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Another excerpt: Nate meets the Professor in Heaven

Aunt Dora Baggins

Jan 31 2008, 5:30pm

Post #1 of 6 (1429 views)
Another excerpt: Nate meets the Professor in Heaven Can't Post

I posted an excerpt from the book I'm writing below. I decided to post this excerpt, which takes place much earlier in the book. Nate is a young man who was destined to meet and marry the girl who is the heroine of the story, but a decision to catch a grenade and save his comrades' lives in 1970 changed their destiny. In this part, she has just read of Tolkien's death:

I put my head down on my knees and wept, not really knowing why. Some of it was the loss of stories that might have been forthcoming. Tolkien had been working on The Silmarillion for years; now it would never be finished. Some of it was because a favorite author does become a friend, even if the reader never meets him. But mostly it was about the Star of Eärendil, I think. I wondered if there really was a boy named Nathan who had been looking up at that star that spring night three years ago. Did he look at it from Heaven now?

Then another thought made me smile through my tears. Maybe Nathan would get to meet Tolkien, there in Heaven. I imagined their meeting, the earnest young man who would have been a ranger, and the crusty professor who valued rangers so highly.

* * * * * * *

“Oh, no, I couldn’t,” said Nate. He and Jesus sat on a bench in the dappled shade of a big tree. Children played on the green grass of the park. All about the wide lawn stood the beautiful crystal towers of the City.

“Why not?” said Jesus.

“Well, because fans annoy him. He calls us his ‘Deplorable Cultus’.”

Jesus laughed at that. “I can understand how he might feel that way. But I had a little talk with him about that. A big part of his discomfort is his natural modesty, but I assured him it was all right to be so beloved. And I know he felt swamped, but I explained that it’s different here. Meeting with a million people is no more difficult than meeting with one. He said he’d be happy to meet you. He’s waiting at the University, in the Hall of Fire.”


Nate found himself in a pillared hall with a huge fireplace at one end. Firelight gleamed and shimmered form the fireplace, casting flickering shadows among the pillars. “The Hall of Fire,” Nate murmured. “It looks just the way I always dreamed it would.”

“Me too,” said a voice from the shadows at the side of the fireplace. “Remarkable, isn’t it?” A slender man in an old-fashioned greatcoat strode toward him.

“Thank you for meeting with me, Sir,” said Nate. “I wouldn’t have thought of disturbing you, but Jesus thought I should.”

“You are certainly not disturbing me,” said the Professor. “Back in Oxford, a meeting like this would have taken me from my duties, but I find it is different here. Come, let me show you something.”

He led Nate to a door on the far side of the room, through another hall filled with long tables, and out onto a balcony. Nate stared at the beautiful mountain valley beyond the balcony. It was like his mountain meadow, with shining waterfalls and green slopes rising up to craggy peaks. But more narrow than his meadow, and the river through it was wider than his little stream. Nate recognized the valley at once. “Rivendell!” he said.

The Professor smiled. “Yes. It’s really quite remarkable. I leave by one door and find myself in a busy university in a beautiful city, and I leave by another and here I am in Elrond’s fair valley. And down one of these halls are the rooms of a pleasant house where I live with my wife, surrounded by a neat, well-kept garden in a little English village.”

“I know,” said Nate. “It’s like that in my house too. Out one door is my mountain meadow, and another opens onto a street in the City. One part of the house is a family place where I can be with my grandfather and his sister and their parents; another is my very own place where I can be alone.” He sighed. “But I don’t have a wife. I left her behind.”

“You were a soldier, I hear. Soldiers' wives are often widowed young.”

“Well, she wasn't really my wife. She likely would have been, I'm told, if I hadn't died. But the truth is, we never met. Anyway, being a soldier is what I wanted to tell you about. I didn't want to go, but when I was called I went.”

“Like Frodo,” said the Professor gently.

“Like Frodo. Your book kept me going through those hard times. One foot in front of the other, through Mordor it seemed like sometimes, and up mount Doom. 'I wish it need not have happened in my time.' 'So do all who live to see such times. But it is not for them to decide. They have only to decide what to do with the time that is given them.' I don't know if what I decided was right, but I tried to do what I thought was my duty.”

The Professor was silent so long that Nate was afraid he'd offended him. But at last he put a hand on Nate's shoulder. “I'm moved and honored by your words, my boy. You at least understood some of what I was trying to say. Duty. It was not all merrymaking and feasting under the trees.” He gestured toward the great lawn below the balcony.

The beings that danced there were clearly Elves. They were too lithe and slender to be human, too solid to be angels. Some wore flowing robes and sang in clear voices “A Elbereth Gilthoniel”. Others in green trousers and tunics sat in the trees, singing a counterpoint that sounded suspiciously like “Tra-la-la-lally, way down in the valley”.

Nate stared. “There really are Elves here? Are they real because you made them up, like Rivendell?”

The Professor took a pipe from his pocket and put the stem in his mouth. A silvery smoke rose from the bowl. Its delicate scent reminded Nate of a distant campfire, but it didn't sting his eyes or throat the way smoke would have on Earth. “Not all of them,” he said, and blew a thoughtful stream of smoke rings out across the valley. “Not any of them, maybe, if I want to be precise. Some of them are characters I 'created', if you can call it that. Elrond and Glorfindel are somewhere about. But they're just aspects of myself, alter-egos, so to speak. All an author's characters are aspects of himself, you know, if they have any life in them at all. I didn't really 'create' them, any more than I created myself.”

“You said 'Some of them'. What about the others?”

The Professor chuckled and shook his head. “They are people who have read and enjoyed my books, apparently, and choose to be Elves or Hobbits for a while. Of course they have other lives elsewhere here too; at least I hope they do.”

Nate grinned. “Your Deplorable Cultus.”

“Did I call them that? Oh, dear. Well, they're not so bad, at least not the ones I've met here. Their Elvish singing is really quite good. Especially under the stars.”

As he spoke, twilight fell, though it had been bright daylight a moment before. A star winked on in the deep indigo sky between the cliffs.

“Eärendil,” said Nate. “I used to see it shining over the cornfields in Nebraska, and the jungles of Vietnam. I knew it was really Venus, but I always thought of your character Eärendil, sailing the heavens with the Silmaril on his brow. I used to wonder if somewhere a girl was looking up at it at the same time I was, and wondering about me. Turns out she was. She still does, sometimes. She calls it 'Eärendil' too.”

They stood leaning on the railing in silence as the star poured its light down into the valley. Soft Elvish singing rose through the deepening twilight. At last the Professor said, “I had the hubris once to think I could create a mythology for England. I’m amazed to hear that I succeeded in Nebraska, of all places. I’m sorry you didn’t get to meet your young woman.”

“I will someday,” said Nate.

“Yes. And it isn’t hard to wait here, is it? Harder for her.”

Nate nodded. “Harder for her,” he said.

"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
"A Chance Meeting at Rivendell" and other stories

leleni at hotmail dot com


Jan 31 2008, 9:54pm

Post #2 of 6 (1289 views)
Some clever weaving [In reply to] Can't Post

You know I have had a daydream similiar to this incident many times over the last few years. I like to think about getting a chance one day of asking him all those questions like does a Balrog has wings (They do not! Laugh). Anyway I liked the excerpt & interesting things you are weaving into the story.

An Ent juggling spikey things ?

Aunt Dora Baggins

Feb 1 2008, 10:40pm

Post #3 of 6 (1353 views)
Thanks! [In reply to] Can't Post

It is sooo much fun doing the 'weaving'. Not all of it is Tolkien-related; I just happened to pick two excerpts that were. There's a lot about Oz in it too (the heroine's name is Dorothy because her mom is an Oz fan, and so are several other characters), and a lot of just historical stuff: Nate's death coincides with Dorrie's presence at a war protest at CSU the night Old Main burns down, her best friend gets involved with the Harvey Milk campaign, there's a whole chapter about the Big Thompson flood, etc. It has been so interesting cross-checking dates and details.

When I get this done I'm planning to make an electronic copy available to any TORnsib that wants one. As I said, though, it's not all Tolkien stuff. ;-)

"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
"A Chance Meeting at Rivendell" and other stories

leleni at hotmail dot com

Forum Admin / Moderator

Feb 4 2008, 2:22am

Post #4 of 6 (1274 views)
Heart's desire [In reply to] Can't Post

Clearly, the physics of Heaven is not the physics of this world Wink!

Like orcbane said: a very nice weaving of events and ideas! Tolkien always felt he was "sub-creating", that the Creator already had Middle-earth existing elsewhere.

And that is a comforting thought.

Thank you for another installment of Dorothy's story!

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"

"It struck me last night that you might write a fearfully good romantic drama, with as much of the 'supernatural' as you cared to introduce. Have you ever thought of it?"
-Geoffrey B. Smith, letter to JRR Tolkien, 1915

Aunt Dora Baggins

Feb 4 2008, 2:39am

Post #5 of 6 (1443 views)
Thanks for reading it :-) [In reply to] Can't Post

Imagining Heaven has been the most fun part of writing this story. I imagine that it's full of visual metaphors, symbols like dream symbols that stand for an indescribable underlying reality. Nate usually thinks of the City as the Emerald City, but he notices details like the state capitol building of Nebraska there, because he's always thought it was a beautiful building.

The story about Nate finding sustenance in LotR during his stint in Vietnam is actually based on a true story a colleague told me. He was drafted, and found a copy of LotR in the locker he was given. He said it got him though all the terrible times.

It's been interesting approaching this as a non-Christian myself. Since Nate is a Christian, I figure of course he would meet Jesus in Heaven. But the Vietnamese man he killed in the war is also there, and he is greeted by another figure, who is probably actually the same person. I take a pretty Universalist approach, so this story may not have a really broad appeal. But I'm writing it mostly for myself, and it's really grabbing me.

"For DORA BAGGINS in memory of a LONG correspondence, with love from Bilbo; on a large wastebasket. Dora was Drogo's sister, and the eldest surviving female relative of Bilbo and Frodo; she was ninety-nine, and had written reams of good advice for more than half a century."
"A Chance Meeting at Rivendell" and other stories

leleni at hotmail dot com

mae govannen
Tol Eressea

Apr 1, 4:56am

Post #6 of 6 (1054 views)
Just stumbled upon this lovely excerpt of yours [In reply to] Can't Post

among the posts listed in answer to my search about 'deplorable cultus'...
Just wanted to say hello, and a warm thank you for this delightful story. It moved me very much as I kept reading it. It also reminded me of 'Leaf by Niggle', in which the dear Professor does indeed find himself in the after-death dimension, with around him the very world created there by his own book-writing...Smile

'Is everything sad going to come untrue?'
(Sam, 'The Field of Cormallen', in 'The Return of the King'.)

(This post was edited by mae govannen on Apr 1, 4:58am)


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