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J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century [Hardcover]

Tom Shippey
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Sep 2000

The definitive critical study of Tolkien’s greatest works by the respected and world renowned Tolkien scholar Professor T.A. Shippey.

Recent polls have consistently declared that J R R Tolkien is “the most influential author of the century”, and The Lord of the Rings as “Book of the Century”. In light of this, the respected academic and world-renowned Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey presents us with a fascinating companion to the works of J R R Tolkien, in particular focusing on The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion.

The seven chapters look at: Hobbits, and other magical creatures; the central quest of the Ring, examining Tolkien’s views of good and evil, and his work’s relevance to the major issues of 20th century politics, such as the nature of industrialised war; and also Tolkien’s phenomenal influence on the fantasy genre and the unique role of The Lord of the Rings as the first and greatest fantasy novel in modern fiction.

Written in a clear, accessible style, JRR Tolkien: Author of the Century gives the reader a deeper understanding of the great man’s work in the context of who he was, and also serves as an ideal introductory companion to some of the finest, and most successful, fantasy literature ever written.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (4 Sep 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0261104004
  • ISBN-13: 978-0261104006
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 14.6 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,157,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Shippey's exploration of Tolkien's themes, especially the nature of evil, is superb' Independent 'A timely, erudite and eminently readable book' Evening Standard 'Shippey's research seems limitless. He writes with unusual clarity and presents his arguments well' Sunday Times 'Scholarly and thorough examination of Tolkien's work!a definitive study' Catholic Herald --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Back Cover

Recent polls have consistently declared that J.R.R. Tolkien is 'the most influential author of the century', and 'The Lord of the Rings' is 'the book of the century'. In light of this, the respected academic and world-renowned Tolkien scholar Professor Tom Shippey presents us with a fascinating companion to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien, in particular focussing on 'The Hobbit', 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'The Silmarillion.'

The core of 'Tolkien:Author of the Century' consists of three chapters that examine 'The Lord of the Rings' as a linguistic and cultural map, as a twisted web of story, and as a response to the meaning of myth. It presents a truly unique argument to explain the nature of evil and also gives the reader a compelling insight into the complex interlacing of the many strands of the story as the narrative moves between characters, and of the unparalleled level of skill necessary to construct such a rich and complex story. The other chapters examine 'The Hobbit', explaining the hobbits' anachronistic relationship to the heroic world of Middle-earth, the fundamental importance of 'The Silmarillion' to the canon of Tolkien's work, and an illuminating look at 'Farmer Giles, Leaf by Niggle' and other lesser-known works in their connection to Tolkien's own life.

Written in a clear and accessible style, 'Tolkien:Author of the Century' reveals why all of these books will be timeless, and shows how even such difficult works such as 'The Silmarillion' can be read enjoyably, as it examines the bitter feuds, murders and betrayals among the Elves as they journeyed to Middle-earth and waged war on Morgoth, the first Dark Lord. Taking issue with the uninformed criticism that has often been levelled at Tolkien and fantasy in general, Professor Shippey offers a new approach to Tolkien, to fantasy and to the importance of language in literature, and demonstrates how 'The Hobbit', 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'The Silmarillion' form part of a live and continuing tradition of storytelling that can trace its roots back through 'Grimm's Fairy Tales' to the 'Elder Edda' and 'Beowulf'.

'J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century' gives the reader a deeper understanding of both Professor Tolkien and his most important works. It also serves as a learned and entertaining introductory companion to some of the finest and most influential works of fantasy fiction ever written.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read for Tolkien fans! 24 Sep 2000
By A Customer
Although a fair amount of this book's content has appeared previously--in "The Road to Middle-Earth"--I nevertheless recommend it highly. No author has done more to deepen my appreciation of Tokien's works than Tom Shippey. His knowledge of philology, especially, and explorations of Middle-Earth's philological roots are invaluable for helping one understand the sense one gets, while reading The Lord of the Rings, that Middle-Earth was real. Also, his study of Tolkien's conception of evil--and of the Ring as addictive--confirms what I myself thought about Gollum: that never elsewhere have I seen a better depiction of an addict, one that rang true for my personal experience. Even if you've read "The Road to Middle-Earth" there's enough new here--and in any case, Shippey's ideas are worth reading again--to make it worth purchasing. Highly recommended!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tolkien's critics answered 19 Nov 2001
Tom Shippey does not only answer Tolkiens critics in this book, which he does very well, demonstrating the inconsistencies of their approaches which appear to arise from an inherent bias against a totally invented world - as they see it, he also describes in some detail the sources of Tolkien's inspiration in the old English and Norse legends of a thousand or more years ago. Spoiler alert - this book should not be read before the Lord of the Rings itself, or the Hobbit, since Tom Shippey discusses the plot in some detail as part of his analysis. An excellent book for Tolkien fans to read, since it contains enough obscure refrerences to deepen anyone's enjoyment of LOTR. Even better than The Road to Middle Earth - and contrary to what some people have said, the second book is not simply a rehash of the first to tie in with the film.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By Steve
Tom Shippey has thought deeply about Tolkien's motivation in his fantasy writings and has a philologists's insight into the topic.  Accessibly written though it is, this book demands some serious thinking on the part of the reader to extract the full benefit of the author's scholarship.  One dimension of Tolkien's inspiration that is surprisingly little investigated here is his Catholicism but even so there's meat enough for the serious Tolkien afficianado.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars reader-friendly fascinating erudition 28 Aug 2007
By Q
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
if it had not been for the 'extras' on the dvd of jackson's LOTR, i would never have heard of tom shippey. however, i was impressed with what he said and how he said it, so i went searching online to see what books he had written. i found this one, among others, and am very glad i bought it. it is learnèd and erudite without being pompous or arrogant and he clearly knows his subject extremely well. his knowledge is far-ranging and his insights into JRRT and middle earth are fascinating.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Fialka
I can only chime in with most of the other reviewers, but this book deserves all the praise. I found it pretty much as un-put-downable as Tolkien's own writing.

Even if you're not into literary criticism but just love the Tolkien books and worlds, I think you will enjoy this book too. You can tell Shippey deeply cares about the characters, stories, languages, poetry... as much as any fan. It doesn't pick apart or clinically analyse the books but only gives even more depth and perspective to your appreciation of them and Tolkien as a writer and creator.

If on the other hand you are looking for a rigorous critical study, this book fully achieves that too.

Shippey's own style of writing is pleasantly straight-forward and unpretentious, but with warmth and sensitivity, not forgetting humour.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book that makes you want to read more 19 Dec 2002
Tom Shippey has produced a masterpiece justification of why J.R.R.Tolkien deserves the honor of the title "Author of the Century", not only in the U.K. but on a worldwide basis. While many great books were published in the 20th century none were written by an author as time restrricted as Tolkien. To go one better, besides the magnificent "Lord of the Rings" he found time to write everything from simple poems & short stories to the world loved "The Hobbit". We also learned from the "History of Middle-Earth" series the voluminous amount of background material he developed to guarantee the LotR was as completely believeable with regard to real time, inserting sub-stories with the main text, creating languages for the different races. etc.
The area in which I found this book to shine is Mr.Shippey's referrals to numerous books by many authors which support, or are dismisssed as they relate to, Tolkien and/or his works. Most of all he actually made me want to go and reread many of the books he references, which was both a delight & a burdomsome task. For all the books I've read that relate to J.R.R.Tolkien and/or his works I can honestly say that this one stands out as the best I've read in recent times & from the size of my library that's quite a praise to award.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I checked with HarperCollins UK and they confirmed to me there is no new edition ...this is just a reprint !
However , this is a CLASSIC ! just like Tom's previous book 'The Road to Middle-earth'...WELL WORTH BUYING !
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Like history, it can repeat itself
An interesting survey of the major influences and the writing history of Professor Tolkien's major works. Read more
Published 15 days ago by Nelsdorter
3.0 out of 5 stars The road goes ever on and on though all worth looking at has gone
Tom Shippey's The Road To Middle Earth is so good that I found this in a bookshop and bought it, just like that.

What a disappointment. Read more
Published 17 days ago by Merget
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book for those who want to find out why Tolkien wrote the...
Really well written and incredibly informative, I learned a great deal about one of my favourite authors. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Alan Baxter
5.0 out of 5 stars If you want to get to know Tolkien ...
I have read other Tolkien biographies and think that Shippey has achieved amazing things with this. He has conducted some really good research into Tolkien's background,... Read more
Published 12 months ago by pacem et amorem
5.0 out of 5 stars casts more glowing light on Tolkien... like it needs illuminating!
Shippey brings a tremendously erudite and accessible perspective on Tolkien's superlative and incomparable mythological cannon. Read more
Published on 16 July 2012 by Hill Walker
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting analysis of The Hobbit and LOTR
Not really biographical, more a critical analysis of Tolkeins works. Pro Tolkein without being hagiographic this book is interesting and perceptive and brought out quite a few... Read more
Published on 12 Jan 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars 'In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit'
I just wish it was my blank page in my english exam that Tolkien wrote those infamous words. These have begun a journey which all Tolkien fans have followed. Read more
Published on 11 Jan 2002 by R. P. Fowler
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