Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tolkien and Westminster

So, the news about C. S. Lewis's having a memorial in his honor put up in Westminster Abbey next year, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of his death, makes me wonder: what are the chances that J. R. R. Tolkien will one day also be so honored? And, if so, when?

At first I thought Tolkien would probably be passed over because the Abbey is, after all, an Anglican institution and Tolkien was Catholic. But then I looked at the online list of who's buried there and all the others who have memorials (a far greater number), and saw that Hopkins, Pope, and Wilde are there, so being Catholic is apparently no bar to membership in this particular v. exclusive club.**

There's also the fact that Tolkien wrote fantasy, which has historically not gotten much respect as a genre -- but Lewis's entry, which seems largely due to the Narnia books, seems an indicator that has changed (Lewis Carroll also got a memorial there, as recently as 1982; Edward Lear is also there). And remember this is a country which recently knighted a man explicitly for writing fantasy (Sir Terry Pratchett).

I suspect the main reason might simply be time. Lewis is being added a year from now, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of his death, while Tolkien only died thirty-nine years ago. True, Ted Hughes got added last year, only thirteen years after his death, but then he was Poet Laureate, which probably expedites such things. So, I suspect Tolkien's time will come, but not for another dozen years or so.

I guess we'll have to just wait and see.

--John R.

*albeit added a century or two after their deaths: Hopkins in 1975, Pope in 1994, and the notorious Wilde in 1995
**I also noted the presence of several atheists, so apparently Xianity isn't even required

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