Apropos Postscript

In July, the Tolkien Society of Kansas City started reading The Annotated Hobbit with the intention of finishing it in time for this year’s Hobbit Day (annually on September 22nd celebrating both Bilbo and Frodo’s birthdays). The introduction presented me with multiple sources but didn’t provide it’s own bibliography. I made my first inter-library loan request in months for four books, only two of which could be filled by my closest local library. I then re-requested the two from a different larger library. Meanwhile, I received the other two ILL books and two other books I put on hold that were already in the library system. Since Tolkien & The Silmarillion by Kilby was only eighty-nine pages long, I immediately began reading it on Monday and finished it on Tuesday.

Overall, I enjoyed the small memoir of Kilby‘s Summer of ’66 with Tolkien, but by far the most powerful portion was his Postscript, written soon after Tolkien’s death. I felt my chest tightening and my eyes welling up. And that’s when it struck me.

Today, September 2, 2021, is the 48th anniversary of the Passing of J.R.R. Tolkien. I read the Postscript again. I decided I must share at least part of it in the cyberspace aether. I added it as a comment to my final GoodReads status update. Then I decided I should post the Postscript here on my blog.

I quote here the first three paragraphs of the Kilby’s postscript:

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien is dead. He had the life of a mortal man, a little more than threescore years and ten. Yet he had Elvish immortality too, as thousands know from acquiring a measure of it themselves through his works. Tolkien was ‘otherworldly’ in the best sense of that term. Since the news media are overwhelmingly concerned with worldly things, his death received little front-page attention. It is a sign of our sad estate that the most meaningful things are the ones we pay the least public attention to. But those who loved Tolkien knew the true value of the good life, not its mere titillations.

Whether Tolkien will survive as a significant literary figure is a question no man can presently answer. What many of us know now with great assurance is that he survives deeply and joyously in us. A college student wrote, “The Lord of the Rings was and will probably be the most significant book of my life.” A physician said that the highlight of his four years in medical college was reading Tolkien in his senior year. Another suggested that Tolkien’s words say more than words can really say. Still, we cannot prophesy how other generations will receive him.

After Glen GoodKnight telephoned me from California of Tolkien’s death, I picked up The Return of the King and read of Theoden’s funeral rites. As the Riders of the King’s House rode about the barrow they sang of the king’s renown, and I thought some of their words appropriate to Tolkien himself:

Out of doubt, out of dark, to the day’s rising
he rode singing into the sun, sword unsheathing.
Hope rekindled, and in hope ended;
over death, over dread, over doom lifted
out of loss, out of lie, unto long glory.

After the burial and the weeping of the women and Theoden left in his barrow, the folk gathered to put away sorrow in a great feast in the Golden Hall of the palace. We who loved Tolkien now bear our period of sorrow, but it is tempered already with the joy of knowing that Tolkien’s words outlive him, not only in the pages of a book but in our flesh and spirit.

— Kilby, Clyde S. “Postscript.” Tolkien & the Silmarillion, Shaw, 1976, pp. 81-82.

And I scanned the very short Postscript in case I made typos above:

Reading and studying the life and works of Tolkien have brought me hours if not days of joy and fulfillment. Every day I’m grateful he blessed us with his wondrous Subcreation.

And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed on into the West, . . . the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King