Authors and readers of epic fantasy who see Tolkien as the avatar of imagined worlds, will find an in-depth look at the master of the genre in Tolkien scholar Jason Fisher’s recently released Tolkien and the Study of His Sources: Critical Essays. (McFarland, July 22, 2011). In this 240-page volume Fisher and other experts analyze Tolkien’s abundance of source materials. You can find an excerpt from the book here.
In addition to his own contributions, Fisher has drawn together essays from Tom Shippey, Nicholas Birns, E. L. Risden, Kristine Larsen, Judy Ann Ford, John D. Rateliff, Mark T. Hooker, Diana Pavlac Gilyer, Josh B. long, Thomas Honegger, and Miryam Libran-Moreno.
When asked in an interview about the popularity of Tolkien, Fisher said that “One reason Tolkien has been so popular is that his works contain ‘elements in solution’ of so many other works, authors, folktales, legends, and myths, that there is something immediately welcoming and familiar about his works, even when it is buried well beneath the surface. We feel as if we’ve been here before somehow, or in some other life. In a very real sense, we have. This, of course, does nothing to diminish Tolkien’s imagination or craftsmanship. If anything, it gives us that much greater reason to appreciate them.”
Verlyn Flieger, author of Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s World calls Fisher’s book “The most exhaustive examination yet published of demonstrable, probable, and conjectural sources for Tolkien’s legendarium.”
This book is for the most serious of Tolkien fans and students of literary criticism. Tolkien, of course, might be turning over in his grave because he thought his work should be attracting our attention rather than how he did it and what might have influenced him. Nonetheless, the J. R. R. Tolkien Copyright Trust allowed Fisher to include some previously unpublished materials.
You can read more from Fisher on his blog Lingwë – Musings of a Fish, focusing on “J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, the Inklings, J.K. Rowling, and fantasy literature in general; language, linguistics, and philology; comparative mythology and folklore — and more.”