Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A Tolkien Post

One of my favorite bloggers in the whole blogosphere, Bill Roberts, Thinkling extraordinaire, posted on J.R.R. Tolkien's 114th birthday and how this author's works contributed to his life. You can find this at Out of the Bloo, Bill's own cool website where he writes:

I'll never forget diving into it for the first time; I was immediately struck by its more mature, darker tone and the rich depth of its histories. It was like a feast!

It swept me away, gave me visions of heroism and epic grandeur, and filled my mind with the values of goodness, simplicity, simple courage, loyalty, hardship, and love. And it is no stretch to say that it spurred me on in my search for God.

Words won't express how much... a statement like this moves me. As an aspiring author and a lover of great fantasy, I hold out hope, however foolish or realistic, that God can take what Pearce & Story write and move people in such ways.

Like Bill, Tolkien is one of my all-time favorites, and when I first read the Lord of the Rings at about age twelve, the story captivated me. However, I had already been hooked by the fantasy bug a little earlier.

One of my life's defining moments happened in fifth grade at an Audubon Elementary School Arrow Book Fair. I drifted in with a couple of dollars my parents had given me to purchase How to Eat Fried Worms or a Boxcar Children book, and I wandered thru the Judy Blumes and Beverly Clearys to a featured table.

There, five books set out in a row grabbed my attention. Especially the first, which pictured a kid not much older than me dressed in a tunic, holding a long dagger, and staring at a huge black horse. A plate-armored villian with a skull for a head, antlers protruding out each ear, and a wicked, skeletal grin on his face sat atop the steed. The book was Lloyd Alexander's The Book of Three from the the famed Chronicles of Prydain, and I had to have it.

It cost a little more than my parents had given me, so I begged a buck off my friend. Best money I've ever borrowed or will ever borrow. After The Book of Three, I devoured the other four Prydain Chronicles. The Newberry Award winner, The High King, remains not only my favorite book as a child but probably my favorite book ever. It's certainly the book I've read the most over my lifetime.

After those, and then Narnia, if there was any fight left in me to return from the realm of fantasy to real life, Tolkien's LOTR knocked it out of me. Only in great fantasy do you get those qualities Bill mentioned: visions of heroism and epic grandeur... values of goodness, simplicity, simple courage, loyalty, hardship, and love. Other genres might boast some of those, but nothing else fits the bill (no pun intended) like a fantasy epic.

In fact, after reading LOTR, and spurred on by the Prydain books, I started writing with dreams of becoming an author, probably at age twelve or thirteen. And besides drawing comic books or playing some sport outside, writing fantasy is what I did. Although I look upon them affectionately, my writings back then had plot holes the size of black holes and almost never carried through to an ending. However, my beginnings in characterization, settings, and dialogue stemmed from those attempts and have grown ever since.

Pearce & Story's first novel, Crown of the Summerhavens, is a fantasy we hope will one day become the first part of a published epic. We have since written a kid's general fiction novel, some short stories, and now have begun an action/adventure. But, and I think I can speak for both of us, our favorite to write thus far has been the fantasy. We're epic guys.

And so was J.R.R. Tolkien. It's amazing that I can owe as much as I do to a couple of men -- that never knew me and hailed from a country across the sea -- like Tolkien and Lewis. Thankfully, I don't have to repay them, or I'd be indebted for the rest of my life.

However, I would like to take some of what the masters have taught and spread a little of that magic wherever and however I can. Hopefully, Pearce & Story will persevere as a writing team and get our fantasies out there. But whether we do or not, I'm so thankful Tolkien did.

Happy birthday, Prof. Tolkien. You're one of a kind.


Scot said...

Wow, I found that to be quite a moving account.
I am fascinated by the human desire for things such as "visions of heroism and epic grandeur... values of goodness, simplicity, simple courage, loyalty, hardship, and love". These are things that move us so deeply in books and movies. I believe, also, it is what drives us to sports. There is a struggle, a battle to fight. A battle that takes skill, determination, and maybe a little luck. We love seeing a classic battle in a game. Who wants to watch a blowout? We love to see Magic vs. Bird duke it out. We want the underdog, facing insurmountable odds, to win the championship. I remember growing up playing basketball at home pretending that I was down by one point with the ball...”Three! Two! One! He Shoots, he scores to win the game!” I never fantasized that I won by twenty points. I wanted to snatch victory from the clutches of defeat. Fantasy and sport are designed to put us in the face of peril and to see what we're made of, and create heroes.
I'm a big fan of John Eldredge, and in his book, Epic he shows that God has an epic story that we are a part of. I long to feel involved in that epic adventure. The part of the human mind that baffles me is that while drama is what moves us so in books, movies, and sports...we want nothing but comedy in real life. But we are faced with fantastic, epic battles everyday testing our strength...bills mounting, kids disobeying, work pressures building, marriage on the rocks...what will our hero do?
I love fantasy like LOTR and hope writers continue creating works like this because they have a way of teaching us something about ourselves at a core level about our true heart’s desires. My vision is to translate that to real life. Maybe grand successes are only a fantasy, but we are in battle and we must struggle, persevere, overcome...for the Great Storyteller is writing an epic story, and time will tell which characters emerge as the true heroes of the story.

Bill said...


Great post, and thanks for the kind words! You go hard :-)