Saturday, January 03, 2009

Calendar of the Heart: J.R.R. Tolkien, January 3, 1892

It's the 117th anniversary of J.R.R. Tolkien's birth today. I try to keep what I think of as my own heart's calendar, which includes the birthdays of loved ones, but also the birthdays (or feast days) of saints, poets, writers, artists and musicians who have gone before, leaving the world a much more beautiful place.

To celebrate Tolkien today I turned to this paragraph near the end of The Return of the King. If you've read and loved Lord of the Rings, then you know this moment. It's the place in the narrative I can hardly ever see clearly for tears:

"Then Frodo kissed Merry and Pippin, and last of all Sam, and went aboard; and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew, and slowly the ship slipped away down the long gray firth; and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore glimmered and was lost. And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed on into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise."

Do you ever stop to think how Tolkien and Lewis must have felt when they entered into glory? Both seemed to peek past the veil while still here. Both had such a wondrous, numinous sense of "the other side." You can feel the awe and wonder in their descriptions of light, water, fragrance. More real, you can practically hear them murmur, more real than anything we've ever known, even on our most real days.


Erin said...

Happy birthday, Professor! That's such a beautiful passage. And I thought it was so well done in the movie, too; the music for the Grey Havens is probably my favorite in the entire trilogy...

Beth said...

Oy, my first comment got eaten! Oh well. :-) I was saying that I haven't seen the film trilogy in a long time, and must remedy that soon. Also wondering if this might not be a good year to do a re-read of Tolkien -- I could feel myself gearing up and wanting to go way, way back to story's beginning as I read the final pages of ROTK.

I do typically re-read LOTR (as well as the Chronicles) every few years or so. Tolkien takes a much larger time investment, and I'm thinking it's been about eight years since I tackled the trilogy (and longer than that since I've read the Hobbit).

At the moment, I'm busy re-reading the Dorothy Sayers Wimsey/Vane mysteries...I'm up to Gaudy Night. I love those and am trying to review them all on Epinions this winter!