- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: University of Toronto Press; 2 edition (1 July 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0802038719
- ISBN-13: 978-0802038715
- Product Dimensions: 15.7 x 2.3 x 23.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,523,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- See Complete Table of Contents
Perilous Realms: Celtic and Norse in Tolkien's Middle-Earth Hardcover – 1 Jul 2005
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Perilous Realms is a pleasure to read. Marjorie Burns writes in a style that is literate and graceful, avoiding the stiff and stuffy prose of much of today's critical writing. With this valuable piece of work, Burns displays a thorough knowledge of both Norse and Celtic literature of the medieval period, and by focusing on the hitherto-undervalued Celtic aspect of Tolkien's fiction, fills a gap in the spectrum of Tolkien scholarship.' Verlyn Flieger, Department of English, University of Maryland
About the Author
Marjorie Burns is a professor in the Department of English at Portland State University.
Top Customer Reviews
Happily for enthusiasts evidence of cultural empire-building is everywhere in this book. The Ring was not intended to stand for Britain. Why would it? Tolkien did not consider himself 'British'. As he said in his Letters, "I love England - not Great Britain and certainly not the British Commonwealth." Similarly the Hobbits were specifically English.
Tolkien emphasized as much in the `Prologue' to the Fellowship of the Ring. According to author Tom Shippey (quoted in Harrington) Tolkien makes the whole history of the Shire correspond 'point for point' with the history of early England. Likewise Sam Gamgee was: "a reflection of the English soldier, of the privates and batmen I knew in the 1914 war, and recognised as so far superior to myself." (Tolkien Letters, p.88).
Mythologies appeal to the universal and the local simultaneously. But Tolkien was quite specific. 'Celtic' mythology wouldn't do. Tolkien's preferred frame of reference was the 12th century Finnish Karvala he admired so much. This was to be his template for restoring to England something of what she'd been stripped of by the Normans. He would, he said, 'restore to the English an epic tradition and present them with a mythology of their own' (On Fairy Stories).
Whereas the aim was to fashion a series of legends which would serve as a mythology for his people, a gift to the nation, 'celtic of any sort,' he observed, is 'a magic bag, in which anything may be put, and out of which almost anything may come.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Marjorie Burns has accomplished something a bit rare for readers of Tolkien. This is a book that remains inviting and accessible without sacrificing any intellectual weight. Her focus on linking narrative sources of "The Silmarillion", "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" to Celtic and Norse mythologies does not narrow the field -- this approach proves more than adequate to the task of bringing the vastness of her subject within reach.
But there remains a nagging sense of Apologia, especially in her chapter on the technique Tolkien uses to add dimension to his principal characters. Here, as with the work of Shippey and others, the reader can't help but get the sense that there's some element geared at the appeasement of mainstream literature and literary critics who so often dismiss Tolkien's work, in many cases unread. Burns' critical insights are strong enough without the seemingly obligatory nod to those literati who choose, simply on the basis of their personal preference, to remain blind and deaf to Tolkien. Such critics' denial of the worth of this work isn't based on literary criteria anyway. So it's safe to assume they'll remain unswayed, whether they become aware of the intricacy and depth of these works or not. With or without them, Tolkien's work is hardly short of either advocates or legitimacy.
That said, Burns' language remains concise, her presentation remains linear even through the often less-than-linear ambles that make much of Tolkien so compelling. Her writing favors clarity over the overtly technical. And, perhaps most importantly, her insights are actually highly original, their exposition extremely convincing. This book complements and informs the content of many other works on Tolkien rather than merely burnishing already familiar ideas. Her ability to illuminate both the far-reaching and fundamental concepts within the literature makes this one of the most enjoyable and informative critical books you'll read on Tolkien's work.
Two chapters I particularly liked are "Iceland and Middle-earth" and "Eating, Devouring and Sacrifice." The first is an original study of how William Morris influenced Tolkien, especially in The Hobbit. The second shows how Tolkien uses the metaphor of eating throughout his fiction.
I do not understand how the other reader/critic of this book could possibly construe any PERILOUS REALMS as a rehash. They must not have read the same book. I found this book to be full of new information, new connections.
I HIGHLY recommend this book.