Wednesday, March 24, 2004

The Keeper of the Sacred Scrolls

From the Sun-Sentinel:

MILWAUKEE — To complete the ultimate quest of “The Lord of the Rings,” Carl Hostetter has left his home in Maryland to navigate roaring rivers and cross vast plains — all to stride bravely through looming masoned gates in search of a nearly hidden glass door.

As he seeks to step closer to the mythical world created by J.R.R. Tolkien, Hostetter ends his journey at a place where few expect to find Middle-earth: Milwaukee.

For here, inside Marquette University, rests the world’s preeminent collection of J.R.R. Tolkien’s best-known literary works.

The original text for “The Hobbit,” his first published book, is here. So is the manuscript of “The Lord of the Rings.” There are hand-drawn maps. Rejected epilogues. Abandoned chapters. Elvish songs. Mounds of paper scraps. More than 11,500 items written by his hand.

Acquired at a time when fantasy was considered trash by many academics and literary critics, Marquette’s collection of the Oxford professor’s writings, poetry and drawings now is considered priceless.

They all laughed when I suggested in high school that Tolkien would be considered one of the greatest writers of the century. Ha!