Untangling Tolkien: A Chronology and Commentary for The Lord of the Rings

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9781587420191: Untangling Tolkien: A Chronology and Commentary for The Lord of the Rings
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Here is the book Tolkien fans have needed for 50 years--a detailed chronologyof Tolkien's complex tale.

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About the Author:

Mike Perry is a writer living in Seattle. He first read The Lord of the Rings while riding across the Sinai desert bouncing around in the back of a Bedouin truck. He now rereads it to beat the boredom of Seattle's gray and rainy winters.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

From the Preface:

J. R. R. Tolkien’s great tale, The Lord of the Rings, is wonderfully complex. Within its pages, readers meet a marvelous array of creatures from little Hobbits to giant Ents. Its narrative sweeps across a territory roughly the size of western Europe and draws on events spanning thousands of years. But for most readers, however enthralled, making sense of it all is not easy. Fortunately, there are encyclopedias to help us understand the people and places, as well as an atlas to sort out the geography. This book will do the same for the chronology and should become a ‘must have’ for all serious Tolkien fans.

No one, however, should see this book as a substitute for The Lord of the Rings. It most emphatically is not. If you are reading this and haven’t yet read Tolkien’s great epic, stop and read no further. Read his book at least once from cover to cover before you even look at this book. Enjoy one of the best-written and most widely popular books of modern times and leave details such as the chronology for later. The first rule in reading is always "Enjoy!"

Only after you find yourself wanting to know more about the intricacies of this complicated tale, should you use this book in tandem with other reference books. Remember that the description of events given here is deliberately terse. It is in no way a substitute for Tolkien’s much more engrossing narrative. It intended to give you a concise description of what happened on a particular date, along with chapter references to the places where those events described in books such as The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales. Without at least the first two books (and preferably all four), this book is of little value.

Readers would also do well to heed the advice of Gandalf when he rebuked Saruman, warning that "he that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom." Do not focus overmuch on the minutia and forget the wonder of the story as a whole. Use this book as a tool to better understand all that Tolkien is saying.

Like most reference works, you can use this book several ways. The most obvious is as a chronology, letting you go from a date to what happened on that day. This is particularly important if, for instance, you want to know what Merry and Pippin were doing when Frodo and Sam entered Mordor. As careful as Professor Tolkien was about the time line of events that lay behind his story, he rarely gives us an actual date. Events are typically described as the third day after some event or the fifth day of a journey whose start date may not even be given. Here you will find the actual day in the Shire calendar when almost everything happens. Try doing that yourself, and you’ll discover the work that went into this book.

You can also use this book to go from an event to both a date and a reference to where that event is described by Tolkien. In many cases you will find that the sidebar reference is not to one passage but to several. Tolkien liked to spread his story around. Details about an particular event are often given hundreds of pages apart and even in different volumes. With this chronology, you’ll be able to put everything together, perhaps for the first time.

In addition, many time-related details have been added to increase the book’s value. When Sauron darkens the sky, the days of darkness are numbered. When Rohan races to Minas Tirith, the days of their ride are counted. When someone enters the story, his age is given. When one event is closely linked to another weeks or even months later, a reference to that other date is given. A computer-generated calendar of the times when the sun and moon set and rise was consulted and included when useful. The same is true of phases of the moon, which play a critical role in parts of this story, particularly the night journeys.

Finally, because Tolkien placed so much stress on the realism and historicity of his tale, the plausibly of his narrative is repeatedly tested. "If Middle-earth really existed," the book asks, "could what he described have actually happened?" Put another way, "Where there are problems, can a reasonable answer be found?" Tolkien often did that, treating difficulties as if they were discrepancies in ancient historical records.

With this book, I release the fruits of my labor to the world, quite aware that, as the pioneering study, it has at least its share of imperfections. Anyone who thinks they have found a mistake is encouraged to contact me through the Internet web site referenced on the copyright page. Anyone with the proper expertise who would like to see editions brought out in other languages should contact me also.

Finally, there is only one reason why a book like this is possible. Tolkien spent untold hours getting the chronology of his tale just right, making charts and calendars describing where each person was on each day. In my writing, I had none of that to consult. Instead, the chronology was recreated, one detail at a time, from the story on which it is based. In the end, I was left awed the wealth of detail that underlies the narrative and is unseen by most readers. Tolkien’s account isn’t perfect and there are a few discrepancies that I discuss. But few books this long could survive this level of scrutiny and come out as well. For that, each of us should be grateful.

Michael W. Perry, Seattle, Washington, U.S.A. On J. R. R. Tolkien’s ‘Eleventy-First’ Birthday Friday, January 3, 2003

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Book Description Inkling Books. Paperback. Condition: New. 252 pages. Dimensions: 9.3in. x 7.5in. x 0.6in.Here is the book that Tolkien fans have needed for half a century--a detailed, book-length chronology of J. R. R. Tolkiens complex tale. Whether you are a serious Tolkien fan or simply someone who enjoys reading the story over and over again, this is the book for you. Its the first totally new reference for The Lord of the Rings since the 1970s. Beginning over 1400 years before the major events in Tolkiens epic, it describes, year-by-year, the amazing and imaginative background history that Tolkien created for his masterpiece. Then for the main narrative, it becomes a day-by-day reference, describing what each character does on that day and all the places where those events are described in Tolkiens writings. You can find out, for instance, what Merry and Pippin are doing as Sam perpares rabbit stew on the morning of March 7. Probe deeper into Tolkien. See why someone as serious as Gandalf was interested in fun-loving Hobbits. Discover an exciting new plot, based on Tolkiens notes, that begins when Aragorn captures Gollum. Follow along as the Black Riders and Gandalf race for the Shire. Decide for yourself whether Sauron and the Ring have any ties to Hitler and Stalin. Explore what Tolkien believed about nature and technology. A few facts illustrate how helpful this chronology is. Most of narrative is a deliberately confusing sea of next days and third days that leave readers as confused as the tales main characters. The middle 60 percent of The Lord of the Rings gives the current date only once. In the narrative as a whole, the date is given only 23 times, or once for every 43 pages, and most of those come when the plot is moving slowly. Thats why those who want to dig deeper and understand better what Tolkien was saying will find this book a must-have. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Seller Inventory # 9781587420191

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