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Mass Market Paperback Master of Middle Earth Book

ISBN: 0345272420

ISBN13: 9780345272423

Master of Middle Earth

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Format: Mass Market Paperback

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Book Overview

" "As is the case with all great works of art, J. R. R. Tolkien s masterpieces generously repay close attention and study. In this thoroughly entertaining and perceptive volume, winner of the prestigious Mythopoeic Society Scholarship Award, Professor Kocher examines the sources that Tolkien drew upon in fashioning Middle-earth and its inhabitants and provides valuable insights into the author s aims and methods. Ranging from "The Hobbit" to The Lord...

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

Old but still valuable

Published before the Silmarillion was available, this book offers valuable insight into the world of "The Hobbit," "Lord of the Rings," and "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil." It offers chapters on "The Cosmic Order," "The Free Peoples," and "Aragorn," among others. The chapter on Aragorn is an extended discussion of his place in the LR, and Kocher's opinion that he is the real hero of the work. This chapter alone makes Kocher's book well worth reading. The last chapter, "Seven Leaves," may be of less interest because six of the "leaves" are about JRRT's writings that are on non-Middle Earth topics. Although the book was published in 1972, it does not appear to me to be outdated by later JRRT publications, and can be enjoyed by anyone who has read "The Hobbit" and LR.

Masterful "Middle-Earth"

Countless scholars and quite a few amateurs have tried to dissect the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Most do a rotten job. But Paul Kocher actually does it well -- while his essays are a bit outdated, "Master of Middle-Earth : The Fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien" still stand as some of the best interpretations of Tolkien's work. Kocher tackles such subjects as whether Middle-Earth is really an imaginary world, or one tied closely to reality, followed by a critical look at "The Hobbit" and how it related -- or doesn't -- to "Lord of the Rings." One of the most intriguing essays in here is "Cosmic Order," a look at how Tolkien portrays free will, predestination and fate, followed by a study of how Tolkien writes Sauron and the other evil creatures of Middle-Earth, such as orcs (which Kocher thinks are trained to be evil) and barrow wights. Kocher then does a 180 and looks at the free peoples of Middle-Earth, and the importance of each race. A careful study of Aragorn follows, tracing the uncrowned king's subtle development over the entire trilogy and studying his status as a hero. As a grand finale, Kocher examines various short works that Tolkien wrote or translated, including the lesser known creations like "Imram." Most people who analyze "Lord of the Rings" end up like that guy in Nabokov's "Pale Fire" -- they see only what they want to see. But Paul H. Kocher, who was a professor at Stanford, does a very good job of analyzing "Lord of the Rings." Certainly nothing has been put out that disproves him. Kocher obviously had a great deal of respect for Tolkien, even speaking with intense scorn about people who dismiss "Lord of the Rings" as "just an adventure story." But he doesn't pull his punches due to that respect -- he's about as honest as he can be when he doesn't like something, such as the cockney-speaking Trolls. Kocher's essays are somewhat out of date, since they were written in the 1970s, long before the "Unfinished Tales" book was published, and it only dips into the "Silmarillion." But at the same time, his essays are thoughtful and in tune with Tolkien's trilogy, and stick closely to Tolkien's Christian beliefs and his mythic influences. "Master of Middle-Earth : The Fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien" is a solid resource for people who have read "Lord of the Rings." Definitely worth reading.

Outdated but essential

The author is deceased, and the text has never been altered since its original publication in 1972, so some of its facts are outdated. But the bulk of the book remains insightful and useful: nothing published since has invalidated Kocher's discussion of the moral stances and the nature of evil shown in LotR. He also provides the best analysis ever published of the character of Aragorn, and what are still the only studies of the rare poems "The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun" and "Imram". But it would have been nice to have added a footnote saying that "Imram" is now easily available in its original context (unknown to Kocher) of The Notion Club Papers (in Sauron Defeated, p. 296-9).

Useful guide

This book sets out Kocher's interpretation of Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The main weakness of this book is the scant coverage of The Silmarillion - perhaps understandable as Kocher has another book devoted to it.Kocher had a law dgree and a PhD, both fron Stanford, where he also taught English. He may have practised law - which may account for his lawyerly analysis in this book of Aragorn as the key character of Middle Earth. If you read only one book to help you along as you read Tolkien's books, this could be a good choice. (Another would be Robert Foster's Complete Guide to Middle Earth.)
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