It was on 22nd March 1916 at St. Mary Immaculate Roman Catholic Church that John Ronald Reuel Tolkien married Edith Mary Bratt. Edith had converted to Catholicism in order to marry him. This conversion caused initial difficulties for Edith both on a personal level where she had been involved with the Anglican church, and on a practical level as her landlord (being anti-catholic) threw her out of her home!
Tolkien and myth
A hundred years since his marriage is as appropriate a time as ever to consider how time might affect Tolkien’s literary status, in relation to his own mythmaking. He had, of course, translated Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and had considered writing his version of the Arthurian myth, but for many reasons abandoned the idea. The links to Arthur are interesting, however. Whilst Arthur lives beyond the authors of the tales and permeates into popular consciousness,1 Tolkien’s modern myth is associated with the author himself; it is Tolkien that gives the stories gravitas. Beyond the books, physical snippets serve to further link his name with his own myth, for example he and his wife’s grave makes reference to Edith as the Lúthien to his Beren.
They may not be obvious, but there are signs that the strings binding Tolkien to his own myth start to fray. Back in the 70s, John Boorman shied away from a filmic adaptation of Lord of the Rings, preferring instead to produce Excalibur. The 21st century has, however, seen not only the well-known trilogies of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by director Peter Jackson, but it’s also been fertile ground for rock music. Singers such as Bob Catley have produced albums on the subject. It’s now open season on adaptations of Middle Earth.
Maybe, then, Tolkien’s association with his stories starts to weaken… although Middle Earth is deeply rooted in Middle England. If anybody would like to write about the Warwickshire landmarks that inspired the stories, we’re all ears (and eyes!).
1 Such that authors such as Geoffrey of Monmouth, Wace, and Malory are mainly known only in academic circles, whereas the story itself has a far higher profile.
There is much more about how Tolkien and his wife met on the website of the Tolkien Society.