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The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays [Paperback]

J. R. R. Tolkien
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 May 2006

Complete collection of Tolkien’s essays, including two on Beowulf, which span three decades beginning six years before The Hobbit to five years after The Lord of the Rings.

The seven ‘essays’ by J.R.R. Tolkien assembled in this new paperback edition were with one exception delivered as general lectures on particular occasions; and while they mostly arose out of Tolkien’s work in medieval literature, they are accessible to all. Two of them are concerned with Beowulf, including the well-known lecture whose title is taken for this book, and one with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, given in the University of Glasgow in 1953.

Also included in this volume is the lecture English and Welsh; the Valedictory Address to the University of Oxford in 1959; and a paper on Invented Languages delivered in 1931, with exemplification from poems in the Elvish tongues. Most famous of all is On Fairy-Stories, a discussion of the nature of fairy-tales and fantasy, which gives insight into Tolkien’s approach to the whole genre.

The pieces in this collection cover a period of nearly thirty years, beginning six years before the publication of The Hobbit, with a unique ‘academic’ lecture on his invention (calling it A Secret Vice) and concluding with his farewell to professorship, five years after the publication of The Lord of the Rings.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; New Ed edition (2 May 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 026110263X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0261102637
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 116,620 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

J.R.R. Tolkien was born on 3rd January 1892. After serving in the First World War, he became best known for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, selling 150 million copies in more than 40 languages worldwide. Awarded the CBE and an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Oxford University, he died in 1973 at the age of 81.

Product Description

About the Author

J.R.R.Tolkien (1892-1973) was a distinguished academic, though he is best known for writing The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, plus other stories and essays. His books have been translated into over 30 languages and have sold many millions of copies worldwide.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The hero and the scholars 8 Dec 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"The monsters and the critics and other essays" is a treat both for those among Tolkien's fans with a more literary approach to fantasy, and for medieval literature lovers. "The monsters and the critics" is a beautifully written piece of criticism, the one essay that took Beowulf, the powerful Old English epic, out of the cupboard for good - and Tolkien manages to convey his love for this difficult yet wonderful piece of germanic mythology, so that we could understand the world of pagan heroes looking for a glorious death, instead of pointlessly comparing it to classical epic as it had been done till then. The essay "On translating Beowulf" and that on "Sir Gawain and the Green knight" are more technical, but they explain the difficult alliterative poetry in a way non-expert readers can understand. A real jewel is "On fairy stories", which is also included in "Tree and leaf": it is a terse defence of the rights of imagination and fantasy, of the role of imaginary (secondary)worlds in real people's lives. The remaining two essays, a comparison of English and Wales and a paper on imaginary languages, are maybe less interesting, but on the whole, this small book is a really good collection.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars lectures, not essays 4 Sep 2011
By gille liath TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I suppose all Tolkien fans know that, for decades before Lord of the Rings was published, he was an Oxford professor specialising in Old and Middle English. This volume brings together his most important work in the fields which were (eventually) the twin mainsprings of Middle Earth: philology and mythology. For him the two naturally went together: the `northern' epics which fed his imagination were in relatively obscure or forgotten languages like Anglo-Saxon, Finnish and Icelandic. The title piece here is a good example, with its thesis - groundbreaking at the time and surely obvious today - that the monstrous, mythological element in Beowulf is what gives the poem its power. In other cases they're treated separately, as with the seminal `On Fairy Stories' (originally published in Tree and Leaf) on the one hand, or `English and Welsh' on the other. The first is a brilliant piece of analysis which goes a long way to explaining why LotR has such power. The second certainly does not demonstrate, as it claims, that a knowledge of Welsh is important to English philology; but it does record Tolkien's interest in and appreciation of Welsh, seemingly based on the fact that it is `the senior language of the men of Britain'.

Such a comment is typical of a man whose interest in language was that of, not a communicator, but (as he might have put it) a student of ancient lore: a man who habitually gives the written precedence over the spoken. He valued words as much for their sound and form as their meaning.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His love of language 11 Jan 2008
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I first chose to read this book in preparation for an interview in which I thought I would need all the information I could get on Beowulf. I understood the respect and intrigue Tolkien held with the Old English poem, and with this book named after his essay upon it, I was preparing myself for a solid induction into the hidden subtleties in the language and context of the poem. Though I received this with The Monsters and the Critics I was also deeply fascinated with the other essays in the collection. Written at various points in his life they all focussed upon a medium Tolkien devoted the greater part of his life to: language.

Within the essays could be detected the shrewd mind of their author as he contemplated the many aspects of language which entranced him. From syntax to the sound and measure of individual words, the thought process in some of Tolkien's works can be clearly discerned in his writings. His stark enthusiasm for language is infectious and I couldn't help but have deep admiration for the clear devotion and respect Tolkien has for language.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tolkien Speaks! 5 Oct 2001
By A Customer
This is a magnificent collection of speeches and essays from Tolkien's academic life. It can be a little difficult for those without a signifigant amount of linguistic training or familiarity with Old English vocabulary. However, it is still highly readable if you are interested in Old English literature, Welsh, or just love Tolkien. This collection provides a glimpse of his life outside of his novels, and will certainly strike a chord with those who are sentimental about the author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great 21 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
So important. The meaning of fiction and fantasy in a world of self-obsessed "true-story"-tellers can not be overestimated. Read this.
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