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Understanding Middle-Earth: Essays on Tolkien's Middle-Earth Paperback – November 17, 2003
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"UNDERSTANDING MIDDLE EARTH is just plain fun for the hard-core Tolkien enthusiast, and it gives plenty to chew on!" -- YetAnotherBookReview.com, November 2004
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
By no means should the essays in Understanding Middle-earth be dismissed as mere fan fluff. Martinez has read and studied JRR Tolkien's works for many years, and his meditations or musings on their characters, histories, and landscapes are insightful and thoughtful. I particularly enjoyed his chapter on Arwen's hidden influence on the story of the War of the Ring and his several chapters on Numenorean history. This should make it plain that these essays are not for those who are seeking an introduction to Middle-earth without having read Tolkien's own works. Rather, they are for those of us who would like to have accompanied Frodo all the way to Mordor, or who daydream of the spires of Minas Tirith and the trees of Caras Galadhon, and who would stand firm beside Aragorn as the battle raged before the Gates of Mordor.
The truth is that I have read this book from cover to cover. More than once. I love it. There are absolutely no false claims in it whatsoever. To suggest that anything Michael Martinez has written in this book is misleading is simply outrageous. Take the Penthesilea example mentioned in a previous review.
She comes towards the end of a very long essay, "The Other Way Round", in which Martinez carefully examines many sources and influences on Tolkien. Penthesilea comes from "The Fall of Troy" by Quintus of Smyrna. "Fall of Troy". Does that sound familiar? It should. It sounds very much like "The Fall of Gondolin". But there are more than just similarities between the names of these works.
If Martinez's sin is failing to mention that Eowyn's history is not based on Penthesilea's history, then the critic is at fault, not the author. This essay attributes only a few resemblances to Eowyn. And the tragic way Prince Imrahil finds her on the battlefield is compared to how Achilles beholds Penthesilea after he sees that she is a woman. But Martinez compares similarities between Eowyn and other female characters. And he starts out the Penthesilea discussion by saying "though Tolkien had no Anglo-Saxon models for Eowyn, he would have found one in Quintus' 'The Fall of Troy'".
"Would have found" does not mean "did find" or "only found" or "must have found". Who is misleading whom I say?
Martinez cites Tolkien letters and many other sources in this fantastic essay.Read more ›
For example, where did Michael claim to have "delved into unpublished material"? That is ridiculous! Michael refers to "previously unpublished" essays and stories throughout Understanding Middle-earth, but he doesn't claim to have any secret knowledge no one else possesses.
As for the Greek and Roman influences on Tolkien, I have read many of the books and articles on Tolkien, and there is virtually no mention of the story of Penthesilea and its connections to Eowyn. Nor do Shippey, Carpenter, et. al. have much of anything to say at all about Tolkien's love of the aesthetic he found in Greek language and mythology. Martinez sets aside all the traditional hype about Tolkien being an Anglo-Saxon professor and he looks at Tolkien's other material.
The humor in the book is special. After a long session of reading essays on Numenor, Gil-Galad, Legolas, it is a nice break to see how Frodo and the Baggins family could be Mafioso. And the final essay, Snoopy versus the Lord of the Nazgul, is a great tribute to both Tolkien and Charles Shultz.
Understanding Middle-earth will sure take a beating from those who don't want you to read it. They tried to drag down Visualizing Middle-earth with their negative reviews too. All I can say is, most people will love this great book. It is filled with the kind of information we Tolkien fans hunger for.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Michael Martinez has thought deeply, and written well about Tolkien's work. Well worth the time to read, for anyone who wants to learn more about how Middle-Earth works.Published 21 months ago by Christopher Peters
This book is definitely worth the read. A number of thoughtful, intelligent and insightful pieces of writing help illuminate Tolkien's work a bit further and share the author's... Read morePublished on November 26, 2006 by Julian P. Huff
Do you believe in hobbits? Do they really exist? Are you sure? Understanding Middle Earth is a book to stir your imagination and make you wonder if these essays on Tolkien's... Read morePublished on March 4, 2005 by Miss Adventure
An incredible book! Michael Martinez takes you on a journey through Middle-earth like nothing you have ever seen before. Read morePublished on August 24, 2004 by Mark Fabian
How can anyone believe a review written by a self-proclaimed Michael Martinez hater? Why does Amazon allow people to post hateful reviews that are so clearly intended to hurt... Read morePublished on June 19, 2004 by lisa.
While I have ignored the negative reviews posted about my books in the past, Conrad Dunkerson's misleading assertions need to be directly addressed. Read morePublished on June 5, 2004 by Michael Martinez
This book is a great read for those who have read Tolkien's main works (rather than just seen the movies) and want to learn and puzzle over the tantalizing loose end that Tolkien... Read morePublished on June 3, 2004
Michael Martinez has been enchanting me and other readers for years. He has a gift for uncovering so many wonderful details about Middle-earth. Read morePublished on May 23, 2004 by Julie Quinones