Returning to Middle-earth: from one fantasy world to another

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To me there’s only one fantasy world where I feel most at home. Middle-earth was, and will remain my primary destination for the tired mind and heart that long to seek solace and comfort from the real world.

I’ve delved a while amid the magical corridors of Hogwarts or the plains of Narnia and, albeit each have their own charm and dose of escapism, nothing is comparable to Middle-earth itself.

Recently, I had the enormous pleasure of reading The Powder Mage trilogy by Brian McClellan. Reading this series of flintlock fantasy novels with their own epic narratives, characters and worlds, was an interesting exercise and quite a different experience from the usual.

McClellan’s writing is compelling, engaging, fast-paced and, most importantly, believable. The characters come to life, the fantasy world he creates is astonishing and the overall story simply works.

However, without wanting to turn this post into some sort of review (perhaps I’ll leave that for another time), I just wanted to share with you the feelings and reactions I felt whilst reading these. Remember, The Powder Mage trilogy was the first set of epic fantasy novels that I delved into and managed to complete in its entirety after The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, etc.

The whole experience left me exhilarated and hungry for more such quality novels, but at the same time I wanted a “break” from the dense details and complex story lines that a narrative such as McClellan’s can leave you with.

Therefore, I picked up my battered paperback copy of The Hobbit for a nice leisurely read.

The sudden rush of emotions was truly magical.

Reading the first few pages felt like I was stepping back into the warm embrace of a well-known world. Meeting Bilbo again and going along in his journey was even more powerful than before. Having left Middle-earth for a while to delve the perilous paths of Adro in The Powder Mage trilogy, I now sensed with an even deeper emotion what was so beautiful and comforting about Tolkien’s own world, welcoming me back to its well-trodden paths.

It made me realise that no matter how far away I venture in my reading, or how much I enjoy a novel, I’ll always feel safest and more alive within Middle-earth.

It truly is a second home.

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25 thoughts on “Returning to Middle-earth: from one fantasy world to another

  1. I have absolutely the same feelings about Middle-earth! While venturing into other worlds and books feels refreshing and, sometimes, truly necessary, Middle-earth is indeed a second home to me. It’s just that reading other books and then returning to Middle-earth makes me look at it with a fresh look and appreciate it even more.

  2. Middle Earth is such a special, one of a kind escape for me that there have been a number of other fiction franchises I haven’t even bothered to check out, because what’s the point? It isn’t like I’m bored with Tolkien yet and I haven’t even read in depth his works outside of The Hobbit, LoR and Silmarilion.

  3. Hi James,

    Excellent blog entry! Do you think anything will ever come close to Middle Earth in terms of scope and content? Also, we, your fans, would love to see a video showing your library of Tolkien, Harry Potter, Narnia books! Are they all on the same shelf?

    • Hey Torpei! I’ve only read the first book in the Game of Thrones series so I can’t really be sure but I remember reading it and thinking that, although George R. R. Martin did an excellent job with the characters and the level of complexity, etc, Tolkien’s world is unparalleled. I stand to be corrected, but so far that level of detail, history and realism I attribute solely to Middle-earth.

      As for a video tour, I’m working on something soon 🙂 And yes, Narnia and Harry Potter are on the same shelf 😉 Stay tuned!

      • Interesting; do you think Tolkien will ever be matched or surpassed in terms of the detail and complexity of their fantasy works?

        Also, please hurry with your new book collection video; we all can’t wait to watch it! 🙂

  4. Cheers James, I’m a huge fan of Tolkien like you! Your posting about Middle-Earth is very interesting; isn’t Narnia close to Tolkien’s Middle-Earth in terms of detail? Also, which edition of Narnia do you own? I’m trying to find Deluxe editions of the Narnia books, kind of like how they published Deluxe editions of Lord of the Rings, but cannot find any. Like your other fans, I can’t wait to see an updated book collection video from you; Your current one is the best I’ve seen on the web; much better than typical videos that show off those stupid pop toys that clutter one’s bookshelf.

    • Thanks so much for your comment! So far, I’ve only read the first three books of Narnia so I can’t fully commit to comparing it to Middle-earth.

      I currently own The Complete Chronicles of Narnia hardback slipcase. Although beautiful, it’s quite difficult to read from!

      As for the book collection video … shhh soon soon 😉

  5. Middle Earth is definitely in a league of its own, although Narnia is pretty close. Weren’t the authors like friends or something at the University of Oxford?

    What are your thoughts on Narnia in comparison to Middle-Earth anyways? And I agree with these other posters; when are you going to make an updated bookshelf video? 😉 Thanks! – Bobby

    • Thanks Bobby! Yes Tolkien and Lewis were close friends at Oxford.

      So far, I can’t really compare Narnia to Middle-earth, as I’ve only read the first three books in the series though it looks as breathtakingly detailed as Middle-earth 🙂

  6. Hello James, do you think the reason why Tolkien’s middle earth has endured so long is because it is not allegorical? Tolkien himself said he disliked allegory in his work. Narnia, however, does have quite a bit of allegory so do you think there is a connection there in terms of the scope of both fantasy settings?

    • Hey Cynthia thanks for your comment! I’m sure there’s something to it. Then again, if a work is allegorical, you can always opt to read it as it is and enjoy it nonetheless 🙂 Though I think Tolkien’s legacy endures is because of his unparalleled dedication to crafting the story, the originality of the time, the complexities he went into and, without a doubt, the enormous success of the films.

  7. Well said, James. For me, when I get back to reading Tolkien’s works, Middle-earth can often feel like a first home for me, with real life feeling like some cruel horror film that I’m wading through. I always feel at home when I read Tolkien.

  8. Hi James, really enjoyed this blog entry; What are your thoughts on books that rip off Lord of the Rings, like Eragon and other stupid works like it?

    In addition, when are we going to see a new book collection video? 😀

    • Hey Awan, thanks for your comment. I can’t say much about Eragon as I’ve never read the books (just saw the film … which I didn’t like very much).

      But I think it’s only natural, and quite unavoidable, to base one’s fantasy writing on Tolkien.

      Then again, the mark of a good writer is being inspired by other authors’ works whilst cleverly concealing and obvious nods to your inspirations 🙂

  9. James, thanks so much for this bog series. I am SO glad I discovered it. Reading of your experience seeing FoTR for the first time brought me back to the thrill I felt myself. Although I had read Tolkien thoroughly in the past, and even tried to write letters to a friend using the tengwar back in the 60s, PJs attention to detail in creating props, sets, costumes and creatures absolutely astounded me.

    Those who are looking for a new fantasy series to move on to might do well to try The Wheel of Time books by Robert Jordan. When I began the first book, Eye of the World, I first thought it ripped off too much from Tolkien. But the story caught me up in spite of that and I went on to read book after book after book…finished finally at the 15th book (posthumously). I would go so far as to claim Jordan is “The American Tolkien.”

  10. I wonder if the Tolkien Estate will allow other authors to expand upon the legendarium of Middle-Earth once Christopher Tolkien is no longer its chairman? For example, like what George Lucas did giving the rights of Star Wars to Disney to make unlimited number of stories thereafter. Essentially, is there a finite end to the works concerning Tolkien’s middle earth?

    Also, please make a new Tolkien collection video James!! 😀

  11. Hi James! Middle-Earth is indeed an amazing fantastical setting, although I can’t think of any other fantasy work that has the same level of detail. I think this is what sets it apart from all other modern forms of fantasy, in addition to the fact that it really is its own thing and doesn’t try to emulate other works, though it is somewhat inspired by them, such as Norse and Anglo-Saxon mythologies. I keep reading on here that you are in the process of making a new video of your book collection; when can all your fans expect to view it online?

    Keep up the amazing work!

  12. Great article James; What do you make of George R.R. Martin’s critique of Lord of the Rings, specifically when he says that Tolkien did not elaborate on the political policies of Aragorn in Gondor, such as trade and taxation policies, which leaves it somewhat unfinished?

    • Thanks! Well, I don’t think such details as how Aragorn ruled would have added anything to the story of The Lord of the Rings. Although it would have made fantastic reading material for the Appendices, Tolkien saw no reason to include (or create) such information, given that they had no relevance once his story was completed.

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