Posts Tagged With: J.R.R. Tolkien

The Wisdom of the Shire by Noble Smith

the wisdom of the shireTitle: The Wisdom of the Shire: A Short Guide to a Long and Happy Life
Author: Noble Smith
ISBN: 978-1444759648
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
First Published: November 2012 (hardback) / February 2013 (audio) / June 2013 (paperback)
No .of pages: 224

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
Coinciding with the release of the first of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, his follow-up to the huge Lord of the Rings success, The Wisdom of the Shire is a practical and fun guide – for Tolkien fans everywhere – showing us how to apply the wisdom of The Hobbit to our everyday lives.

Hobbits are those small but brave little people, whose courage, integrity and loyalty allow them to triumph against odds that might appear overwhelming to the rest of us. Noble Smith has long believed there is much we can learn from Frodo’s determination, Bilbo’s sense of homeliness, Sam’s fierce allegiance, and Merry and Pippin’s love of food and fun. Like The Tao of Pooh, The Wisdom of the Shire is the first book to show Tolkien fans just how much there is to learn from those small but brave little people – the Hobbits.

Packed with amusing insights and fascinating trivia, this fun and insightful guide is all you need to complete your quest in life, and cast your cares into the fires of Mordor.

This is one of those delightful little books that “does exactly what it says on the tin.”  It explores the Shire and visits with the Hobbits who live there like old friends, as well as stopping by various other places in Middle Earth and introducing us to elves, wizards, dwarves, and even ents, as we get to know them better and discover exactly what it is that makes Hobbits so, well, Hobbit-ish.

Hobbits, of course, are some of the best-loved characters in literature, and there is barely a person you’ll meet who hasn’t at least heard of them, even if they haven’t read the books by Tolkien or seen Peter Jackson’s wonderful films. The Wisdom of the Shire looks at how following the Hobbits’ example can lead to a happier life as we learn to appreciate the small and simple things in life – good food, good friends, a cosy home, and a love of the natural world around us.

Filled with fascinating tidbits of information about the people and places of middle earth, as well as the author and the actors who have played roles in the films, this little book keeps you turning the pages to the very end, where you will find a Hobbit test (apparently I am extremely Hobbit-like!) and directions for making your own small Hobbit-inspired garden.

If you’re a fan of the books or the films, you will love this book. Even if you’re not, you’ll probably be able to get something out of the gentle advice it gives in an entirely Hobbit-ish way – never intrusive, always warm and friendly – and will be left with a warm feeling inside, and possibly inspired to live your life the way the Hobbits do, even if you live in the middle of a busy city.

Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite

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Unfinished Tales by J.R.R. Tolkien

Date of Publication: 1980, Houghton-Mifflin

Number of Pages: 472, including appendices and index

Synopsis (from back cover): A New York Times bestseller for twenty-one weeks upon publication, Unfinished Tales is a collection of narratives ranging in time from the Elder Days of Middle-earth to the end of the War of the Ring, and further relates events as told in The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings.

The book concentrates on the lands of Middle-earth and comprises Gandalf’s lively account of how he came to send the Dwarves to the celebrated party at Bag End, the story of the emergence of the sea-god Ulmo before the eyes of Tuor on the coast of Beleriand, and an exact description of the military organization of the Riders of Rohan and the journey of the Black Riders during the hunt for the Ring.

Unfinished Tales also contains the only surviving story about the long ages of Númenor before its downfall, and all that is known about the Five Wizards sent to Middle-earth as emissaries of theValar, about the Seeing Stones known as the Palantiri, and about the legend of Amroth.

Review: For fans of Tolkien and his mythology, this is an indispensable work. Unfinished Tales provides incredible details about many aspects of The Lord of the Rings, such as the hunt for the One Ring and how the Ringwraiths got to the Shire. There is also a history of Galadriel and Celeborn, a full account of Tuor’s journey to Gondolin, the history of the Wizards, and the history of the long friendship between Gondor and Rohan, as told in “Cirion and Eorl”. All readers of Tolkien must read this collection if they are going to understand Middle-earth and its history and people.

One can read this book as a companion to The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, or The Hobbit, but it can also be read on its own. There are notes from Christopher Tolkien which explain the progress of each story, and the different versions of them. The only complaint I have is that my edition only provides a general map of Middle-earth, after the breaking of the West. There is no map ofBeleriand . But there is a map of Númenor, and it’s a great help as a reference when reading “A Description of the Island of Númenor”. I had a lot of fun reading this again, and I found the stories, which are found almost nowhere else (with the exception of the “Narn I Hîn Húrin”, the history of Turin Turumbar). I would recommend this not only to hard-core readers of Tolkien, but also those who are simply curious about the history of Middle-earth.

Rating: 10/10

Reviewed by Sarah

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The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Date of Publication: 1937

Number of Pages (including maps): 275

Synopsis (from “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

The hobbit-hole in question belongs to one Bilbo Baggins, an upstanding member of a “little people, about half our height, and smaller than the bearded dwarves.” He is, like most of his kind, well off, well fed, and best pleased when sitting by his own fire with a pipe, a glass of good beer, and a meal to look forward to. Certainly this particular hobbit is the last person one would expect to see set off on a hazardous journey; indeed, when Gandalf the Grey stops by one morning, “looking for someone to share in an adventure,” Baggins fervently wishes the wizard elsewhere. No such luck, however; soon 13 fortune-seeking dwarves have arrived on the hobbit’s doorstep in search of a burglar, and before he can even grab his hat or an umbrella, Bilbo Baggins is swept out his door and into a dangerous adventure.

Review: The Hobbit is a prelude to the epic The Lord of the Rings, but it still stands quite well on its own. This story tells of the finding of the Ring of Power, though at the time it seems a mere piece of luck and comes in quite handy for Bilbo during his adventure. More important to this story is the journey of Bilbo and the dwarves toward their ancient home, the Lonely Mountain, where Smaug the dragon sits atop their hoard of treasure. Always, the goal of reaching the mountain and reclaiming the gold (somehow) is foremost in their minds, even though they become sidetracked several times along the way. This is a perfect adventure story, ideal for reading to children or for anyone of any age. Bilbo, a seemingly insignificant person of a seemingly insignificant race of people, is a wonderful hero, as he finds that he possesses more courage and wits than he ever imagined. This is one of those books that everyone should read, if not for its relevance to the Middle-earth saga, but also because it’s simply a wonderful story.

Rating: 10/10

Reviewed by Sarah

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The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien


Date of Publication: 2007, Houghton-Mifflin Company

Illustrated by Alan Lee

This is the latest book to be published under Tolkien’s name. It is the story of Húrin and his family, and the curse laid upon them by Morgoth. It’s one of the most tragic stories that Tolkien ever wrote, and it is appearing now in its most complete form, since its first appearance in The Silmarillion.

Húrin starts out as the lord of Dor-lómin, an enclave of Men in the north of Beleriand, but is captured by Morgoth after The Battle of Unnumbered Tears, who questions him about the whereabouts of the hidden kingdom of Gondolin, where he knew Húrin had been. When Húrin refuses to talk, Morgoth sets him at the top of Thangorodrim and curses him and his family. His plan is that Húrin should know all that his family suffers because of his defiance.

This curse follows Húrin’s son, Turin, his wife, Morwen, and even his unborn daughter, Nienor for the rest of their lives. But it is not simply that Morgoth assails Turin and his family with war and pestilence. Tolkien ensures that the curse works in a much more subtle way: through the twists of fate, the rash decisions they make, and the very stubbornness of their natures. Because of all of these things, evil befalls all of them.

The book mainly follows Turin’s adventures, as he becomes a great warrior, an outlaw, and a dragon-slayer. The black fate that follows him, as he seems to carry the brunt of Morgoth’s curse, eventually consumes him and his family. It is said in some of Tolkien’s other writings as they appear in The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, that the sufferings of Húrin’s family, particularly of Turin and Nienor are considered one of Morgoth’s worst crimes, and that when the end of the world finally comes, Turin will be the one to defeat Morgoth in battle and finally vanquish him forever.

This book is a relief to many of Tolkien’s fans, as it relates the story of Turin in an easy to follow narrative, as opposed to the broken writings of earlier publications. The illustrations by Alan Lee are beautiful, the writing is fluid, and the story is more realized than it has ever been. Now, if only Christopher Tolkien can do the same thing for the story of Beren and Lúthien…

Rating: 9/10

Reviewed by Sarah

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Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien

Date of Publication: 2004, Houghton Mifflin Company

Number of Pages: 111

Synopsis: “Every December an envelope bearing a stamp from the North Pole would arrive for J.R.R. Tolkien’s children. Inside would be a letter in strange spidery handwriting and a beautiful colored drawing or some sketches.

The letters were from Father Christmas.

They told wonderful tales of life at the North Pole: how all the reindeer got loose and scattered presents everywhere; how the accident-prone Polar Bear climbed the North Pole and fell through the roof of Father Christmas’s house; how he broke the Moon into four pieces and made the Man in it fall into the back garden; how there were wars with the troublesome horde of goblins who lived in the caves beneath the house.

Sometimes the Polar Bear would scrawl a note, and sometimes Ilbereth the Elf would write in his elegant flowing script, adding yet more life and humor to the stories.

This updated volume contains a wealth of new material, including letters and pictures missing from early editions. No reader, young or old, can fail to be charmed by the inventiveness and “authenticity” of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas.” ~blurb from back cover

Review: This is a charming book, full of wonderful illustrations drawn by Tolkien himself. The cast of characters is wonderfully amusing, especially North Polar Bear, who gets into all sorts of mischief every year. There are even descriptions of wars between Father Christmas and the neighboring Goblins, reminiscent of the Goblin wars depicted in The Hobbit and The Silmarillion.

The book is also bittersweet, as it spans almost 20 years, and Tolkien begins to address his letters to fewer and fewer children, until only his youngest, his daughter Priscilla, still awaits her letter from Father Christmas. It shows how his children have grown, and Father Christmas himself seems sad as his children stop believing in Christmas magic. The last letter is especially poignant, as Father Christmas says goodbye to the children.

This is a great book to read during the holiday season, but it can really be enjoyed any time of year. It’s funny, magical, and made me feel like a child again. I recommend this book not only to fans of Tolkien, but to anyone who wants to get into the Christmas spirit.

Rating: 10/10

Reviewed by Sarah

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The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Date of Publication: Published in three volumes, 1954-1955Number of Pages: 1178 (in one-volume edition, including appendices and index)

Synopsis: Four hobbit friends leave their beloved Shire on a quest to destroy the Ring of Power, bequeathed to Frodo Baggins by the famous Bilbo. They are helped along the way by the wizard Gandalf, a mysterious stranger named Strider, an Elf called Legolas, a Dwarf named Gimli, and Boromir, a powerful warrior from Gondor. They are met by tragedy and loss, unexpected friends and good fortune, and always adventure throughout their long journey. Finally, they are separated, and three groups must go their own way. Strider, Legolas, and Gimli come to the aid of the Rohirrim in their struggles against the wizard-turned-evil, Saruman. The young hobbits, Merry and Pippin encounter a mysterious race of beings deep inside Fangorn Forest, and unwittingly play an important role in the war against the dark forces. Frodo and his extremely loyal servant, Sam, go on their own to the land of Mordor, to destroy the Ring, which is slowly strengthening its hold on Frodo, in the fires of Mount Doom. They are followed, and sometimes helped, by the creature Gollum, who is obsessed with the Ring, which he once possessed. Each member of the Fellowship goes into the unknown, but finds in himself the courage to face it. None of them emerge from their adventure without being changed forever.

Review: I have to start out by saying that this is my favorite book of all time. I’ve read it multiple times, I’ve studied it, I’ve written a paper about it, and I’ve read books about it. For some, this can be one of those life-changing books. The first time I read it, I was astounded, not simply at the story, but the incredible beauty of it. Tolkien started his long writing career by trying to create a mythology for his beloved adopted country of England. He created two languages, Sindarin and Quenya, and made up stories about the people who spoke them. The Lord of the Rings is the result of over 15 years of work and a demand for a sequel to his classic, The Hobbit. When you read the story, you can not only see the landscape and recognize it, but you believe that it’s real. You feel like you’ve discovered some long-forgotten manuscript, written by a vanished race, something that must have existed.

Many people ask me how they should go about reading The Lord of the Rings. My answer is simple. If you’ve read The Hobbit, great, if not, read that first. Then you can move on to the more difficult The Lord of the Rings. If, after that, you find that you want to know more, then you can read the true work of Tolkien’s heart, The Silmarillion. Some people object to The Lord of the Rings, saying that it’s too long, it’s too dense, there are too many characters and songs, or that it’s too religious. I say that these people are too closed-minded. Remove any expectations from your mind, and take it for what it is: a work of heroic fantasy, inspired by the legends of the ancient Norse and Anglo-Saxons. Accept the songs and poems as relics of a forgotten age. Allow yourself to become absorbed into the story, and it’s an experience you can never forget.

Rating: 10/10

Reviewed by Sarah

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