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Book Review

Book Cover

Middle-Earth Envisioned
The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings
On Screen, On Stage and Beyond (Hardback)


Authors: Paul Simpson and Brian J. Robb
Publisher: Race Point Publishing
RRP: £25.99, US $40.00
ISBN: 978 1 93799 427 3
Publication Date: 07 November 2013

It is only a matter of a couple of months until the second film in The Hobbit trilogy is released and already many books are hitting the book shelves. Along with the annual type books other more interesting fare is available.

Middle-Earth Envisioned (223 Pages) is a coffee table book, by Paul Simpson and Brian J. Robb, which takes a look at Tolkien’s world as seen on the screen, the stage and beyond.

The book is presented with many pages made to look like the text has been written, although the text is in type with makes it look a little anachronistic. The thick glossy paper lends the book a feel of quality.

I guess you have to believe that there are still people who do not know the stories or who Tolkien was when creating a book like this. Many alive may only know of his work through Jackson’s films. Simpson opens the book with a brief history of Tolkien and a synopsis of both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, whilst touching base with The Silmarillion and his other Middle-Earth stories.

The main bulk of the book is split into four sections, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, Middle-Earth on Film and The Cultural Legacy. Within each of the first two sections the chapters cover audio television, stage and comic/games adaptations.

I was intrigued to discover that my knowledge of Tolkien adaptations fell well short of the actual output, as the book covers more than just the English speaking work. This tome really does give you a feeling of the international impact of the books. Each section is generously illustrated with paintings, screen shots and photographs from the stage shows.

When we hit part three, Middle-Earth on Films, the book runs into, what I presume is a few rights issues. Although both films have appeared as animations and the book goes into some detail regarding the Rankin/Bass Hobbit and the Bakshi Lord of the Rings, there are no shots from either. This misses the overly cutesy Hobbit, worse still it fails to show you the contentious rotoscope that Bakshi used, which divided opinion. Peter Jackson’s not insignificant contribution to Tolkien’s world is covered more successfully.

The last chapter, The Cultural Legacy, is by its very nature a truncated affair. Since the publication of the books every one and his mother has had a stab at either painting scenes, or using the source as inspiration for music, that it is impossible to make this section comprehensive. The authors however have done a good job at picking out both the most important and the most interesting.

Although the book covers nearly all artistic endeavours inspired by Tolkien, its one glaring omission is in the area of sculpture, unless one considers LEGO as sculpture.

Overall, the book succeeds in condensing down a massive body of work into an informative read, accompanied with some rare illustrations.


Charles Packer

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