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Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings: A Guide to Middle-Earth Paperback – November 1, 2001
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It is impossible to read Colin Duriez's volume without wanting to reread Tolkien's books-an undoubted compliment to both authors. -- Brian Sibley, author of 'The Lord of the Rings' Official Movie Guide
Our customers have been asking for something like this for a long time. -- Jason Short, GreenLeaf Christian Books
About the Author
Colin Duriez has written and lectured extensively on Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings. He is also the author of The C. S. Lewis Handbook, The C. S. Lewis Encyclopedia, and, with David Porter, the Inklings Handbook. He is General Books Editor at InterVarsity Press.
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Duriez starts off by introducing the book, describing his reasons for writing it. Then he speeds off into a mini-bio about Tolkien's life, followed by a dissection of the work he did, and its place in his life. And, since Duriez has written a book about literary club the Inklings, he includes quite a bit about Tolkien's friendships and relationships. For further clarification, Duriez includes a very brief timeline.
Then Duriez summarizes the entire plots of "The Hobbit" and the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, followed by a book-by-book chronology, and an informative chapter on the content of the "Silmarillion," and its connections to the "Lord of the Rings" books. Then he follows up with three A-Z guides -- one to things and people in Middle-Earth, then to themes and concepts in his work (eagles, allegory, theology, quests and so on), and the people and places in his life, such as his family, his friends, the mill he played at as a boy, and the books that influenced his writing. Finally there is a list of summaries, of various books that he wrote.
Duriez has certainly done his research -- he seems very comfortable talking about Middle-Earth, and easily quotes everyone from Peter Jackson to Tolkien himself. What's more, he obviously has a deep respect for Tolkien, and an appreciation for the richness and depth of Tolkien's work. For just about anybody writing this sort of book, that's a must.
What does it not contain? Well, Duriez admits himself in the preface that it's not meant to be in-depth, and Tolkien fans won't come away with anything they don't already know. Most of this is review and recap, with the occasional essay that goes into greater study of Tolkien's work.
However, the book can be very useful -- some people are daunted by the sheer vastness of Tolkien's work, and this makes it hard for them to get into the story. Duriez makes it accessable. His outline of the "Lord of the Rings" plot might be helpful to readers who have trouble understanding what is going on in the books. Ditto with his summaries of "Silmarillion" stories like the tale of legendary lovers Luthien and Beren, or the tragic Turin. It also could be a good "refresher course," for anyone who has forgotten stuff about Middle-Earth.
Colin Duriez, who has made a career writing about Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and the Inklings, pens a pretty decent guide book to Middle Earth and Tolkien's life. It won't reveal anything new, but it's a good introduction to Tolkien's work.
Part 1: The Mind Behind Middle-earth: Includes background info about Tolkien, his life and work.
Part 2: The Book of the Century: A guide to LOTR, how it relates to the Silmarillion, etc. Basically a recap, in case you're a bit fuzzy.
Part 3: An A-Z of Tolkien's Middle-earth: I found this very helpful; I could look up my favorite people, places, events, and things quickly and effortlessly. This is especially helpful for those currently reading either LOTR or the Silmarillion to get extra info on what they're reading. If you are intimately familiar with the books, however, it would be more reference than new facts.
Part 4: A Look Behind Tolkien's Life and Work: Most interesting part to me. Evaluates key themes, concepts, and images in Tolkien. Allegory (or lack thereof), Christianity, Posession and Power are some of the themes explored by Duriez. Then it talks about key people and places in Tolkien's life.
It's more geared to people who are more interested in the book and Tolkien's writings than in the recent movies, so it shouldn't be confused with books like, "The Magical Worlds of Lord of the Rings."
I recommend it to anyone interested in Lord of the Rings.