Professor Tom Shippey taught at Oxford, overlapping chronologically with Professor Tolkien and teaching the same syllabus, giving him an intimate familiarity with the poems and the languages which formed the main stimulus to Tolkien's imagination. He subsequently held the same Chair of English Language and Medieval Literature at Leeds University which Tolkien held early in his career, and currently holds the Walter J. Ong Chair of Humanities at Saint Louis University, USA.
Tolkien fanatics are in for a treat with this latest look at his processes of writing, his works and his sources of inspiration. Tolkien's fascination with the relationships between related languages and their history (reflected in his professional interest in Old and Middle English) helped him create the world of the hobbits, according to Shippey, who argues that Tolkien wanted to draw on a past world when he created Middle Earth which he thought existed in a past collective consciousness. An interesting re-examination of the man through his works. (Kirkus UK)