Tolkien Man and Myth

Tolkien: Man and Myth by Joseph Pearce

Author:Joseph Pearce
Title:Tolkien: Man and Myth
Published:1998; Co-published in the USA by Ignatius Press and the UK by HarperCollins


J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings took first place in a recent national poll to find the greatest book of the century. He may be the most popular writer of our age, but Tolkien is often misunderstood. This major new study of his life, his character and his work reveals the facts and confronts the myths, it explores the background to the man and the culture in which he wrote.

Tolkien: Man and Myth observes the relationships that the master writer had with his closest literary colleagues. It reveals his uneasy relationship with C.S. Lewis, the writer of the Narnia books, and the roots of their estrangement.

In this original book about a leading literary life, Joseph Pearce enters the world created by Tolkien in the seven books published during his lifetime. He explores the significance of Middle-earth and what it represented in Tolkien's thinking. Myth, to him, was not a leap from reality but a leap into reality.

The impact of his great notoriety, his relationship with material possessions and his traditional religious faith are all explored, making it possible to understand both the man and the myth he created.

description from the back-cover of the book

Brief Review

Thus, the evil powers in The Lord of the Rings are specified as direct descendants of Tolkien's Satan, rendering impossible, or at any rate implausible, anything but a theistic interpretation of the book. Furthermore, as has been seen, the theology of The Silmarillion is orthodox in nature, paralleling the teachings of traditional Christianity to a remarkable degree.
Tolkien: Man and Myth p.94

This Catholic theology, explicitly present in The Silmarillion and implicitly present in The Lord of the Rings, is omnipresent in both, breathing life into the tales as invisibly but as surely as oxygen.
ibid. p.94

These are but two examples from the book, which should enable the potential reader to catch a glimpse of the book's tone and intentions. Since the author seems unable - or unwilling - to free himself from his own theological and religious background and from the intentions and agendas of the publisher "Ignatius Press", the book can - at least IMO - hardly be considered a scholarly or an unbiased approach to interpret or analyse Tolkien's epi.

The book consists for the biggest part of quotations from other books (e.g. The Letters of JRR Tolkien, Carpenter's JRR Tolkien-A Biography and The Inklings, etc.) and the author's comments on those quotations, which can mostly be seen as an attempt to prove his point. But limiting oneself to the author's point of view, IMO, significantly narrows the scope of Tolkien's epi, the wealth of which goes far beyond being sort of a propaganda for a particular - in this case Catholic - religion, as Mr. Pearce seems to see it.

This book should be interesting for readers who tend to agree - and maybe seek confirmation - that Tolkien's epi are "...of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work..." (furthermore Mr. Pearce's emphasis seems to heavily lie upon the second half of the fragment of Tolkien's sentence) and that they cannot be seen as anything else but this.

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