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The Monsters and the Critics, and Other Essays
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The Monsters and the Critics, and Other Essays

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  2,109 ratings  ·  49 reviews
Sześć z siedmiu esejów prezentowanych w niniejszej książce J.R.R. Tolkien wygłosił podczas publicznych wykładów przy przy różnych okazjach, i choć w większości nawiązują one do studiów nad literaturą średniowieczną, są zrozumiałe nawet dla osób bez profesjonalnej znajomości tematu. Dwa z nich dotyczą "Beowulfa" - jeden, powszechnie znany dał tytuł całej książce; drugi, dot ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published April 1st 1984 by Houghton Mifflin (first published 1936)
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Tolkien was a pretty devastatingly smart guy, who didn't only create a world and languages of his own, but was a serious and intelligent scholar who knew many languages, modern and archaic, and had a wide interest in different literatures and mythologies. This volume contains seven of his academic essays: for a modern academic, the volume of his work -- however influential and inspiring -- would be insufficient, with the pressure to publish all the time. Good thing he isn't a contemporary academ ...more
Prior to the delivery and publication of these lectures in 1936 the poem of Beowulf was mined by scholars looking to find information on Germanic antiquities, some for nationalistic reasons and others out of a genuine interest in the past, but few explored the poem for its own literary merits.

Major publications on the poem included works by Axel Olrik and R.W. Chambers, while both books made vast explorations into the origin of the legends and comparisons between Scandinavian material, neither
I wish had Professor Tolkien around to pick his brain, but this book is an adequate substitute, and, I think, indispensable for anyone who teaches Beowulf. Tolkien's titular essay is largely responsible for changing the attitude toward Beowulf in literary circles. The epic was considered important for what it could teach us of the Anglo-Saxons, but it was Tolkien who convinced the literati that it had literary merit, too. Highly recommended to fans of Beowulf.
The title essay is approaching 90 years old and remains both readable and important.

In a few pages Tolkien elucidates a few principles which are still incompletely grasped.

First, that the art and acts of our ancestors were not crude, quaint and haphazard.

Second, that a thing -- be it poetry or a tree -- should be taken for what it is, and respected by exploring what it is without preconceptions. Let a thing stand on it's own a bit before rushing to prop it up.

Third, upon those themes he guides
An extraordinary collection of Tolkien essays from the 1930s to 1950s. Make no mistake, these addresses were serious presentations to serious, and qualified audiences; which the casual reader is not.

His essays on Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight changed my perception of those works. His essay on translating Beowulf adds to my appreciation of the challenges of both translators and readers of translated texts. His On Fairy tales I have lauded elsewhere, was it appears also in The Tolkie
Francesco Scarlata
Uno studente del professor Tolkien di Oxford ricorda così: “Non credo di averle mai detto quale indimenticabile esperienza fosse per me, da studente, ascoltarla mentre recitava il Beowolf. La sua voce era la voce di Gandalf.”
Leggendo i saggi contenuti in questo bel volume curato dal figlio Christopher, ci si immerge in modo diretto nella mente di uno dei più grandi scrittori del ‘900. E sembra davvero di essere seduti in un’aula dell’università di Oxford, con di fronte un simpatico stregone, dal
Bryn Hammond
The title essay (still going for best title of a critical essay) together with 'On Translating Beowulf' capture that poem, at least if you are a romantic like me. Gloriously written and elegiac in mood, these may rob your heart, and perhaps you can cheat, read them instead of Beowulf and yet understand.
I enjoyed the last three essays in this book much more than the first few. Tolkien's analyses and arguments for his value of Beowulf and Sir Gawain came off to me pedantic and overly intellectual. His passion was clear, but I didn't find the narrow topics interesting enough for a general readership. These essays would make sense as reading assignments in an English graduate-level course, but I couldn't get into them just for fun. The last few essays were much more interesting to me. I enjoyed th ...more
5 stars but only for people interested in either Beowulf, Tolkien, or Bilbo (if you read it in his voice, this essay is quite endearing).
Mar 29, 2009 Erin rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Defenders of Myth
Recommended to Erin by: Same professor in Anglo-Saxon class where I read Liuzza's Beowul
The first time I read it, I swooned. Then I revisited it in grad school, and I swooned again. There is only one author I've ever read who would not only understand but also think to write the following:

"And in the poem I think we may observe not confusion, a half-hearted or a muddled business, but a fusion that has occurred at a given point of contact between old and new, a product of thought and deep emotion.
"One of the most potent elements in that fusion is the Northern courage: the theory of
Nie była to prosta i przyjemna lektura.

Tolkien sam przyznawał, że nie był specjalnie dobrym wykładowcą - i niestety lektura jego wykładów to potwierdza. Choć jego pasja dla podjętych tematów jest jasna, to sposób w jaki wykładał był bardzo chaotyczny. Skakanie od tematu do tematu, złożone sformułowania, nonsensowne wtrącenia i ogólne ścieżki rozumowania - wszystkie te elementy składają się na tekst który trudno jest zrozumieć gdy się go czyta, a co dopiero słucha. Ma tutaj znaczenie fakt, że bez
Edoardo Albert
Many reviews already about this, and not much to add to those, so I thought I'd pick a different angle: Tolkien's thought, was it more like Gandalf, or more like Saruman? A strange idea, but reading in particular the essays on his field of professional study there is a sense of a mind at work very like Saruman's, at least before he becomes ensnared by the desire for the Ring, a mind subtle and proud, a mind seeing deep into the hidden workings of language and thought and there seeking scholarly ...more
I picked this for the title essay, "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics," and also the one on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Those did Not disappoint, and "On Fairy-Stories" was also very good (I'd read it before, but it had been a while!). With the other essays in this collection, there was always Some interesting stuff, but also a fair lot that was either beyond my understanding (especially the case with "On Translating Beowulf," although, having just read Tolkien's newly released Beowulf, ...more
This brief monograph was the first external work of scholarship I read by JRR Tolkien. What a master thinker and writer he was! It is my understanding that this work led to the "resurrection" of scholarship for Beowulf and it's almost universal appearance in literature texts today. A marvelous, though a bit dense, read. The date for my reading this monograph is pretty accurate for the year, but the month and day are purely random.

Tolkien was a professor of Old English at Oxford and it is largely
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]This is a collection of seven lectures by Tolkien, of which I think I had previously read only "On Fairy Stories" and "A Secret Vice". As always, they are an interesting insight into how his mind worked, or at least how he wanted us to think it worked. The more academic pieces (in particular the second, "On Translating Beowulf") are somewhat moored in academic controversies of their time, which may or may not have subsided by now and whic ...more
I already loved LOTR, and this book made me love that series even more. My favorite essay out of the collection was "On Fairy Stories." Whether you're a writer or a reader, it's definitely worth investing some time into. You'll walk away from it with a new appreciation for the significance of stories in our lives.
Chris Krycho
Not exactly scintillating reading, especially if not already a fan of Tolkien. As he himself admits in one of the lectures (for which these essays were the manuscripts), he was not a particularly interesting lecturer. The only essays likely of broader interest are his famous "On Fairy Stories", and "A Secret Vice" (on invented language). Gladly, these are also the most readable of the bunch, and "On Fairy Stories" alone is with the price of the volume. I'm glad to have it on my shelf, but doubt ...more
Quite possibly the best literary essay ever published. Here, the author of the Lord of the Rings takes aim at scholars who would dismiss the literary merit of the greatest poem published between the fall of Rome and the Thirteenth Century because (dear me!) there are monsters in it. It is a wonderful (if at times dense) reflection on the importance of such supernatural elements in heroic tales.

Could be read in tandem with Matt Kaplan's most excellent Medusa's Gaze and Vampire's Bite -- on the sc
This book is the best insight into Tolkien’s professorial capacity. Not only was he a great author, but also a very influential scholar. His most famous essay, The Monsters and the Critics changed completely the way of approaching Beowulf as a work of art, and not only an archeological finding that may shed some light on the historical mysteries.
All in all, it was a great read. I recommend it to anyone who is at least a tiny bit interested in early-medieval literature or fantasy.
Ben De Bono
This is a wonderful collection of essays. The ones devoted to Beowulf and Sir Gawain were of particular interest to me, but the entire collection is worthwhile

This book was a little too over my head. Okay, a LOT over my head. I think you need to be well-versed in the subject matter, such as Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and lots of other old English (and other) literature. I did enjoy parts of it, including the essay on Fantasy, and got a good quote or two out of it. I just don't think this is a book that I can finish and enjoy, seeing as I am just not expert enough, or not connoisseur enough, perhaps.
Unless you read Anglo-Saxon and Latin (and a little Greek), you will need several readings (and trips to various reference books) to relish fully the very good fruit in 'The Monsters and the Critics' essay by J.R.R. Tolkien. He has a very convoluted sentence structure and writing style that takes some close attention. It helps if you can diagram sentences.

Re-reading rewards the faithful reader.

I'll re-post when I've read (and re-read) other of the essays.
If you have never read Beowulf it would be a complete waste to even attempt reading this. As it is I can understand somewhat all the points he is making even though I don't have the background of those critics that he is arguing against. The references he makes are difficult and I'm confident if I had an understanding of all those things he does reference the overall effect would be better and my understanding greatly improved.
If you ever wanted to climb into the mind of a genius this is the book to read. An accumulation of papers that Tolkien wrote regarding mainly Beowulf and other fantasy related concepts such as the Fae people and Fairy tales. Tolkiens study of Beowulf and his paper the Monsters and The Critics is what would eventually change how professionals viewed the ancient text. It also served as his main inspiratation for his trilogy.
Nicholas Huff
Tolkien, you have a point to make, you always take the long way round. The Appendix and Notes of this lecture challenge the body of the text in length. It is an important work in Beowulf scholarship that refocused study on Beowulf's literary merits rather than its use as historical text.

Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics [Sir Israel Gollancz Memorial Lecture], by J.R.R. Tolkien, Read 25 November 1936.
This is an academic text that focuses on Tolkien's approach to critical analysis of literature. This book along with "Beowulf and the Critics" is credited with being one of the best and possible the first in describing the way to perform critical analysis on literature. It is a little hard to follow but if you are interested in Beowulf and critical review than this is well worth the time required.
Levi Gray
There was so much in this book that flew straight over my head, because that is the plane upon which Tolkien wrote. The bits and pieces that I did grab, however, have changed me on a foundational level, in my reading, in my writing, and in my thinking. Great, great book and a good introduction to the world Tolkien lived in, of which Middle Earth was merely the surface.
I read the essay on Sir Gawain, which I enjoyed. His reading seems essentially correct and helps make sense of some of the strangeness of Gawain's situation. I was struck by how much of his argument began with the author. It seemed necessary to prove that the author was capable of such a thing or that he was clever enough to intend it.
Dan Toft
Now I know what his followers meant when they said of Tolkien that, "he had broken the veil and had been inside language." Tolkien shows his love and sensitivity for Germanic poetry and language so clearly in this essay. If you want to enjoy and understand Dark Age and medieval literature, this is an excellent place to start.
Tolkien's "The Monsters and the Critics" was a speech he gave when he received one of his academic chairs. The speech single highhandedly revived the discipline of Anglo Saxon studies from a dying thing to something we are still studying.
This speech presents one of the few times the author used allegory.
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Studi Tolkieniani: Il medioevo e il fantastico 10 25 Dec 27, 2012 06:43AM  
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  • The History of the Hobbit, Part Two: Return to Bag-End
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  • The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary
  • Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: The Gift of a Friendship
  • The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (Canto)
  • Understanding The Lord of the Rings: The Best of Tolkien Criticism
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  • The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion
  • Master of Middle-Earth: The Fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien
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  • Anglo-Saxon England (Oxford History of England)
  • The Journeys Of Frodo
  • Tolkien's Ordinary Virtues: Exploring the Spiritual Themes of the Lord of the Rings
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE, was an English writer, poet, WWI veteran (a First Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers, British Army), philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the high fantasy classic works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings .

Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford from 1925 to 1945, and Merton Professor of English langu
More about J.R.R. Tolkien...
The Hobbit (Middle-Earth Universe) The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings, #1) The Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings, #3) The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, #2) The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3)

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“Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.” 9 likes
“the spirit of wickedness in high places is now so powerful and many-headed in its incarnations that there seems nothing more to do than personally refuse to worship any of the hydras' heads.” 7 likes
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