Book Review: The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien (Five Stars)


Book Review: The Hobbit or There and Back Again by J. R. R. Tolkien

(Five Stars)

Obviously written more as a children’s tale, it introduces–but is not quite up to the wonder of–The Lord of the Rings as told by the mature Tolkien.

After sixth reading: this is the book that sucked me into the world of high fantasy literature all those years ago. “Roads,” indeed, “go ever ever on.”

“One morning long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and more green ….”

After at least the seventh reading: I have read this and LOTR at least once a decade since the 1960s. Each time I find something new. Each time I marvel that Tolkien told so much with so few words. The story propels you along even as it invites you to relax for tea with the author. Amazing. (I greatly prefer this to the movies.)

“If ever you are passing my way,” said Bilbo, “don’t wait to knock! Tea is at four; but any of you are welcome at anytime!”

Book Review: The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary by Peter Gilliver, et al. (Five Stars)


Book Review: The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary by Peter Gilliver, E.S.C. Weiner, Jeremy Marshal

(Five Stars)

“Writers have been borrowing words from their predecessors for centuries.”

The intersection of Middle Earth and the love of words. Who could want more? (Other folks maybe, but not me.) The best non-fiction I’ve read in years. No, it’s not that well written, but it’s exhaustively researched.

“Within fantasy literature, Tolkien’s coinages and distinctive uses can be found everywhere.”

Before the internet, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) was heaven for word lovers to noodle around in. Tolkien worked on the first edition in his first job after World War I.

Lore-master evidently fills a gap, and has apparently made its way out beyond the restricted context of fantasy into general use.”

While the sections on Tolkien’s work on the OED are interesting, the Word Studies are my favorite. Amazing and gratifying to see that Tolkien didn’t just invent words: he researched them. In essence he built an etymology for each word, as if it had developed on its own without his midwifing it. Given his day job, it’s no surprise most sprouted from the rich loam of the Anglo-Saxon languages. (“Middle-earth,” for example, is derived via Middle English middel-erthe, middel-erd from middangeard, an Anglo-Saxon cognate of Old Norse Miðgarðr, the land inhabited by humans in Norse mythology.)

“The English language has begun the process of assimilating Tolkien’s personal word-hoard. And the OED will continue to record this record.”

Book Review: The Children of Hùrin by J. R. R. Tolkien (Three Stars)

Book Review: The Children of Hùrin by J. R. R. Tolkien

Three Stars

“In their light we are dimmed, or we burn with too quick a flame, and the weight of our doom lies heavier on us.”

This volume is a necessary, one might say essential, part of the corpus of Tolkien’s history of Middle Earth. Followers of Tolkien will certainly want to read it. Alas, however, this work lacks the quality of the works published in Tolkien’s lifetime. I blame the efforts of his son and executors less than the simple press of time and lack of collaborators while Tolkien still lived.

“Fear both the heat and the cold of your heart, and strive for patience.”

Reads like a synopsis with occasional dialogue at key points. That it approaches being a coherent whole forty years after the author’s death is credit to Continue reading