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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Tokien: A Biography by Michael White

An excellent biography, this is well worth reading by any Tolkien fan. Interesting and absorbing, this book tells the rather tragic background to Tolkien's great novels.

Tolkien's early life was dominated by the death of his parents when he was very young. He tended to blame his mother's family partly for her death because of their rejection of her when she converted to Catholicism. This made him cling to his beloved religion even more which annoyed his childhood sweetheart and later wife, Edith, who was Protestant until she married. Edith also lost her parents young and helped him through his tragic early life.

Michael White also analyses the tragic influence of the Great War in which Tolkien fought on his novels. The most interesting part of the book, however, concerns the influence of the Inklings and his friend, C.S. Lewis. The Inklings, the famous literary group at the University of Oxford, helped each other with their writing and discussed mythological works. White discusses how The Lord of the Rings was really a new mythology created by Tolkien for England and rejects the notion of its being a Christian allegory. Tolkien hated allegories which is one reason for the ending for the ending of his long friendship with C.S. Lewis.

White doesn't shy away from the worst, but understandable, traits of Tokien's character - his provincialism, rigid Catholicism, and jealousy of C.S. Lewis's success.

I enjoyed this biography very much and would highly recommend it.

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