Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Spirit of Tolkien

Drawn by J.R.R. Tolkien and published
in the first impression of The Hobbit,
in Chapter 4 (Over Hill and Under Hill).
The Heraldic Device of the
House of Hador,
as drawn by J.R.R. Tolkien
What I believe to be the guiding principle behind and purpose of the Fantasy Genre at its best, the Spirit of Tolkien is the optimistic spirit and integrity which the books try to impart upon the reader. Characters like Gandalf[1] all show the value of deep knowledge and wisdom along with the fact that such lofty things are not exclusive to the old but may be attained with experience and general cleverness; the Hobbits, after all, along with Harry Potter, Eragon, and so many others grew into wisdom probably without realizing it by the end of it all. Most importantly though, the Spirit of Tolkien teaches selflessness in the face of evil and that virtue can and often will be victorious in the end. It stands for the idea that it is the everyday deeds of ordinary folk which keeps the Dark at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love and a refusal to give in and abandon personal integrity when there is an easy but amoral solution to various kinds of trouble.

It is about compassion, courage, curiosity, and a refusal to give up hope even when all seems lost and world in burning up around you. It is about the fact that, deep down, there is more Good in the world than Evil and that even the smallest candle can deep the Dark at bay. It is the spirit that teaches us to seek to make the world a better place, but to value the simply joys in life and not seek power for ourselves. It is the spirit that recognizes evil and foulness, but retains optimism about and with the world at large and fights for the best and brightest future possible. It is the spirit of the idealistic realist.

The Spirit of Tolkien is what I believe Fantasy is all about – it’s clear and bright purpose – and the man himself describes it best of all:

"Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don't we consider it his duty to escape?...If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we're partisans of liberty, then it's our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!"
– J.R.R. Tolkien

“I do not love the bright sword for it's sharpness, nor the arrow for it's swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien

“Fairy tale does not deny the existence of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance. It denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final a fleeting glimpse of Joy; Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien

“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien

“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien

“Some who have read the book, or at any rate have reviewed it, have found it boring, absurd, or contemptible, and I have no cause to complain, since I have similar opinions of their works, or of the kinds of writing that they evidently prefer.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien

J. R. R. Tolkien ("Beren", 1892–1973), author and academic, together with his wife Edith ("LĂșthien", 1889–1971)

[1] Dumbledore, Allanon, Obi-Wan Kenobi & Yoda, Aslan, Halt the Ranger, Brom & Oromis, Merriman Lyon, Cadvan, Belgarath, and Luthe.

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