Friday, March 25, 2016

One Ring to Bring Them All, and to a Seatpost Bind Them

Tomorrow the 25th is Good Friday.  A colleague has informed me, it's also 
International Waffle Day, Pecan Day, and Tolkien Reading Day.

While Donald Trump's first wife wrote the never-published "All That Glitters 
Is Not Gold",  J.R.R. Tolkien wrote "The Lord of the Rings", which contains
the poem All That is Gold Does Not Glitter whose second line informs us
"Not all those who wander are lost".

Whenever you see this beloved aphorism in a gift shop or more likely, on 
a bumper sticker, remind yourself "I'm having a Tolkien Reading Day". But
also remember that, as explained in the blog post Why Tolkien sold his car,
the professor/author eventually preferred to travel by bicycle and once remarked

"Though, the spirit of 'Isengard', if not of Mordor, is of course always 
  cropping up. The present design of destroying Oxford in order to 
  accommodate motor-cars is a case." 

Quick translation: Mordor = pure evil; Isengard = corrupted. In Tolkien's books, Isengard 
began as a pristine place, but Saruman (the villain) camped his armies there, cut down
all of the trees and soiled the land. Like the ruin of Isengard, the partial destruction of
Oxford left him distrustful of modern town planning efforts in general.
Tolkien, not a huge fan of technological progress, would likely have taken a dim view
of this custom anodized rim, laser-etched with the verse from The One Ring.

The letters are tengwar, a fictional script created by Tolkien to write down the verse
in the Elven tongue ('Elvish'):    One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, 
                               One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

While it's safe to say my brother never read much if any Tolkien, he did once own a
an Elvish 10-speed bike  - a well-known French make, with arm & hammer head badge.

And let's not forget Rivendell, previously mentioned on this forum.
But I digress. Here's why I think Tolkien Reading Day is noteworthy this centenary year.

Upon graduating from Oxford with a first-class degree in English Language and
Literature in July 1915, Tolkien was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the
Lancashire Fusiliers as part of Kitchener's "New Army". In March 1916, he was
granted leave and on 22 March 1916 he married his childhood sweetheart Edith Bratt. 
In early June 1916, Tolkien's battalion was sent abroad to France. In July 1916, they
were sent to join the joint British-French attack to break through the German lines,
later known as the Battle of the Somme.  In October 1916, Tolkien contracted 
"trench fever" which was a disease common in the appalling frontline conditions,
and sent back to Birmingham to recover. Shortly after Tolkien's arrival back in Britain, 
his battalion was almost completely wiped out. A physically weakened Tolkien spent
the remainder of the war alternating between hospitals and garrison duties.

Author Domenic Sandbrook writes "more than ever, Tolkien believed that medievalism, myth
and fantasy offered the only salvation from the corruption of industrial society. And far from
shaking his faith, the slaughter on the Somme had only strengthened his belief that to make
sense of this shattered, bleeding world, he must look backwards to the great legends of the North."

26 minute video - J.R.R Tolkien & The Great War by Rutgers Librarian/Scholar Janet Brennan Croft.

Straight from the land of 1914's infamous "Your Country Needs You!" poster, below is a seductive
poster for the upcoming and not-so-terribly-relaxing Mighty Corinthian retro biking event.

Inline image

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