Wrote this while I was abroad, but I didn’t get the chance to take it to Tolkien’s grave. Thought I’d share anyway.
Dear Dr. Tolkien,
I wanted to thank you for changing my life.
When I was a little girl, my dad would read your books to me and my siblings. He read them three times to us, when I was eight, and again when I was twelve, and again when I was fourteen. When I was twelve I prayed for Frodo after he was stabbed. Later I remember running to the book and turning to the passage in the Mines of Moria, gasping in relief when I saw it said that Gandalf was gone, not dead.
I think I learned to love fiction as I listened to your books.
I think your books are why I began to love to write.
One day when you were writing your manuscript, your eyes were tired and you didn’t want to be working, and the words came out muddled and wrong. You couldn’t have known what those words would become. You didn’t know that one day my mother would read your words in her second edition of Lord of the Rings. You didn’t know my father would study your words in his college class. And you couldn’t have imagined a bunch of little American kids hanging on those words every night.
You couldn’t have known what those words would come to mean to me. It isn’t just a story. It’s the sound of my dad’s voice when he’s exhausted from working three jobs. It’s the smell of my mother’s edition—musty old pages wrapped in decades of my family. It’s the comfort on that night when my bloodwork came back bad, and I opened the book and read, “I do not believe this darkness will endure.”
One day those words stopped being yours and they became mine.
And that, I think, is the beauty of fiction. It just keeps growing, gathering lives and memories and interweaving them in a text.
That’s why I want to write.
Thank you, Mr. Tolkien, for your words. They have taught me that joy is sometimes like swords, that darkness will not endure, that healing doesn’t always come in this world. They have been my Sam when I thought I was carrying the Ring alone. Thank you.
Thank you for changing my life.