The Science of Middle-earth: A New Understanding of Tolkien and His World

Pegasus. Apr. 2021. 432p. ed. by Roland Lehoucq, Loïc Mangin & Jean-Sébastien Steyer. illus. by Arnaud Rafaelian. tr. from French by Tina Kover. ISBN 9781643136165. $29.95. FANTASY
In this tremendously impressive work, experts in various academic fields, from geography to linguistics, have contributed essays on Tolkien’s Middle-earth. Editors Lehoucq (astrophysicist, French Atomic Energy Commission), Mangin (associate editor, Pour la Science), and Steyer (paleontologist, National Museum of Natural History, Paris) break down the major subjects into six sections, including “World Building” and “A Fantastical Bestiary,” which enables readers to delve into the essays in any order. Essays include “Gollum: The Metamorphosis of a Hobbit” and “The Defense and Depiction of Philosophy in Tolkien.” The essays vary in length; some are clearly for scholars and readers with deep-seated interest—for instance, “The Evolution of the Peoples of Middle-earth: A Phylogenetic Approach to Humanoids in Tolkien.” (None of the essays addresses racism in Tolkien’s work.) Each essay includes a brief overview to help laypeople understand the material. Beautiful illustrations by Rafaelian bring readers even further into Tolkien’s memorable world.
VERDICT Any fan, casual or academic, of Tolkien’s work will find this book entertaining and informative. Highly recommended.

Correction: This review has been edited to add the translator credit.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing