Wednesday, January 3rd marks the 126th anniversary of the birth of John Ronald Reuel (JRR) Tolkien.
Today, our world is permeated by the work of Mr. Tolkien. In addition to the blockbuster movies made by Peter Jackson, Amazon is developing a series set in the world of Middle Earth (a report from Deadline estimates the cost of the LOTR rights for that series around $200-$250 million). Not to mention Tolkien's influence can be seen everywhere from the new Will Smith movie Bright to the writings for that other RR guy with a fantasy world.
That, of course is a question with no easy answer. Tolkien's Middle Earth is a world of immense imagination, of immense breadth, and of compelling stories. Tolkien took the raw materials of myth (goblins, trolls, elves) and created a history with sufficient detail to get lost in for a lifetime. But, beyond that, the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit are compelling because they offer a very human view of the virtues to which we aspire. Bilbo (and the other hobbits, Frodo and Samwise for that matter) are not impossibly brave. They are as scared as any of us. But they know that the definition of courage is not a lack of fear, but a willingness to do what needs to be done despite being afraid. Gandalf the Wizard is kind but moody and often ill-tempered. Characters like Boromir struggle between their better angels and darkest impulses. Other than the elves, the heroes of Tolkien's world are not perfect. They get knocked down, they fail, the find themselves wanting, but they persevere.
Maybe that is why we keep returning to Tolkien. I know that when we created Inspirational Creatures, Tolkien was front of mind. We love the fun and fantasy of Middle Earth. But, more than that, we wanted to celebrate the heroes of the modern workplace, the creatures of Middle Earth were a natural starting point. If there is one lesson hammered home to us in the modern workplace, it is that failure will happen. Nobody wins every time. And few of us hold to our ideals perfectly. But, we believe the best of us pick ourselves up, put our elven armor back on, and rejoin the fight. Failure, as we are often told, is not final. We don't win because we're perfect. We win because we know the fight is worth fighting.
In a business world that changes rapidly, the skills we learned ten or twenty years ago can seem antiquated, and we are constantly made to adapt and face challenges for which we often feel utterly unprepared. At our best, we step forward like Frodo at the Council of Elrond, "I will take it. I will take the Ring to Mordor...
So raise a pint to the original wizard, JRR Tolkien (yes...Pippin, it comes in pints). On this, your Twelvedy-Sixth bithday, we thank you for brightening our world with yours.