My dear people. My dear Bagginses and Boffins, and my dear Tooks and Brandybucks, Bracegirdles, goodbodies, Brockhouses and Proudfoots. Also my good Sackville-Bagginses that I welcome back at last to Bag End. Today is my one hundred and eleventh birthday: I am eleventy-one today.
Well, not quite that old: I am thirty today. Like Bilbo I find myself longing for mountains and stretched thin. I know some of you who have more years than I will laugh at thirty feeling old; but the last decade has worn me out. Plus I now feel old enough, not to be old precisely, but old enough that I'm not young. If that makes any sense.
I keep reminding myself that I'm still three years shy of my majority in hobbit-reckoning. So no need to act like a growed-up just yet, and no need to act like it at all, really. I can play the part when I need to better than I once could, but I suspect it will always be an exhausting endeavor.
Since I'm claiming hobbit aging, I should probably treat the birthday like a hobbit. That means mathoms. Lately I've been listening to the Piano Guys, a piano/cello duo that's big on YouTube. Here's my latest favorite song:
I didn't just choose to share this because it's a great song (which it is), or because new, fresh music is always such a gift to me. What I love about the Piano Guys is that they cover popular and classical songs (in this case Coldplay's "Paradise" with an African twist) but make them their own. This is near and dear to my heart because it is exactly what I try so hard to do in my own fanfic. Listening to their music, I've been reminded of one of my all-time favorite quotes from JRRT:
"Do not laugh! But once upon a time (my crest has long since fallen) I had a mind to make a body of more or less connected legend, ranging from the large and cosmogonic to the level of romantic fairy-story--the larger founded on the lesser in contact with the earth, the lesser drawing splendour from the vast backcloths--which I could dedicate simply: to England; to my country. [...] I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama. Absurd."
Not absurd at all, my good professor. For me, fanfic at its best becomes a language, a metaphor, that we can use to talk about the things and experiences that matter most to us - but use a frame of reference that expresses them more intimately than would be possible otherwise. And it provides a framework so we can delve deeper than we might otherwise. A shared religious tradition does the same thing for me, which is why I think I probably spend more time blogging about religion than in actual religious worship. It's a way of talking about things to get beyond the surface, and thinking and talking about that seems to alternately break my heart and soothe my wounds.
In its own way, the same thing can be said for fandom and for my fanfic in particular. A close friend of mine once described her work as "fanfic as therapy," and that description always stuck with me. Fanfic often is therapy but not just for me personally. For me, it almost works as a Freudian psychoanalysis of the real: of whatever is most true, most significant, most in need of examining and understanding. I know other people whose work strikes me the same way, so much so that I wonder how it could happen any way other than intentionally.
That, for me, is the value of fanfic. And of myth, come to it. That's really what a lot of fanfic is, though it can be put to other purposes. And begging Tolkien's pardon, but the drive to do that isn't absurd. Not by a long shot.
Along those same lines I want to thank everyone who has given my birthday wishes, but in particular the people who ahve written me fic for my birthday. Both touched me deeply, albeit in very different ways:
- Beauty by just_ann_now. There's just so much sun and light and happiness here, in all it. (Alec/Richard)
- The Wardens by dwimordene_2011. There's Beorn, and Radagast, and they're just so other in the best sort of way. And of course the transformation of the hunting instinct to awe was beautiful - a very hopeful thought.
Thanks also to everyone who's said such nice things, both here and at FB. I do appreciate it.
On another note, enjoy Christopher Lee reading "The Raven":
This isn't quite as random as it seems. Recently, I was reminded of Dwim's "The Hamster" poem. Listen to Sir Lee, and try hard not to hear in your mind:
And yet the dark-haired stranger wand'ring, called 'Thorongil', set me pond'ring,
thrilled me—filled me with dread suspicions that I'd never felt before;
So that I, to still the craving of my mind, which might be raving,
To know the all of him not saving secrets buried at his core—
I'd have the all of him not saving things he'd shown to none before—
I bought a hamster, nothing more.
Scantily did it resemble he who bore the star-brooched mantle;
'Sir', I'd said, 'or Madam, truly I am not versed in hamster "lore";
Nor care I to risk your biting simply so's to gain a sighting
Of your underside for tidings of your gender that I should ignore,
As I would your namesake's myst'ry' — Here I set 'him' by the door; —
'Yet I can't, and so I'm sore.'
Years later, that poem still makes me laugh like little else.
A happy un-birthday to the rest of you. Thanks so much for making today a good one.