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Tolkien : man and myth by Joseph Pearce
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Tolkien : man and myth (original 1998; edition 1998)

by Joseph Pearce

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250277,545 (3.87)9
A controversial approach to the Lord of the Rings and Tolkien's other work. Unlike the conventional view that his fantasy writing was an escape from reality, Pearce argues that Tolkien saw his stories as a leap into reality. This is because of Tolkien's own view of life, faith and the supernatural. This understanding is crucial to fully appreciating both The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and Middle Earth.… (more)
Member:mccutcheon
Title:Tolkien : man and myth
Authors:Joseph Pearce
Info:San Francisco : Ignatius Press, c1998.
Collections:Your library
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Tags:Tolkien

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Tolkien: Man and Myth by Joseph Pearce (1998)

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Sometimes a flat coat of paint just won't do.

J. R. R. Tolkien was a very unusual man -- linguist, author, teacher, recluse. Few of us can ever hope to capture the whole essence of the man.

Unfortunately, Joseph Pearce seems to think that, just because others can't see all of Tolkien, he can. He rejects psychological studies (with, it must be admitted, some justice) -- but then starts digging into Tolkien's brain in his own way. The result places most of its attention on Tolkien's Catholicism.

This is important, and Pearce is right that we cannot understand the Middle-Earth cycle without seeing it through a Catholic prism. But Tolkien's world has many facets: His languages, his religion, his ethics, his personality. Trying to squeeze everything through one filter just won't work.

The result is sometimes rather tedious, and it isn't a true biography; it's a strange mix of literary criticism and biography. It is a useful book -- but certainly not the place to start when studying Tolkien. The best biography is probably still Humphrey Carpenter's, and if you want literary insight, the works of Tom Shippey come close to being definitive. ( )
  waltzmn | Jul 18, 2013 |
When it comes to Tolkien's writings, religion must be considered as an important influential element. It is true that if one considers Roman-Catholicism in The Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, the books become more profound. But the love of nature, tradition, languages and religion are merged in his works and to focus on one of them does not give full credit to these writings. Joseph Pearce also tends to be too narrow.

Pearce puts the emphasis on Roman-Catholicism, which isn't unexpected as he himself is a converted Roman-Catholic like Tolkien's mother. Putting emphasis on Christian themes, however, he neglects most of Tolkien's love for Norse mythology, mentioning it only once or twice, and The Silmarillion being a myth for his self-invented Elvish languages. By having read Tolkien Man and Myth the reader must conclude Tolkien wrote The Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings out of piety, whilst religion was only one cornerstone.

This narrow view on Tolkien gives, however, more insight in the religious aspect of Tolkien's writings. By leaving the other main topics out of sight, Pearce can elaborate on the religious side of Middle-Earth. Most of the arguments cut ice and using Tolkien's letters to support himself, Pearce' biography is a sensible one. One drawback is Pearce's attention for G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis, who were unsurprisingly devout Christians. Although some connections can be seen as important (especially of C.S. Lewis), one might wonder at some point the relevance of such prodigious attention to these writers.

This biography is well written, though some parts become too religious and one is advised to read Tolkien Man and Myth in addition to other biographies, otherwise the myth-adoring, nature loving, philologist and Roman-Catholic Tolkien would get less credit for what made his works extraordinary profound. ( )
  Reddleman | Aug 29, 2010 |
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Owen Barfield
1898-1997
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When Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings was voted the 'greatest book of the century' in a nationwide poll at the beginning of 1997 the critical response was not one of approbation but of opprobrium.
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A controversial approach to the Lord of the Rings and Tolkien's other work. Unlike the conventional view that his fantasy writing was an escape from reality, Pearce argues that Tolkien saw his stories as a leap into reality. This is because of Tolkien's own view of life, faith and the supernatural. This understanding is crucial to fully appreciating both The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and Middle Earth.

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