“J.R.R. Tolkien never set out to become a pop icon. He did want to create a mythology for England but somewhere along the way he changed his mind and decided to just tell stories. And what incredible stories he could tell. Tolkien’s vivid descriptions of the people and societies in his imaginary worlds imply something more than just a fairy tale. They strike the reader as being real history.
“In thousands of discussions on the Internet, Tolkien fans have pondered the deeper mysteries of Middle-earth alongside the fiery topics most often debated. Michael Martinez, one of the Internet’s most renowned Tolkien researchers, brings together a collection of essays written for various Web sites which attempt to answer many of the endless questions fans have.
“Tolkien scholarship can be as dry and long-winded as any other research topic, or it can be diluted with fanciful elaborations and contrivances. Companies around the world have consulted Martinez on Tolkien’s world, and his expertise is widely regarded as among the best in the world. Visualizing Middle-earth represents some of Martinez’ best research and speculations on how Middle-earth may have looked to Tolkien, how it could look for a modern reader seeking the finest details, and how he thinks it should or should not look when visually represented, as in a movie.
“No subject is too sacred for Martinez. He addresses the commercialization of Middle-earth, talks freely about what fans can or should expect from movies based on Tolkien’s works, and delves into the economic life of Bree, the little town at the crossroads of Eriador. Where did Aragorn’s people live? What holidays do hobbits observe? How does magic work in Middle-earth? Do Balrogs have wings? Do Balrogs fly?
“Although only J.R.R. Tolkien’s words can speak for the author, Martinez wrangles with some of the most controversial issues in Tolkien arcana. “Tolkien’s Middle-earth doesn’t look like Medieval Europe” challenges the assumptions many readers make about how Middle-earth should actually look. “How did Tolkien actually portray the Rohirrim?” continues the discussion, focusing on one of the most often used examples of a so-called medieval people in The Lord of the Rings.
“Them Dwarves, Them Dwarves” and “Them Dwarves, Them Dwarves, Part II” examine the history and culture of the Dwarves, to which references are scattered throughout Tolkien’s works. Few commentators have ever attempted to bring together as many facts about one of the more important races of Middle-earth, as the author seems to have said so little about them.
“The final essay in the book, “Understanding Magic in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth”, dispels many of the myths and incomplete notions of how magic worked while leaving room for continued discussion. The subject is treated carefully without reference to external magical systems which might color the reader’s perceptions. The work provides a foundation for examination of the concepts that have intrigued millions of Tolkien fans throughout the world by tracing the evolution of “magic” in Middle-earth from the Ainulindale, the music the Ainur, through the clothing and devices used by Elves in The Lord of the Rings.
“Are these magic cloaks?” Pippin asks the Elves of Lorien. “They are Elvish robes,” he is told. “Leaf and branch, water and stone: they have the hue and beauty of all these things under the twilight of Lorien that we love; for we put the thought of all that we love into all that we make.” Like the Elves, Martinez has put the thought of all that he loves in Middle-earth into these essays. And the magic is still there for all hobbits at heart. “
About the author
Michael Martinez has been actively discussing the works of J.R.R. Tolkien with other fans through online services and the Internet since 1993. He has studied Tolkien’s world intensively since first reading The Lord of the Rings in 1975. As an active member of fandom, Martinez organized and directs the first fan programming track dedicated to J.R.R. Tolkien and Middle-earth at Dragoncon, which is North America’s largest fan-run science fiction and fantasy convention.
Martinez also writes a weekly column on Tolkien and Middle-earth for Suite101.Com, and has advised several companies about the works of Tolkien, especially concerning Middle-earth.
The author also established the longest-running continuously updated Tolkien movie news information site, the Lord of the Rings movie / Hobbit movie Fact/Rumor Roundup in February 1998, and the highly regarded directory of select Tolkien Web sites, Talk About J.R.R. Tolkien and Middle-earth: A guide to Tolkien Discusison on the Web.