Saturday, January 31, 2015

Anne C. Petty and Tolkien's Heroes: The Platypus Reads Part CCLXXXIII

This is the second in a series of posts on Anne C. Petty's Tolkien in the Land of Heroes.  The prior post can be found here.

I'm just about finished with Anne C. Petty's Tolkien in the Land of Heroes and I wanted to add some (perhaps) final thoughts to my previous post.  The overall news is that Petty does not disappoint.  Her "big picture" approach allows her to refine the work of previous scholars in ways that suggest fruitful new approaches to Tolkien's material.  In particular, while she sees conflicting elements in Tolkien's thought, Petty stresses unity where so many prominent authors stress tension and contradiction.  This comes out in the passages where Petty deals with Tolkien's view of Evil and in her discussions of the Pagan and Christian roots of Tolkien's mythos.  My fears that the author would try to subordinate J.R.R. Tolkien's works to the level of mere illustrations for Campbell's theories (As I feel Flieger does with Tolkien and Barfield) proved to be unfounded.  Where Campbell does appear, he is employed tastefully and in equal weight with other critics like Northrop Frye.  Indeed, Petty's use of Campell and Frye to set up a grid for analyzing Tolkien's heroes was particularly useful.  All in all, I found Tolkien in the Land of Heroes to be an enjoyable and useful book.  It wasn't earth-shattering, and I certainly have my quibbles, but it does what it sets out to do: provide a framework for organizing the vast amount of thought on Tolkien's legendarium so that as Petty says "we don't miss the forest for the Mallorns".

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