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As I mentioned, I recently finished a small biography about Tolkien (now hoping to read this one and this one on the Inklings), and it was rather enlightening. I should just say here, I know a lot of literary critics and professors seriously warn against reading through the authors life or getting into authorial intent--but, too bad, because that's some of what I'm going to get into.
Because, I love that Tolkien seemed to write himself into the tales of Middle Earth. This biography showed me so many more parallels than I had noticed before--both funny coincidences and striking notes. In someways, Tolkien is like his reluctant hero Frodo. Like Frodo, he was an orphan. I have to imagine that growing up in a boarding house was not unlike Frodo's noisy childhood in Brandybuck Hall. Like the tiny adventurers from the Shire, Tolkien was in a very tight-knit group of four called the TCBS--of which only one other friend survived WWI. And surviving WWI seems in Tolkiens life and writings "a wound that cannot heal." Then of course there are lighter similarities such as Tolkien having angered a farmer as a child by stealing mushrooms. Or the fact that "Ronald" was bitten by a tarantula at 3 years old [He claims to hardly remember the incident and that it was no influence in his creating of Shelob & Co. - but I believe in the subconscious, so yah].
Then at the same time, Tolkien admittedly identified himself as the mortal marrying wooing a woman who could only have him by making intense sacrifices. And Edith Tolkien made sacrifices. But the way he honored those in the Beren/Luthien, Aragorn/Arwen set up is simply beautiful.
|[Luthien + Beren]|
I greatly appreciate that Tolkien got vulnerable in his writing. It's something a rate highly in an author. And popular or no, I like to read into authors lives.