Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Tolkien, J R R

 Icon made by Freepik from www.flaticon.com

(1892-1973) UK writer and philologist, born in South Africa but resident in the UK from 1895. He specialized as a scholar in early forms of English, but is best-known as the 20th-century's single most important author of fantasy. After service in WWI he began work on The Silmarillion, and for the rest of his life continued to expand this "subcreation" (his term for the inventing of fantasy worlds) into a conscious Mythology for England, as it was a culture (he thought) which lacked a true Creation Myth.

His academic career began in 1919. He became Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University in 1925, and was appointed Merton Professor of English at Oxford in 1945, a post he held until his retirement in 1959. It has been argued persuasively by Tom Shippey (1943-    ), in The Road to Middle-Earth (1982; rev 1992), that JRRT's profound grounding in philology did far more than provide a linguistic stew of real and imaginary languages out of which he dreamed his work, as though his tales were translated from a lost original, but in fact suggested to him a specific technique of world-making. Any argument of this sort must, of course, reckon with the central importance, for JRRT, of his own illustrations to his various works; many of these paintings and watercolours were composed prior to or in conjunction with the actual act of writing, and clearly represent an important inspiration for the tales. In J R R Tolkien: Artist & Illustrator (1995) by Wayne G Hammond and Christina Scull this material is presented and its importance argued for.

At Oxford before WWII JRRT formed a close literary association with Owen Barfield (1898-1997), C S Lewis and Charles Williams; they met regularly, calling themselves The Inklings, and at their meetings read aloud drafts of fiction and other work, a habit facilitated by – and perhaps contributory to – their shared interest in narrative. They were all Christians (JRRT was Roman Catholic), and The Inklings Affinity Group is now thought of as a central forcing-house for 20th-century Christian Fantasy. JRRT soon published The Hobbit, or There and Back Again (1937), a Children's Fantasy set in the Silmarillion universe, and in Inklings sessions he now introduced draft portions of his masterwork, The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955), the most influential fantasy novel ever written.

The Secondary World. Like almost everything JRRT brought into the light in his later years, the concept of the Secondary World, which LOTR embodies in definitive form, had been evolving for decades, first being articulated in "On Fairy Tales", a 1939 lecture expanded for Essays Presented to Charles Williams (anth 1947) ed anon C S Lewis, and further expanded for its appearance in Tree and Leaf (coll 1964; rev 1988). The notion of the secondary world, as JRRT first defined and later embodied it, builds of course on the work of earlier writers: William Morris, Lord Dunsany, possibly James Branch Cabell and certainly E R Eddison, among others, had been creating partially autonomous fantasy worlds since before the turn of the century; but JRRT, through precept and example, gave final definitive legitimacy to the use of an internally coherent and autonomous Land of Faerie as a venue for the play of the human imagination. For the sf/fantasy writers who followed JRRT, this affirmation of autonomy was of very great importance. LOTR marked the end of apology. No longer was it necessary for fantasy writers to feel any lingering need to "normalize" their secondary worlds by framing them as Travellers' Tales, or Dreams (entered via Portals) which prove exiguous at dawn, or Timeslip tales, or as Beast Fables. Though each of these forms continues to be used, fantasy writers after about 1955 would invoke them as a matter of aesthetic choice. JRRT gave fantasy a domain; it is of course another question as to whether, in recent years, his bequest has been properly honoured: countless purveyors of Genre Fantasy have reduced the secondary world to the Identikit Fantasyland.

A fully imagined secondary world is, in theory, nothing more than a world which has been created by its teller, and which is governed by internally consistent rules to which the reader gives credence, and in terms of which anything can be believed – in which, as a random example, a "green sun will be credible", as JRRT puts it in "On Fairy-Stories" – as long as that which is believed in is livable. A world which operates according to the unlivable premises – however arguable they may be – of the typical Wonderland, or any fantasy environment constructed according to Topsy-Turvy premises, is not a secondary world. JRRT generated the term during the decades of his work on the profoundly livable fantasy environment in which, eventually, the climactic action of LOTR was set. This environment – which we now think of as the paradigm secondary world – had three main characteristics: (a), as noted, it was livable, because the central Land depicted by JRRT, Middle-Earth in the world of Arda, is imagined with such detail and solidity that it seems to breathe with the lives of its inhabitants; (b) it was legible, because it directly and profoundly expressed JRRT's deep attachment to the knowable Landscape of the Middle Ages, which is more real than our own Reality, and brighter; and (c) it was fantasy because – as befits the stage upon which a transformative drama is being enacted – it was constantly in the throes of Metamorphosis.

The geographical details of JRRT's secondary world have become a Template which later writers have become accustomed to use as a fixed background against which all sorts of stories, very few of them full fantasies, can be told. But for JRRT, the detailed description of Middle-Earth, and the prefatory Map which accompanies that description, do not constitute a template, because LOTR takes place after a long and profoundly transformative Creation Myth and cosmology and history of the world have been unfolded, climaxing at the point the trilogy begins. Middle-Earth – however much it may have been normalized into backdrop by others – was a fresh creation for JRRT, and it lies at the cusp of a final dramatic Thinning into the secular history of our own world. The Shire, which is the home of the Hobbits, is a classic Polder; a variety of sites evoke a sense of Time Abyss.

Arda Almost every story and story-fragment pertinent to an understanding of the immensity of JRRT's mythology for England appeared only after his death, beginning with The Silmarillion (1977) and continuing with Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth (coll 1980) ed Christopher Tolkien, JRRT's son. The main sequence of posthumous works has been published subsequently as The History of Middle-Earth, all ed Christopher Tolkien: The History of Middle-Earth #1: The Book of Lost Tales 1 (coll 1983), #2: The Book of Lost Tales 2 (coll 1984), #3: The Lays of Beleriand (coll 1985), #4: The Shaping of Middle-Earth (coll 1986), #5: The Lost Road and Other Writings (coll 1987), #6: The Return of the Shadow: The History of the Lord of the Rings l (coll 1988), #7: The Treason of Isengard: The History of the Lord of the Rings 2 (coll 1989), #8: The War of the Ring: The History of the Lord of the Rings 3 (coll 1990), #9: Sauron Defeated: The History of the Lord of the Rings 4 (coll 1992), #10: The Later Silmarillion 1: Morgoth's Ring (1993) and #11: The Later Silmarillion 2: The War of the Jewels (1994), plus a final volume, projected for 1996. The material assembled in these volumes is of variable interest as narrative, but can be summarized as follows.

Two things may be noted.

First, there are obvious similarities between JRRT's mythological history of the world and that propounded by H P Blavatsky in The Secret Doctrine (1888), the text which contains most of Theosophy's long "back-story". These similarities include details of the initial cosmogony, the division of the long history of the world into Ages separated by cataclysms brought about by the Evil of human beings (and other creatures), the fact that new species are introduced at the beginning of Ages, and the use of geographical regions like Atlantis. But it is likely that he and Blavatsky separately accessed the Western world's Cauldron of Story (a term he uses in "On Fairy-Tales"). Moreover, the broad sweep of JRRT's narrative is retrospective, and mourns the passing away of the earlier Ages; Blavatsky resolutely "trumps" Darwin by extolling the rise to awareness (and therefore to a higher state) of her successive races.

Second, most of the details of JRRT's mythology have surfaced over the years since his death, are very much less known than the immediate story and background of LOTR itself, and are rather confusingly presented in the increasingly large number of volumes edited by his son. But the surface story of LOTR – like The Hobbit before it – is mediated through a network of allusions to earlier times, of which the events at the end of the Third Age constitute a thinned but intensely dramatic re-enactment. A brief resumé of the back-story is therefore likely to be useful, and also serves to emphasize the constant, central, defining Transformations to which JRRT subjected his subcreation.

For convenience the story of Arda can be divided into eight parts, and these into two main divisions. The first five, though described in remarkable detail, remain comparatively distant in the depiction. Arda is created before Time begins, and it is only with the Second Age, which begins 37,000 years before LOTR, that a chronology is set in place; the last of the five ends 30,000 years later. The second group of Ages, three in number – the Ages of the Sun – last something under 7000 years, and move into active back-story at the point Gollum finds the One Ring, in an action which eventually governs the plot of The Hobbit. The eight ages are as follows:

1. The Prime Being or first principle brings about all of creation (see also Creation Myths) by conceiving of the Gods, who themselves sing Arda into existence (as in Theosophy, the Prime Being takes no further active role). Arda is a flat world, consisting of one huge continent, and is enclosed within spheres of light and aether. 2. The gods (those who participate are known as the Valar, and their demigod partners – Gandalf is one – are known as the Maiar) continue their acts of creation, but one of the Valar (his name is Melkor; Sauron is his Maiar servitor) revolts. Although Melkor is defeated, Arda is no longer whole: the Thinning has begun, and the sense of loss so central to full fantasy – a sense which JRRT definitively embodies – begins to mount. 3. The Age of Lamps, so-named because two sky-piercing magical lamps light the flat world, are nearly Edenic, until Melkor rises again from his fortress of Utumna, destroys the lamps, causes vast geological upheavals, and persuades the Valar to leave the heart of Arda and to establish themselves westwards, in the Undying Lands. 4. Melkor rules Middle-Earth in total darkness through the 10,000 years of the First Age of the Trees, so-named after two huge magical Trees constructed by the Valar to give themselves light and wisdom in the Undying Lands. Dwarfs (whom JRRT habitually called "dwarves") come into being. 5. In the Second Age of the Trees, the Valar bring Stars into the heavens, Elves come into being, and eventually Melkor is defeated. But he arises yet again, destroys the magical Trees, "the Great Lights of the World", and steals the Silmaril jewels; The Silmarillion, which takes place in the next Age, is centrally concerned with the fate of these jewels, which contain the essence of light (another Theosophical trope) retained from the trees. Utter darkness falls. 6. As the First Age of the Sun begins (7000 years before LOTR), the Valar kindle the Sun and the Moon, and humans come into being (as do the Hobbits, who are Halflings, seemingly related to both humans and dwarfs); for 600 of these years, the Wars of Beleriand dominate Middle-Earth, until Melkor (also known as Morgoth) is finally driven from Arda, for good. But Beleriand, the Elven home, sinks beneath the waves. 7. The Númenóreans, who are long-lived humans, found the island kingdom of Númenór, or Westernesse, or Atlantë (i.e., Atlantis), in the West, and prosper for 1000 years. But Sauron (Melkor's Maiar deputy) then creates the realm of Mordor in the Southeast, tricks some Elven-smiths into forging the Rings of Power, himself building the Dark Tower of Barad-dûr and making the One Ring, as a result of which action he is the Lord of the Rings. He gives the Nine Rings of Mortal Men to nine corrupt kings, who are gradually transformed into the Nazgûl, Shadow creatures as close to Supernatural Fiction in their deeds as JRRT could allow. Sauron then corrupts the Númenóreans, who go to war against the Valar, disastrously: Atlantë sinks; and in the ensuing Apocalypse Arda shrinks (or thins) into a mere globe, no longer connected to the ambient spheres. Sauron is overthrown but, though he loses the Ring, survives. 8. The Third Age of the Sun culminates in the tale told in LOTR. Dissident races of humanity wage war or maintain uneasy peace for centuries; Sauron looks for the Ring. LOTR begins.

Afterwards, in the Fourth Age of the Sun, which JRRT does not describe, humanity rules Arda, which begins to revolve around the Sun.

Secondary Belief. To establish secondary belief in his secondary world – "secondary belief" being defined as the intense form of readerly acceptance required for proper belief in an autonomous subcreation – JRRT does two things.

First, he applies the principle that external descriptions or verifications of a secondary world, or the nature of any route into a secondary world, must be extrinsic to the reader's belief in that world. It is a principle which may have been articulated before, but JRRT was the first to embody it with full consistency. JRRT's profound influence on later generations of writers and readers derives, in part, from that unswerving application of principle.

Second, since the secondary world depicted in The Hobbit and LOTR have become a template for much of late-20th-century fantasy, it is necessary to remember that both novels were written before readers were accustomed to secondary worlds, and that JRRT's success in convincing early readers of the autonomy of his one comes from a deliberate application of techniques necessary to bring the vital secondary belief into being, techniques which almost secretly transform readers from secular appreciators of a text into something like parishioners. These techniques are various, but interlinked. A seemingly trivial device can unpack the strategy as a whole. For instance, JRRT was (along with T H White) probably the first fantasy author to mix Dictions within single passages, usually to contrast an archaic form of speech with the default language of the text at that stage; the result for JRRT (and White) is to open the surface narrative to a sense of Time Abyss, to a sense that a larger and older Story lies under that surface, and defines it. The important thing is that both White and JRRT mix dictions deadpan, so that mixed passages sound as though they are "simply" part of the telling of the tale. (As has already been noted, much of LOTR was read aloud to gatherings of the Inklings, and a sense that the story is being told is never stronger than when dictions mix.)

For JRRT, this is not a seldom-used device: the deadpan mixing of radically different elements lies at the heart of his storytelling technique. In his work, the ordinary and the Marvellous – or the "simple" event and the revelation that this present-day occurrence is a quote of profounder happenings from an immense back-story – inhabit the same overarching reality. In this fashion the ordinary and the marvellous are "heard" to validate each other, in a kind of utterly serious punning. Together they confirm the overarching reality they address and inhabit – which is the secondary world, and which becomes (for the first time in literature) utterly autonomous. This autonomy constituted a revolution.

Techniques of this sort enforce a trust in the reader that what is being told is a truth. As theorists have long emphasized, there is no safety in metaphors in either sf or fantasy. What looks like comparison between two worlds more often than not turns out to be a literal description of the one world. A character like Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit can gradually change into – or be revealed as always having been – a kind of Hero; in LOTR itself, slow growth-curves of understanding take on very much heavier implications. It is not simply that Strider turns out always to have been a Hidden Monarch, that Gandalf is no mere Wizard but something very much like a seraphim (see Angel), and that Tom Bombadil proves to be a kind of Mythago, as ancient as Gandalf, and perhaps more mysterious; what is so deeply engaging for readers of LOTR is the sensation that they are being brought to recognize the "true" nature of the fictional characters, and that they are doing so within the implacable security of a technique that does not waver from the instillation of belief.

The pace of storytelling similarly works to unfold a sense that present events are Palimpsests laid upon antique acts. What in The Hobbit is an exciting Quest for a hoard guarded by a Dragon, is re-understood in the context of LOTR, where we understand that the dragon is actually taking part in the fundamental drama that has riven Arda for aeons. In LOTR, a large cast of Companions (vol 1) undertake separate Night Journeys (vol 2) into a Last Battle (vol 3) which re-enacts and completes that fundamental drama (and provides a convincing model for any definition of full fantasy). The effect is of a whole tale. The carefully achieved palimpsest of themes in these final pages is reminiscent of Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung (1867), the last Opera in his Ring Cycle, where an orgasmic confluence of leitmotifs marches that huge back-story into permanent death.

LOTR The storyline of The Hobbit, or There and Back Again (1937; rev 1951; rev 1966 US; further rev 1966; vt The Annotated Hobbit ed Douglas A Anderson 1988 US; final corrected text 1995 UK) is familiar, and does not require extensive recounting. As already hinted, it tells the story of the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins, dragged by Gandalf into a Quest with some companion dwarfs for a hoard guarded by the dragon Smaug, who has lurked in Erebor ever since (in the back-story) he banished the dwarfs from their underground kingdom. In a minor incident (darkened and given additional emphasis in the 1951 version) Bilbo tricks a morally and physically decayed Hobbit named Gollum out of a Ring. The story ends.

Decades later, LOTR begins; it is one extremely long sustained tale, initially published in three volumes – The Fellowship of the Ring: Being the First Part of The Lord of the Rings (1954; rev 1965 US), The Two Towers: Being the Second Part of The Lord of the Rings (1954; rev 1965 US) and The Return of the King: Being the Third Part of The Lord of the Rings (1955; rev 1965 US) – because of 1950s fears about attempting to market a Fairytale over 1000 pages long; all three were assembled as The Lord of the Rings (omni 1968; the edition of 1987 may be definitive). At the start, Gandalf begins to reveal to Frodo Baggins the implications behind his cousin Bilbo's long retention of what is in fact the One Ring of Power, lost by Sauron centuries earlier. The Fellowship of the Ring is founded to accompany Frodo on an immense trek to Mount Doom in Mordor, where the Ring was originally forged, and where it may be destroyed at last, ending the power of the dread Sauron, who is (we must remember) a kind of a Parody of long-banished Melkor/Morgoth – so that his demise will mark the end of the story. That Sauron is a parody of the true Dark Lord befits JRRT's Christian sense of the nature of Evil. The other actors in this final drama, though they too "pun" upon larger models, are treated much more gently – as witting or unwitting participants in a Story which must be completed, a Monomyth in which they varyingly take on the role of the Hero (though Frodo endures the entire Cycle), as Avatars, or (as in the case of Gandalf and Tom Bombadil) simply themselves. But to be nobody but oneself in Middle-Earth – unless one is Sam Gamgee – is to be a walking Time Abyss.

Slowly, the long and tantalizingly incremental storyline of LOTR introduces Frodo and his companions – the most famous being the Sancho-Panza-like Sam Gamgee – to various races (the elves and the dwarfs in particular) whose own role in Middle-Earth is simultaneously coming to a climax and to Tom Bombadil and Strider, whose true provenance and roles are only gradually revealed. Along the route the Fellowship of the Ring is haunted by the Nazgûl (or Ringwraiths) from the Second Age of the Sun, who ride Winged Beasts from the First Age before Time began, and who impart an element of Horror into the tale; as befits denizens of the horror mode, they perish at the point at which the protagonists of LOTR, and Arda itself, pass through their ultimate ordeal and enter the Eucatastrophe. That point is the precise moment at which the Ring is bitten off Frodo Baggins's finger by the insane Gollum, who then topples into the fiery abyss beneath Mount Doom. Weakened by its poison, and by the huge burden of implications it bears, Frodo himself had been unable to dispose of the Ring: JRRT's use of Gollum at this point is a coup of storytelling, and underlies the fact that, in his long scheme, LOTR is a dying fall, a tale of aftermath.

Describing Fantasy "On Fairy-Tales", which appears in slightly revised form as the title essay in Tree and Leaf, provides, among other riches, an extremely influential modelling of the structurally complete fantasy tale – that which is sometimes loosely referred to in this encyclopedia as "full fantasy". After some preliminary clearing of the way, JRRT begins by claiming that the "fairy story", by which we can understand him to mean fantasy, is a tale set in the Enchantment known as Faerie, and which tells of marvels (see Marvellous). He then describes four elements that are necessary to the Fairytale, by which term he restricts himself to tales set in a Secondary World. Oddly, these four elements – Fantasy, Recovery, Escape and Consolation – do not constitute a narrative analysis of fantasy, though they might seem to. Given JRRT's pervasive concern with narrative and his mastery of the techniques of telling a secondary-world tale, it is perhaps understandable that they have indeed been understood as representing phases of narrative ... but, to repeat, they do not.

"Fantasy" incorporates JRRT's arguments about the nature of the secondary world, and if he had articulated his practices as a creator of secondary belief he might well have done so under this heading. About "Recovery" JRRT is not remarkably clear; and, when he indicates that the "recovery of freshness of vision" is only part of what he intends by the term, he does not go on to argue a case. It does seem, however, that he intends his audience to understand that the washed vision of Recovery returns us to a capacity to see things as we are meant (perhaps by Story) to see them. For JRRT, "Escape" is not "the flight of the deserter" but the "escape of the prisoner". The prison – he makes clear by example – is the modern world; the secondary world may be imaginary, but it is at times preferable to think oneself inside such a world. It is here, perhaps, that JRRT comes closest to C S Lewis's characteristic attitude to the modern world, and where he makes himself vulnerable to the charge that – because he condemns the "robot"-infested 20th century so vigorously – it follows that he values correspondingly the hierarchical world of LOTR, the Christian teleology underlining the cosmological tale it tells, the racism (which Theosophy has also been accused of) inherent in the Theodicy-ridden vision of races ranked by degree which LOTR promulgates with such great insistence (and whose clones throng the Fantasylands of his imitators). Finally, by "Consolation" JRRT means the Eucatastrophe – the happy event – which properly ends the fairytale, and which all-importantly defines the fairytale as something requiring an ending, a story which must be completed.

The underlying model of Fantasy in this encyclopedia has been developed in order to help describe the typical narrative movements of the form, and JRRT's four elements are not, therefore, referred to frequently, with the exception of the eucatastrophe associated with consolation. But "eucatastrophe" is, after all, a term which can clearly be used to describe a narrative movement. This said, it is obvious that any narrative understanding of fantasy espoused here must be consistent with the nature of LOTR – whether or not JRRT's own breakdown of elements is followed – because, if any model of fantasy fails to address the paradigm 20th-century fantasy text, then it is (by definition) a model which fails to describe fantasy.

Fantasy stories are defined here as stories which require completion, and which can be distinguished from their siblings (Supernatural Fictions and Horror) by this requirement, as well as by more obvious differentiations. This basic movement of fantasy towards completion, which JRRT both propounds and exemplifies, could be described as a shift from a condition of Bondage into freedom, via a eucatastrophe (or, rarely, a tragic close) which has been earned. More usefully, and with direct reference to LOTR, this basic "sentence" of fantasy – which can be expressed in two words, "bondage loosens" – can be expanded into a longer utterance.

Towards the beginning of a paradigm fantasy text a sense of Wrongness will almost invariably be felt. The Hobbits' first sight of the Nazgûl in LOTR is a telling example of this intuition that the world is not what it should be, and that any return to the world that was lost may be profoundly taxing. The Recognition of wrongness may be a recognition that the back-story that supports the secondary world has suddenly been brought to bear, or that a sudden dyslexia is corrupting the back-story (both of these recognitions occur in LOTR); or it may be a direct recognition of the Thinning of the world. Indeed, most early stages of most fantasy tales incorporate moments when wrongness is sensed, either simultaneously with or as a prelude to narrative sequences devoted to the description of thinning, which may be defined as a result of the loss of Magic, or of the slow death of the Gods, or of a transformation of the Land into desert, or of an Amnesia (the protagonist's, or the world's) about the true nature of the self or history or the secondary world, or of any of the consequences of the rule of a Dark Lord, whose diktats almost inevitably (as in LOTR) represent an estranging Parody of true governance. LOTR as a whole represents not only the final phase of a thinning of Arda, a process of loss which began with the first destruction of Eden at the beginning of the creation of the world, but other, local thinnings as well: several occur over the course of Frodo's long trek from the Shire to Mordor, and the Shire itself – when the victorious Hobbits finally come home again – has been thinned into a grotesque parody of the industrialization of the English Midlands.

In a full fantasy like LOTR, thinning cannot be the end of the matter. After the struggles of heroes, after protagonists have endured their Night Journeys, after the cause of the thinning has been identified, there must be a confrontation with the evil stasis that has bound the land into a rictus of its former edenic aliveness, and the self into Bondage to its Shadow.

In this encyclopedia, a metaphorical term Recognition is frequently used to describe (a) the moment at which – after penetrating the tangles and the Labyrinths and the unknowingness of the blinded – the protagonist finally gazes upon the heart of the thinned world, and recognizes the shape of his and its Story; and (b) the sense of transition from stasis into what JRRT calls "consolation" but which we call Healing. In LOTR, Frodo's several visions of Sauron in the form of an Eye, and his final tussle with Gollum, and many other moments in the complex tale, arguably represent (a). And (b) is signalled when the embattled Western armies stand exhausted at the cusp of defeat in their Last Battle with the Dark Lord – to realize instinctively that they have passed through the valley of the shadow, when they hear the call that heralds the arrival of the Liminal Beings: "The eagles are coming!" A new world is suddenly open to view.

In LOTR, the healing is a complex process. For Arda itself, the expulsion of the Dark Lord constitutes the final moment in the long war that has defined the back-story. For humans, the establishment of a single kingdom of Gondor under Aragorn is a political healing, and will allow people to enter the Fourth Age (ours) in command of themselves. For the elves, the only true healing now is farewell; and for Frodo this is also the case. For the Hobbits in general, the harrowing of the Shire is healing enough. Because it both terminates a long mythology and initiates the diurnal secular world, LOTR is comedy and tragedy: an Agon of gods and angels which devastates the arena of Earth; and an ecology. Though the model of the fantasy novel used here does point to that complexity, LOTR munificently transcends the model.

Aftermath. JRRT's influence on fantasy and sf has been not merely profound but also demeaning. It is his work which has given licence to the fairies, elves, orcs, cuddly dwarfs, loquacious plants, singing barmen, etc., who inhabit Fantasyland, which itself constitutes a direct thinning of JRRT's constantly evolving secondary world. This trivialization is, perhaps, an inherent risk in a literature which is increasingly Recursive in nature. But there are compensations. Over and above the value of his works themselves, the dialogue between JRRT and writers like Peter S Beagle and Stephen R Donaldson (to name only two) has been immensely fruitful. And the books remain, untouched by the myriad borrowings. [JC]

other works: Songs for the Philologists (coll 1936) with E V Gordon and others; Farmer Giles of Ham (1949 chap) and Smith of Wootton Major (1967 chap), assembled as Farmer Giles of Ham, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (omni 1975; vt Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham 1976 US); The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book (coll 1962 chap); The Tolkien Reader (coll 1966); The Road Goes Ever On: A Song Cycle (coll 1967) with music by Michael Swann; Bilbo's Last Song (1974 chap); Tree and Leaf, Smith of Wootton Major, The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth (omni 1975); The Father Christmas Letters (coll 1976 chap); Pictures by J R R Tolkien (graph 1979; rev 1992); Poems and Stories (coll 1980); Mr Bliss (1982 chap).

Nonfiction (selective): A Middle English Vocabulary (1922), first of several works of varying interest, including an edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (1925) with E V Gordon.

Further reading (selective): J R R Tolkien: A Biography (1977) by Humphrey Carpenter, various atlases and concordances like A Guide to Middle Earth (1971) by Robert Foster, The Tolkien Companion (1976) by J E A Tyler, and Tolkien: The Illustrated Encyclopedia (1991) by David Day. Among other biographical/critical works are Tolkien and the Critics (anth 1968) ed Neil D Isaacs and Rose A Zimbardo, Tolkien: A Look Behind The Lord of the Rings (1969) by Lin Carter, Master of Middle Earth (1972) by Paul H Kocher, Tolkien's World (1974) by Randel Helms, J R R Tolkien: Architect of Middle-Earth (1976) by Daniel Grotta-Kurska, The Mythology of Middle-Earth (1977) by Ruth S Noel, The Inklings (1979) by Humphrey Carpenter, J R R Tolkien: This Far Land (anth 1983) ed Robert Giddings, The Letters of J R R Tolkien (1981) ed Humphrey Carpenter with Christopher Tolkien, The Road to Middle-Earth (1982; rev 1992) by Tom Shippey and The Comedy of the Fantastic: Ecological Perspectives on the Fantasy Novel (1985) by Don D Elgin.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.