J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien

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by Mark Horne

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Christian Encounters, a series of biographies from Thomas Nelson Publishers, highlights important lives from all ages and areas of the Church. Some are familiar faces. Others are unexpected guests. But all, through their relationships, struggles, prayers, and desires, uniquely illuminate our shared experience.

Born in South Africa and growing up


Christian Encounters, a series of biographies from Thomas Nelson Publishers, highlights important lives from all ages and areas of the Church. Some are familiar faces. Others are unexpected guests. But all, through their relationships, struggles, prayers, and desires, uniquely illuminate our shared experience.

Born in South Africa and growing up in Great Britain, J.R.R. Tolkien, or Ronald as he was known, led a young life filled with uncertainty and instability. His was not a storybook childhood- his father died when Ronald was three years old, and his mother died just before he reached adolescence. Left under the guardianship of his mother's friend and priest, Ronald forged his closest relationships with friends who shared his love for literature and languages.

As Tolkien grew older, married, served as a soldier, and became a well-respected Oxford professor publishing weighty works on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Beowulf, the Christian faith that his mother had instilled in him continued as an intrinsic element of his creative imagination and his everyday life.

It was through The Hobbit and the three-volume The Lord of the Rings that Tolkien became a literary giant throughout the world. In his fiction, which earned him the informal title of "the father of modern fantasy literature," Tolkien presents readers with a vision of freedom- nothing preachy- that a strong, unequivocal faith can transmit.

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Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
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Christian Encounters Series
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4.90(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.50(d)

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Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2011 Mark Horne
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59555-403-1

Chapter One


The first nightmarishly large spider Tolkien ever encountered was not imaginary, but a real creature of the African wild.

There were many kinds of dangerous creatures, even in the relatively inhabited areas of South Africa—at least when compared to the wildlife around similar houses back in England. As a three-year-old, Ronald was learning to walk and becoming interested in his family's garden. In the 1890s in interior South Africa, Ronald's learning to walk involved a great deal more anxiety for his parents and their servants. It was not uncommon to find poisonous snakes on the property amid the tall grass of Bloemfontein. Outdoors it was much less possible to keep the smaller dangerous wildlife away from homes. Even the pets could be a problem: one time a neighbor's monkey climbed into their yard and chewed up the baby Ronald's pinafores.

Running around in his family's garden, dressed all in white, he looked like a fairy or an elf, his mother said. Somehow he got far enough away from the nurse who was in charge of him that she did not see the furry, dark tarantula before it bit little Ronald. The nurse chased down the panicked, screaming child, grabbed him, and located the bite. It must have been just as traumatic for little Ronald for her to suck the poison out of the bite as receiving the bite had been in the first place. But aside from initial pain, the treatment was effective. Ronald suffered no ill effects from the tarantula's poison.

From this story, many students of Tolkien's works have thought this spider must have been the "mother" of the giant spiders of Mirkwood with whom Bilbo Baggins did battle—and later, Shelob, who nearly killed Frodo. Actually, Tolkien related that his recollections of the event were so dim that they didn't even include the spider. He only remembers the heat of the day and running in fear through the tall, dead grass. Rather, he later wrote that if his portrayal of the monster spider Shelob had anything to do with "my being stung by a tarantula when a small child, people are welcome to the notion (supposing the improbable, that any one is interested). I can only say that I remember nothing about it, should not know it if I had not been told; and I do not dislike spiders particularly, and have no urge to kill them. I usually rescue those whom I find in the bath!"

So, while many of Tolkien's creative invention came from his own childhood, the giant spiders of Mirkwood apparently did not. Tolkien said in a 1957 radio interview that "I put in the spiders largely because this was, you remember, primarily written for my children (at least I had them in mind)." His son, Michael, hated spiders. Tolkien said, "I did it to thoroughly frighten him and it did!" The encounter with the tarantula may have been one of the few experiences in Tolkien's life that accidentally matched his stories, rather than influenced them. As we will see, Tolkien's memories of events that affected his creative life came from a little later when he was living in the English countryside, giving names to people that came from fairy tales. He was probably too young in Africa to be greatly influenced by life there. The main effect of his early childhood in the dusty plains of South Africa was probably to give him a great love for the green hills and woods of England when he finally got to experience them a little later.

* * *

J. R. R. Tolkien was born in South Africa on January 3, 1892. His full name was John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, and most of his early life he was known simply as "Ronald." His second middle name came from the middle name of his father, Arthur Reuel Tolkien. His first name was in honor of his paternal grandfather, John Benjamin Tolkien. Arthur wanted to call his son by one of the two names from his side of the family; however, his wife, Mabel née Suffield, preferred to refer to her son as Ronald, and that is what he ended up being called in most of his early life. On February 17, 1894, a second son was born to Arthur and Mabel. They named him Hilary Arthur Reuel Tolkien.


Bloemfontein, located in the northern interior of South Africa, is now a modern city with over a half million people in the metro area. But when Tolkien was an infant growing into a toddler, it was much more like a frontier town, where wild animals roamed nearby. The house was on a high plain, windswept and woodless. What shade Tolkien found in his yard came from fir, cypress, and cedar saplings placed there by his father in an attempt to create a kind of oasis in the desert. The town was located in an independent country called the Orange Free State, which was dominated by settlers of Dutch ancestry.

His father had relocated to South Africa initially for economic reasons since he belonged to a family of flagging fortunes. Arthur's father, John Benjamin, had been a seller of pianos and music before he had gone bankrupt in 1877. Arthur became a bank manager and found that moving to South Africa held much more promise for financial advancement than remaining in England. After he relocated to South Africa, his fiancée, Mabel, followed him there and married him in Cape Town before moving inland to their new home.

From the beginning of Arthur's move, it was an open question as to whether it would be a lifelong situation or a temporary residency. Mabel, once she arrived and experienced life in Africa, began to strongly hope that their stay would only be temporary. She did not like the climate and longed for the cooler weather she remembered back in England. She also believed the heat was damaging her older son's health. Arthur, on the other hand, began to feel that he had found a new home and might never live in England again. He hoped that Ronald would adapt to the climate as he grew older. In the meantime, his mother took him and his younger brother on a long train trip to the coast to get them to moister, cooler air.

In time, the family turned their attention to a long-planned return visit to England. Mabel and her children disembarked on April 1895 without Arthur since business and financial pressures prevented him from leaving at the same time. Watching his father paint A. R. Tolkien on the family's trunk became one of Tolkien's few clear recollections of the man.

Mabel and the boys stayed with her father in his home in Birmingham, the second-largest populated center in England. The plan for Arthur to travel from South Africa to join them was delayed because he developed rheumatic fever and was too sick to make the voyage. They needed to wait until he was healthy again.

Yet Arthur never became healthy again. By January 1896, Mabel was planning to return to South Africa in order to care for her husband. But, before she could do so, the disease caused a brain hemorrhage. Arthur Tolkien was already buried five thousand miles away by the time Mabel learned that he was dead. No one in the family could even afford to visit the grave site.

The most obvious and earliest tribulation Tolkien faced that had a direct impact on him was losing his father at such a young age. Many biographers simply mention that it happened and move on to other steps in Tolkien's development as an author. But Tolkien's religious imagination and faith would have almost certainly been very different if his father had lived.

Also, the fact that Tolkien lost his father at a young age seems to have significance not only to him as a person but also as a creative writer. Interesting studies show that people who have lost one or both parents are highly represented among creative people. The list of writers who lost one or both parents during childhood includes Dante, Jonathan Swift, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Edward Gibbon, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, John Keats, Alexandre Dumas, George Sand, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Baudelaire, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy, and Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte. A researcher once took a standard textbook selection of English and French poets and found that 30 percent of them had lost their fathers to death or abandonment very early in life. Other research by a doctoral student took a common textbook on French literature and found that seventeen out of thirty-five writers had, through death or divorce, lost one or both parents.

Many children without fathers suffer in overwhelmingly negative ways, but others have the internal resources so that they rise to the occasion. It may well be that being without a father was a factor in Tolkien's artistic accomplishment.


Tolkien remembered very little of his life in South Africa. However, it is clear that the contrasting climate and geography of England made a big impression on him—one that worked its way into his fiction. On a limited budget, his mother managed to find a place to rent in a small town called Sarehole. There, a mile outside Birmingham, Tolkien discovered the beauty of the English countryside—his first "Shire." Here, as a small boy, with his younger brother, Tolkien spent a great deal of time playing and exploring. One can see his later fiction getting its start even here in a youngster's imagination.

The ogres that attacked and harassed the two boys (as they would describe it) are one example of a childhood incident showing up in later fiction. The best way to understand how seriously the boys took "the ogres" is to read a letter that younger brother Hilary later wrote. One day Mabel decided to take lunch to her boys. She had allowed them to go out and "blackberry" in a place locals called "the Dell." So she made the lunches and went in search of the boys. Their house in Sarehole Mill stood with a few others, but the surrounding countryside made it easy to overlook how near they were to Birmingham. They rarely saw much traffic on the road other than a farmer's cart or the wagon of a tradesman. So Mabel walked across the road and crossed a meadow to the River Cole. There stood the Sarehole Mill, an old brick building that had been used for grinding corn for three hundred years but was now used for grinding bone to produce phosphates to add to manure.

There was a narrow path here, leading through land owned by the miller and on to the Dell. While Mabel stayed on the path as she was supposed to, her boys had not been so respectful of the property of the landowner. Hilary Tolkien wrote that the miller was not very appreciative of the boys because they "traipsed off after corncockles and other pretty things." As Mabel came to the Dell, she called out to her boys, who had not seen their mother approach. The results were immediate and dramatic: both boys began running away from her through the brush without even looking up. Mabel's voice when she yelled was, in the perception of the young Tolkien boys, deep enough to be a man's voice. They thought she was the "White Ogre" come to harass them for straying on his land rather than keeping to the narrow path. The "White Ogre" was the local mill worker who earned his name because he was constantly covered in white bone dust from the inside of the mill. He was relatively mild, since he merely yelled at them to get off his land or away from the mill.

Their other enemy was worse, and they called him the "Black Ogre." The boys loved to explore a sandpit they found lined with trees but had to deal with his opposition to their trespassing. One day eight-year-old Ronald discovered an area with some mushrooms growing and picked them. The property owner chased off Tolkien, earning a nickname in the process. The property owner would take their shoes and socks when they went into the river to play and would spank the boys when they were forced to approach him to get their footwear back.

As a frightening guardian of the mushrooms, the Black Ogre was moved to Hobbiton, not as a monster, but as a wise and kind, though fearsome, hobbit:

"I know these fields and this gate!" he [Pippin] said. "This is Bamfurlong, old Farmer Maggot's land. That's his farm away there in the trees."

"One trouble after another!" said Frodo, looking nearly as much alarmed as if Pippin had declared the lane was the slot leading to a dragon's den. The others looked at him in surprise.

"What's wrong with old Maggot?" asked Pippin. "He 's a good friend to all the Brandybucks. Of course, he 's a terror to trespassers, and keeps ferocious dogs—but after all, folk down here are near the border and have to be more on their guard."

"I know," said Frodo. "But all the same," he added with a shamefaced laugh, "I am terrified of him and his dogs. I have avoided his farm for years and years. He caught me several times trespassing after mushrooms, when I was a youngster in Brandy Hall. On the last occasion he beat me, and then took me and showed me to his dogs. 'See, lads,' he said, 'next time this young varmint sets foot on my land, you can eat him. Now see him off!' They chased me all the way to the Ferry. I have never got over the fright—though I daresay the beasts knew their business and would not really have touched me."

Tolkien's childhood involved several moves based on financial necessity and educational needs. According to his own recollections, the desirability of these homes was based on whether they were in the English countryside, which he loved, or if they were in places of suburban or urban development, which he strongly disliked. The basis of Tolkien's love for trees and nature over his dislike for machinery was set early in his life. The reader finds virtually all mention of "machinery" in The Lord of the Rings is associated with villains like Saruman and Sauron in the pursuit of power and the enslavement of others.

In these early years, Tolkien's mother homeschooled both boys. She began teaching Tolkien Latin and he loved it, so she started French lessons as well, and while he didn't find French as lovely sounding as Latin and English,15 he clearly showed an aptitude with languages that would later become his academic career. It is noteworthy that Tolkien studied these subjects under his mother's tutelage when he was around seven years old.

Tolkien also remembered the influence of certain stories in his young years. He loved the children's novels by George Macdonald, The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie. He would later come to judge much of the Victorian author's writings as far too allegorical and moralistic, but at a young age he found them quite enjoyable. They influenced his imagination much as they did for the child who would grow up to be his friend—C. S. Lewis. One can't help but wonder how much the Mines of Moria would have figured into The Fellowship of the Ring without these stories of an underground goblin kingdom threatening human miners.

Though Tolkien had fond memories of his childhood, this time period involved another change in fortunes for his mother, his brother, and himself. Only a few years after the death of his father, Tolkien experienced separation from much of his extended family.


Though the reports of her faith journey lack detail, it is known that regular worship and participation in church became much more important to Mabel in the years following her husband's death. As a single mother responsible for the raising of two young boys, she would, by the grace of God, find herself more aware of her need to live by faith. As Mabel became more involved in the Anglican Church, she found herself most nourished in the Anglo-Catholic portion of that national denomination. The Anglican Church could be classified in three main categories, "low church," "high church," and "broad church." Broad church was and is simply those who see themselves between the other two groups—though it can also refer to theological "modernism" or "liberalism." The "low church" Anglicans are the typical Evangelicals who see their heritage as distinctively Protestant, tend toward simpler prayer book worship, and emphasize the doctrine of justification by faith. "High church" refers to those who emphasize the identity of the Anglican Church in continuity with the early church and the succession of bishops and who would typically use a more elaborate liturgy.


Excerpted from J. R. R. TOLKIEN by MARK HORNE Copyright © 2011 by Mark Horne. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.


Meet the Author

Mark Horne has worked for American Vision and Coral Ridge Ministries and co-authored two books with George Grant. He earned his M.Div from Covenant Theological Seminary in Saint Louis and serves as Assistant Pastor at Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church in St. Louis.

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J. R. R. Tolkien 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I received a copy of J. R. R. TOLKEIN by Mark Horne, from Thomas Nelson via Booksneeze. It is part of the Christian Encounters series, a gathering of Christina-themed biographies. In the past, I have read the ones on Saint Nicholas and Anne Bradstreet, and loved them, so I knew I would enjoy this one as well. The biographies are short and easy to read. At times, they flow like novels. Normal biographies are long and complicated, with complex words. Since these are easy to understand, I have recommended them to a friend who teaches high school, for use in her English classroom. This biography told the life story of J. R. R. Tolkien. He is famous for the Lord of the Rings series. While I greatly enjoy that work of fantasy, I never knew much about the author, not even what he looked like, so I was thrilled to see this cover. Jr. R. R. Tolkien looks like a jolly man, the perfect type of friend. It was filled with interesting facts, such as his real name: John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. It also included facts about his childhood and family, his interests and passions. I felt the best part was how it strongly tied in with the Lord of the Rings. Some chapters referenced whole sections of his novels, and chapter titles included words such as "Between the Shire and Mordor." Mark Horne describes Birmingham, one of Tolkien's homes, as being a Mordor-like place. The is the perfect book for literary and history lovers, as well as any fan of the Lord of the Rings.
BabyGirlJ More than 1 year ago
Christian Encounters, a series of biographies from Thomas Nelson Publishers, highlights important lives from all ages and areas of the Church. Some are familiar faces. Others are unexpected guests. But all, through their relationships, struggles, prayers, and desires, uniquely illuminate our shared experience. J.R.R. Tolkien famously penned The Hobbit and the 3-volume novel The Lord of the Rings. Known as "the father of modern fantasy literature," his writings have inspired many other works of fantasy and have had a lasting effect on the entire genre. In this Christian Encounters biography, learn how Tolkien's faith was an intrinsic element of his creative imagination, one that played out in the pages of his writings and his life (book blurb) As soon as I got the email for this book, it was on my phone, and being the Tolkien fan that I happen to be, I knew I'd be picking this for review. It isn't a very long book, only about ten chapters (plus a bibliography), but there is quite a bite of info stashed in it. Since it's a brief biography, it doesn't get very in-depth in a lot of things, but it was still an interesting read. Some of the information is repeated, but there are some interesting facts about J.R.R. Tolkien in it that I didn't know before. (Like when he first began working on the Oxford English Dictionary, he started with the w section.didn't know that!) The main focus is on his faith (Roman Catholic), and how that affected his life, and also how his life affected his writing. A lot of the book also talks about Tolkien's interest in languages and translations, his friends (although not much is said about the Inklings, there are several things about C.S. Lewis included.) As for his writing, this book explains a lot about the timeline of his writing, the publishing story for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and also about how serious he took his writing. This book doesn't take very long to read, and I'd recommend it for anyone who likes Tolkien's works. ** I received this book free from Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program in exchange for an honest review.**
Cassie_D96 More than 1 year ago
I have recently read all of the Lord of the Rings books including the hobbit and watched all the movies but I realized I knew practically nothing about the man behind it all. I knew he was good friends with C.S. Lewis and he loved mythology, particularly Norse, but I knew nothing about him personally.I didn't even know if he had a family. Plus there weren't any other good options available and I'm bored :P This book follows the life of J.R.R Tolkien, showing how he got his start and many of his inspirations for what is probably his greatest work, the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It talks about both his professional and his personal life. His struggles and triumphs through his life. The writing style of this book was pretty good. It was simple and easy to understand, not so boring and complex that it took me hours to get through a few pages. Yet at times the writing style seemed too simple, more like something in a school report than a professional book. I also thought that some of the connections between his life and his writing seemed more like speculation than fact. Nonetheless for a biography, (which I usually avoid unless they are written more in a story form than an informational form) it was pretty good. If you are looking for a biography for a school report, you want to learn more about Tolkien, or you just want a good informative read I would recommend this book. It wasn't the best I've read but it wasn't the worst (The worst one I ever read was about John and Betty Stam, I think every other page was a poem and the pages in between weren't any good either). I received this book from BookSneeze in exchange for my review.
InkandPages More than 1 year ago
J.R.R. Tolkien by Mark Horne is an interesting examination of the role of Christianity in Tolkien's work. Writing on Tolkien's life, family, career and achievements in the light of his Christian faith, Horne has given readers a complete and fascinating biography. Tolkien's writing reflected his Christian faith in the story lines he chose, the characters he adapted or created, and the dilemmas illustrated within his works. His personal life shows a man patient, courageous, and faithful. The overall message: a life faithfully lived, one step at a time, uses and develops one's gifts to their absolute best. This book is a warm and elegant reflection. The personal glimpses into Tolkien's personal life are illuminating. Tolkien's ability to work for years on a project--writing, rewriting, and then reflecting, only to return and hone his prose once again--inspired me. In this age of urgent multi-tasking, his work habits speak of an admirable, enviable ability to focus and dedicate one's energy. Tolkien's determination to produce the truest product of his creative vision is energizing and affirming. To devotedly return to what you love over and over again, to carefully nurture it, to take the time it requires to enable its growth, bespeaks of what one truly believes and: "... a Christian artist can be most effective when he offers himself..."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Available as part of the Christian Encounters series, this biography on J.R.R. Tolkien is well-organized, deep in subject matter, and enriches one's sense of Tolkien himself. The book begins at the very beginning--when Tolkien was a baby living in South Africa. Readers will then read about the death of his parents, his marriage, service in the war, children, positions at universities, and publications. This book really has everything you need to know about Tolkien. As a fan of Tolkien, I was intrigued and interested in learning more about the man who wrote The Lord of the Rings. This book not only provided the information in an easy-to-follow, well-organized fashion, but topped it with a more Christian mindset. This book also enriched my experience of Tolkien's famous books. After reading this book, one can see a few situations in his life bleed into his texts, giving them a more profound meaning. I would definintely recommend this book for anyone looking for a quick, easy-to-read biography of Tolkien's life, especially from a Christian perspective. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. 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."
cllane2 More than 1 year ago
J.R.R. Tolkien was born in South Africa and raised in England. He lost both his parents as a child, his father when Tolkien was 3, and his mother when he was 12. Tolkien grew up loving being able to explore around his home in South Africa and the countryside in England. However, every time he had to move to a city or suburb, he felt imprisoned. This love for the countryside and his distain for the city and suburbs later translated to the settings in his writings with the Shire and Mordor. Even though he was poor, having lost his father at such a young age, his father's family helped pay for his education for a time, and his grades got him scholarships. So he was able to attend one of the best schools in England, foster his love for languages that helped him eventually work as a don at Oxford. Tolkien's love for languages and literature along with some of his childhood experiences, fostered the environment to write short stories and novels, the most famous of which are The Lord of The Rings series. While, sadly, I have not read more than excerpts of Tolkien's writings, this biography was a great look into Tolkien's life and the influences that shaped his writing. I knew about Tolkien and his wife, as well as work and writings. I knew that Tolkien was a part of the Inklings along with C.S. Lewis and they had an influence on each other in their writings of Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia and Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. But I learned so much more about Tolkien, his life and struggles, and how they influenced his writing! This is a great biography of J.R.R. Tolkien! I highly recommend it to anyone who is even remotely curious about Tolkien, especially since the release of The Lord of the Rings movies in recent years. BookSneeze® has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of this review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I only have the sample but I can tell this will be good. He was a cool guy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
By Lifthrasir; Bookmaster So far, i have only gotten a sample of the book. I read the sample quickly and apprrciated how they showed his Christian views and how they greatly influenced Middle Earth. And for you haters who ranted about the dissapointment of discovering Tolkien was a Catholic and not a protestant, you forget how we all follow Christ, and thats what matters. I loved the sample and plan on getting the book.
avid_reader13 More than 1 year ago
Booksneeze gave me this book in exchange for a review. I wanted to read it because it was a SHORT biography. So, while it did not give me a lot of feelings of connectedness and understanding of this great author, it did tell me everything I wanted to know about his life. This book is worth reading.
Lilibet_King More than 1 year ago
J.R.R. Tolkien is the latest biography by Mark Horne in the Christian Encounter series. My daughter and I are fans of The Lord of the Rings, both books and movies, and reviewed this book with great interest. It is a short, easy read, highlighting the influences of his family life and Christian faith on Tolkien's work, including The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. This book is not an exhaustive biography; the author points out at the beginning that the definite biography of Tolkien is the authorized biography by Humphrey Carter, which is one of the sources cited here. Rather than redo that excellent work, Horne instead looks at the moral influences on Tolkien's life and work. This book is an easy, enjoyable read for anyone who is interested in the spiritual background and influences on Tolkien, especially for those without the patience or desire to read through the full Carter biography. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze book review bloggers program. 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.
pghmomma More than 1 year ago
Mark Horne puts out a really interesting biography on the life and religion of JRR Tolkien in this edition of his Christian Encounters series. Horne takes a look at the contributions of Tolkien's Roman Catholicism on his writing of the LOTR saga, as well as his relationship with the another prolific Catholic writer of the day, C.S. Lewis. The book examines the life of Tolkien through a Christian lens, and while generalized in some ways, he does hit on important aspects of his religion's contributions to his work. My biggest criticism truly is that he didn't dig deep enough to really allow the reader to come away with a very involved understanding of his motivations to write the books or his faith's contributions to the evolution of the work. On the whole, the book is a good introduction to the world of Tolkien, although for a more indepth view, other books may provide more. Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BookitFamily More than 1 year ago
J.R.R. Tolkien is the focus for this installment of the Christian Encounters series. It follows the author in the struggles of his early years through to his career as a successful writer of both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It gives information about his time at Oxford and in World War I. It shows how the struggles and experiences in his life were displayed in his writings. I enjoyed the book as I was not familiar with his life. I was particularly interested in his friendship with C.S. Lewis as I am a fan of them both, and how they influenced each other. The details of the publishing of The Lord of the Rings were also interesting. I got the impression from reading the book that he was not a particularly happy person, but that may be from his life experiences, or I may just be reading into it. I would recommend this to someone who is interested in Tolkien, but doesn't need to go into great detail on his life, as this is a somewhat short biography. I enjoy reading his books and it was nice to learn a little bit about his life as well. I received this book as part of the review program from Booksneeze. The review is my own and was not influenced in any way.
VicG More than 1 year ago
Mark Horne in his new book "J. R. R. Tolkien" published by Thomas Nelson gives us a biography of the amazing author as a part of the Christian Encounter Series. 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. Mark Horne'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 Mark Horne 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! If you would like to listen to interviews with other authors and professionals please go to Kingdom Highlights where they are available On Demand. To listen to 24 hours non-stop, commercial free Christian music please visit our internet radio station Kingdom Airwaves Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze book review bloggers program. 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."
Marsha_Randolph More than 1 year ago
Having heard of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien a.k.a. J. R. R. Tolkien but not having read any of his work I chose to read his biography simply out of curiosity. As an author I want to know what makes a great writer great? The book is made up of ten chapters, each chapter capture a particular time period. It was relatively easy for me to follow the story line from Tolkien's birth in South Africa to his move to England. It was not difficult for me to see through how his fathers' death and his very Catholic mothers' death influenced him. As a writer myself I could see how Tolkiens' preference for one subjected influenced his grasp of another thus I was able to follow along relatively easy Tolkien's early years. Unfortunately as J. R. R. Tolkien matured and the world went through its historic changes (two world wars) my lack of familiarity became a hindrance. Had I been able to relate his writings with the events of his life and the world I could have appreciated the book all the more. If you are asking: Didn't you watch the movie? My answer is no, I never watched Lord of the Rings to which I now am ashamed. Nor did I know that J. R. R, Tolkien was a world famous Christian Author. However, having read his biography, of which I do recommend, I do believe that I will be in a better position to fully understand Tolkien's' work. This book was provided to me free by BookSneeze in exchange for my unbiased opinion.
Obi-Wan-L More than 1 year ago
I admit that I read this book because J.R.R. Tolkien is one of my favorite authors and I wanted to know more about him. Mark Horne's short biography was a good introduction to Tolkien's life. Starting with Tolkien's birth in South Africa and covering the death of both his parents, growing up as an orphan, his forbidden romance and his struggles to get into academia, Mark Horne shows how these formative events in Tolkien's life shaped his writing. Mark Horne also takes a chapter to look at how Tolkien's writing has shaped the world. One of the most beloved writers of the past century, Tolkien's fantasy worlds have been enjoyed by millions around the globe, and for good reason. Mark Horne explores how Tolkien's perfectionism kept him writing and editing until he had developed a great story. This book is a a wonderful first look into Tolkien's life, writing and faith. I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze book review bloggers program. 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."
meowth2011 More than 1 year ago
Who hasn't heard of J.R.R. Tolkien? I have not exactly read his books in full, but I have a pretty good idea of the genre he indulges in, and that makes him an interesting character himself. This book is about his life and how the circumstances of it along with his faith has greatly influenced the world he has built for the hobbits, the orcs and all other creatures that populate his story. It is quite a short read but covers much of J.R.R. Tolkien's life that matters, as well as the friends he made and the passion he has for language and translations. There may not be something equally fantastic about his life as compared to the novels he has penned, but if it weren't for the things that happened to his life as narrated in this book, his novels would never have been the same. I highly recommend to fans of this author. I got an ARC of this book through Booksneeze.
HarmoniousGlow More than 1 year ago
Summary: Mark Horne takes readers from the beginnings to the end of the famous author J.R.R. Tolkein's life, giving particular emphasis to Tolkein's inspirations for Lord of the Rings and Tokein's interaction with other key authors including C.S. Lewis. Horne also emphasizes Tolkein's commitment to his Catholic faith. Review: This is part of the "Christian Encounters" biography series, so, naturally, there are more references to faith than there might be in other biographies of Tolkein. But the religious elements are not prevalent, so non Christians could easily enjoy this book, especially Tolkein fans. And the book offers a lot of tid bits about where Lord of the Rings characters and locations came from, which followers of the books and movies are bound to enjoy. An easy read (aside from a few parts that are hard to follow, as is typical of a biography), and an enjoyable read, this biography is a good read even for the person who doesn't typically enjoy biographies. On a Personal Note: I was sad to learn that Tolkein was a strong Catholic. The fact may be obvious to most, but I had no idea, and learning this fact made me lose some of my admiration for the author. In my opinion, Catholicism and Christianity are not the same, and if Tolkein believed in certain things like Purgatory, praying to Mary, and confession to the priest, I'm afraid... well... you can defer the rest. * Disclaimer: I received this book from BookSneeze in return for my honest review of it.
nicksDH More than 1 year ago
Bad enough it being part of a Christian Encounters Series you have to sit through this book wondering if a nine-year old wrote it. I swear some parts just feel like like it was written by someone surprisingly old/intelligent to even read any of Tolkien's work, mostly because of the occasional 'Dick and Jane' us ein the book. This book does an alriight job of telling you the man was, but a terribe one about telling you what he was about. Since it free you should just order for the laughs, but that's it. Don't buy it. Doesn't even go into good detail about his life, an unknowing person that based their thoughts on Tolkien through this book would have pictured in their heads an old man that vacations alot and can't make up which college he wants to teach at. In a way that's kinda the truth, but comeone he was in colleges half his life. Don't you think there has to be some good stories? Hahaha.