Tag Archives: J. R. R. Tolkien

Professor Tolkien’s Birthday

tolkien academicJ. R. R. Tolkien was born on this date, January 3, in the long-ago year of 1892.

The Lord of the Rings has cast such a long shadow over his life that it’s easy to forget that Tolkien was a university professor.  I wonder what it would have been like to take one of his classes.

Of course, there’s a good reason that TLotR has cast such a long shadow over Tolkien’s life.  The thing is a masterpiece.  It’s been well over a dozen years since I last read TLotR. I may try to fit it in sometime later this year if things let up a bit.

Happy Birthday, J. R. R. Tolkien

tolkien treeToday is Tolkien’s birthday.  I’m not going to write a long post.  There are too many writers who have written better posts honoring him than I could ever write.  I just didn’t want the day to pass without acknowledging the man.  No matter what you think of his work and his influence on fantasy, he casts a long shadow over the field that still has influence today.

 

Today is Tolkien’s Birthday…

tolkien tree…and I can’t think of many better ways to begin 2015 than by acknowledging it.  John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born this day in 1892.  It’s been over four decades since he left us (September 2,1973), and he is arguably still the most influential fantasy writer in the world.

James Maliszewski speculated earlier this week what the world would be like if Tolkien hadn’t written The Lord of the Rings.  I’ll not repeat his points; you should read his post for yourself if you haven’t yet.  I’ll simply say that it’s a world in which I’m not sure I would want to live.

That Tolkien is still influential can be seen by the latest movie based on his work (loosely I’m told; I haven’t been able to gather the family all together to see it yet) being one of the top box office draws of the Christmas season.

Tolkien-quoteOne of the reasons, and this is only one of multiple reasons, his work has proven to be so enduring is that he doesn’t shy away from taking a moral stance.  I think this is what resonates with so many of his fans, particularly those who don’t read fantasy on a regular basis.  Tolkien openly acknowledged the existence of evil.  His villains weren’t misunderstood; they weren’t victims of The System; they weren’t good people forced to choose between a selection of bad options.

They were flat out evil.

In addition, Tolkien recognized the capacity for both good and evil that resides in all people, every man, every woman, every human being.  And furthermore, he knew just how thin and fragile the line dividing good and evil could be.  His characters are real people who make real mistakes (Boromir, anyone?) and real sacrifices.  (Don’t try to tell me Frodo didn’t suffer for the rest of his life after destroying the One Ring.  Read the end of the book.)

tolkien bookshelf background

I would love to browse those books.

Tolkien took a moral stand that you don’t see in a lot of his imitators.  You could write a doctoral thesis on that subject alone, and I’m sure more than one graduate student has.  There are other reasons why he still sells today, but I believe this is one of the main ones.  Frankly, if the World Fantasy Award is a bust of a person, I think Tolkien would be better choice that Lovecraft simply because his influence is greater among the general population than Lovecraft’s.  (Tolkien was a straight, white, Christian male, so I can’t see that happening in today’s climate.)

Anyway, raise a glass to Tolkien’s memory today.  And if you get a chance, read some of his work.

Happy Birthday, H. P. Lovecraft

LovecraftHoward Phillips Lovecraft was born this day in 1890.  He died of cancer of the small intestine in 1937.  Lovecraft’s greatest claim to fame these days is the creation of what has become known as the Cthulhu Mythos, although he started out writing fantasies in the vein of Lord Dunsany, richly detailed stories with a dreamlike quality.

As great as his contributions to weird fiction were, one could make the argument that his most lasting influence was on those writes who corresponded with him as well as those who came after.  Those writers include but aren’t limited to Robert Bloch, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, Stephen King, Henry Kuttner, Brian Lumley, August Derleth, and many others.  (I know I’m leaving some out.)

I would argue that Lovecraft is to weird fiction what Tolkien is to fantasy.  In both cases, the authors had a tremendous impact on the field, one that continues decades after their deaths.  Both have many imitators as well as detractors.  It is almost impossible to escape their influence.

Lovecraft World Fantasy Award(And speaking of detractors, there is a movement to replace Lovecraft’s image on the figurine given as the World Fantasy Award with that of another writer.)

I’m a relative latecomer to Lovecraft.  I never really got into his work growing up.  It’s only been in the last five to ten years that I’ve come to appreciate his work.  There are still some majors stories by him that I’ve not read.

I think I’ll read some of them to celebrate his birthday.

Happy Birthday, J. R. R. Tolkien

TolkienJ. R. R. Tolkien was born this day in 1892.  He needs no introduction to the readers of this blog.  As Charles Rutledge says in his tribute, the world of fantasy today would be a smaller and poorer place with him and his works.  He’s correct.

I read somewhere years ago that most, if not all, fantasy written after the 1960s (I’m paraphrasing quite a bit here since I don’t recall the source) was either an imitation of or a reaction against The Lord of the Rings.  While that the extent to which that statement is true might be arguable, what can’t be argued is that Tolkien’s shadow still looms large over the field today, and not just fantasy but literature in general.

I saw The Desolation of Smaug over the Christmas holidays.  I”ll save my comments on the film for another time, save for this.  Watching the movie reminded me why I began to read fantasy in earnest.  I’d been reading science fiction for a few years when I read The Lord of the Rings in high school.  My mind was blown, and I haven’t been the same since.

I last read Tolkien when the LotR films came out.  It’s time to plan a rereading sometime this year.  My life has been richer because of Professor Tolkien’s works.  It’s time revisit them.

Here’s a little something from last year honoring Tolkien I couldn’t resist adding:

Tolkein birthday