Wednesday, February 18, 2015

What J. R. R. Tolkien Means to Me

By Kelly Bridgewater

If you read my blog post last month, I wrote on the importance of C.S. Lewis to me as a writer. This month, I will return to another writer who actually had a huge hand in converting C.S. Lewis to a Christian, which I’m extremely grateful. Without him, I don’t think we would have such lasting words of fiction and literary criticism from C.S. Lewis. He helped formed Lewis’ outlook on life. He was C.S. Lewis critique partner, even though he really didn’t like the Narnia stories.

Who am I talking about?

Why J. R. R. Tolkien, of course. You know, the creator of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Unlike with C. S. Lewis, I never read these books as a kid. I read them as an adult. I remember going to see Thirteen Days with my husband and a friend of ours. During the previews, he got all excited as they showed images for the upcoming movie The Fellowship of the Ring. I had never even heard about the books, but being an avid reader, I found them at the local library and took them home to read.

I fell in love with the story. Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, and Hobbit all living beside the Race of Man. I enjoyed how the story centered on a tiny ring, which could control and destroy lives. No one was immune to the powers of the small, sparkly circle. Even the landscape of Mordor was barren and dead, I enjoyed the land of the hobbits as they sat around and ate all day, doing nothing. What a life.

I loved the land of the elves who believed in magic and higher knowledge, even though they honestly didn’t want to share any of it with anyone else. Similarly, the dwarfs were fond of gold and hated the elves that didn’t come to help them in time of need. The Race of Man felt the need to control everything and deemed themselves better than the others who resided in their outer kingdoms.

J. R. R. Tolkien taught me that conflict between others is important to creating a good story. Even though we rooted for Frodo and Samwise to reach Mount Doom to dispose of the ring, we still felt bad for crazy Gollum who became obsessed with the ring and could think of nothing else. We watched the Orcs invade on the Race of Man a number of times.

Without conflict, the victory at the end of The Return of the King would not have been so sweet and victorious. We jumped in glee as Frodo surrendered his finger to selfish Gollum and watched him die in the lava of Mount Doom, destroying the enemy. I don’t know about you, but when the tower under the eye collapsed in on itself, I smiled and had to bat back tears that threatened to fall. It was a great moment.

Even though, one day there will be no conflict when we go to heaven, it is essential to every story we create. If there isn’t any conflict, then the readers won’t look forward to the “happily ever after” moment at the end of the story. I look forward to the day when there will be no problems in real life anymore.

But until that day, conflict needs to reside in the pages of our stories.

Are you a fan of J. R. R. Tolkien’s writing? Or have you just seen the movies? What do you take away from the books or movies as a writer or a reader?


  1. Nice job, Kelly. I discovered Tolkien through Mr. Spock in elementary school. Back in the day, Leonard Nimoy recorded a song (yes, on a vinyl record) called "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins."

    Tolkien is a master of imagery. I once penned an article called "Tips from Tolkien." Watch how he animates inanimate objects as sunlight glints off spear tips, or as the path to Cirith Ungol winds back and forth up the moutains of Mordor. Extremely interesting to study his style. Oh, and similes--they're his comparison of choice. Really, Tolkien was an expert in the use of language, whether of Men, Elves, or Dwarves!

    1. Thank you, Rick. Where was your article published? I would love to read it.

  2. Kelly, I didn't discover Tolkien until adulthood, but was shared my husband's addiction after he regaled me with a summary of The Hobbit on a five-hour drive through dense fog! I've thoroughly enjoyed both books and movies since then. The conflicts and imagery both keep us reading, don't they?

    Um, Rick, did you have Leonard Nimoy's record, too? I don't remember the Baggins song. I mostly remember how disappointed I was that Mr. Spock really didn't sing so well. ...

    1. Thank you for responding, Rachael. I bet that five hour car ride was interesting. It sparked your interest in Tolkien.

  3. For Kelly: I'm embarrassed that I've forgotten which writer magazine published that piece, but I still have it on my website even thought the site has been regeared since then:

    For Rachael: My brother bought the record. Nimoy has reused the song many times in spoofs, but here is the original: