Happy Birthday, J.R.R. Tolkein!

Tolkein_Bilbo_landscape
Susan here, with sincere wishes for a happy, prosperous–and very healthy–2022 now that our annual Yuletide celebration has concluded here at Word Wenches. 

This week, J.R.R. Tolkien would have had his 126th birthday on January 3rd, had he lived so long in a Gandalf sort of way, or had he grown as old as Thorin Oakenshield in his prime at nearly 200 — or even older, like Treebeard, one of the Ents, a race of very old creatures in Middle Earth. If you appreciate the mystery of synchronicity, it's also interesting that January 3rd in the old Celtic calendar is the original Beltane date, later celebrated around February 1st: a magical date for Tolkein's birth. 

So as we set off into another year, it seems appropriate to give Tolkien a nod. It suits the season more than you might think at first — Tolkien wrote a classic Christmas book, The Father Christmas Letters, which has been a favorite in our house since our boys were little guys. 

Fatherchristmas Tolkien wrote and illustrated a wonderful series of letters from Father Christmas to the four Tolkien children beginning in 1925 until they grew older. Each annual letter, carefully handwritten and illustrated by Tolkien himself, was a narrative of Father Christmas' adventures at the North Pole, often featuring his secretary-elf, Ilbereth and several calamities involving a certain polar bear – the letters also detailed the mischief the elves got into, and the trouble with the Goblins who now and then attacked the North Pole sanctuary. Sometimes it was quite a challenge for Father Christmas to get all the toys delivered to boys and girls in England and all around the world! The letters, illustrated by Tolkien with watercolor drawings and illuminated calligraphy, all attributed to Father Christmas himself, are simply magical.

Tolkiens-father-christmas_ letter to john

Tolkien was not only a brilliant historian and scholar and a genius who created the gold standard in fantasy literature – and the genre itself. He was also a gifted artist who made over a hundred illustrations, mostly in pen and watercolor, to illustrate his stories. Many of his illustrations established the look and the imagery of the countless editions of his novels and even informed the film versions of his work. 

In honor of Tolkien’s 126th birthday –- and to mark the first week of this very new year — here are some of Tolkien's paintings and a little of his gentle wisdom — a few thoughts to take with you as we move forward into what we hope will be a wonderful year. (We all certainly deserve a great year!) If you are interested in more of his work, just give it a google and discover his incredible artworks!

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

Hobbit-dust-jacket-811-tall-1024x613

Tolkien's design for The Hobbit cover, with his own notes in pencil.

Courage is found in unlikely places. — The Fellowship of the Ring

Dragon tolkien

 

 

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.

– The Fellowship of the Ring

Smaug_ tolkein

“May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks.”  - The Hobbit 

Eagle-1024x682

Have a wonderful, wise, happy and healthy year!

~Susan

50 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, J.R.R. Tolkein!”

  1. What delightful illustrations. I’ve put the book on hold at the library, but I’m thinking it will probably end up in my basket the next time I am buying books.
    Thank you for this post. You all give us so many wonderful insights into a large variety of subjects, which is why this is the first place I go with my morning cup of coffee.

    Reply
  2. What delightful illustrations. I’ve put the book on hold at the library, but I’m thinking it will probably end up in my basket the next time I am buying books.
    Thank you for this post. You all give us so many wonderful insights into a large variety of subjects, which is why this is the first place I go with my morning cup of coffee.

    Reply
  3. What delightful illustrations. I’ve put the book on hold at the library, but I’m thinking it will probably end up in my basket the next time I am buying books.
    Thank you for this post. You all give us so many wonderful insights into a large variety of subjects, which is why this is the first place I go with my morning cup of coffee.

    Reply
  4. What delightful illustrations. I’ve put the book on hold at the library, but I’m thinking it will probably end up in my basket the next time I am buying books.
    Thank you for this post. You all give us so many wonderful insights into a large variety of subjects, which is why this is the first place I go with my morning cup of coffee.

    Reply
  5. What delightful illustrations. I’ve put the book on hold at the library, but I’m thinking it will probably end up in my basket the next time I am buying books.
    Thank you for this post. You all give us so many wonderful insights into a large variety of subjects, which is why this is the first place I go with my morning cup of coffee.

    Reply
  6. I had never heard of this book, even though I’ve been a fan of Tolkien since high school (over 50 years ago). Thank you for pointing me in this direction. I definitely plan to see if can get a copy and read it to my grandchildren!

    Reply
  7. I had never heard of this book, even though I’ve been a fan of Tolkien since high school (over 50 years ago). Thank you for pointing me in this direction. I definitely plan to see if can get a copy and read it to my grandchildren!

    Reply
  8. I had never heard of this book, even though I’ve been a fan of Tolkien since high school (over 50 years ago). Thank you for pointing me in this direction. I definitely plan to see if can get a copy and read it to my grandchildren!

    Reply
  9. I had never heard of this book, even though I’ve been a fan of Tolkien since high school (over 50 years ago). Thank you for pointing me in this direction. I definitely plan to see if can get a copy and read it to my grandchildren!

    Reply
  10. I had never heard of this book, even though I’ve been a fan of Tolkien since high school (over 50 years ago). Thank you for pointing me in this direction. I definitely plan to see if can get a copy and read it to my grandchildren!

    Reply
  11. Susan,
    Thank you for this wonderful post! I saw an exhibit of Tolkien’s paintings in New York City at the Morgan Library & Museum in 2019, and was amazed at what a wonderful artist he was. To be blessed with two amazing talents, not just one, is quite a blessing. I didn’t know that the Christmas Letters were in book form! Must obtain a copy to add to my library.
    Cheers,
    Janice

    Reply
  12. Susan,
    Thank you for this wonderful post! I saw an exhibit of Tolkien’s paintings in New York City at the Morgan Library & Museum in 2019, and was amazed at what a wonderful artist he was. To be blessed with two amazing talents, not just one, is quite a blessing. I didn’t know that the Christmas Letters were in book form! Must obtain a copy to add to my library.
    Cheers,
    Janice

    Reply
  13. Susan,
    Thank you for this wonderful post! I saw an exhibit of Tolkien’s paintings in New York City at the Morgan Library & Museum in 2019, and was amazed at what a wonderful artist he was. To be blessed with two amazing talents, not just one, is quite a blessing. I didn’t know that the Christmas Letters were in book form! Must obtain a copy to add to my library.
    Cheers,
    Janice

    Reply
  14. Susan,
    Thank you for this wonderful post! I saw an exhibit of Tolkien’s paintings in New York City at the Morgan Library & Museum in 2019, and was amazed at what a wonderful artist he was. To be blessed with two amazing talents, not just one, is quite a blessing. I didn’t know that the Christmas Letters were in book form! Must obtain a copy to add to my library.
    Cheers,
    Janice

    Reply
  15. Susan,
    Thank you for this wonderful post! I saw an exhibit of Tolkien’s paintings in New York City at the Morgan Library & Museum in 2019, and was amazed at what a wonderful artist he was. To be blessed with two amazing talents, not just one, is quite a blessing. I didn’t know that the Christmas Letters were in book form! Must obtain a copy to add to my library.
    Cheers,
    Janice

    Reply
  16. We used Tolkien’s translations of certain medieval texts in my medieval lit classes. He was still alive then so I hope he got some decent royalties off us 🙂
    I must have read or listened to Rob Inglis’s readings of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings a hundred times over the years. I never get tired of his language, his humor, or the beauty of the world he created (though I can do without some of the songs). Imagine a world in which horses can understand you and alcohol and tobacco are not harmful 🙂
    I go back and forth as to whether he or Jane Austen is my all time favorite author. I never get tired of either one.

    Reply
  17. We used Tolkien’s translations of certain medieval texts in my medieval lit classes. He was still alive then so I hope he got some decent royalties off us 🙂
    I must have read or listened to Rob Inglis’s readings of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings a hundred times over the years. I never get tired of his language, his humor, or the beauty of the world he created (though I can do without some of the songs). Imagine a world in which horses can understand you and alcohol and tobacco are not harmful 🙂
    I go back and forth as to whether he or Jane Austen is my all time favorite author. I never get tired of either one.

    Reply
  18. We used Tolkien’s translations of certain medieval texts in my medieval lit classes. He was still alive then so I hope he got some decent royalties off us 🙂
    I must have read or listened to Rob Inglis’s readings of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings a hundred times over the years. I never get tired of his language, his humor, or the beauty of the world he created (though I can do without some of the songs). Imagine a world in which horses can understand you and alcohol and tobacco are not harmful 🙂
    I go back and forth as to whether he or Jane Austen is my all time favorite author. I never get tired of either one.

    Reply
  19. We used Tolkien’s translations of certain medieval texts in my medieval lit classes. He was still alive then so I hope he got some decent royalties off us 🙂
    I must have read or listened to Rob Inglis’s readings of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings a hundred times over the years. I never get tired of his language, his humor, or the beauty of the world he created (though I can do without some of the songs). Imagine a world in which horses can understand you and alcohol and tobacco are not harmful 🙂
    I go back and forth as to whether he or Jane Austen is my all time favorite author. I never get tired of either one.

    Reply
  20. We used Tolkien’s translations of certain medieval texts in my medieval lit classes. He was still alive then so I hope he got some decent royalties off us 🙂
    I must have read or listened to Rob Inglis’s readings of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings a hundred times over the years. I never get tired of his language, his humor, or the beauty of the world he created (though I can do without some of the songs). Imagine a world in which horses can understand you and alcohol and tobacco are not harmful 🙂
    I go back and forth as to whether he or Jane Austen is my all time favorite author. I never get tired of either one.

    Reply
  21. Susan, thank you for this posting.
    I loved the Tolkien exhibit at the Morgan Library several years ago. So much of his artwork was on display and first editions of his trilogy.
    I also love The Father Christmas Letters. I laughed out loud at polar bear’s antics.
    His robes from Oxford were seen and many letters he wrote. It was a magical exhibit.
    Susan, all the highest prosperity to you and yours, as well as all the Word Wenches for 2022!

    Reply
  22. Susan, thank you for this posting.
    I loved the Tolkien exhibit at the Morgan Library several years ago. So much of his artwork was on display and first editions of his trilogy.
    I also love The Father Christmas Letters. I laughed out loud at polar bear’s antics.
    His robes from Oxford were seen and many letters he wrote. It was a magical exhibit.
    Susan, all the highest prosperity to you and yours, as well as all the Word Wenches for 2022!

    Reply
  23. Susan, thank you for this posting.
    I loved the Tolkien exhibit at the Morgan Library several years ago. So much of his artwork was on display and first editions of his trilogy.
    I also love The Father Christmas Letters. I laughed out loud at polar bear’s antics.
    His robes from Oxford were seen and many letters he wrote. It was a magical exhibit.
    Susan, all the highest prosperity to you and yours, as well as all the Word Wenches for 2022!

    Reply
  24. Susan, thank you for this posting.
    I loved the Tolkien exhibit at the Morgan Library several years ago. So much of his artwork was on display and first editions of his trilogy.
    I also love The Father Christmas Letters. I laughed out loud at polar bear’s antics.
    His robes from Oxford were seen and many letters he wrote. It was a magical exhibit.
    Susan, all the highest prosperity to you and yours, as well as all the Word Wenches for 2022!

    Reply
  25. Susan, thank you for this posting.
    I loved the Tolkien exhibit at the Morgan Library several years ago. So much of his artwork was on display and first editions of his trilogy.
    I also love The Father Christmas Letters. I laughed out loud at polar bear’s antics.
    His robes from Oxford were seen and many letters he wrote. It was a magical exhibit.
    Susan, all the highest prosperity to you and yours, as well as all the Word Wenches for 2022!

    Reply
  26. A wonderful post, with amazing photos of Tolkien’s paintings. It has inspired me to finally try and read his books – have never done so and I must admit I have never read Jane Austen either. I am sure I am shocking the Word Wenches by saying this. Any suggestions which books i should start with?

    Reply
  27. A wonderful post, with amazing photos of Tolkien’s paintings. It has inspired me to finally try and read his books – have never done so and I must admit I have never read Jane Austen either. I am sure I am shocking the Word Wenches by saying this. Any suggestions which books i should start with?

    Reply
  28. A wonderful post, with amazing photos of Tolkien’s paintings. It has inspired me to finally try and read his books – have never done so and I must admit I have never read Jane Austen either. I am sure I am shocking the Word Wenches by saying this. Any suggestions which books i should start with?

    Reply
  29. A wonderful post, with amazing photos of Tolkien’s paintings. It has inspired me to finally try and read his books – have never done so and I must admit I have never read Jane Austen either. I am sure I am shocking the Word Wenches by saying this. Any suggestions which books i should start with?

    Reply
  30. A wonderful post, with amazing photos of Tolkien’s paintings. It has inspired me to finally try and read his books – have never done so and I must admit I have never read Jane Austen either. I am sure I am shocking the Word Wenches by saying this. Any suggestions which books i should start with?

    Reply
  31. I would suggest starting with The Hobbit and then The Lord of the Rings. That will keep the plot straight for you (though plot is the least of it). Because in the US The Hobbit wasn’t paperbacked until after the trilogy was, I started the other way 🙂
    The Hobbit was written for his kids, so it is in more of a young adult mode. LOTR was intended for adults.
    Tolkien starts off amongst the Hobbits, and then gets you into the wider world. After a couple of chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring, I couldn’t put it down. There’s an incident near the end of Fellowship that made me yelp out loud and I scared the people in the restaurant 🙂
    Ignore the movies except as illustrations; too many bad changes were made.
    As for Jane Austen, it doesn’t matter which one you start with, since she wasn’t into sequels. I would suggest Persuasion, as it’s the shortest.

    Reply
  32. I would suggest starting with The Hobbit and then The Lord of the Rings. That will keep the plot straight for you (though plot is the least of it). Because in the US The Hobbit wasn’t paperbacked until after the trilogy was, I started the other way 🙂
    The Hobbit was written for his kids, so it is in more of a young adult mode. LOTR was intended for adults.
    Tolkien starts off amongst the Hobbits, and then gets you into the wider world. After a couple of chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring, I couldn’t put it down. There’s an incident near the end of Fellowship that made me yelp out loud and I scared the people in the restaurant 🙂
    Ignore the movies except as illustrations; too many bad changes were made.
    As for Jane Austen, it doesn’t matter which one you start with, since she wasn’t into sequels. I would suggest Persuasion, as it’s the shortest.

    Reply
  33. I would suggest starting with The Hobbit and then The Lord of the Rings. That will keep the plot straight for you (though plot is the least of it). Because in the US The Hobbit wasn’t paperbacked until after the trilogy was, I started the other way 🙂
    The Hobbit was written for his kids, so it is in more of a young adult mode. LOTR was intended for adults.
    Tolkien starts off amongst the Hobbits, and then gets you into the wider world. After a couple of chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring, I couldn’t put it down. There’s an incident near the end of Fellowship that made me yelp out loud and I scared the people in the restaurant 🙂
    Ignore the movies except as illustrations; too many bad changes were made.
    As for Jane Austen, it doesn’t matter which one you start with, since she wasn’t into sequels. I would suggest Persuasion, as it’s the shortest.

    Reply
  34. I would suggest starting with The Hobbit and then The Lord of the Rings. That will keep the plot straight for you (though plot is the least of it). Because in the US The Hobbit wasn’t paperbacked until after the trilogy was, I started the other way 🙂
    The Hobbit was written for his kids, so it is in more of a young adult mode. LOTR was intended for adults.
    Tolkien starts off amongst the Hobbits, and then gets you into the wider world. After a couple of chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring, I couldn’t put it down. There’s an incident near the end of Fellowship that made me yelp out loud and I scared the people in the restaurant 🙂
    Ignore the movies except as illustrations; too many bad changes were made.
    As for Jane Austen, it doesn’t matter which one you start with, since she wasn’t into sequels. I would suggest Persuasion, as it’s the shortest.

    Reply
  35. I would suggest starting with The Hobbit and then The Lord of the Rings. That will keep the plot straight for you (though plot is the least of it). Because in the US The Hobbit wasn’t paperbacked until after the trilogy was, I started the other way 🙂
    The Hobbit was written for his kids, so it is in more of a young adult mode. LOTR was intended for adults.
    Tolkien starts off amongst the Hobbits, and then gets you into the wider world. After a couple of chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring, I couldn’t put it down. There’s an incident near the end of Fellowship that made me yelp out loud and I scared the people in the restaurant 🙂
    Ignore the movies except as illustrations; too many bad changes were made.
    As for Jane Austen, it doesn’t matter which one you start with, since she wasn’t into sequels. I would suggest Persuasion, as it’s the shortest.

    Reply

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