21 September 2012

Special birthdays

No, not mine.

Tolkien Books
(courtesy "Jemimus," Flickr Creative Commons)
Today is the 75th anniversary of the publication of JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit

It's the birthday of both Bilbo Baggins and Frodo Baggins (even in Middle Earth, this was kind of a fun coincidence for the uncle-nephew set).

And, today is Stephen King's birthday.

Is it a stretch to say that Tolkien & King have quite a bit in common?  I don't think so. 
They both reflect on our particular fears of the 20th (and 21st) century.  Tolkien was tramatized by his experiences in the trenches of WWI, and this is evident in the wars of Middle Earth, especially the mechanized, industrialized destructive power of the minions of Sauron.  King too explores industrial-strength death in The Stand.  I think even closer to our hearts, Carrie and his novella The Body depict adolescence and how hierarchy and cruelty (bullying, really) can lead to terrible consequences.  The "death" that an individual might feel at being shamed or rejected by others is still unbearably painful for the victim.

So many fears...
(Courtesy "robbophotos" Flickr Creative Commons)

King digs into our real fears: fears of clowns (It), vicious dogs (Cujo), eating disorders and body issues (Thinner), being hurt in or by a car (Christine), being abducted/ held captive (Misery), our ambivalence about capital punishment (The Green Mile). And on and on.

And I'm not the first one to draw a connection between these two authors.  I just went to Wikipedia to confirm a couple of facts, and look what I found:

In the late 1970s, King began what became a series of interconnected stories about a lone gunslinger, Roland, who pursues the "Man in Black" in an alternate-reality universe that is a cross between J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth and the American wild west as depicted by Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone in their spaghetti westerns. The first of these stories, The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger, was first published in five installments by The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction under the editorship of Edward L. Ferman, beginning in 1977 and the last in 1981. The Gunslinger was continued as a large 7-book epic called The Dark Tower, which were written and published infrequently over four decades. (The Dark Tower)
I have wondered whether there is a connection between King's Dark Tower and the Dark Tower of Barad-dûr .  Guess I was on the right track.

So, thank you to two authors who have contributed immeasurably to English literature!  My mother-in-law loaned me her copy of 11/22/63 (it's my goal to post about it by 11/22/12), and I can't wait for Peter Jackson's Hobbit to be released! 

No comments:

Post a Comment