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Tolkien and The TCBS: Some Spark Of Fire

Tolkien and The TCBS: Some Spark Of Fire

In 1911, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was about 19 years old. He and three friends, Rob Gilson, Geoffrey Smith and Christopher Wiseman formed themselves into an unofficial and semi-secret society. They referred to their group as "the T.C.B.S.", standing for "Tea Club and Barrovian Society". (They had a fondness for having tea in their school's library, without permission, and in Barrow's Store near the school.)

The four friends kept closely in touch, and in December 1914 they held a "council" at Wiseman's home in London. The group shared ideals and mutual encouragement, and Tolkien found himself inspired to begin to devote much energy toward writing poetry.

Scarcely six months later, Wiseman was in the Navy, and Gilson, Smith and Tolkien found themselves in different parts of the Somme just as the Allied offensive of July 1, 1914 was beginning.

Rob Gilson was killed in action on that day.

Two years later Tolkien wrote a letter to Smith, revealing more of how the group's friendship, and their "London Council" had affected him.

The TCBS had been granted some spark of fire - certainly as body if not singly - that was destined to kindle a new light, or what is the same thing, rekindle an old light in the world; that the TCBS was destined to testify for God and Truth in a more direct way even than by laying down its several lives in this war...
Still I feel a mere individual at present - with intense feelings more than ideas but very powerless...
I cannot abandon yet the hope and ambitions (inchoate and cloudy I know) that first became conscious at the Council of London. That Council was as you know followed in my own case with my finding a voice for all kinds of pent up things and a tremendous opening up of everything for me: -- I have always laid that to the credit of the inspiration that even a few hours with the four always brought to all of us.

This blog reflects my own response to some of the inspiration or "spark of fire" that Tolkien felt. In reading the prose and poetry that Tolkien wrote I often find a small, brilliant idea or belief that strongly resonates with me, and I feel a deep urge to share that with someone, with anyone. I especially have found such rekindlings of hope and insight in "The Letters Of J.R.R. Tolkien".

This blog, then, is a channel through which I hope to express the "sparks of fire" that "kindle a new light" for me, or "rekindle an old light in the world". I expect to be able to "find a voice for all kinds of pent up things and a tremendous opening up of everything."

In closing, this blog is in essence a tribute and show of gratitude for the protagonist of "The Hobbit or There and Back Again, being the record of a year's journey made by Bilbo Baggins; compiled from his memoirs by J.R.R. Tolkien and published by George Allen & Unwin..."

...and blogged by Milt Reynolds, and published by Google!

Quotations from The Letters Of J.R.R. Tolkien, # 5, page 8.

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