J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography

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Overview

The authorized biography of the creator of Middle-earth. In the decades since his death in September 1973, millions have read THE HOBBIT, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, and THE SILMARILLION and become fascinated about the very private man behind the books. Born in South Africa in January 1892, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was orphaned in childhood and brought up in near-poverty. He served in the first World War, surviving the Battle of the Somme, where he lost many of the closest friends he'd ever had. After the war he ...

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Overview

The authorized biography of the creator of Middle-earth. In the decades since his death in September 1973, millions have read THE HOBBIT, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, and THE SILMARILLION and become fascinated about the very private man behind the books. Born in South Africa in January 1892, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was orphaned in childhood and brought up in near-poverty. He served in the first World War, surviving the Battle of the Somme, where he lost many of the closest friends he'd ever had. After the war he returned to the academic life, achieving high repute as a scholar and university teacher, eventually becoming Merton Professor of English at Oxford where he was a close friend of C.S. Lewis and the other writers known as The Inklings.

Then suddenly his life changed dramatically. One day while grading essay papers he found himself writing 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit'—and worldwide renown awaited him.

Humphrey Carpenter was given unrestricted access to all Tolkien's papers, and interviewed his friends and family. From these sources he follows the long and painful process of creation that produced THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE SILMARILLION and offers a wealth of information about the life and work of the twentieth century's most cherished author.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A panorama of vignettes done with poise and exhaustive command. A man emerges whole." The Washington Post

"J.R.R. Tolkien left his impress upon a whole generation as few recent writers have done ... an excellent biography." Newsweek

"Excellent." Newsweek

Washington Post
A panorama of vignettes done with poise and exhaustive command. A man emerges whole.
Newsweek
J.R.R. Tolkien left his impress upon a whole generation as few recent writers have done ... an excellent biography.
Library Journal
Carpenter's 1977 biography offers a broad look at the Oxford don, who lived a relatively quiet life. This also details his close friendship with C.S Lewis. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Paul West
Carpenter has an eye for the magic in what's pedestrian, and in his charge a 'quiet life,' such as Tolkien's, becomes an in-depth act of relish.
The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618057023
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 6/28/2000
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 223,786
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Humphrey Carpenter, the author of THE BRIDESHEAD GENERATION and THE INKLINGS, among other books, was given unrestricted access to all of Tolkien's papers for his biography of Tolkien, J.R.R. TOLKIEN: A BIOGRAPHY.

J.R.R. TOLKIEN (1892-1973) is the creator of Middle-earth and author of such classic and extraordinary works of fiction as The Hobbit , The Lord of the Rings , and The Silmarillion . His books have been translated into more than fifty languages and have sold many millions of copies worldwide.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2004

    As informative as it can get

    I'm not sure what the last reviewer meant when s/he said 'Is LOTR racist?'. I personally think it's not up to Mr. Carpenter to bring such a question up in a BIOGRAPHY of JRR Tolkien.<p> Besides that point, I find it thoroughly fascinating and enjoyable from the start to the finish. For one, Mr. Carpenter has provided many detailed information on Tolkien's life; two, he included quotes, excerpts from letters, and bits from Tolkien's diary to 'give proof' about what he wrote is precisely true. I don't think anyone else can write a more complete biography of JRR Tolkien than Mr. Carpenter. I suppose the only drawback of it was the fact that he didn't specifically tell us exactly why and how Tolkien could come up with such wonderful stories. But then again, like he said at the end, these questions are 'certainly unanswerable in a book of this sort.'

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2000

    Not quite there and back again

    Carpenter does a fine job of detailing the esoterica of Tolkien's quirky yet often quite pedestrian life (imagine Bilbo Baggins before the dwarves dropped by), from his birth in South Africa, through the early death of his parents, his life at Oxford and his attempts to grapple with unexpected fame in his latter years. Carpenter is illuminating in showing us some of the sources of Tolkien's inspiration. His devout Catholicism; his love of the English countryside; and particularly his profound fascination with words and languages. We come to see Middle Earth as necessary to house Tolkien's languages. A selection of photos is quite helpful in putting flesh on the legend of J.R.R. Tolkien. However, Carpenter disappoints by studiously avoiding evaluations of Tolkien's work. Carpenter seems to believe that is not his place, but failing even to include a good sampling of contemporary reviews of Tolkien's work leaves us still wondering about questions such as 'why are there almost no women in Lord of the Rings? ... Where is religion in LOTR?' ... And completely untouched: Is LOTR racist? This volume is a good starting point in understanding Tolkien's personal history, but readers wanting more insights into Tolkien's writing will need to find additional sources. I found ithe book quite readable, quite accessible, but all the details of English academe might make it too heavy for Tolkien's younger fans.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2014

    Religion of the World of Xtoski (bonous)

    Avara was born in a moonlit grove, the forbidden demigod child of a mortal and Zorgagroz. The child learned to lie alone, the world hunted her. One to bring this child back to Xtosk would have a huge prize. She bore back wings ane the ability to turn into a dragon. She had cosmic eyes and her name meant 'Spirit'. She wore boots of the Aqua-tree, the Celestial socks, and a black robe over all. She had the pendant of the RainbowSnake. Her life was spent running from her mother, her father, her step-father, and anyone else. She hid herself, never to show her face. She resembled a pygme dragon, as big as a chariot. She also has the Lunar gloves.

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  • Posted February 24, 2014

    There are other biographies of Tolkien, but none are so close to

    There are other biographies of Tolkien, but none are so close to the author himself or so detailed in the spirit of his work. This is the classic, and should be required reading for anyone interested in one of the greatest authors of the 20th century.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2004

    Awesome book, but needs to completley prove Thesis.

    I admire Carpenter's declaration to not critisize Tolkien's works. He was simply respecting the wishes of the late Tolkien, and we must respect his decision. However, he did not suceed in not showing a bias, since he potrayed those that gave bad reviews to LOTR as meanies. However, we must give Carpenter some credit: it HAD to be biased! This book was only going to be read by fans of Tolkien and either his mythology or his works in languages. The details from childhood through his last years made the book interesting from beginning to end. I especially enjoyed the potrayal of his parents wedding and the 'Oxford life' chapter, where an average day was given step by step. In conclusion, If you want to know more about the development of Tolkien's life to show the development of his mythology, this is the book for you. However, One who had never read his Trilogy would have no clue what is going on throughout 2/3's of the entire book. I had read it twice, so I knew what was happening. However, now I am also inspired to read the Silmarillion.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2003

    Carpenter Inspires

    I read this fine biography when I was a senior in high school. By that time, I had already become fiercely devoted to Tolkien's works. Tolkien's life, however, was as inspirational to me as his stories. Ten years later, I was a student at Oxford myself, studying literature. I had the pleasure of meeting Humphrey Carpenter there, who was giving a lecture on Lewis Carroll. I couldn't thank Professor Tolkien, but I was able to thank Mr. Carpenter for helping to change my life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2003

    Thanks for the research info!=^_~=

    I haven't read the book itself quite yet, but I want to, because I'm doing a report on him for my school. It's more of a 'dress up as an assigned author and do the research on him/her' deal, but I am so glad that I found this book! Cross your fingers in hopes I get an 'A'!!=^_~=

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2003

    How Can LOTR be racist?

    Tolkien's story is not a sociology essay, it is a fantasy epic. There are women in the LOTR story: Arwen, daughter of Elrond the Elven king, Galadriel. the Elf Queen of the Golden Wood, Eowyn of Rohan, the niece of King Theoden plus Frodo's aunt, Lobelia Sackville- Baggins. There is no evidence of racism in Tolkien's classic. The reason that there are is no so-called diversity is that the story is inspired by Celtic and Teutonic myths and the myths of the Anglo-Saxons of medieval England. Middle Earth resembles the descriptions of the English countryside, the northern reaches of Scandinavia, Ireland and Scotland and its diversity is in the various creatures and peoples that make up the story. Any attempt to label it as racist or sexist is nothing more than propaganda by the pc-mongers who do not wish for any "euro" stain upon the linguistic and literary culture of the world.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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