Do you collect books, authors, that Tolkien read or likely read?


Well-Known Member
Aug 21, 2010
When I read, over 50 years ago, that Tolkien found Rider Haggard’s romance She intriguing, I took note, and eventually found I liked Haggard. His books May be read online for free now, but in the 1970s I looked for inexpensive reading copies, and they were easy to find. I haven’t even caught up with all the ones I bought years ago, largely because I keep rereading favorites, etc.

But as time passed I learned about Tolkien’s own reading interests from the biographies by Carpenter and Garth, etc. I don’t exert myself much about this matter, but do collect some books known to have been read by him or at least likely to have been. Do people here st Chrons do that?

The Haggard here I think Tolkien likely read and may well have been influenced by. The other book was known to him in his schooldays.
The field guide here was Tolkien’s most cherished book asan adolescent. The astronomy book was in Tolkien’s household when he was a father. (Not these particular copies!)
I haven’t read this novel yet, but Tolkien gave a copy to one of his sons, as I understand.
I have a number of horticulture/wildflower books as well as astronomy/stargazing book too.
And both are active hobbies as well.
Must be some insight and inspiration there that Tolkien saw that I missed.
Perhaps a more in-depth review is needed?
Tolkien identified Johns’ Flowers of the Field as such an important book for him as a teenager in his response to a query that went out to many authors. Their responses appeared in a little book called Attacks of Taste. I wrote a longish article about Flowers for Beyond Bree some years ago. The editor of that zine wrote to Christopher Tolkien, who supplied exact bibliographic data so that I was able to buy the correct edition. I also wrote for BB about the astronomy book.
Colin Wilson’s essay Tree by Tolkien suggested Farnol’s The Broad Highway as probable early reading by JRRT, so I bought this copy in 1975 at the dearly remembered Bartlett Street Bookstore in Medford, Oregon. I think it cost 50c. I admit... I still haven’t read it!
I think Tolkien acknowledged somewhere the influence on him of Crockett’s The Black Douglas, so I bought this copy 18 years ago, for a few dollars I suppose. The other Crockett novel I retrieved from a big recycling dumpster. I’ve read the Douglas but not yet the other one.
Maybe a little more information about some of these books would be of interest.

I've mentioned Tolkien's professed love of Flowers of the Field in his contribution to Attacks of Taste. There he wrote that during most of his teen years he wasn't preoccupied with literature -- rather with botany and astronomy. "My most treasured volume was Johns' Flowers of the Field, an account of the flora of the British Isles."

Investigating this, I found that there were various editions. I wanted to know which one Tolkien had. Nancy Martsch, editor of the fine monthly 'zine Beyond Bree (if you care about Tolkienian things, it's highly recommended) wrote to Christopher Tolkien on my behalf, who communicated detailed information from a 1930s inventory of JRRT's books made by Tolkien himself. If you want to get a copy of the same edition the Professor had, you want:

Flowers of the Field by the Rev. C. A. Johns... revised throughout and edited by Clarence Elliott with 92 coloured illustrations by E. N. Gwatkin.... 2nd impression Routledge 1908.

That's the one shown in my photo above.

Now for The Starry Heavens. This is attested in the J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide by Scull and Hammond, Reader's Guide Part II: N-Z, s.v. "Science." The reference is to page 1130 of the revised and expanded edition of 2017, but you will also find this info on page 877 of teh 2006 edition. Note: Neither edition of the Companion and Guide includes this item in the index!

Scull and Hammond cite Priscilla Tolkien, mentioning his astronomical interest. She adds, "my brother Christopher had a telescope, and I was given a book when I was a child called The Starry Heavens [by Ellison Hawks, 1933] which was an admirably simple introduction to the subject....My brother and I looked at the stars through the telescope and learnt their names and the constellations. My father also talked to us about eclipses of the sun and moon and about the planets and their satellites."

My copy cost only $9 including shipping from the UK. There are bargains out there, or were. I did and do feel that these books help to bring me a little closer to Tolkien and his family.
The Lost Explorers (1907) was mentioned by John Garth in Tolkien and the Great War (p. 79). Tolkien donated a copy to the King Edward's School in Birmingham in 1912. I wonder if he did so because he wanted the boys to be able to enjoy a book he'd relished -- or if it was a book in which he had no interest at that time but thought the school would take it. The tale seems to be largely about gold-digging in Australia, but there's a "Mystic Mountain," etc.

The Black Douglas (1899) is identified in Douglas Anderson's The Annotated Hobbit (second ed., pp. 149ff). Tolkien himself believed the Warg-adventure in The Hobbit was "in part derived" from a passage in Crockett's tale, from which Anderson quotes.

Jared Lobdell goes too far in The World of the Rings when he says Tolkien acknowledged that Gilles de Retz (an authentic historic personage who appears in the novel) was "the source of his creation of Sauron" (p. 6). Sauron and the novel's Gilles are alike in commanding armies of wolves or even werewolves, and both torture victims in their high towers, etc. Maybe there was some influence, but...
Montzeuma's Daughter (1892) really struck me as possibly influencing JRRT because it has a climactic battle on the edge of a volcanic with the villain struggling with an invisible enemy. The parallel with Gollum's battle with the invisible Frodo at the Cracks of Doom was impressive. (In Haggard's romance, the "invisible enemy" seems to be a hallucination of the villain, perhaps the objectification of his guilty conscience -- I don't remember.) There's also a barrel-riding adventure in the sea that might make you think of Bilbo and the Lake-Elves.

I think this is one of Haggard's best, and it does belong to the period in which he himself thought he did his best writing. You can tell in reading it that he is definitely invested in the story, which doesn't seem to be the case in some of his later books. I know of no testimony that Tolkien read it, but given that we know he had read at least three other Haggard romances, it seems likely he'd found an author to his taste and could have picked up this book too. But I enjoyed reading it before I thought of a specifically Tolkienian connection to it.
The Same Scourge (1954) is listed in Cilli's Tolkien's Library (a second edition of this work is out now or will be shortly, as I understand). On page 98 Cilli quoted Michael H. R. Tolkien: "recommended to me by my father J. R. R. Tolkien, with particular reference to the passages on pages 308 and 353." I mean to read this in 2023.
Here’s an old reprint of Buchan’s most famous novel. Carpenter says in his Tolkien biography that JRRT liked Buchan's stories.
Here’s an edition, from 1942 I think, of a paperback book with its own dust wrapper. It’s a book that Verlyn Flieger discusses at length as an element in JRRT’s thinking, in her A Question of Time.

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