Friday, June 21, 2013

A Hobbit Journey

A Hobbit Journey

Discovering the Enchantment of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth

By Matthew Dickerson

Published by Brazos Press, September 2012

The Hobbit has had a profound influence on modern life and continues to be a bestseller in its original book form, adaptations and latterly in film form. This is a book for a real Tolkien fan, not so much for a casual reader, as it is an in-depth study of the main themes - and brings into the discussion many elements and topic areas  - both of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Silmarillion.

It manages to tie in historical themes, the era in which Tolkien wrote and contemporary viewpoints in a seamless narrative and provides some truly fascinating discussion about the treatment of prisoners in Middle Earth and in our own times post 9/11 and the ethical issues, morality and indeed the spiritual nature of warfare.

Tolkien's own experience in the First World War colours his opinions and depictions of battles in Middle-Earth; he often describes them as terrible and victory is not held to be glorious  but full of sadness and death instead. Chieftains, leaders and kings in the story are renowned for their prowess in battle, but it is the moral high ground which is portrayed as glorious. The aftermath of war and conflict leaves physical, mental and spiritual wounds which all need healing as well as physical damage and disruption to homes and communities.

The nature of wisdom and its acquisition from bitter experience, the mixed blessing of great power and the significance and meaning of the One Ring as well as the nature of stewardship of lands and peoples leads on to an examination of  the concepts of freedom, choices and compulsion as well as salvation and social justice in Tolkien's works.

A hugely important book in the Tolkien field, this is a  complex and satisfying volume which will repay slow and careful reading  with frequent reference back to the original texts .  I have not yet read all of the Silmarillion so some of the finer points of the argument have undoubtedly escaped me and an in-depth study of the Tolkien canon is high on my to-read list!

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