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A Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien's Road to Faerie Paperback – March 30, 2011
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About the Author
Verlyn Flieger is professor emerita of English at the University of Maryland where she teaches courses on Tolkien, medieval and modern literature, and comparative mythology. She has written three books on Tolkien: Splintered Light, A Question of Time, and Interrupted Music (all published by The Kent State University Press). She has also edited a critical edition of Tolkien’s novella Smith of Wootton Major
, and an expanded edition with notes and commentary of Tolkien’s most influential theoretical essay, “On Fairy-Stories.”
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CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien frequently discussed the issue of time during their years of friendship, and both wrote about their view of time in their books, usually in the form of stories.
Verlyn Flieger has studied this issue in depth as it relates to the writings of JRR Tolkien, and so I wanted to see what Flieger had learned.
I ended up with a better understanding of Tolkien's view of time, especially as it relates to memory and dreams. Tolkien seems to have believed in a form of higher consciousness that could freely move over the field of time. Also, he seems to have believed in a form of ancestral memory, through which we gain some of the memories from our ancestors.
This book talks about some of this, and how Tolkien used his writings to explore the issue of time and time-travel through dreams and memory.
The book is somewhat difficult to read in parts, and so I only recommend reading it if you are interested in learning more about what Tolkien though about time.
If you are just discovering the world of Tolkien criticism you should probably begin with T.A. Shippey's works instead of this one, but Flieger's work will eventually add to your understanding and appreciation of Tolkien immeasurably.
Certainly not a book for the novice, but if you are interested in some of the ideas that must have fed Tolkien's fertile imagination then you will enjoy this book.
Anyone that read Shippey or Pearce can recite by heart the known themes that exist in LOTR: mythology (Norse, German or even Celtic), Christian, Linguistic or Philosophical theme (Aristo or Neo Renaissance influence etc.). But after you had learned those themes, you are spending a lot of time and effort to find some new themes or new ideas. There are a lot of books about Tolkien and most of them discussing the known themes.
If you want book about those themes, A Question of Time is not the book for you. If you are a novice Tolkien researcher, you should read Shippey, Pearce or Anderson and don't start with this book.
This book contains different themes and ideas. The main theme in this book is about time and dreams, an idea that I never thought about or read it elsewhere. Flieger shows us that LOTR and other Tolkien's creations have a grain of time and time travel inside of them. She backs her theories with powerful examples from LOTR drafts (History of Middle Earth vol. 6-9) and from Tolkien's time travel story (Vol. 5 and 9).
Flieger does convince me that Tolkien thought about time and incorporated his thoughts in LOTR. I was amazed that after reading and researching Tolkien for such a long time, she actually told me something new, something that made me read LOTR and the Legendarium in a different perspective. I had the same feeling after I read Shippey's book and I am sorry to say that few of Tolkien criticism books are giving me the same sense.
To summarize my words: Read Shippey, Pierce, and Hammond & Scull and of course Anderson's annotated Hobbit first. But If you have read those already and you are searching for a new theme - READ THIS BOOK!