A Beginner's Guide to Tolkien Criticism

The following annotated bibliography is meant to represent an introduction to scholarly criticism of Tolkien's work. I do not intend for it to be complete, but I do try to cite most of the major book-length sources available. I am mostly interested in acquainting students with the best available sources. I have chosen to categorize works according to what I will be the first to admit is an unsatisfactory morphology in many ways, but I am willing to employ it as an entrance point. Once you recognize that much of the work below can fit into multiple categories, the categories do provide a place to begin understanding what the volumes have to offer.

Reference Books

I've divided the texts here into three types: 1) scholarly editions or compendiums of some of Tolkien's work; 2) scholarly reference volumes; and 3) a few works of high quality that study Tolien's creation from the fields of cartography and of medieval botany respectively.

Tolkien's first scholarly work was a Middle English vocabulary designed to go with Kenneth Sisam's classic Middle English anthology. The two works have been reissued in a single volume. Tolkien's word studies are often detailed and give an window into his understanding of the field. Christopher Tolkien and Carpenter have edited a volume of J.R.R. Tolkien's letters, which includes a very thorough index. Expanded editions of Smith of Wooton Major, Farmer Giles of Ham, and On Fairy-Stories include extra materials related to each that are of interest to researchers, including maps, previously unpublished essays and notes by Tolkien, etc.  Likewise, Alan Bliss compiled and completed Tolkien's lecture series on Hengest fragment. The work, though quite specialist in its concerns, offers some good insights into Tolkien's view of Anglo-Saxon culture and philology.

Sisam, Kenneth and J. R. R. Tolkien. A Middle English Reader and Vocabulary. Dover, 2005.

Tolkien, J.R.R., Christopher Tolkien and Humphrey Carpenter, eds. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Houghton Mifflin, 2000.  

--- and Alan Bliss. Finn and Hengest. Firebird, 1998.

--- and Verlyn Flieger, ed. Smith of Wootton Major. Expanded ed. HarperCollins, 2005.

--- and Verlyn Flieger and Douglas A. Anderson, ed. On Fairy-stories. Expanded ed. HarperCollins, 2008.

---, Christina Scull, and Wayne Hammond, eds. Farmer Giles of Ham. (50th Anniversary ed.) Houghton Mifflin, 2000.  

+ + +

The recent encyclopedia edited by Drout contains entries by pretty much all the important scholars working in Tolkien studies and is worth consultation when you can find it in a library. [We carry this as an e-book, but it can be a bit hard to navigate.] The volume by Gilliver, Marshall, and Weiner includes a short biography of Tolkien's time at the Oxford English Dictionary and a wonderful depository of studies of important words in Tolkien. The reference work of Hammond and Scull is nothing short of monumental and is ignored at the Tolkien researcher's peril. Their study of the paintings and illustrations of Tolkien is an excellent analysis of an often overlooked area. Their reader's companion represents the scholarly footnotes that an edition of LOR would require, while their Chronology and Reader's Guide are full of information and far surpass any other "guide" in the popular market, though those wanting a more complete lists of names in The Hobbit, LOR, and The Silmarillion might well want to consult Robert Foster's useful compendium. Foster's volume is somewhat out-of-date, but it far superior to similar volumes by J.E.A. Tyler and David Day, which contain numerous errors or speculative conjectures. The Chronology should be consulted to fill in other biographies or, in some case, to correct or call into question their conclusions. The Reader's Guide not only contains good discussions of key people and places in Tolkien's life, it also includes learned synopses of the corpus of Tolkien's published works, as well as article-length overviews of major thematic issues in Tolkien. Those interested in the history of textual corrections to the various editions of Tolkien's works will find Hammond and Anderson's bibliography of this quite enlightening.

Drout, Michael, ed. J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment. Routledge, 2006.

Foster, Robert. The Complete Guide to Middle-earth: Tolkien's World from A to Z. DelRey, 2003

Gilliver, Peter, Jeremy Marshall, and Edmund Weiner. The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006.

Hammond, Wayne and Douglas A. Anderson. J.R.R. Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography (Winchester Bibliographies of 20th Century Writers). Oak Knoll, 1993.

Hammond, Wayne and Christina Scull. J.R.R. Tolkien, Artist and Illustrator. London : HarperCollins, 1995.

---., The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion. Houghton Mifflin, 2005.

---., The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, Volume 1: Chronology. Houghton Mifflin, 2006.

---., The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: Volume 2: Reader's Guide. Houghton Mifflin, 2006.

+ + +

Fonstad and Hazell probably should not be cited without first ascertaining how the authors came to their conclusions, but they do represent effective explorations of Tolkien's imaginative worlds, and they are full of useful information.

Fonstad, Karen Wynn. The Atlas of Middle-Earth. Rev. ed. Houghton Mifflin, 2001.

Hazell, Dinah. The Plants of Middle-Earth: Botany and Sub-creation. Kent State UP, 2007.

+ + +

Those interested in the study of Tolkien's languages should consult the journals of the Tolkien Linguistic Society: Vinyar Tengwar, Parma Eldalamberon, and Tengwestië. The most important name working with this topic is Carl Hostetter. It should be noted that Hostetter dismisses Ruth Noel, David Salo, and Helge Fauskanger as working with out-dated materials and/or "neo-Elvish" creations that ignore the historical-style construction of Tolkien's created languages.

Source Criticism

Close studies of Tolkien's sources were in many ways some of the most fecund approaches to his corpus and have perhaps been the approach that has given a modicum of academic respectability to the field. The History of Middle-Earth, Tolkien's son, Christopher's, massive 12-volume study, includes Tolkien's earlier versions of The Silmarillion, a number of stories, poems, and historical apparatuses like that in the appendices of The Return of the King, as well as earlier drafts of LOR. Each volume contains C. Tolkien's learned commentary. He gives similar treatment in Unfinished Tales, which functions as a 13th "pre-volume" of sorts in the series. 

Tolkien, Christopher. The History of Middle-earth. 13 vols. HarperCollins, 2002.

Tolkien, J.R.R, and Christopher Tolkien. The Book of Lost Tales, Part One. The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 1. Del Rey, 1992.

---, and Christopher Tolkien. The Book of Lost Tales, Part Two. The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 2. Del Ray, 1992.

---, and Christopher Tolkien. The Lays of Beleriand. The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 3. Del Ray, 1994.

---, and Christopher Tolkien. The Shaping of Middle-Earth: The Quenta, the Ambarkanta and the Annals. The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 4. Del Ray, 1995.

---, and Christopher Tolkien.  The Lost Road and Other Writings. The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 5. Houghton Mifflin, 1987.

---, and Christopher Tolkien. The Return of the Shadow: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part One. The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 6. Houghton Mifflin, 2000

---, and Christopher Tolkien, Treason of Isengard: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part Two. The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 7. Houghton Mifflin, 2000.

---, and Christopher Tolkien. The War of the Ring: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part Three. The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 8. Houghton Mifflin, 2000.

---, and Christopher Tolkien. Sauron Defeated: The History of The Lord of the Rings, Part Four. The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 9. Houghton Mifflin, 1992.

---, and Christopher Tolkien. Morgoth's Ring: The Later Silmarillion, Part One. The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 10. Houghton Mifflin, 1993.

---, and Christopher Tolkien.  The War of the Jewels: The Later Silmarillion, Part Two. The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 11. Houghton Mifflin, 1994.

---, and Christopher Tolkien. The Peoples of Middle-Earth. The History of Middle-Earth, Vol. 12. Houghton Mifflin, 1995.

---, and Christopher Tolkien. Unfinished Tales. Del Rey, 1988.

+ + +

John D. Rateliff was chosen by Christopher Tolkien to bring the same level of detail source study to the original drafts of The Hobbit

Rateliff, John D. The History of The Hobbit. Part 1: Mr. Baggins. Houghton Mifflin, 2007.

---. The History of The Hobbit. Part 2: Return to Bag-End. Houghton Mifflin, 2007.

+ + +

Additional criticism that derives a number of its insights from source studies include the work of Anderson, Burns, Drout, Flieger, Hooker, Lobdell, and Shippey. Anderson and Lobdell have explored the late Victorian/ Edwardian connections the most. Anderson's annotated edition of The Hobbit, while it also contains scholarly notes and interesting studies of the novel has been adapted in other countries, also contains a through series of citations on Tolkien's late 19th and early 20th century influences. Anderson has also issues a recent anthology of British and American fantasy, some which influenced Tolkien. Lobdell studies the same area in more critical detail. Drout's variorium edition of Tolkien's essay The Monsters and the Critics is fully footnoted. Burns' study of Celtic and Norse influences in Tolkien is particularly good at teasing out these lines of thought. Hooker's work often uncovers small, overlooked linguistic details.

The work of Shippey and Flieger represents some of the best scholarly studies of Tolkien. Shippey's Author of the Century is essentially a slightly more popular version of his earlier The Road to Middle-Earth, but it does address some areas the former does not, such as Tolkien's role as a 20th-century author. The two volumes tend to complement each other and often overlap. They are especially good at considering questions of Tolkien's philological values and his medieval training. The same can be said for the collection of his essays. Flieger's 2001 and 2005 volumes are particularly good at uncovering how the earlier layers of Tolkien's legendarium shaped his later fiction. Interrupted Music represents a number of her published essays gathered together, so keep this in mind when looking at her journal publications. The Caldecott-Honegger volume includes both source studies and literary implications. Lee and Solopova have produced volumes that connect Tolkien's work to his Old English and Norse sources. Ryan's collection of essays provide a number of jewels and are particularly good at insight into Tolkien's early education and teaching career.

Anderson, Douglas A. ed. The Annotated Hobbit. Rev. ed. London: Harper Collins, 2002.

---. Tales Before Tolkien: The Roots of Modern Fantasy. Del Ray, 2005.

Burns, Marjorie. Perilous Realms: Celtic and Norse in Tolkien's Middle-Earth. U of Toronto P, 2005.

Caldecott, Stratford, and Thomas Honegger. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: Sources of Inspiration. Switzerland: Walking Tree Publishers, 2008. 

Drout, Michael D. C. Beowulf and the Critics (Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, Vol. 248). Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2002.

Flieger, Verlyn. Interrupted Music: The Making of Tolkien’s Mythology. Kent State Univ. Press, 2005.

---. A Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Road to Faerie. Kent State Univ. Press, 2001.

Hooker, Mark T. The Hobbitonian Anthology: Articles on J.R.R. Tolkien and his Legendarium. Llyfrawr, 2009.

---. A Tolkienian Mathomium: A Collection of Articles on J.R.R. Tolkien and His Legendarium. Llyfrawr, 2008. 

Lee, Stuart, and Elizabeth Solopova. The Keys of Middle-Earth: Discovering Medieval Literature through the Fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan ,2006.

Lobdell, Jared. The Rise of Tolkienian Fantasy. Chicago: Open Court, 2004.

Ryan, J.S. Tolkien's View: Windows into his World. Switzerland: Walking Tree Publishers, 2009.  

Shippey, Tom. J.R.R Tolkien: Author of the Century. Houghton Mifflin, 2002.

---. The Road to Middle Earth: Revised and Expanded Edition. Houghton Mifflin, 2003.

---. Roots and Branches. Switzerland: Walking Tree Publishers, 2007. 

Solopova, Elizabeth. Languages, Myths and History: An Introduction to the Linguistic and Literary Background of J. R. R. Tolkien's Fiction. North Landing Books, 2009.

Biographical Criticism

Along with Hammond and Scull's Chronology and Reader's Guide, these represent the better biographical sources. Humphrey Carpenter's volume on Tolkien is the standard biography, though Garth's volume on the young Tolkien's experience in and before World War I is phenomenal and should be consulted. Carpenter's volume on the Inklings and Duriez's on Lewis and Tolkien offer a number of useful perspectives. Glyer's study offers a new and fecund model to examine the kinds of influence the Inklings had on each other and, thereby, challenges some of Carpenter's conclusions. Pearce's mostly covers old ground, but it does highlight aspects of Tolkien's Catholicism otherwise downplayed. The remaining biographies on the market (not cited below) tend to be mostly popularizations for the fan market. For example, Michael White's has been criticized from many quarters as poorly researched, while Leslie Ellen Jones's in the Greenwood series is intended for the high school market and adds nothing to Carpenter's.

Carpenter, Humphrey.  J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1977.

---. The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and Their Friends.  Houghton Mifflin, 1979.  

Duriez, Colin. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship. Paulist Press, 2003.

Garth, John. Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth. Houghton Mifflin, 2005.

Glyer, Diana Pavlac. The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community. Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2008.

Pearce, Joseph. Tolkien: Man and Myth. A Literary Life. San Francisco : Ignatius Press, 1998.

Literary Criticism

While certainly almost all of the volumes in the bibliography could be placed here, I have chosen to restrict this category to works that take a more typical literary approach, as well as a number of important collections.

Chance's books take a Freudian and political reading of Tolkien, while Croft as the title suggests looks at attitudes toward war in Tolkien. (Croft's book is profitably read in tandem with Garth's biography and Dickerson's study of Gandalf's ethics.) Flieger's Splintered Light examines The Silmarillion from the perspective of the thought of fellow Inkling Owen Barfield. Fredrick and McBride conduct a feminist reading of the Inklings, including two chapters on Tolkien. Forest-Hill's study is worth perusing, as are Simonson and Smith's. Kocher's early study is now out-of-date on some matters, but is still essential reading for The Lord of the Rings. Reilly's study is also out-of-date, but still worth perusing in that it places Tolkien within the neo-Platonism of the other Inklings. Rorabeck covers pretty obvious ground, but it is worth a glance. Green's decade-old study of The Hobbit still offers an insightful reading of the novel as a coming-of-age story. Turner and Kane are both worth studying in the formation of the edited volume of The Silmarillion.

Chance, Jane. The Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power. NY : Twayne, 1992.

---. Tolkien's Art: A Mythology for England . UP of Kentucky , 2001.

Croft, Jane Brennan.  War and the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien.  Praeger, 2004

Flieger, Verlyn. Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s World. Place of Publication: Kent State Univ. Press, 2002.

Forest-Hill, Lynn. The Mirror Crack'd: Fear and Horror in JRR Tolkien's Major Works. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008. 

Fredrick, Candice and Sam McBride. Women Among the Inklings: Gender, C. S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams. Westport , CT :Greenwood Press, 2001.  

Green, William H. The Hobbit: A Journey into Maturity (Twayne’s Masterwork Studies 149). NY: Twayne, 1994.  

Honegger, Thomas. Roots and Branch. 2nd ed. Switzerland: Walking Tree Publishers, 2006.

Kane, Douglas Charles. Arda Reconstructed: The Creation of the Published Silmarillion. Cranbury: Lehigh University Press, 2009.

Kocher, Paul. Master of Middle-Earth: The Fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien. DelRey, 1972.

Reilly, R.J. Romantic Religion: A Study of Barfield, Lewis, Williams, and Tolkien. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1971.

Rorabeck, Robert. Tolkien's Heroic Quest. Kent: Crescent Moon Publishing, 2008.

Segura, Edurado, and Thomas Honegger. Myth & Magic: Art according to the Inklings. Switzerland: Walking Tree Publishers, 2007.

Simonson, Martin. The Lord of the Rings & the Western Narrative Tradtion. Switzerland: Walking Tree Publishers, 2008.

Smith, Ross. Inside Language. Switzerland: Walking Tree Publishers, 2007.

Sturch, Richard. Four Christian Fantasists. 2nd ed. Switzerland: Walking Tree Publishers, 2007.

Turner, Allan. The Silmarillion: 30 Years On. Switzerland: Walking Tree Publishers, 2007.

+ + +

Due to length, I am not including the full list of articles for these edited collections. Many times the title should clue you into the range of topics therein. The earlier volume edited by Chance focuses on Medieval readings and influences. (It is available as an e-book.) Chance's later volume draws from a number of differing approaches. The Flieger-Hostetter volume offers particularly good studies of the The History of Middle Earth as itself a literary work. The Lobdell volume is a reissue of a volume of early critical responses to Tolkien, while the newest Isaacs-Zimbardo represents a compendium of older and newer approaches. Their early volumes do the same for the 1960's and 1970's respectively. The Pearce, Battarbeem and Reynolds-GoodKnight collections represent a more varied set of responses, some more personal or creative than academic, but they each are worth perusing. The Croft volume is mixed in quality but nonetheless suggestive of the possibilities. The Hammond-Scull volume is particularly high in quality, and the Clark-Timmons volume is also quite good in general. The Hiley-Weinreich volume, on Tolkien's shorter fiction is mixed, but obviously on topics not written about enough. The Honegger-Weinreich volumes on Tolkien and modernity are uneven in their offerings, but worth reviewing. (I have mostly neglected to include collections of the conference proceedings associated with the Tolkien Society since these are more difficult to obtain, but they can be ordered through inter-library loan.)

Battarbee, Keith J., ed. Scholarship and Fantasy: Proceedings of the Tolkien Phenomenon, May 1992, Turku, Finland. Anglicana Turkuensia 12, Turku: University of Turku, 1993.

Chance, Jane, ed. Tolkien the Medievalist. Routledge, 2003

---, ed. Tolkien and the Invention of Myth: A Reader. UP of Kentucky , 2004.

Clark, George and Daniel Timmons, eds. J.R.R. Tolkien and His Literary Resonances: Views of Middle-earth . Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000. 

Croft, Janet Brennan, ed. Tolkien and Shakespeare: Essays on Shared Themes and Language. McFarland, 2007.

Flieger, Verlyn and Carl F. Hostetter, eds. Tolkien's Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth. Westport , CT : Greenwood Press, 2000.  

Hammond, Wayne G., and Christina Scull, eds. The Lord of the Rings 1954-2004: Scholarship in Honor of Richard E. Blackwelder. Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2006.

Hart, Trevor, and Ivan Khovacs, eds. Tree of Tales: Tolkien, Literature and Theology. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2007.

Hiley, Margaret, and Frank Weinreich eds. Tolkien's Shorter Works. Switzerland: Walking Tree Publishers, 2008. 

Honegger, Thomas, ed. Reconsidering Tolkien. Switzerland: Walking Tree Publishers, 2005.  

Honegger, Thomas, and Frank Weinreich, eds. Tolkien & Modernity 1. Switzerland: Walking Tree Publishers, 2006.

---, eds. Tolkien & Modernity 2. Switzerland: Walking Tree Publishers, 2006. 

Isaacs, Neil D. and Rose A Zimbardo., eds. Understanding The Lord of the Rings: The Best of Tolkien Criticism. Houghton Mifflin, 2005. 

___, eds. Tolkien, New Critical Perspectives. U of Kentucky P, 1981.

___, eds. Tolkien and the Critics. Notre Dame: U of Notre Dame P, 1969.

Lobdell, Jared, ed. A Tolkien Compass. Chicago: Open Court, 2003.

Pearce, Joseph, ed. Tolkien: A Celebration: Collected Writings on a Literary Legacy. London: Fount, 1999.

Reynolds, Patricia A. and Glen GoodKnight, ed. Proceedings of the J. R. R. Tolkien Centenary Conference 1992. Mythopoetic Press, 1995.

Theological and Ethical Criticism

By separating out these volumes I intend neither to depreciate their worth nor condemn them to a critical ghetto. Instead, I want to call attention to their particular approaches and separate them out from other works of what might be termed either a "theological appreciation" of Tolkien or a missiological appropriation of him. The beginning researcher in Tolkien should take the time to distinguish works of popular fandom from academic studies. This isn't necessarily to discount the former for what they are, but it is to remind one that academic works observe certain standards of research, documentation, and familiarity with the academic conversation. This is certainly the case with works that purport to explore either Tolkien's religion or to read him from a theologically informed position. However, most of the works listed here are intended to be both scholarly and to be read by a more general audience, so there is bound to be some overlap. 

Birzer's volume contains good chapters on Tolkien's Catholicism and how it shaped his political vision; otherwise, what he has to say will be found other places. Caldecott's does much the same, as does a large section of Pearce's Literary Giants. (Caldecott's volume has also been marketed under the title The Secret Fire.) Both of Dickerson's studies take ethical readings of Tolkien by contextualizing Tolkien within larger literary questions, to which the titles are pretty self-explanatory.  Originally published as England and Always: Tolkien's World of the Rings in 1982, Lobdell's work has been updated, so consult the 2004 version. It is best at drawing out the religious vision behind Tolkien's love of languages and faerie. Milbank's study looks at how Tolkien, as well as Chesterton's, prose incarnates a particular sacramental understanding of the real world, though I think she is more thorough in regards to Chesterton. Purtrill's 1984 study has also been reissued and does a good job looking at definitions of myth as a way to study Tolkien, while Wood's book offers a readable and enjoyable study of motifs of grace in Tolkien. Rutledge's volume has a number of good insights and is written as as a running commentary on LOR, but this has its drawbacks, not the least of which is a good index. Whittingham is a strong study of various theological themes in Tolkien's mythology, including creation, angelic beings, death and immortality, and eschatology.

Birzer, Bradley. J. R. R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-Earth. ISI Books, 2003.

Caldecott, Stratford. The Power of the Ring: The Spiritual Vision Behind the Lord of the Rings. Crossroad, 2005.

Dickerson, Matthew T. and Jonathan Evans. Ents, Elves, And Eriador: The Environmental Vision of J. R. R. Tolkien. Univ. Press of Kentucky . 2006.

---. Following Gandalf: Epic Battles and Moral Victory in The Lord of the Rings. Brazos Press, 2003.

Garbowski, Christopher. Recovery and Transcendence for the Contemporary Mythmaker: The Spiritual Dimension in the Works of J. R. R. Tolkien. Switzerland: Walking Tree P, 2004.

Lobdell, Jared. The World of the Rings: Language, Religion, and Adventure in Tolkien. Chicago: Open Court, 2004. 

Millbank, Alison. Chesterton and Tolkien as Theologians: The Fantasy of the Real. London: T and T Clark, 2009.

Oser, Lee. The Return of Christian Humanism: Chesterton, Eliot, Tolkien, and the Romance of History.  U of Missouri P, 2007.

Pearce, Joseph. Literary Giants, Literary Catholics. San francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005.

Purtill, Richard L. J. R. R. Tolkien: Myth, Morality, and Religion. San Francisco : Harper and Row, 2003.

Rutledge, Fleming. The Battle for Middle-Earth: Tolkien's Divine Design in "The Lord of the Rings". Eerdmans, 2004.

Whittingham, Elizabeth A. The Evolution of Tolkien's Mythology: A Study of the History of Middle-earth. London: McFarland, 2007.

Williams, Donald T. Mere Humanity: G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien on the Human Condition. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2006.

Wood, Ralph C. The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-Earth. Westminster John Knox, 2003.  

Tolkien in Cultural Perspective

These volumes represent a number of differing approaches to Tolkien's works, most of which are more interested in the implications of his work, than in strictly interpreting him. Nonetheless, each volume has potential insights for the willing reader. Bassham and Bronson's volume is a grab bag of essays looking at the philosophical implications. Topics include power and the ring, happiness, good and evil, time and mortality, and endings and hope. Kreeft's volume, on the other hand, is more a study of the classic philosophical categories through the lenses of Tolkien. Kreeft uses C. S. Lewis as a kind of commentator on Tolkien, often without justification. 

Curry's defense of Tolkien against the attacks of his detractors is also a defense of a neo-pagan reading of Tolkien, while the volume edited by West sees Tolkien as representative of neo-conservative and Christian values. It mostly covers similar ground on Tolkien's Catholicism, ethics, and general worldview, but I include it here because of the way it has been grouped. Smith's little book almost qualifies as the "theological appreciation" that I mentioned above, but it does have a few important insights into Tolkien and virtue ethics. Petty's volume, in similar fashion, evaluates Tolkien within the categories of Joseph Campbell's archetypes. 

Rosebury's second edition examines Tolkien as a socio-cultural phenomena and includes new chapters on the first two of the Peter Jackson films, while the Chance-Siewers volume examines the contemporary popular medievalism to which Tolkien helped give rise. Fimi and Lam-Oryshchuk both examine a number of cultural studies topics: Fimi focusing on issues in Tolkien's context, while Lam and Oryshchuk focus on our own.  Buchs and Honegger's volume include studies of Tolkien and gaming.

Honegger and Hooker's volumes on Tolkien in translation will be of interest to some. Finally, Lyons' work is part autobiography, part travel guide, part exploration of geographical influences on Tolkien, though it is as much a meditation on why a study of geographical influences is bound to be suggestive at best. 

I have chosen at this point to not include works on Peter Jackson's films, though there are now scholarly film studies, such as Kristen Thompson's and the collections edited by Janet Croft and  by Ernest Mathijs and Murray Pomerance.

Bassham, Gregory and Eric Bronson, ed. The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy: One Book to Rule Them All. Chicago: Open Court, 2003.

Buchs, Peter, and Thomas Honegger, eds. News from the Shire & Beyond. 2nd ed. Switzerland: Walking Tree Publishers, 2006.  

Chance, Jane and Alfred Siewers, eds. Tolkien's Modern Middle Ages (The New Middle Ages). Palgrave, 2005.

Curry, Patrick.  Defending Middle-earth: Tolkien, Myth, and Modernity. NY : St. Martin's, 1997.  

Fimi, Dimitra. Tolkien, Race and Cultural History: From Fairies to Hobbits . Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

Honegger, Thomas. Tolkien in Translation. Switzerland: Walking Tree Publishers, 2003.

---. Translating Tolkien. Switzerland: Walking Tree Publishers, 2004.

Hooker, Mark T. Tolkien through Russian Eyes. Switzerland: Walking Tree Publishers, 2003.

Kreeft, Peter. The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind The Lord of the Rings. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005.

Lam, Adam, and Nataliya Oryshchuk. How We Became Middle-earth. Switzerland: Walking Tree Publishers, 2007.  

Lyons, Matthew. There and Back Again: In the Footsteps of J.R.R. Tolkien's England. Cadogan Guides, 2004.

Petty, Anne C. Tolkien in the Land of Heroes: Discovering the Human Spirit.  Cold Spring Press, 2003.

Rosebury, Brian. Tolkien: A Critical Assessment. 2nd ed. London : Macmillan, 2004.

Smith, Mark Eddy. Tolkien's Ordinary Virtues : Exploring the Spiritual Themes of the Lord of the Rings. IVP, 2002.  

West, John G, ed. Celebrating Middle-Earth: The Lord of the Rings As a Defense of Western Civilization. Inkling Books, 2002.


"All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire/ And the fire and the rose are one." -- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding