I am not touching JRR Tolkien’s etymological and philogical scholarship or astounding work in creating the languages of Middle Earth. I am not touching them because the scope and brilliance is beyond me. Humility 101 was hard for me, but this one is obvious.
I simply want to think briefly on two events that he translated into his works: one lovely and the other harrowing.
The lovely one came while his beloved Edith sang and danced for him in a grove of hemlock trees near where he was convalescing (again) in World War 1. She was enough for him, more than enough. Out of all of the loneliness while he was at the front in World War 1, those minutes when her hair was still raven and her skin clear gave us the strong, vulnerable, winsome and brave women in the Trilogy. Be they elven, long or short lived, born to horses or court: his women were royal, gritty, indefatigable, and every bit as brave as any man.
And Edith was enough as his font of knowing, his muse, and his encourager. My Jill is unlikely to sing, except when she is unaware of my attention, but she has faced our trials: financial and health, life and death with a courage that she would deny and I cling to in my own hopes.
So Tolkien and all of the rest of us men have more than enough in the courageous love of one woman committing herself to any of us boys cum men.
Tolkien also translated his WW1 experiences into gritty, harrowing, believable battles where men make their semingly feckless way across inconceivable mayhem and horror. What is so astonishing is that after “second lieutenants (his rank) dying at the rate of a dozen a minute” and losing all but one friend among the millions dead in the first round of industrialized warfare — he still wrote that one man (or woman) could make a difference on a battlefield.
Tolkien’s war privations of cold, lice, and infections as well as the shells packaging so many new ways to die trickled through his pen into men fighting for the existence of men as a species believably both on the battlefields and in the calling of Sam and Frodo with so much weighing down their very souls behind enemy lines.
JRR translatd both his love and his dread believably, beautifully into his works. Courage is a terribly lonely calling against the backdrop of an entire world insanely trying to extinguish itself. Love is courgeous work as well.
I may not translate my courage nor my love anywhere nearly as well in print, but I must, I must translate it well enough so that my sons have a model on which to build something brave, something better than I did. They must see their mom that way, and learn to see their wives and challenges no less courageously.