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.