The Evolution of Tolkien’s Mythology

A Study of the History of Middle-earth


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About the Book

The History of Middle-earth traces the evolution of J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary world, stories, and characters from their earliest written forms to the final revisions Tolkien penned shortly before his death in 1973. Published posthumously by Tolkien’s son Christopher, the extensively detailed 12-volume work allows readers to follow the development of the texts that eventually became Tolkien’s immensely popular The Hobbit, The Lord of The Rings, The Silmarillion, and Unfinished Tales. This work provides a thorough study of Tolkien’s life and influences through an analysis of The History of Middle-earth. The work begins with a brief biography and an analysis of the major influences in Tolkien’s life. Following chapters deal with elements common to Tolkien’s popular works, including the cosmogony, theogony, cosmology, metaphysics, and eschatology of Middle-earth. The study also reviews some of the myths with which Tolkien was most familiar—Greek, Roman, Finnish, and Norse—and reveals the often overlapping relationship between mythology, biblical stories, and Tolkien’s popular works.

Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Elizabeth A. Whittingham teaches in the English department at SUNY College at Brockport in Brockport, New York.

Bibliographic Details

Elizabeth A. Whittingham

Series Editors Donald E. Palumbo and C.W. Sullivan III

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 232
Bibliographic Info: bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2008
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3281-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1174-7
Imprint: McFarland
Series: Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii
Abbreviations      xi
Preface      1
Introduction      5

1. Influences in Tolkien’s Life      13
2. Tolkien’s Mythology of Creation      37
3. Tolkien’s Mythology of Divine Beings      64
4. The Physical World of Middle-earth and of Eä      100
5. Death and Immortality among Elves and Men      123
6. The Last Days of Middle-earth      170
7. The Final Victory      192

Works Consulted      201
Index      205

Book Reviews & Awards

• Finalist, Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies—The Mythopoeic Society

• “A most valuable…handbook”—SFRA Review

• “Relatively little attention has been focused on the twelve volumes of The History of Middle-earth…a very useful teaching and reference tool…stresses the enormous role that Tolkien’s readers had in prompting him to rethink, revise and refine some of the more complex elements of his mythology”—Tolkien Studies

• “An excellent ‘primer’ for those who found The History of Middle-earth itself intimidating. It is to be hoped that others will follow her fine example”—SEVEN

• “An insightful and thought provoking examination”—Critical Mass

• “Welcome…a weighty contribution to Tolkien commentary”—St. Austin Review

• “Show[s] the seriousness of the topics that Tolkien addressed…examin[es] not just the factual evolution of Tolkien’s story but the stylistic evolution as well…this consideration of style is a real achievement, as this topic—requiring a command of the whole body of the History—has attracted little previous comment”—Mythlore

• “Painstakingly combs through the many versions of J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings…undoubtedly a work of scholarship, but it’s a lot more accessible than most of the genre. This isn’t an introduction to the stories, it’s a way to deepen your understanding of them”—Green Man Review