Book Review: J.R.R. Tolkien – A Biography by Humphrey Carter | #SmartReads

JRRTolkienBiography
TheBreakaway | BreakawayConciousness
Zy Marquiez
May 4, 2017

With his high fantasy literature, J.R.R. Tolkien has provided the tinder that stokes the imagination of millions.  His books are known around the world, and for great reason.  Having read some of his work myself, thought it prudent to see what events provided him with the impetus to create a whole mythology to boot.

In that sense, J.R.R. Tolkien – A Biography by Humphrey Carter, which was featured in the March Book Haul, provides some illumination into the underlying reasons that drove Tolkien to write what he wrote and create what he did.

The biography is split up into 8 parts, some of which are more interesting than others.  Admittedly, autobiographies can run quite dry many times, but this still did a reasonable job of showing us Tolkien in his most authentic form.

Tolkien’s growth, his early years, his friendship with C.S. Lewis, and even his penchant for countless revisions are all catalogued within the book.  It was particularly interesting to see what a perfectionist Tolkien was.  In a sense, this allowed Tolkien to fine tune his writing process while at the same time expanding his Legendarium.

The Legendarium was created by Tolkien to serve as the fictional mythology about Earth’s remote past, and is composed by The Simarillion, The Hobbit, Lord Of The Rings, The History Of The Middle-Earth and more.  This however, is not discussed in the book.  I only mention it to supply the fervent reader for additional avenues to explore Tolkien’s unbounded work.

My favorite parts of the autobiography were about the creation of his books.  Be that as it may, Tolkien’s skill in poetry, in conjunction with his relentless passion as a philologist to pursue the roots of language and learn everything about it was also highly intriguing.

In fact, regarding his penchant for writing Lord Of The Rings and linguistics, Tolkien had this to say:

“One writes such a story not out of the leaves of trees still to be observed, nor by means of botany and soil-science; but it grows like a seed in the dark out of the leaf-mould of the mind: out of all that has been seen or thought or read, that has long ago been forgotten, descending into the deeps.  No doubt there is much selection, as with a gardener: what one throws on one’s personal compost-heap; and my mould is evidently made largely of linguistic matter.”[1]

In its entirety, the book provides ample latitude of background while still providing enough fascinating components of Tolkien’s life.  Each reader will undoubtedly gain different insights, but regardless, it’s intriguing to note that Tolkien himself was not an avid fan of biographies.

Tolkien believed that biographies wouldn’t provide the truest nature of the person, and perhaps he was right.  Just like movies, which are based on books, provide merely a facsimile of the depth which is entirely superficial of what great books provide, autobiographies will likewise never capture in full breadth and scope the life of an individual.  Still, readers are lucky that Tolkien wrote phenomenal fiction because it allows us to see Tolkien’s soul as it is infused within pages.  And there’s no more authentic biography than a writer’s words.

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Source:
[1] Humphrey Carter,  J.R.R. Tolkien – A Biography, p. 131.

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Suggested Book Reviews and video:

The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien
Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit by Corey Olsen Ph.D.
On The Shoulders Of Hobbits – The Road To Virtue With Tolkien & Lewis by Louis Markos Ph.D.
The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
How To Read J.R.R. Tolkien [Video]
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This article is free and open source. You are encouraged to share this content and have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Zy Marquiez and TheBreakaway.wordpress.com.
___________________________________________________________
About The Author:

Zy Marquiez is an avid book reviewer, researcher, an open-minded skeptic, yogi, humanitarian, and freelance writer who studies and mirrors regularly subjects like Consciousness, Education, Creativity, The Individual, Ancient History & Ancient Civilizations, Forbidden Archaeology, Big Pharma, Alternative Health, Space, Geoengineering, Social Engineering, Propaganda, and much more.

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Book Review: On The Shoulders Of Hobbits by Louis Markos Ph.D.

OnShouldersOfHobbits
TheBreakaway
| BreakawayConciousness
Zy Marquiez
March 24, 2017

On The Shoulders Of Hobbits – The Road To Virtue With Tolkien & Lewis by Louis Markos Ph.D. is a book that seeks to rediscover virtues, as they were known to be in older times.  These virtues are exemplified through the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

Peter Kreeft Ph.D., author of book gems such as Socratic Logic, Philosophy 101, etc. opens up the book with an apt foreword, which is followed by a salient introduction by the author Markos.

In the introduction Louis Markos outlines the fact that society needs a revived awareness regarding lost virtues which were inherent to individuals once upon a time.  The author also covers why fantasy and stories, such as those by Tolkien and Lewis, are vital in showcasing these lost virtues.  Along with that the author also gives us some background information on the subject, as well as what his approach will be in the breakdown of the messages and morals that he later tackles.

Although the book covers both Tolkien and Lewis’ work, a more sizeable portion will be of Tolkien’s work.  In a rough guesstimate, the book is perhaps two thirds Tolkien to one third Lewis or so.  This does in no way take away from the meaning of the book, but it’s something that the reader perhaps might want to know.  At least for me, the book was still plenty valuable.

In addition, the reason the that the author has chosen to cover Tolkien and Lewis’ work is because “though Tolkien was not a fan of The Chronicles of Narnia, the fact remains that the two men shared the same premodern Christian understanding of good and evil, virtue and vice, beauty and ugliness.”[1][15]

Since both authors have such similar philosophies, drawing from each authors’ books is in fact a no brainer.

At the nascent stage of each chapter the author begins with a particular message and/or moral that has been overlooked by modern society, and then that particular theme is then analytically coupled to information from The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, or The Silmarillion, with the information further complemented with a passage from The Chronicles Of Narnia that helps buttress the theme further.

One neat part about each of these chapters, and lessons woven and analyzed therein is that there is a variety of ways one can learn from these given the information provided.  Given that the subjects of these books are so vital to healthy and robust human principles, having intriguing discussions regarding these themes should be something ruminated upon at length.  Families or friends could discuss the information bouncing it back and forth in thought, or it could even be covered in homeschooling or group discussion perhaps.  Heck, it would have been neat/awesome to have had a discussion about something like this in high school or college, instead other subjects that aren’t important to life.

In plain speak, what the author seeks to accomplish is help the individual learn why the works of Tolkien and Lewis are highly respected.

Each of the examples from the books of Lewis and Tolkien are quiet salient ones, and very meaningful.  In fact, some of the examples provided could arguably be some of the sagest lines written by each author, at least for this book’s purposes.

For what it’s worth, the book is split up into three sections.  In section one, the author’s main focus was the proverbial road – the individual journey – that each individually embarks upon which resonates with our deepest being.  Markos does a very remarkable job in showing how the quest that the characters in each of respective novels follows a specific journey, and in much the same way mirrors what individual people might go through in life.  Section two covers four classical virtues, while Section three breaks down three theological virtues, which contain also a fourth, which regard friendship, and was one of my favorite parts of the book.  Those latter stages really exemplify those virtues in the authors’ work in a way that helps the reader realize what society has lost, and how to help reboot the road to virtue.

At its closing stages, the book finishes with a very robust and enlightening Bibliographical Essay [Appendix A] regarding J.R.R. Tolkien and Middle Earth, which features substantial additional information regarding all things Tolkien.  A very notable addition for any serious fan, and will even prove useful for some casual fans that might not know where to start.  As someone who’s beginning to study Tolkien more and more, this part is absolutely invaluable.

The second bibliographical essay [Appendix B] touches upon C.S. Lewis and Narnia.  In similar fashion, the resources covering Lewis are discussed at length, and in rather salient fashion.  Markos does an exemplary job of really going above in beyond with both essays in supplanting a veritable truckload of information for individuals – enough to keep you busy for years surely!

All things considered, this book really gives the incisive and inquisitive mind much to ruminate upon, and for me it’s undoubtedly a great book, and a worthy book to have in any personal library.

In fact, considering the topic at hand – regarding society’s lost virtues – one could even make the bold argument that it’s even a great piece of modern literature.  Regarding that, perhaps Peter Kreeft said it best in the book’s foreword:

“That’s why reading great literature; next to meeting people is the single most effective way to learn not to flunk life.  Life is a story, therefore moral education happens first and foremost powerfully through stories, e.g., through books.”[2]

This book in particular, not only is educational, but helps readers sensibly reconnect with virtues that seem to be going by the way side.  And in an age where society’s values keep getting overlooked, a book like this is worth its weight in gold.  That alone is worth the price of this book.

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Footnotes:

[1] Louis Markos Ph.D., On The Shoulders Of Hobbits – The Road To Virtue With Tolkien & Lewis, p. 15.
[2] Ibid., Peter Kreeft, Foreword, On The Shoulders Of Hobbits, p. 8.
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Suggested Book Reviews and video:

The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien
Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit by Corey Olsen Ph.D.
The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
How To Read J.R.R. Tolkien
______________________________________________________________
This article is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Zy Marquiez and TheBreakaway.wordpress.com.
______________________________________________________________
About The Author:

Zy Marquiez is an avid book reviewer, researcher, an open-minded skeptic, yogi, humanitarian, and freelance writer who studies regularly subjects like Consciousness, Education, Creativity, The Individual, Ancient History & Ancient Civilizations, Forbidden Archaeology, Big Pharma, Alternative Health, Space, Geoengineering, Social Engineering, Propaganda, and much more.

His own personal blog is BreakawayConsciousnessBlog.wordpress.com where his personal work is shared, while TheBreakaway.wordpress.com serves as a media portal which mirrors vital information usually ignored by mainstream press, but still highly crucial to our individual understanding of various facets of the world.

Book Review: The Hobbit By J.R.R. Tolkien

thehobbitlotr

TheBreakaway
Zy Marquiez
March 2, 2017

“Real books disgust the totalitarian mind because they generate uncontrollable mental growth – and it cannot be monitored.”
John Taylor Gatto, A Different Kind Of Teacher, p. 82.

“Books are not made to be believed, but to be subjected to inquiry.  When we consider a book, we musn’t ask ourselves what it says but what it means.”
– Umberto Eco, The Name Of The Rose

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit is one of his landmark pieces, which is part of Tolkien’s legendarium.  Tolkien’s legendarium revolves around the world of Arda.

Unknown to many, The Legendarium was created by Tolkien to serve as fictional mythology about the remote past of Earth, in which Middle Earth is the main stage.

The Legendarium is composed by phenomenal fiction such as The Lord of the Rings and also The Hobbit, as previously mentioned.  But also, the Legendarium features works such as The Silmarillion, The History of the Middle-Earth, The History Of The Hobbit, and more.

Undoubtedly one of the most significant books in the 20th Century, The Hobbit takes us through the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, whose life early on echoes predictability, comfort and simplicity.

However, after an unexpected party, Bilbo’s life changes most auspiciously.  After repeatedly stating he was not interested in being privy to an adventure, Bilbo was tricked into going by his guests, the dwarves, appealing to Bilbo’s more adventurous side – his Tookish side. There in the adventure begins.

On Bilbo’s quest to the Lonely Mountain, he and his companions traverse through Rivendel, the Misty Mountains, the dark forest of Mirkwood and even Lake Town, before anchoring at the Desolation of Smaug for the apex of the story.

On the way, Bilbo and his gang run into all sorts of folks: elves, humans, eagles, wargs, orcs, and even intricate characters such as Beorn and Gollum, all of which serve to make this phenomenal fantasy into one of the most intriguing mental escapes any fictional book has ever accomplished.

Throughout the epic, Bilbo’s journey mirrors that of the readers in the time which Tolkien published the story in 1937.  Just as Bilbo was reticent of going in the journey, being rather conservative, and being comfortable in his rather run-of-the-mill cookie-cutter everyday life, so were the people of the time of Tolkien a bit reserved about venturing on a journey into the realm of epic fantasy.  Mainstream folks weren’t interested in fantasy, and some even felt askance to it.  This was the reason why Tolkien used Bilbo as an analogy for the reader to familiarize itself with this Universe.

In fact, as medieval literature specialist and writer Corey Olsen Ph.D. puts it in his in-depth book, Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit:

“Bilbo’s initial perspective is so narrow, so domesticated, that being made late for dinner apparently counts as very serious hazard.  When Gandalf suggests sending him on an adventure, Bilbo runs into the house in panic.”[1][Emphasis On Original]

That’s how reticent Bilbo was!

These very circumstances, which mirror those of the readers of the time, are best exemplified by the following words:

“Tolkien was very aware of the artistic challenge he faced in writing a work of fantasy, especially since fantasy literature was far from the literary mainstream in the early twentieth century.  He knew that when they encountered his story in The Hobbit, his readers would have to leave their mundane and comfortable world behind and invest their imaginations in a world that contains magic and unexpected marvels.  In chapter One, Tolkien gives us a model for this very process within the story itself.  We begin in our safe and predictable world, and in the first chapter, we find ourselves in a world of wizard and dwarves and dragons.  In this transition, we find ourselves coming alongside a protagonist who is struggling through the exactly the same process, a character who himself internalizes the conflict between the mundane and the marvelous   Our first introduction to this magical, grim, and dangerous world of adventure is also his introduction, and his reluctance and difficulty in adjusting to it give us time to ease past our own discomfort and reservations.  Bilbo Baggins serves as a perfect touchstone for readers, both exploring and embodying the trickier frontier between the predictable and the unexpected.”[2]

And yet, no matter what Bilbo thought on the surface, deep down inside part of his deepest self was quite intrigued with the prospect of an adventure.  This insight is best viewed in the following passage, which takes place right when the dwarves begin an impromptu musical performance at his abode:

“Bilbo “forgot everything else, and was swept away into dark lands under strange moons, far over The Water and very far from his hobbit-hole under The Hill”.  He is transported into the land of the dwarves, and their song even brings him to share for a moment their own perspective and experience.  As they sing, he “felt the love of beautiful things made by hands and by cunning and by magic moving through him, a fierce and jealous love, the desire of the hearts of dwarves.”  For a little while, Bilbo is moved by the music and the poetry of the dwarves, and he steps imaginatively out of his little world and into their story.  At this moment, “something Tookish woke up inside him,” and Bilbo finds that there is a part of him that desires adventure after all.”[3]

Once Bilbo’s imagination is unleashed it was like Pandora ’s Box, and there was no putting it back.

The contrast within Bilbo is best noticed when compared with Gandalf, as each represent two sides of the same coin.

As Olsen elucidates:

“Bilbo’s settled, Baggins life is like prose, plain and businesslike, and the magical world of Gandalf and the dwarves is more like poetry, full of wonder and marvels, but also strange and sorcerous like Gandalf’s smokerings. Bilbo may adhere to the Baggins point of view, but his Tookish heritage does give him a tendency toward that other, adventurous life, a tendency that is lurking beneath the surface when Bilbo meets Gandalf.”[4]

This tendency towards  what’s intriguing and portentous is what helps Bilbo grow throughout the journey as he finds the core of his Tookish side, and uses it to help himself and his newfound friends in this journey.

Intriguingly, as Bilbo grows accustomed to the wondrous and imaginative changes that magic brings about, so did the readers of the time.

The best part of this The Hobbit is that it’s so in depth and profound that there’s much to be had from it.

Truth be told, as Louis Markos Ph.D. notes in his book, On The Shoulders Of Hobbits – The Road To Virtue With Tolkien And Lewis:

“So greatly did The Hobbit delight adults and children hungry for the lost realm of fairy tales that the cried out for a sequel.  In response, Tolkien spent the next decade and a half crafting a far richer and more mature work that would ratchet up its predecessor from a humble fairy tale to a full-scale epic in the tradition of The Iliad, The Odyssey, and Beowulf.”[5]

The Hobbit is truly an upper echelon book.  This book resides within a class of books that belongs in an entirely different realm.  Some of the greatest books of all literature treat life as a journey, and this book is no different.  Moreover, not only that, but the book is so in depth, and offers so many subtle themes, that people for ages will be learning from it.

Touching upon this very subject, Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren speak about these type of books in their own touchstone piece, How To Read A Book – The Classic Guide To Intelligent Reading:

“There is a second class of books from which you can learn – both how to read and how to live.  Less than one out of every hundred books belongs in this class – probably it is more like one in a thousand, or even one in ten thousand.  These are the good books, the ones that were carefully wrought by the authors, the ones that convey to the reader significant insights about subjects of enduring interest to human beings.  There are in all probably no more than a few thousand of such books.”[6]

The Hobbit offers many profound lessons of life.  Through fantasy fiction Tolkien creates a story which is analogous to what each of our own journeys are individually.  And just as life offers us countless lessons from which to learn from, so offers The Hobbit many germane gems of wisdom that are for the taking which are woven throughout the story.

In sum, the best reason to read this book is encapsulated in the following words by Markos:

“All ages at all times need stories, but our needs them so much more…The stories that we need are precisely those that will beckon us to follow their heroes along the Road; that will embody for us the true nature of good and evil, virtue and vice, and then challenge us to engage the struggle between the two…”[7]

And The Hobbit, for those very salient reasons, and more, is just one of those stories.

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Sources:

[1] Corey Olsen Ph.D., Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, p. 21.
[2] Ibid., p. 35.
[3] Ibid., p. 24.
[4] Ibid., p. 23.
[5] Louis Markos Ph.D., On The Shoulders Of Hobbits – The Road To Virtue With Tolkien And Lewis, pp. 13-14.
[6] Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren, How To Read A Book – The Classic Guide To Intelligent Reading, pp. 332-333.
[7]Louis Markos Ph.D., On The Shoulders Of Hobbits – The Road To Virtue With Tolkien And Lewis, p. 187.
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This article is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Zy Marquiez and TheBreakaway.wordpress.com.