Happy 2021 (and Tolkien’s Birthday!)

A belated merry Christmas and happy New Year!

2020 was quite a year. While there’s a lot that could be said, I prefer to dwell on the positive. For my family, that means celebrating our second child. Nothing has made my heart happier than watching my first excitedly anticipate the arrival of her sister and watch her fall in love as she helps me care for both of them. It’s been a beautiful way to end one year and start the next.

While there are a lot of great things about starting a new year, one of my favorites is that there are still things to celebrate as the holiday season fades. (We keep everything up until Epiphany, but that only did so much to keep the Christmas spirit alive after the New Year.) Specifically, there’s Tolkien’s birthday, which is today!

For me, that means lots of tea and a toast at 9 pm local time “to the Professor.” Usually, there are Middle-earth related shirts, but since everything doesn’t fit immediately postpartum, I’ve settled for an homage to Gondorian style instead.

And it means starting the year off feeling inspired to write. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but it wasn’t until I was in my tweens and read The Hobbit for the first time that my passion really began. While there are plenty of writers who have inspired me over the years, none have left a mark quite like his.

So here’s to another year of celebrating the Professor and to a new year. May Tolkien’s work be a reminder that there is light in dark places and that the King still has a crown.

SB Roberts 2021

The Hope of Tolkien Reading Day

Today is one of my favorite holidays of the year: Tolkien Reading Day. The odd thing, though, is that I forgot about it until my day had already begun. Of course, I suppose it’s not that odd considering the odd turn life has taken lately.

For the past few weeks, I feel like I’ve been living in a Twilight Zone episode. (From its original run in the 1950’s and 60’s, just to be clear.) As the pandemic came closer to home, everything began closing its doors. And a miasma of fear and uncertainty followed. Sometimes, the air feels a little clearer, but uncertainty continues to cling like a twilight fog.

Back to today, though. When I finally did realize it was Tolkien Reading Day, the first thing I did was change my shirt. The first Tolkien shirt I found bears the Tree of Gondor. Seven stars, seven stones, and one white tree.

When I saw it, I felt like Sam as he and Frodo trekked into Mordor. They passed a statue of a King of Gondor that had been defaced by the enemy. Its original head lay on the ground, and it reflected the hopelessness of the situation. But then some sunlight broke through the clouds and Sam could only smile. He realized that the King’s fallen head had a crown again–one made of a flowering vine growing over the statue’s brow. It was a whisper of hope.

Like us, Gondor once sat in its own miasma of fear and uncertainty. Mordor’s forces were growing, and Sauron thought he was poised to win the war and conquer all of Middle-earth. Little did he know that the King was on the way and his source of power was about to be destroyed.

While this might not be fictional Gondor, we can hold on to the same hope that Sam felt seeing the statue’s flower crown. The same hope Tolkien clung to through two World Wars.

As Sam so eloquently puts in The Two Towers (film), “Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer.”

As this moment in history happens, let’s cling to hope too. The King still has his crown, and a new day will come.

Tolkien and Lewis’ Movie Date

When I think of JRR Tolkien’s contemporaries, I usually think of CS Lewis and the rest of the Inklings. I rarely think about what was happening on the other side of the pond — even though that’s where I live.

As anyone familiar with Tolkien knows, he had strong opinions, and that went for his contemporaries. One of those — one I never thought of — is Walt Disney.

Back in the 1937, The Hobbit and Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves made their debuts in their respective countries. Since both have always been a part of my life, I never realized that they came out within months of one another and share a protagonist surrounded by a band of dwarves. It’s just fascinating to think about.

While I don’t know what Walt Disney thought of Tolkien’s work, Tolkien certainly wasn’t a fan of him. Neither was Lewis.

Unlike the past several generations, they grew up only knowing the original (and usually darker) versions of fairy tales. To see dwarves — the creatures of Norse mythology — playing jazz and being downright goofy just felt wrong.

I can understand it. When Frozen first came out, I was appalled by just how different the story is from Hans Christian Andersen’s original fairy tale. There are a handful of similar elements, but besides those things, the stories couldn’t be more different. Since then, I’ve warmed up to it (pun only sort of intended) and have come to like it as its own thing, but certainly not as adaptation. “Inspired by,” sure. “Adaptation”? Definitely not.

Needless to say, it was a fascinating read. If you want to check out the full article, it’s available here.

What are your thoughts on different adaptations of films? Have you ever found yourself in Tolkien and Lewis’ shoes?