(Review) Understanding The Lord of the Rings: The Best of Tolkien Criticism by Rose A. Zimbardo and Neil D. Isaacs

Publisher and Publication Date: Houghton Mifflin Books. 2004.
Genre: Nonfiction. Essays.
Pages: 304.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers with an interest in Tolkien’s writings.
Rating: Very good.

Link for the book @ Amazon

Link for the book @ Barnes and Noble

Today, March 25, 2021 is Tolkien Reading Day. You can read more information about this splendid reading day at TolkienSociety.org


Contributing authors and the titles of essays:
Neil D. Isaacs—“Introduction: On the Pleasurers of (Reading and Writing) Tolkien Criticism”
C. S. Lewis—“The Dethronement of Power”
Edmund Fuller—“The Lord of the Hobbits: J. R. R. Tolkien”
W. H. Auden—“The Quest Hero”
Patricia Meyer Spacks—“Power and Meaning in The Lord of the Rings”
Rose A. Zimbardo—“Moral Vision in The Lord of the Rings”
Marion Zimmer Bradley—“Men, Halflings, and Hero Worship”
R. J. Reilly—“Tolkien and the Fairy Story”
J. S. Ryan—“Folktale, Fairy Tale, and the Creation of a Story”
Verlyn Flieger—“Frodo and Aragorn: The Concept of the Hero”
Paul Kocher—“Middle-earth: An Imaginary World?”
Patrick Grant—“Tolkien: Archetype and Word”
Lionel Basney—“Myth, History, and Time in The Lord of the Rings”
Jane Chance—“The Lord of the Rings: Tolkien’s Epic”
Tom Shippey—“Another Road to Middle-earth: Jackson’s Movie Trilogy”

These essays cover a period of 50 years. They are considered the best in Tolkien criticism.

My Thoughts:

My goal in reading this book is to understand a broader view of Tolkien’s writings. The authors have a deeper comprehension than I do. Their field, at least in part, is studying Tolkien.

My take-aways from the book:
1. The book includes responses to the negative criticism on Tolkien’s Middle-earth world. For example, the first chapter by Neil D. Isaacs.
2. The group of contributors are an eclectic group. Some examples: W. H. Auden was a poet. C. S. Lewis was a fantasy and nonfiction author. He taught English literature at Oxford. Lewis also knew Tolkien as a friend. Rose A. Zimbardo taught English literature at several universities. Tom Shippey is considered a leading scholar on Tolkien.
3. One of my favorite chapters is written by Edmund Fuller. He explains important key words in Tolkien stories. The word Fairy is altogether different than the cutesy definition that’s usually attributed. Faerie “means enchantment.” Page 17. Elven people, Half-elven people, wizards, evil creatures, and hobbits are explained. The conflicts in the stories are examined. Fuller touches on Christian themes. Some readers have dismissed these themes. He states, “Grace is at work abundantly in the story.” Fuller examines the Christian approach from both sides. I appreciate this.
4. Rose A. Zimbardo is astute at discerning the creatures of Middle-earth.
5. I love Verlyn Flieger’s analysis of Frodo and Aragorn.
6. The last essay is by Tom Shippey. This chapter is on recreating the stories to film.

I am a big Tolkien fan. It’s fun to read Tolkien stories and fun to read what other people think about Tolkien stories.


(Review) Letters From Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien, edited by Baillie Tolkien

Publisher and Publication Date: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2009. First published 1976.
Genre: Letters.
Format: Kindle e-book.
Pages: 113.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Tolkien readers. Readers of Christmas stories.
Rating: Excellent.

Link @ Amazon

Additional links:
Tolkien Estate-the official website

Letters From Father Christmas is a series of letters written and illustrated by Tolkien to his children. The letters are left for the children in their Christmas stockings beginning in 1920 and ending in 1943. John is the oldest and the recipient of the 1st letter. Priscilla is the last child to receive a letter.
The letters are endearing, personal, creative, and memorable.

My Thoughts:
I accidently came across this e-book while searching for Tolkien stories. I am so glad.
Several reasons why I love this book.
1. The Christmas letters show the personal side and life of the Tolkien family.
2. The letters include information about life outside their home. For example, World War II. How other children are impacted by the war.
3. The Christmas letters are shown themselves in the original handwriting, in color, and with illustrations. Then, the letters are typed out in a readable format.
4. The creative Tolkien is shown by small stories about Red Elves, the Elf secretary, and dear Polar Bear.
5. I love how they are signed by “Your loving Father Christmas.”
6. I love how Tolkien (the letter writer of course) doesn’t leave out the children as they grow older. Priscilla is the last to be gifted with the letters. In her letters, Father Christmas remembers her brothers with messages to them.
7. The last letter is endearing as it is the last to be written because Priscilla is older. However, Father Christmas will not forget his “old friends.”

This book is a wonderful addition to a Tolkien lover.
It’s also festive with the color illustrations.

(Review) Bandersnatch: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings by Diana Pavlac Glyer, Illustrated by James A. Owen

Publisher and Publication Date: Black Squirrel Books/Kent State University Press. 2016.
Genre: Nonfiction. Critical analysis of the writing team of C. S. Lewis and
J. R. R. Tolkien.
Pages: 224. I counted total length of book.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Tolkien and Lewis readers.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link

Bandersnatch is a book about C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien who were friends and fellow writers. Diana Pavlac Glyer carefully researched how they influenced one another, helped with revisions, encouraged, and criticized. She wanted to know what kind of impact they had on one other?

My Thoughts:
Bandersnatch is a book a Lewis or Tolkien fan will love. Since I’m fond of both writers, this book is of joyful interest.
There are some people who beautifully and even magically click. Their personalities, common interests, and all those things they hold dear are swept up together in a strong and deep friendship. C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien had that special kind of relationship.

Several topics are explored that I enjoyed reading:
How the writers first met, how the Inklings literary group began, other influential members of the group, and their individual writings.
I enjoyed reading about Glyer’s correspondence with Christopher Tolkien.
I enjoyed reading about her findings on why the Inklings literary group worked.
I enjoyed reading about the men themselves: their personalities and brief biographical information.
The pen and ink illustrations add a strong visual appeal (especially the dragons).

Bandersnatch is adapted from a previous book Glyer wrote, The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community. The link is to Amazon.