Cover image for J.R.R. Tolkien : author of the century
J.R.R. Tolkien : author of the century
Shippey, T. A.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2001.
Physical Description:
xxxv, 347 pages ; 22 cm
General Note:
Originally published: London : HarperCollins, 2000.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
PR6039.O32 Z8238 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
PR6039.O32 Z8238 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PR6039.O32 Z8238 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PR6039.O32 Z8238 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
PR6039.O32 Z8238 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
PR6039.O32 Z8238 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
PR6039.O32 Z8238 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Recent polls have consistently declared that J.R.R. Tolkien is "the most influential author of the century" and THE LORD OF THE RINGS is "the book of the century." In support of these claims, Tom Shippey, the prominent medievalist and scholar of fantasy, now presents us with a fascinating companion to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, focusing in particular on THE HOBBIT, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, and THE SILMARILLION.
The core of the book consists of three chapters that examine THE LORD OF THE RINGS as a linguistic and cultural map, as a twisted web of story, and as a response to the meaning of myth. Shippey presents a unique argument to explain the nature of evil and gives readers a compelling insight into the complicated interweaving of many strands as the narrative moves between characters and into the remarkable skill behind the construction of such a rich and complex story. Other chapters examine THE HOBBIT, explaining the hobbits' anachronistic relationship to the heroic world of Middle-earth; the fundamental importance of THE SILMARILLION to Tolkien's canon; and an illuminating look at FARMER GILES OF HAM, LEAF BY NIGGLE, and other lesser-known works in connection to Tolkien's life.
With a clear and accessible style, Shippey offers a new approach to Tolkien, to fantasy, and to the importance of language in literature. He demonstrates how THE HOBBIT, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, and THE SILMARILLION form part of a live and continuing tradition of storytelling that can trace its roots back through Grimms' FAIRIY TALES to BEOWULF. J.R.R. TOLKIEN: AUTHOR OF THE CENTURY not only gives readers a deeper understanding of Tolkien and his work, but also serves as a learned and entertaining introduction to some of the finest and most influential works of fantasy ever written.

Author Notes

Tom Shippey taught at Oxford University at the same time as J. R. R. Tolkien & with the same syllabus, which gives him an intimate familiarity with the works that fueled Tolkien's imagination. He subsequently held the chair of English language & medieval literature at Leeds University that Tolkien had previously held. He currently holds the Walter J. Ong Chair of Humanities at St. Louis University in Missouri.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Like J. R. R. Tolkien, Shippey is a philologist who believes that language and literature are inextricably related. Names, especially, carry meaning, and, proceeding from Tolkien's assertion that his fantasy fiction was "fundamentally linguistic in inspiration," Shippey demonstrates how Tolkien used names to generate the plots, moral concepts, and cultural resonance of his works, especially The Lord of the Rings. He argues that Tolkien's larger project was to re-create the prehistory of the Anglo-Saxons by writing the literature suggested by the relationships among old names. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were set near the end of the prehistory he constructed. Shippey maintains that, despite their backward glancing, Tolkien's Middle-Earth stories are essentially modern in their concern with the nature of evil, the hollowness of victory, and--though Tolkien characterized The Lord of the Rings as a Catholic book--deep religious skepticism. However academic such a proceeding may seem, it is keenly interesting because of Shippey's clear, if not uncomplicated, writing and because it substantiates "common" readers' great esteem for Tolkien. In several recent polls, British readers declared that The Lord of the Rings is the greatest book of the twentieth century, to the great dismay, the press noted, of the literati. Similar results of and reactions to polls in America are highly likely, which only makes this magisterial book more intriguing. --Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

In a wonderfully readable study aimed at not just the Tolkien fan but any literate person curious about this fantasy author's extraordinary popularity, British scholar Shippey (The Road to Middle-earth) makes an impressive, low-key case for why the creator of Middle-earth is deserving of acclaim. (Recent polls in Britain have consistently put The Lord of the Rings at the top of greatest books of the century lists.) Having taught the same Old English syllabus at Oxford that his subject once did, Shippey is especially well qualified to discuss Tolkien's Anglo-Saxon sources, notably Beowulf, for the elvish languages and names used in the fiction. The author's theory on the origin of the word hobbit, for example, is as learned as it is free of academic jargon. Even his analyses of the abstruse Silmarillion, Tolkien's equivalent of Joyce's Finnegans Wake, avoid getting too technical. In addition, Shippey shows that Tolkien as a storyteller often improved on his ancient sources, while The Lord of the Rings is unmistakably a work of its time. (The Shire chapters, like Orwell's 1984, evoke the bleakness of late-'40s Britain.) In treating such topics as the nature of evil, religion, allegory, style and genre, the author nimbly answers the objections of Tolkien's more rabid critics. By the end, he has convincingly demonstrated why the much imitated Tolkien remains inimitable and continues to appeal. (May 16) Forecast: With the long-awaited part one of the Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, due for movie release later this year, this, like all Tolkien-related titles, will benefit from hobbit fever. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Shippey, an expert on Old English literature and the author of The Road to Middle Earth, has written a critical appreciation of the popular creator of The Hobbit and "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. The subtitle refers to Tolkien's ability to write about concerns of the 20th century (evil, religion, etc.) in stories that at first glance seem to be mere fantasy. Shippey examines Tolkien's published and many unfinished works (such as The Silmarillion), as well as the shorter poems and stories. He convincingly argues that Tolkien deserves to be ranked as a major literary figure. Shippey also castigates those critics, the so-called literati, for their vituperative and ill-informed attacks on Tolkien's reputation and achievements. This study is definitely not an introduction to the "Rings" books; because of the detailed readings on the major and minor works, it should be read by those who have already enjoyed the titles surveyed. Recommended for all public libraries, especially in the wake of the upcoming film version of "The Lord of the Rings"; undergraduate academic libraries will also want to obtain this fine work of criticism. Morris Hounion, New York City Technical Coll. Lib., CUNY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The author's The Road to Middle-Earth (CH, Jul'83) is still the best study of Tolkien's use of philology and of Teutonic traditions in his writings. Shippey (Saint Louis Univ.) repeats a number of the earlier points in the present volume, but his main thesis is that Tolkien is a distinctly 20th-century author and that his works have things in common with those of other 20th-century authors. Shippey argues that fantasy was a common method of dealing with the vision of life for those who served in the wars of the 20th century--although very different kinds of fantasy emerged in authors like George Orwell, William Golding, and Kurt Vonnegut. Shippey includes three chapters on The Lord of the Rings, the first parallel to his first book, the second on the modern aspects, and the third arguing for mythic (or universal) aspects, mainly on the basis of the poetry. He provides single chapters on The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and the lesser works. Although not likely to change the present literary establishment's view of Tolkien--he is not mentioned in volume 2 of The Norton Anthology of English Literature, ed. by M.H. Abrams (7th ed., 2000)--this basic study treating Tolkien's works and reputation is highly recommended for all academic and public collections. J. R. Christopher emeritus, Tarleton State University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vi
Foreword: Author of the Centuryp. vii
I The Hobbit: Re-Inventing Middle-Earthp. 1
II The Lord of the Rings (1): Mapping Out a Plotp. 50
III The Lord of the Rings (2): Concepts of Evilp. 112
IV The Lord of the Rings (3): the Mythic Dimensionp. 161
V The Silmarillion: the Work of His Heartp. 226
VI Shorter Works: Doubts, Fears, Autobiographiesp. 264
Afterword: the Followers and the Criticsp. 305
List of Referencesp. 329
Indexp. 337