J.R.R. Tolkien is a heroic figure in my mind – not simply for writing The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, the Silmarillion or any of his other works so much as for the very principle which made him capable of writing such wonderful work in the first place. Tolkien was a Catholic – a son of a woman who converted to the faith and risked everything by doing so. He was an ardent believer in God and it was under his influence that C.S. Lewis embraced the reality of Christianity. When he was a young man he formed a little club with some close friends and despite the small size of the group they had some very big aspirations. They really believed that they had a mission to change the world – to make the world a better place. As for many people during World War I this vision was severely put to the test because several of Tolkien’s good friends died – they were not able to live out their noble aspirations but in a letter Tolkien was reminded of their hopes and he was encouraged to go forward – to fulfil that potential that he had. And he did – in his own way. He was an ordinary man in so many ways – yet it was his faithfulness to his family, to his wife and son, his students, his friends AND his stories that really strikes a person. He worked on his stories a long time – never completely giving them up – always hoping that something would come of them in the end.
After I had read most of his major works and been really astonished at his incredible insight and clarity I decided to read more about him so I could better understand his background and his mind – if that is ever really possible. In one of the books (J.R.R. Tolkien:A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter) I read about one of his typical days where his bicycle breaks down and he is late for dinner and he has a meeting and papers to correct and he doesn’t get done until late. I was nearly pulling my hair out thinking about the fact that he COULD have been home writing great literature. But then after I became more reasonable I realized – that it was because he knew how to fix a bicycle tire and cared about being home for dinner and made it to meetings and corrected innumerable papers that he was the kind of man who could write so faithfully about the human heart and the dreadful reality of deep suffering as well as the idiosyncratic silliness of human interactions.
I greatly appreciated Peter Jackson’s faithful and insightful movie version of The Lord of the Rings and I pray he is as insightful and faithful with The Hobbit. My family has seen his blogs and we are very confident that he has done a terrific job. But I hope that the thrill of the scenery and the soul stirring music will only aide us to understand what Tolkien himself understood so well – that the greatness of humanity lies within each of us and it is our faithfulness to our daily mission which ennobles the heart.
Next time I will write about The Road Goes Ever On – A Christian Journey through The Lord of the Rings and the heroic characters inTolkien’s stories and how WE are called to be just as virtuous as they were – despite the trials, dangers and deceptions (dragons and rings of power) which come our way. Frodo never saw what was coming but he was engaged in the struggle never the less. May we aspire to the noble faithfulness of a simple Hobbit!