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Celebrating Middle-Earth: The Lord of the Rings As a Defense of Western Civilization [Hardcover]

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Item Number 114386  
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Pages   107
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.4" Width: 6.37" Height: 0.52"
Weight:   0.73 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Aug 30, 2002
Publisher   Inkling Books
ISBN  1587420139  
EAN  9781587420139  

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Alternate Formats List Price Our Price Item Number Availability
Hardcover $ 29.95 $ 25.46 114386
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Item Description...
Six talented writers and Tolkien scholars describe the role that J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings has in the literary, political, and religious traditions of Western civilization.

Buy Celebrating Middle-Earth: The Lord of the Rings As a Defense of Western Civilization by John G. West from our Christian Books store - isbn: 9781587420139 & 1587420139

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More About John G. West

Peter Kreeft Peter J. Kreeft (Ph.D., Fordham University) was born in 1937 and is professor of philosophy at Boston College where he has taught since 1965. A popular lecturer, he has also taught at many other colleges, seminaries and educational institutions in the eastern United States. Kreeft has written more than fifty books, including The Best Things in Life, The Journey, How to Win the Culture War and, with Ronald Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics.

Peter Kreeft has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Sheed & Ward Books

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
kindred spirits  Jul 20, 2004
Some may "grit their teeth" (as one disgruntled reviewer said below) through these essays, but readers more in tune with Tolkien's own philosophy will be pleased to find these kindred spirits.

Virtually every political and cultural movement of the past forty years, from free-spirited hippies in the '60s, to strident environmentalists in the '70s, to Christian fundamentalists in the new millennium. has tried to co-opt Tolkien's books as emblematic of their particular concerns. It is a testament to the richness of his work that people from such disparate viewpoints see therein a reflection of their beliefs.

Those from the left side of the political spectrum sometimes seem to want to wish away the truth, but the fact is, Tolkien was a Catholic conservative, in virtually every sense of the word. He attended Mass almost daily; he was a staunch member of the Conservative Party and an anti-Communist; and he abhorred Big Government almost more than anything else.

Of course, this doesn't mean that these works cannot be enjoyed by those who disagree with these views. But surely there is room in this world for books written about Tolkien and his work by those who sympathize with his views -- which describes this particular slim volume -- just as there is room for those who don't.

If you're looking for something critical of Tolkien's core beliefs, this isn't the book for you. But if you're simpatico, or just curious and open-minded (quel surprise!) about what truly made him tick, give this collection a try. Peter Kreeft's essay alone is worth the modest price.

Tolkien may have been conservative to the core, but he was by no means a racist (he famously said in his valedictory speech at Oxford, "I have the hatred of apartheid in my bones" -- many years before that view became fashionable). He surely didn't see the defense of Western civilization as synonymous with racism, as, sadly, too many fashionably relativistic "multi-culturalists" now claim. He didn't love war, but he understood well the folly of burying one's head in the sand. (See the encounter between Gandalf and the Saruman-enchanted Theoden in "The Two Towers" for a startling parallel to contemporary debate.)

If you're an unbending pacifistic atheist, you may not like what you read here. But then, Tolkien probably wouldn't cotton to your point of view either. I'm not saying this to be critical of my friends on the left. But learn more about the man himself, and you will have to agree. This book is a good place to start.
Using Tolkien to buttress their own views  Dec 20, 2003
This is a short collection of essays given as papers at a conference at Seattle Pacific University. The conference was sponsored by a C.S. Lewis Institute, and some contributions are reminiscent of the aggressive polemical style of that author's apologetics. The opening two essays, by the editor and Peter Kreeft, are not concerned with discerning Tolkien's views of western civilization, but with using Tolkien to buttress their own views, a distinctly different approach. And their definition of western civilization, for the purpose of their essays, is strictly confined to Biblical morality, with dire references to September 11 as proof of the reality of evil, and plenty of random bashings of anti-Tolkien critics, moral relativists, and other harbingers of the bad. Kreeft claims that Theoden's virtue lay in avoiding Denethor's sin of acquiring too much knowledge, and that Gollum speaks in the plural because the singular, as in "I Am That I Am," is associated with God. Some may find such claims seriously off-base: I certainly do, and had to grit my teeth through both his and West's essays.

[Contrary to the anonymous reviewer above, examples like these are totally out of keeping with Tolkien's own way of thinking. There are many better books, by scholars such as Joseph Pearce and Matthew Dickerson, which demonstrate Tolkien's Catholic and conservative thinking in terms of Tolkien's own thought, rather than using Tolkien as a cudgel to randomly bash whatever the writer may not like about modern life. Tolkien was never crude, and unlike C.S. Lewis he was not a polemicist in his public writings. These authors are both.]

The third and longest essay, by Janet Leslie Blumberg, is a quiet discussion of the literary influence on Tolkien of Anglo-Saxon and Middle English literature. Three very brief essays conclude by taking a more specifically theological and sacramental approach to Tolkien's morality. Of these, Phillip Goggans follows Kreeft and West, but Joseph Pearce and Kerry L. Dearborn are more interested in exploring Tolkien's views than in using Tolkien to defend their own.

[Again, note the difference. They explore Tolkien's views, rather than selectively and misleadingly quoting from Tolkien to defend their own views, which on specific matters Tolkien might or might not have shared.]

They and Blumberg provide workmanlike essays which, though they only skim the surface of their topics, can be useful as introductions.

This book is a thin softcover with large print, narrow margins, and numerous typographical errors.
Good but needs expansion  Nov 1, 2003
This is a vey good book but perhaps too focussed on Christian values for the title to be fully correct. Hal Colebatch's "Return of the Heroes: The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Harry Potter and Social Conflict," which I have reviewed on its own page, does a much more comprehensive job in looking at the relationship between TLOTR and the whole of Western as well as specifically Christian values. Both, however, are full of interest and recommended.
A decent little book--but be aware...  Sep 19, 2003
To keep this review short and sweet, I'll get right to the point: the sub-title of this book should, in my opinion, read "The Lord of the Rings as a Defense of Christianity." Not that defending Christianity is necessarily a bad thing; but I, for one, was led to believe (both by title and by the [non-user] reviews given on this site) that this was an explication of the pro-Western views (whether of culture, or religion, or morals, or war, etc., etc.) embedded within Tolkein's texts. Instead, a substantial portion of the book was dedicated to a rather pedantic style of critique wherein lines of quoted material were trotted out and then favorably compared to Christian idea(l)s, preceded or followed closely by the particular author's hearty agreement with said material, and possibly supported by their own personal brand of apologetics.

However, I should hasten to add: all of this is not to say that "Celebrating Middle-Earth" is not informative or otherwise valuable to the Christian philosopher or apologist, or even to the non-theist Tolkien fan...because it is. Though not a Christian in the traditional sense, I have nevertheless learned a good deal here about the motifs behind the story and the mind-set behind the man, and have enjoyed doing so. But, again, as I've implied: if your preference is for a purer form of literary critique, or for a slightly more "neutral" analysis of Tolkien's themes, then look elsewhere.
New Insights  May 27, 2003
While all six essays in this slender volume will prove of interest to the reader seeking more background on J.R.R. Tolkien's epic story, I found the essay by Janet Blumberg, "The Literary Background of The Lord of the Rings" especially valuable. Prof. Blumberg not only explains the influences of Anglo-Saxon literature such as "Beowulf" and High Medieval literature such as "Sir Gawain and the Green knight" on elements in LOTR, but also offers a credible explanation for one of the most remarked about elements in the books: the absence of any overt religious practice or worship. This essay alone makes this slender volume a valuable addition to the library of any Tolkien fan.

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