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Master of Middle-Earth: The Fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  2,811 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews

As is the case with all great works of art, J. R. R. Tolkien’s masterpieces generously repay close attention and study. In this thoroughly entertaining and perceptive volume, winner of the prestigious Mythopoeic Society Scholarship Award, Professor Kocher examines the sources that Tolkien drew upon in fashioning Middle-earth and its inhabitants—and provides valuable ins
Paperback, 256 pages
Published August 19th 2003 by Del Rey (first published January 1st 1972)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Sep 06, 2012 Nikki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
According to my bookmark, I was a chapter from finishing this when I finished my essay and never looked at it again. Oops. And, for some reason, I don't recall referencing this book at all, even though actually it would have been useful -- it makes some handy links and the author understood Tolkien's work and aims very well. I think at the time I actually preferred this to Shippey's accounts, which is probably blasphemy in the world of Tolkien mania.

I love that Tolkien never wears thin under inv
Matthijs Krul
Apr 13, 2015 Matthijs Krul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although published before The Silmarillion and the materials collected in Unfinished Tales and the History of Middle Earth became available, it is a testament to his excellent critical analysis of major themes and characters in Tolkien's lifetime published work that Paul Kocher's book even now remains one of the best secondary monographs on Tolkien available.
Andrea Hickman Walker
This was published before the Silmarillion, which made for interesting reading, as I've read the Silmarillion a few times and know a fair bit about Middle-Earth. There were some suppositions and guesses in this book that have since been answered, both by the publication of the Silmarillion and by others. I did enjoy this very much though.

I particularly liked the chapter on Aragorn, which presented a way of looking at his character in a way that I've never imagined. The fact is that he is the 'he
Jul 19, 2012 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tolkien
Although first published several years before The Silmarillion, in that vasty deep time when so many of our questions remained unanswered, Master of Middle-earth remains one of my favorite critical studies of Tolkien. Kocher's chapter-long character study of Aragorn is particularly brilliant:

"This is the ambitious, weary, and apprehensive prince who impatiently watches the foolish antics of the hobbits under the suspicious eyes of the crowd at the inn. To his mind the hobbits badly need taking i
Dec 31, 2014 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
An interesting analysis of the mindset of Tolkien in writing the Lord of the Rings. It clearly points out how an author's worldview affects his writing. In particular, Tolkien's views of morality, the freedom of choice and the nature of evil are expressed in his work. The book explores the Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings, as well as his poetry and shorter tales. Sauron's evil is seen in his desire that all who come under his domination do his bidding against their wills. For this reason, Tolkien e ...more
Ron Mitchell
Dec 23, 2013 Ron Mitchell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is very old - it predates the publication of The Silmarillion - but still very well worth reading. Lots of interesting insights, especially on some of Tolkien's shorter works that are not often much talked about.
Erika Tracy
Jan 29, 2013 Erika Tracy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My first introduction to literary criticism, rather young, and a painless one that taught me a great deal about literature in general. I'm rereading it now to shake loose some thoughts about writing fiction.
Mark Singer
Jul 28, 2015 Mark Singer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Execellent collection of essays on the works of JRR Tolkien, first published on the early 1970s. I found the chapter on Aragorn to be the best of the lot, and worth the price of the book.
Berslon Pank
It was written before the Silmarillion so he just made some guess which turned out to be really wrong. Thank goodness because Tolkien wrote the better story. I also think his chapter on Aragorn isn't great. The chapter is fine, but I think his assertion that Aragorn is the true hero of LotR is off base. He's a hero, sure, but those books are about Hobbits and have hobbit heroes. You didn't need the Silmarillion to figure that out and subsequently Tolkien's letters support that.

The final chapter,
Sep 10, 2008 Valerie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Shawn, Steve
Recommended to Valerie by: Tolkienmania
Shelves: cypresslibrary
More readable than the Silmarillion. Well done and informative.
Jul 02, 2009 Gregg rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I'm a Tolkien fan, but not a Tolkien buff. I'm working on it, though. I've read various Norse and Old English sagas over the years, and when teaching Beowulf, I can casually refer to Professor Tolkien's groundbreaking essay on it, the essay that launched the poem from obscurity into the English canon (all without mentioning that I haven't actually sat down and read the damn thing yet). So when I came across this title, I ate it up.

I've always had the same problem with Tolkien that I've had with
Althea Ann
From the title, I'd thought this book would be a biography of J.R.R. Tolkien, so I was little disappointed when I sat down to read it and realized that it was more of a literary analysis of Tolkien's works.
Still, after I accepted it for what it was, I found it to be quite an enjoyable book. It reads rather like a series of seminar lectures - what you might hear from a (rather entertaining) professor if you signed up for a class on Tolkien. (The author was a professor, so this is not surprising).
Titus Hjelm
Starts off very dry, but gets better in the middle, then dips again with the last chapter--although the reason is not so much in the analysis than the fact that the short works discussed in the last chapter fail to be as interesting to the LOTR fan. What is interesting is that Kocher is writing in 1972, five years prior to the publication of The Silmarillion and has to speculate about a lot of things brought to light in the posthumous epic. Still, a good read.
Nov 06, 2012 Nathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Similar in depth to Shippey's Author of the Century, Kocher delves into Tolkien's work and delivers a lot of satisfying insight. What is especially impressive is the fact that he wrote it while Tolkien still lived and long before the "Tolkien Renaissance" of the early 2000s. Kocher looks at several topics though, that Shippey does not, including an entire chapter on Aragorn, which I found to be the most intriguing part of the book. He restates some of the common criticisms of contemporary lit cr ...more
Kristin Moe
Apr 05, 2016 Kristin Moe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good guide to understanding the world and mythology of Middle-earth.
Impressive insight by the author, despite it being published before The Silmarillion.
An interesting read. I really enjoyed some of the essays in this book. There were quite a few things shown in this book that I had never really thought about.
Mae Walker
Very interesting essays on "Sauron and the Nature of Evil", "Aragon" and "Cosmic Order" in Tolkien's works. A lot of things I had not thought of previously in the epic.
Alicia Papp
Sep 21, 2014 Alicia Papp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love reading about Tolkien, and this book has a great chapter on Aragorn, with lots of fabulous insights.
Sep 23, 2013 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is kind of a collection of essays analyzing Tolkien's writings surrounding the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. It was very interesting to look at a scholars take on these classics of literature. My favorite section was the one on Aragorn in which he describes in great detail why Aragorn is one of the most key players in the series. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to die-hard Lord of the Rings fans. I will admit that I did not read the last section in which the author descr ...more
Roger Buck
Feb 05, 2015 Roger Buck rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
O John Ronald Reuel … how little did I know, when I fell in love with your Middle Earth long ago, what SACRED FIRE secretly inspired thee …

It is an open secret, of course, but all the world - the English-speaking world particularly - wishes to conceal it. Well, after all these years, I discovered your "secret" which I speak of here …
Karen Floyd
Published in 1971, while Tolkien was still alive and long before the release of the many volumes of Tolkien's unfinished writings, so some of it is a bit outdated. Good insights and analysis of some of Tolkien's then-published work.
Jerry Owens
Dec 14, 2009 Jerry Owens added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Yes
Interesting critique of Tolkiens works. Deals with background and purposes of the author. Also deals with some of the philosophy delt with in the LOTR.
Nov 08, 2010 Neva rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Didn't tell me anything new.
John Lowery
Oct 18, 2010 John Lowery rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good biography
Aisyahhp rated it it was amazing
Oct 21, 2016
Collin Horn
Collin Horn rated it really liked it
Oct 19, 2016
Camilla Severns
Camilla Severns marked it as to-read
Oct 18, 2016
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Oct 18, 2016
Charlene Lutes
Charlene Lutes rated it it was amazing
Oct 16, 2016
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Paul Harold Kocher was a scholar, author, and professor of English. He wrote extensively on the works of J. R. R. Tolkien as well as on Elizabethan English drama, philosophy, religion, and medicine. His numerous publications include studies of Christopher Marlowe and Francis Bacon, as well as J. R. R. Tolkien. He also authored books on the Franciscan missions of 18th- and 19th-century California.

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