J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography Paperback – 28 Apr 2011
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‘One of the most interesting and readable biographies of a literary figure.’ The Times
‘The story is rich and beautifully told.’ Sunday Times
‘Absolutely fascinating.’ Daily Mail
‘A painstaking and often moving account.’ Times Literary Supplement
‘Humphrey Carpenter’s plain, unvarnished tale is absolutely gripping.’ Times Literary Supplement
From the Back Cover
In the 25 years since Tolkien's death in September 1973, millions have read The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion and become fascinated about the very private man behind the books.
Born in Bloemfontein in January 1892, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was orphaned in childhood, brought up in near-poverty and almost thwarted in adolescent romance. He served in the First World War, surviving the Battle of the Somme, where he lost some of his closest friends, and returned to academic life, achieving high repute as a scholar and university teacher, eventually becoming Merton Professor of English at Oxford.
Then suddenly his life changed dramatically. One day while marking essay papers he found himself writing 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit' – and worldwide renown awaited him.
Humphrey Carpenter was given unrestricted access to all Tolkien's papers, and interviewed his friends and family. From these sources he follows the long and painful process of creation that produced The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion and offers a wealth of information about the life and work of the twentieth century's most cherished author.--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition. See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Carpenter makes illuminating connections, linking Tolkien's early fascination with languages to the fact that the author first studied languages with his mother (who died while he was quite young). That nostalgic attachment to language led him to a lifetime of study of all sorts of Scandinavian and Germanic myths and epics, which ultimately inspired him to create his own mythology.
Carpenter also mentions that Leaf By Niggle, one of Tolkien's short stories, expressed his own bittersweet feelings about having spent most of his life writing the Silmarillion and Lord Of The Rings; especially given that advancing age made it increasingly unlikely that they would be finished in his lifetime. This was news to me, so I tracked down the story in a secondhand copy of The Tolkien Reader... it was really quite touching.
I'm planning to read The Letters Of J.R.R. Tolkien by Carpenter and Christopher Tolkien next. I'm pretty sure I won't be disappointed.
this book + a comfy chair/sofa + the LOTR movie soundtrack + an hour or so to yourself= a very enjoyable hour!
I can't believe how well this book is written; my addiction to it almost mirrors that of my addiction to the classic trilogy. What I found incredibly refreshing, however, was how the author does not restrain from giving us the truth. So, for example, it doesn't give Tolkien a major ego boost (if one could do that to a person 31 years dead) but instead it gives him praise when it's due, and criticism when it's due, e.g. when it comes to his grades in his early education.
A great read, anyone who wants a deeper insight into the life of my favourite author should buy this immediately. Plus, Amazon did a great service of delivering this. Buy it from here, now!
The late Humphrey Carpenter's gracefully written 1977 biography is still, I think, probably the best that there is. Humphrey himself knew Tolkien only slightly, but he wrote with the cooperation of Tolkien's family, and so he had access to Tolkien's diaries and correspondence as well as to the recollections of Tolkien's children. Obviously this was immensely helpful.
Of course, authorised status isn't enough by itself to guarantee that a biography will be good, but Humphrey, even at the beginning of his literary career, was a biographer of genius. I have to confess that I bought this book determined to love it - Tolkien is my favourite author - but I can't remember any other literary biography that has been more richly enjoyable. What makes the book so rewarding is, I think, the ingenuity of its form. The backbone of it is a traditional, cradle-to-the-grave linear narrative, but Humphrey interrupts the story with many discursions exploring different facets of Tolkien's life and character, and these sidebars enrich the story tremendously. Thus the chapter Oxford Life describes the minutiae of a typical Tolkien day in the early 1930s, Photographs Observed examines what can be gleaned from the family albums, another chapter focuses on Tolkien's scholarship and teaching, another tells us what it was like to visit the great man in his old age...We learn about his religion, his friendships with C. S.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
just started reading this and am very pleased with it as I have Tolkien's booksPublished 11 months ago by Sheila
I have to confess, other than his essay on fairy stories, I have never been able to warm to Tolkien's writings. Nor those of C.S. Lewis. Read morePublished 21 months ago by A.J.Bradley
THE REFERENCE that every Tolkien's devotee should have whith her/him! An essential document which all specialists of the great english writer used for their own works!Published on 7 July 2014 by Morgane
Yes, it's an OK bio - I read it when it came out in (I think) 1977, and so bought this "new edition", and the difference is... nothing. Nada. Zilch. Read morePublished on 18 May 2014 by Davey
A compelling account of a remarkable, yet in some ways ordinary, life. I shall now read the Silmarillion, and then possibly re-read all Tolkien's other books.Published on 16 Jan. 2014 by Colliedog
This book did not try to make Tolkien out to be perfect but It showed the true side of his character both good and bad. A great read.Published on 23 Sept. 2013 by KIERAN GILMORE