Yesterday I gave a brief interview on J.R.R. Tolkien for the Turkish TV channel TRT World. It’s now available on YouTube and can be accessed here:
I had a new (festive) article published yesterday on the The Conversation, titled: “J.R.R. Tolkien’s Christmas letters to his children bring echoes of Middle-earth to the North Pole”. In this article I discuss the letters from Father Christmas Tolkien sent to his children, and the creation of an entire parallel Christmas mythology (alongside his Middle-earth legendarium) which appropriated American popular culture about Santa Claus, but also added new characters, details and even invented languages and scripts! Some of the research that went into this piece is also included in my first monograph, Tolkien, Race and Cultural History (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).
You can read the entire article here.
I’ve been re-reading many of the works of George MacDonald recently, in preparation for my keynote lecture at the George MacDonald’s Scotland conference at the University of Aberdeen next week (https://gmdscotland.wordpress.com/). My lecture is titled “George MacDonald and Celticity”, and – among other works – I’ve just finished re-reading Sir Gibbie, one of MacDonald’s “realistic” novels with a Scottish setting (and extensive use of Scotch in the dialogue).
Just as I was about to start wrapping up my notes, I was struck again by these few lines, towards the end of the novel:
The one secret of life and development, is not to devise and plan, but to fall in with the forces at work—to do every moment’s duty aright—that being the part in the process allotted to us;…
Well, this time round, I know what it was that made these lines stand out for me the first time I read them! They brought to mind this exchange:
‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo.
‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
Though I know the emphasis of each extract is rather different (and so is the context!) the argument seems to me ostensibly the same. And knowing that Tolkien (and C.S. Lewis) read George MacDonald, one of the two main “grandfathers” of modern fantasy literature (the other is William Morris) makes the link even stronger in my mind.
I’ll leave this small observation here for you to ponder!