Happy birthday Professor Tolkien!
What an unfortunate thing that I posted a quote by Tolkien just the other day. Or maybe, what a lucky event, so I now need to commemorate him in a different way.
Last April, as I was searching the net for short biographies of artists from the German Expressionism, I came across a channel on Youtube that offered short biographies. It had an entire series dedicated to artists who took part in WWI. I was looking for Otto Dix, but I discovered this clip about Tolkien too.
I haven’t been involved with WWI long at this point, but it has quickly become a favourite subject of mine, strange as it might seem. I had avoided the two WWs for the longest of time, thinking they weren’t really the subject for me, since I prefer social history. But Weimar forced me to look into WWI and I will always consider it a good turn of events. WWI is quite a forgotten war, and we often don’t realise how much of who we are comes from it. It was such a pivoting time.
Arts were greatly affected by it too. We often don’t realise how many artists took part in WWI and how much that experience shaped their art.
This is true also for Tolkien, whose generation saw not one, but two World Wars. As I read deeper into his different writings, but especially his stories, I can sense that early experience everywhere, even if often it is disguised. And I think that was a very common attitude in people who were in the war. They wanted to forget, but they also needed to remember and – I suppose – to pass on what they lived and felt and suffered, maybe in the hope that it would not happen again.
Tolkien said once that all stories are about death. I think that his stories are mostly about war, and so about death, but also about life.
On Tolkien’s birthday I like to remember him as the artist he was, but also as the man he was. I want to honour the memory he passed on through his stories that never happened.