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J.R.R. Tolkien (Christian Encounters Series)
By Mark Horne
Thomas Nelson (paperback, 176 pages)

Christian Encounters is a series of biographies made by Thomas Nelson. The biographies is based on people whose influences shaped the Church in glaring or understated ways. The books, all fewer than 200 pages, are to give us a glimpse into these peoples’ desires, struggles, and perspectives.

Christian Encounters, JRR Tolkien, was written by Mark Horne. The author book starts from the country of Tolkien’s birth, South Africa, and proceeds to his permanent move to England. The author explores the impact of his environment on him – mostly the climate and the vegetation, which fuels Tolkien’s love for hills, green lands, forests, and his growing distrust of modern machinery.

More prominent is the influence of Tolkien’s mother and the sacrifices she makes so that her children can go to school and attend a catholic church. Even when times are tough, she home-schools Tolkien to make sure he does not lag behind academically.

The author also unmasks the influence of friends on Tolkien’s life, especially during the World War I. Their lives and deaths inspire young Tolkien to follow his love for languages and continue to create myths and stories that will influence millions of readers and writers for many decades. Without Tolkien we might never have seen or read Harry Potter, Dungeons and Dragons, A Game of Thrones, even The Chronicles of Narnia.

Christian Encounters, JRR Tolkien, is priceless for those who want to have a peek into Tolkien’s childhood - his upbringing, trials, and pressures. It shows us how the mind and mentality that crafted The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and Lord of the Rings was fashioned. More importantly, it highlights how the love, discipline, and sacrifice of a parent/guardian/friend go a long way in being a godly influence that sets us in the right way. It’s like Solomon said:

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) The Holy Bible, New International Version.

“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” (Proverbs 13:20) The Holy Bible, New International Version.

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Tim Keller on True Happiness

This is one of the most impactful and biblical illustration I have ever heard on the subject of happiness. Tim Keller says, “Happiness can never be found directly…..happiness is always and only a by-product of seeking something else more than happiness…..The person who is happy is always the one who has stopped trying so hard to be happy...”
I am honoured to share it here.

From Kellers sermon 'The Search for Happiness'
If you are interested in the full sermon, please check Bear Creek Church.
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Makeda by Randall Robinson

Makeda tells the story of a special bond between Gray and his grandmother. Gray’s grandmother is named Mattie Gee Florida March, but she confides to her grandson that her real name is Makeda Gee Florida March. Though Makeda is blind, she fires up Gray’s imagination with stories she “sees” in her dreams. One of the stories features her as a daughter of a Dogon priest in 12th Century where she tells her grandson of the religious and astrological knowledge of the Dogon. These dreams spark a quest in Gray, who goes to lengths to corroborate her grandmother’s story visiting the Dogon tribe in Mali, West Africa.

The book, Makeda, deals with the subject of race, religion, love, and family. The author, Randall Robinson, takes us through the civil rights movement in America through the eyes of Gray. We feel his innermost thoughts, passion, and confusion about the world he lives in.

I was glad I did not put Makeda down after reading the first five chapters. The opening was tedious and self-indulgent. By Chapter Seven, Makeda kicked to life; the book began to take shape; words and expression flowed like smooth olive oil. A memorable read.

Publisher: Akashic Books
ISBN: 978-1-61775-022-9
Published Date: Thu 01st Dec 2011
Format: Trade Paperback

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The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien


The Children of Hurin was first written as a condensed version in other Tolkien’s books, i.e. Unfinished Tales and The Silmarillion. The longer version of the tale was put together by the help of Christopher Tolkien, the third son of J.R.R. Tolkien, who in his own words wrote that the reason for the long version was so that:

“…a window might be opened onto a scene and a story set in an unknown Middle-earth that are vivid and immediate,...: the drowned lands in the west beyond the Blue Mountains where Treebeard walked in his youth, and the life of Turin Turambar, in Dor-lomin, Doriath, Nargothrond, and the Forest of Brethil.”

The long version of The Children of Hurin opens up the fate of one of the earliest human family in Middle-earth during the Elder Days and what becomes of the family.

Hurin, the lord of Dor-lormin and husband to Morwen, departs for war with his allies against Morgoth, a Valar who escapes from the Blessed Realm of Valinor. Morgoth captures Hurin in the Battle of Unnumbered Tears then curses Hurin and his children saying:

“Behold! The shadow of my thought shall lie upon them wherever they go, and my hate shall pursue them to the ends of the world.”

Then Morgoth forces Hurin to sit on a high place, bound by his evil so that he may not stand, and watch the evil and despair that will come over his family.

As Morgoth’s army floods Dor-lomin in numbers, Morwen, wife of Hurin, sends Turin to the elves in Doriath for protection from his father’s enemies. While Turin lives in Doriath, Morwen gives birth to a baby girl whom she names Nienor.

For many Turin lives in Doriath in relative peace until he mistakenly kills Saeros who dislikes the young man’s presence in an elf land. Turin runs away and joins a band of outlaws. He soon becomes their leader. For many years, Turin wanders across the land. Meanwhile, Morwen leaves Dor-lomin for Doriath with Nienor, seeking her son.

When Morwen learns of what happened in Doriath, she leaves to search for her son with help of the elves. Nienor follows her mother despite Morwen’s warnings. The party encounter Glauraung, Morgoth’s dragon, at the ruins of Nargothrond and he attacks them. While the party scatters in confusion, Glauraung meets with Nienor. The dragon discovers Nienor’s identity and hypnotises her so that she does not remember who she is.

Nienor runs into the woods and is lost. Turin finds her and brings her to his new home in Brethil. Turin does not know Nienor’s real identity as they have never met before. Nienor regains her speech and mental powers but not her memory. Turin marries her and they live in Brethil.

After some period of peace, Glauraung prepares to attack Brethil. However, Turin leads a small group of men and attacks the dragon as it crosses the ravine of Cabed-en-Aras. Turin stabs Glauraung as he faints with exhaustion and pain. Glauraung, in the throes of death, sees Nienor who comes out in search of her husband. There the dragon reveals the identity of her husband as his brother.

Nienor commits suicide by throwing herself off the cliff. Turin is told of Nienor’s fate and the truth of Glauraung’s words. He commits suicide by falling on his blade. Hurin witnesses all these events where he sat in Morgoth’s domain.

Morgoth releases Hurin after these happenings. Hurin immediately made for his children’s grave. He meets Morwen at the graves where she dies in his arms.

The Children of Hurin is a tragedy of a family who falls under the curse of a fallen Valar. It mirrors the struggles of the early human inhabitants of Middle-earth. 

The book is not a must-read to understand the main Lord of the Rings saga, but it is still an interesting reading for lovers of Tolkien’s Middle-earth.

The Children of Húrin
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