The Tolkien Newsgroups' Links Collection.

S , how have the the various books by J.R.R. Tolkien been received over time by the press? Starting out on the occasion of the release of The Children of Húrin, this is a collection of reviews that are available on the net.

I have not been too strict about how to define a ‘review’, so this list contains also news-reports on Tolkien books, as well as what we might term general reviews of Tolkien's works, life and literary influence and heritage, including obituaries.

Last updated 2007-04-25 by Troels Forchhammer

Contents:

Reviews of The Hobbit
Reviews of The Lord of the Rings
Reviews of The Children of Húrin
Reviews of other books
Reviews of books about Tolkien
 

Reviews of The Hobbit

A Delightfully Imaginative Journey

13th March 1938. Anne T. Eaton in New York Times

The original N.Y.Times review of The Hobbit.

Reviews of The Lord of the Rings

The Hero Is a Hobbit

31st October 1954. W.H. Auden in New York Times

Auden's review of The Fellowship of the Ring. Auden was later sent proofs of the third volume, and one of the ensuing letters is published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (Letters) as number 163

Shadowy World of Men and Hobbits

1st May 1955. Donald Barr in New York Times

The Two Towers was, in the New York Times not reviewed by Auden, as were the first and last books of The Lord of the Rings, but Barr is nevertheless positive towards the book, noting, very interestingly, how Tolkien's works is much admired by certain critics who have always practiced a highly conscious and proud intellectualism.

At the End of the Quest, Victory

22nd January 1956. W.H. Auden in New York Times

Auden's review of The Return of the King, Tolkien's notes to which are given as number 183 in Letters

Oo, THOSE AWFUL ORCS!

14th April 1956. Edmund Wilson in The Nation

The archetypal, handwavingly imprecise harangue against The Lord of the Rings that apparently set the fashion for self-respecting ‘literati’

Reviews of The Children of Húrin

What took them so long?

8th April 2007. Bryan Appleyard in The Sunday Times

Mildly positive review, though not very precise. Michael Drout posted a commentary of this review on his blog.

The stuff of legend

8th April 2007. Robbie Hudson in The Sunday Times

Rather positive review that also gets the basic facts and influences right — even with a reference to Tolkien's linguistic knowledge.

Tolkien, before Bilbo

14th April 2007. Jeremy Marshall in The Times

Jeremy Marshall is one of the authors of The Ring Of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary. He gets his facts straight and is positive, though he also points out the weaknesses he perceive in the book.

Away with the fairies

15th April 2007. Tom Deveson in The Sunday Times

A rather negative review, but Deveson also implicitly points at what I would expect to be the greatest problem of the book. CRT has, reportedly, faithfully compiled his father's words with next to no editorial intervention. This means the book hasn't had the benefit of the co-operation between a good author and a good editor. In that case, I suspect that Deveson's description of 'monotonous passages of annalistic prose'. That he has, by all apperances, not made any effort at understanding the characters is a different matter.

The Children of Hurin by J R R Tolkien, ed Christopher Tolkien

15th April 2007. Murrough O'Brien in The Independent

A very positive review, which, refreshingly, opines that Tolkien's greatest weakness with dialogue in The Lord of the Rings is the dated, upper middle-class chatter of Frodo's friends. O'Brien concludes:

I hope that its universality and power will grant it a place in English mythology. Hang on though — that didn't exist before Tolkien.

The Children of Húrin — J.R.R. Tolkien (preview)

16th April 2007. Lizzie Guilfoyle in IndieLondon

Not a review as such, but a preview explaining the background for the book and citing various sources involved with it. A news-article about the book.

Mittelerde ist zurück

16th April 2007. hoc/Reuters in Der Spiegel (In German)

Another news-story rather than an actual review.

Tolkien proves he's still the king

16th April 2007. Vit Wagner in the Toronto Star

One more news-story, this time also dealing with the ‘accessibility’ of the writing compared to The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion.

‘New’ Tolkien novel goes on sale

17th April 2007. BBC

A news-story again. Bringing also the perspective of Adam Tolkien.

The Children of Húrin — Tolkien is back with a vengeance!

17th April 2007. Marcel Bülles on his blog.

A review by a Tolkien Scholar. Marcel Bülles has, for instance, worked together with Michael Drout on Tolkien research. This review also strikes out against the knee-jerk anti-Tolkien reactions of some critics — a bit of Tolkien-bashing-bashing …

Dark beauty of Middle-earth

17th April 2007. Casey Common in Star Tribune

Nice neutral review. I sense a small regret at the absense of Hobbits, but at the same time acknowledgement of the grander vision.

New tales of Middle-Earth published 30 years after Tolkien's death

17th April 2007. Tim Cornwell in The Scotsman

Landing somewhere in-between review and preview, this article also attempts to place The Children of Húrin in a larger context.

‘New’ Tolkien splendidly rewarding

17th April 2007. Bruce DeSilva for The Associated Press (CNN)

A quite positive review (as can be seen from the title) which has appeared in many places. The link above is to CNN.

The Children of Húrin Review

17th April 2007. Michael Drout on his blog

A Scholar and Critic, Michael Drout here presents a partial review (more is promised, and will be linked here when it arrives). Special analytical sections are devoted to Form and Sources and Editorial Practice.

Book Review: The Children of Hurin

17th April 2007. Jeff Giles in Entertainment Weekly

A negative review comparing The Children of Húrin unfavourably to The Lord of the Rings, though Giles doesn't appear to like the style of any of Tolkien's prose. Michael Drout has on his blog commented on the ‘handwaving’ of the following passage:

It's possible to be stunned by the expansiveness of The Lord of the Rings' vision — without it, there would be no Star Wars or Harry Potter, end of story — but still groan over its swampy, unedited prose.

The Lost Tolkien Novel

17th April 2007. Lev Grossman in Time

A cautiously positive review. Grossman seems to be unwilling to go too far, and is careful to describe Tolkien's archaisms as hilariously dorky and faux-archaic diction. Still, he cannot hide that he liked the book.

Lord of the ruins

17th April 2007. Andrew O'Hehir in Salon

A quite positive review that tries to balance the overall positive experience by pointing out the same weaknesses as others have marked.

The Children of Húrin

17th April 2007. Mike Rogers in Library Journal

A quite short piece ending on the conclusion that the book is Highly recommended.

‘Rings’ master returns

18th April 2007. Deirdre Donahue in USA Today

Another positive review, giving it's bottom line quite early: This is a delightful though slight addition to Tolkien's work for several reasons.

Just kick the hobbit and don't suffer ‘The Children of Hurin’

18th April 2007. Marta Salij for Detroit Free Press

Marta doesn't like The Children of Húrin, though she was completely hooked by The Lord of the Rings. Whether the absense of Hobbits or something else is difficult to say, but she found the new book boring.

The Children of Hurin

18th April 2007. Tish Wells for McClatchy Newspapers (MCT) in Pop Matters

This, as most of the reviews I've found, gives the new book a positive reception.

‘New’ Tolkien book is a dark tale of Middle-earth

19th April 2007. Colette Bancroft for St. Petersburg Times in Chicago Tribune

One more positive review by someone who has also been in contact with Michael Drout.

‘New’ book by Tolkien out

20th April 2007. Reuters, AFP in Straits Times

The original link seems unavailable but there is a Google cached page
More of a news-story, but referencing other reviews, including Deveson's scathing remarks (see above), it attempts to strike a balance slightly in favour of the book.

Tolkien's The Children of Húrin

21st April 2007. ‘Jabberwock’ (Jai Arjun Singh) in his blog

Positive, as one would expect from a self-professed ‘Tolkien nerd’, Jai reaches the conclusion that The Children of Húrin can work on its own, but is best when the reader knows the mythological context.

Tolkien fans return to Middle-earth for a ‘New’ tale

22nd April 2007. J. Stephen Bolhafner in St. Louis Post-Dispatch

A positive review calling Túrin both an archetype and a fully realized human being.

The Return of the King: A new novel from the creator of Middle Earth

22nd April 2007. Elizabeth Hand in The Washington Post

An almost enthusiastic review, speaking of a bleak, darkly beautiful tale that will enrich the experience of Middle-earth also for casual readers and film-fans.

‘New’ book is vintage Tolkien, an epic achievement

22nd April 2007. Dan Miller in Chicago Sun-Times

Focusing on the interplay between Túrin's personality and Morgoth's curse, this is another very positive review.

Middle-earth revisited

22nd April 2007. Jai Arjun Singh in Business Standard

As in his blog post (see above) Singh is also very positive in this article, where he adresses also The Hype and The Scepticism under separate headings.

Digested read: The Children of Húrin by JRR Tolkien

24th April 2007. John Crace in The Guardian

Not a review as such, but a summary of the story written in a style intended to mock Tolkien's use of archaisms, the story nevertheless presents a very negative view of the book.

Old hobbits are hard to break

24th April 2007. Nilanjana S Roy in Business Standard

Rather negative, this review complains of the new book being boring (I get the impression that there is too many names of people and places for the reviewer to keep track of).

Tolkien novel published 34 years after death

25th April 2007. From Reuters at Stuff.Co.Nz

Not a review, but another news-story about the release of The Children of Húrin.

A last, sombre visit to Middle Earth

26th April 2007. John Garth in The Telegraph

John Garth — surely the author of Tolkien and the Great War — shows his understanding of Tolkien's sources in a review that centres on the mood of the book.

Hobbit forming

28th April 2007. Nicholas Lezard in The Observer

A curious review that seems unable to figure out what to say about the book. It deals more with Tolkien's work in general (and in particular the description of Tolkien as an arch-conservative medievalist) than with the specific book (though it does manage to include the all-too-familiar misunderstanding about Wagnerian inspiration), and ends on an almost questioning note: But it does have a strange atmosphere all of its own. Maybe it does work.

In the name of the father

29th April 2007. Kelly Grovier in The Observer

The interesting bits, IMO, are nearest the end, when Grovier discusses the cut-and-paste technique by which the book has come to be. Ultimately she seems to find it justified in the name of those in search of a soulful, seamless read.

Reviews of other Tolkien books

Farmer Giles of Ham
The People's Hero

6th November 1950. Irene Smith in New York Times

A very brief review, a bit unsure of the audience, perhaps; thinking it a children's story with sophisticated decorations, attractive to older tastes that might discourage some children.

Tree and Leaf
In the ‘As-If’ World

14th March 1965. Chad Walsh in New York Times

An Inkling connoisseur and author of a book on C.S. Lewis, it is hardly a suprise that Walsh likes the book.

Smith of Wooton Major
For Young Readers

4th February 1968. Robert Phelps in New York Times

I think it is all said with Phelps calling Smith first and foremost a good tale, dense and engrossing, full of unexpected turns, worth telling for its own sake.

Tolkien, R.I.P.

Obituary for J.R.R. Tolkien
28th September 1973. Guy Davenport in National Review

That Davenport likes Tolkien's books, in particular The Lord of the Rings, is evident, but I don't really know what else to make of this …

The Father Christmas Letters
Christmas Letters

5th December 1976. Nancy Willard in New York Times

A loving review of the letters, with perhaps a twinge of regret that she didn't have something like this when she was a child.

The Silmarillion
The World of Tolkien

23rd October 1977. John Gardner in New York Times

A very well balanced review with, perhaps, a slight bias to the positive.

Unfinished Tales
For Devotees of Middle-Earth

16th November 1980. Frederick Buechner in New York Times

An honest review, calling UT a disappointment and dim echo of glories past, a scattering of crumbs left over from a great and unforgettable feast, but Buechner is honest enough to recognize that the disappointment is due expecting of Unfinished Tales what he had found in The Lord of the Rings — something the later book was never meant to be.

The Book of Lost Tales
Language and Prehistory of the Elves

24th May 1984. Barbara Tritel in New York Times

Not fond of the apparatus of notes and commentary, Tritel nevertheless seems to have enjoyed the actual Lost Tales.

Book Review:Roverandom

Roverandom
April 1998. David Bratman in Mythprint Volume 35:4, Whole No. 193

Mythprint review of Roverandom by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull

Reviews of books about Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator

J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator
July 1996. David Bratman in Mythprint Volume 33:?, Whole No. 175

Mythprint review of J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator by Wayne G Hammond and Christina Scull

A Question of Time: J.R.R. Tolkien's Road to FaŽrie

A Question of Time: J.R.R. Tolkien's Road to FaŽrie
March 1998. Douglas A. Anderson in Mythprint Volume 35:3, Whole No. 192

Mythprint review of A Question of Time: J.R.R. Tolkien's Road to FaŽrie by Verlyn Flieger

Book Review: Tolkien's Legendarium

Tolkien's Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth
April 2000. Edith L. Crowe in Mythprint Volume 37:4, Whole No. 217

Mythprint review of the essay collection Tolkien's Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth edited by Verlyn Flieger and Carl F. Hostetter

Bored of the Rings

J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century
7th February 2002. Richard Jenkyns in The New Republic at Powells.com

A very interesting review of J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century by T.A. Shippey. Jenkyns disagrees with Shippey about key claims in Shippey's book — not the philological arguments, which he found very sound, but he accuses Shippey of polarizing the debate:

[…]. One can admire Tolkien a great deal and still regret that so many people believe there to be nothing better. Shippey's “take no prisoners” policy — you are either with Middle-earth or you are with the poncey eggheads — polarizes the debate too much. That is why I have been so hard on Tolkien here: in resisting the claim that he is a literary titan, it is necessary to point to his large deficiencies.

And yet Tolkien's conception does have a genuine grandeur, particularly the counterpoint in the later part of the story between the vast sweep of battle across Middle-earth and what actually matters more, the tiny group crawling across desolation to the fateful summit of the Mount of Doom. He is good at conveying the sense of dark, sinister, shapeless threat (much less good at representing evil itself). And there are some wonderful passages, such as the visit to the talking trees, the ents, perhaps the most magical and evocative thing that he wrote. In his way he was unique, and that cannot be claimed for many writers. But as for the notion that The Lord of the Rings is just about the twentieth century's supreme achievement: dear oh dear oh dear.

Book Review: A Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien's Road to Faërie

A Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien's Road to Faërie by Verlyn Flieger
13th July 2002. Ralph Wood at Leadership University

The site and the reviewer have a Christian approach to Tolkien's work, which to some extent colours the review. It is nonetheless an interesting read.

Tolkien Critical Reviews

Academic reviews of The Lord of the Rings
21st November 2004. David Maduram on his home-page.

A list of quotations from many academic reviews of The Lord of the Rings (the page claims The Fellowship of the Ring, but lists comments on Rohirric poetry).

J.R.R. Tolkien, The History of Middle-Earth, 12 volumes

The History of Middle-earth Series by Christopher Tolkien
12th May 2006. Franco Manni at the Valar Guild

A review of all twelve volumes of HoMe.

Book reviews index — The Tolkien Society:

List of reviews of secondary books under the auspices of The Tolkien Society

This list includes many of the major secondary books on Tolkien:

  1. The Peoples of Middle-earth (HoMe XII) by Christopher Tolkien (editor) reviewed by Charles B. Noad

  2. J.R.R. Tolkien (Series: “Writers and their Work”) by Charles Moseley reviewed by John Ellison

  3. J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull reviewed by John Ellison

  4. Tolkien's Legendarium - Essays On The History Of Middle-Earth by Verlyn Flieger and Carl F. Hostetter (editors) reviewed by Christopher Kreuzer

  5. JRR Tolkien Reads Excerpts from The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring Caedmon Audio (Harper Audio) reviewed by Martin Baker

  6. The JRR Tolkien Audio Collection Caedmon Audio (Harper Audio) / HarperCollins Audio Books reviewed by Martin Baker

  7. A Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien 's Road to Faërie by Verlyn Flieger reviewed by John Ellison

  8. The Letters of JRR Tolkien (expanded index) by Humphrey Carpenter (editor), unknown reviewer

  9. Finn and Hengest: The Fragment and the Episode by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by A. Bliss reviewed by Andrew Wells

  10. Defending Middle-Earth — Tolkien: Myth & Modernity by Patrick Curry reviewed by Sarah Wells

  11. Tolkien: Man and Myth. A Literary Life by Joseph Pearce reviewed by Michael Tolkien

  12. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien with illustrations by Alan Lee reviewed by Helen Armstrong

  13. The Uncharted Realms of Tolkien by Alex Lewis and Elizabeth Currie reviewed by Helen Armstrong

  14. Women among the Inklings: gender, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams by Candice Frederick and Sam McBride reviewed by David Doughan

  15. Tolkien's Ring by David Day reviewed by Andrew Wells with additional comments by Helen Armstrong

  16. Hobbits Elves and Wizards: Exploring the Wonders and Worlds of JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings by Michael N. Stanton reviewed by Helen Armstrong

  17. J.R.R. Tolkien by Michael Coren reviewed by Chris Crawshaw

  18. Meditations on Middle-earth by Karen Haber (editor) reviewed by Christopher Kreuzer

  19. The History of Middle-earth Index by Christopher Tolkien, unknown reviewer

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