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J. R. R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend

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  • Posted January 14, 2013

    Compiling information from several sources, Colin Duriez has

    Compiling information from several sources, Colin Duriez has put together a wonderful biography for the fans of J.R.R. Tolkien. The material spans Tolkien’s entire life, but concentrates more on the habits and studies that led to the creation of his most famous works: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, along with other tales from Middle-earth. Most importantly, his love of language and philology.

    If I had one complaint, it would be that Duriez has a tendency to jump forward at times to address an event related to the one he’s discussing, then return to his chronological flow. It would be the only complaint, and a minor one. The information in this book is a great introduction into the life and work of one of the greatest and most beloved writers in history. I knew little of Tolkien’s life outside of The Inklings, and even there I didn’t know much beyond his friendship with C. S. Lewis.

    The book also offers several pages of color photos of places Tolkien lived and frequented. His childhood homes, his place of worship, Oxford, meeting places of The Inklings, as well as places that may have been some inspiration for locations in Tolkien’s Middle-earth are all featured.

    I would definitely recommend this biography to any Tolkien fan.
    I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes from Kregel Publications.

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  • Posted January 8, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    In timely fashion, Kregel is releasing Colin Duriez┬┐ book on J.R

    In timely fashion, Kregel is releasing Colin Duriez’ book on J.R.R. Tolkien just time. With a resurgence from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies and now the release (of the first installment, anyway) of The Hobbit, Tolkien and all things Middle Earth have perhaps never been more popular. So what a great time to learn more about their creator/author.

    Duriez does a masterful job of not trying to write a biography as much as help the reader understand how this master of languages and myth came to create an entire world called Middle Earth. Having read Humphrey Carpenter’s authorized biography years ago, I can appreciate a ‘fresh’ look at an ‘old figure’ in Tolkien. Duriez draws upon Carpenter for quite a bit of the biographical insights. However, from that he goes on to show the mind that drew from a love of words and languages, a fascination with myth (especially ancient English, Anglo-Saxon mythology) and even from his own life’s experiences to eventually write The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
    I was completely fascinated to learn how so much of Tolkien’s life shaped his writings. From his own experiences during WWI, to losing his parents at a young age; from meeting his future wife, Edith, to the various places he visited––all shaped his thinking and creativity. I was previously unaware of his involvement in the T.C.B.S (the Tea Club Barrovian Society), a group of fellow students and like-minded lovers of literature, words and languages. The friendships from this group had a powerfully profound influence upon Tolkien. The later formation of the Inklings, including the likes of C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams and others were a great encouragement for Tolkien to continue writing and completing his master works.

    While the author does not go into great detail of the biographical nature of Tolkien’s relationship with Edith Bratt, who eventually became his wife, he shows how her presence and influence was made upon the characters Beren and Lúthien from The Silmarillion. It was all very touching, especially his love for her in their latter years.
    If you’ve read Tolkien’s books and/or seen the movies, I would highly commend this book to you. It will deepen your appreciation for all things written by J.R.R. Tolkien, as well as of the author himself.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2013

    Of Tolkien Duriez says, ┬┐Myth and story was embodied in language

    Of Tolkien Duriez says, “Myth and story was embodied in language” (p. 143) and myth and story restore “a true meaning of ordinary and humble things that make up human life” (p. 176). That sums up his life and writing in my estimation. I’ve read Humphrey Carpenter’s biography which is the official biography of Tolkien and I’ve also read the Tolkien Letters. Duriez’s J. R. R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend is as much a must read for Tolkienphiles.

    I not only enjoyed refreshing my history of Tolkien’s life but I enjoyed the writing and storyline Duriez presents. He covers his life from cradle to the grave. In the biography itself I gathered some wonderful Tolkien tidbits and memorable sayings.

    It’s also interesting how this biography and recent discoveries have intersected. Duriez reports,
    One day Tolkien and Lewis would even plan to collaborate on a book on language, a project that never materialized. (p. 145)
    Lo and behold this work has this month been uncovered. The Telegraph reports (“JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis joint work discovered”)
    The beginning of a joint book by CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien has been discovered in a manuscript book in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

    An American academic called Steven Beebe, of Texas State University, San Marcos, had seen the material some years ago, but has only recently realised what it is. It is written in Lewis's hand in the same notebook that contains early drafts for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Magician's Nephew.

    Lewis and Tolkien had planned their joint book, to be called Language and Human Nature, in 1944, with publication envisaged for 1950.

    You should read this book but especially so if you love Tolkien--even if you’re read Carpenter’s or other biographies. You won’t be disappointed with Duriez’s J. R. R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend. My only tiff would be Duriez teasing about the amount of information that could’ve been included surrounding the publication of The Lord of the Rings. Says Duriez, “Even his dealings with his publisher and another potential publisher could fill a small book” (p. 192). But then we get few details about the process as a whole.

    Tolkien’s work on Middle-Earth is timeless because he captures the essence of our life within his faerie stories and myth. He has an uncanny ability to penetrate into the depths of the human condition and uncover truth. For instance, he says after WWII
    We are attempting to conquer Sauron with the Ring. And we shall (it seems) succeed. But the penalty is, you will know, to breed new Saurons, and slowly turn Men and Elves into Orcs” (p. 191 as quoted in Letters to his son Christopher).
    Tolkien was right then and he’s even more right today. You should read him and understand his life in connection with the larger corpus of his work. Duriez will help you do this.

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  • Posted January 7, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    A Great Biography On Tolkien

    Colin Duriez in his new book “J. R. R. Tolkien: The Making Of A Legend” published by Lion Books gives us a biography of the amazing author that gave us “The Hobbit” and “The Lord Of The Rings” trilogy.

    From the back cover: Long before the successful The Lord of the Rings films, J.R.R. Tolkien’s creations, imagination, and characters had already captured the hearts and minds of millions of readers. But who was the man who dreamt up the intricate languages and perfectly crafted world of Middle-earth?

    Tolkien had a difficult life for many years—orphaned and poor, his guardian forbade him from communicating with the woman he had fallen in love with, and he also suffered through the horrors of World War I. An intensely private and brilliant scholar, he spent more than 50 years working on the languages, history, peoples, and geography of Middle-earth, with a consistent mythology and body of legends inspired by a formidable knowledge of early northern European history and culture. J.R.R. Tolkien became a legend by creating an imaginary world that has enthralled and delighted generations. This engaging and accessible biography brings him to life.

    Not many authors are known by their last name but Tolkien is one of those elite. There are biographies that are thick and heavy and, I have to say, I like those books. They are like a hearty meal. Colin Duriez’s book is not thick and heavy but it is very informative and covers a lot of ground in a short amount of pages. J. R. R. Tolkien was born in South Africa on January 3, 1892. His mother and brother took a trip back to England for a visit and never returned to S. Africa where his father died during their absence. Tolkien died on September 2, 1973.

    Tolkien had a full life and enlisted to fight for his country during World War I. He was involved in the terrible, prolonged agony of the Battle of the Somme and fell victim to disease because of conditions on the front. It was this terrible time that left a lasting impression on him and which he used to tell his stories. There is more to Tolkien than just the Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings trilogy and Colin Duriez does the author’s life justice. It is interesting to read what fires forged the life of this author and how he used these experiences to write the epic stories that are still dearly loved today. I recommend this book highly!

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Kregel Publications. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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