Celebrate the Life of J.R.R. Tolkien

On September 2, 1973 J.R.R. Tolkien passed away.  To celebrate his life we wanted to put together a post that answered three questions asked in a recent effort to document Tolkien’s Fandom. 

  1. When did you first encounter the works of J. R. R. Tolkien?
  2. Why are you a Tolkien fan?
  3. What has he meant to you?

I first encountered the works of Tolkien when I was in the 3rd grade.  I’m showing my age a bit here, but at that time The Fellowship of the Ring movie was being made/coming out and my dad was telling me he thought I would like it.  So, after finding out the movie was based on a book we went to the library and I got the entire The Lord of the Rings books in one volume and started working.  Now I was in 3rd grade, I didn’t get very far, if I remember correctly I got through The Fellowship of the Ring, but it wasn’t until later that I read the rest of the books.  The movie of course, blew my mind and began my passion for Tolkien and his works.  For years now I’ve been taking part in a wonderful tradition of reading The Lord of the Rings once a year, every year.  In between those books I’ll periodically fit in The Silmarillion, Harry Potter, Redwall Novels, Star Wars Novels, other Fantasy works, and The Hobbit, which I’m working my way through right now.

Why am I a Tolkien fan?  The short answer is because I like reading his stories about the world he built.  Middle-earth and Valinor are incredibly fascinating to me, these places are also a big part of my childhood.  I was able to escape to Middle-earth and travel with Frodo and Sam and Aragorn on their journeys.  I pretended to fight Orcs and Trolls and Balrogs in my backyard with my friends and brother.  As I got older, I was able to delve further into his stories reading The Silmarillion, Smith of Wootton Major, Leaf by Niggle, and so on.  Everytime I break open one of his books and begin reading, a feeling of peace and contentment washes over me.

What has he meant to me?  Tolkien and his works have meant a lot to me, but speaking about the man himself, Tolkien has provided me with inspiration on how to be, how to tell a story, how to build a world, how to build a culture, how to write, how to act, etc.  I take a large amount of inspiration from a few quotes in his Forward to The Lord of the Rings.

“The Lord of the Rings has been read by many people since it finally appeared in print; and I should like to say something here with reference to the many opinions or guesses that I have received or have read concerning the motives and meaning of the tale. The prime motive was the desire of a tale-teller to try his hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them. As a guide I had only my own feelings for what is appealing or moving, and for many the guide was inevitably often at fault. Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible; and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer. But even from the points of view of many who have enjoyed my story there is much that fails to please. It is perhaps not possible in a long tale to please everybody at all points, nor to displease everybody at the same points; for I find from the letters that I have received that the passages or chapters that are to some a blemish are all by others specially approved. The most critical reader of all, myself, now finds many defects, minor and major, but being fortunately under no obligation either to review the book or to write it again, he will pass over these in silence, except one that has been noted by others: the book is too short.”

In this passage I gather inspiration from Tolkien and learn how he read reviews, either harsh or pleasing.  Tolkien wanted to create a story, a story that was exciting and attention grabbing, and he acheived that goal.  At the same time, not everyone enjoyed his story, but that didn’t bother him, it seemed that in his mind that it was ok, his story wasn’t meant for the people who reviewed it negatively.  His story was meant for the people to enjoy it and I think we can all grab inspiration from that mind set.  Not everyone will agree or enjoy the things we create, and so be it, we create things for the people they’re meant for.  Also, I just love his one objection with the book matches many fans…the book is too short.  To me, that screams, he loved and cared for his story.  Which, as someone who would love to finish his own story one day, gives me great solace. 

Lastly, I’d like to call out one more passage.

“As for any inner meaning or ‘message’, it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical.”

This statement is amazing, far too often we sit and ponder what an author meant in this passage, or, what was the message behind the story.  Tolkien straight up tells us what it is here, the story is the story, there is no inner meaning.  He wanted to create an entertaining story.  I appreciate, so much, that he went out of his way to end the discussion and urge people to just enjoy reading. 

To end this question, Tolkien, to me, means what every author should be, open honest, and striving to tell an entertaining story. 

We end this long post to celebrate a great author who brought many great stories to light.  Yes there was The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but take the time, pick up The Silmarillion, Leaf by Niggle, and Smith of Wootton Major.  There’s great stories in there and much more to explore after. 

Thank you so much for your time, let’s open up a discussion, what’s your favorite Tolkien tale, non-Lord of the Rings related?  Let us know in the comments below.

Remember, the old that is strong does not wither.

– The Wandering One

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