The popularity of The Hobbit had led George Allen & Unwin, the publishers, to request a sequel. Tolkien warned them that he wrote quite slowly, and responded with several stories he had already developed. Having rejected his contemporary drafts for The Silmarillion, putting on hold Roverandom, and accepting Farmer Giles of Ham, Allen & Unwin thought more stories about hobbits would be popular. So at the age of 45, Tolkien began writing the story that would become The Lord of the Rings.
This paragraph is cheerful reading for a gray-haired chap like me. My spirit remains youthful and adventurous. Time may feel a bit short after the 50th birthday, but there are still opportunities to get good things done: at 49 I went to Afghanistan to work, at 50 I learned French, at 52 I published two novels in Swedish.
The years behind are full of powerful experiences:
– the white splendor of Agra
– the leopards of the Garwhal hills
– the ruins of Masada in the desert sunrise
– the dangers of Kabul
– the barren immensity of the Hindukush mountains seen from the air
– Cassini-Huygens’s photos from distant Titan
– the end of the Cold War broadcast live from Berlin and Moscow more than twenty years ago
– the b/w reports from the moon landings more than 40 years ago.
And more is yet to come — to use JRR Tolkien’s words:
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.