There and Back Again: J R R Tolkien and the Origins of The Hobbit (03.09.12 by Pieter Collier) - Comments

Whenever a movie adaptation of a book by Tolkien is announced we see a series of books released, so logically many books with a connection to The Hobbit will be coming out over the next few months. Books will range from cooking books to esoteric novels with a The Hobbit connection. The vast amount of publications makes it hard to find which book can best be ignored and which books are of the highest quality.

There are however some signals that can not be ignored and that make some titles stand out in the crowd. One of the essential readings that just has been released is called There and Back Again: J R R Tolkien and the Origins of The Hobbit by Mark Atherthon. Not only does it have an amazing cover and is being released as a hardcover, it is also written by a distinguished scholar of medieval language and literature, namely Mark Atherthon.

Maybe this name does not ring a bell, but he is a lecturer in English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford and the author of Teach Yourself Old English / Anglo Saxonand a contributor to The Complete Tolkien Companion.
Brian Sibley, author of The Lord of the Rings: The Making of the Movie Trilogy and of Peter Jackson: A Film-maker's Journey, says "Mark Atherton’s treatment of one of the most famous books of the twentieth century is timely and welcome. On the face of it, The Hobbit appears an engaging fantasy adventure for young readers; but, as it later transpired, Mr Bilbo Baggins' exploits "there and back again" were simply a prelude to the apocalyptic drama that was to unfold in The Lord the Rings.

In this detailed exploration, Mark Atherton provides the reader with a comprehensive understanding of the many origins, influences and inspirations – biographical, historical, geographical and literary – that, combined with a unique imagination, resulted in the crafting of a new mythology."

'Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.' The prophetic words of Galadriel, addressed to Frodo as he prepared to travel from Lothlorien to Mordor to destroy the One Ring, are just as pertinent to J R R tolkien's own fiction.

For decades, hobbits and the other fantastical creatures of Middle-earth have captured the imaginations of a fiercely loyal tribe of readers, all enhanced by the immense success of Peter Jackson's films: first The Lord of the Rings, and now his new The Hobbit.

But for all tolkien's global fame and the familiarity of modern culture with Gandalf, Bilbo, Frodo and Sam, the sources of the great mythmaker's own myth-making have been neglected.

Brian Sibley explains: "One reason for the enduring appeal of both of these works is that J R R Tolkien imbued his tales of a fictional realm with resonances of ancient themes and universal truths."

And this is why "There and Back Again is essential reading for all Tolkien fans - and also for anyone interested more broadly in medievalism, or the ways in which later writers have responded to the culture of the Middle Ages." says Heather O'Donoghue, Vigfusson Rausing Reader in Ancient Icelandic Literature & Antiquities at the University of Oxford.
There and Back Again: J R R Tolkien and the Origins of The Hobbit

In this book Mark Atherthon explores the chief influences on tolkien's work: his boyhood in the West Midlands; the landscapes and seascapes which shaped his mythologies; his experiences in World War I; his interest in Scandinavian myth; his friendships, especially with the other Oxford-based Inklings; and the relevance of his themes, especially ecological themes, to the present-day.

There and Back Again offers a unique guide to the varied inspirations behind tolkien's life and work, and sheds new light on how a legend is born. In this highly readable and accessible study, Atherton brings his own scholarship to bear on tolkien's sources for The Hobbit, and in the process illuminates the whole of tolkien's remarkable oeuvre.

About the author Mark Atherton

Mark Atherton is lecturer in English Language and Literature at the University of Oxford. He is the author of Teach Yourself Old English/Anglo Saxon and contributed to A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien.

Mark Atherton is that ideal combination: a reader and critic deeply appreciative of tolkien's literary artistry, his imaginative scope and his linguistic invention, who is also, like Tolkien himself, a distinguished scholar of medieval language and literature.

Title: There and Back Again: J R R Tolkien and the Origins of The Hobbit

Author: Mark Atherton

Publication Date:
September 1, 2012

hardcover, 288 pages

ISBN-13: 978-1780762463

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