September 10, 2013

Review: On the Shoulders of Hobbits by Louis Markos

Markos, Louis. On the Shoulders of Hobbits: On the Road to Virtue with Tolkien and Lewis, (Moody, 2012), 234 pp.

In On the Shoulders of Hobbits, author Louis Markos attempts to help his readers "rediscover the power of stories and the importance of virtue" by pointing out the "real life truth and goodness . . . communicated powerfully through [the] fantastical fiction" of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. The imaginative worlds of Tolkien and Lewis are, Markos says, "stories to steer by." They not only impart much-needed truth to their readers, they also help us "to live in and through and by that truth."

In part 1 (chapters 1-4), Markos details the echoes of the classic "hero's journey" found throughout the tales of Middle Earth and Narnia. Parts 2 and 3 are structured around the four cardinal virtues (courage, temperance, wisdom, and justice) and the three theological virtues (faith, hope, and love, plus friendship which serves as sort of a bridge between the cardinal and theological virtues). Part 4 (chapters 13-16) focuses on the nature of evil. Finally, there are two bibliographical essays (one on Tolkien and one on Lewis).

In each chapter, Markos focuses mainly on the works of Tolkien, using illustrations from his works to illuminate the topic at hand. He then develops each topic further by briefly turning his focus to Lewis' Narnia series.

Markos stated goal is to help turn back the nihilistic drift of Western civilization (pp. 9-10) by helping his readers find their place in the grand "human-divine narrative: what many today refer to as a metanarrative or overarching story into which all of our individual stories can be grafted and from which they derive their ultimate meaning" (p. 11). Though On the Shoulders of Hobbits doesn't quite seem up to the task, it is a nice start and a pleasant read. Plus, for fans of Tolkien and Lewis, the bibliographical essays alone are worth the price of the book. Are there better books on Tolkien and Lewis? Yes, but On the Shoulders of Hobbits is unique enough to be a valuable edition to any fan's library. Recommended.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

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