It occurred to me the other day that I could probably be classified as a bit of a Tolkien fan. I’ve been soaking up Tolkien’s books ever since I was about 10.
I must have read The Lord Of The Rings a dozen times or more. The Hobbit as often. I have the maps, I saw the movies, and I went to the exhibition of movie props.
But I wouldn’t call myself a total Tolkien fan. I don’t dress up in the costumes – you know, green cloaks that render you invisible against green grass, green rocks, green water, green sky etc.
My copy of The Lord Of The Rings is from three different editions. Nor do I collect memorabilia, or go to Armageddon comic-con gatherings to ogle merchandise and be photographed beside the guy who swept the studio floor on alternate Sundays while they were shooting out-takes for The Return of the King.
It is a limited kind of enthusiasm; and I also view what Tolkien did in a literary sense with a suitably critical eye; he wasn’t perfect, and he wrote a lot of stuff the hard way.
So what is it, for me? Well, it’s the reading experience. Tolkien created a world that became real for the reader. He did it by description – if you open The Lord Of The Rings at virtually any page, you’ll find evocative descriptions of the settings – the sounds, the smells, the feel.
He did it by depth; his world was rich with its own mythology and history, rich with culture, with language, with peoples of all kinds, all of them carefully described.
He did it with scope; his themes struck chords with the very heart of western thinking, western mythology, and western culture; epic battles between good and evil, between right and wrong. Clear-cut, scarcely shaded in any greys.
And he did it by giving us heroes we could identify with – not Aragorn, who was the archetypal mythic hero; but the hobbits, who were ordinary, everyday folk. Effectively, people like us – people who we could identify with and journey with, who became heroic.
A message of hope, swathed in all the things that speak to our sense of culture, right, wrong – and place.
That’s why I like Tolkien. Have you read his books? What draws you to them – for you, is it the reading experience, or something else?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013
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