Item description for J. R. R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-Earth by Bradley J. Birzer & Joseph Pearce...
Overview Author Birzer offers a full and accessible treatment of Middle-earth mythology in Tolkien's trilogy, "The Lord of the Rings," examining its religious symbolism and significance.
Publishers Description Author Bradley Birzer offers a full and accessible treatment of Tolkien's Middle-earth mythology in Tolkien's trilogy the "Lord of the Rings, examining its religious symbolism and significance.
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Bradley J. Birzer is Assistant Professor of History at Hillsdale College. A Senior Fellow with the Center for the American Idea in Houston, he has written extensively on Tolkien, James Fenimore Cooper, the American frontier and American Indians, and Christopher Dawson.
Bradley J. Birzer currently resides in the state of Michigan. Bradley J. Birzer was born in 1967.
Reviews - What do customers think about J. R. R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-Earth?
A Good Buttressing Read Dec 14, 2005
One of many novels ingested during Cross Training through a running injury, this book was a most fulfilling read. Having been a Tolkien fan for years, I always look for opportunities to find a deeper understanding to this genius' work. This book offered me a deeper reflection on Tolkien, taking some themes which I have already read of and seen myself and deepening the development of them.
The primary importance of this narrative is its support of the true myth-based nature of Tolkien's work. It seeks to interpret the author's writing in relation to his view of myth and its ability to show forth the nature of man the subcreator, heroism, evil, and how the world is today. As Tolkien did not believe that allegory is a proper form, this does not try to assign meanings to his work in an exclusivist, specific manner. Instead Birzer examines Tolkien's works for the mythic applicability of the themes in his works. It is a reflection upon the general, timeless nature of these themes and how they speak for and about mankind in particular.
This is an excellent read also for those who have perhaps tried to use Tolkien to justify extremism, be it environmentalist, pseudo-religious, or otherwise. It tempers such extremism with a moderate tone.
I sugguest this book for all who have read at least the Lord of the Rings and the Silmarillion. However, knowledge of the Lord of the Rings should be fine, even if that is only drawn from Peter Jackson's three films. Nonetheless, I hope that if you have only seen the movies that reading this book will drive you to read J.R.R. Tolkien's two greatest works (and the Hobbit too!).
Language as mythology Jul 10, 2005
This is a deep, and deeply satisfying book of philosophy. Reading it was an intellectual journey through unfamiliar territory for me. J.R.R. Tolkien was a man for whom myth was a reality. He lived in the modern era but his mind was fixed forever in the Middle Ages.
Birzer demonstrates convincingly something I could not have gleaned from Lord Of The Rings on my own, namely the Catholic origins Tolkien's tales of Middle Earth. Tolkien swims in the deep divine sea of Medieval Catholic mysticism that is all but incomprehensible to the modern mind.
Tolkien's fount was language - deeply understood. He was born a philologist extraordinaire. As a teenager JRR Tolkien learned Welsh, Gaelic, Old English, Gothic, Old Norse, Spanish, German, and other languages in their modern form. Then he learned their history and origins. Finally, bored, he began to make up languages, fully formed, fully logical. He created Sidarin and Quenya which would become his Elfish language. These languages were possible. They had consistent roots, sound laws of grammar, and inflexion. From these languages sprang his mythology - or was it vice versa? As Tolkien said himself "your language construction will breed a mythology." For Tolkien myth, born of the folk-soul, was the basis for language.
Tolkien created a world where monotheistic Truth contended with polytheistic relativity. For Tolkien there was good and evil in the world and Good always had to win.
This book is a theological and philosophical page-turner.
Splendid Critical Examination of Tolkien's Religious Views May 11, 2004
I've deliberately shied away from trying to read works which emphasize the religious aspects of Tolkien's work, merely because I haven't found them too helpful in the past in describing Tolkien's thinking, but instead, using his work as a means of justifying their own religious views. However, Bradley J. Birzer's "J. R. R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth" is a refreshingly different, indeed, almost novel, look at the man and his writing, drawing more upon Tolkien's actual correspondence than his fiction. To his credit, when Birzer does describe Tolkien's Middle-Earth mythology, he does it without sounding heavy-handed, by offering ponderous analogies between aspects of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy with Christian belief. Instead, such examples are used to show persuasively that Tolkien is part of a Catholic Christian humanist tradition that falls squarely in line with the likes of Dante, among others. Birzer's brief tome is a captivating, insightful look at how Tolkien viewed Evil, Grace and the nature of the Hero, among others. Without question, it will appeal to Tolkien fans and anyone else interested in religious symbolism in contemporary fantasy.
Fascinating, persuasive, and worth reading. Apr 4, 2004
My initial reluctance to read books that might equate Tolkien's work too directly (read allegorically) with any religion, philosophy, world event, or social order was quickly overcome by the approachable `readability' of this book. Quoting myriad sources, the footnotes and bibliography for which account for 71 pages of this slim, yet rewarding volume, the author provides a convincing analysis of the spirituality of Tolkien's work.
Initially, as I read he author's preface in which he cites "nuances" within the story that he had missed when he'd first read the book as an eleven year old, I very nearly put down the book. The author claims some of those nuances as "the Ring representing sin, lembas representing the Blessed Sacrament, and Galadriel representing the Blessed Virgin Mary" (page xvi) it all seemed to go directly against Tolkien's insistence that the work was not allegorical. For whatever reason, I continued to read it, and I realized that the author did not mean these things were allegorical representations, but rather were influenced by these experiences and beliefs in Tolkien's own life. Tolkien's strong belief in God could not help but come through in his work though Tolkien himself admitted this was "subconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision" (quoted within the text, page 45.).
The author makes a persuasive argument for the influence of Toklien's Catholicism, and indeed, makes it hard to understand why so many critics of the time asked Tolkien directly about the absence of God in his books. Tolkien's replies to such questions are certainly worth reading, as is his answer to the seemingly innocuous question, "What makes you tick?"
Well-written and engrossing, the text never becomes overly dry or scholarly, and the reader will find it hard not to reach for a copy of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, or any other quoted work in order to reread key passages.
If you have never thought of the Lord of the Rings in this light, this book will make you wonder why.
A lot of value in a small volume Mar 24, 2004
This is an engaging and, considering its length, remarkably wide-ranging book. It would have to be, to live up to its subtitle -- "Understanding Middle-earth" -- as Middle-earth was the life work of a remarkably productive man. But Dr. Birzer has done a fine job. He has shown us the key, I believe, to unlocking the true richness, value, and depth of Tolkien's work. And he has put together a strong argument for Tolkien's place among the most significant Christian writers of the twentieth century.
When I first approached this title, I was afraid it might be like "The Parables of Peanuts," the well-known work that grafted more symbolism than Charles M. Schulz probably ever intended onto his classic tales of Charlie Brown and Snoopy. Or, even worse, that book (the name of which escaped me years ago) which tried to interpret "Star Wars" as a Christian allegory: Luke Skywalker = Protestant Christians; Han Solo = Catholic Christians; and so on.
Imagine my relief to discover that Dr. Birzer's work is richly grounded in Tolkien himself ... both his published works and his unpublished notes, manuscripts, and private letters. Much more than Birzer's own interpretations, what we get here are *Tolkien's* own meanings, interpretations, and intentions. That makes reading this a richly rewarding experience.
In my experience, the best books are the ones that I complete having compiled a new list of other titles I need to read too. "Sanctifying Myth" definitely fits into that category. It's a pointed reminder of all the other Christian Humanists I need to read, not to mention the (*ahem*) parts of the Tolkien bibliography itself I haven't yet read. And Dr. Birzer himself being a fine stylist as well as scholar, his name is on my list too.
Whether you're a Tolkien fan looking for new windows into a beloved world ... a Christian wondering whether hobbits and Elves are compatible with a Biblical worldview ... a literary critic seeking new insights ... a skeptic wondering what all the fuss is about ... or any combination of the above, I predict you'll find this a satisfying, even eye-opening read. I sure did.