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Tom Shippey
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J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  1,593 ratings  ·  88 reviews
Recent polls have consistently declared that J.R.R. Tolkien is "the most influential author of the century," and The Lord of the Rings is "the book of the century." In support of these claims, the prominent medievalist and scholar of fantasy Professor Tom Shippey now presents us with a fascinating companion to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, focusing in particular on The Hobb ...more
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Published September 1st 2002 by Turtleback Books (first published 2000)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Rachel Brown
Fantastic analysis of how Tolkien constructed the language, world, and characters of Lord of the Rings, with particular attention to word origins and connotations. Easy to read and fascinating.

Excerpt:

Tolkien also thought - and this takes us back to the roots of his invention - that philology could take you back even beyond the ancient texts it studied. He believed that it was possible sometimes to feel one's way back from words as they survived in later periods to concepts which had long since
...more
Jkimballcook Cook
Well worth reading. Any fan of LOTR or the Hobbit will likely enjoy it. Shippey's unravelling of the distinct speech patterns and linguistic elements in the council of Elrond is fascinating and illustrates how much thought Tolkien put into what are the largely unseen (or unnoticed) details of his epic in order to make it as authentic as possible. Shippey's treatment of the mythic images of the eternal stars seen through the tree-tangled canopy of middle earth is interesting as well. His answers ...more
Martine
Dec 13, 2007 Martine rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tolkien fans and haters
Tom Shippey is a Professor of Philology at Oxford, specialising in Old English and Old Norse. So he was well placed to explain what made J.R.R. Tolkien, himself a Professor of Philology at Oxford, tick. By analysing the texts Tolkien himself read and translated, Shippey introduces the reader to Tolkien's literary and linguistic sources of inspiration, many of which can be traced in The Lord of the Rings and other Tolkien works. Other chapters focus on historical, political, ethical and religiou ...more
Michael
A lot of interesting stuff going on in here, and this book made it clearer to me just how complex Tolkien's vision of Middle Earth was. For any fan of LOTR, this is a good read.

That said, the title is silly. What the shit does it mean to be "author of the century"? I was left unconvinced after finishing the book. Tolkien has made a contribution that created its own GENRE, and there's definitely something to be said for that. And the books have stood the test of time pretty well, say what you ma
...more
Timothy Stone
In Tom Shippey’s book, *J. R. R. Tolkien, Author of the Century*, the professor examines the works of Tolkien, and the reasons for the positive and negative reactions from fans and academics to the works.

A thing needs to be said about the title used. In the book, which was written in 2002, the author examines the disconnect between the popular perceptions of Tolkien and his work to the perceptions on the part of Academia to Tolkien and his work. In several polls over the years, Tolkien has come
...more
Julie Davis
This book is finished only in that I went through and read the parts of interest to me, such as Shippey's commentary about Tolkien's representations of evil in the book, etc. I read some of everything but wound up skimming parts because it would delve into scholarly levels that were beyond my interest. An excellent book, but a bit deeper than I wanted ... for the moment anyway.
Steve
A very useful background to Tolkien and TLoTR.
Shippey has the background in Anglo-Saxon and Middle English, so there are many great insights. Summary: LoTR grew out of Tolkien's assimiliation of Anglo-Saxon, and Norse literture and language.
Kevin de Ataíde
An interesting, scholastic biography, not of Tolkien but of his greatest works, notably the Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion. It portrays with great care his estimation of tradition and story-telling in society and how an important element of that, moral narrative and allegory, has either completely vanished from his own English society or has been diminished and belittled into childrens' stories. The great vindication of this linguistic theories and his life-long attempt to pr ...more
Beth

The title of this book is not as overblown as it sounds; Shippey is making the case for Tolkien as "an author of the century, the twentieth century, responding to the issues and the anxieties of that century." He puts Tolkien in a group of influential "traumatized authors" who tended to write fantasy and fable because they were convinced that this was the only way to address their experiences. Shippey also discusses Tolkien's ancient sources. I'm familiar with a few of them (Beowulf, some other
...more
Phillip
This book gave me a much better appreciation for the Lord of the Rings. While the majority of the book focuses on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Shippey does give attention to Tolkien's lesser known works as well, including the extensive mythology he created for Middle Earth. Tolkien has been voted as the best author of the 20th century many times. Shippey's analysis of his works show how justified that title is.

Tolkien is a master of language. He probably understood English and its roots
...more
Adam Ross
This is an absolute masterwork of Tolkien criticism. It is rare I walk away with the feeling and desire to read a non-fiction book over again. He carefully examines all of Tolkien's works, beginning with the Hobbit, moving to three chapters on LOTR, another chapter on The Silmarillion, and finishes the main body of the book with an examination of Tolkien's minor works like Farmer Giles of Ham and others. Though his readings of these last are a bit too autobiographical and allegorical in nature ( ...more
Ryan Patrick
I have been reading a fair bit of fantasy and science fiction lately, something that I have generally avoided for many years. It's not that "speculative fiction" is not interesting to me, but rather that I question its quality and such a use of my time. The books that I have been reading have been helping me to think about the nature of "literature." I'm not trained in literary criticism at all, so I really struggle to differentiate real literature - what I consider to be things worth reading be ...more
Jason
This book functions as a key to helping the reader understand Tolkien's purposes and meanings in his major writings.

This complex and yet highly readable literary criticism and commentary of J R R Tolkien's major works, and examination of his influences, should be the begin many discussions that engage the reader deeper and deeper into the complexities of Tolkien's works.

Professor Shippey had the privilege of teaching from Tolkien's syllabus at Oxford and brings to this work the rare perspective
...more
Justin
Tom Shippey believes J.R.R. Tolkien is the author of the century and does not care who knows it. After laying out the case against—the opinions of literati and the intellectual elite, many of whom obviously never read Tolkien—Shippey moves on to the case for—facts regarding The Lord of the Rings sales figures and its dominance of pretty much any reader survey.

Written by one of Tolkien’s academic successors, Author of the Century is not a biography of J.R.R. Tolkien. Rather, it takes a critical l
...more
Cynamonka
To jedna z tych pozycji, które czytelnik, interesujący się tematem, pochłania z bolesną świadomością, że książka kiedyś się skończy, mimo że pragniemy, by nigdy tak się nie stało.

Kiedy zaczynałam tę książkę, spodziewałam się, że dostanę kolejną przegadaną pozycję, jakich wiele już napisano o Tolkienie i jego pisarstwie. A tymczasem dostałam przegenialną, wyczerpującą i naprawdę ciekawie napisaną interpretację dzieł tego pisarza. Wskazującą na powiązania ze staroangielskimi i staronordyckimi poe
...more
Kirsten
Aug 10, 2010 Kirsten rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Super-duper Tolkien nerds
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Anton
This book is not meant as an introduction into Tolkien’s work but as an introduction into the serious interpretation of Tolkien’s work for those already familiar with it. Shippey is to be greatly admired for standing up for Tolkien in the face of cheap elitism. The book contains brilliant reconstructions of Tolkien’s philological attitude in creating his stories and excellent discussions on the role of Hobbits and anachronism in his mythology, the narrative interlacings in The Lord of the Rings, ...more
Mary Catelli
In which he takes another look at Tolkien's writings. With surprisingly little overlap with The Road to Middle Earth.

The Edwardian middle-class nature of hobbits. Why Tolkien invented the plural "dwarves." The confusions of the Council at Rivendell, which could have moved along much more briskly if Elrond had acted like a proper chairman, but in its form, contained many levels of language. The interlacing of the plot elements in The Lord of the Rings, handled much more competently than those in
...more
Margaret
This is a marvelous examination and celebration of the works of the man who has often been declared the most influential author of the century. Shippey seeks to support this claim by exploring Tolkien's writings in detail, from The Hobbit book: The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, to the lesser-known works like Farmer Giles of Ham and Smith of Wootton Major.

Shippey is himself a scholar in the same area as Tolkien, and this gives him a deep familiarity with the works and languages inspir
...more
Sherwood Smith
I really appreciate Shippey's view of Tolkien. Of all the biographies of JRRT I resonate best with Shippey's. He's also intelligent on the writing itself, without slipping into Moorcockian sneer or hagiography.

It's more of an exploratory essay. He discusses what Tolkien's definition of philologist was: not just the quantifier of old words (to paraphrase) but those words within their literary context. Yes, it makes sense, and of course you see this attitude in everything Tolkien did: he loved for
...more
Jackmccullough
I didn't quite know what to expect here, but I was thinking more of a biography, which this isn't.

If you don't know Tolkien's work pretty well you won't get much from this, unless you're reading Tolkien right along with Shippey. This is a scholarly and analytic exploration of Tolkien, and pretty much all of Tolkien. Shippey talks a little about where the books came from, and a lot about where some of the ideas in the books came from, and an exploration of how Tolkien's studies in historical ling
...more
Jacob Aitken
This book was extremely helpful, aside from a few dry moments. Despite all of the criticisms of Tolkien, the critics can't really explain why his books remain and are re-read while the avant-garde stuff definitionally sucks after a year.



Pros:

1) Excellent discussion of the Christian doctrine(s!) of evil.

2) Fun to watch the language games (though this gets old after a while .

3) The discussion on the "war horn" was stirring (pun intended).



Cons:

1) Some sections (like the first 50 pages) were dry.
...more
Tifany
This is a great book both for Tolkien fans, and fans of science fiction and fantasy in general, as a nice portion of it is devoted to the ghettoization of genre fiction in critical venues. The title refers to a poll in the UK of significant authors of the twentieth century in which Tolkien came out as the top runner, flabbergasting the academy. The larger portion of the book is devoted to exploring Tolkien's use of philology to reconstruct a missing mythology of England (as opposed to Norse or C ...more
Kathy
Tom Shippey is a Professor of Philology at Oxford. In fact, he holds the same professorship that Tolkien himself held. His analysis of the philological and linguistic inspiration for Tolkien's work is engaging and accessible. His argument for Tolkien's place among the authors of the century is convincing and sometimes subversive. I particularly enjoyed his comparison between Tolkien and Joyce, and I liked Shippey's common sense notion that the animus (or former animus) against Tolkien among the ...more
Summer Brennan
Slightly silly title, fantastic literary analysis of Tolkein. Maybe one of the nerdiest books I've read, but the prose was great and it was very moving. Highly recommend for anyone who enjoyed Tolkein.
Joshua
As a philologist, medievalist, and friend of fantasy, Shippey provides an exegesis of Tolkien's works, person, and contributions that is at once learned and sympathetic. A must-read for fans of Tolkien.
Nathan
I have been a long time fan of Tolkien, having read and reread his works several times. Having a background in English literature and Linguistics I also felt that I have been able to appreciate Tolkien's writing perhaps better than the average reader. But I must admit that Shippey's examination of Tolkien has left me humbled and amazed. Shippey shows us that there is so much to appreciate about Tolkien's writing that most of us only ever scratch the surface. His insight into the professor's life ...more
Robert Kennington
Tolkien does not get much respect from the literati, but this book makes a pretty good case that the Lord of the Rings is underappreciated as literature. It delves into Tolkien's work on languages, and how that affected his writing process, and his development of the elvish languages within the book. If you are a LOTR fan, this is essential reading, but even if you are not, it will at least help you appreciate the complexity of what Tolkien accomplished.
Kevin Hanks
Feb 28, 2008 Kevin Hanks rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kevin by: Craig Hanks
This is my first ever attempt at an entire book of literary critisism. While it was rather thick, and took awhile to get through, I very much enjoyed reading it. The book is pretty much the author's arguments as to why JRR Tolkien should be considered as the best author of the 20th century. I have to admit, he makes a very strong and convincing argument. Reading this makes me appreciate the Lord of the Rings story even more!
Carol
This book really appealed to the nerd in me, digging deep into Tolkien's inspiration, study of Old and Middle English, and the hundreds of texts and stories that influenced LOTR. The author kind of got annoying after awhile though with his near-fanatical praise of Tolkien, constantly talking about how Tolkien's critics and other ordinary-folk like you and me just can't possibly understand Tolkien's genius. Okay, I get it, Tolkien was a literary genius. No one can dispute that. But the author's c ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: ISBN 0261104012 3 22 Nov 10, 2012 07:08PM  
  • Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien's World
  • Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth
  • The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The History of the Hobbit, Part Two: Return to Bag-End
  • The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Their Friends
  • Tolkien and C. S. Lewis: The Gift of a Friendship
  • The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary
  • The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion
  • Master of Middle-Earth: The Fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Understanding The Lord of the Rings: The Best of Tolkien Criticism
  • Tolkien: Man and Myth, a Literary Life
  • Tolkien's Ordinary Virtues : Exploring the Spiritual Themes of the Lord of the Rings
  • Following Gandalf: Epic Battles and Moral Victory in The Lord of the Rings
  • The Journeys Of Frodo
  • A Gateway to Sindarin: A Grammar of an Elvish Language from JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings
  • J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-Earth
  • The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community
The Road to Middle-Earth: How J.R.R. Tolkien Created A New Mythology The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories Roots and Branches The Shadow-Walkers: Jacob Grimm's Mythology of the Monstrous (Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies (Series), V. 291.)

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“Why could Tolkien not be more like Sir Thomas Malory, asked [Edwin] Muir, in the third Observer review of those cited above, and give us heroes and heroines like Lancelot and Guinevere, who ' knew temptation, were sometimes unfaithful to their vows,' were engagingly marked by adulterous passion? But T.H. White had already considered that paradigm, was indeed rewriting it at the same time as Tolkien in The Once and Future King; and he had seen the core of Malory's work not in romantic vice but in the human urge to murder. In White the poisonous adder that provokes the last disastrous battle is no adder but a harmless grass-snake, and the flash of the sword which brings on the two armies is not natural self-defense but natural blood-lust, creating a continuum from cruelty to animals to world wars and holocausts. Malory has to be rewritten to encompass a new view of evil.” 1 likes
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