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John Ronald Reuel Tolkien wurde 1892 in Südafrika als Sohn eines Bankangestellten geboren. Nach dem Tod des Vaters zog die Familie 1896 zurück in die englischen West Midlands, wo die Mutter nur wenige Jahre später ihrer Zuckerkrankheit erlag. Bevor Tolkien dann als Leutnant in den Ersten Weltkrieg zog, heiratete er 1916 Edith Bratt, mit der er später drei Söhne und eine Tochter haben sollte. Nach Kriegsende setzte Tolkien seine akademische Laufbahn fort und wurde 1925 Professor für Englische Philologie in Oxford. Aus der für seine Kinder verfassten Geschichte "Der kleine Hobbit" wurde ein Bestseller (1937). Auch die Trilogie "Der Herr der Ringe" (1954-1955) erfreut sich ungebrochener Beliebtheit. Tolkien gilt als Begründer des Fantasygenres. Er verstarb 1973.
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This book was bought when a friend of mine had to write an essay about Tolkien's works.
Apart from insights about the creation of the Elvish languages, references to his own books are scarce, however, and people who are interested solely in 'Middle Earth' will probably be disappointed - or else surprised, as I was, to find that Tolkiens thoughts on (more or less) 'academic' subjects can be just as enchanting as his invented stories.
I started to read the book out of a mild interest in the author, as I have loved the 'Lord of the Rings' and 'The Hobbit' since I read them as a child, and was astonished at how much I enjoyed some of his essays.
This edition contains:
Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics On Translating Beowulf Sir Gawain and the Green Knight On Fairy-Stories English and Welsh A Secret Vice Valedictory Address
As I'm not familiar with Beowulf, I must admit I skipped those essays. I didn't know Sir Gawain and the Green Knight either, but the full text can be found in the web, and after reading the story I enjoyed Tolkiens take on it very much.
'On Fairy-Stories' and 'A Secret Vice' (about his passion for inventing languages) are the essays I enjoyed most. The book is definitely more than worth buying, just for those two. You don't need any special prior knowledge to appreciate them, though 'A Secret Vice' touches on linguistics. Tolkiens style is incomparable. He has the gift of expressing complex thoughts in an endearingly easy, and yet beautiful, way. He lures you (mostly along meandering bypaths :) into the world of one of the most imaginative authors ever, and allows you to catch a glimpse of his fascinating personality.
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The Mind Behind4. April 2002
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The contrast between the elegant prose of LotR and the meandering academic style in these essays is astonishing. It's not hard to realize, after reading this, why Prof. Tolkien had a reputation as a dull lecturer (a reputation he cheerfully confesses to in his valedictory address). But if you can penetrate the prose, these writings are full of gems. This collection will appeal to you if you are any kind of devotee of medieval English literature. Even if Tolkien had never written his great fantasy novels, he'd be revered for his work in Old English, especially as a champion of the poetic reputation of "Beowulf," a poem he almost single-handedly wrested from historians and philologists and set in its proper place at the root of English literature. He also makes an eloquent case for the essential connection between the study of language and that of literature. If you consider yourself a student of great writing, but have only read Anglo-Saxon poetry in someone's "translation," Prof. Tolkien will politely shame you out of complacency. In his valedictory address, speaking as a native of South Africa, he says, "I have the hatred of apartheid in my bones; and most of all I detest the segregation or separation of Language and Literature. I do not care which of them you think White." The book will also appeal to you if you have spent years immersed in the world of Middle Earth. Though there are scarcely any direct references to LotR in these essays, they illuminate the mind behind the masterpiece -- the quirky love of languages, the vision of fantasy as a godly act of creation, the deep Catholic faith. Tolkien couldn't write a grocery shopping list without adding at least two appendices, as these essays prove, and some of the best gems are in the footnotes. His theories on the unconnectedness of drama and literature are also provocative and well-argued. The production on this edition is a bit shoddy: it looks like the fonts were squeezed, there are some typos, and the paper quality is poor.
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Good collection of lectures/articles26. September 2001
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This volume contains several essays/articles by Tolkien, most of which were originally delivered as lectures. The essays included are: "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics", "On Fairy Stories", "English and Welsh", "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight", "On Translating Beowulf", "A Secret Vice" (about imaginary languages), and a Valedictory address given at Oxford upon his retirement. Most of these had been published before, of course. Some, like "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" and "On Fairy Stories" have been republished and reprinted many times, while others, like "English and Welsh" have only appeared a handful of times in obscure locations. Many of these others, however, appear in print here for the first time. Of these essays, the two most interesting are undoubtedly the two that have appeared most often in print-- the first Beowulf essay and "On Fairy Stories". "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics", of course, is the most important article on Beowulf of the 20th century. Incredible as it may now seem, prior to Tolkien, Beowulf had been seen primarily as a curious linguistic-literary artifact, useful as a source of information about the early Germanic past (customs, language, laws, toponymy, etc.). Tolkien was the first critic to draw attention to the poem *as* a poem and to point out that the central literary structure of the tale revolves around the hero's battles with them monsters, which previous critics had dismissed as mere fabulous emendations to a tale whose primary value was historical. "On Fairy Stories", of course, has been much cited by Tolkien fans and scholars as a theoretical model for understanding Tolkien's neo-Romantic approach to fiction (especially fantastic fiction), with its Coleridgean emphasis upon authorship as the subcreation of a "secondary world" within the broader primary world. Personally, I think the merit of this essay is vastly overrated, as is its usefuless as a means of understanding Tolkien's own fiction-- but it's something that Tolkien fans/scholars should probably read, if only because others have spent so much time harping on its importance. Of the remaining essays, the most interesting is probably the previously unpublished lecture on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. This is essentially an analysis of the poem, focussing on the (central) theme of temptation. It should be of interest both to those interested in what is now an old-school reading of the poem and to those interested in how Tolkien himself read and taught the poem. In the course of his explication, he makes some interesting side comments that show he was aware of the myth-and-ritual approach to this poem (which held that it drew upon on ancient rites regarding the annual death and regrowth of vegetation)as well as pointing outing out that the key to the poem's success lies in its having such 'deep roots', rather than simply being an mere moral allegory. This, I think, sheds some additional light on Tolkien's aesthetics and why his fiction ends up having such a 'pagan and mythic' feel to it (in spite of its undeniably Christian values system), quite unlike the rather obvious allegories of his friend, C.S. Lewis. The other essays, although certainly worthy of being put into print, are not necessarily all that insightful. The true Tolkien fan-- and maybe the Tolkien scholar who's really interested in Tolkien's philological work-- may find them of some mild interest. One final point I should make is that this collection, edited by Christopher (naturally), does have a good number of notes about textual history. Since several of these essays were previously published-- and since Tolkien was an endless reviser, slightly different versions of certain passages appear in different published versions. Christopher has, in the footnotes, indicated where such differences exist and provided the alternate versions.
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Green suns & "star-spangled grammar"2. März 2009
John L Murphy
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Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Finding out at the age of twelve from the back covers of "The Lord of the Rings" that there were medievalists and that Tolkien was one, I vowed to study what he did. While unlike "Tollers" my doctorate did not lead me to a donnish tenure on an ivy-draped quad, I always admired the humanity and grace not only of his famed fiction but his patient letters and insistent essays. Re-reading his collected criticism twenty-five years after it first appeared, its engrossing paths through scholarly debates make occasional detours permissible and often worthwhile. As with Tolkien's "Secondary World" of Middle Earth, as a "sub-creator" not only of probably our greatest modern mythology but as a rigorous (if rambling in his donnish digressions) scholar, you find in "Monsters" much evidence that without his deep understanding of language, that he'd never have been able to convince you of the essential reality of his imagined realms.
This knack, as T.A. Shippey, his successor in his position at Oxford, has argued in "The Road to Middle Earth," depends on "asterisk reality," or what JRRT calls here more delightfully "star-spangled grammar." (237) As his son and editor Christopher explains: "the reference is to enquiry into the forms of words before the earliest records; in those studies the conventional practice is to place an asterisk before hypothetical, deduced forms." (n. 3, 240) This may seem dry to non-academics or those lacking a fascination with philology. But for Tolkien and his audience, the invention of sustainable elements of his myth depended on the languages he concocted-- and vice versa.
In his "A Secret Vice" (1931) Tolkien elaborates-- if a bit unevenly in this essay never published-- how assembling "art-language" relates to crafting mythology: "to give your language an individual flavor, it must have woven into it the threads of an individual mythology, individual while working within the scheme of natural human mythopoeia, as your word-form may be individual while working within the hackneyed limits of human, even European, phonetics. The converse indeed is true, your language construction will 'breed' a mythology." (210-11) This is why Tolkien outlasted so many of his predecessors, peers, and imitators. He knows the deep structures of the language and from the combination of creativity and limitation inherent in how what we speak conveys what we conjure, he built Middle-Earth upon this rich foundation, half-excavated, half-hidden.
This trove, as his best-known essays here on "The Monsters & the Critics" and "On Translating Beowulf" show, depended on perceiving that Old English poem as such, more than merely a word-hoard to be ransacked by historians and professors for linguistic traces of Geats and thanes. It pivots on a balance between what its Christian author could reach back from, into the recently-departed pagan past, and forward into, the fatalistic yet salvific quality of heroism infused by morality. The codes of the Saxons meshed with those of their Catholic evangelists, and Tolkien in these early critiques moved the study of the poem away from archeology into poetics.
He did the same for "Sir Gawain & the Green Knight." He corrects earlier scholars who mined the verse only for traces of earlier legends; he reminds us of its inescapably Christian morality, which (as in Beowulf) moves the reader as its maker towards a value system based on belief in the Sacraments rather than one relying only upon a code of honor or "a game with rules" such as his host expects him to play. The tension between an earthly pursuit and a heavenly mandate enters the drama. In Beowulf, the monsters occupy the center, with youth and old age, victory and defeat, on each end for the hero to face. For Gawain, the confession-- in Tolkien's perceptive reading-- turns the narrative away from pagan-pursuing or Pentagram chasing into a decision to follow a more "real and permanent" world of what's worthwhile rather than the frivolous folly of "an unreal and passing" court.
His "Valedictory Address" gently attacks the "the workings of the B.Litt. sausage-machine" at Oxford precisely fifty years ago. I'm glad he was spared what the academy's been turned into now. My dissertation chair had studied under Tolkien around the time this address was given. Tolkien had the reputation of a nearly incomprehensible lecturer, so I am unsure if his auditors learned his lesson!
Tolkien does offer advice for those of us who made it through later expansions of the slaughterhouse that is the Research University today, Oxford or its lesser factories. Perhaps we may find wry if wise counsel as independent scholars and freeway faculty who labor on with few financial or institutional rewards: "There is no need, therefore, to despise, no need even to feel pity for months or years of life sacrificed in some minimal enquiry: say, the study of some uninspired medieval text and its fumbling dialect; or of some miserable 'modern' poetaster and his life (nasty, dreary, and fortunately short)-- NOT IF the sacrifice is voluntary, and IF it is inspired by a genuine curiosity, spontaneous or personally felt." (226-27) The trouble is, then and so much more now, that so many in academia follow the leader into an 'au courant' theory, some adviser's own project, producing but the tired labor dutifully repeated.
To his credit, Tolkien convinced us in his fiction and warned us in his criticism of how language deserved respect, whether we were schooled in the Lit. or the Lang. His lecture on "English & Welsh," delivered the day after publication of "The Return of the King," also encourages us. Language, as "a natural product of our humanity," is native in a profound sense transcending the first one we learned in our cradle. "Linguistically we all wear ready-made clothes, and our native language comes seldom to expression, save perhaps by pulling at the ready-made until it sits a little easier. But though it may be buried, it is never wholly extinguished, and contact with other languages may stir it deeply." (190) Welsh, for Tolkien, did this along with Gothic, Finnish, Latin and Greek-- among others. He concludes with evoking the sheer pleasure of Welsh. Maybe dormant for many "who today live in Lloegr and speak Saesnag," yet there, as with so much he mixed from real languages into his mythological vision's purview, for us to find enchantment and satisfaction.
More than once, Tolkien offers his vision of how words can capture a deeper meaning. "You may say 'green sun' or 'dead life' and set the imagination leaping." (219) The power of the adjective to transform the noun, the freshness of nouns coupled in vivid pairs: the structure of the Old English line finds its echo eleven-hundred years later in Tolkien's inheritance, his conception of a linguistic design that, as "On Fairy-Stories" delves into-- if after many detours and asides and byways-- deepest, liberates us and even provides glimpses of the "eucatastrophe" of the Gospels, the happy ending of the Resurrection Story that men wish so much to be truly true.
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Essential Reading for Tolkienian Linguists9. Juni 2008
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I think most of the other reviews are thoughtful and well-written; like them I would recommend this book largely for those who have a special interest in Tolkien's life and work beyond his fictional world of Middle Earth. This isn't another Hobbit or Lord of the Rings, but a collection of essays written at very different times in the Professor's life, and with correspondingly varied target audiences. To give one example, the essay "On Fairy Stories" appeals to many in that it provides Tolkien's own rationale for how/why fantasy ought to be written, but again this isn't for everyone.
But I would go further than the other reviewers and say that, given the noted disparity in the selection of essays in this volume, coincidence would have it that there is at least one audience for whom this book is quite simply a must-have, as well as another for whom it is either a place to begin or an equally clear "already got it, thanks". It is to these groups that this review is addressed.
For the serious student of Tolkien's invented languages, this volume is quite simply a must-have. The essays "English and Welsh" and "A Secret Vice" contain material of direct relevance to understanding Tolkien's work as an inventor or languages, as well as much primary material of interest to the researcher. These include, in the former essay, an enlightening discussing of Welsh and its influence on Tolkien's Goldogrin/Gnomish ~ Noldorin ~ Sindarin language of the Grey-elves of his legendarium. The latter essay is even more important in that it includes a number of lengthy examples of Qenya, Quenya and Noldorin -- both in the original and in translation -- unpublished elsewhere. Most notable are three seperate versions of the Q(u)enya poem Oilima Markirya (i.e., "The Last Ark"), with Tolkien's own etymological analyses, which trace the development of this poem (and the language(s) in which it was written) over some decades of Tolkien's linguistic invention.
For Beowulf enthusiasts, the two essays "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics" and "On Translating Beowulf" are of course justly famous, very well-known and therefore often reprinted. If you are a serious Beowulf student you undoubtedly have several copies of each article in one or more of the numerous compilations in which they appear. (If you're unsure of this, best go check your volumes before purchasing your umpteenth exemplar.) If, however, you are just discovering Beowulf criticism, then this is an excellent place to begin indeed.
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A strong defense of fantasy29. August 2011
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Tolkien's "Monster and the Critics" lecture/essay is easily the professor's most famous piece of scholarship. In it, he argues that readers should appreciate the poem Beowulf as a work of art rather than simply a historical document. Of particular note he defends the prominent role of monsters and dragons in the poem. Of course, more broadly - and of particular note for Tolkien's own Middle-Earth works - Tolkien justifies appreciating fantasy as a worthy genre of literature. The essay is somewhat academic, but still largely accessible to lay readers. It's interesting food for thought. However, of course, it does require some knowledge of the poem Beowulf as Tolkien follows the poem quite closely (it's not a general argument but rather tied closely to a debate over Beowulf).