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Tolkien: Man and Myth, a Literary Life Paperback – December 1, 2001

4.2 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"This fine apologia will certainly shift to some degree our polarised view of Ronald Tolkien... Pearce writes beautifully and with great depth... Even Germaine Greer, the great Tolkien-basher, might have second thoughts after reading him." -- The Tablet

About the Author

Joseph Pearce is a professional biographer and literary researcher. He is the author of Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G K Chesterton, Literary Converts and a novel entitled The Three Y's Men. HarperCollins publish his new biography of Solzhenitsyn in November.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 257 pages
  • Publisher: Ignatius Press (December 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898708257
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898708257
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #537,078 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Pablo Iglesias Alvarez on September 25, 2001
Format: Hardcover
"The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work" (Tolkien, in a letter to Robert Murray)
These words might not be to the liking of many Tolkien critics, analysts or pseudo-writers that have been trying to unravel the Tolkien Myth. I believe that many of them have been at least partially unsuccessful due to the simple fact that they underestimated or totally overlooked the main essence of Tolkien's life which was his spiritual faith as a Catholic.
Of course, this is by no means popular for a writer. Indeed , being a Catholic can mean instant "unpopularity" in certain cases; a paradox considering that Tolkien is by all means an extremely popular personality. Probably popularity has been helped by misunderstanding the man as a consequence of so many superfluous opinions by wrongly called "Tolkien experts".
It is thus with great enthusiasm that I read this essay by Joseph Pearce. It is a well documented and objective work that reaches on to the very deep roots of Tolkien's motivations and perceptions of the world which were based on his Christian beliefs and his life as a convinced Catholic.
The essay begins with a lively description of the turbulence caused when several reader polls established Tolkien as "The Author of the Century". Although this is an interesting (even fun) part, the most valuable comes from the rest of the book where we discover a proper view of Tolkien as essentially a Catholic author. Pearce , convincingly achieves this through an impartial presentation of documents, facts and original testimonials that permits us to glimpse the "Real Tolkien".
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By A Customer on October 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about the man behind the LOTR, The Hobbit, and the Silmarillion. Largely based on Tolkien's own letters, as well as perspectives from critics, friends and family, Pearce's book offers a fresh and insightful perspective of Christianity's influence on Tolkien's philosophy and use of myth. I have seen no other work that provides such an articulate and well documented linkage between the man's faith and his works. Pearce succinctly and effectively dismantles claims that Tolkien is either reactionary or escapist, while furthering the case that the creative genius is one of the most important and influential authors of this century. As a Christian, I am inspired by Pearce's description of Tolkien's Theocentric approach to life and to his work. Traveling in Christian "fundamentalist" circles, I too often see Tolkien's name associated with occult and New Age activity. Of all criticisms leveled at the man and his works, I'm sure that these unfair allegations would hurt this devout Christian more than all others. Only a profound misunderstanding of the man and his myth ( and Myth, in general ) could lead to such a confused opinion. T:M&M also educated me as to the profound impact Tolkien had on his fellow Inkling, C.S. Lewis, the renowned Christian apologist, whose own works, including the Narnia tales ( which were heavily influenced by Tolkien), are staples in every Christian bookstore. And yet Tolkien's name is often pronounced with contempt in Christian circles. Again, this book may help to silence this kind of calumny. Furthermore, Pearce's book has prompted me to read the works of G.K.Read more ›
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The truth is that "The Lord of the Rings" didn't just win in one poll, it won in several, and Tolkien himself won "author of the century". What really upset the literati was that he won again, and again, and again. Burned 'em up, it did. What this said was that "The Lord of the Rings" was not 'the greatest' book of the century, but it was the one people loved the most, the one they cherished and gave their children, the one that had the most meaning for them in the quiet places of their hearts. Which hurt the establishment even more, I expect, and which leads us to Mr. Pearce's book.
Part of the problem with writing biographical material now nearly 30 years after a seminal biography (and a dozen or more literary critiques) have come to press regarding one of the century's most popular writers, is that it's all pretty much been said. So don't be surprised when Carpenter's excellent and justly famous biography is footnoted many, many times. This isn't meant to be an entirely original biography. The biographical section does in 4 pages what Carpenter does in 40 - this book is about something else. Tolkien distrusted traditional biography and doubted very seriously that just because something happened to an artist that it was necessarily important to him or her. Tolkien's own list of the most important events of his life and art is pretty short...the Catholic Church and growing up in the pre-industrial English countryside. Not much there for a biographer to go on, seemingly. But Mr. Pearce wisely lifts these and a very few other aspects out of the white noise of every life and uses them to illuminate the life and work of a singular and impressive man.
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