For the past two weeks, I’ve been watching nothing but the Tolkien films. This occurs occasionally, in my Arda-saturated world. The tales JRR Tolkien shared with the world are as ingrained in me, in my soul, as they are in anyone who has ever been moved by a myth or a legend. These are stories as old as time, at least as it is perceived by humankind. You can call it ancestral memory, cellular memory, genetic memory, whatever it is, the remembering experienced by people when immersed in the epic accounts of a nation or race is what drives every generation to redefine the stories to fit their times, and to make sense of the world in which they find themselves.
On the recommendation of my sixth grade English teacher’s son, who was a year my senior, I checked out The Hobbit from the school library, and absorbed it in three days. Before I returned it to school, I read it again, this time more slowly, taking a week. I loved it, but hated the musical abomination that was the Rankin-Bass adaptation. Normally, I loved their TV specials. Not so with their version of The Hobbit. I did, however, love Return of the King, primarily because of Glenn Yarbrough's beautiful song, "Roads Go Ever On."
Even though I had loved the book, it didn’t compel me to pick up The Lord of the Rings, which Gregg also recommended, or The Silmarillion, of which I doubt Gregg was aware, based simply upon his age and how difficult it was to be privy to information, literature, music - basically everything - that wasn’t in the realm of the commonplace. LOTR and The Hobbit were popular enough to be well-known and easily-obtainable in the South. The Silmarillion, on the other hand, had only been published for approximately two years at that time. Even if Gregg knew about it, it was highly doubtful the school library had book!
On the day I took my SAT, in my senior year of high school, Aunt Tudi found a box set, which I still have, of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit at a yard sale she and Granny visited while they waited on me to finish my test. I still did not read LOTR. I was busy with other things at the time, like getting through my last year in high school, preparing for college, and writing this odd collection of mythic stories that were born out of my lighthearted science fiction shorts, originally inspired by the Electric Light Orchestra’s Time album.
In my first year of college, my Humanities professor was impressed with my assignments and asked if I was a writer. I told him I wrote stories and poetry, and had been active in the literary and drama clubs in high school. He asked to see some of work, so I opted to share with him some of the stories of the Rhyllans, and how they came to be.
A week later, Dr. Miller, who happened to be a Tolkien scholar who had taught classes on the old professor's works, asked if I had read The Silmarillion. When I asked why, he informed me that I could be sued for some of the material I had written, if I ever tried to clean it up and get it published. I did not understand but, instead of reading The Silmarillion, I opted to read The Lord of the Rings, under the incorrect assumption that it came before The Silmarillion. Publishing-wise, it did, but I was thinking of the timeline of the narratives themselves.
Of course, I fell in love with The Lord of the Rings, and promptly went to B. Dalton Books and purchased a copy of The Silmarillion, which I still have. When I read the Ainulindalë and Valaquenta, I finally understood Dr. Miller’s warning, and I reconciled with the fact that my Rhyllan myths would never be published in any complete capacity. The one thing I couldn’t understand was why I was unable to make myself change much of anything in my myths, even though their current incarnation would get me chased around by the Tolkien posse.
This is where I want to make it very clear that I am, by no means, comparing my writing to that of JRR Tolkien’s, who far surpasses the greatness of the likes of Clive Barker, and he greatly surpasses even my wildest dreams of scribal skill. The essence of the stories, in particular the Music of Creation and the diminishing of the Dėaghydge, was exceedingly Tolkienesque. Even the Goddess Kessilon, the Dėaghyden Star Goddess, was nearly identical to Varda, albeit a tad more sci-fi in her relationship to the stars. My mind was boggled, and it still is, even though I came to learn the root of the similiarities.
It wasn’t until three years later, when I began to study theology and various theories, one of which was genetic memory, that I understood the connection between my stories and those of JRR Tolkien’s. It wasn’t a connection that involved just myself and Mr. Tolkien; it was one that encompassed a great swathe of the Fantasy literary world and the whole of human myth, be it supposedly dead myths of ancient Greece and Sumeria, or the living religions like Hinduism and Judaism. They are all retellings of a very tiny collection of stories that speak of humanity’s commonality. And the connection doesn’t affect just nations or tribes, or even families; they affect individuals. We all have the capacity, and often the compulsion, to create our own personal myths. This is what I was doing with the Rhyllan folk, and their sister races, the Tarmi and the Thranodiena ~ all three of whom comprised the descendants of the divine Dėaghydhe.
In 1993, I was tasked with deciding on a Craft name, because I had decided to become a Dedicant in the Temple Hecate Triskele. I opted for Tinhuviel, adding the “h” for numerological purposes. Artanis was a name for the Tarmian Goddess of the flora and fauna, tightly connected with bears, owls, and lizards. It wasn’t until about a year later, I discovered that Artanis is also Galadriel’s father-name! So this is why I feel that Tolkien’s works aren’t simply fiction. They have an ancient magick within them. They have the power to bring people together and, sadly, because of their religious nature, they also have the power to pull them apart. Such is the way with spiritual works. JRR Tolkien wanted to create a mythology for England. He certainly did that, but he did so much more. He enriched the mythologies of people around the world, so much so, that scientists have named an entire ancient human race after one of his own. That speaks volumes to me, and it should to any student of JRR Tolkien’s work, or human memory in general.
I know it’s an impossibility, but I would love to know the origins of the stories that are obviously of such great import to our species, that they have been retold for thousands of years, and are as beloved today as they were from time immemorial, with no small thanks to JRR Tolkien.