Defending Middle-Earth
Patrick Curry
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Buy *Defending Middle-Earth: Tolkien - Myth and Modernity* online Defending Middle-Earth: Tolkien - Myth and Modernity
Patrick Curry
Houghton Mifflin
208 pages
October 2004
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Patrick Curry is a writer, scholar and Tolkien expert (featured on the DVD version of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy) whose book seeks to make comprehensible the hidden world of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Tolkien’s Shire has become, for thousands of readers of all ages and nationalities, a place in the heart. The author cites many examples of people who simply revere the erudite but folksy charm of the hobbit world and the dark, far-reaching symbolism of the quest for the meaning of the Ring. It’s more than just a movie, kids, and before it was on screen it was the cult favorite of the intellectual children of our modern age. It reaches way back, as Tolkien reached back, into a simpler, dearer, clearer time.

Tolkien's dislike of modernity goes back to the Norman conquest, according to Curry. It was then that rules and regs began to hold sway over simplicity and homespun virtue, then that government began to intrude into the lives of peaceable folk. Tolkien wanted to restore mythology to England through folk tales and epics, and his “own invention, the hobbits.” He sought to re-enchant by “a resacralizing of nature.” His involvement with the secret life of trees is a key to this inner process.

Thus it is reasonable that Tolkien had a mistrust of things modern, though he was more a romantic than a Luddite. Auschwitz could have been the model for Mordor; the author quotes this description of the camp from Primo Levi - “around us everything is hostile…above us the malevolent clouds…all are enemies or rivals” - and tells us that Tolkien, though probably unaware of the full horror of the Holocaust, “seems to have perceived something essential about the terminus of modernity’s merciless logic.”

J.R.R. Tolkien was born in South Africe and returned to England where, “between the ages of four and eight…he grew up in…a small village outside Birmingham, in the West Midlands. He later recalled that ‘It was a kind of lost paradise.’” This became the Shire, country and home, but not “fatherland.”

As the hobbit Merry said: "It is best to love what you are fitted to love, I suppose; you must start somewhere and have some roots, and the soil of the Shire is deep.”

© 2004 by Barbara Bamberger Scott for Curled Up With a Good Book

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