The Lord of Fantasy

Czy świat fantazji może okazać się światem realnym? Tak, jeżeli został spisany przez Johna Ronalda Reuela Tolkiena.

Who doesn’t like fairy tales? When we were small children we watched them on TV or – if we are lucky – we listened to our grandparents telling us fabulous stories about dragons, princesses locked in towers, brave knights, etc. Our young imaginations believed in fairy tales and their characters are as real as the toys we held in our hands. Dragons, princesses and dwarves do exist, or at least existed in the past, but now they exist only in our memories, in our fairy tales of long ago.

Our fascination with fairy tales does not vanish when we become older. Naturally, it’s not Little Red Riding Hood we like anymore and the old wolf doesn’t scare us one bit, it’s Hollywood films, today’s fairy tales for grown-ups, that we watch? They are usually imaginary tales about fictitious people who live in a false world. (Don’t you feel sometimes that you are in a Hollywood film? Just a thought). You know that the Martians in ‚Independence Day’ do not exist, that Shrek is a computer-generated image, a non-existent character created in somebody’s head. We like these kinds of fairy tales – because of them we can feel, if just for an hour or so, as if we were in some fabulous (or not) world.

But what happens if we actually believe that these fairy tale worlds ARE real? If they come from a book by J.R.R. Tolkien it is quite possible that they did exist. ‚Reality’ is a complicated topic. What is real? Everything we can touch or measure? Try measuring love and what happens. But love exists! Then love is something that takes place. How do we know? We remember it and retain it in our memories. However, our memory does not always tell the truth. Surely you daydream from time to time, imagining yourself in different situations and the way they come out in the end? For you, those situations are just as real as something that happened a month ago, or as the world that Tolkien created. You may think that this theory is, well, a little crazy, but if you consider some of the arguments and give them a thought or two, you may come to agree with it.

First of all, the story is real. We know that J.R.R. Tolkien was not the ‚author’ of ‚the Lord of the Rings’. He was, in fact, the translator and editor of manuscripts that already existed. These had been written a long, long time before by Frodo and Bilbo. So the story is authentic and the events did take place, way back in some previous time. Naturally, Tolkien was involved and played an important role in bringing the Hobbit stories to life and passing them on to us. As a language expert, he did a great job in translating this fantastic story. Thank you J.R.R.

Let’s look at the languages in the book. They are real, with rules for the phonetics, grammar constructions and all the other necessary components that make a language live. Moreover, they are rooted in one, base ‚proto-Elvish’ language, Rohirrum, which is an authentic language linked to Old English. We have to remember that the editor was translating the story into modern English and some of the words – mainly names – had to be re-written by him according to the rules of our modern language. J.R.R. Tolkien was a linguistic specialist. His area of study was Old English and its relationship with other languages so he was well equipped to do this type of work.

So the author of the story – or as we have already agreed, the translator of this wonderful tale -is real. Let’s find out a little bit more about him.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, J.R.R. to his closest friends, was born in 1892 in South Africa. When he was four years old his father died and he returned to England with his mother. When he was 12 his mother died and he went to live with relatives in Birmingham. He received his education at King Edward’s School, St. Philip’s Grammar School, and Oxford University where he studied Latin and Greek and was competent in other languages, such as Gothic and Finnish. After graduating in 1915 he joined the British army and saw action in the Battle of the Somme. He was eventually discharged from the army after spending most of 1917 in hospital suffering from ‚trench fever’.

Tolkien was a scholar. His academic positions were: staff member of the New English Dictionary; Professor of English Language, Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford and Merton Professor of English Language and Literature (1945-59).

Tolkien depicted many different types of creatures in the book and some of the characters are very real. Some are likeable, a few of them are quite beastly. The ones we know the best – the Hobbits – are human-like but with slight differences. They are physically small, about half our height, have slightly pointed ears and are inclined to be rather round where their stomachs are. You can sometimes see them in the streets of your town. They dress in bright colours, always enjoy a good joke and don’t wear shoes. Apart from the Hobbits, there are the Druedians (heavy faces and flat noses), Dwarves (known for their greed for gold), Elves (excellent singing voices), Istari (wizards), and numerous other creatures. Some of them, Trolls, Goblins, and Dragons, are quite ugly and not very nice and have to be avoided at all times.

The place where all these creatures live is real – It’s called Middle Earth and is on our world, the one on which we live now. We can place it somewhere in Europe, though in the Third Age of Middle-Earth that region looked completely different. This was many years ago, way before we humans started recording our human story, so it’s rather difficult to pin-point the place these days. However, we know the names of those far off places, Forest River, the Misty Mountains, Mirkwood, to mention just a few, because Frodo wrote them down in the account he put together at the end of his ‚adventure’. We also have Frodo’s maps that show us where these places were situated a long, long time ago when humans shared the world with Hobbits.

Tolkiens world is real and there are scientific studies which have dealt with the matter. These special Tolkienian studies include investigations into the language, topography and history of those times. The specialists working on these topics have done a good job. We know more about Hobbits than about the people who built Stonehenge in England. Not everything real can be seen, touched or measured. Take Love as an example. Have you seen it? Can you describe it? Many have tried, but no one has completed the description. As with love, the world of Tolkien is real – it exists in our minds. There it is, as accessible as that summer that’s just gone by or our first experience of true love.

We can read the story about the Hobbits many times over. It’s filled with humour, daring, and pathos. Their world – not a perfect one – is an exciting place full of adventure and special effects. It’s a place where anyone with a bit of imagination, and a lot of courage it has to be added, can have a great time. That world exists somewhere out there. Now – in cinema land.

Krzysztof Baran


fabulous bajeczny
dwarf karzeł
Little Red Riding Hood Czerwony Kapturek
Martian Marsjanin
to retain zachowywać
involved zaangażowany
to pass sth on przekazywać coś
discharged zwolniony
trench okop
likeable przyjemny
to be inclined mieć skłonności do czegoś
to pin-point wskazywać
completed ukończony
accessible dostępny
daring odwaga