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The Road to Middle-Earth: How J.R.R. Tolkien Created a New Mythology Paperback – June 24, 2003
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"Professor Shippey's commentary is the best so far in elucidating Tolkien's lovely myth." Harper's Magazine
"Shippey is a rarity, a scholar well schooled in critical analysis whose writing is beautifully clear." Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"[Tolkien] deserves his full do, and Shippey's appreciative assessment of his unique achievement provides it in full and satisfying measure." Philadelphia Inquirer
About the Author
Tom Shippey taught at Oxford University at the same time as J.R.R. Tolkien and with the same syllabus, which gives him an intimate familiarity with the works that fueled Tolkien's imagination. He subsequently held the chair of English language and medieval literature at Leeds University that Tolkien had previously held. He currently holds the Walter J. Ong Chair of Humanities at St. Louis University in Missouri.
Top Customer Reviews
The book is discursive, and the opening theoretical chapters may seem heavy going, but have patience: they provide necessary context. Shippey has Tolkien's measure in full throughout. He explains what was important to Tolkien, what Tolkien thought he was doing, and - no less vitally - why it is necessary to understand this if one is not to bash Tolkien in annoyance for not accomplishing something totally different.
If you read Shippey, will you necessarily understand Tolkien? No. But if you don't read Shippey, and if you also don't have his insight and knowledge, you will not fully understand Tolkien.
As long as people keep an open mind, however, The Road to Middle-earth sheds light on some of the most obscure details and references in Tolkien's work. Shippey admits in the foreword he may be stepping across the line, since Tolkien himself warned the author against reading too much into anything. But the ride is fun and in Shippey's whirlwind fashion the reader is treated to a torrent of near-mystical adulation for one of the 20th century's greatest authors.
The writing is straight-forward and well within the reach of most readers. One of the pitfalls of literary scholarship which Shippey avoids is an overdependence upon jargon. He knows his audience wants to read more about Middle-earth and less about what fancy words critics are most apt to use.
And despite Shippey's own tendency to accuse Tolkien of deception, he pounces with delightful vengeance and righteous anger upon many a critic who has sought to lay low the immensity of Tolkien's creation. One needn't agree with everything Shippey writes in order to appreciate the passion he has for Middle-earth, or the intense loyalty the writer feels toward Tolkien himself.
Of all the Tolkien commentators who have ever dared put pen to paper, T. A. Shippey is most probably the best qualified (after Christopher Tolkien) to say anything at all concerning how Tolkien may have viewed his creation, or what Tolkien might have intended to say between the lines.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I'm a huge fantasy genre fan and at times like to delve behind the scenes and learn more about the author and the work. I also needed a source for something I'm working on. Read morePublished 17 days ago by Jenn
There's no better book for those who want more information about where Tolkien's work came from and what it meant to him. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Batmensch
Clearly the best evaluation of the development of Tolkien thought I have read!Published 5 months ago by John Gale
Have you wondered where Gandalf got his name, or what Tom Bombadil IS? Tom Shippey is a philologist like Tolkien who straightens out many misconceptions about these and many other... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Keith C.
Of the several literary criticisms of Tolkien's work I've read, Shippey's is far and away the most enjoyable; balanced, deeply-researched, rich in detail; also, fun to read, if one... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Ed
Very enjoyable read. Philology is not my subject so I'll need to go through it again but I certainly enjoy the challenge.Published 12 months ago by Ian Patton
An almost essential "explanation" of the what's and why's . . .Published 20 months ago by Deward Hastings
This book takes the scattered clues in Tolkien's work and puts them all together in a unified picture of his new mythology for the British. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Gary E. Masters