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The World of J.R.R. Tolkien  By  cover art

The World of J.R.R. Tolkien

By: Dimitra Fimi,The Great Courses
Narrated by: Dimitra Fimi
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Publisher's Summary

Though there has been some contention over the title, J.R.R. Tolkien is regarded by many as the father of modern fantasy fiction. His works, including the beloved Hobbit and epic Lord of the Rings, have found a vast and varied audience since they were first published in the middle of the 20th century. Why have these stories come to define our conceptions of fantasy storytelling? What is it about Tolkien’s meticulously constructed world of Middle-earth that continues to enthrall readers across the generations?

As you will see, age-old traditions, contemporary history and culture, and “big” human questions are key ingredients of Tolkien’s success. In The World of J.R.R. Tolkien, you will join Dr. Dimitra Fimi to delve into Tolkien’s complex and multilayered mythology, examining all these ingredients and more. In these 10 lectures, you will explore and appreciate Middle-earth as medieval, mythological, and modern, a literary creation that was shaped by forces old and new. And you may be surprised to discover just how much of Tolkien’s legendarium was constructed posthumously, with his son Christopher compiling and publishing many of Tolkien’s later works after his death.

Throughout these lectures, you will learn about Tolkien’s life as a devoted scholar of languages and literature and the immense body of legends he built, while also tracing his outsized influence on the fantasy genre and the writers and other artists that would follow. From the most disparate materials, from his academic interests to his war experiences to the stories he told his children, this gifted creator fashioned a new mythology that would carry its relevance from the 20th century into our own.

©2022 Audible Originals LLC (P)2022 Audible Originals LLC

What listeners say about The World of J.R.R. Tolkien

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Good background, maybe a bit too short.

When I tend to get too ambivalent with my current reading (both interested in the topic but not wanting to pick up the book), I often turn to lecture series like the Great Courses on random subjects to either distract me or to be in conversation with whatever I am currently reading. Picking up The World of JRR Tolkien is clearly an attempt at something completely different. (And an attempt to prepare for the Amazon series coming up soon.)

The World of JRR Tolkien is shorter than most Great Courses at only nine lectures and a bit over 4.5 hours. I listened to it in just a couple of days. I am not a Tolkien scholar, and while I did revisit the Lord of the Rings earlier this year, that was the first time I have read the books in about 20 years. And I have not previously read a biography of Tolkien or books about him. So this was mostly new material for me. I am very familiar with CS Lewis and the Inklings, so I am not entirely new, but almost nothing in this lecture series by Dimitra Fimi repetitive to what I have previously read or listened to.

The first lecture is about how Middle-earth is both medieval and modern and gives a general introduction to the series and Tolkien. The second lecture caught me off guard; it is about how Tolkien initially attempted to create a mythology for England that would draw together the country in ways not unlike what was intended for the Book of Common Prayer. That is not just audacious, but it is concerning from our 21st-century vantage point, given the ways shared memory, and a common mythology was misused with the Nazi regime and the Lost Cause mythology in the US.

Most of the middle lectures are more structural. There are discussions about Elves and how their common cultural understanding changes because of Tolkien. And how mythology (in the sense of origin story or story of shared meaning) works. Similarly, there is a whole lecture on the theological roots of Tolkien's writing, especially the concept of the fall and the "Eucatastrophe." And there are lectures on Dragons and Hobbits, Tolkien's love of languages, and what it means for him to have created languages for the books.

Given my interests, I was also particularly interested in the last two lectures on Evil, Trauma, and War, and the use of Gender and Race in Middle-earth. I know there are books about how Tolkien's military service impacted his writing, but I have not read any of them. (A Hobbit, A Wardrobe and a Great War is one.) But the specific discussion of trauma and PTSD that Tolkien may have experienced and certainly would have observed and how he includes similar concepts in the characters of his stories was helpful.

Similarly, while I mused about Tolkien's conception of race and how the culture of racial superiority may have impacted him, Fimi both places Tolkien in context and explores how he participates in the culture of racial and gender hierarchy and pushes back against it. Eugenics was part of the culture of his yearly years of teaching at Oxford, but also the Lord of the Rings was not published until about a decade after World War II, and the Aryan nationalism and racism and the eugenics of the Nazis impacted the way that English thought regarded eugenics after the war. I had thought about how the villains were racialized, but I had not thought as much about how Elves were a type of perfect race tainted by mixing with humans (although they could marry and have children.)

Similarly, because I have not read any of the Silmarillion or other tales, her frequent reference to those stories and Tolkien's letters and other writings did help to round out my understanding of him as a whole person, not just regarding race and gender, but certainly regarding those two topics.

6 people found this helpful

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Fantastic!

A Tolkien fan on TikTok recommended this (Bladorthin the Bastard) and it's fantastic. I paused The Silmarilian to listen to this, and I'm glad I did! I was getting confused but this lecture series helped put some things into perspective and explained a lot what was going on around Tolkien when he created his legendarium and also how it evolved. I didn't know any of that before and it helps to know this. I recommend this to Tolkien fans and those who are curious about him and his works. It's approachable and the narration is top notch as you expect from any Great Courses production. I can't recommend this enough.

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Calls Tolkien a racist and sexist

There are better lord of the rings books out there. Don’t waste your time with this one. Can’t understand how audible let this one into their catalog.

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A Must for Fans of Tolkien

I first read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings while in the sixth grade. Since then I’ve reread the main books a great many times and read The Silmarillion at least four or five times. I’ve also picked up and enjoyed a handful of the other books published after Tolkien died. I always enjoy learning more about Middle Earth and how Tolkien came to write it and that’s what this Great Courses series does. It tells you a lot about how Tolkien came to create the best known fantasy world in all of literature and focuses mostly upon those other books of Tolkien lore (not that she ignores the main four). If you enjoyed The Lord of the Rings, this is a must-read series of lectures. I’m sure I’ll read it again one day myself.

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Thank you Dimitra Fimi

Dimitra Fimi has given us a succinct series of lectures pertaining to a giant of a writer and a mountain of his writing the world over has enjoyed reading. She demonstrates scholarship in her research and chooses topics important to a modern reader. Her insights encourage me to not only reread many of my favorite books, essays and lectures by J.R.R. Tolkien, the list is not short, but to read more of his writing. Reading Tolkien's legendarium caused me to read material from authors like Ursula Le Guin, Terry Pratchett, N.K. Jemisin, Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, Robin Hobb, and others. It has been a great joy to listen to Dimitra's lectures. Dimitra, if you are reading this, your material, and you are a gift to us all. Thank you!

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Tolkien fans will enjoy this.

What a great overview of Tolkien. Easy to follow, but still containing plenty of quotes and research. Well worth a second or third listen.

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Simply brilliant!

Great for both novices and experts in Tolkien Studies. These lectures provide insight into what Tolkien did, how he did it, and sources of his inspiration. Dimitra Fimi draws from his letters, earlier drafts, and current scholarly research to provide a contextual frame for his texts as well as brief forays into contemporary analyses.

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Great series of lectures

Fimi gives a wonderful analysis of Tolkien’s life and the times’ effects on his mythology.

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Not a diehard Tolkien fan, but this is still very interesting

This series is a great look at the world of Tolkien, from a variety of angles. As a more history oriented person, I would have loved a deeper dive into the effects WWI & WWII had on Middle Earth, but it was great nonetheless. Well worth a listen.

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Excellent program

This was by far one of the better courses on Tolkien I’ve come across. Listen if you can.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-27-22

Decent introduction with predictable issues

I hesitated strongly at first to take a listen to this, due to the wide spread ideological and spiritual corruption of academia and I wasn't interested in hearing some witless drivel about toxic masculinity in Middle Earth. This being "free" for members, I nonetheless took the plunge and I must say that for the most part this was a decent introduction to Tolkien and his works, but alas, of course there's lecture 9 on "Gender and Race in Middle-Earth", which is exactly what you would expect from a university lecturer towing the establishment views (including Tolkien's "problematic" views on women and race, and yes, "toxic masculinity" as well). The fact that someone can expound such views unfortunately casts doubt on everything else they may have said, but still I think the other lectures were mostly pretty neutral and factual in their style and mostly free from abhorrent ideology.
I find it also strange that someone who has devoted their whole academic and working life to Tolkien and fantasy literature keeps saying "elfs" instead of "elves". That word is used tens if not over a hundred times and each time it's incorrect. Just a minor nuisance, but a curious one... Other than that the performance is very good, she is a good lecturer and even though she's not a native English speaker, her English is very good (if you ignore the strange "elfs"),

Overall, if you skip lecture 9 or can bear listening to one lecture of ignorant virtue signaling, this is worth a listen as long as you don't pay anything extra for it. If you are going to pay for something like this, there are much better books and courses on Tolkien out there without the mandatory modern brain washing hour.

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  • Tara
  • 10-08-22

brilliant

this us brilliant anyone who's a fan should listen to this as it is a great think to add depth to rhe world

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amy Goodenough
  • 09-25-22

A fantastic introduction to Tolkien scholarship

Fimi is well-loved in Tolkien scholarship, and with good reason. Here she gives a brilliant tour of Tolkien’s legendarium as a subject of scholarship. These lectures are accessible for new scholars and casual fans but offer a breadth that will appeal to familiar readers. It is surprising and moving, showing great love for Tolkien’s work, but looks squarely also at its flaws and controversies. An excellent listen.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-21-22

Great Introduction to Tolkien

Professor Fimi delivers a great series of lectures on Tolkien and his legendarium within 4.5 hours. I particularly appreciated her dealing with subjects such as race and gender, which are at the forefront of current scholarly work on Tolkien, and of great interest to the vast majority of the fandom. The companion material on her website is well worth a look, as well. All in all, an excellent listen and introduction to Tolkien.

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  • Melissa Cameron
  • 08-25-22

Excellent insight.

A very listenable set of lectures for all fans of Tolkien and his works. I would thoroughly recommend this to anyone who is familiar with the world of LOTR.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Cliente Amazon
  • 08-25-22

A masterful vision on Tolkien life and works

Dr. Dimitra Fimi is one of the most prominent scholars on Fantasy and Tolkien. Here she offers us a great introduction on life and works of the oxonian Professor. We can learn the basics and the way to go further.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-20-22

A new perspective on Tolkien’s influences

A most informative analysis of the whole body of Tolkeins work. Provides an excellent survey of his influences. And a good final chapter on the enduring impact of his novels.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Andrew
  • 08-20-22

Eglerio! A Must Listen!

Dr Dimitra Fimi is one of the leading scholars, teacher and author of fantasy and speculative literature who besides contributing her own incredibly important scholarship to Tolkien and Middle-earth studies has also motivated, encouraged and guided a whole new generation of Tolkien scholars and established the first Centre for Fantasy and Speculative Lit at the University of Glasgow. In this incredibly brilliant and focused great courses series Dr Fimi offers a brilliant survey of the life, works, influences and key themes of Tolkien. Dr Fimi is an incredible teacher and lecturer and in these lectures she conveys key points and examples in an exciting engaging way and like any great teacher encourages more exploration through additional material on her website. Anyone who is interested in Tolkien - from the beginner just exploring his works possibly through adaptations to the experienced Tolkien scholar will get much from Dr Fimi’s thoughts and insights. Highly recommend! Go on the journey with Dr. Fimi.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Hollie
  • 08-15-22

Immersive and Fascinating

Dr Fimi's lectures were one of the many highlights of the Fantasy Literature Masters course I took last year (Nightingales), so being able to listen to this new mini-course on the go is brilliant!
I love that the series covers so many different ways you can look at Tolkien's work (gender, race, biographical context, influential sources such as Beowulf, theology etc.) but keeps the analysis accessible and easy to understand for more casual readers.
I'll definitely be listening to this course again in the future to refresh my Tolkien knowledge and to keep discovering fascinating new ways to interact with Tolkien's world.
If you're thinking of taking the Fantasy Literature Masters course at Glasgow Uni, this works as a great taster for what it's like.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Chris
  • 08-13-22

Fascinating

I had the pleasure of being taught by Dimitra during my English Literature undergrad and Fantasy Masters courses (Nightingales) and it was wonderful to learn from her again!

Dimitra is truly an expert in her field and makes the complexities of Tolkien and his works accessible to all. Each lecture is beautifully presented, fascinating and full of wonderful examples and tales from the various stories, legends and from Tolkien's life.

This is a MUST listen for any Tolkien fan! Excellent work Dimitra.

CDW

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-20-22

fascinating!

Incredibly interesting, highly recommend listening if your a Tolkien fan, or want to know more about his books.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-15-22

Not what I expected

Felt like I wandered into a LOTR convention and listened to some random conversations overanalysing subplots

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  • Shaz Ginns
  • 10-11-22

Interesting overview of JRR Tolkien and his work

This is a good start for those interested in knowing more about Tolkien and his amazing creation. The author of this is definitely a creature of the education system she has been immersed in and as such brings a certain amount of liberal baggage and defensiveness to the subject which could also be a simple act of self preservation when working in the toxic environment of academia in today’s institutions. The question as to whether the new Lord of the Rings series will be respectful of the primary material has now been answered, sadly in the negative. It is worth a look at the website she speaks of for further information on the books/world and their author