Tolkien and Iceland: The Philology of Envy

Tom Shippey on the philology and world of LOTR

The standard accusation made by my critical colleagues about Tolkien is that his work is “escapist.” I think this is the exact reverse of the truth. Like Orwell’s 1984, or Golding’s Lord of the Flies, or Laxness’s Gerpla, Tolkien’s fantastic or antiquarian works confront the major problems of the twentieth century, which have been war, despair, failure, disillusionment. And they provide answers which seem strangely old-fashioned, but which have come alive again. They are serious answers to serious questions, which in my opinion it is escapist to ignore.

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