Author Review: J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien
J.R.R. Tolkien circa 1916
J.R.R. Tolkien was the brilliant man behind "The Lord of the Rings," "The Hobbit," "The Silmarillion" and more. His books have captured the imaginations of generations of adults and children while engaging them with complex stories and characters. There is not one story by Tolkien that is simple; there is not one character that can be easily defined. He was obviously a meticulous writer and an educated man. The thing that made him a bit different was his imagination. He combined his intellect with his creativity and gave us a fantasy world to rival all fantasy worlds. He was the master of his craft.

One of the things that has to be pointed out when you are discussing J.R.R. Tolkien as a writer, is the depth and history of his fictional world. Middle Earth is only one of the places he describes, but it is the setting for most of his tales, so we will use it as an example. If you put all of his novels together, you would find an in-depth history of Middle Earth, including what amounts to a bible really in the "Silmarillion." He includes snippets of languages used by the creatures of Middle Earth (and sometimes nearly complete languages), histories of wars, mythological history and much more. These novels are quite the singular accomplishment when you take all that Tolkien did into account.

The characters of Tolkien’s novels required quite a bit of history as well. Many of them lived very long lives and Tolkien often included lengthy descriptions of them, in some form or another. Even Shelob’s (the spider creature in "The Lord of the Rings") ancestry was described a bit in the "Silmarillion." The amazing part of these histories is that despite the length of these novels, there are no discrepancies. It is even said that only three mistakes in "The Lord of the Rings" were caught during editing. That takes some serious concentration on the part of an author.

All of this detail and history could easily have amounted to a very dry and boring bunch of novels. There is an awful lot of information to soak up in these novels, but because his characters and settings were so interesting, it is easy to enjoy his in-depth histories and descriptions. J.R.R. Tolkien’s characters range from the epitome of evil to the epitome of morality and everything in-between. He also took wizards, hobbits, trolls, dwarves, dragons, giant eagles, elves and other creatures and gave them personality and depth.

Then of course, you have the plot of these novels. J.R.R. Tolkien took much of the suffering and hope that we see in our own world and applied it to a world full of magical creatures and otherworldly settings to create books that were imaginative and far-fetched, yet realistic and relatable. We’ve heard of soldiers marching into battle over long distances and overcoming nearly insurmountable opposition. It is sad when we read it about our own world, but when Tolkien wrote about it as it pertained to his characters in Middle Earth, we were able to escape true horrors for awhile. Other novelists have done it since, but none quite as perfectly as Tolkien did.

For people who enjoy fantasy novels, Tolkien’s are usually referred to as the best. There is nothing to be said that is negative about his ability to write a good novel. Sure, some may think that his stories are drawn out, but those who appreciate the work that must have gone into them can only respect his talent all the more for it. J.R.R. Tolkien’s ability to understand and create languages, war, love, friendships and of course a slew of mythical creatures, allowed him to become the fantastic author that he was. Any writer would be hard-pressed to match him, and it is doubtful that he will ever be surpassed in his genre.

Shelly Barclay

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