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Barbara Walking in the Valley
A weekly column for those who live and walk in Silicon Valley

by Barbara Dahlgren

Very Impressive
Column for the week of March 10-16, 2002

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the first of a trilogy of movies (think Back to the Future 1, 2, and 3) based on J. R. R. Tolkien's writings, is still going strong at the movie theaters. Now that it topped the Oscar nominations in 13 categories, it will probably be around a lot longer. (And on a personal note I feel whoever designed the feet on those Hobbits deserves a special award! It gives a whole new perspective to "Big Foot!") Tolkien aficionados either loved or hated the movie. I loved it but then I've only read of few of Tolkien's writings. There are those who consider his books kin to a religious experience and not only have read everything he's written from the Hobbit to the 12 volumes of the History of Middle Earth but memorized parts of the languages he created for some of them. Thus Tolkien Societies and Tolkien websites abound.

With the popularity of the Lord of the Rings movie, there has been a resurgence of interest in Tolkien. I became acutely aware of this when I was in line at Burger King. The lawyer type gentleman in front of me had a Tolkien book tucked under his arm and he wanted to be sure he got his Lord of the Rings glow in the dark goblet and figurine. Then the woman next to me on a plane was reading a Tolkien book. And I was in the waiting room at the doctor's office and a teenager was reading a Tolkien book. These are books with various titles, which is vastly different than seeing several people reading the same book that perhaps is on the bestseller list. Tolkien is fascinating and impressive.

John Ronald Rueul Tolkien did not have an affluent background. Born in 1892, he lived most of his life in rural England. Orphaned by age 12, he attended the prestigious King Edward's school on scholarship and proved to be linguistically gifted, mastering Latin, Greek, French, German and delving into Gothic, Anglo Saxon, Old Norse and Middle English. He would even make up his own languages, which he later used in some of his writings. He married his childhood sweetheart, fought in World War I, developed "trench fever," was a Lexicographer on the Oxford English Dictionary, was Associate Professor of English Language at University of Leeds, and had four children. He became Professor of Anglo Saxon at Oxford, then changed his chair to become the Merton Professorship of English Language and Literature at Oxford where he remained until he retired. He died in 1973. In between all this he wrote lots of books, stories, and tales and was one of the founding fathers of "The Inklings" a group of authors who met regularly at a pub to converse, drink, and read their present work in progress. Other members included Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, and C.S. Lewis.

Oh yes, and did I mention that he was a Christian? Not only was he a Christian, but also he was influential in atheist, C.S. Lewis, becoming a Christian. C.S. Lewis was an English critic, scholar, and novelist, authoring books like the Chronicles of Narnia. He was considered quite an intellectual and one of the most learned scholars of his time. His idea of fun was to learn the Nordic language one summer just so he could study Nordic literature. One starlit evening Tolkien and Lewis strolled the lovely tree lined Addison's Walk on Magdalen College in Oxford and talked for hours. After which, that very night Lewis, a staunch atheist, became a Christian. It reminds me of the Biblical account of Paul pleading his case before King Agrippa in Acts 26. In verse 28 King Agrippa says, "Almost you persuade me to be a Christian."
Just think, Tolkien and Lewis were two intellectual giants. They studied widely. People study them, their writings, their lives. They were and still are respected, renowned, revered men and they chose to be Christians. I find that very impressive! Christianity might be worth looking into. At least two very impressive men thought so!

©March 2002

Be sure to visit this page every week to read the next edition of Walking in the Valley. You can write to the author at bydahlgren@aol.com.



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