It is a true blessing that I have the freedom to have a rather varied career.
Many of you reading this know me due to my forthcoming novel, The Shards of Heaven. Others know my historical casebooks, like the one just now being published on the Battle of Crécy. Or some of you simply know me as your current or former professor of medieval literature at The Citadel.
A smaller number of you know that in the nexus of all these interests is the figure of J.R.R. Tolkien. I’ve published a number of essays on Professor Tolkien and his works (one of which, “The Shellshocked Hobbit,” was this year blatantly ripped off by the BBC). And every few years — for a single blessed term — I get to teach a course on Tolkien, which is all kinds of magnificent.
I’m teaching just such a class right now, and we just had our mid-term papers come due.
The final copies were turned in online (and written in English), but after all was said and done this is what one of my students showed me:
That’s right. My student took the rough draft of his paper and transliterated it using Tolkien’s dwarven runes (the Angerthas Moria script, to be exact).
He did this … well, just because. The little exercise will grant him no extra points or honors. He knew this. He wasn’t kissing up. He was just enthralled with the subject material, he was spurned to do something fun and joyous, and he wanted to share that excitement.
This is — even aside from the aesthetics of this terrific work — beautiful. As teachers we yearn to connect with our students to the point that they are inspired. And here it is, in a nutshell: inspiration and excitement and learning.
Learning, you say? Why yes. As it happens, Tolkien’s dwarven runes are based on Anglo-Saxon and Norse runic scripts.
This confluence of history, language, and literature is why I love teaching (and writing about) the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. His works are a staggering treasure-trove of thought, and for all that I’ve written about them, for all that I’ve read and studied them, I continue to find new discoveries in these pages. That makes each time I teach them an exciting chance for discovery — for all of us.
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again:
I love my job.
(All of them.)