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  Bookends: Dan Davidson
 

Tolkienís Ring

Reviewed: November 21, 2003
By: David Day / Illustrations by Alan Lee
Publisher: Pavilion Books
183 pages, $23.95

Itís almost time for the final third of the Lord of the Rings to hit the theatres. That being so, it is perhaps a good time to take a look at this book. Tolkienís Ring is described by its author as ďa kind of literary detectiveís casebook that amounts to an investigation of the imagination of J.R.R. Tolkien.Ē In other words, though we know that Tolkien has been the inspiration for fantasy writers working over the last half-century, what was it that inspired him?

In his quest to explore language and create a new English national epic, Tolkien was not exactly cutting his figures from whole cloth. He didnít make it all up any more than Homer, Virgil, Thomas Malory (to get closer to Britain) or Richard Wagner (speaking of rings). He was influenced by all that he had read as a boy, all that he had studied as a young man, and all that he was researching as a professional scholar.

David Day has given us a book which explores the sources from which Tolkien drew, adapted (for his elves and dwarves are unlike any that populated stories before he wrote about them), and used as a springboard for his own creations, hobbits, orcs, and the angelic race of which Gandalf and his fellows were representatives of both good and evil types.

There are chapters on thirteen major mythologies which Tolkien drew from, including Norse, Arthurian, Carolingian, Celtic, Saxon, German, Greek, Roman, Biblical and Oriental sources materials. The essays are necessarily limited in their scope, basic retellings of some of the tales that pertain to the matter at hand, but would serve as great jumping off points for anyone wanting to know more.

The book is beautifully illustrated, in both colour and black & white, by premiere fantasy artist Alan Lee. Itís an oversized trade paperback printed in a lavish edition which does justice to the size and detail of Leeís artwork.

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