In ''On the Shoulders of Hobbits,'' English Professor Louis Markos highlights some of the many ''life lessons'' that can be learned through two of literature's most beloved fantasy worlds: J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth and C.S. Lewis' Narnia. Appropriate for high schoolers and adults, this book would also be good as a discussion guide for parents and teachers to utilize with younger children.
Professor Markos separates his book in four parts: The Road (focusing on ''the journey of life''), The Classical Virtues, The Theological Virtues, and Evil. Each part of the book is broken down into chapters, which focus on a single topic such as justice, wisdom, friendship, hope, and temptation. Though primarily focused on Tolkien's works (the ''Lord of the Rings'' trilogy and related books such as ''The Hobbit'' or ''The Silmarillion'', Markos closes each chapter with an example or two drawn from C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. As a self-professed ''Narniac'' (Narnia fan), I really liked that Markos did this and it is neat to compare (or contrast) how Tolkien and Lewis dealt with different concepts.
Markos's states that this book isn't intended to be an academic or scholarly work (17). I appreciated his introduction, as he gives the audience a clear view of what to expect. Despite this, I felt that there is a more formal, in depth air to this book, compared to other Lord of the Rings and Narnia companion books I've read. However, it is still very readable. I also loved the ''bibliographic essays'' at the end of the book. One focuses on Tolkien and ''Lord of the Rings'' and the other on Lewis and Narnia. I've never encountered bibliographic essays in my academic career (perhaps because I wasn't an English major?) but think of it as an annotated bibliography written in essay form. I definitely will be looking at some of the further reading suggested.
As someone who loved Peter Jackson's movie adaptations and slogged through the books in high school only because of those films, I don't really consider myself a true ''Ringer'' (LotR fan). However, I really enjoyed Markos' look at the literature themselves and am inspired to take another look at Tolkien's well known works.
[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, which I have done.]
Talking animals. Hobbits. Dwarves & Elves. Eagles. A lion. Another world apart from the one I am in.
Each phrase comes to mind as I think of C.S. Lewis and his Chronicles of Narnia and J.R.R. Tolkiens The Lord of the Rings. I remember as a teenager devouring the words on the page, joining in the adventure of the characters. Fairy tales at their best. In each of the books I can remember connecting with various concepts presented and thinking they correlated to my faith, but not necessarily giving it much thought because they are works of fiction. In his book On the Shoulders of Hobbits: The Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis, Louis Markos does just that. He explores the works of Narnia and LOTR and discusses the literary background, the themes presented and virtues being taught. Markos does an excellent job presenting quotes, facts, and opinions as he unpacks at a deep intellectual level these works. The book is laid out in a discussion of a specific virtue and then Markos expounds on that virtue and how each author taught that through the books.
On the Shoulders of Hobbits is more academic in nature, an excellent book that required me to think and process all that the author presented. My depth of understanding and how I view the works that I have loved from an early age has increased. Upon finishing the book, I left wanting to re-read all the books to look for and see the points that Markos made in his book. If you are a fan of either series, I recommend reading it and if you enjoy learning about literature, this book will expand your knowledge.
Thank you Moody publishing for my copy to review in exchange for my opinion.
There are so many books written about these men and their work, and I own a selection myself: "The A to Z of C. S. Lewis" by Colin Duriez, "If I had Lunch with C. S. Lewis" by Alister McGrath, "The Spiritual World of the Hobbit" by James Stuart Bell, "Finding God in The Hobbit" and "Finding God in the Hobbit" by Jim Ware and Kurt Bruner....
If you've been to Narnia or Middle Earth, you understand that one does not simply read those stories. It's more than processing words on the page. You live them, and they mark your mind with images and phrases that return to you over and over. When you call LOTR and Narnia "unforgettable," you're stating a fact, not mouthing a cliche.
I can see why so many modern authors want to explore the legacy and the lives of Tolkien and Lewis, and I've enjoyed each supplementary wok that I've read. They've reminded me that small moments build to grand plots and heroes come when ordinary men are brave and giving.
The newest addition to my collection is "On the Shoulders of Hobbits~ The Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis." And that's what Louis Markos is talking about: virtue.
The excellence that we recognized in the original tales- the glories that made our hearts beat faster- they're drawn out and expounded upon in this book.
The fidelity and justice, friendship and courage.
The longing for your own home and hearth when you're out in the dark and the danger.
The hope of purity and restoration, even when all circumstances shout against it.
The rightness of a King with hands of strength and healing.
The truth that terror cannot cancel out all beauty.
Louis Markos expands on each theme, cross referencing Narnia and LOTRs and quoting theologians and philosophers. His goal isn't to read anything into the text, or transplant "religion" into the world of Middle Earth. (Save your breath if you're going to make that claim.)
Instead, he points us to Goodness, Truth, and Beauty in those worlds and reminds us to seek those virtues in ours.
The authors of Narnia and LOTR knew what made a good story. They knew about death and life and sacrifice and hope. They were sub-creating after the pattern of our own Author, who writes the best Stories of all.
Thank you to MP Newsroom for my review copy. I recommend this book.