per amica silentia lunae

or, across the ferny brae with the evil voodoo celt

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"tall ships and tall kings, three times three..."
Well, I just reached another milestone in Tolkien-geekery: with the purchase of The Peoples of Middle Earth, I now have the entire twelve-volume set of The History of Middle Earth. It joins the four sets of The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and The Hobbit that we have, plus perhaps a dozen more volumes by and about the Professor.

The History is an amazing monument by Christopher Tolkien to his father- a meticulously detailed and annotated cross-section of the literary life of a tremendously learned and talented man. It's fascinating to watch a familiar story take shape from beginnings that bear only tangential resemblance to it; to see how a love of words and languages can give spark to the creation of another world and thousands of years of history for it.

It's also occasionally been a bit depressing. Tolkien had a very gloomy view of mankind and the modern world, coupled with a Catholic faith that IMHO was too focused on the evils of power and an almost Gnostic view of the fallen nature of the world. True, he had enough life-experience to make him pessimistic; anyone who grew up seeing the Industrial Age eating up his beloved countryside and then went off to slog through the battle of the Somme has a right to a jaundiced view of mankind. So I can forgive him for that, and for his attaching too much (IMHO) importance to "the fading of wonder" in "fairy stories" (as he called them).

I owe so much to his influence, you see. Not just my love for the fantasy genre itself, although I still remember the day in sixth grade that the words "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit." exploded in my head and turned my budding hard-SF-geek brain upside down; not just for making possible a hundred other novels that made me cry and shout and kick my heels in the air for sheer pleasure. Not just for the stories he wrote, although I read The Lord of the Rings religiously, once a year, and I've read The Silmarillion more than once, and for pleasure, too!

His writing nurtured my love of words and writing, made me believe in the power of "sub-creation" (as he put it), made me hunger to create worlds of my own. His books instilled in me a love of history and the literature of wonder; and they awoke in me the desire for magic. Some of this would no doubt have bemused and appalled him, as (so his letters relate) he was bemused and appalled by the effect of his writing on others. But it matters little.

Last year he would have turned "eleventy-one", the age Bilbo celebrated with his "Long-Expected Party." I doubt he would have approved of Peter Jackson's astounding and wondrous retelling of his stories... or much else about this Information Age we live in. And I honestly think he would be shocked to find himself referred to as the "Author of the Century" in Brian Shippey's well-argued book.

In a graveyard in Oxford there is a simple stone with his name and that of his wife. Next to their names are the names "Beren" and "Luthien"- the heroic lovers whose story is the center of The Silmarillion. Someday, I'll go there and lay some roses on the grave. Until then, I'll just ask you to join me in a toast:

To the Professor!

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here here!


and I am now qutie teary-eyed. This is beautiful. Thank you.

I'll be happy to go with you :-)

Hear hear!

To the Professor!

...who taught us that there is some magic that cannot be undone.

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