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The Real Middle Earth: Exploring the Magic and Mystery of the Middle Ages, J.R.R. Tolkien, and "The Lord of the Rings"
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The Real Middle Earth: Exploring the Magic and Mystery of the Middle Ages, J.R.R. Tolkien, and "The Lord of the Rings"

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  465 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
J.R.R. Tolkien claimed that he based the land of Middle Earth on a real place. The Real Middle Earth brings alive, for the first time, the very real civilization in which those who lived had a vision of life animated by beings beyond the material world. Magic was real to them and they believed their universe was held together by an interlaced web of golden threads visible ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 29th 2004 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 2002)
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Jan-Maat
I was given this book as a present and was happy to get rid of it.

The author makes some big assumptions that are never proven for example that the religious world of the Norse was the same as that of the pagan Anglo-Saxons despite six hundred years difference and God alone knows how much influence from surrounding cultures, or that the images on the Gundestrup cauldron can be used as evidence of the beliefs of ancient Britain, which if was actually made in ancient Thrace would be beyond remarkab
...more
Tim Pendry
Brian Bates is not a historian but a fairly senior academic psychologist who has specialised in 'deep imagination' and 'shamanic consciousness'.

This makes this an oddity of a book because his undoubted knowledge of the limited amount of material that survives about Middle Earth cultures and consciousness (largely Anglo-Saxon for Bates but also Viking and Celtic) is reviewed through the lens of a broader interest in the instinctive and (he believes) natural modes of consciousness for indigenous
...more
Sienna
Jan 25, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Ugh. With each section I grew increasingly annoyed: by the hand-holding, the repetition, the sloppy writing and editing, and most of all by Bates's insistence on establishing a dichotomy in which the Christian baddies (those haters!) sucked all of the magic from the 'real Middle Earth'. A surprising reaction from a non-Christian, perhaps, but I'd like to think even — especially? — those sympathetic to popular magic through the ages can observe the march of history without vilifying those who dis ...more
Cwn_annwn_13
First of all this book talks relativly little about Tolkien or any of his books. What it does is try to capture the "magic" of the places and time periods that Tolkien drew inspiration from for his work, namely post Roman to pre Norman Great Britain, and to a slightly lesser extent Scandinavian and Icelandic society and culture from the same time periods using historical sources, so called "myth", namely the pagan beliefs of the Celts, Norse and Anglo-Saxons and other assorted folk beliefs and t ...more
Michael
Despite the book's flaws as historical and folkloric analysis and, tragically, as a review of Tolkien's sources for his legendarium, I really enjoyed this book, hence it gets four stars.

I've shelved it as non-fiction, which I think is the author's intention, but it could perhaps be considered more of a Batesian legendarium of a more historically grounded, though fantastical and mythological, imaginary world. Perhaps an attempt to produce a coherent neo-pagan mythology (though I'm not really know
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The Antiquary
Dec 03, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People new to Anglo-Saxon history
Shelves: history, myths
An excellent idea - and the frequently conversational style is as clear as a bell. Unfortunately what spoils it for me is that when this style dominates the author too often is just belabouring the obvious. For example, I can do without being told in a whole paragraph simply that today we take clean water for granted. And the author's presentation of the Dark Age world-view feels very alien, with comments that betray little instinctual understanding. Still, fairly informative once you get past t ...more
Rebecca
Apr 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Dark Age mythology
Recommended to Rebecca by: A History teacher at work
An incredibly detailed, inspiring, imaginative and eye opening insight not only into the every day lives of people growing and living through the so called Dark Ages but also why they believed what they did, how they practiced it, how it related them to the wider world or their local surroundings. Full of facts and snippets from ancient manuscripts covering ancient Germanic Tribes, Anglo-Saxon, Norse, Celtic and many other cultural beliefs.
I enjoyed it so much, it really was a pleasure to read a
...more
James Hockey
I started to read this book with high hopes that it would fill in many gaps for me in relation to an area of the Dark Ages about which I know little.

I was disappointed. There are some references to ancient sites but little hard fact from their archeology. There is much speculation drawn from far eastern Shamanism. Some of the 'evidence' for beliefs and practices is drawn from the books of Lord of the Rings which as far as I'm aware, having read them more times than I care to remember, are novels
...more
Anna
Jun 18, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
lousy scholarship and full of pseudo psychobabble about the Anglo Saxons. Do not recommend AT ALL. I didn't even bother finishing this one.
Ekho
Feb 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some clashing info on characters in norse myths. Unsure of inaccuracies. The rest is lovely.
Sarahpeacock
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting exploration of the magic and mythology of the 'dark ages'. Some parts were a bit dry and lacked depth but there were equally powerful and thought provoking sections on such topics as what woodland and trees meant to the Anglo-Saxons, Dragons and hoards, the Norns / Wyrd. Bates isn't an Archaeologist or Historian- his background is psychology. However, I don't think this is an issue - it provided a fresh perspective on Anglo- Saxon society and myth.
Steve Cran
Nov 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Middle Earth was a real place or should I say time and place. Most readers have head the term before as the mythical setting for the Lord Of the Rings and the Hobbit and assume it was a fiction that existed in J.R.Tolkien’s mind. Tolkien often admitted that his sources of inspiration came from different mythologies. One of his main sources was Norse Mythology.

The Middle Earth occupied Northern Europe and parts of England. It was a time and place occupied by Vikings ,Norse Tribe s and Celtic
...more
Lucinda
Jun 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: j-r-r-tolkien
JRR Tolkien’s creation of Middle-Earth is a cacophony of fiery Dragons swooping across the skies, monsters haunting the marshes, Elves firing poisoned arrows, Wizards casting healing spells and omens foretelling stories of the Kings of old. All that now remains are the remnants left in folk memory, fairytales and myths and legends, with our belief that has all but disappeared. This book is a study of the Dark Age containing historical and archeological knowledge, which ultimately reconstructs be ...more
Kari
Jul 09, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really great exploration of the spiritual beliefs of the Anglo-Saxon and Norse cultures. Commonly known as the 'Dark Ages', Bates renames it as the 'Real Middle-earth' as it was the period that inspired the works of author J. R. R. Tolkien. It was interesting to learn the sources and mythology that Tolkien, and other authors since, have drawn on to create their fantasy worlds. Bates attempts to show that some of these ideas were not merely invention but based on beliefs and ideas that ...more
Pete daPixie
Well done Professor Bates! I would never have thought that I could enjoy reading a book concerning the 'magic and mystery' of the Dark Ages. Not just that, but a book that brings the fiction of a certain Mr.Tolkien's Middle Earth, into sharp focus with Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and Norse life forces.
'The Real Middle Earth' transports the reader back in time, to a pre-Christian enchanted landscape of ancient woodland, sleeping dragons, wizards, witches, wicca, elves (sadly no pixies) and shamanic pract
...more
John
Oct 15, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I found this entertaining and informative. I approached it interested in Anglo-Saxon mythology and that's what I got. If I wanted insight into Tolkein's work I would have been disappointed. The connections seem forced and more about justifying the title than anything. The writing is meh and he tends to rehash the same things over and over. I also found myself taking a lot of this with a grain of salt as so much seemed like speculation. Well informed speculation but it was hard to tell where arch ...more
Daniel
May 06, 2010 rated it liked it
The jumping-off point for this book is an exploration of how J.R.R. Tolkien borrowed from or adapted the mythology of Middle Earth from real-life historical Anglo-Saxon beliefs and practices. Though he does reference Tolkien throughout the book, the bulk of the time Bates spends talking about the Anglo-Saxons, their culture, religion, and magical practices. I would have liked more specific comparisons to Tolkien's work, but this was an interesting read nonetheless, and I suspect such an analysis ...more
Susannah
Oct 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in small bits but it's actually a fairly quick read. Brian Bates weaves together psychology, archaeology, myth and literature to create a compelling vision of the Anglo-Saxon mindset. The references to Tolkien's Middle Earth seemed like an afterthought in many places; occasionally it felt like an editor was gently prodding the author to conform to a marketing agenda. That said, the parallels are genuine and the scholarship of this book is considerable. The section on the deeper ...more
Emma
Jun 08, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, reference
This had the potential to be a really good book, but was marred by the tenuous and unnecessary links to Tolkien, made worse by Bates' lack of even a basic knowledge of the text of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (I'm judging this by his repeated errors and misunderstandings of Tolkien's work).

I would also have appreciated some proper referencing. I understand that this is meant to have popular appeal but I would have appreciated knowing what was academic argument and what was pure invention
...more
Christina
I have never been a true Tolkien head. Made it through LOTR and appreciate the story and thoughts behind Tolkien's universe. I really enjoyed "The Real Middle Earth", though. The book focuses on the area around the North Atlantic (the British Isles, the low lands, Denmark, Norway, etc.) and the culture they shared from AD 0 to 1000. As the Mediterranean unitied the peoples of southern Europe and North Africa, these areas shared a common mythology and culture to a large extent. It was in this wor ...more
Diggle30
Jan 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. To me it gives a fascinating insight into a time in history that we know so little about. I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in the period or those interested in the mystical and magical aspects of life long forgotten by most. I found this to be an inspiring read. The only negative I have to say is that there is a fair amount of repetition.
Julia
Apr 04, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: informative
I read this book for a history class I took. It was actually very interesting. It talked all about where so many of the Western culture's myths come from like giants, dragons and beliefs in witches and things like that. Last Halloween I was remembering this book because so much of that holiday is based in the things people believed during the middle ages in England.
James M. Madsen, M.D.
An excellent and highly readable of Norse and Anglo-Saxon mythology and practices in the Dark Ages. The focus is not on Tolkien's Middle-earth (which Bates misspells in the title) but rather on the rich background of the cultures from which Tolkien drew his inspiration.
Sarah Naughton
Feb 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is probably a great book. I was reading it for research purposes and got too bogged down in the end.
Tonton13
Sep 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lotr


"An excellent and highly readable of Norse and Anglo-Saxon mythology and practices in the Dark Ages. The focus is not on Tolkien's Middle-earth (which Bates misspells in the title) but rather on the rich background of the cultures from which Tolkien drew his inspiration."
Trunatrschild
Nov 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How can you not like Brian Bates? Though I did like "Way of Wyrd" better, and I wish he'd left out The Lord Of The Rings... for some reason, he seemed to be reaching with it and The Real Middle EArth would have been just as good without it.
Stacy
Apr 22, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Probably very interesting for Tolkien fans who know nothing about England in the Dark Ages; I found it meandering and lacking in significant insight.
Shiloh
A bit less scholarly than I expected, but that's my fault, not Bates'. A beautifully-written examination of the cultures, peoples, and mythologies which went into Tolkien's Middle Earth.
Joelius
Nov 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Marvelous march into not only the historic origins of Middle-Earth but also the vivid worldview of dark age Western Europeans.
India Nunan
Oct 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting, engaging first book on the dark ages, cleverly and consistently linked with famous works of fantasy such as the works of Tolkein.
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