This blog grows out of my conviction that every aspect of our lives is sacred and is to be nurtured and celebrated as a good gift of God. Most of the posts will be the sorts of things you would expect from a historian and worldview teacher, but some are likely to be a bit surprising. Since God created all things good, including all aspects of human life, everything is interesting and important from the perspective of a biblical worldview. Everything under the Sun and under Heaven is thus fair game here. I hope you find it interesting and enjoyable.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Happy Birthday, J. R. R. Tolkien

Today is J. R. R. Tolkien’s 121st birthday. (I wonder if that's the same as eleventy-eleven?)

Tolkien has been my favorite author since I first read him in 1976 prior to my freshman year at Michigan State University. Toward the end of my senior year in high school, I heard about Tolkien from some friends. When I had some time before moving to Michigan for school, I went to a bookstore to buy The Hobbit. I was so taken with it that the next day I went back and bought The Lord of the Rings. I read the complete set four times over the next twelve months, before going to school and in between every trimester at Michigan State. I then bought The Silmarillion as soon as it came out, along with some of the books about Tolkien that were starting to be published in the late-70s.
I was so much of a Tolkien fanatic that one year 23 of my friends all chipped in and bought me a leather bound edition of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, which to this day is the favorite gift I have ever been given and one of my treasured possessions.

From Tolkien, I discovered other fantasy and science fiction authors, including some of my favorites like C. S. Lewis and Roger Zelazny. I also read Larry Niven, Ursula LeGuin, Madeleine L’Engle, …, and took a cognate field (sort of like a minor) in comparative literature. When I graduated from college, I began going to Renaissance festivals, learned about Celtic music and began playing it, and then moved into early music as well. All of which was inspired ultimately by Tolkien.

Tolkien also influenced my theology. His essay “On Faerie Stories” had a number of significant insights in it, but I haven’t completely integrated those into my thinking. Of more importance, however, was the figure of Aragorn. Through his character, Tolkien taught me for the first time, the nature of lordship, and what it meant when I confessed that “Jesus is Lord.” (That is one of the things that was lost in translation in the film version, unfortunately.)

I am glad that Tolkien is getting the recognition he deserves in popular culture, however much I may disagree with some of Jackson’s decisions in the trilogy. Much as I enjoy the films, the distortion of some of the characters has always rubbed me the wrong way. Be that as it may, if the films and the new Hobbit trilogy open up a wider audience for the books, it will be a good thing.

Happy birthday, Professor!