Wednesday, January 22, 2020

"Shot through with meaning"

Christopher Tolkien died last week. From "Christopher Tolkien Was The Unsung Hero Of Middle Earth":
My map
.... From the very beginning, Tolkien had a hand in crafting what would become one of the greatest literary achievements of modern times. As a boy, he would point out inconsistencies in the ornate stories his father told—stories that eventually became The Hobbit, first published in 1937 when Christopher was just 13. He helped his father sort through competing versions of stories, histories, timelines, and especially the geography. He drew the now-famous map of Middle Earth that accompanied the 1954 publication of Lord of the Rings, giving shape to the world that helped form his imagination, and in turn shaping the imagination of millions.

It is not too much to say that without Christopher Tolkien, we would not really have J.R.R. Tolkien or the fully realized world of Middle Earth. How much poorer we would be without it. Although The Lord of the Rings and the entire Tolkien compendium established fantasy as a literary genre, these works were themselves far more than fantasy as we understand the term today. J.R.R. Tolkien called them fairy-stories, but he meant it in a sacramental sense.

The world of Middle Earth, with its elves and dwarves and wizards and orcs, was shot through with meaning, and it revealed something true about our own world, not just about good and evil but about truth, beauty, and goodness as such. That’s why the saga of Middle Earth has resonated down the century. We recognize ourselves in this enchanted world, where the veil between the spiritual and physical is thinner, and in that recognition our world becomes re-enchanted, despite the ravages of scientism and secularism and modernity. ....
I've owned the map since high school. I didn't know it was the work of Christopher Tolkien.

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