JRR Tolkien, fantasy, and a simpler life as inspiration

I am undoubtedly not the first person to think of Middle Earth as a place of refuge from modern hustle and bustle, technology, and the minutiae of modern life. In fact, JRR Tolkien himself viewed it that way; the Lord of the Rings trilogy was in many ways written as a response to the industrialization of the Oxfordshire surroundings he loved so much. This harkening for more simplistic times is something that resonates with many of us in the modern age.

Rivendell by Alan Lee


Sometimes when I'm heads down in coding, I've spent too much time gaming, or I'm just exhausted from the most recent infuriating 24 hour news cycle tempest in a teapot, I find myself reading the Sagas of the Vikings, Lord of the Rings, or losing myself in the rich and incredible illustrations of amazing fantasy artists like Alan Lee (who also was responsible for much of the aesthetic of the movies) or Brian Froud. Unsurprisingly, my places of solace have also trickled irretrievably into my own artwork and hobbies. 

Nazgul by Lee. Look at that beautiful gestural line work in graphite! The Nazgul speak deeply to the reptilian fear of the unkown and threats in the night.


This need for simpler societal rules, a commune with nature, and a black and white moral code draws me back again and again, as does the reflection in the artwork associated with this lore of elegance, muted colors, and well-executed simplicity. My personal theory is that this resonates so deeply because much of our ancestral history ("our" in this case being humanity) had much more in common with that sort of environment than the modern, too quickly fabricated one. There's a part of every human that seeks out the wind in the trees, a crackling fire, and staring at the stars and wondering about our origins. Rising with the sun, modeling our lives on harvest seasons, and protecting our loved ones from the darkness beyond our doorsteps. I think this essential calm reflection is ever harder to find (and one reason I am very much enjoying living in the country again). 


Warmth, firelight and solace: Another Alan Lee Illustration


Do you find yourself detaching from the modern world? What environments do you seek, and what stories resonate in your heart? I'd love to know.