Some examples of a work rich in values and offering many lessons

Eight reflexions from the writer J.R.R. Tolkien on the 50th anniversary of his death

On September 2, 1973, 50 years ago today, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, died in England.

'Namárië': The most spectacular version of the farewell song written by Tolkien
'In Durin's Day': una magnífica y nostálgica canción enana de 'El Señor de los Anillos'

Tolkien is world famous for being the author of "The Lord of the Rings" (my favorite literary work), "The Hobbit" and "The Silmarillion". Tolkien's books are epic works in which the struggle of good against evil is captured, both between great powers and within their own protagonists. Although the British writer rejected allegories, his deep Catholic faith left a clear mark on his stories, projecting his Christian principles and his conservative thinking in a multitude of situations and characters.

That is why Tolkien's work is very rich in values, especially in some that current hegemonic thinking seems determined to banish: courage, hope, the spirit of sacrifice, loyalty and, above all, everything, the conviction that good and evil exist and that we must choose between one and the other in a multitude of situations in our lives, a choice that is not always easy, in which we must not take by appearances and that tests our character as people.

You can read below some of Tolkien's reflections that have made me think the most over the years, since I first read "The Lord of the Rings" as a teenager, more than a year ago. 30 years old:

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

(The Hobbit. Chapter 18)

'I wish it need not have happened in my time,' said Frodo.
'So do I,' said Gandalf, 'and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'

(The Fellowship of the Ring. Book I. Chapter 2)

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;

The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.”

(The Fellowship of the Ring. Book I. Chapter 10)

‘Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens,’ said Gimli.
‘Maybe,’ said Elrond, ‘but let him not vow to walk in the dark, who has not seen the nightfall.’”

(The Fellowship of the Ring. Book II. Chapter 3)

Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

(The two Towers. Book IV. Chapter 1)

“It was Sam’s first view of a battle of Men against Men, and he did not like it much. He was glad that he could not see the dead face. He wondered what the man’s name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace.”

(The two Towers. Book IV. Chapter 4)

It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.”

(The return of the King. Book V. Chapter 9)

And lastly there is the oldest and deepest desire, the Great Escape: the Escape from Death. Fairy-stories provide many examples and modes of this—which might be called the genuine escapist, or (I would say) fugitive spirit. But so do other stories (notably those of scientific inspiration), and so do other studies. Fairy-stories are made by men not by fairies. The Human- stories of the elves are doubtless full of the Escape from Deathlessness. But our stories cannot be expected always to rise above our common level. They often do. Few lessons are taught more clearly in them than the burden of that kind of immortality, or rather endless serial living, to which the “fugitive” would fly. For the fairy-story is specially apt to teach such things, of old and still today. Death is the theme that most inspired George MacDonald.

But the “consolation” of fairy-tales has another aspect than the imaginative satisfaction of ancient desires. Far more important is the Consolation of the Happy Ending. Almost I would venture to assert that all complete fairy-stories must have it. At least I would say that Tragedy is the true form of Drama, its highest function; but the opposite is true of Fairy-story. Since we do not appear to possess a word that expresses this opposite—I will call it Eucatastrophe. The eucatastrophic tale is the true form of fairy-tale, and its highest function.

(On Fairy Stories)

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