In praise of elsewhere: Tolkien and fantasy

In praise of elsewhere: Tolkien and fantasy

In praise of elsewhere

On 2 September 1973 J.R.R. died. Tolkien. From today, to coincide with this date, the first two episodes of The Rings of Power are available on Prime Video, or the TV series "prequel" to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

To subscribe to the Amazon Prime Video streaming service, also taking advantage of the 30-day trial, you can use this link. On January 3, 1892, J.R.R. was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Tolkien. Thinking of Tolkien as one of the most influential authors of the last century is almost an understatement but, to support the greatness of his literary work and his academic commitment, we must go deeper and deeper into the meanders of his universe. Not only is Middle-earth one of the most recurring settings in Tolkien's work but it is also a sort of litmus test to interpret reality seen from the outside, from the position of God the creator and, in some way, judge. However, this should not simplify the figure of Tolkien, since his work is not constituted only by that set in Middle-earth. The author Tolkien has produced fundamental works and studies for anyone who wants to approach fantasy literature in the round, because he has understood the indissoluble link between the fantastic and magnificent genre with the most ancient tradition of fable and fairy tale. The fairytale horizons in Tolkien's work are a distinction not to be underestimated and to keep in mind to interpret the world he created that cannot be reduced in any way.

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To frame all this there is, then, the Tolkien academic, linguist and glottologist. We must not forget his studies and his university activity since everything is attributable to the fictional work and short stories. The mythology, the settings, the descriptions that we can find in his works are the result of careful study whose interpretation certainly cannot be exhausted in an article or in hundreds of critical books. But, it is nice to explore the fantasy universe starting from the one who gave a name to things, the one who started everything and who the writers of the fantasy genre cannot help but be inspired by.

How it all had top: Tolkien and fantasy

What is so striking about Tolkien's work is the complex, albeit schematically organized, both theogonic and cosmogonic that forms the background of the novels set in Middle-earth. All accompanied by a perfect linguistic knowledge in the creation of new plausible languages ​​inserted, in fact, in the group of stories and settings. No wonder that everything that makes up the legendarium is somehow feasible of perfection and verisimilitude.

In the beginning was the epic

What would Tolkien have been if not had drawn with open hands from all the medieval epic and epic-chivalric tradition? From Ulysses' wanderings to Orlando, passing through Siegfried and Rodrigo Díaz de Bivar, all the components of the European epic and epic-chivalric novel are very evident in the writer's work. Its greatness and majesty lies precisely in returning them to the literary tradition totally transfigured and recontextualized. The works that are part of the Breton and Carolingian cycle, the Nibelungs and the Cid Campeador, just to name a few, are daughters of the time in which they were written, and live on those ideals of the medieval era. Tolkien, on the other hand, makes his narrative universal by relocating the events in an era and in a world that apparently do not belong to us.

In addition to spatial and temporal relocation , Tolkien carries out a process of universalization of properly chivalrous ideals making them no longer children of a specific time, but of an unknown, always valid, perpetual. And these are the universal values ​​we draw from every day to try to be better people. In short, Tolkien's is a sort of reinterpretation also of the didactic works of which literature is full, but which in this case offer us the eternal struggle between good and evil where the two parts are not always so clearly distinct, because multiple is the characterization of the characters on a psychological level.

The Works

To get closer to the knowledge of Tolkien's work it is good to know all the works of the English writer.

The Hobbit, published in 1937, is probably Tolkien's turning point work as through it he initiates what will be tales set in Middle-earth. We know the story well and it tells us about Bilbo's adventures in the company of a team of dwarves. Click here to buy The Hobbit

The Lord of the Rings is by far Tolkien's best known work, divided into three major chapters: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King. The Adventures narrated in this epic and of the highest literary quality are, in short, that of Hobbits, Dwarves, Elves, Humans and Sorcerers who try to join forces against evil to avoid the total corruption of the known world. Click here to buy The Lord of the Rings

The Dragon Hunter tells of a series of encounters between the dragon Chrysophylax and the farmer of Ham, Giles. The story begins with the encounter between a Giant and the gun of the farmer Giles who drives him out of the Middle Kingdom becoming a hero for the whole village where he lives. To honor the farmer of Ham, the king gives him a sword, called the Tailbiter, which does not remain in its scabbard if there is a dragon nearby. In Italy there are three editions of this work; the first is that of the 1970s for Rusconi made by Camillo Pennati, and then that of Isabella Murro from 1989 still adopted today for the Bompiani edition. Click here to purchase The Dragon Hunter.

Tree and Leaf is a particular work by Tolkien where the author explores the world of fairy tales and myth, starting from the very meaning of the words to reconstruct a sort of history of the origins of this literary form. In addition to this introductory essay on the origin of the tale from the Italian Bompiani edition (which makes use of the further introduction of his son Christopher) we have the following short stories: Niggle's Leaf and Wootton Major's Blacksmith. Click here to buy Tree and Leaf.

The Silmarillion is the Bible of Middle Earth, it tells us about the origins of the world of Arda by the god Eru Ilúvatar and tells us all three great Ages in which the history of the world is divided. It starts with the introductory songs from which the world took shape and how the Valar and the Maiar were born from the thought of the supreme God Ilúvatar. The first era is marked by the wars of the Silmarils followed by the fall of Númenor which will be the main narrative arc to explain the second era which ends with the coming of Sauron and the creation of the Ring of Power. Click here to purchase the Silmarillion.

The Unfinished Tales are a posthumously published collection and are stories inherent to the three eras of Arda and to the noteworthy events that took place in these timelines. Click here to buy The Unfinished Tales.

The History of Middle-Earth: in twelve encyclopedic volumes the writings of Tolkien are analyzed and many essays by the author himself are grouped concerning Middle-Earth, its mythology and also contain primitive versions of some of the main stories that make up the story. The book was entirely edited by Christopher Tolkien. Click here to purchase The History of Middle Hearth.

The Sons of Hurin is a novel published posthumously and edited by Tolkien's third son and tells us the story of Túrin Turambar and his sister Nienor who are the two sons of Húrin, from youth to Túrin's clash with the Glaurung dragon. Click here to buy The Sons of Hurin

Beren and Lúthien is a story set in the first era whose first version is already found in the Silmarillion and tells the story of Beren, a human, and Lúthien a purebred girl elven. Beren's poignant love for Lúthien will bring him back to life at the behest of the Valar, thus re-proposing one of the most ambitious and romantic myths in the history of literature. Click here to buy Beren and Lúthien.

The fall of Gondolin set in the first era, tells the fall of the city of the elves Gondolin by Orcs, Dragons and Balrog under the orders of the evil Vala Morgoth. Click here to buy The Fall of Gondolin.

The Chronology

The reading order of Tolkien's works is quite complex, we report the commonly accepted and accepted chronology: The Silmarillion, Beren and Lúthien and The Sons of Hurin then unite in the telling of a fourth story which is The Fall of Gondolin. These are followed in order by The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Song of Bilbo. We then follow these with the three collections of short stories: Unfinished, Found and Lost.

Tolkien and pop culture

Although his work is complex and difficult to interpret, Tolkien is pop. Already with The Hobbit, published for the first time in 1937, Tolkien immediately had a great editorial success that led the work, in a short time, to a second reprint. Success is replicated with The Lord of the Rings and the set of works published posthumously by his son Christopher.

As we all know, both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit have had very successful cinematic transpositions, igniting even more the love of the fans towards the work and bringing the new generations closer to reading. Over the years, Peter Jackson's transpositions have become real milestones of contemporary cinema, creating interest for the entire Tolkien universe. For this, and for other reasons, there have been many editions of the writer's works, often edited, precisely, by his son Christopher.

But there have been no only the books and the film to attract fans so much. Around Tolkien's work there are countless series of action figures, board and card games (Journeys to Middle-earth just to name one), videogames, such as The Shadow of Mordor.

What is most striking is the reaction of readers towards Tolkien's works, unconditionally loved by all those who have come close to reading and interpreting a world as complex as it is attractive. For this reason Tolkien is pop, because he has managed to attract millions and millions of hungry and fascinated users to his literary work. In all likelihood, no author has ever succeeded in this intent as Tolkien bringing the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit among the best-selling books in the history of literature.

If you also love The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit you cannot miss the wonderful box containing all the books and that you can buy at this link.

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