Somewhere in my boxes full of old photographs there is a picture I took in 1986 while on a pilgrimage to Oxford, England. The purpose of that trip to England was not to visit Oxford, but to attend a conference with one of my oldest friends (who probably would prefer to remain anonymous). I was stationed in Germany at the time, and he was in need of a vacation, so we met in England to join other friends at a Christian conference. When it was over the opportunity arose to see Oxford. Since we had met two very charming British girls at the conference, and since they shared some of my enthusiasm for Tolkien, they joined us on this journey.
Ah, Tolkien. He was the attraction to Oxford. J.R.R. Tolkien’s works have captured my attention since I first read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings at age 11. Of the handful of authors who shaped my worldview, he and C.S. Lewis share the top position. It was his grave I particularly wanted to see, after enjoying a pint in his honor at The Eagle and Child, the pub where he, Lewis, and others shared their literary ideas. The old photograph lost somewhere in the boxes is the one I took of his grave. One day I will dig it out and put it in an album of good memories.
Tolkien left us far more than good memories, of course. He has made a lasting impact for good on four generations of English-speaking youth. That impact shows no sign of slowing – provided youth of the present and future read him, that is. Watching the cinematic adaptations of his works is not enough. The depth of Tolkien is not in the action sequences of Elves fighting Orcs and Dwarves hunting dragons, but in the way he weaves the essence of humanity into his stories. I view this as a gift from the Almighty.
My guess is that David Goldman would agree. In this article reposted from PJ Media, he investigates what appears to be a major motivation for Tolkien: neutralizing the anti-Semitic messages of German composer Richard Wagner. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Nazism knows the high place of Wagner in Adolf Hitler’s esteem. It should be no surprise that Wagner, like Hitler, despised Jews. Tolkien did not despise Jews; he despised those who twisted our historical and literary inheritance into something evil to justify the eradication of that which is good. That is what Goldman relates as he presents the back story of a masterful author’s life work.
Why is this important? The literary-minded understand. Words, music, and images capture the soul and shape the mind. Regarding Tolkien and Wagner, Goldman sums up the point this way:
Wagner’s legacy remains baleful. Fortunately, many more people know Tolkien than know Wagner, and we may pronounce Tolkien’s project a success. Unfortunately, Wagner’s hold on the cultural elite remains strong, and influences modern culture in ways of which the popular audience is unaware.
How did he arrive at this conclusion? Read on and find out.
And thanks very much to my anonymous old friend, who not only accompanied me on that Oxford pilgrimage long ago, but brought this piece to my attention.