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J.R.R.Tolkien: A Biography [Hardcover]

Humphrey Carpenter
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Book Description

31 Dec 1977
A biography of J R R Tolkien, scholar and author of 'The Lord of the Rings'.


Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd; Second Impression edition (31 Dec 1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0049280376
  • ISBN-13: 978-0049280373
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 16.2 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 211,267 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

‘One of the most interesting and readable biographies of a literary figure’ Times

‘Rich and beautifully told’ Sunday Times

‘Absolutely fascinating’ Daily Mail

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

In the 25 years since Tolkien's death in September 1973, millions have read The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion and become fascinated about the very private man behind the books.

Born in Bloemfontein in January 1892, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was orphaned in childhood, brought up in near-poverty and almost thwarted in adolescent romance. He served in the First World War, surviving the Battle of the Somme, where he lost some of his closest friends, and returned to academic life, achieving high repute as a scholar and university teacher, eventually becoming Merton Professor of English at Oxford.

Then suddenly his life changed dramatically. One day while marking essay papers he found himself writing 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit' – and worldwide renown awaited him.

Humphrey Carpenter was given unrestricted access to all Tolkien's papers, and interviewed his friends and family. From these sources he follows the long and painful process of creation that produced The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion and offers a wealth of information about the life and work of the twentieth century's most cherished author.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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First Sentence
It is mid-morning on a spring day in 1967. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
If you've loved Tolkien's books all your life, and wondered what kind of person it takes to come up with works of genius like The Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit and The Silmarillion, this book will be just what you wanted.
Carpenter makes illuminating connections, linking Tolkien's early fascination with languages to the fact that the author first studied languages with his mother (who died while he was quite young). That nostalgic attachment to language led him to a lifetime of study of all sorts of Scandinavian and Germanic myths and epics, which ultimately inspired him to create his own mythology.
Carpenter also mentions that Leaf By Niggle, one of Tolkien's short stories, expressed his own bittersweet feelings about having spent most of his life writing the Silmarillion and Lord Of The Rings; especially given that advancing age made it increasingly unlikely that they would be finished in his lifetime. This was news to me, so I tracked down the story in a secondhand copy of The Tolkien Reader... it was really quite touching.
I'm planning to read The Letters Of J.R.R. Tolkien by Carpenter and Christopher Tolkien next. I'm pretty sure I won't be disappointed.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really great! 17 Sep 2003
By Iani
Format:Paperback
I haven't read all Tolkien byographies out there, but I have read some, and I think this is the best by far. Not only is it precise and somewhat more 'unbiased' than others (it's clear that the author deeply appreciates Tolkien and his works, but unlike others, he didn't turn the biography into a giant praise to JRRT's genius), but it's also entertaining and easy to read, something which can't be said of many biographies. If you want to know more about JRRT as a person and a scholar, and not just as the LotR author, you really should read this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading 22 Nov 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If you're into Tolkien, or any of his works and want to know a little more about the man, his life, and how he worked then this is the book to buy. It was written by someone who met Tolkien and spent a great deal of time with his family - so its not an account written by someone years after the events. There are insights into Tolkien's daily life, his inspirations, his professional life, in fact Humphrey Carpenter reveals snippets from every aspect of Tolkiens life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An invaluble resourse for the Tolkien scholar. 29 Dec 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Humphrey Carpenter has excelled in the creation of this masterpiece of biography. The volume is slight enough not to be daunting, but contains amble detail for any fan. Carpenter's style is sublime, and he deals with potentially quiet dry facts in such a light-handed fashion as to turn the book into a story in its own right. The book reaches moments of splendour and is capable of inducing sadness and amusment. In short, this is a competitor for the best literary biography of all time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Honest and enlightening 28 July 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If I was interesting enough to have my own Biography, Humphrey Carpenter would be my choice to write it.

This is very much a warts 'n' all book, portraying JRRT as a man of great contradictions. Extra-Ordinary in many ways, ordinary in many others. A creative genius yet disorganised, constantly missing deadlines, finishing only a small percentage of his work, losing letters, stories and notes sometimes to find them years later and continue them at that point.

He also kept 2 copies of many stories for security but would invariably make different amendments to both copies making it even harder to reconcile works for publishing.

The ultimate perfectionist I am relieved we actually got any completed work from him yet the LOTR and the Silmarillion on their own are more than enough to show for a lifes work and if JRRT had not been so pedantic they would not have been the great works they are.

Very much a man's man, his complex relationship with C S Lewis is interesting as it develops over the years.

If you are after a window into the man behind the books then I would opt for this biography over any other.

An engaging read from start to finish, highly recommended!
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly fantastic... 18 Jan 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is one heck of a good read. The perfect formula-
this book + a comfy chair/sofa + the LOTR movie soundtrack + an hour or so to yourself= a very enjoyable hour!
I can't believe how well this book is written; my addiction to it almost mirrors that of my addiction to the classic trilogy. What I found incredibly refreshing, however, was how the author does not restrain from giving us the truth. So, for example, it doesn't give Tolkien a major ego boost (if one could do that to a person 31 years dead) but instead it gives him praise when it's due, and criticism when it's due, e.g. when it comes to his grades in his early education.
A great read, anyone who wants a deeper insight into the life of my favourite author should buy this immediately. Plus, Amazon did a great service of delivering this. Buy it from here, now!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Biography of the best AUTHOR IN THE WORLD! 5 Mar 2005
Format:Paperback
Do you like Tolkien's books? Do you want to know about the life of this brilliant author? If yes than you must read this biography. This biography isn't boring even to those who haven't read The Lord of the Rings and want to know about this author. This Biography gives you a full account of Tolkien's books especially The Lord of the Rings. Thanks Mr Carpenter for this wonderful Biography.
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By Morgane
Format:Paperback
THE REFERENCE that every Tolkien's devotee should have whith her/him! An essential document which all specialists of the great english writer used for their own works!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I thoroughly enjoyed this
Having worked for Tolkien's publishers for ten years in the 1960s, I thoroughly enjoyed this book
Published 17 days ago by Patricia Brenda Phillips
5.0 out of 5 stars The classic biography of JRRT
My, what a life dear old Tolkien lived! I'm strongly tempted to outline some of the episodes that made it so dramatic, but I wouldn't want to spoil the story for people who're not... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Nat Whilk
2.0 out of 5 stars Anything new? No.
Yes, it's an OK bio - I read it when it came out in (I think) 1977, and so bought this "new edition", and the difference is... nothing. Nada. Zilch. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Davey
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it in a day
A compelling account of a remarkable, yet in some ways ordinary, life. I shall now read the Silmarillion, and then possibly re-read all Tolkien's other books.
Published 7 months ago by Colliedog
5.0 out of 5 stars Never a dull moment
Have been asked to review this book and am half way through...would love to book a whole weekend away from normal hustle and bustle, so that I could read this in one go! Read more
Published 10 months ago by Oft
5.0 out of 5 stars Tolkiens Character
This book did not try to make Tolkien out to be perfect but It showed the true side of his character both good and bad. A great read.
Published 11 months ago by KIERAN GILMORE
5.0 out of 5 stars The warmest biography.
A simply fascinating read for a Tolkien devotee,especially for those who are familiar with his Birmingham roots. Read more
Published 11 months ago by DT
5.0 out of 5 stars A present for Tolkien's fans
I bought it as a present for my friend -- a lady, not a teenager -- and she was happy to have it, as has read all of Tolkien's oeuvre. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Daphna
4.0 out of 5 stars I want more
For starter I will explain why 4 stars not 5. Honestly, I expected a bit more details from Tolkien's life. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Magdalena
5.0 out of 5 stars I wanted to learn about Tolkien, I got a lot more
First off this is the only book about Tolkien I have read (as in biography) and I'm not saying its the best because I can't without reading the others first, but I am saying that I... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Fritz
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