Part 4, Reading and Drawing The Lord of the Rings: On Fear, Knowledge and Power


At last, a new blogpost, to (nearly) coincide with Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday! This is the second and last post on The Shadow of the Past…I’ve narrowed it down to a few themes, but there is so much more that could be said on this one chapter. Continue reading

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Ode to Procrastination

Welcome. It’s that time of year when research deadlines and marking pile up into a dark, ominous cumulonimbus above my head; so my usual blog topics will need to wait. But as I left home for work on Tuesday morning these verses came quite suddenly to me, a reminder or rather a warning of what not to do and how not to be:  Continue reading

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Tolkien’s Art and How it Influenced His Writing: Drawing to Discover

Art of The Lord of the Rings final revised.inddTolkien’s artwork, rather than his writing, was my first gateway to Middle-earth; so Jeffrey J. MacLeod’s and Anna Smol’s recent article “Visualizing the Word: Tolkien as Artist and Writer” (Tolkien Studies, volume 14) is of particular interest to me.  The authors propose a reevaluation of Tolkien’s imaginative and writing process to recognise the integral role that Tolkien’s own practice and knowledge of visual art had on his stories. They make four core arguments: Continue reading

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CS Lewis’ Response to Critics of The Lord of the Rings: The Dethronement of Power

C. S. Lewis’ defence of Tolkien’s work gives insight into the types of criticism it elicited. Chief among those criticisms were its supposed lack of realism, and lack of character development or moral complexity. Lewis robustly argues against both allegations, and with characteristic succinctness states “we know at once that it has done things to us.” Notably this review came only 2 days after Tolkien’s final instalment was published, in response to criticism that was clearly already in full flow since the earlier volumes. It demonstrates the extent to which even a great piece of work will encounter rejection and snobbery, but also demonstrates the value of even one strong ally who supports your work. Below is Lewis’ essay in full.

CS Lewis

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Reading and Drawing the Lord of the Rings Part 3: On Being an Oddity

Frodo in the Shire

In his Foreword, Tolkien describes ‘The Shadow of the Past’ as the oldest part of the tale and ‘the crucial chapter’ of the book. One can see why, as it anchors the entire tale in gravitas, thanks in no small part to Gandalf’s central role in it. It is tempting to jump straight to the gripping narrative that dominates this chapter. But before we get to that I want to reflect on the extra characterisation that comes prior, which is just as significant in laying the foundations of the story. Continue reading

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What Hobbits Knew All Along: Walking Barefoot is Good For You


I came across an interesting piece of health research this week and of course couldn’t help but make the connection with the rather peculiar behaviour unique to hobbits. We are told in The Hobbit that they: Continue reading

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The Lord of the Rings Through The Eyes Of An 11 Year Old


The first and original book review of The Hobbit was candidly supplied in 1936 by the ten-year old son of publisher Sir Stanley Unwin:

Bilbo Baggins was a Hobbit who lived in his Hobbit hole and never went for adventures, at last Gandalf the wizard and his Dwarves persuaded him to go. He had a very exiting (sic) time fighting goblins and wargs. At last they get to the lonely mountain; Smaug, the dragon who guards it is killed and after a terrific battle with the goblins he returned home — rich! This book, with the help of maps, does not need any illustrations it is good and should appeal to all children between the ages of 5 and 9.”

The story goes that it was Rayner Unwin’s review that convinced his father to publish the story – the younger Unwin said of the matter: Continue reading

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