Tuesdays with Tolkien: How he inspired my work

You’ve all heard me say a million times how Tolkien is the main influence on my work. It has, however, remained a mystery just how he has done so. I now undertake to explain myself.

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Not like anyone doesn’t know the story of Lord of the Rings, but LOTR SPOILER WARNING anyways because reasons. Also possible Starscape and Seascape spoilers.

Bittersweet Endings

As we all know, LOTR ends on a note that’s both happy and sad. Middle-earth is saved, the Shire is renewed, Sam’s a happy husband and father, but Frodo cannot stay.

“It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.”

This has to be the single greatest thing Tolkien has taught me. All can never be perfect.

In passing, this is one of innumerable things that I dislike about Harry Potter: the final line of the entire series is “All was well”. Honestly? That is a lie. All is never well.

The endings of my books are not the happily-ever-after perfect ending of fairy tales or Harry Potter. (Major Starscape/Seascape spoilers: highlight the text between the brackets to read.) [Four main characters of Starscape end up relatively happy, yet Ringard has lost his brother and the king he served; the country of Fortaer has lost two kings in short order; and Royaleisia cannot live. In Seascape, Lody makes a good life for herself, but she, like Ringard, has lost her brother.]

Unpreachy Religious Undertones

Since my Catholic faith is an incredibly important part of my life, it naturally becomes a part of my stories (just like music, which also seems to intrude without my meaning it to). Unfortunately, a lot of Christian fantasy just denigrates into heavy-handed preaching. The Lord of the Rings (and its companions) is the polar opposite. In some mysterious way, Tolkien puts Catholic elements into his stories so delicately that you wouldn’t even notice they were there if you didn’t know he was a Catholic.

Now I’m by no means saying I succeed in doing the same… but I aspire to that.

Really, I aspire to every instance of excellence in Tolkien’s writings (and they are many). I’ve learned the importance of a background history underlying the story at hand, the power of broken references, that every physical quest is in some measure a spiritual quest, and that a truly artistic writing style never goes out of style.

If I ever match the Professor on some level, I’ll be happy.


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