I was born six years to the day of this date–on Labor Day, no less. When I learned this, it made this year special. Considering I’m in the middle of a trilogy about elves in Middle-Earth, that probably wouldn’t surprise anyone. However, during my writing adventure, I’ve learned quite a lot about John Ronald Reuel Tolkien and we both have a lot more in common than I realized.
We were orphans: He lost his parents at a young age while I was abandoned in the hospital shortly after birth. Back in 1972, when you were orphaned in my town, you make the papers. My “adopted” mother showed me the clipping about me. Description of a baby with a number; an advertisement asking someone to claim me. No one did until my adopted parents decided to take me home. I was officially adopted at the age of 7.
Tolkien died two days before my first birthday. I don’t remember much but by the time I was two, I wanted to be a writer and the poet laureate of England. I had no idea what an “England” was, much less a poet laureate. It just sounded nice. I wrote my first story and was irritated my mother couldn’t read it. In her defense, it was rather hard to understand.
For the record, I saw ‘once upon a time’. I wrote perfectly on the lines so my parents decided to teach me how to read and write. I loved putting words together; I enjoyed how they could say many things based on their position in a sentence. I loved finding new meanings to words. I read constantly from the age of three when my parents realized I wasn’t just remembering certain words–I was sounding new ones out and understanding what I was reading. My first full book was The Story of My Life by Helen Keller. I was five and wandered around the house blind-folded with ear muffs on trying to understand how she lived.
When I received Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth by Catherine Mellwine, I learned how Tolkien and his brother Hilary learned much from their mother about reading and writing. Our mothers seemed keen on expanding our understanding of the world through words. Since our youth from different places across time, we both seemed rather curious about words–old and new and the creation of them.
Somewhere in my adolescence, I finally met J.R.R. Tolkien via The Hobbit. It was seventh grade and I spent much of that time getting on the nerves of my English Teacher, Mrs. Brock. She knew how to keep me quiet–give me a book. I didn’t remember much from seventh grade–I entered public school knowing Spanish and reading at a college level. But I remembered the answer to the extra credit question on our test about The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings: Tom Bombadil. I was the only person that got that one. I often wonder why that name came up; I just remember reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings back to back and loved reading them. The adventures got lost in my head and remained there until now when I rediscovered them again.
I feel in my darkest hour, they came back to me. Right on time, the Good Professor showed up again telling me to “see beyond all that lingers”. Go back to the days of wonderment when you could read something to make sense of reality. Find that noble cause where heroes were valiant and good would triumph over evil. Not easily, mind you but eventually. Go on an adventure; there is more than meets the eye.
So I did. I’m still on my wondrous adventure with J.R.R. Tolkien. Most recently, I got The Fall of Gondolin. I have all but two books by J.R.R. Tolkien and then some. I learned one thing about Tolkien; we can’t seem to get enough of telling stories. Even now, I can find another adventure re-reading The Hobbit–as if he left more adventures between the lines intentionally. There’s a winding road that goes ever on and on.
The other day, I wrote the name of one of my new characters in Tengwar and learned more about the creative mind of Tolkien. Wordplay with a lasting legacy, I dare say. Even that was an adventure.
Still learning. I like that. Happy Birthday to Me.–Jaynaé Marie Miller