Saturday, October 1, 2011

Uncle Tolkien

Imagine knowing Tolkien.  Personally.  Not  the affable old pipe-smoking Oxford Don, his accent so think he is barely comprehensible, scribbling about holes in the ground wherein live hobbits.  Let’s just start with the young, scholarly roughneck, i.e., a guy named Ronald who has alread kicked his share of both mental and literal ass.  A rugby player throughout his school years, by the time got his scholarship to Oxford, he had broken his nose, cut off a chunk of his tongue, and gained a firm, well-deserved reputation as the wrong dude to mess with.

And yet, when he got there, he and his friends translated nursery rhymes into Anglo Saxon.

It would boggle the mind.  We'd probably laugh, and in our meaner moods, talk about him behind his back:  

That guy is nuts.  Who does that?  That’s just insane, lol. 

And he did this while already regularly smoking his pipe… which he would later in life fill with a special cocktail of tobacco and opium.

And from there, it just gets more bizarre:   

He disliked Shakespeare.  With a passion.   And anything French.  The language.  The cooking.  All of it.  He was the one who converted C.S. Lewis back to Christianity.  And he and his wife are buried in the same grave… below a tombstone inscribed "Beren" and "Lúthien," in honor of two characters from The Silmarillion.

… and have you read The Silmarillion?...  Good googly moogly.

So how on Earth did he describe us so well?... What I mean to say is that, while almost none of us consider ourselves very Tolkienesque, we can all find ourselves a bit hobbitish from time to time, can't we?  His heroes are chubby, for God's sake!  How fantastic is that?  They love to eat, just like us.  They want to drink a bit, dance a bit, and get into just a little bit of trouble... 

And yet, there he sits, Tolkien.  Off in a corner of our mind, war hero, eccentric, perched there like some uncle we will never fully understand but always love.   He taught many of us our love of language and made a simple, green life far less hippy-ish and political.

It boggles the mind beyond boggling....


  1. I'm not published (yet), but love to read and plan on tracking down a couple books I've just discovered, thanks to your request to follow my Tweets. :)

    I also have a blog, probably not quite up your alley but in case you're interested I post at

  2. Great post! Great portrait of our favourite Uncle! :)