Author(s): Mark Atherton
"When J R R Tolkien died in 1973, his friend and academic colleague C S Lewis praised his 'unique insight at once into the language of poetry and into the poetry of language'. Generations of readers have responded to the power, precision, and delicacy of J R R Tolkien's linguistic imagination. This absorbing new study of The Hobbit brings a philologist's eye to that work's creation, structure, and expression, positioning it within the broader development of Tolkien's professional thinking about philology and the evolving mythography of his creative writings. Mark Atherton, himself what Tolkien calls 'a scholar of gramarye', imaginatively shows how Tolkien's academic interests in philology, linguistic-aesthetic and in reconstructive philology spilled over into the crucible of his own mythography, and was catalysed by the alchemy of his own reading in myths and contemporary fairy stories by writers such as William Morris, Edward Thomas, Francis Thompson and Robert Graves. This book gives them new ways of appreciating the interplay between his narratives and the linguistic enchantment of their imaginative world. Atherton's insights bring to mind Tolkien's own comment: 'How those old words smite one out of the dark antiquity!' " - Vincent Gillespie, J R R Tolkien Professor of English Literature and Language, University of Oxford 'Mark Atherton's treatment of one of the most famous books of the twentieth century is timely and welcome. On the face of it, The Hobbit appears an engaging fantasy adventure for young readers; but, as it later transpired, Mr Bilbo Baggins' exploits "there and back again" were simply a prelude to the apocalyptic drama that was to unfold in The Lord the Rings. One reason for the enduring appeal of both of these works is that J R R Tolkien imbued his tales of a fictional realm with resonances of ancient themes and universal truths. In this detailed exploration, Mark Atherton provides the reader with a comprehensive understanding of the
Mark Atherton is Lecturer in English Language and Literature at Regent's Park College, Oxford. He is the author of Teach Yourself Old English/Anglo Saxon and contributed to A Companion to J R R Tolkien (edited by Stuart Lee, forthcoming).