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Understanding Middle-Earth: Essays on Tolkien's Middle-Earth Paperback – 17 Nov 2003


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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Vivisphere Publishing (17 Nov. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587761459
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587761454
  • Product Dimensions: 22.1 x 15.4 x 3.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,069,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Michael Martinez begins a comprehesive study of Tolkien's imaginery history by "Browsing the Compleat Middle-Earth Library." His trademark conversational tone and style introduce Tolkien's readers to new persepctives on Elves, Hobbits, Numenorians, and other fantastic inhabitants of Middle-Earth. Advising that ..."if you really want to see where it all came from...you first need to see what it all is," Martinez explores Tolkien's pseudo-history in detail, analyzing the motivations and values of Middle-Earth's civilizations as described by Tolkien himself. Extensive research on Tolkien's Second Age, a mysterious era spanning thousands of years, illuminates the second "fall" of Tolkien's Elves, who made the dreadful Rings of Power, withheld vital knowledge from their allies, and exposed all of Middle-Earth to Sauron's evil. Finally, Martinez provides a wealth of insightful commentary, quoting Tolkien's letters and his son Christopher's extensive documentation, on those of Tolkien's sources which are often missed by other researchers. You will never look at Middle-Earth the same way again after reading Understanding Middle-Earth.

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You have probably read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit so many times now that your books are dog-eared and you can recite all the rhymes, riddles, songs, and poems by heart. Read the first page
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Format: Paperback
Michael Martinez follows up his first book on Tolkien's Middle-earth with an even better one. His trademark conversational tone and style introduce Tolkien's readers to new persepctives on Elves, Hobbits, Numenorians, and other fantastic inhabitants of Middle-Earth. Advising that '...if you really want to see where it all came from...you first need to see what it all is', Martinez explores Tolkien's pseudo-history in detail, analyzing the motivations and values of Middle-Earth's civilizations as described by Tolkien himself. Extensive research on Tolkien's Second Age, a mysterious era spanning thousands of years, illuminates the second 'fall' of Tolkien's Elves, who made the dreadful Rings of Power, withheld vital knowledge from their allies, and exposed all of Middle-Earth to Sauron's evil. Finally, Martinez provides a wealth of insightful commentary, quoting Tolkien's letters and his son Christopher's extensive documentation, on those of Tolkien's sources which are often missed by other researchers. You will never look at Middle-Earth the same way again after reading Understanding Middle-Earth!
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As a Tolkienist (If it's connected to Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit I have it) I was a very pleasantly surprised by this book. Both the book and the author just happen to come to my notice and I bought it on the chance that I might like it. I enjoyed the light, but intelligent and knowledgeable, writing. His depth of knowledge was admirable and not just about Tolkien; he knew about the vagaries of Frankish and Scotish history better, I am sure, than your average Frenchman or a Scotsman. I found myself often being amused or nodding in agreement. You do not have to start at the beginning and keep going; it's perfect for dipping into to read individual essays.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 20 reviews
18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Thought provoking and easy to understand 1 Dec. 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Understanding Middle-Earth is a nice accompliment to Tolkien's (JRR's and Christopher's) large array of literary works. The author breaks down thought provoking areas from the books into chapters and takes a look at characters and stories only sometimes touched on in LOTR. This doesn't mean the read is boring or only for those interested in elvish syntax, the author makes the reading easy to understand and doesn't mind having fun - see the last chapter!
21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
A great book for every Tolkien fan 20 May 2004
By Greg Clark - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
It is unbelievable what people say when they set out to bash an author and his book. So, I am supposed to be a close friend of Michael Martinez just because I like his book? What nonsense!
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. It opens the eyes of those who haven't closed their minds. If there are axes being ground, they seem to have the name of Michael Martinez carved on their blades. Why do people keep trying to mislead Martinez readers if his books are really so bad? Maybe because he really is showing Tolkien readers there is more to Middle-earth than "Beowulf"? For shame!
And I, for one, am tired of people telling us that Michael Martinez doesn't know that Tolkien really was an Anglo-Saxonist. Do you know who else says he was not? Tom Shippey, author of The Road To Middle-earth and J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century. Shippey served in the same position Tolkien did. Shippey knew Tolkien. Does that mean that Shippey does not understand how British academia works?
But Shippey is the not the only voice in academia Martinez listens to. He quotes Jonathan Glenn who also disagreed with the Anglo-Saxon point-of-view. Martinez goes out of his way to show the traditional Anglo-Saxon arguments. He does not pretend that Tolkien's knowledge of Anglo-Saxon literature had no effect on him. Martinez does quote Tolkien often about Greek literature and history, Babylon, Egypt, and other sources. Why is it wrong or misleading to point out for the reader the things Tolkien himself wrote?
If one is to study Tolkien, is it not acceptable to learn from Tolkien? I think that is what Martinez is saying. He finds many examples where Tolkien disagreed with and criticized people who tried to argue the Anglo-Saxon point of view. Maybe there is something to what Professor Tolkien said. If we dare not believe Michael Martinez because of all this supposed axe-grinding, what should we think about Tolkien? Was he grinding swords and spears along with axes?
I conclude what I said in my review about Visualizing Middle-earth, that it is no wonder people get upset when Michael Martinez knocks their pet theories into last year with clear and numerous citations from Tolkien. Enjoy the book because it is a rare treasure in a chest full of sand. Or hate it. But don't lie about it. That is so unworthy of Professor Tolkien's memory.
15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
A Great Addition to My Tolkien Library! 8 Mar. 2004
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Michael Martinez does it again! His first book, "Visualizing Middle Earth", brought many aspects of Tolkien's Middle Earth alive for me but "Understanding Middle Earth" goes even further. Michael's friendly conversational style of writing was easy for me to understand and assimilate. His witty and clever essays answered many complicated questions that I, as a Tolkien fan, had agonized over. Michael`s writing reflects his vast knowledge of not only Tolkien's published works but also his notes and unfinished stories later published by Christopher Tolkien in the History of Middle Earth series. I found Michael's writing to be neither dry nor boring. If anything, this author has made studying Tolkien even more fun! This is a great book for the serious and as well as the not so serious Tolkien fan.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
What is the drama about? 5 Sept. 2005
By Colin Platt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I read this book based on the apparent "love it or hate it" theme that crops up in the other reviews. What I found, as a long time Tolkien reader, was a competant work that emphasised some lesser known influences on Tolkien. It is an engaging enough read to be recommended for that reason alone. Middle-Earth is such a vast subject, that for the serious, I think this is a worthwhile addition to your bookshelves, but it is just one of many works that we will collect!
15 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Bully for Michael Martinez! Great book! 9 Mar. 2004
By Sam - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I can't believe anyone would say there is misleading information in this book. THERE IS NOTHING MISLEADING ABOUT IT. NOTHING. It takes a lot of integrity for someone like Michael Martinez to keep writing about Tolkien the way readers deserve to see this kind of work. He is honest, direct, and to the point. That just offends some people.
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. There are some really great extrapolations here, but the most valuable property of this book is the fact that Michael Martinez has taken the time to bring together so many little-known facts.
Careful readers won't feel the need to deride this book. They will appreciate the hard work it represents. Understanding Middle-earth is a great resource for anyone who has read The Lord of the Rings and wants to know more about Middle-earth. It is miles above anything by David Day, J.E.A. Tyler, Robert Foster, Karen Fonstad, and all those other so-called "experts" who publish books that just gloss over Middle-earth.
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