SFF

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
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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.

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