Maybe it’s the gloomy, rainy weather here in Minneapolis…maybe it’s that I have a quiet morning minute to reflect…but I’m feeling a bit melancholy today, thinking about the death-day anniversary of J.R.R. Tolkien, which was yesterday, September the 2nd.
The man who created a mythology that seems more like history, who breathed life into his fantastical characters so that they felt like old friends, who dreamt a world where good and evil were–for the most part–blissfully black and white, who unknowingly created a blueprint of morals and values and steps for us to follow that hands us a beautifully ornate magic mirror for our own self-reflection; died at 1973 at age 81 from pneumonia, more than likely brought on my complications of a gastric ulcer. Nothing nearly as exciting as death by Orc or a mountain troll, just an ordinary death of an ordinary professor who had a mind and talent that was anything but.
We that love his work long to put him on a pedestal, but he would be appalled at such a thought. Just like his incredible character Aragorn, a man who led the fight against evil in a changing world against nigh-impossible odds yet never wanted that responsibility or that power, the same can be said for Tolkien.
He literally wrote The Lord of the Rings because he wanted a place to practice and play with his languages, his cultures, his maps that he needed to get out of his head. He never dreamed that it would become the blockbuster book—and film!—that it has become. He was humbly grateful that people enjoyed it, but also annoyed at the “deplorable cultus” that it created.
This is someone that did what he did simply because he loved what he did.
Tolkien was so passionate about it that he couldn’t NOT write it. I am a firm believer that this is one of the reasons his story was so successful…it weaved its spell of magic on so many of us because it came from the sorcery that manifested from within him. This is what happens whenever we believe in and love something so fiercely and so strongly.
We bring magic to us when we conjure it up from a place of pure passion.
In a world that’s all about ME ME ME, look at ME with its Tik Tok, Reels, Feeds, podcasts, blogs (ahem) and what-not, there is something simply wonderful about a man who took years to create a world he wished he could live in, a world that he honestly couldn’t give a shite if anyone else cared to know about, or visit. He did it for himself. Not in the hopes of making money, getting a point across, or inspiring anyone else, and certainly not to draw attention. And that’s so refreshing.
So here’s to the Professor. Thank you, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, for having that little bit of writer’s pride and gumption to send out that manuscript all those years ago. A work that has literally changed my life for the better, that always provides me new perspectives, inspiration and wonder. I’m sure you wouldn’t thank me, calling attention to all of these things, as I’m probably part of your ‘deplorable cultus’ that you rolled your eyes at.
But that’s ok. You do you, and I love you for that.