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J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings took first place in a nationwide British poll to find the greatest book of the century! He may be the most popular writer of our age, but Tolkien is often misunderstood. This major new study of his life, his character and his work reveals the facts and confronts the myths. It explores the background to the man and the culture in which J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings took first place in a nationwide British poll to find the greatest book of the century! He may be the most popular writer of our age, but Tolkien is often misunderstood. This major new study of his life, his character and his work reveals the facts and confronts the myths. It explores the background to the man and the culture in which he wrote. Tolkien: Man and Myth observes the relationships that the master writer had with his closest literary colleagues. It reveals his unique relationship with C.S. Lewis, the writer of the Narnia books, and the roots of their estrangement. In this original book about a leading literary life, Joseph Pearce enters the world created by Tolkien in the seven books published during his lifetime. He explores the significance of Middle Earth and what it represented in Tolkien's thinking. Myth, to him, was not a leap from reality but a leap into reality."


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J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings took first place in a nationwide British poll to find the greatest book of the century! He may be the most popular writer of our age, but Tolkien is often misunderstood. This major new study of his life, his character and his work reveals the facts and confronts the myths. It explores the background to the man and the culture in which J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings took first place in a nationwide British poll to find the greatest book of the century! He may be the most popular writer of our age, but Tolkien is often misunderstood. This major new study of his life, his character and his work reveals the facts and confronts the myths. It explores the background to the man and the culture in which he wrote. Tolkien: Man and Myth observes the relationships that the master writer had with his closest literary colleagues. It reveals his unique relationship with C.S. Lewis, the writer of the Narnia books, and the roots of their estrangement. In this original book about a leading literary life, Joseph Pearce enters the world created by Tolkien in the seven books published during his lifetime. He explores the significance of Middle Earth and what it represented in Tolkien's thinking. Myth, to him, was not a leap from reality but a leap into reality."

30 review for Tolkien: Man and Myth: A Literary Life

  1. 5 out of 5

    booklady

    With two superb authors like Tolkien and Pearce a book almost can’t go wrong. Not that I put Joseph Pearce in the same class as J.R.R.Tolkien. Tolkien is in a class of his own, but Pearce is one of the finest biographers I have read, especially of literary figures. His Literary Converts: Spiritual Inspiration in an Age of Unbelief remains one of my favorites. As soon as I can get it back from a friend, I want to reread it. Tolkien: Man and Myth, a Literary Life shines it light on the man who was With two superb authors like Tolkien and Pearce a book almost can’t go wrong. Not that I put Joseph Pearce in the same class as J.R.R.Tolkien. Tolkien is in a class of his own, but Pearce is one of the finest biographers I have read, especially of literary figures. His Literary Converts: Spiritual Inspiration in an Age of Unbelief remains one of my favorites. As soon as I can get it back from a friend, I want to reread it. Tolkien: Man and Myth, a Literary Life shines it light on the man who was John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, his private world to be sure, while focusing primarily on his many writings, not just the famous The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but also on his lesser known works, voluminous correspondence and his tour-de-force, the unequaled and yet unfinished The Silmarillion. This is a book that anyone who really wants to understand Tolkien needs to add to their reading list. Likewise, if you only want to read one book on Tolkien you can rest assured of a well-researched and fully sourced guide. I learned a great deal—although not in so much detail as I would have liked—about his relationships with the various Inklings, especially his mercurial friendship with C.S.Lewis. Further, it has brought out many aspects of the stories which I never appreciated before, especially their deep Christian basis. It was humorous to discover some hidden allegories which no doubt would have irked Tolkien as he and Lewis argued over this, Tolkien assuming the high road claiming fiction should not contain Christian Allegory such as were so blatant in Lewis’s Narnian Chronicles. The most interesting aspect of the book for me was learning about all of Tolkien’s critics. As much as I love his books, I forgot about how things might have been when his books were first published. So I was surprised to read about both the opposition during his own lifetime and that his work continues to be looked down on to this day. Recently, the Lord of the Rings was voted the most popular book of the 20th century. Apparently this didn’t sit well with some, so another poll was run. Same results, only with a bigger lead for LoR. Then the Folio Society ran a separate poll; the Folio being the most prestigious book publisher in Great Britain. Guess who came out a clear winner again? Yup. Mr. Tolkien and his crew of hobbits, dwarves, elves, etc. in Lord of the Rings. The next closest contender, 1984 wasn’t even close! This news does not surprise fans but realists don’t like it. They want us to believe this—what we can see, touch and measure—is all there is. I am not sure why, unless it is so we can be as miserable as they are. Whatever the reason, fantasy doesn’t teach us to escape from reality, but to run to it! Myths teach a TRUTH deeper than anything we can see. Tolkien knew that. He never stopped believing. You either, okay?! <><><><><><><><><><><><><><><> Have read this before though can't say I remember it. Since dear husband and I are planning to listen to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy I thought I would read up on Tolkien and Middle Earth on my own... )ctober 20, 2020: Minor grammatical errors amended.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    This Tolkien bio was a breath of fresh air in many ways. First, it reminded me how hobbit-y I am. Trees, and books, and delicious food (6 times a day) and what not. Second, it reminded me of some beautiful passages, memories really, from some of my favorite stories. Third, it was a biography that didn't over reach and make unfounded assumptions and intimations about the author. And fourth, it gave me a clear and beautiful sense of Tolkien's understanding of the relationship between myth and trut This Tolkien bio was a breath of fresh air in many ways. First, it reminded me how hobbit-y I am. Trees, and books, and delicious food (6 times a day) and what not. Second, it reminded me of some beautiful passages, memories really, from some of my favorite stories. Third, it was a biography that didn't over reach and make unfounded assumptions and intimations about the author. And fourth, it gave me a clear and beautiful sense of Tolkien's understanding of the relationship between myth and truth and the way that this concept shaped his writing. Pearce writes, "For most modern critics a myth is merely another word for a lie or a falsehood, something which is intrinsically NOT true. For Tolkien, myth had virtually the opposite meaning. It was the only way that certain transcendent truths could be expressed in intelligible form." We have all had that sense of transcendent truth, seen it written in nature as Tolkien so often did. And his explanation of the way myths and fairy stories help us grasp something of that Truth explains why they seem to resonate. There is a wonderful account of a conversation between Tolkien and Hugo Dyson and C.S. Lewis that laid the foundations for Lewis's Christianity. "We have come from God, Tolkien argued, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God." Tolkien maintained that God expressed Himself "through the minds of poets," using their images to reveal parts of His eternal truth. What had a profound effect on Lewis was the next step in the argument: Tolkien's belief that "Christianity was exactly the same except for the enormous difference that the poet who invented it was God Himself, and the images He used were real men and actual history." It is in this sense that Lewis called Christianity "a true myth." Using actual history and events, God told the story of His love for humanity, a story that illuminates the Truth in the world around us and the world within us (hat tip to Stratford Caldecott). Pearce starts his 8th chapter with a quote from GK Chesterton: "We have come out of the shallows and the dry places to the one deep well, and the Truth is at the bottom of it." Tolkien's understanding of the beauty of Truth permeates all of his work, and Pearce does a masterful job laying that out for the reader. So glad I picked this one up!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    One of Pearce's best books. When John and Edith died, I felt like I had lost friends. One of Pearce's best books. When John and Edith died, I felt like I had lost friends.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    I thoroughly enjoyed this biography of Tolkien. Pearce does a fabulous job drawing from previous biographies, personal letters and Tolkien's own works to present a readable (200 pages) biography. Favorite quote (which Tolkien easily could have written had not Chesterton beat him to it)- "The more truly we can see life as a fairy tale, the more clearly the tale resolves itself into war with the dragon who is wasting fairyland." - G.K. Chesterton I thoroughly enjoyed this biography of Tolkien. Pearce does a fabulous job drawing from previous biographies, personal letters and Tolkien's own works to present a readable (200 pages) biography. Favorite quote (which Tolkien easily could have written had not Chesterton beat him to it)- "The more truly we can see life as a fairy tale, the more clearly the tale resolves itself into war with the dragon who is wasting fairyland." - G.K. Chesterton

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    I pretty much love everything by Joseph Pearce. His writing style really resonates with me. I picked this book up because I went to see the ‘semi-biopic’ movie on Tolkien and I wanted to see how much was true to fact. (Side note- it did fairly well). However a movie can never go to the same depths as the written word due to limitations of the medium and the book rightly explored some areas the the movie could not portray. My one complaint: the book was a blend of Tolkien’s life story and the ins I pretty much love everything by Joseph Pearce. His writing style really resonates with me. I picked this book up because I went to see the ‘semi-biopic’ movie on Tolkien and I wanted to see how much was true to fact. (Side note- it did fairly well). However a movie can never go to the same depths as the written word due to limitations of the medium and the book rightly explored some areas the the movie could not portray. My one complaint: the book was a blend of Tolkien’s life story and the inspiration for his works. To ignore his work would be negligent of course but it sometimes overtook the narrative of his life. I think Pearce has a very particular viewpoint to communicate and it dominated the entire piece. And he kind of geeked out over a few things. But none of that prevents me for giving it a hearty recommendation. It’s a book I’m glad I purchased because I’ll definitely reread it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lee

    Not only is this a very informative source of information about Tolkien himself, but it also includes quite a bit of information regarding his close friend C.S. Lewis, which added some surprising (for me) context to the sudden and significant evolution of Lewis's religiousness that would of course become the most conspicuous theme of his writing. Not only is this a very informative source of information about Tolkien himself, but it also includes quite a bit of information regarding his close friend C.S. Lewis, which added some surprising (for me) context to the sudden and significant evolution of Lewis's religiousness that would of course become the most conspicuous theme of his writing.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Winter

    Great book. Mr. Pierce even participated in an interview session with my college class via phone about Tolkien. I thoroghly enjoy his work.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Gryfinn Or

    Tolkien: Man and Myth is a good introduction into the life of Tolkien. It isn't meant to be a comprehensive study of his life but it extremely interesting and an easy, engrossing read. It's not long and can be read quickly. Joseph Pearce openly rejects the trap of psychoanalysis that many biographers fall into as they attempt to become their subject's personal psychologist. He leaves all insight into Tolkien's mind to Tolkien's own words and deals mainly with organization and presentation of fact Tolkien: Man and Myth is a good introduction into the life of Tolkien. It isn't meant to be a comprehensive study of his life but it extremely interesting and an easy, engrossing read. It's not long and can be read quickly. Joseph Pearce openly rejects the trap of psychoanalysis that many biographers fall into as they attempt to become their subject's personal psychologist. He leaves all insight into Tolkien's mind to Tolkien's own words and deals mainly with organization and presentation of facts. He seems to understand that Tolkien, the genius that he is, is the best source for an understanding of himself. Anyone who loved The Lord of the Rings and is interested in learning about its maker will love this biography. I tend to be particular in the way biographies are written but I am more than comfortabble in highly recommending Tolkien: Man or Myth.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Estabrook

    The title says it well, "man and myth". Pearce shows the beautiful intertwining of the man, Tolkien, and the myths he composed (sub-created). I began listening to online lectures and podcasts by Professor Corey Olsen (www.tolkienprofessor.com) as I read this book. I found this book and the lectures to be wonderfully complementary. I was deeply moved by the final chapters of this book, by Tolkien's faith, and his concerns about the changes in the Church stemming from Vatican II, which Tolkien end The title says it well, "man and myth". Pearce shows the beautiful intertwining of the man, Tolkien, and the myths he composed (sub-created). I began listening to online lectures and podcasts by Professor Corey Olsen (www.tolkienprofessor.com) as I read this book. I found this book and the lectures to be wonderfully complementary. I was deeply moved by the final chapters of this book, by Tolkien's faith, and his concerns about the changes in the Church stemming from Vatican II, which Tolkien endured. For those who want a deeper understanding of Tolkien's philosophy of myth, I highly recommend this book. For those wanting a "simple biography", I highly recommend this book...to learn why "simple biographies" of great men are inadequate.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Miss Clark

    Summer 2004/ 2005 Always, well nearly always, enjoy J.P. biographies, and this was no exception. Some neat anecdotes and insights. Good read, esp. for Tolkien lovers and those interested in seeing how his faith impacted his writing.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Samuel

    I think that the mark of a good biography is that leaves you feeling like you have come to know a person that you never met. By that benchmark Pearce has done an amazing job, taking me through the history of the man, and by using his very own letters stepping out of the way allow Tolkien reveal himself through his own words. There's a tendency to reduce a man to his seminal work as we know it, perhaps it's just easier that way for us to make things narrow and simple. But it has been for me a far I think that the mark of a good biography is that leaves you feeling like you have come to know a person that you never met. By that benchmark Pearce has done an amazing job, taking me through the history of the man, and by using his very own letters stepping out of the way allow Tolkien reveal himself through his own words. There's a tendency to reduce a man to his seminal work as we know it, perhaps it's just easier that way for us to make things narrow and simple. But it has been for me a far more rewarding experience to see Tolkien as more than simply the author of Lord of The Rings, but to witness his loss and grief, and depths of his passion, which gave his work the permanence that it retains to this day.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    A vital book for understanding Tolkien's life and work through the lens of his Catholic faith, which really can't be left out of any true understand of Tolkien's work. Pearce does a deft job weaving in Tolkien's letters, work, and research to create a full picture of the man. A vital book for understanding Tolkien's life and work through the lens of his Catholic faith, which really can't be left out of any true understand of Tolkien's work. Pearce does a deft job weaving in Tolkien's letters, work, and research to create a full picture of the man.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Eliza

    A beautiful illustration of Tolkien and the world he so lovingly created. Joseph Pearce gives an in-depth and insightful look into the man behind Middle-earth. I really enjoyed this book, and hope all those who love Tolkien as well as his work read it too!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brad Crosby

    Superb.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Mohosana mohosanakatun mohosanakatun

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. thank you for your today

  16. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Bruning

    Prose can bog down the reader, but the overall messages and presentation flows nicely (if you read in between the lines).

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amy Stringer

    This was surprisingly very good.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Chuck T

    LOVED this book. Brings so much of Tolkien's background, thoughts, and world view to the fore, which illuminates his fictional worlds with his underlying faith. Will be reading again to dig deeper. LOVED this book. Brings so much of Tolkien's background, thoughts, and world view to the fore, which illuminates his fictional worlds with his underlying faith. Will be reading again to dig deeper.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jake

    I have fallen in love with Tolkien over the last year. This book paints a fantastic picture of a man who I believe everyone can connect with. A troubled upbringing, steadfast Catholic, and a man searching for a way to express his feeling me of his faith through his writing. He goes through times of despair and times of great joy. An absolute must read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    April

    This is a very good book if you wish to understand Tolkien in a lighthearted, casual, easy-reading sort of way. However, something that makes this book particularly unenjoyable is the way the author organizes his text. I dare you to find one page in this book that doesn't have an extensive quote from some letter or writing or conversation of Tolkien. I immensely enjoy a good excerpt--direct quotes are generally interesting and aid in the learning process, but when the entire novel is probably 70 This is a very good book if you wish to understand Tolkien in a lighthearted, casual, easy-reading sort of way. However, something that makes this book particularly unenjoyable is the way the author organizes his text. I dare you to find one page in this book that doesn't have an extensive quote from some letter or writing or conversation of Tolkien. I immensely enjoy a good excerpt--direct quotes are generally interesting and aid in the learning process, but when the entire novel is probably 70% quote, it makes it rather disjointed to read. It doesn't speak that well of the author's own voice, either.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Peter W

    Things I learned: - Tolkien was a linguist. He created the languages of his alternative world before actually creating the alternative world. His inspirations came from a variety of mythologies. He was passionate that there is truth in mythologies. There is a great story in here about how Tolkien helped persuade C. S. Lewis to Christianity. The discussion focused on mythologies holding truths. - Tolkien was deeply Christian. I didn't realize how deeply influential his Christianity was. Tolkien was Things I learned: - Tolkien was a linguist. He created the languages of his alternative world before actually creating the alternative world. His inspirations came from a variety of mythologies. He was passionate that there is truth in mythologies. There is a great story in here about how Tolkien helped persuade C. S. Lewis to Christianity. The discussion focused on mythologies holding truths. - Tolkien was deeply Christian. I didn't realize how deeply influential his Christianity was. Tolkien was such a character that this book was really quite funny. Also, this was a short book, which was really quite pleasant.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin

    I'm writing this review so late because I stayed up late reading this book. It is a profound and moving glimpse into the life and works or JRR Tolkien. It gave me a better understanding of the man, his works, and the choices he made in his life. Also in the book are profound and moving analyses of Tolkien's books and the things that influenced them. I'd recommend it to anyone, although if you want to read it, it would probably be good to have read Tolkien's books first. I'm writing this review so late because I stayed up late reading this book. It is a profound and moving glimpse into the life and works or JRR Tolkien. It gave me a better understanding of the man, his works, and the choices he made in his life. Also in the book are profound and moving analyses of Tolkien's books and the things that influenced them. I'd recommend it to anyone, although if you want to read it, it would probably be good to have read Tolkien's books first.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Miller

    Tolkien himself said that his faith played a deliberate role in his editing of The Lord of the Rings. This book explores how his faith influenced his work. In particular, it discusses Tolkien's belief that God gradually introduced Himself to the world through pre-Christian myths; that myths are more than fantasies. The Lord of the Rings is, to a great extent, Tolkien's attempt to create a grand mythology for his own nation (England) with this in mind. Tolkien himself said that his faith played a deliberate role in his editing of The Lord of the Rings. This book explores how his faith influenced his work. In particular, it discusses Tolkien's belief that God gradually introduced Himself to the world through pre-Christian myths; that myths are more than fantasies. The Lord of the Rings is, to a great extent, Tolkien's attempt to create a grand mythology for his own nation (England) with this in mind.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anna Elizabeth

    What a lovely book! I highly enjoyed Pearce's work on Oscar Wilde, but with my love for Tolkien starting from a young age, this one felt like coming home. Pearce as a scholar does excellent work, and reading his thoughts on Tolkien are so much more refreshing than most of the modern scholars I have had to suffer through for my capstone paper - one really gets to know the real Tolkien, rather than the ideas of a Tolkien that have been constructed by others. What a lovely book! I highly enjoyed Pearce's work on Oscar Wilde, but with my love for Tolkien starting from a young age, this one felt like coming home. Pearce as a scholar does excellent work, and reading his thoughts on Tolkien are so much more refreshing than most of the modern scholars I have had to suffer through for my capstone paper - one really gets to know the real Tolkien, rather than the ideas of a Tolkien that have been constructed by others.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    Some good points made regarding Tolkien and his faith, but this book could have benefited from a more careful editor. Not only do factual errors creep in, but overall it felt like a short essay that had been expanded to book length.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    An insightful read into the life and work of Tolkien. Of particular interest for me was the details of his relationship with Lewis and other members of his literary society, the Inklings.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    This will be a re-read. Mine is a signed copy because I went to the author's lecture in San Francisco several years ago. This will be a re-read. Mine is a signed copy because I went to the author's lecture in San Francisco several years ago.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Great way to get inside the head of the man who wrote not just another fantasy trilogy, but an invented history.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jon

    Yep. A Catholic ! Who would have guessed ? I guess it meant something different back when pipes were smoked more often. I Love Tolkien. He is pure Epic Inspirational Styles.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rosemary Daly

    Excellent look at the life of one of the most inspirational and influential writers in the world.

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