Next SFF Author: Heather Tomlinson
Previous SFF Author: Colm Toibin

SFF Author: J.R.R. Tolkien

JRR Tolkien(1892-1973)
The Tolkien website (maintained by Harper Collins) has lots of nice wallpapers and avatars.  Here’s the Tolkien Society website.



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The Hobbit: Good clean fun

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit is just good clean fun, delightful for children and adults. If you’ve read LOTR and wondered how Bilbo got the ring, here’s the story. I enjoyed Tolkien’s omniscient narrator style in this book — somewhat like Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, and more recently Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norellwhich I suppose he adopted because he was writing for children. I think it’s charming.

I highly recommend the audiobook,


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The Silmarillion: More enjoyable than LOTR

The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien

I’m going to come right out and say what will make most people think I’m slightly crazy: I enjoyed reading The Silmarillion more than I enjoyed reading The Lord of the Rings. Why? I haven’t the faintest idea. Maybe I was too young to properly appreciate The Lord of the Rings. Maybe my love of mythology made The Silmarillion a shoe-in. Maybe the lack of three-dimensional characters was more understandable in a book this vast.


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The Fellowship of the Ring: Magnificent work of fantasy

The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

Even today, almost six decades since its first publication, J.R R. Tolkien’s magnificent work of fantasy is still attracting readers and scholars — more so now due to the publicity surrounding Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Perhaps for the first time ever, the movie release of a book adaptation has actually boosted sales of the book involved. And this can only be considered a good thing, as one cannot claim to be a literary reader without exploring Tolkien’s Middle-Earth at least once in their lives.


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The Two Towers: Exploring Middle-Earth

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Two Towers is the second third of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s epic Lord of the Rings trilogy, and begins right where the previous book left off: the Fellowship has been sundered, with the death of Boromir, the escape of Frodo and Sam, the capture of Merry and Pippen, and the chase that ensues on the part of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli. Like the other two installments in the series, The Two Towers is split into two books,


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The Return of the King: Tolkien saved the best for last

The Return of the King by J.R.R Tolkien

There are many opinions and discussions that one could have on Tolkien’s great epic, but one thing is for certain: he saved the best for last. Even Peter Jackson, the director of the film trilogy was heard to say: “I made the first two movies so that I could make the third.” Everything that has been building in the first two installments now explodes across the pages: battles, intrigues, madness, escapes, disguises, rescues, chases — it’s all here as the allied forces of Middle-Earth (Hobbits,


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Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth: Fragments from Tolkien

Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-Earth by J.R.R. Tolkien

This is the first work that showed us how J.R.R. Tolkien’s obsessive perfectionism was a double-edged sword. On the one hand it gave us the wonderfully deep world and implied distances of THE LORD OF THE RINGS; and on the other hand it left us with a jumble of tales in various states of revision and development that had to be compiled by Tolkien’s son Christopher into some form as The Silmarillion… a jumble of tales that,


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The Book of Lost Tales 1: Recommended for hardcore Tolkien fans

The Book of Lost Tales 1 by J.R.R. Tolkien

My first attempt to read The Book of Lost Tales 1 was made way too early in my life and made certain that my response was to put it on the shelf and decide that all of this background stuff, especially taken from this early phase in Tolkien’s life as a writer, was way too different from the Middle-Earth stories that I loved for me to waste any time on it.

Looking at where the bookmark from my first attempt still sat when I picked it up again,


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The Book of Lost Tales 2: Framework for Tolkien’s fantasy epic

The Book of Lost Tales 2 by J.R.R.Tolkien

In volumes one and two of The Book of Lost Tales, we have a more or less full picture of the earliest work J.R.R. Tolkien did in the development of his personal mythology which later grew into the tales of Middle Earth. It was a mythology meant to provide England with something he felt it sorely needed: a foundation myth. Also, it was a vehicle which allowed him to explore and expand upon his own fascination with the world and stories of Faery,


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The Children of Húrin: A beautiful, somber book

The Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkien

Long before Bilbo Baggins left his hobbit hole, the Men and Elves of Middle Earth struggled valiantly against the Great Enemy, Morgoth (the fallen Valar and master of Sauron, the eventual “Lord of the Rings”). One man in particular, Húrin, brazenly defied Morgoth, who imprisoned him and laid a dire curse upon his children.  First told — in a lesser form — in The Silmarillion, this tale chronicles their efforts, especially those of Húrin’s son, Túrin, to defy the curse — driven largely by the malicious dragon Glaurung — and,


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Tales from the Perilous Realm: Glimpses and Echoes of LOTR

Tales from the Perilous Realm by J.R.R. Tolkien

There is a passage in one of the stories collected here that accurately sums up the content of the book itself. In “Leaf By Niggle,” J.R.R. Tolkien describes a painting that the artist Niggle has been working on:

It had begun with a leaf caught in the wind, and it became a tree; and the tree grew, sending out innumerable branches, and thrusting out the most fantastic roots… Niggle lost interest in his other pictures; or else he took them and tacked them on to the edges of his great picture.


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The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun: Tolkien’s Norse Eddic poetry

The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, the “new” book by J.R.R. Tolkien put together by his son Christopher, is a translation-slash-“unifying” of  the great Norse story of Sigurd the dragon-slayer and what happens to his wife and his murderers after his death. The story is told in verse form, two “lays” surrounded by commentary that Christopher Tolkien has taken from his father’s notes and lectures dealing with the Norse legend. Christopher also adds some of his own commentary,


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The Wisdom of the Shire: Remembering Hobbit wisdom in the 21st century

The Wisdom of the Shire by Noble Smith

Hobbits constantly surprise Elf kings, dragons, and Dark Lords with their courage and valiant spirit, but we rarely associate them with wisdom. Thankfully, Noble Smith’s The Wisdom of the Shire: A Short Guide to a Long and Happy Life exists to correct our mistake. Wisdom of the Shire is one part self-help book and one part homage to Hobbit wisdom.

Smith divides his work into a series of essays,


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The Fall of Arthur: An unfinished poem by Tolkien

The Fall of Arthur by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Fall of Arthur is another one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s unfinished works made available to the public via his son and editor, Christopher Tolkien. Between its unfinished nature, its form (alliterative verse in Old English style — though not actually in Old English), and its brevity, the book is really mostly, perhaps solely, of interest to diehard Tolkien “completists” or those with a semi-academic interest in the form.

The poem, as mentioned, was never finished.


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Beowulf: Tolkien’s translation

Beowulf by J.R.R. Tolkien (author) & Christopher Tolkien (editor)

The last few years has seen the release by the Tolkien Estate of several hybrid books that combined original retellings/translations of ancient hero legends (Sigurd, Arthur) with further commentary by J.R.R. Tolkien (on the source material) and Christopher Tolkien (on his father’s work). The latest in this series is Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf, which has perhaps incurred greater interest since outside of his fiction, Tolkien is perhaps best known for his famed essay, “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics.” As with the prior two,


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A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-18

A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-18 by Joseph Loconte

During a stressful stretch at work, and the persistently weighty negativity tied to the 2016 U.S. election campaign season, I found myself turning to ‘comfort reading.’ The negative vibes, for me, carried through Election Day and I looked toward J.R.R. Tolkien for relief. I knew I wouldn’t have time to return to the warm depths of THE LORD OF THE RINGS,


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The Story of Kullervo: One for the completists/diehard fans only

The Story of Kullervo by J.R.R. Tolkien (edited and annotated by Verlyn Flieger)

Over the past few years we’ve seen several releases of J.R.R. Tolkien’s retellings of ancient tales combined with scholarly notes/lectures by him: The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, The Fall of Arthur, and Beowulf. At some point (for all I know, we’ve already reached it) the posthumously published material is going to be greater than what appeared in his lifetime.


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The Oxford Inklings: The influence of a circle of friends

The Oxford Inklings by Colin Duriez

J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis had an influence on modern fiction, especially speculative fiction, that is still felt to this day. In their prime, at Oxford, they saw themselves as champions of myth and meaning, bringing back the “old Western” literary values, elevating myth and “fairy stories” into a place of prominence in an academic world that was increasingly valuing modernism. The two friends surrounded themselves with British writers and thinkers of the time, a group they nick-named the Inklings, and that group’s influence on the writing of the time still cannot be calculated.


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Beren and Lúthien: For the diehard Tolkien fan

Beren and Lúthien ed. by Christopher Tolkien

In the very early pages of Christopher Tolkien’s Beren and Lúthien, his exploration of how his father’s grand love story of the two star-crossed lovers developed, he notes that, “This book does not offer a single page of original and unpublished work. What then is the need, now, for such a book?”

It’s a fair question, and one that I’m not sure all readers will find a ready answer for. The last half-dozen or so posthumous Tolkien books (from now on I will refer to J.R.R.


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Middle-Earth: From Script to Screen: Building the World of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit

Middle-Earth: From Script to Screen by Daniel Falconer

Getting a glimpse behind the scenes of a favorite film is always exciting — it’s rather like pulling the curtain back and, rather than seeing a humdrum old snake oil salesman, actually discovering a great and powerful wizard. David Falconer’s Middle-Earth: From Script to Screen gives credit to the several hundred wizards hard at work re-creating and re-inventing J.R.R. Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS novels and The Hobbit into two sets of visual feasts.


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The Fall of Gondolin: A welcome addition to Christopher Tolkien’s close looks at his father’s work

The Fall of Gondolin by Christopher Tolkien

Last year, when Christopher Tolkien published Beren and Lúthien, an exploratory history/retelling of one of his father’s three “great tales” of the First Age, he noted that due to his 93 years of age, “it is (presumptively ) my last book in the long series of editions of my father’s writing.” That parenthetical qualifier turned out to be a good idea, as here we are a year later, and he’s back with The Fall of Gondolin.


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A Tolkien Bestiary: As engrossing as Tolkien’s novels

A Tolkien Bestiary by David Day

David Day’s A Tolkien Bestiary may be the greatest companion book ever. Even if it’s not, it’s still my favorite. Day provides an overview of people, places, races, and Middle Earth’s history. Although Day explains why he refers to the work as a bestiary, I usually think of it as an awesome encyclopedia.

In A Tolkien Bestiary, readers can lose themselves for hours at a time. I have encountered this book in many places — classrooms,


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Bandersnatch: The Inklings as writers group

Bandersnatch by Diana Pavlac Glyer

Diana Pavlac Glyer abridged her academic book The Company They Keep and published the abridgement as Bandersnatch. In it, she studies the Oxford circle of writers and thinkers that included J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams through the lens of a creative community. Glyer chose the title Bandersnatch from of a quote by C.S. Lewis about Tolkien, that “No-one ever influenced Tolkien — you might as well try to influence a Bandersnatch.” In fact,


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SHORTS: Jingfang, Rivera, Tolkien, Vajra

There is so much free or inexpensive short fiction available on the internet these days. Here are a few stories we read this week that we wanted you to know about.

Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang, translated by Ken Liu (2015, free at Uncanny Magazine, $3.99 Kindle magazine issue). Nominated for 2016 Hugo award (novelette).

Lao Dao, a humble man who works in a waste processing plant in “Third Space” Beijing, sorting recyclable trash,


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The Proverbs of Middle-Earth: The wise speak only of what they know

The Proverbs of Middle-Earth by David Rowe

The Proverbs of Middle-Earth is a smart, readable literary analysis of J.R.R. Tolkien’s use of proverbs in his worlds of Middle-Earth, including The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and (less so) The Silmarillion. If you’re a passionate fan of Tolkien, you’ll absolutely adore this book. Period. If you love the Peter Jackson films,


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The Battle for Middle Earth: Tolkien’s divine design in LOTR

The Battle for Middle Earth by Fleming Rutledge

Fleming Rutledge may be the ideal critic of The Lord of the Rings. An ardent student of English literature, an orthodox (Episcopal/Anglican) priest, and a gifted writer, she brings to bear impressive resources in analyzing an often- or over-analyzed work. In doing so, she builds an impressive case in support of a seldom-heard conclusion: Tolkien’s masterpiece is a masterpiece not only of storytelling, but also of theology and, perhaps, evangelism.

In making this case, Rutledge relies not only on her careful reading of the text (including its prequel,


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Hobbits, Elves and Wizards: The Wonders and Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings”

Hobbits, Elves and Wizards: The Wonders and Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” by Michael N. Stanton

There are very few better qualified to write an introductory book on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings than Michael Stanton, a scholar who has studied and taught the trilogy for twenty-five years. He’s obviously a great fan of the book (that is, he does not seem to be simply trying to cash in on the recent popularity that the movies have caused) and writes in a simple, chatty style that is easy for most non-academics to understand.


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Tolkien and the Great War: An exploration of Tolkien’s early influences

Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth by John Garth

Tolkien and the Great War is an obviously well-researched book that goes into explicit (at times I must admit tedious) detail on J.R.R. Tolkien’s involvement in World War I and its possible impact on his then-current and later writings. We begin by observing Tolkien’s earliest close friendships formed at St. Edward’s Grammar School under the auspices of the “TCBS” (an acronym for Tea Club, Barrovian Society) where the core group of Tolkien, Christopher Wiseman, Robert Gilson,


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David Rowe chats PROVERBS OF MIDDLE-EARTH. Win an autographed copy!

David Rowe is the Director of Contemporary Music, Social Media and Communications at St. John’s Parish in Johns Island, South Carolina. From Sheffield, England David has a degree in Biblical Studies and cultivates his passion for the works of J.R.R. Tolkien on his popular Twitter feed: @TolkienProverbs. The Proverbs of Middle-earth is his first book.

One random U.S. commenter will receive an autographed copy of The Proverbs of Middle-earth. See below for details.

Jason Golomb: In addition to your job at St.


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Next SFF Author: Heather Tomlinson
Previous SFF Author: Colm Toibin

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