Tolkien, the Master of Middle Earth
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, or Ronald Tolkien to his friends and family, created as his life work the world of Arda, or Middle Earth. Tolkien shaped this world with incredible detail, depth and scope. The mythic layers of the stories of Middle Earth mimic in complexity those of our own world.
Tolkien wrote the heroic tales of the First Age as epic poems, inspired during his military service in the Lancashire Fusiliers in the trenches of World War I Europe. These poems and the stories evolved into The Book of Lost Tales, and later The Silmarillion, and set the stage for the events of the War of the Ring. Tolkien authored the stories of Frodo and the One Ring as a serial that was mailed to his son during the Second World War, and it is clear that the real tension of wartime and suffering inform the tales of conflict throughout Tolkien’s poetry and fiction. The events of Tolkien’s life and the drama of his stories overlap to provide a depth of history unlike any other fantasy series. Other authors have forged their own fantasy worlds but none wields the authority of Middle Earth.
The Oxford scholar’s professional research into the structure of English and European languages gave him the linguistic expertise to create several languages. Sindarin and Quenya, the varieties of the Elvish language, Dwarvish, the Black Tongue and Orcish languages, and the different human tongues of Middle Earth accurately reflect subtle aspects of these different fictional cultures. All the written and spoken languages and original poetry and songs written in those languages lend a musicality to his world rarely seen in fiction of any kind.
The worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien encompass far more than the the adventures associated with the easily identifiable characters from the big screen. Bilbo, Frodo and Sam, Aragorn, Legolas, and especially Gandalf are easy conversation starters these days, but if a discussion turns to the Elder Days and a couple of real Tolkien nerds start talking about the tragic figure of Túrin, the love story of Beren and Lúthien, or the sons of Fëanor and the War of the Jewels, you are liable to see some blank stares. Aside from his best known works, the enormous volume of poetry, songs, and stories by this author–truly the father of modern fantasy– deserves the attention of any serious fan.
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