Review: J. R. R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend by Colin Duriez

5 out of 5 Stars
Author: Colin Duriez
Publisher: Lion Hudson
Buy J.R.R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend
Reading Level: Moderate

Of Tolkien Duriez says, “Myth and story was embodied in language” (p. 143) and myth and story restore “a true meaning of ordinary and humble things that make up human life” (p. 176). That sums up his life and writing in my estimation. I’ve read Humphrey Carpenter’s biography which is the official biography of Tolkien and I’ve also read the Tolkien Letters. Duriez’s J. R. R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend is as much a must read for Tolkienphiles.

I not only enjoyed refreshing my history of Tolkien’s life but I enjoyed the writing and storyline Duriez presents. He covers his life from cradle to the grave. In the biography itself I gathered some wonderful Tolkien tidbits and memorable sayings.

It’s also interesting how this biography and recent discoveries have intersected. Duriez reports,

One day Tolkien and Lewis would even plan to collaborate on a book on language, a project that never materialized. (p. 145)

Lo and behold this work has this month been uncovered. The Telegraph reports (“JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis joint work discovered”)

The beginning of a joint book by CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien has been discovered in a manuscript book in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

An American academic called Steven Beebe, of Texas State University, San Marcos, had seen the material some years ago, but has only recently realised what it is. It is written in Lewis's hand in the same notebook that contains early drafts for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Magician's Nephew.

Lewis and Tolkien had planned their joint book, to be called Language and Human Nature, in 1944, with publication envisaged for 1950.

You should read this book but especially so if you love Tolkien--even if you’re read Carpenter’s or other biographies. You won’t be disappointed with Duriez’s J. R. R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend. My only tiff would be Duriez teasing about the amount of information that could’ve been included surrounding the publication of The Lord of the Rings. Says Duriez, “Even his dealings with his publisher and another potential publisher could fill a small book” (p. 192). But then we get few details about the process as a whole.

Tolkien’s work on Middle-Earth is timeless because he captures the essence of our life within his faerie stories and myth. He has an uncanny ability to penetrate into the depths of the human condition and uncover truth. For instance, he says after WWII

We are attempting to conquer Sauron with the Ring. And we shall (it seems) succeed. But the penalty is, you will know, to breed new Saurons, and slowly turn Men and Elves into Orcs” (p. 191 as quoted in Letters to his son Christopher).

Tolkien was right then and he’s even more right today. You should read him and understand his life in connection with the larger corpus of his work. Duriez will help you do this.

A free copy of this book was provided by Lion Hudson. If you plan on purchasing J.R.R. Tolkien: The Making of a Legend, consider supporting Grace for Sinners by purchasing from Amazon.