The essays printed in The Monsters and the Critics
delivered as occasional lectures. The eponymous "The Monsters and the
Critics" is a trenchant look at the critical tradition on Beowulf
"On Translating Beowulf" is an introduction to its language and metre
(a reading knowledge of Anglo-Saxon would certainly help the reader here,
but is not necessary). "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" is a critical
study of the work on which Tolkien lavished so much attention. "On
Fairy-Stories" is a defence of the genre from wrong-headed stereotyping
and "A Secret Vice", on the creation of imaginary languages, foreshadows
his world creation. Also included are a speech on "English and Welsh"
and Tolkien's valedictory address to the University of Oxford.
These works are, though perfectly accessible to a general audience, very
much academic in orientation: they will not appeal to most of those who
know Tolkien only through The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
It is unlikely that The Monsters and the Critics would ever have
appeared as a HarperCollins paperback if it were not for the success
of Tolkien's non-academic writings, but that it has is a boon for those
who also appreciate him as a medievalist and a scholar.
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