Write Yourself Alive: Day 23 – The Academic

Today’s Prompt: Write a two-three paragraph praise note about your favourite author, in the third person. Mention what is peculiar or special about their style, how you met or fell in love with their work and what their writing does to you, how they inspire you to write your own self alive. If they are still living, send it to them.

Standing in the Medieval Library of Merton College, open only to Mertonians and to the public by private tour. Dating back to the 14th Century, it is the oldest academic library in the world still in regular use, and was a go-to for Merton professor, JRR Tolkien. Oxford, UK, July 2014.
Standing in the Medieval Library of Merton College, open only to Mertonians and to the public by private tour. Dating back to the 14th Century, it is the oldest academic library in the world still in regular use, and was a go-to for Merton professor, JRR Tolkien. Oxford, UK, July 2014.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. Writer. Professor. Poet. He is the creator of a legendarium that has influenced readers, writers, and movie-goers around the world over the last six decades, and will continue to influence us for many years to come. Though Jen had known of The Hobbit book in her childhood, her upbringing in Manila (by two parents who aren’t fond readers) did not bring her in direct contact with Tolkien’s work until one night in December 2000, as she sat in a movie theatre. The film was so insignificant, in hindsight, considering she can’t recall what it was, but what she does recall was seeing this trailer before it:

Jen was amazed. The sad thing was that her first thought was, “It’s like Harry Potter, except bigger and more badass.” Yes, she’s well aware that she ought to be flogged for such a comparison (no disrespect to Potter, but the two are ultimately incomparable). Point being, her near-twelve year old self was entirely enraptured.

Fast-forward to January 2003. Weeks prior, she had just watched The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. It was only at this point that she finally knuckled down and read the book from cover to cover. Many late nights were spent (some with a flashlight under the blankets) as she read chapter upon chapter, wanting and needing to know what happened next to Frodo, to Aragorn, to the Rohirrim, to Faramir. She’s relieved, to be honest, that she chose to do so after seeing the first two films, rather than attempting it as an eleven year old. At fourteen, Jen had her brain wrapped around literature far better, and her personal interests were far more fixated on history. This interest is what helped her digest the text far better. It’s heavy, to be sure; it’s written in an encyclopaedic way – and that’s quite possibly what makes Jen so incredibly fond of it.

As a worldbuilder herself, Jen absolutely adored Tolkien’s attention to detail. While many would find themselves off-put by his writing style, perhaps taken out of the universe by his technical writing, she found herself all the more immersed in it. Tolkien’s work – rambles and overwriting and all – felt like a proper history, a proper record of the past. If you’d told her today that the Shire, Rohan, Gondor… these places and its peoples existed centuries ago, she’d say, “Well… that explains a lot.” Tolkien’s work feels real, regardless of the fact that it’s considered “high fantasy.”

Tolkien’s work is an inspiration to Jen. While she knows she doesn’t have the know-how to create a world – complete with languages, cultures, customs – the way he did, she can say that his books have allowed her to see the world in a different way. Everything is brighter, more colourful, wondrous, and in equal measures dark, intense, and awe-striking in Jen’s world view now, far more than it ever was before.

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