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Tolkien: A Biography (1977)

de Humphrey Carpenter

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2,500194,928 (3.99)71
The authorized biography of the creator of Middle-earth. In the decades since his death in September 1973, millions have read THE HOBBIT, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, and THE SILMARILLION and become fascinated about the very private man behind the books. Born in South Africa in January 1892, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was orphaned in childhood and brought up in near-poverty. He served in the first World War, surviving the Battle of the Somme, where he lost many of the closest friends he'd ever had. After the war he returned to the academic life, achieving high repute as a scholar and university teacher, eventually becoming Merton Professor of English at Oxford where he was a close friend of C.S. Lewis and the other writers known as The Inklings. Then suddenly his life changed dramatically. One day while grading essay papers he found himself writing 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit' -- and worldwide renown awaited him. Humphrey Carpenter was given unrestricted access to all Tolkien's papers, and interviewed his friends and family. From these sources he follows the long and painful process of creation that produced THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE SILMARILLION and offers a wealth of information about the life and work of the twentieth century's most cherished author.… (més)
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Es mostren 1-5 de 19 (següent | mostra-les totes)
As a Tolkien fan, this was great! I got a new insight into the life of this history-changing author! After reading, I picked up the Hobbit again and fell into Middle-earth again. A must-read for fans of JRR Tolkien's works! ( )
  plitzdom | May 12, 2021 |
J.R.R. Tolkien is most well-known to the public as the author of the famous trilogy Lord of the Rings, surely one of the best works of art ever written in the English language. This work by Carpenter serves as his authorized biography. Tolkien’s professorial and academic life as an Oxford don dominates most of the narrative, but always lingering behind lies his unique love of language (philology) – particularly “sub-creating” worlds with language.

Carpenter achieves a balanced job of handling Tolkien’s life. He avoids hagiography while also avoiding smears. Tolkien comes off as a curious professor of Anglo-Saxon literature in an era before technology consumed modern life and before post-graduate research overtook leading universities. His eventual fame due to the famous trilogy comes off as unexpected and unplanned.

Women do not play a major role in this narrative. At the time, Oxford was a mostly male-run institution. Edith, Tolkien’s wife, only played a supporting role for most of his life. His daughter Priscilla did not play a leading role in Carpenter’s narrative either. One could aptly use the word “patriarchal” to describe the arrangement of Tolkien’s life. Indeed, similar words were sometimes used to describe his trilogy. This seems a fair criticism even if it aligned with the sense of his times.

Fans of Lord of the Rings will find Tolkien’s style of working especially interesting. Many are curious about the origins of this tale, and I’m not sure this book provides a definitive answer. It simply sprung from Tolkien’s imagination and life, not from any singular event. Certainly, his experiences in both World Wars played monumental roles as did his male friendships and lifelong experiences creating languages.

This work chronicles the life of this humble yet imaginative professor well and serves his continued cadre of fans. It also provides a historical record of mid-twentieth-century Oxford before it became such a dominant research university and before women played significant roles in its leadership. Carpenter’s work dates from the 1970s (44 years prior to my writing), yet it has aged quite well. I am left with a sense that Tolkien was a man of great curiosity, creativity, and imagination; much like Carpenter admits in his epilogue, I remain mystified, even befuddled, by the transcendent nature of the Lord of the Rings. ( )
  scottjpearson | Mar 6, 2021 |
Nicely done and enjoyable biography from 1977. Tolkien died in 1973, but Carpenter had been working with him on the biography since before then. Carpenter was from Oxford, where Tolkien worked. Curiously, Carpenter and Tolkien are now buried in the same cemetery. Tolkien did not lead a life of action, but intellectually he took many adventures. Romantically he married his childhood sweetheart, but how they met and what brought them together is one of the more touching aspects of his life. He did not have an easy childhood but somehow made a fairy tale of his life. I was surprised to learn he was a conservative and pious Catholic. This opens many questions unexplored. This is not a deep or scholarly look but for an introduction or even curiosity it is well done, comforting even. ( )
1 vota Stbalbach | Oct 29, 2020 |
This book was an embarrasingly long time unread on my shelf. My most common excuse for why I haven't read it yet was that I "knew alot about his life anyway" or so I thought. While a basic outline of his life was known to me, Humphrey Carpenter painted a intimate picture of an extraordinarily ordinary man. Carpenter managed to find a good balance between talking about Tolkien's literary creations and Tolkien himself. The account on Tolkien's last years, in particular, were moving. I cannot help, but appreciate Tolkien as the person behind the myth, with his struggle to complete projects in time, his tendency to get lost in details, his complicated, but always deeply loving, relationship with his wife Edith, more than ever before. This will be a book I'll re-read again and again in the years to come. ( )
1 vota pencilphilos | May 15, 2020 |
In his author’s note to Tolkien: A Biography, Humphrey Carpenter writes that he “tried to tell the story of Tolkien’s life without attempting any critical judgements [sic] of his works of fiction. This is partly in deference to [Tolkien’s] own views, but in many cases it seems to [Carpenter] that the first published biography of a writer is not necessarily the best place to make literary judgements [sic], which will after all reflect the character of the critic just as much as that of his subject” (pg. vii).

Discussing Tolkien’s education, Carpenter describes how the English literature curriculum at King Edward’s School focused primarily on Shakespeare, “which [John] Ronald [Reuel Tolkien] soon found that he ‘disliked cordially,’” especially the fact that in Macbeth, Shakespeare did not actually have Great Birnam Wood come to Dunsinane, which inspired Tolkien to “devise a setting by which the trees might really march to war” (pg. 30). Most importantly, Carpenter describes how Tolkien discovered his love of language first from his mother’s tutoring and later at King Edward’s. While Tolkien began experimenting with inventing languages in his youth, his study of Gothic led him to “develop his invented languages backwards; that is, to posit the hypothetical ‘earlier’ words which he was finding necessary for invention by means of an organised [sic] ‘historical’ system” (pg. 41). At this time, Tolkien first encountered the words Earendel (pg. 71) and Mirkwood (pg. 78) in Anglo-Saxon and Germanic, respectively. Further, Carpenter writes of Tolkien’s interest in philology, “Though he studied the ancient literature of many countries he visited few of them, often through force of circumstance but perhaps partly through lack of inclination. And indeed the page of a medieval text may be more potent than the modern reality of the land that gave it birth” (pg. 63).

Discussing the crafting of what became The Silmarillion after the Great War, Carpenter cautions, “No account of the external events of Tolkien’s life can provide more than a superficial explanation of the origins of his mythology” (pg. 101). Further, an examination of Tolkien’s life as a professor “says nothing about the man who wrote The Silmarillion and The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, does nothing to explain the nature of his mind and the way in which his imagination responded to his surroundings. Certain Tolkien himself would have agreed with this” (pg. 136). That said, an appreciation for his life adds context for those interested in Tolkien’s scholarship and the subtle ways it influenced him beyond what can be directly inferred from his day-to-day experiences. As Carpenter argues, “If we are going to understand anything about [Tolkien’s] work as a writer we had better spend a short time examining his scholarship” (pg. 146). That scholarship adds gravitas to Carpenter’s description of Tolkien’s efforts creating both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, where Tolkien described the process as if he were plumbing the depths of mythology similarly to his philological work.

Foreshadowing the Tolkien Estate’s recent concerns with adaptation, sales of The Lord of the Rings benefitted from a radio dramatization, “which inevitably did not meet with Tolkien’s approval, for if he had reservations about drama in general he was even more strongly opposed to the ‘adaptation’ of stories, believing that this process invariably reduced them to their merely human and thus most trivial level” (pg. 254). Carpenter writes of Tolkien’s continued revisions of The Silmarillion during his retirement, “Sub-creation had become a sufficiently rewarding pastime in itself, quite apart from the desire to see the work in print” (pg. 285). Returning to the themes of his author’s note, Carpenter concludes, “[Tolkien’s] real biography is The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion; for the truth about him lies within their pages” (pg. 293). ( )
  DarthDeverell | Aug 5, 2019 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Humphrey Carpenterautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Ebert, DietrichDissenyador de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Krege, WolfgangTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Sisättö, VesaTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Vainikainen, JohannaTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat

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The authorized biography of the creator of Middle-earth. In the decades since his death in September 1973, millions have read THE HOBBIT, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, and THE SILMARILLION and become fascinated about the very private man behind the books. Born in South Africa in January 1892, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was orphaned in childhood and brought up in near-poverty. He served in the first World War, surviving the Battle of the Somme, where he lost many of the closest friends he'd ever had. After the war he returned to the academic life, achieving high repute as a scholar and university teacher, eventually becoming Merton Professor of English at Oxford where he was a close friend of C.S. Lewis and the other writers known as The Inklings. Then suddenly his life changed dramatically. One day while grading essay papers he found himself writing 'In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit' -- and worldwide renown awaited him. Humphrey Carpenter was given unrestricted access to all Tolkien's papers, and interviewed his friends and family. From these sources he follows the long and painful process of creation that produced THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE SILMARILLION and offers a wealth of information about the life and work of the twentieth century's most cherished author.

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