J.R.R. Tolkien: a Biography Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of J.R.R. Tolkien: a Biography

J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" is one of the most imaginative and popular epics of the day. It is especially popular with young readers. Parents concerned with the content of Tolkien's trilogy would have a challenging project reading all his works to get a perspective on his thinking. Humphrey Carpenter's masterful biography makes the project much easier by describing who Tolkien is and how he thinks. Carpenter describes Tolkien's deep Christian faith. I think Tolkien's Christian mindset very much influenced his thinking when he wrote "Lord of the Rings."
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The review of this Book prepared by Maurice A. Williams

'The Lord of the Rings is one of things: if you like, you do: if you don't then you boo!' So wrote J.R.R. Tolkien, CBE, (1892-1973) of his own book. His authorised biographer, Humphrey Carpenter, does a good job of telling the story of the famous Oxford University professor, from his birth in South Africa and education in Birmingham, England, to career as a popular teacher and writer. As a boy Tolkien enjoyed George MacDonald's 'Curdie' stories, Andrew Lang's fairy tales, and the Scandinavian myths. For those who want to know what the book and the characters 'mean', it is not allegory. ('I dislike allegory whenever I smell it.' he said. Charles Moseley's fine biographical appreciation of the man and his works is probably best for that, along with his published 'Letters'.)

In case anyone could be in doubt as to his genius, it did show early on. As a schoolboy he learnt several languages and could hold forth in the debating society in Greek, Latin, and Anglo-Saxon - more surprising to me that they found anyone to debate against him. We are told the source of Gandalf's appearance, his name, and what it means. Likewise, the hobbits and poor old misunderstood Tom Bombadil (who has yet to appear in a radio or film version.) The influence of his friend C.S. Lewis on 'Tollers' is explained, as they encouraged each other in writing fiction - crucial to the process with LOTR, as it alone took twelve years to write, and the Silmarillion came before all the others and was published last. (The character of Treebeard is partly modelled on Lewis: the 'Hoom, hroom' being part of his booming voice pattern.) One or two things made me laugh, in particular Tolkien's reaction to one of the paperback cover designs, which showed two emus and a Christmas tree with pink fruit.

The appendices: Tolkien family tree; chronology; list of published writings; list of sources and acknowledgments; and index. An inspiring read, and then there is feast after feast of all the stuff that inspired Tollers to follow up.
The review of this Book prepared by Michael JR Jose

Chapter Analysis of J.R.R. Tolkien: a Biography

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Plot & Themes

job/profession:    -   writer Job/profession/poverty story    -   Yes Period of greatest activity?    -   1900+

Subject of Biography

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   writer Ethnicity    -   White Nationality    -   British Unusual characteristics:    -   Genius


Europe    -   Yes European country:    -   England/UK Century:    -   1930's-1950's

Writing Style

Book makes you feel?    -   encouraged    -   like laughing If this is a kid's book:    -   Age 16-Adult Pictures/Illustrations?    -   A ton 16-20 B&W How much dialogue in bio?    -   significantly more descript than dialog How much of bio focuses on most famous period of life?    -   26-50% of book

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