Category Archives: Tolkien’s creative spirit

Testing time for Tolkien, the Inklings and the T.C.B.S.

Even after 30-odd years it still happens. I’m in the middle of dusty nowhere trying to lug a broken television set across Spain, or I’m arguing with some bureaucrat who won’t let me get going, or I’m hopelessly lost in … Continue reading

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‘He lets us walk the road as JRRT walked it’: Neil Gaiman’s tribute to Christopher Tolkien

Today Christopher Tolkien, who died in January after a short illness, would have been 96. He is sorely missed, though it is a delight and consolation to know that at least one further volume of J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings, sanctioned by … Continue reading

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Tanks at Gondolin

Here’s an excerpt from my book Tolkien and the Great War to mark the centenary of Tolkien’s discharge on 9 December 1916 from military hospital, where he had begun writing his first ‘lost tale’ of Middle-earth, ‘The Fall of Gondolin’. … Continue reading

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Bottling the essence of languages: Tolkien’s ‘A Secret Vice’

From sound aesthetic to Finnegans Wake, a new book explores Tolkien’s relationship to language. Here’s my review for the New Statesman. A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages Ed. Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins HarperCollins (223pp, £16.99) Horsemen, barbaric yet noble, … Continue reading

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Dragon scale: Why it’s impossible to size up Tolkien’s Middle-earth

A piece of fan art illustrating the relative size of Tolkien’s dragons raises a far more interesting issue than how big was Smaug or Glaurung or Ancalagon the Black. It’s an issue that should give pause for thought in any … Continue reading

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Why World War One Is at the heart of Lord of the Rings

It’s sixty years since the publication of J.R.R. Tolkien’s first volume of The Lord of The Rings. Why was he so inspired by the Great War—and a group of schoolfriends? War runs like iron ore through the bones of Tolkien’s … Continue reading

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Tolkien’s Beowulf: one man’s passion for the threshold between myth and reality

Review Beowulf: a Translation and Commentary, Together with “Sellic Spell” J.R.R. Tolkien Edited by Christopher Tolkien HarperCollins, 425pp, £20 In his story “Leaf by Niggle”, J.R.R. Tolkien imagines an artist painting a picture he can neither complete nor abandon. “It had … Continue reading

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Sam Gamgee and Tolkien’s batmen

Tolkien, like a good poker player, kept his cards close to his chest, and gave very little away about the impact of experience upon his fiction. He could be less guarded in private, as Humphrey Carpenter revealed in his 1977 J.R.R. … Continue reading

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