My bookish marriage proposal, and what Tolkien taught me


I’m sort of an odd person, and I never thought I’d find someone that I would want to be with for the rest of my life.

As I unwrapped a beautiful copy of my favorite book, The Fellowship of the Ring, next to my now-fiance, I flooded with so many complex emotions. It was hollow inside, save for  the now-familiar and comforting map of Middle-Earth, and a diamond ring right in the middle, flanked by twisting, golden leaves.

I can’t admit having a lifelong love of Tolkien, as he is a relatively recent discovery in my life, but reading this book opened up a whole new magical world.

It’s difficult to express how much Tolkien means to me. After reading Lord of the Rings, I was hooked. I began reading his essays as well, and he exposed me to the concept of a Secondary World — one that exists separate from ours and functions on its own in a wonderful way.

One of my favorite parts of of his essay, “On Fairy-Stories,” is as follows:

“Fantasy is a natural human activity. It certainly does not destroy or even insult Reason; and it does not either blunt the appetite for, nor obscure the perception of, scientific verity. On the contrary. The keener and the clearer is the reason, the better fantasy will it make. If men were ever in a state in which they did not want to know or could not perceive truth (facts or evidence), then Fantasy would languish until they were cured. If they ever get into that state (it would not seem at all impossible), Fantasy will perish, and become Morbid Delusion.

Fantasy can, of course, be carried to excess. It can be ill done. It can be put to evil uses. It may even delude the minds out of which it came. But of what human thing in this fallen world is that not true? Men have conceived not only of elves, but they have imagined gods, and worshipped them, even worshipped those most deformed by their authors’ own evil. But they have made false gods out of other materials: their notions, their banners, their monies; even their sciences and their social and economic theories have demanded human sacrifice. Abusus non tollit usum. Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.”

So if you’re still with me, what I get out of that passage is that my blend of curiosity between the “real world” and ones that exist in our heads, in books, etc. is the most natural thing a human can have. Tolkien’s writing has made me constantly think and not only feel closer to the natural world around me, but my own mind as well.

I’ve found myself more often nurturing the creative, imaginative thoughts in my head, and appreciating the parts of the Earth that seem to have otherworldly qualities — things that some people might let slip by unnoticed. The wisp and whistle of the wind through the trees. The color and fragrance and variety of flowers. The way birds sound when they call to each other. The way the sun feels on my skin, and the way it nurtures me when I’m feeling depression come on.

Tolkien and I may not exactly have the same concept of a “Maker,” but he showed me how beautiful the world is, and how fantastic a Secondary World can be. To me, my Maker is the atoms we are all made up of, the cycle of nature that we all belong to. That has long brought me a sense of comfort since I began to think about it.

Tolkien also goes on in that same essay to discuss a sense of escapism that many get from reading fairy-stories, and I think that’s another part of the comfort for me when reading his works.

And my engagement ring is perfectly representative of my renewed love of nature, and the sense of comfort I get from Tolkien and books in general. The twirling, golden vines remind me of the beauty of nature, and of the Elvish lore that Tolkien explored within his works.

Above all, though, it reminds me of my fiance each time I look at it, and I’m so elated to jump into the rest of my life with him, as we together wander our own world with hungry curiosity, filled with both fantasy and our own reality.

(P.S., I did extensive pondering about how the One Ring represents a sense of corruption. control and power, so maybe that’s not the best sort of thing to associate with an engagement ring, but let’s just go ahead an not worry about that 🙂 )



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