The Making of Middle-earth: A New Look Inside the World of J. R. R. Tolkien

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9781402784767: The Making of Middle-earth: A New Look Inside the World of J. R. R. Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings consistently tops polls as the best-loved literary work of all time. Now medieval scholar and Tolkien expert Christopher Snyder presents the most in-depth exploration yet of Tolkien's source materials for Middle-earth—from the languages, poetry, and mythology of medieval Europe and ancient Greece to the halls of Oxford and the battlefields of World War I. Fueled by the author's passion for all things Tolkien, this richly illustrated book also reveals the surprisingly pervasive influence of Tolkien's timeless fantasies on modern culture. 

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About the Author:

Dr. Christopher A. Snyder is professor of European History and Dean of Shackouls Honors College at Mississippi State University in Starkville. He has written numerous books, including The World of King Arthur (Thames & Hudson). His works have been featured in the Book of the Month Club and the History Book Club, and have been translated into French, Italian, Japanese, and Chinese. Dr. Snyder has been a presenter on the History Channel, the BBC, the Learning Channel, and the National Geographic Channel. He also lectures at the Smithsonian Institution, and teaches Honors seminars on J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis at the University of Oxford.

From Booklist:

J. R. R. Tolkien’s reputation has varied but certainly has increased in the last few years (to some degree because of the popularity of Peter Jackson’s films). Snyder, a professor at Mississippi State University, teachers seminars about Tolkien and has written several books on historic Britain and its literature. This informational book deals with Tolkien’s scholarly and writing life, the mythical and medieval influences on his works, and his legacy. Part 1 traces Tolkien’s life, from his birth in South Africa to his studies and teaching to his relatively obscure death. His association with the Inklings and C. S. Lewis echoes throughout the book. Part 2 examines his source material: Greek and Roman mythology, the Celtic isles, Anglo-Saxons and Nordic traditions, Arthurian legends, and the medievalism of Victorian England. Part 3 describes the characters and mythology of Middle Earth. Part 4 summarizes the Lord of the Rings trilogy plotlines and draws connections with myths and themes from other eras. Part 5 summarizes and analyzes his less well-known “Song of Iluvatar” writings, which draw from Finnish mythology. The book itself is a visual delight, from its medieval-door-photo endpapers to its textured sepia pages, several laced with lined designs on the wide margins. The uncial font headings and scripted quotations further reinforce the mood of the book’s content. Several framed sidebars provide fun facts. Most of the double-page layouts include an image (all of which are captioned and cited at the end of the book). Three appendixes address reactions to Tolkien, from contemporaneous criticisms to media and Tolkienana frenzy. A fourth appendix proposes the moral virtues of Middle Earth, reflecting almost a medieval courtly sensibility. The volume finishes with a two-page time line, endnotes, a bibliography, and an index. The writing is clear, with some parts being more engaging than others (the detailed recounting of the stories sometimes slogs along). Though not strictly a reference book (its style being more narrative than factual), this volume gives readers plenty of interesting details and fills a nice niche by combining author, source, and literary discussions without being neither too scholarly or too commercial. --Lesley Farmer

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