The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien Like many who grew up immersing themselves in fantasy books, movies and games, Tolkien was king. A rightfully seated, but benevolent, autocrat. Dukes and barons maintained his authority. Gary Gygax, Terry Brooks, Robert Jordan, hell, even Led Zeppelin. Even though he was dead almost a decade before I first paid homage, I sat obediently through the cartoon version of The Hobbit. I then received a 45 rpm record of the same. I then created my own game out of crude, #2 pencil drawn triangular dwarf and orc figures cut from wide-ruled notebook paper with which I played on my bedroom floor. I had sworn allegiance. I think I was seven.

I came to the books a few years later. I snuck into my older brother’s bedroom and stole the mass-market paperback book box set he read dutifully once a year. He wasn’t going to share so I didn’t bother to ask. I returned it and he never knew. Even now, The Lord of the Rings retains a slight taboo thrill for me even though it is a 21st century pop culture staple.

For good or bad (and there are many who wave the banner of disdain), Tolkien created the myths and set the structure underlying most fantasy fiction which came after. I’ve read some fantastic reviews on how Tolkien’s writing is racist, misogynistic, and pandering to authority and the status quo. Intellectually, I can listen, read and agree. I should be more critical of his writing. The lumbering descriptions, the lack of dramatic timing and how major plot points slide past without emphasis.

But I can’t. His world is too enjoyable. It’s too complete. Whether it’s the songs I skim over which reference obscure historical Middle-Earth events or the pages in the Appendices on language which provide instruction on the proper pronunciation of words written in Quenya, I am awed. It is a world which he dedicated his life to creating. And it is a world which I was lost in years before I even read about it.