A few months ago in my post More Than Just a Fantasy we looked at how the fantasy genre — in particular J.R.R. Tolkien’s vision — is relevant to us in its stories and themes. In particular, Matthew Dickerson’s book A Hobbit Journey: Discovering the Enchantment of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, showed us how Tolkien’s worldview was populated with many deep ideas to ponder and learn from.
With the release of the second Hobbit film, it’s a good time for Tolkien fans to once again dig deep into his mythos and what formed what has become a classic part of 20th Century literature. There is no shortage of books to peruse, but a couple stand out.
There is the before-mentioned by Dickerson, which focuses on how Tolkien’s Christian beliefs were the foundation to his writings. Tom Shippey’s The Road to Middle Earth: How J.R.R. Tolkien Created a New Mythology is the go to biography of Tolkien and exploration of his many inspirations. John Garth expands on one aspect of Tolkien’s past, his serving in World War I, in Tolkien and the Great War. The War of the Ring had some very real life parallels.
To top all this off, Christopher Snyder’s new The Making of Middle-Earth covers a little bit of everything of Tolkien’s world and legacy. It’s a great place to start for all Tolkien students and fans.
Do you need these books to enjoy Tolkien’s fiction? No. Do they make you want to go back and re-read and become immersed — deeply so — into Middle-Earth like it was the first time? Yes, they certainly do.