• Joellen Kemper

Tolkien, the Romantic

This past week I found myself swooning over Strider telling the story of Beren and Luthien (Tinuviel). Some people may not enjoy all of the backstories being mixed in with the central story, but these are the sort of details my heart feasts upon. Let's face it, I'm female, so if it also involves love (such as this one), it's major bonus points.


While adventuring through Middle Earth, Tolkien has been leaving me amazed at his various means and talents to telling a story- prose, illustrations, and poetry. So it's no surprise that this backstory comes with some beautiful verses. This tiny sample is from Chapter 11 of The Fellowship of the Ring:


"The leaves were long, the grass was green,

The hemlock-umbels tall and fair,

And in the glade a light was seen

Of stars in shadow shimmering.

Tinuviel was dancing there

To music of a pipe unseen,

And light of stars was in her hair,

And in her raiment glimmering.


There Beren came from mountains cold,

And lost he wandered under leaves,

And where the Elven river rolled

He walked alone and sorrowing.

He peered between the hemlock-leaves

And saw in wonder flowers of gold

Upon her mantle and her sleeves,

and her hair like shadow following.


Enchantment healed his weary feet

That over hills were doomed to roam;

And forth he hastened, strong and fleet,

And grasped at moonbeams glistening."


...It truly is a wonderful backstory, filled with Tolkien's delicately dazzling attention to detail. I would say more, but that would spoil the fun for any first time readers (and those who have already read, should know where I am coming from).


I will say though, upon further research into the creation of this backstory, I found out that Tolkien's wife was his muse. In a letter to his son he wrote:


"I never called Edith Luthien- but she was the source of the story that in time became the chief part of The Silmarillion [for those who may not know, this a separate book about the elder days before LOTR]. It was first conceived in a small woodland glade filled with hemlocks at Roos in Yorkshire (where I was for a brief time in command of an outpost of the Humber Garrison in 1917, and she was able to live with me for a while). In those days her hair was raven, her skin clear, her eyes brighter than you have seen them, and she could sing- and dance."




So there you have it. And if that wasn't heart stopping enough, I present to you the gravestone where Tolkien and his wife were laid to rest:




My joy in this backstory is now complete.

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© 2018 by Joellen Kemper

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