What Tolkien Means to Me.
What Tolkien Means To Me by P.T. Mayes
With Peter Jackson's film of The Hobbit now less than a week away, I thought I would talk a little about what Tolkien means to me.
For a start, like many others, Tolkien introduced me to fantasy. I remember reading The Fellowship of the Ring suffering from whooping cough, coughing up black gunk as I turned the pages. Like so many others I floundered in the Dead Marshes and put the book aside, only to take it up again a year later and finish it, and in the process because a life-long fan with a burning desire to create a fantasy world of my own.
Without Tolkien I would not have read Stephen Donaldson, Terry Brooks, Piers Anthony, Fritz Leiber, Robert E. Howard and many more besides. And yet for me Tolkien's work always seemed richer, more primal than the others, in some way connected to us while at the same time remaining utterly fantastical. The Lord of the Rings is the history we wish we could really have had, because we know in reality there was no magic and monsters in our past, only nomadic tribes... and yet it was from around the campfires of these nomadic tribes that the stories sprang that Tolkien drew upon for inspiration. But he took those stories, those myths and legends, and distilled and enriched them with his own imagination, creating something that is in some ways both recognizable and unique. He created modern fantasy. The rest of us can only follow in the footsteps and hope we come within 50% of his brilliance.
I mean, what other author could have written the Silmarillion? It is almost as if Tolkien has set himself the task of rewriting and re-imagining the Old Testament, but with monsters and world-shattering wars, and his idea of the universe being created out of music is unusually beautiful and resonate. Indeed, such is the richness and details of TLOTR that one day it might even be taught in schools as ancient history. Well, maybe not, but it would be better than The Wizard of Oz.
I wonder what Tolkien would have made of the Pandora's Box he has unwittingly unleashed, the fantasy industry, which includes Harry Potter, Game of Thrones and, well, just about everything else that has elves and magic and power-hungry kings? And what would he have made of Peter Jackson's films? British creatives and generally a pretty grumpy lot (at least from what I've read and personal experience), but I hope he would have realised that the film versions of TLOTR are the best that could be hoped for..and are in fact something of a minor miracle. If any other director had undertaken TLOTR the results would have been...not the same.
Despite reservations about The Hobbit being a trilogy of films, I hope The Hobbit is a huge success and more importantly, brings the attention of new readers back to the original books, which is an encouraging thought.