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

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.

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

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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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.

Book Review: Exploring J.R.R.’s Tolkien’s The Hobbit by Corey Olsen

Zy Marquiez
March 17, 2017

The Hobbit has been one of the landmarks in epic fantasy literature for quite some time, and for great reasons.  The Hobbit served to ignite the imagination of the populace at a time where fantasy was nigh non-existent.  How the author managed to do that, through Bilbo’s character, is one of the most interesting parts in the book.  And that’s just the beginning.

Exploring J.R.R.’s Tolkien’s The Hobbit by Corey Olsen Ph.D. is a methodically explored breakdown of The Hobbit which sifts through countless critical details contained within the story and woven seamlessly within.  Olsen shows extreme erudition in mining gems of wisdom from the book, and those very treasures make The Hobbit vastly more enjoyable and meaningful then one would without knowing his insights.

Although some of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books tend to be a bit [or a lot more!] complex, The Hobbit isn’t one of them, which is one of the main reasons why it’s one Tolkien’s most popular ones.  It’s not that the other books within the same Tolkien Universe – the Legendarium – aren’t great, because many are.  It’s just that the latitude and precision with which Tolkien expanded the Universe is so enormous it takes a very focused individual to slog through it all.

That is also why The Hobbit shines in the opposite side of the spectrum.  Because, although, The Hobbit is part of Tolkien’s Universe, it’s self contained and is the platform from which the classic The Lord Of The Rings was launched.  It sure helped that when the book was first ruminated upon, and created, it was done for children.

In any case, some of the notable nuggets of information Olsen sifts through are important recurring themes within the book and also specific ideas that develop along the way.  Instances of these are the idea of ‘luck’ and ‘destiny’ perhaps guiding and assisting Bilbo.

What is more, a rather unique, but much appreciated thing the author does an exemplary job with is how he establishes the inner conflict Bilbo is going through in respect to his family background –  the Took side and The Baggins side.  This helps add another layer of authenticity within the Bilbo himself, and also within the story.

Arguably, what’s most impressive about what Tolkien accomplished in The Hobbit is the fact that Tolkien published the book in an era where fiction wasn’t seen as favorable.  Because of this, Tolkien took a very unique, and yet thought-out approach to how he would pull the readers of the time along gently into this new and profound universe.

Oslen notes this best in the following passage:

“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.”[1]

As if that were not enough, the author goes further, and proceeds on with a fine-toothed comb and breaks down the complexity of many of the songs and their inherent depth and subtle meaning.  This part gave many of the characters a lot more depth given what the author discussed.  If that were all, the book would be great.  But there’s more!

Arguably, my favorite part was how the author goes on to systematically show how Bilbo’s riddle game with Gollum showcases their diametrically opposed extremesNot only are the inner natures of Gollum and Bilbo woven within the riddles that each employ throughout, but how each character chose to retaliate with each riddle also shows a completely separate dimension that couples to their nature.  This is hands down the anchor in the whole book.

Another great part about this book is that although it’s a fantasy book, Bilbo’s story has so many relatable and believable parts that it challenges individuals to ponder not only about the book, but about life itself, and many aspects within it.

Exploring J.R.R.’s Tolkien reminds me of a diary, although it clearly is not. The reason for that is that central to the book are all of the changes that Bilbo goes through, how he grows, and what this means for his life.

Without this book, readers would be hard-pressed to comprehend the sheer scale of how much critical thought was put into the Hobbit and its revision.  Tolkien went above and beyond in creating a Universe that’ll stretch the bounds of imagination for generations to come, and with much daring depth as well.

For those reasons, and more, this is a great book.  Tolkien fans all over should BUY this book.  They will NOT be disappointed.


[1] Corey Olsen, Exploring J.R.R.’s Tolkien’s The Hobbit, p. 35