Book: The J.R.R. Tolkien Miscellany

Can I first start off my saying how much respect I have for Tolkien. I have been a huge fan of the world that he created since young, and reading more about his life and his inspirations has just allowed that love to blossom. I can surely say that I love the author as much as I love the books. It’s so comforting to know that he was such an amazing person, and his love story with his wife just blows me away.

There’s so much interesting trivia that this book presents, like how The Lord of the Rings was the first three-book trilogy in the literary world? How Ian Holm played Frodo Baggins in BBC Radio 4’s rendition of Lord of the Rings, and plays Bilbo Baggins in the recent Peter Jackson movies? How there were paperback pirate copies of the Lord of the Rings in the US?

Some of them are familiar to fans of the books and movies, while other are much more obscure and these nuggets from Tolkien’s life really allows us to get to know the author a bit better. For instance did you know that Tolkien started his own society in Oxford called the Apolausticks (those devoted to self-indulgence)? Tolkien had an amazing sense of humour. Apparently he used to dress us a polar bear or an Anglo-Saxon and visit his neighbours on New Year’s Eve. Also he liked to play a trick in which he would hand shopkeepers his false teeth along with his money. I never pegged Tolkien as joker, his books don’t really reflect this jolly personality. So it’s a real treat to find out more about him.

Of course there is his relationship with C.S. Lewis, another author that I am a fan of. It was Tolkien that brought Lewis back to Christianity and it’s a double joy for me as a Christian, because of the amount of books that Lewis has written on the subject of Christianity. Also Lewis actually nominated Tolkien for a Noble Prize, that was a heartwarming surprise. It really depicts their friendship and their love for each other. From how they bonded over Norse mythology (which I am fascinated with as well). There’s an entire chapter dedicated to their friendship in his book.

Honestly though, what made me fall in love with Tolkien as a person, was his beautiful relationship with Edith. They truly are the Luthien and Beren of The Simarillion. Their love story in something one only expects to find in books and not in real life. It’s unbelievably sweet and touching. From the very beginning when she was 19 and he 16, it’s so endearing how they tried to keep their blossoming relationship a secret from those around them. To the time when they were forcefully separated, until they were reunited and finally married. Their’s was a tumultuous love, but it would seem that they never strayed far from each other. She followed him throughout the war and the life they had with their 4 children seems like that of a perfect family. To know that so much of Tolkien’s work started out as stories for his children just warms my heart. I think it paints a lovely portrait of the writer.

The J.R.R. Tolkien Miscellany

The book itself is divided into different chapters based on the different aspects of Tolkien’s life and death. Some are dedicated to places, people who were important in his life, where he drew inspiration from, the different experiences he had in various countries and situations, there is an entire chapter dedicated to plaques and memorials. I felt that although it was very informative, it was rather repetitive. Some themes or information that had crept up in earlier chapters would make appearances again in different chapters because of some relevance. It made reading a bit dry. I would have preferred if it had just gone in chronological order rather than trying to compartmentalize Tolkien’s life.

It is a life brimming with a variety of experiences from his boyhood in South Africa, to his days in Oxford and the times in the World War. Everything has shaped his life and his work, and this book has really shown me that, which for me was enjoyable enough. The content of this book has been great, but the presentation of Tolkien’s life and inspirations could have been better. It’s still a wonderful read and has allowed me to understand the author better. I think that this probably marks the start of reading biographies of my favourite authors, something I have never done before.

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