New. The Silmarillion is the silent backdrop of the epic story told in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. This deep, imaginative mythology is in a sense the cradle, the molten gold from which the popular books were forged. Though its account of the creation and history of Middle Earth informs Tolkien's better-known plots and characters, The Silmarillion is admittedly the most difficult of his books to understand. Published posthumously and never 'polished' into a single storyline, it remains obscure and inaccessible for most readers. However, a few excellent critics have attempted to throw open a window into this palace of imagination. Verlyn Flieger is one of the best of these. In her book Splintered Light, Tolkien's fiction is examined 'in light of Owen Barfield's linguistic theory of the fragmentation of meaning. showing how [Tolkien's] central image of primary light splintered and refracted acts as a metaphor for the languages, peoples and history of Middle-earth. ' Flieger sees Middle Earth not as a fantastic escape from this world, but as a faithful literary reflection of it. By giving us a new myth after the ancient ones have been discarded, Tolkien shows how we can best live 'in the time that is given to us. ' 196 pp.
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