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The Real Middle-Earth: Magic and Mystery in the Dark Ages [Paperback]

Brian Bates
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Nov 2013

Tolkien readily admitted that the concept of Middle-earth was not his own invention. An Old English term for the Dark Age world, it was always assumed that the importance of magic in this world existed only in Tolkien's works; now Professor Brian Bates reveals the vivid truth about this historical culture. Behind the stories we know of Dark Age king and queens, warriors and battles, lies the hidden history of Middle-earth, a world of magic, mystery and destiny. Fiery dragons were seen to fly across the sky, monsters haunted the marshes, and elves fired poisoned arrows. Wizards cast healing spells, wise trees gave blessings, and omens foretold the deaths of kings. The very landscape itself was enchanted and the world imbued with a life force.

Repressed by a millennium of Christianity, this belief system all but disappeared, leaving only faint traces in folk memory and fairy tales. In this remarkable book Professor Brian Bates has drawn on the latest archaeological findings to reconstruct the imaginative world of our past, revealing a culture with insights that may yet help us understand our own place in the world.

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The Real Middle-Earth: Magic and Mystery in the Dark Ages + The Way of Wyrd + Looking for the Lost God of England
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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; New Ed edition (7 Nov 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330491709
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330491709
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 134,519 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Wavering between the factual and the fanciful, it's an interesting book. -- Ink Magazine, October 2003

About the Author

Brian Bates is professor of Psychology and Consciousness at the University of Sussex. He is a leading writer on the spiritual world of the Anglo-Saxon and Norse cultures. His previous book, co-authored with John Cleese, was The Human Face. He has also contributed to the Sunday Times, Observer and Express.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars love it 10 Jan 2013
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I'm interested in this era. so much is written about the Romans, the Early Christians and the Tudors with the assumption that nothing good happened else before 1600. Not only is this Middle Earth culture interesting but calls into question whether our present culture's emphasis on seeing ourselves as distinct from and superior to the rest of the natural world, valuing material wealth above all other and subscribing to the cult of the individual is the better option or even if this is at all sustainable. There is much to learn from this book, hopefully changing our view of the natural world to see ourselves as a part and not apart.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
An incredibly detailed, inspiring, imaginative and eye opening insight not only into the every day lives of people growing and living through the so called Dark Ages but also why they believed what they did, how they practiced it, how it related them to the wider world or their local surroundings. Full of facts and snippets from ancient manuscripts covering ancient Germanic Tribes, Anglo-Saxon, Norse, Celtic and many other cultural beliefs.
I enjoyed it so much, it really was a pleasure to read and I was saddened when it ended.
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48 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and very well written, BUT... 2 July 2008
This is a fascinating book which is a compelling delight to read, but, like others, I have some serious reservations about the author's accuracy.

For a start, I'd love to know what route he took to the Ankerwycke yew at Wraysbury. I just got off at the railway station, walked straight through the village and beyond it - along the well worn tarmac road - until I saw a road sign to my right bearing the legend "Runnymede." Curious about the name, I turned right and, once among the nearby fields, it only took ten minutes by foot to find the tree (to which people are still tying their offerings, by the way). So much for walking: "for an hour across ancient fields, along trackways and over wooden bridges linking ancient islands once separated by the estuary of the River Thames" (page 42). In any case, you'd have to go back a darned sight further than the Iron Age - when this grand old dear is supposed to have first seen the light of day - to find any part of Berkshire any where near the sea. Estuary? Berkshire and Surrey are nowhere near any river mouths or ocean tides. And it isn't a "small sign from English Heritage," (page 50) it's a small sign from the National Trust. But above all is the really idiotic way he has comes up with a spurious assertion regarding the origins of the place name Runnymede - waffling on that it was coined by ancient Saxons in the deep mists of time to denote an association with runes - and in so doing, completely missed the opportunity to make a far more pertinent observation. In point of fact, evidence relating to the use of the name Runnymede dates no further back than the signing of the Magna Carta.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars pleasant read, full of nonsense 24 April 2012
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Even though the book is a pleasure to read, its' contents are less than accurate. Its' primarily a rehash of popular myth concerning the past. I am an avid enthusiast of scholarly 'pagan books', but - despite fond memories for The Way of Wyrd - I recently chucked Bates' books out due to irritation over their high fantasy percentage. Bates' "The Real Middle-Earth" isn't the real Middle-Earth, but a romantic, stereotyped fantasy written to sell. Try The Elder Gods: The Otherworld of Early England by Stephen Pollington, that's a much better book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, enjoyable read 30 Mar 2013
By Hope
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I very much enjoyed this book. It was fascinating to read about the customs of an age known as the "Dark Ages". It seems they are not so dark, and not so different from us today! Recommend this book to anyone with an inquiring mind.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting first read 2 Nov 2012
By mc
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This is the first book I've read on the subject - which I don't know much about from films or other sources - and found it helpful, stimulating and interesting. Reading the other reviews was helpful too for further reading.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Middle-Earth brought to life 18 Jun 2012
By Lucinda
JRR Tolkien's creation of Middle-Earth is a cacophony of fiery Dragons swooping across the skies, monsters haunting the marshes, Elves firing poisoned arrows, Wizards casting healing spells and omens foretelling stories of the Kings of old. All that now remains are the remnants left in folk memory, fairytales and myths and legends, with our belief that has all but disappeared. This book is a study of the Dark Age containing historical and archeological knowledge, which ultimately reconstructs before your very eyes the imaginative world of our past. This insight of a past culture and belief helps us to explore the past, comparing it to our current scientific age where we tend to approach our lives with a more rational perspective. We however still hunger to connect with our ancestors as the love of fantasy fiction in books and films are still strong, being a genre that is universally loved and cherished. This is an historical account of a past culture that is just as magical and enchanting as Tolkien's fictional version, but one with a deeply engrained and more poignant connection with us. Brian Bates' research covers not only Old England but also right across Europe, from the Celts to the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings beginning two thousand years ago. The Norse mythology and tales that the author re-tells, makes this a most fascinating and gripping read that brings the past vividly to life in full color. In the fantasy genre generally there is always something solid and factual behind the creative imaginings, which ultimately adds to its authenticity and realism. Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
An in depth look at how our ancestors lived and saw the world. A great read, if you are off English stock, this is recommended.
Published 1 month ago by Nes1983
1.0 out of 5 stars Meh
Ive not read it all yet but amount of times middle earth is mentioned in this book is annoying beyond believe
Published 7 months ago by Nj
4.0 out of 5 stars Superbly interesting ...
I love reading about the persecution of witches and though this is not of that genre, it's an excellent read - I've learnt so much about the dark ages and it's actually inspired me... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Stella
2.0 out of 5 stars Mish-Mash
I found it very boring; too much of Golden Bough, which by far is interesting.
Jumps to conclusions wrongly and almost arrogant in HIS beliefs. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Mr. Piotr J. Masiak
1.0 out of 5 stars Rubbish - and badly written
Severely disappointed with this book. It is badly written, inaccurate, badly proof-read and repetitive. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Mr. J. Eunson
4.0 out of 5 stars The Real Middle-Earth by Brian Bates
This is a must have for all Brian Bates fans. This book (accompanied by the fictional The Way of Wyrd), intricately paints the picture of the ancient Norse pagan belief system,... Read more
Published on 3 Jan 2012 by Willow
3.0 out of 5 stars Middle Earth Connection Is pretty weak
This book is an enjoyable read but i personally think the connection with Tolkien's middle earth is misleading and surely just an attempt to jump on the LOR bandwagon that was in... Read more
Published on 6 May 2011 by King Eric
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