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The Tolkien Reader by J.R.R. Tolkien
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The Tolkien Reader (edition 1986)

by J.R.R. Tolkien

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2,402132,590 (3.89)31
Member:starmilk
Title:The Tolkien Reader
Authors:J.R.R. Tolkien
Info:Del Rey (1986), Mass Market Paperback, 272 pages
Collections:Your library, Fiction, SFF
Rating:****
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The Tolkien Reader by J. R. R. Tolkien

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People know Tolkien as the writer of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. In 1966, Ballantine books collected some of his shorter works to serve as a paperback introduction for those who had not yet read his Ring Trilogy.

Peter Beagle wrote a fine introduction to this volume. It was amusing to read his biographical blurb which described him as the author of A Fine and Private Place which was "published in 1960, and was extremely well received" (xvi). (Of course, he went on to write the much more famous The Last Unicorn.)

The works collected are a true miscellany, both in content and in style. "The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhthelm's Son" is a somber fragment of a play where two battle-weary soldiers pick through the bodies of their comrades by lamplight to find their war-leader. "Farmer Giles of Ham," in contrast, is a comic fantasy story about a lowly farmer who becomes a dragon master. This story is suitable for younger readers. "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil" is a collection of sixteen poems written during the third age of Middle Earth.

The highlight of this collection is "Tree and Leaf". After a lengthy essay on the nature of fairy stories which gives the reader insight into Tolkien's thought process, the story "Tree and Leaf" is a powerful account of a man—a painter—who spends his whole life putting off the future (and his neighbour) in order to paint the perfect leaf. When he is finally forced to go on his journey, he realizes his true role in the world and in the world to come. Reading from a Christian perspective, this story was very moving!

The works collected between these covers are so diverse, only a devoted Tolkien fan would be interested in reading them all. If that's you, then enjoy! ( )
  StephenBarkley | Nov 25, 2014 |
first publ 1966
  glenanderson | Oct 8, 2013 |
This is a collection of shorter pieces by Tolkien and an essay "Tolkien's Magic Ring" by Peter Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn. The Beagle essay on Lord of the Rings is decent, the sort of thing you see in introductions to books, even if I didn't find it particularly insightful. "The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth, Beorhthelm's Son" is a short verse play by Tolkien inspired by an Old English poem, "The Battle of Maldon." I found Tolkien's afterward on that poem and the mindset of the Anglo Saxon nobility more interesting than his play itself, if again, not memorably brilliant. "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil" are ballads based on the character in Lord of the Rings. By and large I loved that epic, I've read it through three times and watched the film based on the trilogy about as many times. But this embodies what I disliked most in it, both the poems sprinkled throughout which I found uninspired and tedious, and the character Tom Bombadil, for whom I felt the same. Yes, I get it--he's a force of nature and thus the one being uncorruptible by the ring, but I wanted to put a spork through my eyes when reading about him and Goldberry.

That leaves two pieces that I think alone do make the book worth buying and reading. First, there's "Tree and Leaf"--an extended essay about fairy tales and a short story written by Tolkien in the genre, "Leaf by Niggle." The essay was... interesting, and shows Tolkien's resemblance to his fellow Inkling C.S. Lewis in how it deals with mythology and Christianity and the nostalgia for a rural, pre-Industrial Britain. "Leaf by Niggle" read more C.S. Lewis than Tolkien actually, because it's so obviously Christian allegory, despite the fact that in one foreword to Lord of the Rings Tolkien claimed not to like allegory. And that leaves what I find the prize of the book, "Farmer Giles of Ham" a whimsical and charming tale of knights, giants and dragons with more in common with the spirit of The Hobbit than Lord of the Rings. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | Mar 31, 2013 |
An odd mix of light pieces and critically important ones for understanding how [[J.R.R. Tolkien]] thought about his own work. Pleasant, lightweight reading until you reach "Leaf by Niggle" and "On Faerie-Stories".

"Leaf by Niggle" is a short story that seems to be about Tolkien's disappointments with himself as an artist: the mundane distractions that keep him from his art, his inability to realize the scope of his vision (he tried all his life to complete [The Silmarillion]), his fear that secondary creation (creative writing) was hubris against the Creator, and his fear that he would be remembered for only the least fragment of his work (Niggle is remembered for one leaf from his painting of a tree and its landscape, Tolkien feared being remembered only for [The Hobbit] and [The Lord of the Rings].

Think about that for a moment.

"On Faerie-Stories" is [[J.R.R. Tolkien]]'s essay on what Fantasy is and why it should be written (and read). An important view on what he thought his work would do for readers, why he wrote it, and how being a historian influenced his fiction. It has influenced [Patricia McKillip] and [Stephen R. Donaldson] and [Ursula K. LeGuin]'s book of essays [The Language of the Night] is, in part, a response to it.

If you are dying to hear Tom Bombadil's tale about "badgers and their queer ways", more Hobbit poems like Sam's "Oliphant", or read some of Tolkien's short fiction, this is the book for you. It also has two vital keys for understanding what he thought he was doing as a writer.

Highly recommended for the two works that reveal "the bones the soup came from" i.e. how he worked as an artist, a topic Tolkien (a Medievalist who invented an elaborate back-story that [The Lord of the Rings] was a medieval manuscript) usually avoided.

-Kushana ( )
11 vote Kushana | Dec 27, 2010 |
Collection of Tolkien's shorter works. ( )
  JoBass | Jul 30, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tolkien, J. R. R.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baynes, PaulineIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beagle, Peter S.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In August of the year 991, in the reign of Aethelred II, a battle was fought near Maldon in Essex.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345345061, Mass Market Paperback)

Stories, poems, and commentaries by the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings
 
FARMER GILES OF HAM
An imaginative history of the distant and marvelous past that introduces the rather unheroic Farmer Giles, whose efforts to capture a somewhat untrustworthy dragon will delight readers everywhere.
 
THE ADVENTURES OF TOM BOMBADIL
A collection of verse in praise of Tom Bombadil, that staunch friend of the Hobbits in The Lord of the Rings.
 
TREE AND LEAF
Contains “On Fairy-stories,” Professor Tolkien’s now-famous essay on the form of the fairy story and the treatment of fantasy.
 
. . . and other dazzling works, including an introduction by Peter S. Beagle

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:38 -0400)

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