most famous books.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.)
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A very interesting work, spoiled by shoddy editing. Given that so much of the Shippey's premise hinges on specific, minute detail relating to English as a language in context with... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Ed
If you want to learn about Tolkien as a author and the basics of his life it is a good book to add to a collection. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Rebecca Graham
I was prompted to read his book after watching the appendices from the five-disc sets to the three Hobbit movies and the five-disc sets to the three Lord Of The Rings movies. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Pen Name
Loved every page, but admit it is definitely for the Tolkien lover. Shippey is especially well-suited to write a Tolkien biography, having served in the same academic positions as... Read morePublished 20 months ago by JM
Love to read a well-written book on a topic that the author clearly is devoted to. Doesn't hurt that I have been a LOTR fan since I first read it as a girl of 14. Read morePublished 21 months ago by cprkwy8
This book gave me a much greater understanding of Tolkien as an author in the 20th century context. Shippey also talks a lot about Tolkien's other stories and poems. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Peter
This book is really an exceptionally well-written view of JRR Tolkien. As a dedicated Tolkien fan, I read just about everything by and about him, and Shippey's insightful angle of... Read morePublished 23 months ago by ''
Good book, well organized (only 4/5 for the summary, that could have been more detailed).
The author tries to describe Tolkien from his works. Hard sometimes, but worthwhile!