Michael shared his grandfather's love for the written word, attending St. Andrews University reading English, and fed his love of the language while teaching as head of English at Uppingham School, Rutland, England, until 1992. He is known as a poet, with three of his works published by Redback Press. Gerald Dickens is an actor known for his excellent one-man shows based on the novels of his great-great grandfather, many of which have been committed to CD.
Is this a literary match in heaven, or mere cashing in on the imminent author's names? There's no doubt that such books, without the glamour of their author's heritage, would likely disappear into the mess of vampires and zombies currently plaguing the literary scene. There has, however, been a surge of interest in classic fairy tales and children's adventure stories lately. In a complex world of recession and worse, there's something quite quaint and inviting about the settings and themes of these classic tales: comfortably formulaic, they nevertheless appeal to the childhood sense of fun and adventure, the sense that the whole world was waiting for you. A feeling that is very much alive in tolkien's books, especially The Hobbit. Great timing for the release of the films, without a doubt.
Tolkien himself was influenced by many of these tales. He wrote an extended essay on the importance of them, called 'On Fairy Stories,' (1947) originally delivered in the form of a lecture at the University of St. Andrews. While we tend to see these stories as exclusively the domain of children, Tolkien is quick to point out, "the association of children and fairy stories is an accident of our domestic history. Fairy–stories have in the modern lettered world been relegated to the 'nursery', as shabby or old–fashioned furniture is relegated to the play–room, primarily because the adults do not want it, and do not mind if it is misused." He likens the influence of the tales on modern writers to a pot of soup, into which various influences of history, mythology, folk tales, and written creations have been thrown together and allowed to simmer for centuries, even millenia: when a writer composes a tale of magic and enchantment, they dip their pen into the pot and the words become mingled with their own ink.
Writers who have partaken of their soup are legion, including some of our best known and loved authors, men of which whose influence has been so powerful as to shape the future of language itself. Authors like Shakespeare, Chaucer, Blake, Milton, Keats, Yeats, Rowling, and of course, Tolkien. These works were rarely for children - they contained seriously adult themes. It was only in the 19th century these stories became adapted for the exclusive enjoyment of children. Thankfully, these tales are slowly re-emerging into the mainstream, through the lenses of gritty re-imaginings of tales, often in cinematic format. Red Riding Hood and the upcoming Cinderella films come to mind, along with the NBC series Grimm and Once Upon a Time, amongst many others. Even the Harry Potter tales contain more than a touch of darkness and adult themes, which is one of the reasons why so many adults love them.
For those who have not read tolkien's On Fairy Stories:
Here is more info on the book and here an interview with the authors.
For those who cannot wait for the release by Thames River Press:
In 2010 Wish was already released by AuthorHouse, as you can read in my review of the book here.
Spread the news about this J.R.R. Tolkien article: