Christian Encounters Series
Thomas Nelson, 2011
This book by Mark Horne is a welcome addition to the series of short biographies in the Christian Encounter series published by Thomas Nelson. Others include J. S. Bach, D. L. Moody, Schweitzer, Columbus, Newton and Galileo.
J. R. R. Tolkein (1892-1973) needs no introduction, he is the author of one of the most popular books of the previous century, The Lord of the Rings. In this short, accessible and well-written book we are introduced to Tolkein the man. The biography is chronological and chronicles Tolkein's life from birth in Bloemfontein, South Africa to his death in Oxford.
This book breaks no new ground, but that is not its aim. It's aim is to provide a simple introduction to the life of Tolkein. Horne recognises that 'Tolkein's faith is important to understanding his works.' Unfortunately, this aspect is not fully developed.
We are told that 'Tolkein's faith helped him to persevere in the midst of severe losses and taught his patience as he forced himself to work at his job and support his family.' His father died while Tolkein was young. Horne makes the interesting observation that Tolkein's religious imagination and faith would have been different if his father had lived. Tolkein's mother later converted to Catholicism and brought up her two children as Catholics. The influence of Catholicism was also evident through Tolkein's guardian Father Francis Morgan, who took over his care when his mother died.
The role of the TCBS (Tea Club and Barrovian Society) is expounded in some detail but little is made of the Inklings - the group that comprised Tolkein, C. S. Lewis, etc. The fellowship and camaraderie of small groups was obviously important to him.
As Horne concludes:
While God calls Christians to proclaim his truth in a variety of ways and situations ... we can learn from Tolkein that sometimes a mere story can change lives.This book provides a good brief introduction to the life of Tolkein. If you like Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit then this book will help you understand a little more the man behind them.
There is a helpful short appendix on the bibliographical sources.
Disclosure: This book was provided as part of the BookSneeze program - the views are my own.