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The Monsters and the Critics, and Other Essays Hardcover – 1 Apr 1984

4.6 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (T) (April 1984)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395356350
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395356357
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 16.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,516,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.


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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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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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By A Customer on 5 Oct. 2001
Format: Paperback
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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"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 essay by the same title 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 Welsh 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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It's interesting to read such a sturdy defence of myth and monsters as literature, such a long time before Tolkien, before writing LOTR, made it a widely accepted cultural fact. And of course his use of language makes it a joy to read, whatever it's about!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
While I have been a Tolkien fan for nearly 50 years, and studied Beowulf at Uni, I had previously failed to spot this collection of Tolkien's lectures and essays. Reading them, opened my eyes to a whole range of thinking about what Tolkien was doing with Lord of the Rings. For the first time I was able to enjoy the various poems and songs which had seemed, in the past, to interfere with the action.
The other thing to read with this is Seamus Heaney's poetic translation of Beowulf.
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