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Why Did I Buy This Book?: The Tolkien Reader by J.R.R. Tolkien

July 10, 2022

Maybe I shouldn’t have bought The Tolkien Reader by J.R.R. Tolkien, but this book cost only $1.00 at a used book store, so money wasn’t an issue. I like the cover. A lot of fantasy books had covers like this when I was growing up in the 1970s, so I could probably justify buying this book just for the cover, but I’d like my justification to have a little more substance than that.

I’m not really a J.R.R. Tolkien fan. I’ve read The Lord of the Rings a couple times and The Hobbit once, but that’s it. Even though I bought a copy of The Silmarillion when I was a teenager, my dog chewed it up when I was 30, and I never missed it. That dog was just a big puppy at the time and took out a row of books on a lower shelf, gnawing everything up except The Bible.

I would have been really ticked off if the dog had chewed up The Bible and left The Silmarillion alone. Yeah, I never did finish reading The Bible from start to finish like I intended to a couple years ago, but I’ve read enough to get a decent idea of what it’s about. I like The Sermon on the Mount. Whenever I talk about The Bible, I mention The Sermon on the Mount. People argue about Revelations, or Genesis, or the Holy Trinity, but if you read/follow the Sermon on the Mount, you know not to waste time arguing about stuff like that.

Anyway, I’m not much into fantasy world building books like The Silmarillion. I just want to read a story, process it a little bit, and then move on to the next story. Reading about somebody else’s fantasy world is a waste of time. If I’m going to get into world building, I’ll just read regular history. There are so many cultures that I know nothing about that I’d be better off reading histories about cultures on Earth instead of fake histories attached to a cool story or two, especially if the histories are hundreds of pages long.

Somewhere out there, there’s some guy who failed history class but has The Silmarillion memorized. That guy might appreciate The Tolkien Reader more than I do.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel guilty for buying this book. I haven’t completely ignored this book since purchasing it. I’ve gotten familiar with it. Some of it has been more interesting than I thought it would be. And there wasn’t as much world building as I thought there would be.

  • The nine-page forward by Peter Beagle (whoever he was) was worth reading but probably not enough to have purchased the book for it.
  • The introduction to the poem “The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth Beorhtnoth’s Son” was interesting and history-based rather than fantasy, but I’ll probably never read the poem itself. The sample is short but quite the slog.
  • Maybe I’ll read the essay “On Fairy Stories,” but I probably won’t read the fairy story “Tree and Leaf.”
  • I originally had no intention of reading “Farmer Giles of Ham,” but the story is filled with tiny illustrations, so maybe those will help me stay attentive while I read.
  • The last selection in The Tolkien Reader is a 50-page poem called “The Adventures of Tom Bombadil.” I’m one of THOSE readers who was bored by the Tom Bombadil section in The Fellowship of the Ring, but… but… but I might actually try and read the poem “The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. The poem seems to have a consistent rhythm pattern and it rhymes, so at least it’s a real poem and not some free-verse nonsense that lazy writers have wanted to pass off as poetry for the last 100 years.


A few weeks ago, my wife and daughter brought a new puppy into our home, and last night I accidentally left a copy of The Tolkien Reader next to my wife’s word search on the couch. In the morning, we discovered the two books untouched, but the pencil my wife uses for the word search had been semi-devoured.

Even though the new puppy prefers pencil lead over paper, I’m still making sure to place all of my books out of the puppy’s reach. I don’t want The Tolkien Reader to share The Silmarillion’s fate. I’d hate for that $1.00 to have gone to waste.

  1. Any writer who knows about writing would know that you can’t really change the holy verses out of their context. In fiction one can tamper with, but in verses that constantly speak about morals and facts of the old, a wiley hand couldn’t work more than a few twists that would have surely no effect in interpreting the verses. So we can stay confident that the holy books are literally unbreakable. Only halfwits get down to twist the holy verses and they are stupid enough to believe and rejoice that they had achieved something by their little ratlike mischief. little do they know.

    As for fantasy fiction i like j r r Tolkien. I like fantasy fiction and art so much because it still has a tremendous space left to explore.

    I am an avid fan of book cover art. I have seen how the cover art and illustration help the stories to get new dimensions. The book covers have the potential to sell books in some cases.

  2. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read LOTR. At least 5, maybe more. Part of me is thankful to the genuis Tolkein for creating one of my favorite works of art. Another part of me thinks anyone who spends that much time creating such a complex and detailed ‘fake world’ and writes about its fake history in something as textbooky as The Silmarillion must be a total nutjob.

  3. Oh my God! Someone who feels about poetry the way I do! I thought I was the only one! Congrats on the new puppy, by the way. Please blog about it with pictures. 🙂

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