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Master of Middle Earth: The Achievement of J.R.R.Tolkien [Paperback]

Paul H. Kocher
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 Nov 2002
Since the first volume appeared in 1954, Tolkien's trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, has become one of the most widely loved works of fiction ever published, and the subject of a blockbuster film adaptation. In its blend of epic and fairy-tale, uncanny atmosphere and moral force, it is unique in modern English literature. In Master of Middle-Earth, Paul Kocher focuses on The Lord of the Rings, but also considers Tolkien's fiction as a whole, showing the relationship of the short prose and verse narratives to the major work. In chapters such as 'Sauron and the Nature of Evil', 'The Free Peoples' and 'Aragorn' he traces Tolkien's principal themes and preoccupations and casts a brilliant light on the geography and inhabitants of Middle-Earth.

Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico; New edition edition (7 Nov 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0712636978
  • ISBN-13: 978-0712636971
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 13.4 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,351,906 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


‘A splendid commentary, which will only delight and fascinate admirers of Tolkien.’ -- Sunday Telegraph

‘A valuable guide to the enjoyment of the eminent British author’s writings.’ -- Publishers Weekly

‘A winner… The book impels the reader to return and re-read Tolkien with a new insight.’ -- Library Journal

From the Publisher

'A splendid commentary, which will only delight and fascinate admirers of Tolkien.' Sunday Telegraph

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An infectious enthusiasm 24 Feb 2003
This book works as both literary criticism and as an enthusiastic guide to the worlds Tolkien created. The writer has been infected by Tolkiens' love of imagination, story and fantasy, and wants to communicate this to us. He sees Tolkiens' works as having a spiritual importance, their fantasy worlds framing and enlightening ours, giving a language to things that we may occasionally glimpse.
The writer begins by discussing how Middle Earth works as an imaginary world. Drawing on Tolkiens' own lectures and essays, he expands on Tolkiens'view that there must be an internal consistency in the secondary world of fantasy that mirrors that of our primary reality. In this way, the fantasy world becomes three-dimensional, living and breathing, and the fantastic creatures and happenings become enchanting, not just ridiculous. That Tolkien took such efforts to a remarkable degree with Middle Earths' history, politics and language the writer goes on to explore.
He then goes on to explore 'The Hobbit,' how this works less as a prologue (because it is written on a completely different level, for children) but more as a unique, stand alone work. He explores the differences and similarities between the worlds of the two books, and underlines some of the storys' quite adult themes and situations.
The writer then turns to the philosophy and moral world of The Lord of the Rings, and what kind of theology lies in the background. Though Tolkien avoids sharp parallels and explicit language echoes to the Christian faith, our attention is drawn to important similarities, such as the importance of free-will. That life is a gift that needs to be given back is set against the drive towards possessiveness and ownership the ring engenders, and the evil it stands for.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An enlightening read. 4 May 2006
The previous reviewer captured the essence of this book so well that I can't add much. I can say this book was very enlightening and most enjoyable. I am no learned Tolkien student, but have become so interested in his work with Middle-earth that I have begun to study this fascinating and magical place. As such, I found this book a great starting point for gaining a better understanding of the peoples of Middle-earth in particular.

Insight into the history and nature of each race of peoples (and how they interact and impact on one another) adds a new dimension to LOR: I found to the point I bonded better with some of the key characters.

I wouldn't recommend this for advanced students of Tolkien's work - partly as it will probably be old news to them and partly as it is quite basic.

For those starting out on the journey into Middle-earth, this should prove a very useful guide indeed.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A gem 14 May 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
My opinion is that the book is a must for Tolkien researchers and a wonderful present for Tolkien fans/lovers.

The text is very light and well-structured, and it surely is interesting, even if you know Tolkien's works by heart - actually the better you know the original texts the more fun it is to follow these comments and analysis.

NB! I know it's a paperback edition, but I can't help being a bit disappointed with the quality of this rough yellowish paper, especially as the font looks a little too delicate for this texture, and the thinner parts of the letters seem to flicker, which is a bit stressful for my eyes. My previous experience with paperback books has been more pleasant.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Masterful "Middle-Earth" 26 Nov 2004
By E. A Solinas - Published on Amazon.com
Countless scholars and quite a few amateurs have tried to dissect the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Most do a rotten job. But Paul Kocher actually does it well -- while his essays are a bit outdated, "Master of Middle-Earth : The Fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien" still stand as some of the best interpretations of Tolkien's work.

Kocher tackles such subjects as whether Middle-Earth is really an imaginary world, or one tied closely to reality, followed by a critical look at "The Hobbit" and how it related -- or doesn't -- to "Lord of the Rings." One of the most intriguing essays in here is "Cosmic Order," a look at how Tolkien portrays free will, predestination and fate, followed by a study of how Tolkien writes Sauron and the other evil creatures of Middle-Earth, such as orcs (which Kocher thinks are trained to be evil) and barrow wights.

Kocher then does a 180 and looks at the free peoples of Middle-Earth, and the importance of each race. A careful study of Aragorn follows, tracing the uncrowned king's subtle development over the entire trilogy and studying his status as a hero. As a grand finale, Kocher examines various short works that Tolkien wrote or translated, including the lesser known creations like "Imram."

Most people who analyze "Lord of the Rings" end up like that guy in Nabokov's "Pale Fire" -- they see only what they want to see. But Paul H. Kocher, who was a professor at Stanford, does a very good job of analyzing "Lord of the Rings." Certainly nothing has been put out that disproves him.

Kocher obviously had a great deal of respect for Tolkien, even speaking with intense scorn about people who dismiss "Lord of the Rings" as "just an adventure story." But he doesn't pull his punches due to that respect -- he's about as honest as he can be when he doesn't like something, such as the cockney-speaking Trolls.

Kocher's essays are somewhat out of date, since they were written in the 1970s, long before the "Unfinished Tales" book was published, and it only dips into the "Silmarillion." But at the same time, his essays are thoughtful and in tune with Tolkien's trilogy, and stick closely to Tolkien's Christian beliefs and his mythic influences.

"Master of Middle-Earth : The Fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien" is a solid resource for people who have read "Lord of the Rings." Definitely worth reading.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful guide 28 Aug 2003
By Bibliophile - Published on Amazon.com
This book sets out Kocher's interpretation of Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The main weakness of this book is the scant coverage of The Silmarillion - perhaps understandable as Kocher has another book devoted to it.
Kocher had a law dgree and a PhD, both fron Stanford, where he also taught English. He may have practised law - which may account for his lawyerly analysis in this book of Aragorn as the key character of Middle Earth.
If you read only one book to help you along as you read Tolkien's books, this could be a good choice. (Another would be Robert Foster's Complete Guide to Middle Earth.)
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outdated but essential 20 Dec 2003
By David Bratman - Published on Amazon.com
The author is deceased, and the text has never been altered since its original publication in 1972, so some of its facts are outdated. But the bulk of the book remains insightful and useful: nothing published since has invalidated Kocher's discussion of the moral stances and the nature of evil shown in LotR. He also provides the best analysis ever published of the character of Aragorn, and what are still the only studies of the rare poems "The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun" and "Imram". But it would have been nice to have added a footnote saying that "Imram" is now easily available in its original context (unknown to Kocher) of The Notion Club Papers (in Sauron Defeated, p. 296-9).
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Old but still valuable 3 May 2008
By A reader - Published on Amazon.com
Published before the Silmarillion was available, this book offers valuable insight into the world of "The Hobbit," "Lord of the Rings," and "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil." It offers chapters on "The Cosmic Order," "The Free Peoples," and "Aragorn," among others. The chapter on Aragorn is an extended discussion of his place in the LR, and Kocher's opinion that he is the real hero of the work. This chapter alone makes Kocher's book well worth reading.

The last chapter, "Seven Leaves," may be of less interest because six of the "leaves" are about JRRT's writings that are on non-Middle Earth topics.

Although the book was published in 1972, it does not appear to me to be outdated by later JRRT publications, and can be enjoyed by anyone who has read "The Hobbit" and LR.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sara 26 Oct 2012
By Sara - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
My husband loves Lord of the Ring the movies and the books and, has owned a few different copies of this book and lost them along the way, but he always eventually got another. So needless to say he was just thrilled when I surprised him with another. He has told me any one who wants to know more and more about Lord of the Ring just has to buy this book. He is never has be with out a copy for very long.
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