Friday, January 3, 2003

You know, most devotees of this figure or that celebrate 100th, 150th or even 500th anniversaries of births or deaths.

Not so with Tolkien.

Today is his "eleventy-first" birthday - he was born on January 3, 1892.

(The reason? Because The Fellowship of the Ring opens with the scene of the celebration of Bilbo Baggins' eleventy-first birthday)

Here's a link to the Tolkien Society page commemorating the day and here's a Chicago Tribune article.

I'm not a LOTR fanatic by any means. It's fine, but fantasy, no matter how morally grounded and carefully detailed, is just not my genre. In fact, it's the careful details that bore me more than anything else. But I do find Tolkien to be an interesting figure, and those of you who aren't familiar with the details of his childhood and youth. The fact is, his father died in 1896 when JRR was three, and in 1900, having moved the family back to England (from South Africa, where Tolkien was born), his mother converted to Roman Catholicism (and brought the boys with her), a move which estranged her especially from her late husband's side of the family. They apparently refused to assist her financially after this point, a situation which Tolkien, in retrospect, believed was responsible for his mother's early death of diabetes, in 1904. After this point, Tolkien and his brother were cared for at times by relatives, but were primarily under the charge of a priest, Father Francis Morgan.

Tolkien always thought of his mother as a martyr for her faith, and her commitment to what she had come to see as the truth, no matter what the cost, obviously had a profound effect on his own faith and his work as well.

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