“Do I still think, as I did then, that Tolkien was the greatest writer in the world? In the strict sense, no. You can think that at thirteen. If you still think it at fifty-three, something has gone wrong with your life.” -Terry Pratchett
I’ve been thinking about this quote off and on all week.
As I started to go into in comments before, I think this really does get into the territory of infatuation versus love.
When someone is infatuated, the object of their infatuation is considered infallible, perfect, without flaws. This is the sort of “love” (awkward word in English) that we commonly see in teens and those who haven’t grown out of their teen mentality (regardless of age). It is also, I’m sure, a sort of feeling that we’re all familiar with. In some ways, this is also the love of the medieval romances, the courtly love idea (the subject of the knights’ love was perfect and unattainable)
With that in mind, I would venture to say that there are a lot of people who are infatuated with Tolkien, particularly Lord of the Rings. This is the group that vehemently defends Tolkien and his work against any naysayers or critique, because not doing so would be to admit that the subject of their infatuation is imperfect, flawed, fallible, not ideal, perhaps even not exceptional.
On the other hand, to truly love is to acknowledge the flaws present in the object of one’s love, to accept them (within reason – I make an exception for abusive relationships), and to love anyway. This is a longer lasting, more honest, even in a sense truer love, I think. A more mature love. A more realistic love, not an ideal.
Assuming that definition, I think there are many, albeit a smaller group than above, who truly love Tolkien. This group can see and acknowledge his flaws, but love him and his work nonetheless. This group has no need to defend him or his work as “the best” or “perfect” because it knows he/the work is not and loves him/it anyway. This group considers the man and his work exceptional, regardless of his/its flaws, or perhaps even because of those flaws.
Just some thoughts that have been going through my head.