Browsing the Compleat Middle-earth Library – Michael Martinez’ J.R.R. Tolkien and Middle-earth

by Jul 26, 2001Other News

“The study of Middle-earth is therefore its own intricate and enveloping discipline. There is a great deal of material concerning Tolkien’s Middle-earth — both derived from Tolkien himself and from commentators — that would require a lifetime to explore and absorb. Christopher documented the process by which his father advanced to the stage of creating Middle-earth, and he documented much but not all of the process of the creation itself. The twelve volumes of The History of Middle-earth easily offer enough material for a full year of study in any literary curriculum.”
The study of J.R.R. Tolkien’s life and works is an ever-expanding field. Here is a road-map for readers new and old to help them navigate their way through the winding paths of Tolkiendom.

Here is an excerpt from Michael’s July 26th Suite101 article:

If you’ve read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit so many times that your books are dog-eared and you can recite all the rhymes, riddles, songs, and poems by heart, and you’re still mystified about where I get all this neat stuff for these essays, well, then you’re ready to take your next step into the world of Tolkien research.

Most everyone who can get through The Silmarillion and say, “That was neat! Let’s have some more!” can probably handle the rest of the Tolkien library in large or small doses, but the books do get a little long-winded thereafter. In fact, for the first five years after Christopher Tolkien started publishing the History of Middle-earth series, whenever I needed to cure a bad case of insomnia, I’d just curl up with The Book of Lost Tales, Part One and in a few minutes I’d be more soundly asleep than an Ent before the Elves got curious about trees.

There is just something about 100 pages of editorial commentary which sucks the wind from the sails of one’s ship of literary adventure. Which is not to say that Christopher Tolkien’s notes about his father’s writing aren’t interesting in their own right. But you pretty much have to be in the right frame of mind to be able to follow all the “and I wrote on page X of book Y that my father’s manuscript D of version 2 was composed after he had sipped wine with his tea” references.

There are several reasons for why anyone may want to look at the other Tolkien books. Like me, you probably want to read more cool stories. And there are indeed some cool stories. But as Christopher hinted in Unfinished Tales, the stories become less and less complete from this point onward, too. In fact, the story-to-commentary ratio degrades radically after Unfinished Tales, but there is a method to Christopher’s meticulous annotation and once you become familiar with the progression, the commentary becomes more helpful and less hindering.

Please click on the link below to read the entire article.


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