A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien

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A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien
A Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien cover.jpg
EditorStuart D. Lee
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
SeriesBlackwell Companions to Literature and Culture
SubjectJ. R. R. Tolkien
PublisherWiley-Blackwell
Publication date
2014
Media typeHardcover
Pages602
ISBN9780470659823
OCLC1204367569

A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien is a 2014 book edited by Stuart D. Lee. It is one of the most prestigious[1] of the reference works dedicated to the field of Tolkien studies.[2]

Reviewers praised the book as a careful work and a valuable guide to the topic area.[3] Andrew Higgins noted the distinguished line-up of scholarly contributors, and called it "joyous indeed" that Tolkien had finally attained acceptance by the literary establishment as measured by having a Blackwell Companion to his name.[1]

Book[edit]

Publication history[edit]

Wiley Blackwell published the Companion in hardback in 2014, and in paperback in 2020.[4]

Content[edit]

The volume begins with a "brief" 12-page chronological table of Tolkien's life and works,[5] and an editorial introduction by Stuart D. Lee.[6] The rest of the book is divided into five main thematic areas: Life, The Academic, The Legendarium, Context and Critical Approaches.[7] The life part is "a brief biography" by John Garth, summarising the diverse elements of Tolkien's life from the youthful T.C.B.S. society and wartime experience to lexicography, Oxford, The Hobbit, and his other writings.[8] The academic part has essays by scholars including Tom Shippey who writes about "Tolkien as editor", looking at a writing career with many false starts.[9] The legendarium part contains contributions by Gergely Nagy, John D. Rateliff, Verlyn Flieger and others on the complex body of stories, many times rewritten, that make up his Middle-earth corpus.[10] The context part includes, among many others, essays by Elizabeth Solopova on Middle English, David Bratman on Tolkien's place among the Inklings, and Dimitra Fimi's look at his impact on fantasy fiction.[11] Finally the extensive critical approaches part examines the varied and sometimes hostile[1] response to Tolkien, and the key elements such as Catholicism, war (by Janet Brennan Croft), the role of women, fantasy artists' responses to Middle-earth, and music in his fiction.[12]

The work is illustrated with a few tables in the text, and in the "Art" essay, nine monochrome reproductions of fantasy artworks by major Tolkien artists such as Alan Lee, John Howe, and Ted Nasmith.[13]

Reception[edit]

Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium has inspired numerous responses from fantasy artists,[13] here Tom Loback's Thingol Fights Boldog.

Jason Fisher, reviewing the book for Mythlore, called it a "sign of the growing maturity of Tolkien studies".[14] He commented that while Lee had felt it necessary to apologise for a literary study of Tolkien, it was time to "shake off this defensive note fifty years on" and ignore "those stodgy keepers of the canon who still dismiss Tolkien".[14] He stated that the book's "careful organization" means less repetition than in most works with many contributors, while its use of established experts "immediately conveys authority and confidence in the quality of the work".[14] He then reviewed each essay, remarking among many other things that Shippey both "gently reproaches the dilatory Tolkien on the one hand and praises his meticulous academic exertion".[14] He praises Nagy for his "thought-provoking conclusions" on The Silmarillion, such as that Tolkien's failure to complete it actually made literal his "conception of his fiction as a philological corpus".[14] He found Rateliff's summary of his own The History of the Hobbit excellent, even if he perhaps over-apologised to "film firsters" for how slowly the book built up to the action.[14] He questions whether many readers would need five chapters on the languages such as Old Norse, Finnish, and "Celtic" [Welsh and Irish] that influenced Tolkien, but welcomed the "extended explorations".[14] He found Bratman's coverage of the Inklings and Tolkien's wider milieu valuable, and likewise Fimi's analysis of Tolkien's legacy among writers, both imitators and those such as Alan Garner, Ursula Le Guin, Philip Pullman, and J. K. Rowling who recognised their debt to him while finding "their own distinct storytelling expression".[14]

Jorge Luis Bueno-Alonso, reviewing A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien for Tolkien Studies, described Lee as "one of the outstanding names of recent Tolkien critical scholarship and co-author of one of the most imaginative books on the relationships between Tolkien's fiction and medieval English literature (Lee & Solopova [2005])".[3] Of the book, he wrote that it brought order to the morass of publications on Tolkien, and noted that it finally brought Tolkien into the canon of Anglo-American studies as it was one of the "prestigious" Blackwell Companion series. He described the challenge of making a brief 25-page overview of Tolkien's life, undertaken by John Garth in the volume, "an enta geweorc", ("a work of giants").[3]

Andrew Higgins, reviewing the book for the Journal of Tolkien Research, welcomed the "eminent line-up" of authors (naming Tom Shippey, Verlyn Flieger, Dimitra Fimi, John D. Rateliff and Gergely Nagy) of the work's 36 articles, and called it "joyous indeed that after many years of polite (and not so polite) disdain and dismissal by establishment 'academics' and the 'cultural intelligentsia'", Tolkien had reached the "academic pantheon" of Blackwell Companions. Higgins applauded Lee for "the overall thematic structuring of this volume, which offers a progressive profile of Tolkien the man, the student and scholar, and the mythopoeist. I found Lee's ordering of these papers most helpful".[1]

Cait Coker, in her review for Extrapolation, wrote that the discipline of Tolkien studies had come of age, from being the "bad boy" of academic inquiry into science fiction and fantasy. In her view, this Blackwell volume "aptly illustrates the singular author's claim on greatness".[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Higgins, Andrew (2015). "A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. Stuart D. Lee, reviewed by Andrew Higgins". Journal of Tolkien Research. 2 (1). Article 2.
  2. ^ Price, Ludovica (1 January 2015). "A Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien". Reference Reviews. 29 (6): 27–28. doi:10.1108/RR-03-2015-0046. ISSN 0950-4125.
  3. ^ a b c Bueno-Alonso, Jorge Luis (2015-12-18). "A Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien ed. by Stuart D. Lee (review)". Tolkien Studies. 12 (1): 177–189. doi:10.1353/tks.2015.0016. ISSN 1547-3163. Retrieved 2021-02-09.
  4. ^ Lee 2020, p. Publication data page.
  5. ^ Lee 2020, pp. xxii–xxxiv.
  6. ^ Lee 2020, pp. 1–4.
  7. ^ Lee 2020, pp. vii–ix.
  8. ^ Lee 2020, pp. 7–24.
  9. ^ Lee 2020, pp. 25–76.
  10. ^ Lee 2020, pp. 77–214.
  11. ^ Lee 2020, pp. 215–366.
  12. ^ Lee 2020, pp. 367–544.
  13. ^ a b Lee 2020, pp. 487–500.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h Fisher, Jason (2016). "A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien". Mythlore. 35 (1 (Fall/Winter)): 191–200 (article 10).
  15. ^ Coker, Cait (2017). "A Comprehensive Overview of Tolkien Studies". Extrapolation. 58 (2/3): 331–333.

Bibliography[edit]