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J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century by Tom…
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J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century (2000)

by Tom Shippey

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Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
A great analysis, discussion, and defense of Tolkien's books. It's good for both Tolkien super-geeks like me or just general fans: Shippey explains everything you need to know to enjoy the book, and get a lot more out of Tolkien. A lot of what he focuses on are different sources for the works, such as words since Tolkien was a super-philologist, themes of the books, and arguments against Tolkien which Shippy defends against. ( )
  Stebahnree | Mar 13, 2016 |
A great analysis, discussion, and defense of Tolkien's books. It's good for both Tolkien super-geeks like me or just general fans: Shippey explains everything you need to know to enjoy the book, and get a lot more out of Tolkien. A lot of what he focuses on are different sources for the works, such as words since Tolkien was a super-philologist, themes of the books, and arguments against Tolkien which Shippy defends against. ( )
  Stebahnree | Mar 13, 2016 |
I should, in the interests of transparency, declare an interest before proceeding to review this wonderful book.

Back in the mists of time, while I was an undergraduate at Leeds University, Professor Tom Shippey was my tutor and had the thankless task of trying to guide me through the beauties and mysteries of Old English and Old Icelandic literature. His lectures were marvellous: engaging, entertaining and highly memorable, and a lot of my friends studying completely different subjects used to file in for his weekly performance.

This book picks up where his lectures left off. Shippey has been a lifelong admirer of J R R Tolkien's work: not just 'The Lord of the Rings' and associated books, but also his researches in the fields of medieval literature and comparative philology. As far as Tolkien was concerned there was no significant gulf between the two spheres. He initially started writing about Middle-Earth to create a world to set the different languages that he had created.

The works were deeply rooted in Tolkien's own background. Though born in South Africa, he passed most of his childhood in Warwickshire, living in the suburbs of Birmingham. This is reflected in the landscape of The Shire. There are, of course, some startling, but deliberate, anachronisms. While Middle-Earth equates to a late middle ages, the hobbits love tobacco, and while lost in the wilderness Sam Gamgee tries to convince Smeagol/Gollum about the wonders of the potato, or 'taters' as he puts it. Tolkien himself, like Sam and Pippin, was known to be partial to a few pints of strong beer while he sucked away at his pipe.

Professor Shippey takes the reader in fascinating, though never overpowering, detail to show how Tolkien applied his wealth of learning to endow his novels with layer after layer of historical references, all of which add to the verisimilitude. Each of the different races encountered in 'The Lord of the Rings' have distinct but linguistically plausible languages which offer hints to a prior history. Their names resonate with philological clues. For instance, the language and history of the people of Rohan are modelled on those of the Anglo Saxons, while the dwarves' language shows deep traces of Old Norse.

Professor Shippey also offers a fascinating comparison between Denethor, Steward of Gondor, and Theoden, King of Rohan. The former appears the more imposing of the two, though he is merely holding the throne in trust against the return of the king. Theoden, while initially seen as frail and in thrall to his fay counsellor Grima, is the genuine article: a king in his own right and scion of a noble house, and he dies heroically, slain in battle surrounded by his men. Denethor, on the other hand, all but surrenders and chooses self-immolation rather than seeing the conflict through to its conclusion.

Perhaps this work is more particularly aimed at students of medieval literature rather than the mainstream Tolkien fans, but it is utterly enthralling.
( )
1 vote Eyejaybee | Sep 24, 2015 |
I should, in the interests of transparency, declare an interest before proceeding to review this wonderful book.

Back in the mists of time, while I was an undergraduate at Leeds University, Professor Tom Shippey was my tutor and had the thankless task of trying to guide me through the beauties and mysteries of Old English and Old Icelandic literature. His lectures were marvellous: engaging, entertaining and highly memorable, and a lot of my friends studying completely different subjects used to file in for his weekly performance.

This book picks up where his lectures left off. Shippey has been a lifelong admirer of J R R Tolkien's work: not just 'The Lord of the Rings' and associated books, but also his researches in the fields of medieval literature and comparative philology. As far as Tolkien was concerned there was no significant gulf between the two spheres. He initially started writing about Middle-Earth to create a world to set the different languages that he had created.

The works were deeply rooted in Tolkien's own background. Though born in South Africa, he passed most of his childhood in Warwickshire, living in the suburbs of Birmingham. This is reflected in the landscape of The Shire. There are, of course, some startling, but deliberate, anachronisms. While Middle-Earth equates to a late middle ages, the hobbits love tobacco, and while lost in the wilderness Sam Gamgee tries to convince Smeagol/Gollum about the wonders of the potato, or 'taters' as he puts it. Tolkien himself, like Sam and Pippin, was known to be partial to a few pints of strong beer while he sucked away at his pipe.

Professor Shippey takes the reader in fascinating, though never overpowering, detail to show how Tolkien applied his wealth of learning to endow his novels with layer after layer of historical references, all of which add to the verisimilitude. Each of the different races encountered in 'The Lord of the Rings' have distinct but linguistically plausible languages which offer hints to a prior history. Their names resonate with philological clues. For instance, the language and history of the people of Rohan are modelled on those of the Anglo Saxons, while the dwarves' language shows deep traces of Old Norse.

Professor Shippey also offers a fascinating comparison between Denethor, Steward of Gondor, and Theoden, King of Rohan. The former appears the more imposing of the two, though he is merely holding the throne in trust against the return of the king. Theoden, while initially seen as frail and in thrall to his fay counsellor Grima, is the genuine article: a king in his own right and scion of a noble house, and he dies heroically, slain in battle surrounded by his men. Denethor, on the other hand, all but surrenders and chooses self-immolation rather than seeing the conflict through to its conclusion.

Perhaps this work is more particularly aimed at students of medieval literature rather than the mainstream Tolkien fans, but it is utterly enthralling. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Aug 28, 2015 |
I can't remember now if I'd read this one in its entirety before or not. (I have read Shippey's [Road to Middle -Earth], and I think a few points may show up in both of them, so my occasional recognition of bits of Author of the Century may have stemmed from remembering Road to Middle-Earth.) In any case, this is a wonderful piece of accessible but still generally rigorous Tolkien scholarship. Shippey points out and defends Tolkien's place within the literary framework of the 20th century (or what JRRT's place ought to be recognized to be and still (disgracefully) isn't) and discusses each of Tolkien's major works and several of the minor works. Shippey is best in his extensive consideration of The Lord of the Rings, where he spends a lot of time on LotR's linguistic origins, its intricate plot structure and its presentation of good and evil (a point about which many past critics have completely missed the boat). Fascinating reading which does important work in illustrating the value and quality of Tolkien's work while successfully and appropriately defending it against detractors. A must read for LotR devotees interested in litcrit as well as for anyone fascinated by [Beowulf] (the Beowulf discussions are always in service of the explication of LotR, but should be interesting in their own right to anyone taken with that poem as well). ( )
  lycomayflower | Nov 13, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
"Shippey's witty, combative book is illuminating…the central chapters demonstrate the ingenious articulation of the trilogy, the profundity of its thought about suffering, and evil, both personal and institutional, cosmic and frankly devilish."
added by thebookpile | editObserver
 
"Shippey succeeds brilliantly…[His] exploration of Tolkien's themes, especially the nature of evil, power, and what one character calls 'the long defeat,' is superb…Taking on the critics on their own ground, Shippey reveals Tolkien's use of a complex narrative structure and the flexibility with which he moved between different literary modes."
added by thebookpile | editThe Independent
 
"An invaluable study...It illuminates the text and enables the reader to better appreciate the works under discussion."
added by thebookpile | editThe Washington Times
 
"[Shippey] deepens your understanding of the work without making you forget your initial, purely instinctive response to Middle-earth and hobbits."
added by thebookpile | editThe Houston Chronicle
 
"Full of things-we-hadn't-known...As scholarship, it's one of the more enjoyable works I've run across."
added by thebookpile | editThe San Diego Union-Tribune
 
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The story of how J.R.R. Tolkien came to be launched on his career, not as a writer of fiction—this had begun many years before—but as a writer of published fiction, is a familiar one.
Quotations
Tolkien by contrast was as well read as anyone and more so than most, and he alludes frequently to works of what he regarded as his own tradition, the 'Shire tradition' of native English poetry. It is absolutely characteristic of his uses of tradition, however, that the source of the allusions does not matter.
This is probably at the heart of the critical rage, and fear, which Tolkien immediately and ever after provoked. He threatened the authority of the arbiters of taste, the critics, the educationalists, the literati. He was as educated as they were, but in a different school. He would not sign the unwritten Articles of the Church of Literary English. His work was from the start appreciated by a mass market, unlike Ulysses, first printed in a limited number of copies designedly to be sold to the wealthy and cultivated alone. But it showed an improper ambition, as if it had ideas above the proper station of popular trash. It was the combination that could not be forgiven.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0618257594, Paperback)

Recent polls have consistently declared that J.R.R. Tolkien is "the most influential author of the century," and The Lord of the Rings is "the book of the century." In support of these claims, the prominent medievalist and scholar of fantasy Professor Tom Shippey now presents us with a fascinating companion to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, focusing in particular on The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.
The core of the book examines The Lord of the Rings as a linguistic and cultural map and as a response to the meaning of myth. It presents a unique argument to explain the nature of evil and also gives the reader a compelling insight into the unparalleled level of skill necessary to construct such a rich and complex story. Shippey also examines The Hobbit, explaining the hobbits' anachronistic relationship to the heroic world of Middle-earth, and shows the fundamental importance of The Silmarillion to the canon of Tolkien's work. He offers as well an illuminating look at other, lesser-known works in their connection to Tolkien's life.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:26 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

This work gives the reader a deeper understanding of Professor Tolkien & his most important works. It also serves as a learned & entertaining introductory companion to some of the finest & most influential works of fantasy fiction ever written.

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