Since I praised Chesterton in a previous post for this contest, it seemed only fair to devote a post to Professor Tolkien, another writer very important to me.
The man and his work need no introduction, and it’s difficult to do a short post on him that doesn’t just turn into a rather gushing blurb, but here’s a shot.
Tolkien wasn’t one of those writers who jumped into my life and shook things up the way Chesterton or Kierkegaard did; rather, he and his mythos were always present in the background of my life. First in the form of those cheesy Rankin-Bass animations as a child, and later in high school in the books themselves. I cannot remember if my mother ever actually read The Hobbit to me, but I cannot remember a time when the story and characters weren’t familiar to me.
Tolkien was one of those most unusual and increasingly rare creatures: a man who was profoundly unmodern who was also an academic. His scholarship gave him the tools to craft his world, but what could have been a very dry experiment (constructing characters and stories that he could put his languages into, etc.), was given life because he had his foot in the door of the old things he studied. Of course, being a great writer also helped.
Tolkien also makes for a delightful intersection in another sense: being a devout Catholic, his works are infused with Christian spirituality and ideals, making him one of the modern literary darlings of the Faith. And having inadvertently inspired so much of the world of fantasy and role-playing games, he is also one of the canonical writers of nerd culture.