I have an inkling…


Tolkien fans know that today, September 22, is the birthday of both Bilbo Baggins and his nephew, Frodo.

I have no real problem if you didn’t know the actual date. I’d be quite concerned if you don’t know who Bilbo and Frodo are.

I’m feeling the need to watch The Movies again, when I have time, and I think that sometime over the course of the winter I’ll be reading The Books again.

If you have to ask “What movies?” or “What books?” I’m not sure we should be friends anymore because I really don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.

J.R.R. Tolkien was an English writer and university professor best known for The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. I discovered his writings when I was in high school and, over the course of a summer, devoured his works. He was friends with another favorite writer C.S. Lewis, known to most folks for The Chronicles of Narnia.

These men were part of an informal literary discussion group known as the Inklings and associated with the University of Oxford, England, between the early 1930s and late 1949. They met in a pub and discussed literature, particularly fantasy, and of course shared an ale, or two-thousand.

While my writing may be brilliant, it can’t hold a candle, or a Phial of Galadriel, to the works of these men and the their cohorts. But oh, to have been, or to be, a part of such a group.

I’ve never really been in a writing group, particularly one that sat around in a pub and discussed our works. I suppose the closest I ever came was being a part of the spring session of The Mighty Pen Project where we sat around the table and discussed each other’s writings.

But, there was no ale. At least not during class.

For me, with all of its trappings and problems, Facebook sort of serves the purpose of a writing group for me. I know it’s not the same, but the socialization is real. Face it, I’m in contact with people I literally have not seen in more than forty years.

I have an online group of Tolkien friends. We are a small, but merry, and loyal band. We met years ago on a, believe it or not, political forum, but we gathered because of our love of the first movies. In those first few days after 9/11 and with the upcoming release of The Fellowship of the Ring, we formed bonds of friendships. We’ve laughed together, grieved together, met together for a week to celebrate the release of the final film. We’ve celebrated births, and weddings. We’ve prayed over job changes and moves. We’ve grieved over the loss of pets.

I still get a notice for Frodo’s and Bilbo’s birthdays from the Yahoo group we created as a backup to the other forum.

Our remnant eventually gravitated to Facebook as the other form was taken over by orcs and cave trolls. We still follow and comment on each other’s posts. This week we rejoiced as one of our group got a good report from the doctor.

For an introvert, it’s a safe gathering. But I kind of like the idea of showing up at the same establishment, perhaps night after night, never knowing who would also be showing up, and never quite knowing where the conversation would lead you.

And if you know me and my lack of spontaneity, and my general distaste for surprises (which, coincidentally is why I also don’t do Haunted Houses), you know it’s significant for me to say I’d enjoy such a pub gathering.

I know there are writing groups around, but they seem more contrived than the Inklings who were first friends who happened to also be writers and professors.

So, I write alone.

See? I really am suffering for my art.

You should probably invite me out for an ale.


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