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The Road to Middle-earth

From Tolkien Gateway
(Redirected from The Road to Middle-Earth)
The Road to Middle-earth:
How J.R.R. Tolkien Created a New Mythology
Publication Information
AuthorTom Shippey
PublisherGeorge Allen and Unwin (UK)
Houghton Mifflin (US)
FormatHardcover; paperback

The Road to Middle-earth: How J.R.R. Tolkien Created a New Mythology is a scholarly study of the Middle-earth created by J.R.R. Tolkien. The book is written by professor Tom Shippey, first published in 1982. It is one of the most highly regarded books in the Tolkien scholarship.

The book explores Tolkien's creativity and the sources of his inspiration, discusses the origins of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, shows how they contribute to Tolkien's mythology and how they can be appreciated.

A second edition was published in 1992, to incorporate discussions on the History of Middle-earth series. And a third edition in 2003, to reflect on the new publications and new views on Tolkien studies.

Four Tolkien's poems are included in the appendix, which first appeared in Songs for the Philologists:

From the publisher

A detailed and fascinating journey to the roots of The Lord of the Rings, by award-winning Tolkien expert Professor Tom Shippey.

The Road to Middle-Earth is a fascinating and accessible exploration of J.R.R.Tolkien's creativity and the sources of his inspiration. Tom Shippey shows in detail how Tolkien's professional background led him to write The Hobbit and how he created a work of timeless charm for millions of readers. He discusses the contribution of The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales to Tolkien's great myth-cycle, showing how Tolkien's more 'complex' works can be read enjoyably and seriously by readers of his earlier books, and goes on to examine the remarkable 12-volume History of Middle-earth by Tolkien's son and literary heir Christopher Tolkien, which traces the creative and technical processes through which Middle-earth evolved. The core of the book, however, concentrates on The Lord of the Rings as a linguistic and cultural map, as a twisted web of a story, and as a response to the inner meaning of myth and poetry.

By following the routes of Tolkien's own obsessions – the poetry of languages and myth – The Road to Middle-earth shows how Beowulf, The Lord of the Rings, Grimm's Fairy Tales, the Elder Edda and many other works form part of a live and continuing tradition of literature. It takes issue with many basic premises of orthodox criticism and offers a new approach to Tolkien, to fantasy, and to the importance of language in literature.


  • Acknowledgements and Abbreviations
  • Preface to the Third Edition
  • Chapter 1. "Lit. and Lang."
    • Old Antipathies
    • The Nature of Philology
    • Lost Romances
    • "Asterisk-Reality"
    • The wilderness of dragons, the shrewedness of apes
  • Chapter 2. Philological Inquiries
    • Roads and Butterflies
    • Survivals in the West
    • Allegories, Potatoes, Fantasy and Glamour
  • Chapter 3. The Bourgeois Burglar
    • The word and the thing: elves and dwarves
    • Creative anachronisms
    • Breaking Contact
    • The Ring as "Equalizer"
    • The bewilderment of Smaug
  • Chapter 4. A Cartographic Plot
    • Maps and Names
    • Getting started
    • Stars, shadows, cellar-doors: patterns of language and of history
    • "The Council of Elrond"
    • The horses of the Mark
    • The edges of the Mark
    • "Magyk natureel"
  • Chapter 5. Interlacements and the Ring
    • A problem in corruption
    • Views of evil: Boethian and Manichaean
    • Conceptions of evil: shadows and wraiths
    • The opposing forces: luck and chance
    • Apparent paradoxes: happy sadness and hopeless cheer
    • The ethics of interlace
    • Just allegory and large symbolism
    • Eucatastrophe, realism, and romance
  • Chapter 6. "When All Our Lathers Worshipped Stocks and Stones"
    • Stylistic theories: Tolkien and Shakespeare
    • The poetry of the Shire
    • The elvish tradition
    • Middle-earth and Limbo: mythic analogues
    • Fróda and Frodo: a myth reconstructed
    • The styles of romance
    • Some contradictions mediated
  • Chapter 7. Visions and Revisions
    • The Shaping of "The Silmarillion"
    • The Dangers of Going On
    • Philosophical Inquiries
    • Pride and Possessiveness: another view
    • Eärendil: a Lyric Core
    • Characters and Cobwebs
    • Etymologies and ambiguities
    • The Tale of Beren
    • Túrin Turambar turún' ambartanen
    • Some Conclusions
  • Chapter 8. "On the Cold Hill's Side"
    • Of Birch Hats and Cold Potions
    • An End to "Glamour"
    • The Lost Straight Road
  • Chapter 9. "The Course of Actual Composition"
    • The bones of the ox
    • Lost road, waste land
    • A mythology for England
    • Creating depth
    • "Mere 'escapism' in literature"
    • "So deeply stirred his generation"
  • Afterword
  • Appendix A: Tolkien's Sources: The True Tradition
  • Appendix B: Four "Asterisk" Poems
  • Appendix C: Peter Jackson's Film Versions
  • Notes
  • Index

Publication history and gallery

External links

A J.R.R. Tolkien book guide
Books by or mainly by Tolkien
On Arda Authored by
J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit · The Lord of the Rings
(i.The Fellowship of the Ring · ii.The Two Towers · iii.The Return of the King) ·
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil · The Road Goes Ever On · Bilbo's Last Song
Edited by Christopher Tolkien The Silmarillion · Unfinished Tales · The History of Middle-earth series
(i.The Book of Lost Tales: Part One · ii.The Book of Lost Tales: Part Two · iii.The Lays of Beleriand · iv.The Shaping of Middle-earth · v.The Lost Road and Other Writings · vi.The Return of the Shadow · vii.The Treason of Isengard · viii.The War of the Ring · ix.Sauron Defeated · x.Morgoth's Ring · xi.The War of the Jewels · xii.The Peoples of Middle-earth · Index) ·
The Children of Húrin · Beren and Lúthien · The Fall of Gondolin
Edited by others The Annotated Hobbit · The History of The Hobbit · The Nature of Middle-earth · The Fall of Númenor
Not on Arda Short stories
and others
Leaf by Niggle · Farmer Giles of Ham · Smith of Wootton Major · Letters from Father Christmas ·
Mr. Bliss · Roverandom · Tree and Leaf (compilation) · Tales from the Perilous Realm (compilation)
Fictional works The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún · The Fall of Arthur · The Story of Kullervo · The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun
Translations and academic works Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo · The Old English Exodus · Finn and Hengest ·
The Monsters and the Critics, and Other Essays · Beowulf and the Critics · Tolkien On Fairy-stories ·
Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary · A Secret Vice · The Battle of Maldon
Letters & poems The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien · The Collected Poems of J.R.R. Tolkien
academic works
A Middle English Vocabulary · Sir Gawain and the Green Knight · Ancrene Wisse
Books by other authors
Books on Arda The Complete Guide to Middle-earth · The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion ·
The Maps of Middle-earth
Tolkien biographies J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography · The Inklings · Tolkien and the Great War
Scholarly books The Road to Middle-earth · The Keys of Middle-earth · The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide ·
The Ring of Words · A Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien · Tolkien's Lost Chaucer · Tolkien's Library · Tolkien on Chaucer, 1913-1959
Scholarly journals Tolkien Studies · (The Chronology)
Other works by Tolkien
Linguistic journals Vinyar Tengwar various issues · Parma Eldalamberon issue 11-22
Collections of artwork
and manuscripts
Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien · J.R.R. Tolkien: Life and Legend · J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator ·
The Art of The Hobbit · The Art of The Lord of the Rings · Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth ·
Tolkien: Treasures · J.R.R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript
This list is only a selection, for a fuller bibliography of Tolkien see here or here. See also a timeline and an index.