Every year at this time (usually earlier, hospital got in the way) I read The Lord of the Rings, again. I have done so since 1971 when the trilogy was still riding high with young people and in colleges around the world.
It began innocently enough: like most others who had read the books, there was this feeling that we missed so much on first read that we had to read it again. And, of course, that was very, very true. In fact, each year when I read the trilogy I find some new bit of text I could swear wasn’t there before - yet I am reading from the same old hard cover books I’ve had since 1974.
I do love the films and watch them from time to time, (all hail Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens!) but there is something about submerging oneself in Tolkien’s written text and imagination and allowing it to wash over you that transcends the visual.
So colour me Elvish as I spotted this story at the BBC about the social impact of the trilogy beginning in the 1960s. It’s well worth the read and brings back a lot of memories from my early days in the anti-war movement and the gay rights movement.
Truth be told - - I had a "Frodo Lives!" tee-shirt in 1969.
From the BBC:
Hobbits and hippies: Tolkien and the countercultureIt was a time of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Not to mention protest against the Vietnam War and marches for civil rights and the women’s movement. Who would think a figurehead for this social upheaval would be a tweedy Christian philologist at Oxford? But during the 1960s, a time of accelerating social change driven in part by 42 million Baby Boomers coming of age, Tolkien’s The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings became required reading for the nascent counterculture, devoured simultaneously by students, artists, writers, rock bands and other agents of cultural change. The slogans ‘Frodo Lives’ and ‘Gandalf for President’ festooned subway stations worldwide as graffiti.
Middle Earth, JRR Tolkien’s meticulously detailed and mythic alternate universe, was created against the backdrop of two world wars. As a professor at Oxford , Tolkien taught Anglo-Saxon, Old Icelandic and medieval Welsh and translated Beowulf, which inspired his later monsters. His fantasy vision, and his sense of evil looming over the good life, was shaped by his devout Catholicism and his experience serving in World War I, in which he lost all but one of his close friends. “The Dead Marshes and the approaches to the Morannon owe something to northern France after the Battle of the Somme," he wrote in a 1960 letter. Frodo and Sam struggling to reach Mordor is a cracked mirror reflection of the young soldiers caught in the blasted landscape and slaughter of trench warfare on the Western Front.
For decades, fans have been obsessed with Tolkien’s Great War of the Ring, with its wizards and magicians, the legions of hobbits, dwarves, elves, orcs, giants, ents, the dragon Smaug guarding his treasure and the threatening Dark Lord. They were popular initially but sales of The Hobbit (published in 1937) and The Lord of the Rings (beginning in 1954) exploded in the mid-1960s, driven by a young generation charmed by Tolkien’s imaginative abundance, the splendour of his tales from a pre-Christian time and his obsessive cataloguing of the history, language and geography of his invented world. But deeper than this, certain aspects of Tolkien’s worldview matched the perspective of hippies, anti-war protestors, civil rights marchers and others seeking to change the established order. In fact, the values articulated by Tolkien were ideally suited for the 1960s counterculture movements. Today we'd think of Tolkien’s work as being aligned with the geek set of Comic-Con, but it was once closer to the Woodstock crowd.
Go and read the rest of it HERE.
Note: Even if these are available as ebooks, I wouldn't buy them. The thought of all the typos and other misspellings would haunt me for whatever time I have left on this earth. So, there! My old Hard Covers are it for the next couple of weeks.
I am amazed