There are times when a piece of work becomes something other than just a novel, poem, a song or piece of art. Somehow it reaches out of its own accord to touch the soul of thousands, sometimes millions, of people across the world.
Unbeknownst to the creator of the piece, who perhaps worked in solitude and probably for the most private of reasons, their work develops a tangible persona and maybe even an agenda of its own. In the creation process it forges a life beyond its creator, and, when finally birthed into the world, it surges forward like a tsunami to change lives in ways that the originator could never have intended or even have imagined.
As with all works of inspiration there is something magical, intangible and possibly even shamanic about the way they come into our lives. They crash head long into our emotional matrix opening our eyes, blow our hearts and minds into other worlds as well as knocking us into new ways of seeing and feeling.
This is certainly true of The Lord of the Rings and so much more of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work.
From a very personal point of view Tolkien’s work did and does hold magic in epic proportions for me. I visit and revisit both The Hobbit and L.O.T.Rings at least once a year, either by listening to the audio books or by watching the (to my mind at least) slightly inadequate Peter Jackson films. Just don’t ask me to go into my feelings on them as I am aware that I am a bit unreasonable in my views, particularly about some of the fundamental aspects of story murder he committed. However they are cinematically beautiful and for many reasons I will grudgingly watch them with my family and friends, who will happily stuff a sock in my mouth to stifle the screaming at various points, when it all gets a bit much for me.
Reading the books as a much younger person opened my mind to an epic landscape, they showed me an idea of how humans could be and broke my heart when the Elves left this world. I still sob uncontrollably at the end of the book, even the thought of it is making me tear up as I write this post. Even having to sit through the unbearably sugary way PJ deals with the end of the story in the film can’t dull the emotions of loss I feel from the original.
So it was odd that after all these years I was finally struck with an epiphany this morning, as I was again pondering why I respond so emotionally to this story. Since I first engaged with the stories even the mention of Elves makes my heart flutter and my eyes well up with tears. What it is about them that makes my heart break? After having watched all three films this week, I suddenly realised it is a profound and overwhelming sense of loss for their world and mine that I feel as the Elves sail away from the Grey Havens. When the Elves leave they take with them the enchantment from the land, something dies in it and I am left on the shores of Middle Earth amidst a fading beauty, as they sail on into the distance. The realisation that now humans will have no restraints in their actions and will push forward the rise of mechanism, commerce on a global scale, and a discarding of anything that even looks like ‘fluffy’ thinking. My Middle Earth will never be the same again and I am constantly mourning its passing through this story. It leads me to wonder if some part of that feeling is what drove Tolkien to write his story.
As a fifty something woman I am starting to feel my age in the way I think. Occasionally I fall pray to the “In my day” ‘rose-tinted’ view of how things were ‘back in the day’. I don’t really think times were ever any better as such, no, definitely not better. But maybe the problems seemed more understandable, more bite sized and chewable. In truth they were not, but memory is a funny thing, as we all know, it can warp and change how we view the past.
I know that things on the global scale have always been complicated, difficult and a fine tightrope walk between warring factions, people in famine and glut, all striving for a peaceful coexistence. It is only the access to media coverage that bring the problems so close to home leaving me with the sense that I am standing before the Black Gates of Mordor, with the armies of the enemy massing on the other side and the Great Eye glaring down on me from his Tower.
I have felt like a Hobbit suddenly exposed to a huge, wide world of madness and infamy and felt overwhelmed in the face of the epic scheme of things. So the loss of the Elf allies that held the mystery and magic is a blow to a little Hobbit. What do you hold onto if there is no ancient wisdom that can whisper into your heart and make you feel that all things can be achieved, even by the smallest of us?
I think this is why I follow a Druidic path. It is why our myths and legends are so real for me. They are full of the words of Elves whispering through our ancient forbears and across the sundering seas into my heart, giving me ways to travel through this epic landscape with my mind and soul full of magic, when all might seem too dark.
In my real world there is a wealth of things to be hopeful about and there is plenty of magic to tap into, if I look for it, which I do all the time. And I do wonder if the rise of the fantasy genre is in someway an attempt for more secular members of our society to recapture some of the enchantment that has been lacking.
It is a way for everyone to tap into epic ideas and magical adventures and fill the empty space left behind when the Elves left us, when they sailed away never to return.
My world is full of magic and mystery, the Gods, the Faye and all things fantastical and I love it.
I will happily fly the flag of the Elves from the shores of Middle Earth and fill my heart with joy and sorrow by engaging with their stories. After all these were inspired by the ancient tales and legends of our ancestors that Tolkien was so adept at studying and reading.
Many people have adventured through Tolkien’s magical portal following Bilbo to Rivendell and Frodo into Mordor along their winding paths. Through their epic landscapes the paths wound around their adventures, much of the time we saw through their eyes the majesty and magic of their world, at others, we felt the loss of innocence, the loss of enchantment and cold fury of the dark hearts who sought to rule. But, through it all there was always hope in the darkest of places and a true heart would be guided to find the light of Eärendil (the Morning and Evening star).
All the things we create, the beautiful and even the ugly, are grown from seeds sown in our hearts and minds by all that’s gone before. We take our emotions, our thoughts and feelings and weave them into the fabric of the universe, always hoping they become inspirations for those who follow our winding paths.
The Road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
Thank you Tolkien for opening a portal from my world into yours. As for Peter Jackson’s films? Well, it was a good effort, but, no biscuit from me. However, I will have to concede that it is entirely possible many more people may have found the joys of Tolkien’s world through those films, who knows? So on second thought, maybe I will give him a biscuit after all.