J. R. R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend: A Review

J. R. R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend: A Review

J. R. R. Tolkien: The Making of a LegendI decided to review J. R. R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend because I was curious about Tolkien. I’ve never read any of his books: no Hobbits, no Lord of the Rings, none of it. I probably should: they’re such classics, and his Lord of the Rings is supposed to share a lot of inspiration with Wagner’s Ring Cycle of operas, which fascinate me. Anyway, when Kregel books offered J. R. R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend, I said yes.

I enjoyed the book. It’s a basic story of J. R. R. Tolkien’s life. I learned that Tolkien was orphaned at an early age. He served in WWI and was pretty traumatized by it. Several of his good friends from college were killed in the war. He fell in love with a girl three years older than him when he was a teen, and the Catholic priest who was his caretaker forbid him to see her until he was 21. At that time, they got in touch again and got married.

Tolkien was always fascinated with languages and its intricacies. He had various very specific interests, and honestly while reading this I got kind of an Asperger’s vibe from him. Turns out I’m not the only one who suspected that Tolkien may have been on the autism spectrum.

Tolkien became good friends with C. S. Lewis during his adult years, and many credit Tolkien in large part with persuading Lewis to become a Christian. Although Tolkien was a professor at Oxford, it was still years before his books found a publisher (apparently some things never change). Publishers feared the fantasy worlds he created would not appeal to adults.

Although I felt that the book was written in a bit too scholarly of a tone to be really enjoyable, I am glad I read it, and I learned a lot. Will I read “The Hobbit” or “Lord of the Rings?” Still not sure — I’m not much of a fantasy fan myself. Have you read them? Do you recommend them?

Thanks to Kregel for a review copy of this book.

4 thoughts on “J. R. R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend: A Review

  1. Hi Susan,
    While I am not a huge fantasy fan, occasionally a well-written book will grab me, especially if it contains those epic good vs. evil overtones. If you enjoy historical novels, reading Tolkien is a lot like reading a very good medieval historical. Tolkiens’s books set such a high standard for fantasy writers, there are almost none that haven’t tried to imitate him. The Hobbit has a different tone than the LOTR. It’s lighter in many senses. (The movie took the time to included more of the vast histories of Middle Earth taken from Tolkien’s very involved indices and other writings such as The Silmarillion.) There are a couple really good devotionals written based on these classics. “Finding God in the Lord of the Rings” and “Walking with Frodo”. Christians can take away a lot allegorical insights from the series. Whether or not that was intentional on Tolkien’s behalf is debatable. I prefer to think he just wrote from his world view after coming to Christ. I think it’s better to read The Hobbit first, but it’s not necessary, and it’s The Lord of the Rings that won’t let you go.

  2. Hi Susan,
    I’m a friend of your sister Ellen, who sent me a link to this page. My husband and I are huge LOTR/Tolkien fans.

    We came onto the readings a little late though, and at first I didn’t get it. We saw all the fan fare with the first movie coming out and again when Two Towers came out. We were in college at the time and decided to rent the first movie to see what the whole buzz was about. I could not have been more bored in my life. I’m not sure why we decided to try and watch it a second time but I’m glad we did. I don’t know what changed on the second time but I am glad something changed. When the third one came out (the 4 hour one) we went and saw in the movie theater 5 times.

    After watching the movies, we started reading the books. My husband has every Tolkien book ever published and has read it. I have only read the 3 in the Fellowship triology and am working my way through the Hobbit right now. (We also enjoy C.S. Lewis and like to see how they influenced each other’s writings).

    If you are thinking about trying to read them here are two suggestions: one, watch the movie first. (And maybe twice, like me!) That way, if you hate it…well, yes 3 hours of your life is gone. But if you read the book and hate it, you’re out more time. The movies directed by Peter Jackson are so wonderfully done (even though he had to edit because Tolkien just creates SUCH a huge world there’s no way you could cover it all). It can give you a sense of what’s to come. Secondly, I might start with the Hobbit. The Hobbit was originally written as a children’s book and goes into far less detail, personal and corporate history, and character development than the others. It’s a good beginner book to get you acquainted with Tolkien’s style, learn a little about the some of the characters you’ll see later – and get alot of action and adventure. And in comparison its a pretty quick read.

    Lastly, while I too may not be a big sci-fi/fantasy fan myself, Tolkien’s works for me transcend that genre. There are so many characters and story lines that tell of a larger story (the human story), give us hope in a hopeless world and encourage to fight for goodness in the face of evil even if we are outnumbered 1000:1. Personally speaking, these story lines have given me courage when I have needed it most and reminded me, I am not alone. My situation is not unique. And what I am standing up for is worth it, even if no one is standing with me. (((Complicated ministry positions and unforeseen transitions will make you grasp for any shred of hope! 🙂 Such is life!)))

    I hope that if you decide to read them, you will enjoy them. I know its not everyone’s cup of tea.

  3. A sixth grade boy recently told me he was reading The Hobbit. He had read it several times before this reading and loved it!

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I enjoy hearing your thoughts.