S o , 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
|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|
|A Delightfully Imaginative Journey||
13th March 1938. Anne T. Eaton in New York Times
The original N.Y.Times review of The Hobbit.
|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
|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’
|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
|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
|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:
|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
|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
|‘Rings’ master returns||
18th April 2007. Deirdre Donahue in USA Today
Another positive review, giving it's bottom line quite early:
|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
|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
|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
|‘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.
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
|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.
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:
|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
|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
|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
Obituary for J.R.R. Tolkien
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
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 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.
For Devotees of Middle-Earth
16th November 1980. Frederick Buechner in New York Times
An honest review, calling UT a disappointment and
|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.
Mythprint review of Roverandom by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull
|J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator||
J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator
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
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
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
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:
|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
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
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
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: