Sunday, February 10, 2008
J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography
I just finished my first Tolkien Biography. I got it for Christmas, and last month I felt a wild interest in it and I started reading in it regularly.
It was full of information on Tolkien's life and his personality. I know him better as a person now. I find that he had similar feelings on a lot of things...and it was thrilling to find that we are very similar. (Also on more than languages and literary tastes...Tolkien had a nice tempter too! And he disagreed with C.S. Lewis on a lot. In my circle of friends, I consider myself a Tolkien of sorts and I have another friend which is a Lewis of sorts. Naturally we don't agree on everything!)
Carpenter's book gave details on Tolkien's early childhood up to his death. Most enjoyable were perhaps the notes on his writings and how they came about....and also his relationship with his wife, Edith Bratt. How hard finishing a work was for Tolkien makes me feel a little better....all my friends know that I have never finished a book before, except in my head! When I was fascinated with dog stories and Lady and the Tramp the second, I spun a tale starring my own dogs in my head at night, narrating in my brain before I fell asleep, and I eventually finished narrating in my head. I never wrote it down.
It is also a comfort to know that Tolkien would have preferred the editions of his books that appear today to the ones that were first published. There were countless new editions within a ten year period after they were all published......one with a terrible cover (featuring a Christmas Tree....which from the description sounded to me more like a great oak with red oranges on it) and Tolkien was horrified and said " I feel as if I have entered a madhouse." I'm sure I would have felt this same.
I learned of that delightful picture Der Berggeist from this book, along with loads of other details on his languages and his personality and his close relationship with his children ( it seemed as if Christopher was the most interested in his works...he is now the official editor of all of Tolkien's works which were published posthumously.
If you want to understand the man behind the mythology, you should read this. It was an easy and interesting read, and Carpenter opened with a delightful prologue that featured himself and Tolkien as the characters...as far as I know it is true, 'characters' or not. Five star bio.