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Chesterton and Tolkien as Theologians: The Fantasy of the Real Paperback – 1 Mar 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 202 pages
  • Publisher: Continnuum-3PL; Reprint edition (1 Mar. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0567390411
  • ISBN-13: 978-0567390417
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.1 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 678,833 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"'The fictional worlds of Chesterton and Tolkien are not only theological but also deeply Augustinian: they show us universes in which creatures exchange gifts with one another and with God. So argues Alison Milbank, with verve and brilliance, in this finely conceived and beautifully written book.' --Kevin Hart, The University of Virginia

'A fascinating discussion of the moral obligations implicit in Tolkien's world... a stimulating read.' --The Tablet

About the Author

Alison Milbank lectures in Literature and Theology at the University of Nottingham, UK. She was formerly John Rylands Research Institute Fellow at the University of Manchester, UK, and taught at the Universities of Cambridge, UK, Middlesex, UK, and Virginia, USA.

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By ABShaef VINE VOICE on 17 Oct. 2014
Format: Paperback
While I found much of interest and much to enjoy in Milbank’s work, two concepts arrested my attention, both of which occurred toward the beginning of the book and were woven throughout it: sub-creation as an avenue for approaching God and the need to re-enchant the world.

Milbank writes, “And it is in the ability to create — fiction is linked to the Latin verb facere, to make — that the artist comes closest to God” (64). It seems to me that this idea is laced through Leaf by Niggle as he carefully draws a tree that is never completed in life, but when at last he reaches heaven he sees the very tree complete and in the flesh before his very eyes. Niggle has participated in the ongoing creation through his art and in that way has contributed something real and lasting to eternity itself, for the material world and eternity are equally real for Tolkien (53). For Niggle, his making has opened the way to God (166).
The idea of approaching God through art — through storytelling for Tolkien — gives us a view of the end for which art is created and life is lived and that is God himself. In a sense, the end of sub-creation has echoes of the beatific vision. We create because we were created and in creating we most resemble our Father the Creator. There is formation and transformation happening here. We are being remade into His image. In our participation with God in our sub-creation we, like Tolkien’s Ainur in The Silmarillion, are shown ourselves (19), are set free to be ourselves (20, 51, 123), and are even empowered to transcend ourselves and become more than what we were (51).

Tolkien, like Chesterton before him, saw the world as both storied and gifted, but more importantly he recognized it as other than himself (12).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Great insights! 12 Feb. 2011
By Anne Marie Gazzolo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book contains what has to be the most beautiful description of the deep bond between Frodo and Sam I have ever read. It's a rather long quote, but it's very much worth giving, regarding the sundering of the two hobbits at the Grey Havens: "The main problem for the reader is how to separate in his or her mind two characters who have been a pair all through the novel, and who belong together. Despite his marriage, parenthood and obvious delight in Shire life, Sam is incomplete without Frodo, and Frodo an attenuated presence without Sam's earthliness. It is partly a problem of analogy, with Sam the `answer' or common feature that unites Blessed Realm and Shire." She then speaks of the resurrection of the dead: "Tolkien in his essay `On Fairy-Stories' refers to this as the `Great Eucatastrophe', when all our bodiliness shall share in some sense with our spirit - our Sam with our Frodo side. For Frodo hardly seems to have a body at all in the later parts of The Lord of the Rings, and even his pains back home in the Shire have a spiritual basis. Sam, on the contrary, is not just a reassuring physical presence but an active agent in the rebuilding of his community, and in forming human relationships. The true happy ending of the novel lies beyond the pages of the book, and yet is anticipated in moments such as Sam and Frodo's descent from Mount Doom, when Sam, a true Bunyanesque `Hopeful', leads the lost and broken Frodo to safety, just as he had borne Frodo and the Ring up to the summit, and found the burden surprisingly light. Sam is not to be reduced to an allegory of the body, for he is much more than that, but the separation of the two at the Grey Havens is emblematic of the sorrow of the separation of the soul and body at death, while their solidarity gives a taste of the ecstatic reunion of soul and body at the Resurrection" (p. 111).

I have never heard the pure love these two hobbits share explained so profoundly. I love what she says about the pain of separation of body and soul and the joy of the reunion that would come. The lovely image that arises is that Sam is the body encasing the soul and the light that shines softly from Frodo is the light of the soul shining from within the body. This surpasses what had been my favorite way of expressing their bond, that they are knitted souls as David and Jonathan were, as Ralph C. Wood in one of my very favorite books points out: "Their mutual regarding is . . . . to the friendship of Jonathan and David: `the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul' (1 Sam. 18:1)" (Gospel According to Tolkien, p. 136). They are actually closer than that, one soul within one body.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
insightful and scholarly 11 Feb. 2008
By a theological strummer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
It is indeed a terrible shame this book is priced out of the reach of simple hobbit folk. This, however, is no reason to penalize the author with poor reviews.
It deserves FIVE STARS.
I attended the lectures given by Alison Milbank upon which this book is based. Her reading of Tolkien is insightful, scholarly, and above all, readable. It will become essential reading for any future scholars wishing to work with Tolkien.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
stoppian yer whingen 28 Nov. 2008
By Maker of Images - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Buy the paperback when it comes out. It should be out any day now. All hardbacks are steeply expensive when they first come out. Sheesh!
2 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Way too expensive 6 Jan. 2008
By vladimir998 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I would not mind owning this book, but I do not have $94! This is an outrageous price. What is T&T Clark thinking? There are several books like this about Chesterton and Tolkein individually for about $15. One or two are published by Ignatius Press. I hope T&T wakes up soon.
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