One for Tolkien fans, but one that will also be cherished by many others.
The market is flooded with tributes to J R R Tolkien, the celebrated fantasy author of Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion and more. His stories have been republished numerous times, and adapted to stage, radio, film and TV multiple times too. His life and works are the subject of tours, lectures, studies and critical analysis.
The extraordinary industry that has been inspired or born from Tolkien’s legacy now has the addition of John Garth’s beautifully bound and presented critical analysis of Tolkien’s inspirations for Lord of the Rings. Garth is considered an international expert on the life and works of the novelist. He teaches and lectures internationally and has been a prolific writer on the topic, including his award-winning book Tolkien and the Great War.
This new book dives deep into Tolkien’s life and previous research about him to offer photos, maps, illustrations and extensively researched text, including many quotes from the man himself. It is written to be read from cover to cover but can be equally fascinating to pick up and open randomly due to highlight panels scattered throughout the book and the rich tapestry of images and archival photos on offer.
The text is heavy, which will delight Tolkien aficionados, but those on the cusp may find the detail too intense. This is a thick volume of research although Garth’s style of writing makes it easy to read and an absorbing journey in itself. The chapters begin with England to the Shire then sort the research into themes, such as cultural influences and topographical inspirations.
There are a lot of theories about Tolkien’s inspirations and Garth addresses many of these while offering his own well-informed ideas. He takes into consideration Tolkien’s own confession: “If you really want to know what Middle-earth is based on, it’s my wonder and delight in the earth as it is, particularly the natural earth”, along with examples of how this is demonstrated, such as characters discovering small havens of rest scattered throughout the countryside, just as is found throughout England. He talks of similarities between the names of real-life and Middle-earth Inns and other connections.
The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien: The Places that Inspired Middle-earth could almost be a collector’s item. It looks good, offers detailed research, and presents a vast library of maps and imagary. This is one for Tolkien fans, but one that will also be cherished by many others.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Distributed by: Murdoch Books
Released: August 2020
RRP: $45 hardcover