By Joan Campbell
On our gallant quest to uncover the greatest—and most influential—Christian Fantasy Writers, our journey inevitably leads to the forests, dales, and Hobbit holes of Tolkien’s Middle-earth. J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, is considered the father of High Fantasy – fantasy of an epic scale set in alternative worlds.
Tolkien’s creation of Middle-earth
The vastness and richness of Tolkien’s world inspires many writers and readers. Tolkien began work on this remarkable world in 1917 in the form of various writings which he referred to as his ‘legendarium’ and which he revised until his death. Much of this was published as The Silmarillion. Only die-hard Tolkien fans are likely to plough their way through this extensive work, which is not plot driven but rather a history of an entire world, its peoples and languages. This became the extremely rich and complex world in which Tolkien set The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
Tolkien and The Hobbit
We might never have heard of Tolkien’s legendarium if the boredom of exam marking hadn’t caused him to doodle on a student’s blank page some rather remarkable words: In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit. At that moment the history of the fantasy genre changed. Tolkien remembers the moment.
Tolkien was curious to know what a Hobbit was so he continued writing, eventually producing a story for his own children. He’d written for them before, however this time the story came to the attention of a London publisher and The Hobbit was published in 1937. The publisher pushed for a sequel and The Lord of the Rings was published in three volumes in 1954-1955.
The Inspiration behind Shelob
I’ve always felt a slight kinship with Tolkien who was born in 1892 in my native South Africa. Given that he moved to Britain at the age of three, the only impact South Africa might have had on his writing was the memory of a spider biting him, possibly the inspiration for Shelob. For me the greater sense of connection comes from the spiritual dimension that pervades Tolkien’s writing.
Tolkien’s impact on Enclave authors
Enclave author, R.J. Anderson was also impacted by the faith element in Tolkien’s books. She says, “Hearing these morally powerful, emotionally resonant stories from Christian fantasy authors (Tolkien and Lewis) not only convinced me that fantasy was the genre I wanted to write, but that it was something that could be done for the glory of God and have a positive effect on the hearts, imaginations and worldviews of readers.”
Another Enclave author, Morgan L. Busse, attributes her love of the fantasy genre to Tolkien’s work as well. She says, “I was first exposed to the fantasy genre when my father introduced me to The Hobbit. It was love at first story. I soon devoured The Lord of the Rings and even The Silmarillion before I was in high school. Tolkien’s books remind me that even in the darkness, the light always shines. That is the same message I want to share through my own fantasy stories.”
As for me, Tolkien has inspired me with his stories set in an extraordinary world. He has shown me that our imaginations can create vast and wonderful realms and creatures. His words have spoken to me at a very deep level. About standing up against the evil so prevalent around me. About not thinking that I am too ‘small and insubstantial’ to make a difference. About loyalty and friendship and making courageous choices.
Steering to the true harbour
His words have also reminded me that my calling to write Christian fantasy is a noble one that can guide people to the truth found in Christ. In Tolkien’s words: “We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour….”
If you enjoyed this post about Great Christian Writers, then check out the first one in this series: George MacDonald.
About Joan Campbell
Joan grew up in South Africa and the themes of discrimination and forgiveness are woven through her writing. She draws inspiration from her country’s vibrant mix of cultures, language, music and folklore. She lives in Johannesburg with her husband, two daughters and a Labrador named after one of her favourite characters in the trilogy.
Chains of Gwyndorr ( The Poison Tree Path Chronicles, Book 1) is available on Amazon.
Legends of the Loreteller, the trilogy’s Companion Guide, is a FREE DOWNLOAD on Joan’s website.