The Road to Middle-earth: How J. R. R. Tolkien Created a New Mythology Paperback – 3 Jan 2005
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“Shippey’s exploration of Tolkien’s themes, especially the nature of evil, is superb” Independent
“Shippey’s research seems limitless. He writes with unusual clarity and presents his arguments well” Sunday Times
“Shippey deepens your understanding of the work without making you forget your initial, purely instinctive response to Middle-earth and hobbits” Houston Chronicle
The definitive guide to the origin of J.R.R. Tolkien's books, from The Hobbit to The History of Middle-earth series -- includes unpublished Tolkien extracts and poetry. The Road to Middle-Earth is a fascinating and accessible exploration of J.R.R.Tolkien's creativity and the sources of his inspiration. Tom Shippey shows in detail how Tolkien's professional background led him to write The Hobbit and how he created a work of timeless charm for millions of readers. He discusses the contribution of The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales to Tolkien's great myth-cycle, showing how Tolkien's more 'complex' works can be read enjoyably and seriously by readers of his earlier books, and goes on to examine the remarkable 12-volume History of Middle-earth by Tolkien's son and literary heir Christopher Tolkien, which traces the creative and technical processes through which Middle-earth evolved. The core of the book, however, concentrates on The Lord of the Rings as a linguistic and cultural map, as a twisted web of a story, and as a response to the inner meaning of myth and poetry.By following the routes of Tolkien's own obsessions -- the poetry of languages and myth -- The Road to Middle-earth shows how Beowulf, The Lord of the Rings, Grimm's Fairy Tales, the Elder Edda and many other works form part of a live and continuing tradition of literature. It takes issue with many basic premises of orthodox criticism and offers a new approach to Tolkien, to fantasy, and to the importance of language in literature. This new edition is revised and expanded, and includes a previously unpublished lengthy analysis of Peter Jackson's film adaptations and their effect on Tolkien's work. See all Product description
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As Shippey states in his title for this book, Tolkien did not just write fantasy stories, he 'created a new mythology' and that is his greatest gift and the source of his genius. Whilst his first commercial foray was the children's story The Hobbit, he soon found himself writing a sequel and it was this that would propel him to literary greatness. Tolkien had begun creating his new mythology during The Great War of 1914-1918, work that would evolve into The Silmarillion. When sitting down to write a sequel to The Hobbit, he found himself writing The Lord of the Rings - a different beast entirely although some familiar faces and places crop up in its many pages. The epic feel of LOTR gave us the new mythology, a new fantasy epic never before seen and whose popularity allowed Tolkien to further explore his earlier tales.
Shippey's research is great and he gives us a real insight into the tale which 'grew in the telling.' We began 'In a hole in the gorund' with a friendly, hairy-toed Hobbit and ended up in totally different territory. We travelled with Tolkien on an amazing journey into his imagination and genius and we are extremely lucky that he shared his wonderful, inspirational tales with us. Like Bilbo said, "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to."
I found this book very interesting as it laid out some of the influences in Northern European mythology which led to the creation of Middle Earth and which shaped it subsequently. It also puts it in the context of Tolkien's day job as a philologist at Oxford University, and what Tolkien was trying to achieve through his writing (besides simply enjoying himself).
In particular, it was nice to see an intelligent exposition of these matters by someone who clearly enjoyed Tolkien's works, and who was able to bring to bear the academic background to give justice to Tolkien's achievement.
This book was written long before the films were a twinkle in Peter Jackson's eye, and so this is not a cheap attempt to cash in. Instead, it is a passionate and learned book which I recommend highly to anyone interested in the genesis of Middle Earth.
Shippey's work, similarly to 'Author of the Century', is compelling, rich and very educational. For anyone interested in history or language this is an excellent tool. Written by an Oxford scholar about the work of another Oxford scholar it contains numerous references to the great poems and sagas of the dark ages and how they were to influence a man who dealt with them as part of his everyday work. The way that Tolkein turned old, and sometimes meaningless, words into creatures and places and how he used the stories of old to create a modern myth is discussed in depth.
Although a good knowledge of Tolkein's works would be useful it is not essential. Indeed to read this book gives a greater insight into what Tolkein was trying to achieve and even how his books should be read. The stories alone are fascinating but they lead to a yearning for more information and greater knowledge which this book provides.
For anyone looking to expand their knowledge of writing, history or middle-earth itself this book is invaluable. 'Author of the Century' by the same author is very similar and sometimes overlapping but certainly the next step for anyone who enjoys this book and 'Realm of the Ring Lords' by Laurence Gardner is also a fascinating addition along the deconstucting history line. Read on and enjoy