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Tolkien: Sacrifice, Fellowship and Enduring Love

Author: Kristina Cooper

Picture: KOVA PR

Tolkien: Sacrifice, Fellowship and Enduring Love

Kristina Cooper finds plenty to admire in Tolkien, the biopic of Lord of the Rings author and committed Catholic J.R.R Tolkien.

J.R.R Tolkien, along with C.S. Lewis, was part of the famous Inkling circle of Christian writers at Oxford University in the 1930s. His most famous work, the adventure fantasy The Lord of the Rings trilogy, has been a bestseller for over 65 years. It has sold 150 million copies world wide and developed a cult following. 

With the newly released film Tolkien, directed by the Finish director Dome Karukoshki, we get to learn about the man and the inspirations for his writing.  Tolkien, like many of that gilded youth of his generation, ended up in the trenches of the First World War, where men discovered that war was not honour and glory, but mud, chaos and death.

A Captivating Film

This nightmarish experience is evocatively portrayed through the wonderful cinematography of Lasse Frank as Tolkien (Nicholas Hoult) staggers around feverishly amidst the battle trying to find one of his old school friends. Here he is helped by Frodo-like private soldier, who risks his life to care for the young officer.  

There is even a glimpse of Christ on the cross at one point among all the bombardment of images of dragons and ghouls caused by Tolkien’s trench fever-but if you blink, you miss it! This is the only real nod to Tolkien’s very deep Catholic faith, which is rather glossed over.  

Colm Meaney as his Catholic priest guardian is portrayed more as a parent/authority figure thwarting his love life than any inspiration for his faith. Even so, I found Tolkien a rather captivating film which will certainly appeal to Jane Austen fans and period enthusiasts. 

Portraying A Different Age

Part of the charm of the film is that it portrays a very different age from now, where children’s creativity is stimulated through books, story telling and imaginative play. The secret society Tolkien forms in his teens with three school friends, The Tea Club and Barrovian Society-or TCBS-is for discussing poetry and changing the world with their art.

However, due to his poverty and youth, he faces many constrictions. He falls in love with the beautiful Edith Bratt (Lily Collins), who is the paid companion to the woman (Pam Ferris) who runs the boarding house where Tolkien and his brother lodge. 

The film beautifully portrays their innocent courtship and the pain and excitement of this first love. They are kindred spirits and she is clearly the inspiration for the fairy queen, Arwen, as his TCBs friends are for The Fellowship of the Ring

Inspiring Future Generations

Spirited and intelligent, she is a match for his imagination and becomes his muse. Yet Tolkien must study, and he is forced to give her up. It seems it will all end in tragedy, and for a while it does.

Having got to know his tousle-headed friends, one feels the futility of their deaths in the war all the more keenly. At least for Tolkien, though, there is a happy ending. Not only does he survive the war, but, like a Mills and Boon romance, he gets the girl too, showing that even in real life a first love can be an enduring, lasting love.  

Geoffrey B Smith, who died in action, spoke his last words to Tolkien: “My chief consolation is that if I am scuppered tonight .. there will still be left a member of the great TCBS to voice what I dreamed and what we all agreed upon. May you say the things I have tried to say long after I am not there to say them.” And he did. Tolkien wove all these difficult experiences into his work, inspiring future generations of the importance of sacrifice, fellowship and enduring love.  

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