Today is the birthday of my favorite author JRR Tolkien. Non-readers and non-fantasy book readers are more familiar of course with Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit (3 movies out of 1 short book still confounds and amazes me). And while I love those movies to death of course (the LOTR trilogy is my all-time favorite movie. Yes, I consider them just one) I have a different kind of love affair with his books, his works that were put together by his son Christopher after his death, and just the world he created in general. So why do I love him and his work so much?
I got my non-Bible life verse from Fellowship of the Ring
From the moment I read this passage from the first Tolkien book I read, I fell in love with it, and since then “not all who wander are lost” has been my “tag line.” While of course the poem pertains to Aragorn (who of course happens to be one of my favorite characters), that doesn’t mean we can’t relate to it. Being an emotional nomad, my heart is prone to wander here and there and so the line really speaks to me.
He tells the stories of Middle Earth like it was a real world
When it comes to world-building, I haven’t read anything yet that can compare to Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Each race (and sub-race) has its own detailed language, culture, history, characteristics, story, etc. I’ve probably read The Silmarillion, which talks about the whole history of Middle Earth, from its creation up to the time when the events of The Lord of the Rings transpired and even beyond. If your only exposure of Tolkien is LOTR, believe me, it is just one part of a very large picture. Too bad Peter Jackson can’t touch Tolkien’s other works, it would have been awesome to see some of the stories in the Silmarillion and the Histories of Middle Earth and The Lost Tales come to life on the screen. I will not trust any other filmmaker to touch that, but alas, the Tolkien estate will not let him. So until then, these stories will have to stay in our heads, and you will not hear me complaining.
He created some of my favorite fantasy characters
Varda. Lorien. Tulkas, Nienna. Arien and Tilion. Fingolfin. Galadriel. Gil-galad. Earendil. Melian. Beren and Luthien. Turin Turambar. Thorin Oakenshield. Aragorn. Eowyn. Faramir. Theoden. Pippin. Samwise. Whether their characters’ stories were short or epic, I will forever treasure having been privy to their journey, their pain, their triumph, their tragedy. I feel like I went through everything with them, and when their respective chapters came to a close, i felt like I lost a friend. And yes, I’ve named a few toys or gadgets after some of these characters.
Trivia – their joint tombstone refers to Tolkien and his wife, Edith Mary as Beren and Luthien, which is probably the best “love story” in his Middle Earth. Altogether now…”Aaawwwww”. If you don’t know the story of the ill-fated (somewhat) and star-crossed lovers, that is one incentive for you to read Silmarillion.
The women are few but memorable
Tolkien has often been accused of “hating” female characters as most of the stories, especially in The Hobbit and the LOTR trilogy are testosterone-filled escapades. But the few women he was able to flesh out were memorable indeed. Melian used her power to protect those she loved. Galadriel is one of the oldest and most powerful elves still in Middle Earth. Luthien is no damsel in distress and she dared to go against the greatest evil. Eowyn uttered the classic line, “I am no man!” Arwen was….well she was pretty. Haha. Yeah, he could have written her better, but hey, Aragorn saw something in her, so maybe she wasn’t all that bad.
Evil is not ambiguous and good triumphs in the end
While I do love modern stories, sometimes there is just too much ambiguity when it comes to the nature of evil. The rise of the anti-hero is exciting for storytelling, but disturbing for my peace of mind. In Tolkien’s world, the villains (Morgoth/Melkor, Sauron, the orcs) were not mistreated or abused that’s why they rebelled and became evil (okay, maybe the orcs had no choice but you don’t hear of an orc who suddenly chose to become good). They just were full of hatred and malice and lust and greed. They say he wrote the LOTR trilogy as an allegory for his experiences in World War I and obviously, his view is that there is no justification for war. It is just evil. But in the end, goodness will always triumph. And in a real world that sometimes doesn’t always reflect that, his stories and his own world are a comfort and a reminder that at the end of it all, it is not the most powerful or the proudest or the strongest that will win the battle.