What Middle Earth Means to Me...
I tried reading the Silmarillion when I was about fourteen, after having finished (and falling in love with) The Lord of the Rings. I suppose it must have been 1983/1984. A time of the Tories under the evil that was Maggie Thatcher. There was the Miners Strike, National Front, Anarchy, Greenham Common, CND, great music and genre inspired fashion - Punks, New Romantics, Skinheads, Mods and Rockers haunting record shops and roaming streets - me hanging out at bus stops with friends and exploring the woods; discovering the world of Tolkien.
I needed Tolkien.
Didn't know it at the time.
I needed the escapism of Middle Earth to flee harsh emotional, physical, and mental abuse that was pretty much a weekly, if not daily event, at home. I didn't know it was abuse. It was just life. It was my life - inescapable until I first ventured into Middle Earth. Then my mind was stirred to picture the beauty of elves, of Lothlorien, Misty Mountains, the shadows of Khazad-dûm. I saw stoic dwarfs, fun-loving hobbits, realised heroes were real, and pictured kingdoms, cities, peoples even Tolkien hadn't written about. JRR. A genius who stirred the embers and stoked the fires of fairy-tale belief in everyday folk. In t' shadows were orcs and goblins, adventures, and never again was a walk in the woods ever the same. Indeed, looking back, I realise Middle Earth gave me a place to escape to, even as I was being hit, shouted at, kicked and punched.
A sanctuary inside.
One I could visit whenever I needed.
And so I fell in love with Middle Earth.
A kindly inclusive place that is to be loved and treasured, shared and explored.
Perhaps it even kept me alive.
And now, at the ripe old age of fifty-three, I'm reading the Silmarillion again. This time I understand it. Am ready for it. It tells me once more that Middle Earth is indeed a beautiful place. I wasn't wrong. An amazing, magical place. One of heroes and villains, darkness, light; where the wonder of magical races is ever present. Here is the beauty of a natural world alive, full of hope, and not so very different to the beauty of our own world; a place that needs protecting, at once different and familiar to anyone who visits. A safe, magical place in an oft confusing world, where once more we're faced with the cruelty of right wing, hate-fuelled politics in society, where greed trumps all - certainly in Britain, if not the world - and where corruption is rife. Social equality scorned. War embraced.
Sadly the world really hasn't changed that much.
A wheel that turns.
But so too is Middle Earth a constant.
A shifting constant, unique and wonderful to every individual it welcomes.
Somewhere to protect and share.
A sanctuary to all.
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