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J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century Hardcover – 4 Sep 2000
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'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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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.See all Product description
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Back in the mists of time, while I was an undergraduate at Leeds University, Professor Tom Shippey was my tutor and had the thankless task of trying to guide me through the beauties and mysteries of Old English and Old Icelandic literature. His lectures were marvellous: engaging, entertaining and highly memorable, and a lot of my friends studying completely different subjects used to file in for his weekly performance.
This book picks up where his lectures left off. Shippey has been a lifelong admirer of J R R Tolkien's work: not just 'The Lord of the Rings' and associated books, but also his researches in the fields of medieval literature and comparative philology. As far as Tolkien was concerned there was no significant gulf between the two spheres. He initially started writing about Middle-Earth to create a world to set the different languages that he had created.
The works were deeply rooted in Tolkien's own background. Though born in South Africa, he passed most of his childhood in Warwickshire, living in the suburbs of Birmingham. This is reflected in the landscape of The Shire. There are, of course, some startling, but deliberate, anachronisms. While Middle-Earth equates to a late middle ages, the hobbits love tobacco, and while lost in the wilderness Sam Gamgee tries to convince Smeagol/Gollum about the wonders of the potato, or 'taters' as he puts it. Tolkien himself, like Sam and Pippin, was known to be partial to a few pints of strong beer while he sucked away at his pipe.
Professor Shippey takes the reader in fascinating, though never overpowering, detail to show how Tolkien applied his wealth of learning to endow his novels with layer after layer of historical references, all of which add to the verisimilitude. Each of the different races encountered in 'The Lord of the Rings' have distinct but linguistically plausible languages which offer hints to a prior history. Their names resonate with philological clues. For instance, the language and history of the people of Rohan are modelled on those of the Anglo Saxons, while the dwarves' language shows deep traces of Old Norse.
Professor Shippey also offers a fascinating comparison between Denethor, Steward of Gondor, and Theoden, King of Rohan. The former appears the more imposing of the two, though he is merely holding the throne in trust against the return of the king. Theoden, while initially seen as frail and in thrall to his fay counsellor Grima, is the genuine article: a king in his own right and scion of a noble house, and he dies heroically, slain in battle surrounded by his men. Denethor, on the other hand, all but surrenders and chooses self-immolation rather than seeing the conflict through to its conclusion.
Perhaps this work is more particularly aimed at students of medieval literature rather than the mainstream Tolkien fans, but it is utterly enthralling.
Tolkien was a one-off, a master of language who could create wonderful worlds for our imaginations to inhabit. Many authors who followed in his wake have acknowledged his role in influencing them. He crafted imaginary countries and the people, cultures and languages needed to make them seem real. It would be difficult, well-nigh impossible, for anyone to better his literary achievement which had been many years in the making and was still not completed at the time of his death.
Any Tolkien fan will voraciously devour the pages of this fantastic biography of one of our most gifted British authors.
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