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Beyond Middle-earth: Coming Home} ?> It’s hard to imagine an aspect of the fantasy genre that hasn’t been influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien. Elves and orcs seem to be commonplace races in many fantasy novels. Reluctant kings, unlikely heroes, shieldmaidens and wise, elderly mentors appear over and over again, not to mention swords and other inanimate objects possessing incredible power.
For me, one other reason why Tolkien is so important not just to fantasy, but to literature in general, is the themes he explores in his writing. Think of his critique of Industrialism in the way Isengard expands itself out of fire and iron but is ultimately reclaimed by Treebeard and the Ents of Fangorn Forest. Think of his portrayal of the simple life in the Shire as ideal living. The Hobbits are not a people concerned with expanding their lands, but instead prize community, good food and good, tilled earth above all else; after all, isn’t it Sam’s love of his own garden that helps him overcome the Ring’s temptation?
There’s a lot I could write about The Hobbit or The Silmarillion. But, Tolkien wrote so much more than his Middle-earth stories, and I enjoyed reading these as well: Roverandom, Smith of Wooton Major and Leaf by Niggle, as well as translations of Beowulf, Sigurd and Gudrún and Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight are just a few examples. These are works that I don’t think get enough attention, and so these are the works I want to write about in this column. I also plan on offering a poet’s perspective on many of Tolkien’s poems and exploring the works that influenced him, like Arthurian legend and Norse myth. I am excited by this opportunity to write about the author I love best, and I hope you will enjoy travelling this road with me.
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