Tolkien the Medievalist

Tolkien the Medievalist

Tolkien the Medievalist

Tolkien the Medievalist


Interdisciplinary in approach, Tolkien the Medievalist provides a fresh perspective on J. R. R. Tolkien's Medievalism. In fifteen essays, eminent scholars and new voices explore how Professor Tolkien responded to a modern age of crisis - historical, academic and personal - by adapting his scholarship on medieval literature to his own personal voice. The four sections reveal the author influenced by his profession, religious faith and important issues of the time; by his relationships with other medievalists; by the medieval sources that he read and taught, and by his own medieval mythologizing.


Jane Chance

J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings was recently named “Book of the Century” in a survey of 25,000 British readers. The trilogy has sold over a hundred million copies worldwide since its publication in 1954 and has been translated into twenty-five different languages (most recently, Chinese). Tapping into Tolkien’s enormous popularity, producer Saul Zaentz (The English Patient) and director Peter Jackson (The Frighteners) launched a $400-million film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings; shooting began in 1999 on location in New Zealand. With the growing interest in the filming of Tolkien’s epic - the first of three full-length features that appeared in Christmas of 2001, to be followed by the next two on consecutive Christmases - there has been a parallel rise in interest in his writings and books about his writings. Copies of the 1955 British first edition, first printing, of the trilogy (with dust-jackets) recently sold on eBay for over $19,000, for example.

What is it that makes this “fairy-tale” appeal to readers of all ages in so many different countries? Why has its reputation increased in the years since Tolkien’s death? And what information does one need to appreciate the fantastical world that Tolkien created - with its own history, geography, and mythology - inhabited by peoples speaking fourteen different languages, all elaborately constructed by this medievalist scholar who taught at Oxford?

Although various critical studies of Tolkien appeared in the 1970s, in the past few years there has been only one new collection of essays about Tolkien’s writing and literary sources, both fiction and nonfiction: J. R. R. Tolkien and his Literary Resonances: Views of Middle-earth, edited by George Clark and Daniel Timmons (2000). The recent hard-cover collection of scholarly essays by Tolkien scholars, Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on “The History of Middle-earth” (2000), about the British medievalist’s background mythology - the twelve volumes of The History of Middle-earth compiled by Christopher Tolkien from his father’s unpublished drafts - has just been published by Verlyn Flieger and Carl F. Hostetter. The very important J. R. R. Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography, by Wayne G. Hammond and Douglas A. Anderson, appeared in hard cover in 1993 through Oak Knoll Books (significant because of the many reprintings and revisions published during Tolkien’s lifetime and thereafter, and therefore valuable to book collectors). New editions and reprintings of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings have been produced by HarperCollins in Great Britain, the press to which Allen

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