Happy Birthday, Tolkien

“I sit beside the fire and think of people long ago,and people who will see a world that I shall never know”

Bilbo’s Last Song ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

Tolkien's art work for Hobbiton-across-the-water

One morning long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and and more green……

……..a new but very old world was born in the form of a baby who would grow to be J.R.R. Tolkien.

26170279_10154974928775303_2254907175925375764_oToday, January 3, is Tolkien’s birthday, and if you haven’t noticed yet from our blog, Amanda and I are Tolkien-ies of the highest Elven order. Therefore, it is proper and just to write something on this auspicious occasion. So, I sit today by my “fire” (my little space heater), drinking my cup of hazelnut, dark roasted coffee, and I think on this great man from long ago and myself, whom he’ll never know, and it is suddenly imperative that I share my humble journey with Tolkien.

264_Wake_Green_Road
“Now 264 Wake Green Road, 5 Gracewell Cottages was the Tolkien’s first house in the Birmingham area, just down the street from the Sarehole Mill. In fact, its location relative to the mill lines up with the description of Bag End’s location in The Hobbit: cross the river, pass the mill on your right, turn right down the road, and walk just up the hill.”

Here is a fabulous website siting some of the actual inspirations Tolkien drew from to create Middle Earth

I discovered the door to Middle Earth at the age of eleven. I had had glimpses long before that age and the desire to escape to Middle Earth was one that I was simply born with. The longing for something so much more– an age that encapsulated and treasured the beauty and magic of this earth– a yearning to embrace the energy of nature and beauty and music and be transported to realms beyond physicality– these desires have been the very fire of who I am for as long as I can remember.

As a small child, I would hum an unknown haunting tune to myself and intangible worlds were born, beyond limitations of physicality.  I would go outside and behold the ancient majestic beauty of this earth that seemed more a person to me than people; and it was so beautiful, I would ache inside because there was no way to hold it, to bring what I was feeling into reality.  It was fleeting, and even now as I write about these, these… well, there’s no words to describe them– “feelings” does it no justice… maybe “energy” or “magic” come somewhat close… But even now, as I type, I feel it well up inside me and I long to tear the thin veil that separates me from that dimension. They are my “God-place”– the place I feel most connected to my Creator. My childhood started out very rocky, with much more pain than beauty– I won’t go too much into that right now.  But, suffice to say, these moments of being beyond this world, literally saved my life.

I never thought that anyone else could understand my mind, my soul. No one ever seem to. I was scolded for “having my head in the clouds all the time”.  But my imagination could not be fettered; it was fantastical and dreamy. I lived in the clouds, in the stars, in the depths of aqua waters and emerald forests. I knew God and we communed together in these places. You see, God’s soul aches for beauty too.

 

Return of the King cartoon movie
The movie that started it all

When I was about seven years old, my parents rented a cartoon movie for us called, “The Return of the King”. I was immediately fascinated by this story of a nine-fingered Hobbit, a Gollum, and a magic Ring that made one invisible.  I even made my friend do a re-enanctment of the scene at the mouth of Mt. Doom with me for a drama project at school in third grade.  I remember her hesitance because she just didn’t get it, and because the difficulty of portraying invisibility seemed beyond her dramatic powers. But I insisted, and though no one else was much impressed, including the teacher, I was magnificent!

 

I was a voracious reader, even at a young age, and it wasn’t long before I discovered my mom’s box set of The Lord of the Rings as I perused her bookshelves.  Seeing one book titled, The Return of the King, I grabbed it and immediately began reading, thinking I would be reading the story behind the cartoon movie I had seen. To my dismay, it didn’t make any sense to me so I put it down. I didn’t understand at that time that The Return of the King was the last book in a series. I was only eight years old.  Three years later, the serendipitous moment of reaching the appropriate cognitive development and a burning desire to read a new story arrived. I picked up the box set, learned it was a series, pulled The Hobbit from the sleeve, crawled into my secret “cave” (the cabinets above my closet, furnished with a reading lamp, blankets, and pillow) and…. was completely and utterly lost to Middle Earth.

I’m still lost. Tolkien’s world was MY world! The beauty of language, story, nature; the purity of love and friendship; the juxtapositions of light and dark; the magic and mysticism that is untainted by cultural constructs of morality… it was all there, in printed word, in language, in concrete terms. My worlds were given tangibility for the first time.

I read and read and read and read and read!

LOTR box set
The actual books that stole my heart

I read the entire series breathlessly, and when I was done, I immediately started all over again. And when I was done the second time, I started it again. Yes, it became an obsession. I read the appendixes, studying the histories and genealogies of hobbits, dwarves, elves, ents, wizards, and men. I learned runes and studied the elven language. I took copious notes and read The Silmarillion, filling notebooks with notes, important places, timelines, and character trees. Longing for more, I would take off on solitary nature walks and bestow names from important places in Middle Earth on the fields, forests, and creeks as I trekked, living the story, making Rivendell, Rohan, Argonath, Fangorn’s Forest, Lothlorien, the river Anduin, Henneth Annun part of my reality.

“It is the mark of a good fairy story, of the higher or more complete kind, that however wild its events, however fantastic or terrible the adventures, it can give to child … that hears it, when the ‘turn’ comes, a catch of breath, a beat and lifting of the heart…”

J.R.R. Tolkien

I literally read the books back to back for years. Teenage-hood was just as challenging as childhood for me and the books offered a way to channel all the weirdness and, frankly, otherworldliness, that alienated me from my peers.  I even wrote my senior research paper over J.R.R. Tolkien.  It gave Middle Earth new dimensions to learn about the man behind the books– from his experiences in the trenches of World War I, to his friendship with C.S. Lewis (another favorite author of mine), to his Oxford professorship and academic genius in linguistics and mythological folklore.  I wanted to be Tolkien when I grew up.

The Eagle and Child
The Oxford pub where “The Inklings” met on Tuesdays
Tolkien-and-Lewis
Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were not only friends but inspired each other’s writings through their club called, “The Inklings”

LORD+OF+THE+RINGS+Facts+that+Every+Fan+Should+Know2

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was 18 when the first of the movies came to theaters.  And it is here in my story, that you will find out that I am somewhat of a Tolkien snob. You see, I view myself as a TRUE fan. I was in love with Lord of the Rings long before the movies ever came out and everyone else jumped on the bandwagon. However, if you are a LOTR movie bandwagoneer, it’s okay. I won’t snub you… too much **playful wink**.  My husband is one– and it is partly because of his intense love for Middle Earth (gained from the movies although he did read a few of the LOTR books afterwards) that I fell in love with him. He and I had Lord of the Rings journals in which we would write letters in runes to each other and pass them back and forth– this was before cell phones were a societal necessity/expectation.

futhark runes
Futhark runes from which Tolkien derived his own runic languages, called “Cirth”

(I’m waiting for a runic font to become available on text messages or Messenger, and then watch out, baby! It’s on again!)

The movies were done beautifully, with many a homage paid to the book fans who would recognize intricate details in the movie that non-book readers would not even notice.  The story was adapted to fit time constraints and the social expectations of a box-office hit– but it was expertly done and they accurately captured the spirit of Tolkien’s world through music, color, costumes, scenery, and a million other details.

Okay, so by now, you are fully aware of the awkward level of geekiness that I am at when it comes to Lord of the Rings.  It is a huge part of me, almost an embodiment of my soul;  but, let me take this time to say that there are other things I’m just as geeky about– books of all kinds, Doctor Who, Star Trek (the old ones), all things British, writing and language, coffee, chocolate, Celtic music, musicals, travel… to name a few.

I used to be embarrassed and hide this part of me from most of the world. And I lost some of the connections to the magic of myself as I became overwhelmed with the responsibilities of the adult world.  I felt that I had to squash that part of me to fit into the “real world”.  However, there is something magical that happens when you hit your thirties… at least for me, anyway. I found that I desired to be unreservedly, unequivocally, and unapologetically ME; and that I longed to once again tap into the mystical energy of stories, music, and nature that had always been so strongly felt before– that had connected me closer to God than anything else. God made me this way for a reason– because the world needs people like Tolkien, Amanda and me, and other magical, mystical, adventure-seeking, soul-delighting geeks to be lights of Earendil in the dark places.

light of earendil

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”

J.R.R. Tolkien ~ The Fellowship of the Ring

And to that end, I am displaying my inner geek for all the world to see. Although this blog is not solely about Lord of the Rings, but about many delights and adventures Amanda and I share, I like to think that it will always encompass the spirit of Tolkien.

So, on this day, join with me to pay tribute to a great author, J.R.R. Tolkien and let us raise our pints to him!

ToTheProfessor_Marquee

Cheers! 

Janelle

 

Wait! It come in pints? I’m getting one! 

 

 

 

Photo credits:
“To the Professor”: http://middleearthnews.com/2015/01/03/join-tolkien-fans-everywhere-to-toast-the-professor/
“The Shire”: http://www.shirewisdom.com
Samwise and the Light of Earendil: https://jedibyknight.com/2014/01/12/sam-the-servant/

 

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