Cum Grano Salis

Michael White’s Tolkien biography is not bad, so far, but it would appear it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Two things have me a bit worked up about it enough to pause and note them. One of the curiosities I ran into which is troubling is that he seems to believe Beleriand was a city. Odd. You know, it’s not like there’s not a whole map for it. It’s kind of hard to get that wrong. Maybe that’s something the editor did, or a typesetter, correcting an original plural.

The other thing is that on page 91 he mentions Eddison and The Worm and states that the central character is Lessingham who is drawn into an epic struggle where he is trying to mediate between warring tribes. Lessingham is the central character of the introduction, features in the first part of the first chapter, and then in a curiosity of literature which is admittedly extraordinary completely drops out of the story for the rest of the book. Makes one wonder about how exactly Michael White did research.

Admittedly, Eddison’s work is under-appreciated. It is all contrary to modern tastes and has been for ages and probably will be for a long time to come. To know even such basic information as who the main characters are in his works is probably viewed as obsessive, cultic even. But it’s dastardly to do your research in a way that implies you did nothing more than read a few pages and then casually thumb through the work you’re commenting on.

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