The Tolkien Reader

The Tolkien Reader

by J. R. R. Tolkien

Hardcover(Library Binding)

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An invitation to Tolkien's world. This rich treasury includes Tolkien's most beloved short fiction plus his essay on fantasy.

FARMER GILES OF HAM. An imaginative history of the distant and marvelous past that introduces the rather unheroic Farmer Giles, whose efforts to capture a somewhat untrustworthy dragon will delight readers everywhere.

THE ADVENTURES OF TOM BOMBADIL. A collection of verse in praise of Tom Bombadil, that staunch friend of the Hobbits in THE LORD OF THE RINGS.

ON FAIRY-STORIES. Professor Tolkien's now-famous essy on the form of the fairy story and the treatment of fantasy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780756910723
Publisher: Perfection Learning Corporation
Publication date: 11/28/1986
Pages: 251
Sales rank: 1,192,757
Product dimensions: 4.00(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.75(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on January 3, 1892, in Bloemfontein, South Africa. After serving in World War I, he embarked upon a distinguished academic career and was recognized as one of the finest philologists in the world. He was a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, a fellow of Pembroke College, and a fellow of Merton College until his retirement in 1959. He is, however, beloved throughout the world as the creator of Middle-earth and author of such classic works as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. He died on September 2, 1973, at the age of eighty-one.

Date of Birth:

January 3, 1892

Date of Death:

September 2, 1973

Place of Birth:

Bloemfontein, Orange Free State (South Africa)

Place of Death:

Oxford, England


B.A., Exeter College, Oxford University, 1915; M.A., 1919

Read an Excerpt

Tolkein’s Magic Ring

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men, doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

Far to the north there are the Iron Hills, the Gray Mountains and the Ice Bay of Forochel; beyond that lies only the great Northern Waste. Farthest to the south is the Haradwaith, land of a dark and fierce people; on the west is the Sea, and far over the Sea are the immortal lands of Westernesse, out of which the Eldar peoples came, and to which they will all return in time. To the east is Mordor, and that was always an evil and desolate country. These are the boundaries of Middle-earth, and this is the world that J. R. R. Tolkein has explored and chronicled in The Lord of the Rings. I do not say created, for it was always there.

The Lord of the Rings and its prologue, The Hobbit, belong, in my experience, to a small group of books and poems and songs that I have truly shared with other people. The strangest strangers turn out to know it, and we talk about Gandalf and mad Gollum and the bridge of Khazad-dûm while the party or the classroom or the train rattles along unheard. Old friends rediscover it, as I do—to browse through any book of the Ring trilogy is to get hooked once more into the whole legend—and we talk of it at once as though we had just read it for the first time, and as though we wereremembering something that had happened to us together long ago. Something of ourselves has gone into reading it, and so it belongs to us.

The country of the book, Middle-earth, is a land much like our own, as mythical, but no more so. Its sunlight is remembered from the long summers of childhood, and its nightmares are equally those of children: overwhelming visions of great, cold shapes that block out the sunlight forever. But the forces that form the lives of the dwellers of Middle-earth are the same that make our lives—history, chance and desire. It is a world bubbling with possibility, subject to natural law, and never more than a skin away from the howling primal chaos that waits outside every world; it is no Oz, no Great Good Place, but a world inhabited by people and things, smells and seasons, like our own.

The Hobbit is our introduction both to Middle-earth and to the tale of the One Ring. Hobbits are a small, burrow-dwelling people, a little shorter than Dwarves: furry-footed, sociable growers and gardeners, fond of fireworks, songs and tobacco, inclined toward stoutness and the drawing up of geneologies. In this book, the hobbit Bilbo Baggins accompanies thirteen Dwarves and a wizard named Gandalf to aid in the recovery of a treasure stolen by a dragon centuries before. During the adventure Bilbo finds a magic ring and brings it home as a souvenir. Its gift, as far as he can tell, is to make the wearer invisible, which is useful if you are trying to avoid aunts and dragons, and Bilbo uses it for both purposes a time or two. But he makes little other use of it in the sixty years he keeps it; he carries it in his pocket on a fine chain.

The Lord of the Rings begins with Gandalf’s discovery that Bilbo’s ring is in truth the One Ring of the rhyme. It was made by the Dark Lord—Sauron of Mordor, ageless and utterly evil—and the lesser rings distributed among Elves, Dwarves and Men are meant in time to lure the three peoples under the domination of the One Ring, the master of all. But Sauron has lost the ring, and his search for it is growing steadily more fierce and frantic: possessing the Ring, he would be finally invincible, but without it all his power may yet be unmade. The Ring must be destroyed—not only to keep it from Sauron’s grasp, but because of all the rings, the One Ring’s nature is to turn good into evil—and it is Bilbo’s nephew, Frodo Baggins, who undertakes to journey with it to the volcano where it was forged, even though the mountain lies in Mordor, under the eye of the Dark Lord.

The Lord of the Rings is the tale of Frodo’s journey through a long nightmare of greed and terrible energy, of his education in both fear and true beauty, and of his final loss of the world he seeks to save. In a sense, his growing knowledge has eaten up the joy and the innocent strength that made him, of all the wise and magic people he encounters, the only one fit to bear the Ring. As he tells Sam Gamgee, the only friend who followed him all the long way to the fire, “It must often be so . . . when things are in danger: someone has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.” There are others in Middle-earth who would have willingly paid that price, but certainly none to whom it would have meant as much.

That is the plot; but the true delight of the book comes from the richness of the epic, of which The Lord of the Rings is only a few stanzas. The structure of Tolkein’s world is as dizzyingly complex and as natural as a snowflake or a spiderweb: the kingdoms of Men in Middle-earth alone have endured for three ages, and each of their histories, as Tolkein sets them forth in the fascinating Appendix, contains enough material for a ballad as long as The Lord of the Rings. And there are other, older peoples—notably the immortal Elves—whose memories go back to the Elder Days, long before good or evil moved in Middle-earth; there are the Dwarves and the Ents—the shepherds of the trees, “old as mountains”—and there is Tom Bombadil, who belongs to no race, no mission and no age.

Tolkein tells us something of each of these peoples—their songs, their languages, their legends, their customs and their relations with one another—but he is wise enough not to tell all that he knows of them and of their world. One can do that with literary creations, but not with any living thing. And Middle-earth lives, not only in The Lord of the Rings but around it and back and forth from it. I have read the complete work five or six times (not counting browsing, for which this essay is, in part, an excuse), and each time my pleasure in the texture of it deepens. It will bear the mind’s handling, and it is a book that acquires an individual patina in each mind that takes it up, like a much-caressed pocket stone or piece of wood. At times, always knowing that I didn’t write it, I feel that I did.

The Hobbit is a good introduction to the dwellers in Middle-earth, the more so as several of its main characters appear again in The Lord of the Rings. In addition to hobbits, Dwarves, Elves and Men, there is Gandalf the wizard: a wanderer, known by many names to many peoples, capable of appearing as a bent, frail old man, handy with fireworks, vain, fussy and somehow comical, or as a shining figure of terrifying power, fit to contest the will of Sauron himself. And there is Beorn, the skin-changer, who can take on the shape of a bear at will; a surly, rumbling man, but a good friend. Beorn is not seen after The Hobbit, but in a literary sense he is the forerunner of the more deeply realized Tom Bombadil. Both are wary creatures, misliking the great concerns of other peoples. Both are their own masters, under no enchantment but their own; but old Bombadil is song incarnate, and his power is greater than Beorn’s. He would be the last to be conquered if Sauron held the Ring.

But of all the characters in both books, surely the most memorable—and by his own miserable fate, the most important—is the creature called Sméagol, or Gollum, from the continuous gulping sound he makes in his throat. Gollum in ancestry is very close to the hobbits, and it is he who discovers the Ring in a river where it has been lost for thousands of years. Rather, he murders to get it, for no reason that he can say except that it is more beautiful than anything that has ever come into his life. His name for it, always, is “the Precious.” He flees up the river with it until the river flows under the mountains, and there he hides in darkness until Bilbo, lost in the mountains, stumbles on him and on the unguarded Ring, which he pockets. The Ring takes care of itself, as Gandalf realizes: it gravitates to power; it goes where it has to go. But Gollum cannot live without his Precious, and it is not long before he leaves the mountains to search for it. In his wanderings, he eventually picks up the trail of Frodo and Sam, and is captured by them and made to lead them into Mordor, where he has once been Sauron’s prisoner. From then on he is either along with them or in sight of them almost continuously until the end of their journey—and of his own equally terrible odyssey.

Copyright 1986 by J. R. R. Tolkien

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The Tolkien Reader 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found the essay, Tree and Leaf, to be very useful in augmenting my understanding of the fairy tale as a true art form in its own right. However, Tolkien's style ventures toward polemic at times and the essay suffers because of this; his criticism style seems to get away from him, sometimes chatty and occassionally falling into unpleasant, verbose diatribe. The essay, despite this shortcoming, is important; he makes some very good observations and states his case well (mostly). The little story, Leaf by Niggle is delightful; so is Farmer Giles, and the poems are enchanting. I wish that Smith of Wooten Major was included in this collection - that would really make a complete reader which covers worlds other than Middle Earth (Hobbit, LOTR, Silmarillion).
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have always loved this book! My brother has an original 1966 printing of the book and I didn't even know they were still printing it! I just had to get it when I saw a few weeks ago. I can simply not reccomend this book enough! EVERY Tolkien fan or addict NEEDS to buy this book!! It's a seriously important addition to any collection. I wish I could find a book of all his poetry put together, but I haven't seen one yet. THIS book is great, with Farmer Giles of Ham, The Adventures of Tom Bombadill, and more stories, it also has some of my favorite poems like Perry the Winkle, The Mewlips, and Princess Mee. I absolutely LOVE this book, no Tolkien fan should go without it!!
eyja on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm a Tolkien fan, so I really liked this book. I'm not sure I'd say I absolutely love every poem in here, and I certainly haven't read all the book, but the ones I do like, I really do.
Bibliophile42 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A wonderful introduction to the writing of Tolkien. Leaf by Niggle is one of my favorite short stories of all time.
szarka on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Worth the price of admission for "Leaf by Niggle" alone.
Louise_Waugh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Only 4.5 stars, despite the Beowulf essay, and On Fairy Stories, and the Maldon play ALL being wonderful, because some of the poems just hurt my brain.
1000_Character_Reviews More than 1 year ago
The Tolkien Reader is an interesting compilation of short stories, poems, and essays that were written throughout his career.  In general...if you've already read "Tales From the Perilous Realm" (including the Appendix), you'll probably want to pass this book up.  The only thing you're really missing is the Homecoming of Beorhtnoth (which is comes from Tolkien's translation work) and you aren't missing that much.  In short:  The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth is a dark Beowulf/Shakespeare-like poem that will leave you with a feeling of dread.  On Fairy-Stories provides a great insight into the mind of Tolkien and how serious he took his craft.  Leaf by Niggle is a charming commentary about how sometimes the little things can completely take over our lives.  Farmer Giles of Ham is a great fairy-tale about how a simple farmer takes on a dragon and becomes more powerful than a king.  Lastly, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil provides some poems that further flesh out the world of Middle-Earth.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
An enjoyable reading experiance for any Tolkien fan.
Guest More than 1 year ago
...what is up with the new cover? Is JRRT on LSD?