J.R.R. Tolkien: A Literary Sapling

JRR Tolkien

On the anniversary of his death

For the majority of people, 2nd September is as normal a day as any other. It follows after the 1st and precedes the 3rd.

However, for Tolkien readers, this date is of particular significance. Just as we celebrate the birth of John Ronald every 3rd of January, so do we recognise and honour the day he passed away in 1973.

I’m sure Tolkien would not have wanted his avid readers and admirers to adulate him on such a day, in a quasi-­religious state of fanaticism.

Yet, there’s nothing wrong in remembering the life and death of an individual who has touched millions of people throughout the long years since his absence.

In essence, that is the beauty of it all.

That the work of art you have left behind, art you have worked on passionately for the sheer joy of it, has transformed from a sapling into a tree bearing the fruits of a legacy; spreading its branches over the literary world and influencing other aspiring artists and admirers to cherish and appreciate these works.

That is the fascination of J.R.R. Tolkien.

I would like to end with one of my most favourite quotes from The Lord of the Rings.

Perhaps it’s not relevant to today’s topic, but it’s a quote I love to share (… just for the sheer joy of it):

“I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”

Book 4, Chapter 5; ‘The Window on the West’
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Share with us a favourite quote in the comments below.

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14 thoughts on “J.R.R. Tolkien: A Literary Sapling

  1. Are Tolkien fans really involved in “quasi religious … adulation?” I don’t have that impression. Anyway, he was Catholic and within the Catholic tradition there is very much the tradition of veneration (not worship — these are two different things in the Catholic tradition) of the saints, who were human but did extraordinary things. Not saying that he thought he was a saint by any means, only that I have questions about the terms you are applying here.

    That said, I’ve been just been reading his letters. I agree that he seems to have found (and would certainly find now, when the fandom is much bigger) mainly frustration with the superficial level of fans and fandom, although he seemed to love to interact with intelligent people who took him seriously, asked questions that intrigued him, and engaged with his world. I also think, after reading these letters, that (not unlike most academics) his central craving was for his achievements and the modern mythology that he created (rather than for his person).

    • Oh dear! Never expected to reply to such a profound series of thoughts, but thanks for the great post 🙂

      My reference to “adulation”, whilst certainly not applied to the majority of fans/readers, was intended to highlight the very same superficial veneration for the works themselves in some individuals.

      And I certainly agree that his passion for writing was towards the work he produced.

    • It is a strange subject. There are groups who do worship the professor as a prophet and do believe that Middle-Earth is a sort of prequel to our own current world and acts as a forgotten history of our world explaining the creation of continents and ruins and they believe in an apocalypse foretold in the Silmarillion. This of course is quite unnerving as I am sure that The Professor would wholeheartedly disapprove of this. It also causes some complication as they refer to themselves as “Tolkienists” which worries me as I use the term for myself and others who enjoy reading the collective works of Tolkien and also books written by others concerning him and his secondary world.

      So in answer to your question there are those who follow him in a religious sense, but I think the more rational of us just carry a deep reverence… bordering on (a healthy) obsession.

  2. ‘And he sang to them, now in the Elven-tongue, now in the speech of the West, until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.’ I’m afraid I don’t remember exactly where this is from, except it’s Return of the King.

  3. I find it so appropriate that you used a Faramir quote. Not only is he one of my favorite characters, he was Tolkien’s most unexpected character and the character that most represented himself. Tolkien mentioned in his letters that Faramir just “walked in” on the pages of his writing and that if he had to pick a character that was “most like” himself he said it would be Faramir, “except that I lack what all my characters possess…courage.” He would undoubtedly be pleased with your quote selection. Great post, James!

    • Hehe thanks Shellie! In case people weren’t aware of this already, Faramir is also my favourite LoTR character (a very close second after Sam) and this quote just epitomises that character beautifully 🙂

  4. I would certainly come under the category of being fascinated by JRRT and his creation. Exactly why, I could put some guesses but am not entirely sure. On one level, his creation is like the glimpses of the Silmarillion within LOTR, there is a window into his created world which shows so many wonderful things, yet he died before it was all completed; so there is also this element of mystery as well. For me, he mined rich veins, creating something awesome, tantalising and at times uncomfortable, and yet my introduction to it was through a book for ‘children’ and I so love the fact that his world has such varied entry points (e.g. the hobbit, LOTR and Silmarillion, etc). For all the troubles in this world, man’s inhumanity to man, his life shows something of the beauty of individual consciousness and also community whereby one person can touch another’s life so positively.

    • PS: James, thanks for all that you have done in this blog; I really appreciate it. However, I don’t want my appreciation or expectations to be a burden to you and hope that you may remain free for years to come to write from your obvious delight in things Tolkien rather than any burden that might come from keeping a blog going. May it long continue to be something you love doing.

      PPS: I do not know how to put what I mean into written words; no negative inference is intended. I come to this blog because I enjoy it. So, thank you again.

      • Hey Bob! I, on the other hand, am always grateful for your continuous encouragement together with other people’s support.

        I really enjoy sharing my Tolkien thoughts with others and I also hope I keep on sharing with you all for as long as possible 🙂

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