J.R.R Tolkien: Author of the Century. By Tom Shippey. Houghton Mifflin, 328 pp., $26.00.
Recently I gave an eight-year-old friend a copy of The Hobbit, promising to send her The Lord of the Rings when she's finished with Tolkien's warm-up to his half-a-million-word heroic fantasy. In a recent doctoral seminar devoted to 20th-century Catholic fiction, I included the Ring epic. How can both children and thoughtful adults read this Tolkien work with profit and delight--so that more than 100 million copies have been sold and it has been translated into 40 languages? This is the question Tom Shippey asks in timely relation to the December release of the first of the Lord of the Rings movies. Perhaps they will arouse an interest in Tolkien comparable to the flurry of attention given to C. S. Lewis after the showing of the film Shadowlands in 1993.
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