Among the many books that I have enjoyed or have had a large influence on my life are some that I discovered when I was young. One of the most important such works is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings. This magnificent work, which is one novel, divided into three books: The Fellowship Of The Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return Of The King, is not only the most important work of modern fantasy, but it is also the contemporary work of British mythology. It is, in my not so humble opinion, one of the most important novels of the 20th Century.
Released in 3 parts from 1954 to 1955, this work has not only become an extraordinary bestseller, but also it influenced story-telling, writing, and movie making continually to the present day.
I was a young teenager when I read the book, deep in the heart of the Vietnam War era, in a time when everything was being questioned, and corruption was rampant in our society. Actually, it has not seemed to change all that much, with the exception of the myriad of good and decent people who are trying to make positive contributions to our world. This book captured my heart and mind immediately, and I have reread the entire book about once every ten years or so. I am due for another rereading soon.
Tolkien was a deeply important linguist, and he developed a new language—Elvish, complete with syntax, vocabulary, and an alphabet. This work and his academic work would have made him one of the preeminent thinkers of the 20th Century. His writing of this novel puts him in the upper echelon of writers.
Almost any theme that can be considered is included in this work: life and death, good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, the consequences of the industrial age on an agrarian culture, the place of war, the importance of ordinary people as well as leaders, the hero and the quest, and the workings of the human heart are just a few that could be mentioned. I have been concerned my entire life with the issue of good and evil and when evil must be confronted. Tolkien, who fought in World War I and saw the horror of World War Two, examines this issue in depth. For a world that experienced the twin terrors of those wars, Tolkien’s book becomes a place to examine how such fighting impacts people.
No matter how many times I read this magnificent work, I never cease to be astounded by it. It is not a book intended for children, as The Hobbit is, as some have mistakenly thought. It is a work for adults and through the lens of fantasy, deals with extremely important human issues.
I know I will read The Lord Of The Rings throughout the rest of my life.
In my next installment, I will discuss a particular play that has had huge impact on me.