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A Question of Time

J. R. R. Tolkien’s Road to Faërie

Literature & Literary Criticism, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Tolkien, Lewis, and Inkling Studies

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and Silmarillion have long been recognized as among the most popular fiction of the twentieth century, and most critical analysis of Tolkien has centered on these novels.  Granted access by the Tolkien estate and the Bodleian Library in Oxford to Tolkien’s unpublished writings, Verlyn Flieger uses them here to shed new light on his better known works, revealing a new dimension of his fictive vision and giving added depth of meaning to his writing.

Tolkien’s concern with time—past and present, real and “faerie”—captures the wonder and peril of travel into other worlds, other times, other modes of consciousness.  Reading his work, we “fall wide asleep” into a dream more real than ordinary waking experience, and emerge with a new perception of the waking world.  Flieger explores Tolkien’s use of dream as time-travel in his unfinished stories The Lost Road and The Notion Club Papers as well as in The Lord of the Rings and his shorter fiction and poetry.

Analyzing Tolkien’s treatment of time and time-travel, Flieger shows that he was not just a mythmaker and writer of escapist fantasy but a man whose relationship to his own century was troubled and critical.  He achieved in his fiction a double perspective of time that enabled him to see in the mirror of the past the clouded reflection of the present.

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