Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Joy in Tolkien's Works

It seems to me that the embodiment of joy in Tolkien's works lies in the Shire with the Hobbits. This is the precious, almost hidden world that he and his characters strive to protect throughout his stories. A place dear to Gandalf's heart. A place the Elves hoped would remain uncorrupted. A place the Hobbits called home and treasured above all else. A place and people that Aragorn and other men grew to love tenderly. These feelings towards the Shire that are portrayed in Tolkien's works are a reflection of Tolkien's own love and the joy he derived from his home - England.
Even when the rest of Middle Earth grew dark with hatred and war, the Shire remained a place of light - green, merry, and safe. Often it was the thought of the Shire that kept the heroes plodding on their quest. I believe this directly related to Tolkien's own feelings toward England during his time in the Great War.
Ultimately, I believe Tolkien saw true joy in a place to call home; in light, trees, and greenness; and in tales, songs, and merrymaking.


Varda said...

While I agree with your concept of Tolkien's viewing the Shire as similar to England, his home, in the Great War, I also find it interesting that the Shire is home to hobbits, small men and women who are often mistaken as children. After reading Tolkien's essay this past week, I believe this is directly intentional. Tolkien sees childhood as a time in our lives we should seek to protect, and talks about recovering the mind and soul from all the familiarity, routine, and complacency of mature life. The Shire is a place of pure beauty, entertainment, and light, and thus illustrates a direct contrast to the ever-present implication of uneasiness throughout the rest of Middle-earth. Additionally, the Shire seems to be a place of isolated joy in that the residents are unconcerned with any impending "doom" or darkness in the world around them. To me, the hobbits are similar to children because, not only are they small and a bit naïve, but they are also a merry bunch of people who seem to view their world in a similar carefree manner. I think Tolkien would think of children as the true masters of this world, as they are in touch with everything adults have made familiar and dull, tucked away to gain dust on a shelf in their minds. After learning of Tolkien's view of children, I wonder if he may have placed the hobbits in such a precious, important role in his stories because he may have believed their child-like, uncorrupted charm to indicate qualities quintessential to the character who could safely carry the ring and save Middle-earth. As such, I think the other characters view the Shire with such reverence because, to me, they are similar to Tolkien's depiction of the grown people who have abandoned fairy-story. The Shire represents, as you said, a lack of corrupted and an excess of safety and light. Aragorn, the Elves, Gandalf, and all the other "wise" characters in Tolkien's works treasure the beauty of the Shire and think of it as a place to be protected, along with its people. Perhaps I have children and fairy-stories on the brain too much this week, but I feel as though there are some interesting parallels.

Nienna said...

I find your take on joy quite interesting. I however saw the idea embodied a bit differently. C.S. Lewis wrote extensively about the idea of "joy" as coming directly from God. This joy was the result of Christ being in the world and in each of our lives. As a devout Christian I feel as if Tolkien would've agreed with Lewis about the idea of joy. I found it interesting that Tolkien considered joy to be the mark of a true fairy story. I believe this conviction stems from his view of Christianity as the true myth. Within his written works I feel as if the idea of joy is a bit more abstract. It is not necessarily embodied in any one place within the text. Rather, it is the feelings infused throughout the text. I feel as if this is the true mark of joy within Tolkien's works and I believe he would consider his own work to be a true fairy story.