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A Tolkien Compass Paperback – 1 Apr 1977

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 207 pages
  • Publisher: Open Court Publishing Co ,U.S.; 2nd Ed edition (April 1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0875483038
  • ISBN-13: 978-0875483030
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 1.1 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,318,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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This was one of the very first volumes of essays of serious literary criticism about Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit to be published, way back in 1975, and the majority of them were presented originally at a symposium in 1969. This means, of course, that these essays were written pre-Silmarillion, pre-Letters and pre-Carpenter's biography of Tolkien, when a lot less information was available about the author and his intentions than is known today. Now that Tolkien scolarship is a serious subject, and dozens of academic books discussing his legendarium are availble, it's interesting to see how the first pioneers in the field viewed his works. Some of the papers are no longer particularly relevant, such as the one whose main purpose is to identify differences between the first and second editions of The Hobbit and speculate on the reason for them (at the time the first edition would have been hard to come by, but its text is now available in 'The Annotated Hobbit'). However, the majority of the papers are still interesting interpretations, and it's even more interesting in the light of more recent developmnents in the field.

Note that this is NOT the 1977 edition (in spite of the publication date listed by Amazon for this item as April 1977). It does NOT contain Tolkien's own Guide to Translating Names (which he wrote to help foreign translators of LotR after being very annoyed by some of the ones used in foreign translations of 'The Hobbit'). That appeared in the original edition, but for copyright reasons, not in this one (anyone wanting it now has to buy Hammond and Scull's Readers' Companion). It does contain a new 2002 essay by the editor in its place, in which he sets the reprint in context.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars 4 reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good collection, but incomplete 11 Mar. 2003
By EA Solinas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"Tolkien Compass" was long out of print, along with a lot of other good books on and by J.R.R. Tolkien. Now with the release of the live-action movie trilogy, virtually all the Tolkien-related books are being pulled off the shelves and rereleased -- this among them. It's a good, insightful collection of essays, but there's something vital missing...
It's a compilation of essays, by various people. Among them are Bonniejean Christensen's
study of Gollum in "The Hobbit" -- there were two versions of the "Riddles in the Dark"
chapter; Walter Scheps's "Fairy-Tale Morality of Lord of the Rings," which studies the ethics
of Tolkien's trilogy as well as traditional fairy-tales; Agnes Perkins and Helen Hill's essay on
power, corruption, the lust for power, and the One Ring; Deborah C. Rogers's study of
humanity both in the "everyman" hobbits and in the noble Aragorn; Robert Plank's study of
the Scouring of the Shire and how it reflects fascism; and several others. On the downside, Dorothy Matthews' "The Psychological Journey of Bilbo Baggins" is okay, but rather off-balance because it explains a hobbit's mind in complex jargon -- those don't go together.
But there is a major problem. I was fortunate enough to find a first-edition paperback of this book, from the 1970s, and the last part of it is a special meaning and pronunciation guide by J.R.R. Tolkien himself. It's a wonderful bonus, and worth the price of the book alone. But for some reason, the chapter has been removed from the reprinted "Tolkien Compass." It's just essays, no Tolkien -- I'm not sure why it was removed, but it was.
"Tolkien Compass" is a good collection of scholarly essays on various facets of Tolkien's
work, which aren't dumbed down but also aren't too hard to understand. If the extra guide chapter had been included, this would have been a reissued treasure. As it is, it seems very incomplete.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Missing Appendix 19 Mar. 2003
By San Valentino - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Reviewer la solinas complains that the new edition fails to include Tolkien's "Notes on Nomenclature," which the 1975 edition offered. A glance at page 157 would have explained why. The Tolkien Estate would not permit its reprinting, because the Estate plans to republish it another book. "A Tolkien Compass" is a splendid book. Jared Lobdell appreciated the depth of Tolkien's genius long before most Americans.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A literary analysis excellent in its scope 16 May 2003
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Fans of Tolkien and his fantasy will thrill to A Tolkien Compass, a handbook which provides reflections on his political, religious, and psychological principles. Ten writers explore these concepts, offering very different backgrounds of expertise and approaches to Tolkien's art. The result is a literary analysis excellent in its scope.
8 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not impressed 31 May 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I glanced through "...Compass" just today. I was particularly interested in the chapter on "The Scouring of the Shire." To make it short, that particular author's arguments went in a totally different direction as my own thoughts on the significance and meaning of The Scouring. To me, Tolkien was making a general, overarching slam of industrialism and technology, to be sure, from an angle rarely heard today. In my opinion, Tolkien blended the oppressive methods of both capitalism and communism in fairly equal parts, although on the surface it would seem he meant only communism. I consider myself a "neo-Luddite" similar to Tolkien, and as I back up to view the issue, I do not see but superficial differences between the "big C's" in the Scouring chapter. The true issue is industrialism itself, in contrast to the cottage industry-based Shire. The issue was industrialism, not the brand of syringe with which it was being injected. In fact the Shire was being colonized and cold-dunked into industrialism just as in real life the entire world has been, and the methods used by the imperialist, Stalinist or "free market," differ little in the long run. I believe the "...Compass" author missed this angle entirely.
What on earth am I talking about? Tolkien was a genius at keeping his hand out of philosophical discussions; hence, the ferocity of all of us latter-day "Besserwisser." Still, some of his quotes make clear at least a significant part of his underlying belief system. Here's my favorite:
"Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour, while materialistic 'progress' leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil."
This is my Tolkien speaking. And if you can fully grasp what he is saying here, scales of immeasurable weight and opacity will fall from your eyes. In this day and age it is all but impossible to fathom such topsy-turvy Ludditism, yet as extreme as the quote may sound, it affords a very peculiar philosophical angle.
Don't believe me? That's your right. I've scanned a few books which purport to perform "deep analysis" on Tolkien, and I find most of a few, if not even more, lightweight and pseudo-intellectual. Perhaps "...Compass" is worth a read, but after its Scouring analysis, sorry, I won't be reading anymore of it.
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