Book Review: Tolkien’s Art: A Mythology for England by Jane Chance (three stars)

Book Review: Tolkien’s Art: A Mythology for England by Jane Chance (three stars)

‘This divided self surfaces throughout Tolkien’s fictive works and exists as a symbolic badge of fallen and imperfect human nature. Human nature is good—but also evil, as Beowulf is Germanic—but also Christian.’

Wanted to like this more. Worthwhile book; terrible writing. Multiple repetitions; some misdirection. Reads as if the author wrote multiple Tolkien analysis pieces, then concatenated the bunch without a thorough editing.

‘Kilby remarks on his perfectionism: “But if Tolkien was critical of others he was even more critical of his own writings. Few authors ever denigrated their own works more than he.”’

To start, she tells us what she’s going to tell us twice before starting to tell us. Skip both Preface and Introduction. To fit her preconceived notions, Chance misrepresents or wrongly reports what Tolkien wrote, which is almost unforgivable for an author of her stature. Cost a star.

“In a larger sense, it is I suppose impossible to write any “story” that is not allegorical in proportion as it “comes to life”: since each of us is an allegory, embodying in a particular tale and clothed in the garments of time and place, universal truth and everlasting life” JRRT

Many worthwhile insights, but all must be accepted only provisionally. Tolkien followers should first read all the referenced works.

‘One should not imitate the Creator in order to aggrandize creation for selfish reasons, but instead to praise both Creator and creation, to reflect one’s love for and trust in both and one’s obedience to the will of Ilúvatar.’ JRRT

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