Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Myth and Middle-earth - Tehanu @ 00:52 PST
"Myth and Middle-earth," by Leslie Ellen Jones, Cold Spring Press, 2002

This book is a good one for anyone whoís interested in knowing a bit more about Tolkien and his creation of Middle-earth. Itís written in an easygoing, readable style and touches on the main points covered in detail by other writers, but also offers new insights owing to the authorís knowledge of Celtic mythology and languages. It would make a good book for Tolkien Ďnewbiesí and yet it also has some surprising facts that I hadnít learned anywhere else, and which I believe are not that widely-known, so it will also be of interest to people who have read widely on the subject.

After a brief outline of Tolkienís life and an introduction to his special field, philology, the book looks at subjects that occur in Tolkienís work, grouping them under headings such as "Kings and Heroes," "Wastelands," "The Nazgul and the Undead," "Riddles and Prophecies," or "Marching Trees," to name just a few. Author Leslie Ellen Jones does a kind of enjoyable intellectual ramble around each topic, examining the various models that may have served as an inspiration to Tolkien, and discussing how he adapts and combines certain elements of older myths, or in some cases turns them on their head entirely. Rather than being a dry study, the writer does a kind of free-association of ideas about Tolkien and mythology and medieval literature. She has consciously focussed on the Celtic and Arthurian elements that are not widely discussed elsewhere, which is sure to interest other fans of that folklore.

A list of further reading is provided for those who want to explore further.

"Myth and Middle-earth" is available through Amazon here