Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth ed. by Catherine McIIwaine


Goodreads: Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: July 2018


This collection features six essays on different aspects of Tolkien’s work (including his art, his invented languages, and his conception of Faerie) as well photographs of archival materials from the Bodleian Libraries and Marquette University.


Published to coincide with a Tolkien exhibition at the Bodleian, this volume features six essays on different aspects of Tolkien’s work, ranging from his art to his language invention, as well as photographs of letters and archival material, each paired with a lengthy description expanding on the themes of the essays.  The essays may be primarily of interest to fans who have not yet read much on Tolkien’s life and work.  It is the photographs that truly make the book special.  Even well-read fans may know much of the material presented, but it is altogether a different experience to see the photographs, letters, drafts, and objects that have so often been referenced in other texts.

The book begins with six essays by various authors, most of whom will be recognizable as major Tolkien scholars. These essays range from Catherine McIlwaine’s biographical sketch to John Garth on the Inklings to Tom Shippey on Tolkien’s Northern influences.  In addition, Carl F. Hostetter writes on Tolkien’s Elvish languages, Veryln Flieger writes on Faerie, and Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull discuss Tolkien’s drawings and paintings.  The readability of each varies by author.  Personally, I found Garth’s and Shippey’s essays to be of the most interest, while I found Flieger’s prose style excruciating.  Readers could conceivably use these essays to determine whether they would like to read any of the authors’ longer works.  (I have made a mental note to avoid Flieger for the present.  Feel free to try to convince me otherwise.)

However, since I have read a good deal on Tolkien, most of the information contained in the essays was not new to me.  I thus enjoyed the book primarily for the pictures, which are organized thematically, so there are sections on Tolkien’s student days, his artwork, his maps, etc.  I did learn some new things in this part of the book, such as the fact that Tolkien experimented with Eastern-style art, that he did a series of abstract art pieces conveying feelings, and that he designed heraldic devices for some of his Elven characters.  In addition, I enjoyed being able to see such artifacts as Tolkien’s handwritten timeline showing where each of his characters were on any given day and the map he worked from while writing LotR.  The photographs are a Tolkien fan’s dream!

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth is an indispensable book for the Tolkien fan.  It comes in a large format that allows readers to see the details in the artwork and the handwriting in each artifact.  And it showcases an unusual amount of Tolkien’s paintings and drawings, as well as personal treasures such as family photographs, designs submitted by Tolkien for his book covers, and illustrations he wanted but was not able to get approved by his publishers.  It is a fine addition to any Tolkien collection.

5 stars


Master List of Tolkien Resources at Pages Unbound

To celebrate Hobbit Day, we are featuring some of past posts on all things J. R. R. Tolkien!  Below you will find book reviews, discussion posts, quizzes, and more!

Book Reviews

Books About Tolkien

Discussion Posts

Fun Features

Activity Posts

The Inklings

Authors Tolkien Read

Re-Examining the Women of The Lord of the Rings

I will not argue that Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings contains a wealth of women.  Goldberry, Galadriel, Rosie Cotton, Ioreth, Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, Arwen, Eowyn, and Shelob make up a total of eight female characters who appear in the work.  (I do not count named characters such as Elbereth or Lúthien who function more as references than as characters.) However, I do contest the well-worn arguments that Tolkien’s women are not valuable or interesting or that they do not count as meaningful characters “because they are only there to help the men” on their way. 

These claims ignore the rich history Tolkien gives his women and implicitly suggest that women can only be considered strong or worth talking about if they take on certain (traditionally masculine) roles.  That is, these claims suggest that Eowyn is Tolkien’s only significant female character in LotR because she is the only woman who takes up a sword to fight in battle.  But this standard of “strength” is never applied to Tolkien’s male characters. Tolkien’s men get to run the spectrum, to be warriors or not, intelligent or not, brave or not, good or not.  But, for some reason, Tolkien’s women cannot do the same and still receive respect from critics.   The call for “strong female characters” in Tolkien is often actually a demand that women conform to a one-size-fits all model.  And this demand is damaging because it denies women the opportunity to be simply human.

Furthermore, the argument that Tolkien’s women “don’t do anything” is absurdly reductionist.  If we are to make the argument that Goldberry is not significant to the plot, then we must admit that Tom Bombadil is not, either.  He is merely a side adventure on the Hobbit’s journey to Rivendell.  If we want to argue that Galadriel is present merely to bestow gifts and help the Fellowship on their way, then we must also argue that Elrond exists merely to dispense advice and send the Fellowship off.  If we criticize Rosie Cotton for being a boring Hobbit who does not do anything, well, we can probably make the same criticism of half the Shire.  But Tolkien’s male characters do not tend to receive these same types of criticisms.

To be clear, I am not arguing that women of LotR typically receive the same type of characterization as the bulk of the men.  I do not pretend that Arwen receives any significant page time in the story proper or that Ioreth has any sort of character arc.  I understand that Rosie Cotton has about one line and that Shelob is a spider and not necessarily a proper female character.  I readily admit that Eowyn receives the most significant page time and has one of the most fleshed out arcs of the women (though Galadriel’s redemption and Lobelia’s umbrella shaking both merit mention).  I am simply arguing that these women deserve a second look.

If we cannot imagine any meaning for Tolkien’s women or any reasons for their presence in the story other than to support the men, the fault is with our literary analysis, not with the work.  Consider a few examples.  Arwen’s connection with Lúthien, her decision to give up immortality, and her separation from her father and brothers all are worth consideration.  What does it mean for a third Elf and Man couple to appear in the Third Age?  How can we reconsider Arwen in light of her sacrifice and her later realization that death is more bitter than she imagined?  And Galadriel!  Various versions of her story exist.  Sometimes she rebelled against the Valar.  Sometimes she wants to rule a land of her own.  Sometimes she takes up arms against her own kin.  All before the events of the LotR.  But her previous history gives even more meaning to her final rejection of the One Ring and the power it represents.

And what about Goldberry?  If people can write papers about Tom Bombadil, about whom we know essentially nothing, why not a paper on his wife?  Surely scholars can find something to say about the presence of a river spirit in Tolkien’s work, possible influences and inspirations, and the significance of her presence when Tolkien did not have to give Bombadil a wife at all.  Why should we overlook her when people are so fond of her husband?  Even Ioreth, who plays a tiny comical role as a gossip, might have something said of her, her function in keeping lore and healing alive in Gondor, and her characterization.  Scholars have written papers on less.

The Lord of the Rings does have women (and The Silmarillion many, many more), though critics tend to write as if half of them do not exist.  And those women are interesting, though critics apparently can see nothing to admire about any of them except for Eowyn (and sometimes Galadriel).  Let us not pretend that The Lord of the Rings is less than it is.  Rather, let us use our imaginations and apply the same type of inquiry and interest so many people have evidently deemed only the male characters worthy to receive.  Because, if we do not, we are only revealing our own attitudes towards gender and about which types of women matter–and which do not.

5 Favorite Quotes From Tolkien’s The Hobbit (Guest Post by Rachel)

Tolkien Reading Event 2018

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Home and Hearth: The Many Ways of Being a Hobbit. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts!  Check out the complete schedule here.


The Hobbit is an iconic book, one we all know and love. While Tolkien wrote many, many books, The Hobbit is what started such a fantastic series and fandom known as The Lord of the Rings.

The Hobbit laid the base foundation for The Lord of the Rings and is just as an important story as the rest of the tale that celebrates hobbits everywhere.

This book has great storytelling, loveable characters, and wonderful life lessons and messages. Here are my top 5 favorite quotes.

1. “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

This is one of my favorites. It’s simple, it’s the first line in the book, it lays the foundation for The Lord of the Rings, and it’s well-known by everyone. This quote is a nice introduction to not only Bilbo, but also to hobbits in general. Hobbits, in my opinion, have the best kind of life.

2. “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?”

This is the perfect introduction to Gandalf the Grey. His personality really shines through this saying and it’s a funny line. Honestly, it got me thinking. Gandalf is right. What are we actually saying when we tell someone, “Good morning?”

3. “There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.”

I read this quote as, “Never give up.” There are times when you’re going nuts looking for your car keys, and it turns out they’ve been hanging up by the door right where they’re supposed to be. However, there are times in our lives when we’re looking for less tangible things. We’re trying to figure out what the right career is for ourselves or we’re simply trying to find out who we are. The answer is never easy, but if you keep pushing forward, you’ll find it – even if it’s not what you expected.

4. “The road goes ever on and on.”

We can all channel our inner Bilbo with this one. We’re all on our own individual journeys in life. What are the right choices to make? Where do we see ourselves 5 years from now? The road goes ever on and on, indeed.

5. “Where there’s life, there’s hope.”

I find this quote to be the most inspirational and so true to life. The media and news has been toxic for quite some time, but there are good people in the world. There are good news reports that, for whatever reasons, get buried underneath all the bad. There’s still hope, even if it’s hard to see sometimes.

*      *     *

Tolkien was a fantastic writer with a wild imagination. He really made a way for himself in the fantasy writing world and has easily taught us a lot about life through fantastical scenarios. I won’t be running into an Orc anytime soon or be making friends with any Elves, but I can heed what I’ve learned and apply it to my life.

What are some of your favorite quotes from The Hobbit? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author

“I’m a freelance writer and blogger who specializes in all things writing and gaming. I keep myself busy running two blogs among other things in the creative world. I’m currently working on a couple mystery books to be published in the near future. Feel free to connect with me on my Blog, Twitter, and LinkedIn.”

10 Misconceptions about J. R. R. Tolkien and His Work

Tolkien Reading Event 2018Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Home and Hearth: The Many Ways of Being a Hobbit. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts!  Check out the complete schedule here.

Tolkien Was Primarily a Fantasy Author.

In his lifetime, Tolkien was a respected philologist and professor of literature; he was Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford.  Some of his professional achievements include convincing the scholarly community of the literary value of Beowulf and producing a highly-regarded translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight with E. V. Gordon.  Only today do we think primarily of Tolkien as a fiction writer.  In his letters, Tolkien notes he is worried that his colleagues will think he was wasting his time by producing works of fantasy rather than working on his academic obligations.

The Lord of the Rings Was WRitten a Trilogy.

Tolkien actually wrote the work as a single book.  His publishers asked him to split it into three volumes due to a paper shortage that resulted from WWII.  This also lowered the price for consumers.

Denethor Is Nothing But a Loser.

The films depict Denethor as a degenerating madman who no longer cares for the good of his city, but sits back to watch it crumble.  In the book, we learn that Denethor, according to Gandalf is a man of great power and high lineage.  His strength of will allows him to resist Sauron and continue fighting him until Faramir’s seeming death, when Denethor finally succumbs to Sauron’s suggestions that all his acts are without hope.

Eowyn Defeated the Witch-King Alone.

Glorfindel predicted that the Witch-king of Angmar would not fall by the hand of man alone.  Eowyn fulfills this prophecy, but so does the Hobbit Meriadoc, who stabs the Witch-king, allowing Eowyn to go in for the kill.

Gondor= Minas Tirith

The films suggest that Gondor is a fading kingdom comprised primarily of its capital city Minas Tirith, along with a ruined outpost at Osgiliath.  In the book, readers learn that Gondor is a much larger country and that its soldiers are fighting against Sauron on multiple fronts, not just at Osgiliath.

There Are Only Three Women in LotR.  (Four if We Count Shelob)

Fans tend to point towards Arwen, Eowyn, Galadriel, and sometimes Shelob (debatable because she is a spider) as Tolkien’s “only” female characters in the book.  This is presumably because the films leave out Goldberry, Ioreth, and Lobelia Sackville-Baggins.  Rosie Cotton appears briefly in both the book and the films.  How effective fans find each character is, of course, open to discussion.

Sauron Is the Ultimate Evil in Tolkien’s Mythology.

Melkor turned Morgoth is Tolkien’s first super villain and, at the height of his power, far stronger than Sauron, who was at first only his lieutenant.  Morgoth is so powerful that only intervention by the Valar (divine beings) can result in his overthrow.

Elves Are Perfect.

The Elvers were, at one point, open to manipulation by Morgoth and Sauron.  For years, they fought each other for possession of the Silmarils.  Fëanor and his sons, for instance, lead an attack on the Teleri for their ships, an act known as the Kinslaying.  They continued to fight and betray each other long after.

The Silmarillion Is Strictly Canonical.

At his death, Tolkien left a large number of unpublished manuscripts with various versions of different stories.  His son Christopher organized these into The Silmarillion and edited them to make a coherent narrative.  However, in many cases, it is difficult for us to know which version of the story Tolkien intended to be the final, definitive version.  Other versions can be found in The History of Middle-Earth.

Tolkien’s Work Is All Too Difficult to Approach.

Tolkien wrote many different kinds of works from academic texts to children’s books.  Readers who find themselves intimidated by The Lord of the Rings or The Silmarillion might want to check out one of Tolkien’s shorter works such as Farmer Giles of Ham, Smith of Wooton Major, or Roverandom.

Middle-Earth: From Script to Screen Review (Guest Post by Samantha)

Tolkien Reading Event 2018

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Home and Hearth: The Many Ways of Being a Hobbit. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts!  Check out the complete schedule here.

Book Blurb

For the first time ever, the epic, in-depth story of the creation of one of the most famous fantasy worlds ever imagined—an illustrious compendium that reveals the breathtaking craftsmanship, artistry, and technology behind the magical Middle-earth of the blockbuster film franchises, The Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy and The Hobbit Trilogy, directed by Peter Jackson.


This is the most recent Middle-Earth book released by Weta Workshop. If you aren’t familiar with Weta Workshop, they are the very talented people who created the props, design and special effects of both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. They are based in New Zealand and also worked on a lot of other big movies.

Prior to releasing Middle-Earth: From Script to Screen, Weta Workshop released 7 books about the production of The Hobbit trilogy (2 books for each movie and one special book about Smaug). But those aren’t the subject of this post.

On December 5th 2017, Middle Earth: From Script to Screen was published. On that same day, a box was delivered to my front door. A BIG and HEAVY box! Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to look at the beauty inside. The book is pretty expensive ($75 US), so I had asked for it as a Christmas present. Therefore, I waited 20 days to get it. But it was absolutely worth it!

First, the book is beautiful. The cover is embossed and there is a yellow ribbon bookmark so you never lose your place. The inside of the book is just as beautiful as the outside. The design is stunning, and it is filled with pictures from the movies and behind the scenes as well as artwork.

The content is also very interesting! For people who have read The Hobbit Chronicles books, you know those are entirely written through quotes. All the information provided in those books come from the actors, special effects specialists, etc. It isn’t the case in this book. Most of it is original text, although there are quotes included from time to time. These occasional quotes give us insight on the development process of the movies and the actor’s experience.

I personally think the book is filled with interesting details. It is divided in chapters, each chapter focusing on a region of Middle-Earth, and the events that took place there. Through the pages, we learn why some scenes from the book weren’t included, why some characters in the movies differ from those in the books, etc. I find it fascinating to learn about all the steps that went into making these movies. Whether it be the props or the sets, the amount of work that was put into making each of the movies is mind-blowing.

I know a lot of Tolkien fans would rather forget about The Hobbit movie trilogy. But whether you are a fan of these movies or not, I believe we can all admire the work that went into it. And reading this work helps understand some of the choices that were made.

I absolutely recommend this book to every LOTR fans. It’s a beautiful volume to add to your Middle-Earth collection!

John Ronald’s Dragons: The Story of J. R. R. Tolkien by Caroline McAlister, Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

Tolkien Reading Event 2018Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Home and Hearth: The Many Ways of Being a Hobbit. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts!  Check out the complete schedule here.


Goodreads: John Ronald’s Dragons
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: March 2017


A picture book biography of J. R. R. Tolkien that spans his childhood to his writing of The Hobbit.


I suspect that this is the type of book that receives rave reviews, not because it is really that good, but because it is about J. R. R. Tolkien. Any fan who reads it wants to like it.  After all, it promises to introduce younger readers to Tolkien–and who would not want that?  However, I admit myself not impressed with this picture book.  The biography is sparse and wastes a good amount of the word count on making parallels the illustrators should make.  The illustrations are nice, but not original, striking, or memorable.

If were not already familiar with Tolkien’s biography, I wonder how much information I would have gleaned from this picture book.  It reads as very sparse and as a little piecemeal.  It begins with Tolkien loving words and animals as a child, but does not mention important details like the fact that he was born in South Africa or that he moved to England after his father died.  Then it seems to jump around, with no indications at any point about how old Tolkien is.  Thus, he suddenly moves from reading to school to being in a boarding house and falling in love to going to a war that the author would have readers believe sprung from nowhere. Then he is teaching at Oxford and, finally, “following” Bilbo Baggins through Mirkwood and over the Lonely Mountains. There the story ends.

Now, I understand that a limited word count leads little room for much detail, but I still think the transitions could have been smoother.  Nothing Tolkien’s age would have been useful, as would have giving the name of the war Tolkien fought in, mentioning his marriage instead of letting readers assume it, and telling readers what Tolkien actually studied in school (he seems to get a job at Oxford out of nowhere).  These parts of his life need to read as connected.  The depiction of the writing of The Hobbit also, to my mind, is too vague and assumes that readers already know that it is a book Tolkien wrote.  The text does not explicitly say that Tolkien wrote a book, any book.  It simply says he “followed” Bilbo and then gives place names that have meaning only if readers have already read The Hobbit.  Then it suddenly cuts short with an odd line that seems to imply that Smaug is still living but probably means metaphorically through Tolkien’s books.  I suspect younger readers will find this line confusing since it is difficult to read into it a metaphor about books that the biography does not bother to mention exist.

A good deal of more useful information could have made it into the book had the author not wasted a fair chunk of her word count in describing the parallels between Tolkien’s imagination and his surroundings: he dreams of dragon smoke, but just sees smoke on his oatmeal; he thinks of dragon scales, but listens to Edith practice scales; and so forth.  These connections are ones the author should trust the illustrator to make; they read as heavy-handed in the actual text and do not contribute much to our understanding of Tolkien’s life.  The author seems to realize that the text is lacking because she provides a page-length biography at the very end that actually gives us details such as Tolkien’s birth place and so forth.

The illustrations themselves are nice, but that is the only word I can think to describe them.  They are not original or daring or striking. In fact, they read to me as fairly safe because they are so straight-forward.  In a book about the imagination, I would hope for more from the illustrations.  I also find they are too pale and pastel for my taste.  I want bold colors to go with a book about dragons.

Tolkien fans will probably buy this book and enjoy it since it is about a beloved author. I have difficulty seeing it being really meaningful to other audiences, however.  It seems to assume background knowledge about Tolkien, and so it not much use as a biography.  As simply a story, I find it unmemorable.

Some of Tolkien’s Dragons

3 Stars