NESFA Members' Reviews

Tolkien's Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-Earth

edited by Verlyn Flieger and Carl F. Hostetter

A book review by Mark L. Olson

Greenwood Press, 2000, 274 pp, $30.00

A "legendarium" was the name Tolkien gave to the extended, evolving material which was his main interest and which formed the deep background to The Lord of the Rings. Now that it is published in the 10-volume The History of Middle Earth, it's time to evaluate it.

Nearly all of the essays in the book are written for real people: they lack that peculiarly academic tone which sucks the life out of literature leaving it flensed and dry on the rack. The essays, while learned and well-written, are written by people who plainly love Tolkien's writing and are writing about it because they enjoy it rather than because with just another half-dozen publications they'll have tenure and a subsequent life of ease.

The two pieces I found most interesting were both on Tolkien's poetry. One, a straight-forward analysis of Tolkien's lyric poetry by Joe R. Christopher and the other by Patrick Wynne and Carl Hostetter, an attempt to figure out the nature of the Elvish verse forms that Tolkien purportedly translated from.


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