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Anyone ever read "Tolkien's World" by Randel Helms?

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Orrex Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-18-08 11:39 PM
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Anyone ever read "Tolkien's World" by Randel Helms?
It's a scholarly work written in 1974. I stumbled upon it at a local Goodwill store a few weeks ago, and I've been picking my way through it. It's not especially long, but it gives an interesting examination of the mythic structure of The Hobbit and TLOTR. I must disclaim that the author dwells too much in Freudian imagery, even as he lightly dismisses this part of critique as only semi-serious. Still, 34 years later, most of Freud's analyses seem dated and primitive, so Helms' work suffers somewhat in this regard.

However, he does a very nice job of analyzing the two works, drawing clever comparisons between them in ways that simply wouldn't have occurred to me. He also discusses a bit of Tolkien's own views on the subject of myth and the importance of fairy tales, giving a brief summary of some of Tolkien's most important lectures on the subject, given even while he was writing the books.

Another thing that interests me is that Helms doesn't get bogged down in the writings of Joseph Campbell. IMO too much latter-day analysis is simply a drab checklist of Campbell's points, against which any particular work can be assessed:
Hero doubts himself? Check!
Hero achieves victory despite his uncertainty about it? Check!

Helms bothers with very little of that, to his credit.

I'd be interested to hear what others think of this work, if they've read it. I'm no Tolkien scholar, and I've never had the fortitude to slog through much of The Silmarillion so for all I know Helms might be making some grievous errors against the canon.

Speaking of canon, Helms has also written an excellent book called Gospel Fictions, which is how I first heard of him years ago, and it's part of why I happened to pick up Tolkien's World when I spotted it.
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