April 3, 2019
On The Shoulders Of Hobbits – The Road To Virtue With Tolkien & Lewis by Louis Markos Ph.D. is a book that seeks to rediscover virtues, as they were known to be in older times. These virtues are exemplified through the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.
In the introduction Louis Markos outlines the fact that modern society needs a revived awareness in virtues, which have been lost but were inherent to individuals once upon a time. The author also covers why fantasy and stories, such as those by Tolkien and Lewis, are vital in showcasing these lost virtues. Also, the author likewise gives us some background information on the subject of virtue, as well as what his approach will be in the breakdown of the messages and morals that he later tackles.
Although the book covers both Tolkien and Lewis’ work, the larger portion will be of Tolkien’s work. In a rough guesstimate, the book is perhaps two thirds Tolkien to one third Lewis or so. This does in no way take away from the meaning of the book, but it’s something that the reader perhaps might want to know. At least for me, the book was beyond priceless given the subject matter.
In addition, the reason that the author has chosen to cover Tolkien and Lewis’ work is because “though Tolkien was not a fan of The Chronicles of Narnia, the fact remains that the two men shared the same premodern Christian understanding of good and evil, virtue and vice, beauty and ugliness.”[Emphasis Added]
Since both authors have such similar philosophies, drawing from each authors’ works is in fact a ‘no-brainer’.
At the nascent stage of each chapter, the author begins with a particular message and/or moral that has been overlooked by modern society, and then that particular theme is then analytically coupled to information from The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, or The Silmarillion, with the information further complemented with a passage from The Chronicles Of Narnia that helps buttress the theme further.
One neat part about each of these chapters, and then lessons woven and analyzed therein, is that there is a variety of ways one can learn from these given the information provided. Given that the subjects of these books are so vital to healthy and robust human principles, having intriguing discussions regarding these themes should be something ruminated upon at length. Families or friends could discuss the information bouncing it back and forth in thought, or it could even be covered in homeschooling or group discussion perhaps. The book could even provide a platform for discussion in formal schooling in highschool or college, considering how important virtue, morality, and goodness are to a healthy society. The fact that the lessons are woven within the stories of Tolkien and Lewis only make these subjects that much more approachable, since their works tend to hold the intrigue of individuals.
In plain speak, what the author seeks to accomplish is help the individual learn why the works of Tolkien and Lewis are not only highly respected, but why their works resonate deeply at the being level.
Each of the examples from the books of Lewis and Tolkien are quiet salient ones, and very meaningful. In fact, some of the examples provided could arguably be some of the sagest lines written by each author, at least for this book’s purposes.
For what it’s worth, the book is split up into three sections. In section one, the author’s main focus was the proverbial road – the individual journey – that each individually embarks upon which resonates with our deepest being. Markos does a very remarkable job in showing how the quest that the characters in each of respective novels follows a specific journey, and in much the same way mirrors what individual people might go through in life. Section two covers four classical virtues, while Section three breaks down three theological virtues, which contain also a fourth, which regard friendship, and was one of my favorite parts of the book. Those latter stages really exemplify those virtues in the authors’ work in a way that aids the reader in realizing what society has lost, and how to help reboot the road to virtue.
At its closing stages, the book finishes with a very robust and enlightening Bibliographical Essay [Appendix A] regarding J.R.R. Tolkien and Middle Earth, which features substantial additional information regarding all things Tolkien. A very notable addition for any serious fan, and will even prove useful for some casual fans that might not know where to start. As someone who’s beginning to study Tolkien at length, this part is absolutely invaluable.
The second bibliographical essay [Appendix B] touches upon C.S. Lewis and Narnia. In similar fashion, the resources covering Lewis are discussed at length, and in rather trenchant fashion. Markos does an exemplary job of really going above in beyond with both essays in supplanting a veritable truckload of information for individuals – enough to keep you busy in contemplation for years surely!
All things considered, this book really gives the incisive and inquisitive mind much to ruminate upon, and for me it’s undoubtedly a great book, and a worthy book to have in any personal library.
In fact, considering the topic at hand – regarding society’s lost virtues – one could even make the bold argument that it’s even a great piece of modern literature. Regarding that, perhaps Peter Kreeft said it best in the book’s foreword:
“That’s why reading great literature; next to meeting people is the single most effective way to learn not to flunk life. Life is a story, therefore moral education happens first and foremost powerfully through stories, e.g., through books.”[Bold & Underline Emphasis Added]
This book in particular, is not only educational, but helps readers sensibly reconnect with virtues that are going by the wayside. And in an age where society’s virtues keep getting overlooked, a book like this is worth its weight in gold. That alone is worth the price of this book.
 Louis Markos Ph.D., On The Shoulders Of Hobbits – The Road To Virtue With Tolkien & Lewis, p. 15.
 Ibid., Peter Kreeft, Foreword, On The Shoulders Of Hobbits, p. 8.
 The fact that these topics are NOT discussed in school should be a huge, obvious, glaring omission that requires additional extrapolation in the future.
Suggested Reading & Vewing:
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Exploring J.R.R. Tokien’s The Hobbit by Corey Olsen Ph.D.
Lord Of The Rings: How To Read J.R.R. Tolkien [Presentation]
The Vision Of Freedom That Tolkien Got & The West Forgot [Video]
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About The Author:
Zy Marquiez is an avid book reviewer, inquirer, an open-minded skeptic, yogi, and freelance writer who aims at empowering individuals while also studying and regularly mirroring subjects like Consciousness, Education, Creativity, The Individual, Ancient History & Ancient Civilizations, Forbidden Archaeology, Big Pharma, Alternative Health, Space, Geoengineering, Social Engineering, Propaganda, and much more.