Do you know what today is?
If you said the 29th of July, then yes, you’d be right. But it’s also the 63rd birthday of that most epic tale ever to grace the shelves of the fantasy genre.
That’s right, I’m talking about The Lord of the Rings.
Now, you might be thinking: Nikken, why do you have such a high opinion of those books? After all, you’re a fictional character yourself.
That has a very simple answer: if it wasn’t for these books, I wouldn’t exist.
You see, when my Author was a little girl, she loved to make up stories. But she only liked to make up mystery stories. Her favorite books were The Bobbsy Twins and The Happy Hollisters and the like. But when she was six years old, her mother read The Hobbit to her, and it changed her world. The next year, she read The Hobbit all by herself, and it changed her. Middle-Earth touched her in ways she didn’t understand, being only seven years old. Elves and dwarves, goblins and hobbits and dragons… it was unlike anything she’d ever read before. Slowly, she stopped reading mainly mystery stories and began reading fantasies like Redwall and Eragon. Then, when she was eleven years old, her parents said she was old enough to read The Lord of the Rings. She had been waiting for this for years, especially once her older brother read it, and nearly burst from excitement. She read the entire series in five days.
If she loved The Hobbit, she absolutely adored The Lord of the Rings. The world of Middle-Earth, which had so intrigued her in The Hobbit, became so much clear, so much more wonderful than she thought it ever could be. The cheerfulness of the hobbits, the courage of men, the loyalty of the dwarves, the long, long sorrow and steadfastness of the elves… It made her wish that somehow she could be a part of so epic and wonderful a world. Reading the book was like peeking through a window to a world of honor and glory and faith and valor and wonder. A world of good and evil, of weakness triumphing over strength.
Then she had an idea.
She thought, “I can never write as well as Tolkien, but I wish I could write a fantasy story that would make people feel in the tiniest the stuff The Lord of the Rings makes me feel.” So, a few weeks before she turned twelve, she climbed up into her loft bed and began to write a story on six pages of tan-colored lined notebook paper. And eventually, a story took form—the story of how my cousin, my brother, and I set out on a long journey to discover the Father’s Chosen hero that would save our lands.
So that is the main reason I like these books so much—they helped bring me to life.
But there are other reasons too: for one thing, if you think about it, Tolkien is the father of the entire modern fantasy genre. Don’t believe me? Think about it:
1. Orcs—Tolkien invented them. The name is based off the Old English words orc and orcneas, which, roughly, mean ‘demon’. In Middle-Earth, ‘orc’ is the Elvish word for Morgoth’s and Sauron’s servants, who were originally elves that were corrupted by Morgoth. In English, the word ‘orc’ is translated to ‘goblin’, (therefore, Tolkien’s orcs and goblins are one and the same, not separate species, as many people seem to think). The orcs in World of Warcraft and Warhammer? They would not have existed without The Lord of the Rings.
2. Elves—Tolkien, of course, was inspired by the elves of Norse Mythology, but the standard modern version of elves—tall, wise, long hair, incredibly beautiful, archers—were invented by Tolkien and Tolkien alone. Traditional mythological elves do not look anything like the image of elves that is so common in our minds these days. The preeminence of elves in modern fantasy, such as World of Warcraft and Eragon? You can thank Tolkien for them.
3. Dwarves—dwarves in Norse Mythology were greedy little guys that spent all their time underground, and most of them were mean-spirited types, if not out-and-out evil. The image of noble dwarves? This came from the last bit of The Hobbit and Gimli from The Lord of the Rings.
4. Dark Lords—how many Dark Lords are there? Too many to count. When was the first appearance of a Dark Lord in modern literature? I’m not certain, but I’m pretty sure it was The Lord of the Rings.
5. Other languages—this isn’t as common, but there are many books that have invented languages for certain races in the books (often Elves). I don’t know if there were any instances of invented languages before The Lord of the Rings, but you and I both know who started that trend—Tolkien.
6. Halflings—again, not as common, but Halflings tend to pop up here and there, especially in board games. The trend of short guys with curly hair and hairy feet that live in holes and eat a lot all began one sunny when Tolkien wrote the words ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit’ on the back of an exam paper.
7. Mithril—mithril was invented by Tolkien. It first appeared in the Hobbit, and it had a prominent position in the story of The Lord of the Rings. All sorts of fantasy games and stories have mithril, and even call it mithril (which is a Sindarin name meaning “grey brilliance”) instead of the English name, truesilver.
8. The fantasy genre in general—There are instances of fantasy stories before the publication of the Hobbit or the Lord of the Rings, such as George MacDonald’s excellent stories. But the big boom of fantasy happened after The Lord of the Rings was published in 1954. Dungeons and Dragons, Warhammer, World of Warcraft, Eragon, you name it—they probably would never had existed if Tolkien hadn’t published a book about hobbits and dwarves and elves and men and then was asked to make a sequel.
These are some of the basics. There is even more evidence out there proving that Tolkien is the father of modern fantasy fiction. It’s sad to think that many people nowadays forget his huge influence on modern culture (My author says it’s even sadder that people watch the movies based off his stories and never even bother to read the actual books. That really annoys her).
Tolkien, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings are doubly responsible for my existence, if you think about it, so I have a lot to thank them for. I think anyone who is a fan of fantasy should celebrate the often-underrated epicness of Tolkien, so that’s why I’m here writing this post. Maybe someday, everyone will remember how Tolkien started it all and appreciate him for the impact he had on our world. But until that happens, at least my author and I will never forget.
Professor Tolkien, I salute you.
So CELEBRATE, everyone! This year marks the 100th year since Tolkien first began to write about the world of Middle-Earth, and today it’s the 63rd Birthday of The Lord of the Rings! Cosplay! Sing songs! Eat Apple Pie (though seriously, you should do that anyway)!
Happy Birthday, Lord of the Rings, and many happy returns!
Namarië! Elen síla lummen’ omentielvo. Namarië!