Monday, April 24, 2017

A Reader's Guide to Husband Hunting

If classic literature has taught us anything, it's that we should ask our prospective spouses some very specific questions. Because you just never know about people. 

Might I suggest you start with the following:
  • Have you ever dressed as a gypsy to trick a confession out of your crush?
  • Have you ever donned a mask and spent a significant amount of time living under the Paris opera house?
  • Have you ever, in case of misdirected rage, used a handkerchief to hang your girlfriend's dog?
  • Have you ever received ₤3,000 in exchange for the curacy at Kympton (and then lied about it)?
  • Have you ever, under the influence of secret guilt, carved the first letter of the alphabet into your chest?
  • Did you end your last relationship by taking your crush on an unfortunate sled ride?
  • To what extent are you committed to finishing The Key to All Mythologies?
  • To what extent do you blame your problems on Grace Poole?
  • If interrogated by agents of the Thought Police, would you betray me to Big Brother?
  • Where do you stand on the subject of attic wives?

* * * * *

Bad Boyfriend Roll Call:
Erik (the Phantom of the Opera)
Mr. Wickham
Reverend Dimmesdale
Ethan Frome
Winston Smith

Art attribution:
John William Waterhouse [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, April 17, 2017

Weeping Among Hobbit Holes

A few years ago, my sister Bethany and I visited New Zealand. We spent several weeks on the North Island: hiking, sightseeing, visiting with friends, drinking coffee, and stuffing ourselves with fresh butter and cheese. It was awesome. (The scenery, the coffee, the butter, the friends, the cheese. All of it.)

During the course of our trip, we also visited Hobbiton.

Nestled in the center of a 1,250-acre sheep farm in the lush hills of Waikato, Hobbiton was built for the filming of The Hobbit movies, and it's The Shire brought to life.

If only the author could have seen this.

Writing didn't come easily to Tolkien. His creative process was a struggle from beginning to end, and although The Hobbit had worked out well enough, he often despaired of finishing the publisher-requested "sequel"--a sprawling saga encompassing both The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings.

Contacting his publisher mid-project, he said, "My work has escaped from my control, and I have produced a monster: an immensely long, complex, rather bitter, and very terrifying romance, quite unfit for children (if fit for anybody)..."

Standing in the center of Hobbiton, I was struck that while Tolkien didn't exactly create Middle Earth ex nihilo--out of nothing, as God created the universe--he certainly came close. Middle Earth, after all, came complete with its own history, creatures, topography, mythology, and fully-articulated languages.

Tolkien had created Middle Earth. 

He'd created it out of words.

And here it was.

In this way, Tolkien reflects something of what it means to be made in the image of God.

Our God is a Creator, and he's stamped creativity into our DNA; therefore when we create, we reflect him. Of course, we cannot create exactly as he creates; and we are no more the source of creativity than the moon is the source of sunlight. But though moonlight is dim, it's still light.

So we create, reflecting light into darkness.

That's what Tolkien did. 

He poured himself into his work, telling a version of the oldest and most important story: the ultimate triumph of good over evil.

In this way, Tolkien reflects the Imago Dei.

These reflections, on a bright April day in the middle of a sheep farm, left me wanting to weep among the Hobbit holes.

* * * * *


Zaleski, Philip and Carol Zaleski. 2015. The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings. New York: Farrarr, Straus and Giroux, 398.