18 April 2019, The Tablet

Universal myths


This thoughtful one-hour documentary on the life of J.R.R. Tolkien (14 April) was made by a French production company. This provenance gave it an internationalism that made it feel slightly different to the British viewer. The scholars, from Germany, the United States and France, are linguists and comparative literature experts – and they think of Tolkien as a world author whose mythical landscape is universal in its reach.

There were some occasional lost-in-translation oddities – it seems inadequate to describe Birmingham as the “nearby town” to Tolkien’s childhood village in Warwickshire – and one too many gauzy enactments of Hobbity figures and woodland elves. But on the whole, I found it a treat.

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