“All have their worth and each contributes to the worth of the others”. The Silmarillion.

The creativity in the construct of the fantasy genre holds a strong appeal to the minds of those open enough to delve into them. Those who construct such fine fantasy pieces reveal the power of their imagination and subconscious minds. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien takes his readers through beautiful, constructed worlds, characters, adventures, and languages derived from his own fantasies and imagination. Tolkien makes the average human in our current existence realize that anything can be possible by taking the ordinary and enhancing it with the unique magic of his imagination, life experiences, linguistics, and creative writing skills. All his written works subtly deal with deep matters of the soul, in a universal sense that relates to the experiences in his own reality, while touching the souls of his fans in theirs

“Courage is found in unlikely places.” The Fellowship of The Ring.

During my second year studies of a Video Technology course, there was incredible hype about the adaptations of the Lord of the Rings. Being an avid reader, life often led me to the books I should read, film was how I personally discovered Tolkien. The third cinema adaptation of the Lord of the Rings which was completed in the form of a film trilogy by Peter Jackson, took most of whom I knew, out of their orbit. The reception worldwide was remarkable, even by those directors who previously attempted adaptations of these books before. The adaptation was so magnificent it achieved 17 Academy awards. Tolkien and Jackson were clearly masters of creation when it came to the LOTR universe. For me, the beautiful and powerful aspect of both their respective achievements was the ultimate reach of the audience through their different communication mediums. As much as I loved books, there were many individuals I knew at the time who would not dare waste their time on reading novel material, and watching Jackson’s adaptation changed that instantly. There were also those critics who felt that the adaptation fell short on things like Tolkien’s emphasis on free will and individual responsibility, sacrificing its richness of characterization, but from my personal view, each man held their own right. Peter Jackson created a powerful doorway for many non-readers and non-fantasy fanatics, enabling their curiosity and engagement in Tolkien’s actual written work. 

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” The Fellowship of The Ring.

Traditional art, music, writings, spiritual practices, and the numerous developments in Technology, have held significant power in the advancement of humanity from the beginning of our existence to date. Most individuals, myself included encounter regular battles which demand facing our own inner demons and uncertainties. At some point in our individual journey, here on our “real earth,” we realize that we live in a far from perfect existence. There is also the realization that our existence can be pretty dark and intense which often results in psychological, emotional, and physical challenges. The arts have always been a powerful medium of serving as a therapy for the human body, soul, and mind. The arts allow one to explore and face matters in a platform that serves as an alternate realm, accessing the subconscious and bringing its recipient’s darkness and fears to the surface, allowing exposure to light, healing, strength, and inspiration that can improve/inspire the recipient’s existence. The appeal of Tolkien’s universe in its various forms of expression (adapted from writing drafts originating from 1916 ), into many mediums such as websites, movies, music, television, social media, and gaming, have only grown in their reach and artistic impact.

All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost; The old that is strong does not wither, Deep roots are not reached by the frost.’ Fellowship of the Ring

Upon a closer inspection of Tolkien’s work as an art form, it is apparent that his material has been classified within the sub-genre of high or epic fantasy. Tolkien’s universe exists in an alternate reality, it is a universe of its own with the most fantastical characters, magic, adventures, and creatively constructed lands and languages. His work is in a league of its own due to every aspect being very uniquely crafted, it does contain some strong influences from Norse mythology, yet remains constructed with great depth and doses of creative originality. In fact, the works of JRRT revealed to the humans of ‘real earth’ that adults could also enjoy high fantasy and it set the tone for the growth and success of this particular genre in leaps and bounds. The appeal to a larger and more diverse audience class can be found in the depth and realness of the characters derived from their psychological, emotional, and physical issues as well as their character traits, level of conversations, relationships, and unique battles. There is that thin veil between Tolkien’s universe and our real one in that the characters are also dealing with their inner and outer demons. Some characters in his stories develop and overcome their battles despite the danger, the opposition, and darkness (heroes). Then there are those characters who are consciously or unconsciously destructive to themselves and those around them (tragic heroes and villains). The elements that construct these characteristics in his fantastical universe impact various audiences to different degrees in their own real existence.

“For you do not yet know the strengths of your hearts, and you cannot foresee what each may meet on the road. “
Fellowship of the Ring

I make reference to a few characters that we find on the diverse paths of LOTR, although, every character held a significant value to the journey, my purpose is purely to elaborate their artistic and purposeful natures that weaved their magic into our own realities. For instance, Frodo Baggins, the son and only child of Drogo Baggins and Primula (Brandybuck) Baggins, was a hobbit of the Shire who existed in the late Third Age (the Age of Arda that lasted for 3021 years). Frodo had a normal childhood with rascal traits until his parents drowned in a boating accident on the Brandywine River. Bilbo Baggins then adopted Frodo, and this is where Frodo’s journey of true self-discovery, forging of friendships, and the adventure began. Hobbits are described as a race of mythical beings who are characterized as being small in stature, good-natured, and inordinately fond of creature comforts. Frodo although a hobbit has a distinct essence that sets him apart from the stereotypes of his race, he depicts courage despite his physical size, goodness, wisdom, and inner strength. Frodo’s characteristics, good intent, and genuine relationships forged in LOTR are what enable him to endure the burden of bearing the powerful, deceptive ring and to also overcome various treacherous paths and enemies while fulfilling the quest for its destruction against all odds. The average man of our ‘real earth” can relate to the Frodo character easily, despite his hobbit appearance. Many individuals have trauma or loss they encounter in their early life and are also faced daily with the challenges of being judged on the basis of race, gender, physical appearance, class and so forth. These challenges alone result in physical, mental, and emotional attacks that are damaging and even deadly. Frodo’s role in LOTR reflects the quality and strengths of an individual and highlights the importance of what can be achieved and overcome if such an individual, does not give into treacherous doubts and the judgments of society. His character also reflects the fears of one’s own mind while being challenged with obstacles. The success of Frodo’s journey and his character development despite so many odds, resonate with a wide audience, as all human beings experience these challenges in reality, to some degree, and hope to overcome darkness ( our fears, enemies,  society, limitations) in our own individual journeys. 

“There’s some good in this world, Mr Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.” The Two Towers.

Samwise Gamgee (also a hobbit) serves as the main supporting character of Frodo throughout his quest to Mordor. Sam is physically strong than his friend but he is simple, loyal, and a genuine companion throughout. Sam is grounded by the simple things in life, like the value of his support, loyalty, and friendship to Frodo, the gratitude of a sunrise,  and their commitment to fulfilling their quest honorably. The strength of their relationship and their journey together is moving and the great degree of its depth and achievements appeals to so many audiences. In our real universe, such friendships are sought after and are often rare and priceless. Sam’s role is integral in Frodo’s achievement of destroying the ring of the Dark Lord. It is also important to note that Tolkien served in the army during the First World War and the relationship between Sam and Frodo throughout their mission, is a close reflection of an officer and his servant (batman), which Tolkien was exposed to and supported by during his time in the British army. It is evident that Tolkien’s time during the war (and other experiences) gave him an enriched perspective and deep universal wisdom that was channeled through his writings of fantasy and adventure, therefore resonating with the adult audience segment of the fantasy genre. 

One ring to rule them all. One ring to find them. One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.” LOTR.

The one ring although a material object is personified to be as per its translated inscription. The ring was crafted by the Dark Lord Sauron in the fire of Mount Doom in the Second Age. Sauron empowered the ring with his own soul. Whoever possessed the ring became easily possessed by its will. The character Gollum reflected a tragic outcome of that possession, the ring had consumed his existence, turning him into merely a shadow of greed, obsession, and self-destruction (Smeagol). Smeagol’s dialogue brilliantly depicts the continuous battle of good and evil that exists in his thought processes and behavior. Smeagol’s continuous referral to the ring as “My precious!”, although humorous at times, reveals the obsession that ate away at his (Gollum’s) body and soul. Most religions and spiritual beliefs in our universe acknowledge the existence of dark forces, the ability of man to succumb to evil forces, corruption, greed, obsession, and also the ability to be possessed. A number of religious scriptures anticipate a universal battle that could end our human existence because of human sin. Other spiritual beliefs indicate that the quest of life is in man’s own experiences leading to self-realization and awakening from the illusion of what appears to be reality. The ultimate destruction of the ring by the two hobbits with the support of many critical alliances( from other races in Tolkien’s universe) and the powerful God-Like wizard (Gandalf), on their universe-threatening quest, gives our own humanity hope in their own threatened existence.  As dark as things got in the LOTR universe, victory was achieved and even the fallen race of man got to reclaim their throne and honor through the character Aragorn, who was crowned King of Gondor and Arnor. 

“End? No, the journey does not end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back and all turns to silver glass. And then you see it. White shores, and beyond. A far green country, under a swift sunrise.” Return of the King.

Ultimately, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and other various written materials by Professor Tolkien have appealed to my own senses intensely, shaping my journey of reality richly, probably as much as they have impacted many around our world throughout different decades. I also believe his work will continue to do so in the times ahead as his constructed material contains a timeless essence of universal wealth, bringing love, light, wisdom, and magic that is much needed for the strength, healing, and encouragement of human souls.

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Jenna Padayachee
Jenna Padayachee resides in South Africa (the country where J.R.R. Tolkien was born in 1892). She has exposure to Video Technology, and holds a BA Degree in Communication Sciences practices Shotokan Karate and Yoga. The depth and texture of her existence have been influenced, largely, by various genres in books, movies, and music. She enjoys writing that is used to create worlds, share perceptions, and influence positive individual shifts to mindsets. Tolkien’s writings and movie adaptations have added a powerful depth and magic to her own journey.