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J. R. R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend by…

J. R. R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend (edition 2012)

by Colin Duriez

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Title:J. R. R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend
Authors:Colin Duriez
Info:Lion UK (2012), Paperback, 192 pages
Collections:Your library

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J. R. R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend by Colin Duriez



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As the saying goes, “Rome was not built in a day.” Wars were fought and won, infrastructure was built and fortified, and the culture of the ancient West flourished as a result. Similarly, the Middle-Earth of Tolkien’s imagination did not spring up ex nihilo from his imagination but is the culmination of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien’s life work. Various elements of Middle Earth had their genesis in his life experience and academic pursuits of Tolkien. In Tolkien: The Making of a Legend, noted expert on Tolkien and the Inklings, Colin Duriez, tells the story of Tolkien’s life and the events which shaped him as an author.

J.R.R. Tolkein: The Making of a Legend by Colin Duriez
Tolkien’s life story found its way into his fiction. A tarantula bite in childhood may have provided the background fpr Ungoliant or Shelob (13) . Places that were special to Tolkien provided the basis for important locations (i.e. the Shire, the two towers, the Ivy Bush all have their origin in actual locations). The love Tolkien had for his wife Edith provided the inspiration for the story of Luthien and Beren (one of the central legends of Middle Earth). His experience of warfare in World War I made him critical of the way technology was destroying modern life(a major theme in the LotR trilogy). But Tolkien’s literary vision was also enriched by his friendships and academic pursuits.

In his schooldays he and a group of literary friends formed a ‘Tea Club, later known as the TCBS (Tea Club Barrovian Society). They dreamed of later literary achievements (though several members did not survive the First World War). As an academic at Oxford, Tolkien formed the ‘Coal Biters’ a group which gathered weekly to translate and read Norse Mythology. Later, the Inkling(with C.S. Lewis and others) would meet Tuesday mornings at the Eagle and Child. The members of that group listened to, discussed and critiqued early drafts of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The friendship with Lewis was mutually beneficial and while it cooled somewhat in later years, Tolkein and Lewis continued to support one another throughout their life. Tokien’s relationship with Lewis and other writers provided him the relational support he needed and helped him hone his craft as an author.

And of course Tolkien’s own genius grew up with keen interest in and talent for language. His skill at languages enabled him to create several Elvin languages. His work on the OED (after his military service) would prove to give him the proper training to create the world of Middle Earth and in later years, his academic writings mostly served to enrich his fiction.

This is an interesting biography and paints a compelling vision of its subject. Druiez shares the effect Tolkien’s reading of Beowulf had for his students. This, coupled with Tolkien’s belief in the power of story, makes me appreciate Tolkien’s fiction all the more. As one who has enjoyed Tolkien’s books (and Peter Jackson’s adaptations) I do not hesitate to recommend this book. It is a readable account of a much beloved author.

Thank you to Kregel Publications for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for this review. ( )
  Jamichuk | May 22, 2017 |
They say, write what you know.
But what if you happen to write about things like Orcs, Hobbits, and Elves? Do you really know this enough to write about it? In a way, yes, JRR Tolkien did write what he knew. Or, more like it, the way he saw the world. Overcoming tremendous odds, he gave us some of the best loved stories that still thrive today.

When you read this book, you're getting an intimate peek inside a complex individual that was molded by his fair share of life, death, loss, and love. Be prepared for emotional turmoil that followed him thru his life. Cheer for him when he finds his one true love, and pity him when he ultimately sets aside that love because of the wishes of another.

Not only will you meet the man behind the Hobbit, but the story of JRR Tolkien's perseverance through hardships will inspire you when you thought your hope was gone.

JRR Tolkien had a gift. He was a romantic. I know. Many a man would shudder to be labeled a romantic, but he saw life differently than most. When the regular person would see only an ordinary tower, JRR saw not a normal tower, but a different time and place with evil and good, fighting against one another and that tower, a pinnacle that holds it all in the balance.

Conjuring stories and poems on a whim, he was an immensely gifted man. A creator not only of worlds and words, but of entire languages.

But why would he desire to write such stories as The Hobbit? To reignite a love for fairy tales to a new readership.

He has succeeded in this and his stories live on and will continue to do so for generations of romantics to come. ( )
  AmandaWrites | Dec 30, 2013 |
Although, I have been a fan of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings for years, I knew very little about the author behind these magical works. More has been written about J.R.R. Tolkien than by him. He has been studied by scholars and critics for generations. Tolkien is enigmatic and complex, as is his work. For those reasons and a myriad of others, I was so pleased to be introduced to this Tolkien biography by Colin Duriez. In the forward, Doriez writes, “Though my book is not intended for scholars but for ordinary readers wishing to explore the life of Tolkien and how it relates to the stories of Middle-earth, the wisdom from those (other authors) I’ve mentioned, and many others, is a necessary background (p. 9-10).”

With even a most tertiary look into the background of Colin Duriez, it becomes quite clear that as an academic, a professor, and a writer, he has made it his life’s work to study the works of Tolkien. He appears to have read nearly every work ever written by or about Tolkien, which made it all the more remarkable that he was able to condense his intensive years of study into a book for the ordinary reader.

In J.R.R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend, Duriez focuses on the lonely, orphaned boy who was fascinated with languages and fantasy. Though not antisocial by any means, he definitely lived an active life inside his head. In Duriez’s book, the reader also learns of the horrible losses and emotional toil that he endured as a soldier in WWI. His marriage to his first love, after years of separation, is endearing as is his love for his children. Despite his devotion to academia, he was a family man at heart. The land of Middle-Earth, as it turns out, is a land that Tolkien had invented early in his youth, and it was his love of languages and study of them (philology), that lead him to create this enchanted world. He shared the stories with his children and eventually developed a manuscript that he shared with his good friend and colleague, C.S.Lewis. Lewis said, “In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself, and am never more myself than when I do (p. 54).

Lewis quickly became one of Tolkien’s biggest fans and encourages him to publish his work. Like generations of fans afterward, Lewis fell in love with the Hobbit of Middle Earth and the stories that followed. It may have been Tolkien’s love of languages that led him to write these epic novels, but for most readers, it is the characters, the fantasy, the heroism, the story itself that captures the imagination.

For an introduction to J.R.R. Tolkien, a fascinating man who lead an extraordinary life both inside and outside of his head, I highly recommend this book. If you are already a Tolkien scholar, you probably won’t gain much from this particular biography. For the average reader, however, it is perfect!

In compliance with FTC guidelines, please note that I received a free review copy from Kregel Blog Tours in return for an honest review. ( )
  TheLoopyLibrarian | Jan 11, 2013 |
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, know as J. R. R. was born on 3 January 1892, in Southern Africa. He was the first son of Arthur and Mabel, and was joined by a brother Hilary on 17 February 1894.
Both boys had a had sad beginning, loosing their Dad in 1896, and their Mom to Diabetes, there was no treatment. They became the wards of a priest, and soon lived with a woman who gave them room and board...that is it. How sad, and yet each point of his life shows the rich mind he possessed, and later shows up in bits and pieces in his writings.
Love the reference to Hobbit, that came from his travels to Interlaken in Switzerland. What a mind he had, and was able to share with the World. He had in his lifetime become friends with C. S. Lewis, a former Atheist who came to know the Lord many think because of Tolkien.
He fell in love with Edith as a child, and later pursues her as a young man. I personally enjoyed this story, and bringing this man to life in my mind. He started out with such a harsh life, but the talent of this man is legendary.

I received this book from Kregel, and was not required to give a positive review. ( )
  alekee | Jan 8, 2013 |
Of Tolkien Duriez says, “Myth and story was embodied in language” (p. 143) and myth and story restore “a true meaning of ordinary and humble things that make up human life” (p. 176). That sums up his life and writing in my estimation. I’ve read Humphrey Carpenter’s biography which is the official biography of Tolkien and I’ve also read the Tolkien Letters. Duriez’s J. R. R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend is as much a must read for Tolkienphiles.

I not only enjoyed refreshing my history of Tolkien’s life but I enjoyed the writing and storyline Duriez presents. He covers his life from cradle to the grave. In the biography itself I gathered some wonderful Tolkien tidbits and memorable sayings.

It’s also interesting how this biography and recent discoveries have intersected. Duriez reports,
One day Tolkien and Lewis would even plan to collaborate on a book on language, a project that never materialized. (p. 145)
Lo and behold this work has this month been uncovered. The Telegraph reports (“JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis joint work discovered”)
The beginning of a joint book by CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien has been discovered in a manuscript book in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

An American academic called Steven Beebe, of Texas State University, San Marcos, had seen the material some years ago, but has only recently realised what it is. It is written in Lewis's hand in the same notebook that contains early drafts for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Magician's Nephew.

Lewis and Tolkien had planned their joint book, to be called Language and Human Nature, in 1944, with publication envisaged for 1950.

You should read this book but especially so if you love Tolkien--even if you’re read Carpenter’s or other biographies. You won’t be disappointed with Duriez’s J. R. R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend. My only tiff would be Duriez teasing about the amount of information that could’ve been included surrounding the publication of The Lord of the Rings. Says Duriez, “Even his dealings with his publisher and another potential publisher could fill a small book” (p. 192). But then we get few details about the process as a whole.

Tolkien’s work on Middle-Earth is timeless because he captures the essence of our life within his faerie stories and myth. He has an uncanny ability to penetrate into the depths of the human condition and uncover truth. For instance, he says after WWII
We are attempting to conquer Sauron with the Ring. And we shall (it seems) succeed. But the penalty is, you will know, to breed new Saurons, and slowly turn Men and Elves into Orcs” (p. 191 as quoted in Letters to his son Christopher).
Tolkien was right then and he’s even more right today. You should read him and understand his life in connection with the larger corpus of his work. Duriez will help you do this. ( )
  mthwsms | Jan 7, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0745955142, Paperback)

Perfect for Tolkien enthusiasts of all shapes and sizes, this delightful and accessible biography brings the enigma behind The Lord of the Rings franchise to life

Long before the successful The Lord of the Rings films, J.R.R. Tolkien’s creations, imagination, and characters had already captured the hearts and minds of millions of readers. But who was the man who dreamt up the intricate languages and perfectly crafted world of Middle-earth? Tolkien had a difficult life for many years—orphaned and poor, his guardian forbade him from communicating with the woman he had fallen in love with, and he also suffered through the horrors of World War I. An intensely private and brilliant scholar, he spent more than 50 years working on the languages, history, peoples, and geography of Middle-earth, with a consistent mythology and body of legends inspired by a formidable knowledge of early northern European history and culture. J.R.R. Tolkien became a legend by creating an imaginary world that has enthralled and delighted generations.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:48 -0400)

"Long before the successful The Lord of the Rings films, J.R.R. Tolkien's creations, imagination, and characters had already captured the hearts and minds of millions of readers. But who was the man who dreamt up the intricate languages and perfectly crafted world of Middle-earth? Tolkien had a difficult life for many years--orphaned and poor, his guardian forbade him from communicating with the woman he had fallen in love with, and he also suffered through the horrors of World War I. An intensely private and brilliant scholar, he spent more than 50 years working on the languages, history, peoples, and geography of Middle-earth, with a consistent mythology and body of legends inspired by a formidable knowledge of early northern European history and culture. J.R.R. Tolkien became a legend by creating an imaginary world that has enthralled and delighted generations."--www.amazon.com… (more)

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