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J.R.R. Tolkien
Houghton Mifflin, 106 pages

J.R.R. Tolkien
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born of English parents at Bloemfontein, South Africa, on 3 Jan. 1892 and died in England on 2 Sept. 1973.  He received his education at Oxford University. After graduating in 1915, he joined the British army and saw action in the Battle of the Somme. He was eventually discharged, after spending most of 1917 in the hospital.

Tolkien was a scholar by profession. He worked as a staff member of the New English Dictionary, Reader then Professor of English Language at Leeds 1920-25, Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford 1925-45 and Merton Professor of English Language and Literature until 1959.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Farmer Giles of Ham
SF Site Review: Poems from The Hobbit
SF Site Review: Letters from Father Christmas
SF Site Review: The Hobbit
The Tolkien Timeline
The Electronic Tolkien Encyclopedia Project
The Last Homely House
Tolkien's Birmingham
Tolkien's Oxford
The Internet Tolkien Book Society Page
The Tolkien Collector Resources Page
The Kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor Page
The Halls of Tolkien
The Numenor Chronology

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Trent Walters

Roverandom Roverandom is a children's fantasy under whose spell this reader occasionally forgot he was critiquing. It follows the picaresque adventures of Rover the dog after a wizard transforms him into a toy dog and his subsequent trials and tribulations in a toy shop, on a beach, to the moon, through the dream world beyond, under the Deep Blue Sea, and back again.

Tolkien hadn't quite polished this to his approval, but there's plenty to enjoy. Rover and his dog-friends give Tolkien the opportunity to comment on the relationships and exaggerated bravado of boys, which may on occasion be shared by girls. Of note, even here, is that Tolkien betrays his critics who claim his philosophy is too simply "good vs. evil." This is not to say that Tolkien does not believe in evil or in good. The moral, if we can lay claim to uncover any in a work such as this, is that most of the bad that happens to us Rovers of the world is mostly happenstance.

One of the more the humorous passages has Rover arguing with shrimp over which of their fates is worse:

'No! I have never been boiled, as far as I remember,' said Rover, 'though I have sometimes been bathed, and that is not particularly nice. But I expect boiling isn't half as bad as being bewitched.'

'Then you have certainly never been boiled,' they answered. 'You know nothing about it. It's the very worst thing that could happen to anyone -- we are still red with rage at the very idea.'

And the following passage charmed me as no other has in months:
...they saw the sun jumping out of the sea, all fiery-red with clouds about his head, as if he had had a cold bath and was drying himself with towels.
Your child won't be critiquing this, so there's really no need. But since this is a review, the book is, as I've said, picaresque, meaning you don't need to bother looking for themes or a guiding moral here (though morals do abound). The title says it all: Roverandom. Rover randomly roves the magic places of our world. My main complaint is that sometimes Rover's actions fail to guide the story, but it should more or less mirror a child's view of the world.

The editorial input is tastefully done, placing this work within the context of Tolkien's life and work. The notes do a fine job of indicating the allusions that Tolkien put into the work, though a couple may have been over-done, considering the more obvious allusions. I was surprised that the Jonah and Pinocchio allusions weren't pointed out -- especially the latter since Rover, too, is a toy. But what this reader may find obvious, another may not (and vice versa).

Whether Roverandom will become a classic or not is up to the future generations of young readers and what they remember loving and what they choose to read to their own kids. But, if you're just looking for an unalloyed, unmolested good time to read aloud to your children (or your make-believe children), call up this book.

Copyright © 2000 Trent Walters

Trent Walters co-edits Mythic Circle, is a 1999 graduate of Clarion West, is working on a book of interviews with science fiction writers.

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