20 March 2015

Suggestions for Tolkien Reading Day

John Ronald Reuel and Edith Tolkien, 1961
As I mentioned earlier, we will observe next week Tolkien Reading Day. With this in mind, I wish to offer a few of my favorite bits of the Professor's writings (which are by no means exhaustive) in the hopes of helping you to both enjoy the day and to perhaps reading something of Tolkien that you have not yet read.

If you do not already have the following reading recommendations, you should have time to either pick them up at your local bookstore or to order them online in time for Wednesday's festivities. If I haven't mentioned your favorite passage from his writings, you might leave it in the com box for others to enjoy.

Happy Tolkien Reading Day!

From his books and articles
  • Tolkien wrote his delightful short story Roverandom after his son Michael lost his toy dog at the beach. Written to comfort Michael, Roverandom tells of real dog named Rover who is turned into a toy and of his adventures with a wizard, a dragon, and the Man in the Moon, among others.
  • His incomplete epic poem The Fall of Arthur is a masterpiece of the English language. Written in modern English but in the Old English alliterative meter, this one is particularly brilliant when read aloud.
  • "Leaf By Niggle" is an intriguing parable exploring the Catholic teaching of Purgatory. Short and powerful, it is an excellent Lenten read.
  • It was in his essay "On Fairy Stories" that Tolkien coined the word eucatastrophe and said of the Gospel, "There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many skeptical men have accepted as true of its own merit." This one is an absolute must read.
  • Tolkien's creation myth - which is part of his AinulindalĂ« and is titled, "Music of the Ainur" and is contained in The Silmarillion - is evocative.
From his letters (the numbering from The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien will be provided)
  • Between 6 and 8 March 1941, Tolkien wrote a lengthy letter (43) to his son Michael in which he discusses love (including true love and soulmates), sex, marriage, the devil, and the Blessed Sacrament. This letter should be part of every marriage preparation program.
  • Tolkien wrote a draft letter (49), probably in 1943, to C.S. Lewis in which he wrote of marriage and divorce. He argued against the latter and encouraged his friend to think with the Church. Given the current ecclesial climate, this letter can provide good food for thought.
  • He wrote a letter (89) to his son Christopher between 7 and 8 November 1944 in which he speaks of Christian joy.
  • On 22 November 1961, Tolkien wrote to his aunt Jane Neave (234) of children and stories told to them.
  • To his Michael, he wrote on 1 November 1963 (250) of scandal, a weakened faith, the Eucharist, and the office of the Pope.
  • At some point, Tolkien wrote another letter to Michael (306), which he did not send, in which he spoke of the changes following the Second Vatican Council and of the difficulties of ecumenism.
  • Tolkien offered his notion of the purpose of life in a letter to Camilla Unwin on 20 May 1969 (310).

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