I couldn’t let this day go by–though much of it has been quite busy. I’m spending the week trying to make a new schedule for writing and living while answering questions here and there about the availability of the books from new readers. When I’m writing, most people probably imagine I don’t think about John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. For the past three years, I think the only two “professors” on my mind were my father and Professor Tolkien. We belonged to an exclusive club and now two members of that club are beyond the reach of this world.
According to myth, I was taken home to live with my parents at the age of one year. The year I turned one was 4 September 1973. Two days before, the world had lost the creator of Middle-Earth. I don’t remember much of my first year but when I was 2, I already decided I wanted to be a writer. I was going to be the poet laureate of England. I speculate that I was in a room with a television that was talking about such things and put the idea in my head. I do remember wondering what was England and wondering if it were some land beyond a rainbow or something. All I knew I wanted to write something–anything. My mother and father decided at that moment to begin to teach me how to read and actually write.
I learned quickly–by the time I was three, I could read to myself. It loved fairy tales. I still do. I found a rare copy of my favorite fairy tale book about a year ago. By seventh grade, I was one of two of the youngest students in my Junior High School. The first semester of my First-Hour English Class, I spent annoying my teacher. The second semester she handed out another book to read. Before the second semester, we read The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford and I believe The Learning Tree by Gordon Parks. I know we read Old Yeller by Fred Gipson. The second semester was The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. I didn’t remember much, but I became fascinated by the idea of writing fantasy–so much so, I began one of my own (coming soon). Somewhere between seventh and eighth grade, I received a lovely doorstop to read. It was The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Keep in mind, I had read The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon at the age of seven (don’t ask) and to this day, the effect it had on me lingers and not for the reason most would think. It was the literary structure of the story that I fell in love with. Until that moment, the first novel I read at age five was The Story of My Life by Helen Keller. By the time I was introduced to Tolkien, I was already well-read. From Shakespeare on, I just couldn’t stop reading.
It wasn’t until I returned home from Los Angeles in 2001 that I would find my way back to my fantasy roots. It began with seeing the first two Harry Potter films. Naturally, being a nerd, I was upset I didn’t read the books first. The story of an orphaned wizard going to an exclusive school in a castle of magical people was intriguing so I bought the books. Next thing I remember, I saw The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers with someone and in the back of my mind, I kept wonder why I didn’t remember half the stuff in the films being in the books.
I shook it off and went to school to get my Master’s Degree in History and hoped to work in a library one day. I thought one day my life in Los Angeles would be possible, but as with everything in life, things change. While working my way back to L.A., my father had a mild stroke in my front yard. Before that moment, I had been reintroduced to Tolkien via a really tall blonde Elvenking in the Hobbit Trilogy. In the back of my mind, I kept wondering where in Tolkien was this guy. The seeds that Tolkien had sown in my head at the age of 12 were starting to grow and it would be a few months later the vines would begin to strangle me.
I was never told what was wrong with my father–to this day I don’t know because my family won’t tell me–but before he died, I put down my dreams of Hollywood and pick up The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. By March of 2018, my father got to see the first book of my Trilogy, The Saga of Thranduil. Before my father died in October of 2018, I had every book with the name Tolkien on it.
What was more shocking than one day deciding to write a book about The Elvenking and completing 500 pages in under three years was all the things I had read over the years across many literary genres were actually preparing me for the moment I would write my first book. They always said, to be a writer you have to read. I am not a Kindle person or a Nook person. I believe there is no substitute for turning actual pages. Years later, after reading all those books and more, I remember being the only person in my class that got the extra credit answer right on a test. I don’t remember the question but it had to do with Tolkien–Tom Bombadil.
Today, I know I’ve read more literature than I can remember. Of all those books, poems, plays, fairy tales, anthologies, histories, and novels, a few stuck with me and made big difference in my life.
Happy Birthday, Professor Tolkien.