It features wizards and magic, it sells in millions worldwide, and now a lavish movie version of it is adding hordes of new fans to the already spectacular total. No, I’m not talking about Harry Potter. Since the mid-1950s – approximately forty years before J K Rowling dreamt up Hogwarts – J R R Tolkien’s Middle-earth, with its hobbits, dwarves and elves, has been acquiring fans who treat The Lord of the Rings with almost religious devotion.
As Michael White points out in this so-called new biography of Tolkien, timed to coincide with the release of the film, the book’s persistently vast popularity has long been a cause of irritation to most of the literary world. One of its first attackers was Philip Toynbee, who alleged in