Lillian Stewart Carl
I first read The Lord of the Rings in my teens, more than a few years ago, and wanted nothing more than to forsake the suburban streets of Ohio and crawl through the pages into Middle-earth. I remember writing a poem of typical teen angst, ending "Rohan, Rohan, the clear sound of the horns in the dawn!"
Any angst I might have now is of the adult variety, but that scene from The Return of the King, of Gandalf and Shadowfax making their stand in the broken gates of Minas Tirith, of hope returning just when all seems darkest, still brings tears to my eyes. It's not the only scene that does.
I've read The Lord of the Rings over and over again, sometimes re-reading a scene many times trying to grasp how Tolkien's writing, how his inimitable imagery, captured the truth of his world so perfectly. And yet every time I re-read my favorite passages they're still fresh.
Recently I re-read my first published fantasy novels. I was appalled to discover I'd used several Tolkien-esque phrases -- quite unconsciously, as so much of his prose is now lodged deep in my subconscious. My more recent novels are set in the present day and world, giving me the chance to have characters find each other when one of them uses the word "mathom", for example, or makes a reference to Black Riders. No matter how contemporary though, I try to write my novels with that awareness of another world beyond this one, of depths of history and breadth of legend, that I learned from Tolkien.
It's my new novel, Lucifer's Crown (ISBN 0786253487 $25.95 hardcover), that is most heavily influenced by Tolkien, albeit in a very subtle way. Tolkien's reverence for the natural world and for language are both important parts of the story (and are acknowledged as such by one of the main characters), while the moral choices that his characters make are very much a part of
mine. The theme of the book is The Story, in the same way Sam and Frodo talk about The Story at the end of The Two Towers film. You should have seen me come up out of my seat in the theater when I heard those bits of dialog! And yet I began writing this book in 1995, before the films were more than a maniacal gleam in Peter Jackson's eye.
For many years I kept saying, "If only they'd make a good movie of this...." Jackson has my eternal gratitude for doing so. Despite his occasional blunder, he has not only
captured but heightened the emotion, the spirit, the imagery, the poetry--the reality beyond our own--that I love so much in The Lord of the Rings. There's nothing like having the greatest possible material to work with. One of the dedications at the front of Lucifer's Crown is "To J. R .R. Tolkien, whose Story has enriched my life".
Lillian Stewart Carl