Why do I Love Tolkien
Trying to recall my first experiences with Tolkien’s work, strong emotions are mixed with my memory and the returned images have little historical accuracy. The only sure is that this fateful day when I was introduced in Middle-earth changed my whole perspective of the world.
It was due to a friend’s advice that I first caught a Tolkien book in my hands. To be honest I was never a great book lover. But Tolkien is not just about reading him. It’s about living him. Making my first steps in The Hobbit and the trilogy of the LotR, I got involved in an enchanting world, where Drakes, Elves and Dwarves ruled. I was devouring the pages and was progressively transferring to Middle-earth. But the huge impact came with the reading of The Silmarillion. Never before had I been so attached with invented characters. Suddenly, I was more interested in Gondolin’s future and Eärendil’s voyages than the news of my city. The sadly brief time that took me to read this magnificent mythology couldn’t saturate my wild imagination that repeatedly invented new stories, battles and characters. Since then, ME and its history have become an obsession and the continuous search for books, sites and references to it is an everyday activity.
So, why has Middle-earth and its history haunted our minds? It certainly owes much to Tolkien’s unique use of language to describe places, characters and events. But the greatest power of his work lies elsewhere. He has offered us a mythology, a complete account of events and tales of a world in which we would be proud to live. And this mythology is covered with many great ideals, great deeds that exemplify our eager minds, give us some life lessons and show that a better place to live can exist.
Someone might argue that it is after all a bunch of tales and cannot offer the same completeness as the real history of the world. To this I profoundly disagree. The “history” given in The Silmarillion contains all the aspects of human behavior. Allegorically every race can be replaced by a category of humans, so that the events described can be transferred in our world. Furthermore, I wish that The Silmarillion were OUR history and not fiction. I would prefer to read about a nearly perfect race (Elves) with their faults and their moments of great valor, about a race of men filled with contradictions, about gods that intervene and aid their children, about wars of heroism against the thralldom or wars of pride. I would like to have my “War of Wrath” where our creator would help in the battle against evil. Finally I would prefer a world that is leading to a hopeful future. Instead of this, I read a history of wars by fool dictators and arrogant leaders, betrayals and cowardice in the place of heroism, a fading of human civilization. My choice is to abandon this history and adopt another one, which while not being perfect is at least optimistic.
The books of Tolkien do not excel only at the historical dignity. They provide, as already mentioned, a great variance of life lessons. The Fellowship of the Ring shows the greatest of them, the binding of a company with friendship against the common enemy. Sam is a great humanist because he manages to defy the ring’s calling and stay loyal to his master and friend. There is also the message that the size and physical abilities don’t restrain anyone from doing great deeds, only the lack of courage and persistence. Hope is another emotion highly esteemed in LotR. People should never lose it as there lays the success of any effort. In LotR (as in The Hobbit too), we watch the coming of age of a naive and timid person into a mature leader. At the Scouring of Shire, Pippin and Merry have become “men”. This is their reward after passing through all those perils. Then the adventurous spirit hidden in my heart joyed and I wanted to travel far away with my saddlebag only, go through woods and bare lands. As Bilbo said to Gandalf, “I want to leave, I want to see mountains again”. These days that the urban climate suffocates us, it is a way to travel into our minds away, far from the responsibilities and the anxieties of modern life, travel to Erebor and kill dragons. And this is the last message of Tolkien’s scripts, the great ecological sense of responsibility towards the nature. It is not odd that technology is absent in Middle-earth. Besides who needs it when there’s magic.
This essay may have been a little sentimental, but there is no way that these emotions can be constrained. To all us Tolkien fans, Middle-earth is not a fiction, it’s a world somewhere out there, where elves sing unconcernedly, men built towers, dwarves mine and hobbits eat six meals a day.