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When it comes to J. R. R. Tolkien, I don’t go in much for the mythologizing of the man. I actually find him quite relatable, as a fellow fussy nerd who doesn’t much care for The Chronicles of Narnia. (Harsh, but accurate.) He filed the serial numbers off of his Norse mythology fanfiction the same we file the serial numbers off of ours, you know what I’m saying? I mean, just look at his kissing book.
I recently paid a visit to the Morgan Library’s exhibit of Tolkien’s personal papers, “Maker of Middle-Earth,” where I clapped my human eyes on this very artifact.
When Tolkien was orphaned at 14, he was placed under the guardianship of Father Francis Morgan. When he had the audacity to fall in love with Edith Mary Bratt, an older, gasp, Protestant woman, Father Morgan was, uh, not happy, and forbade Tolkien from contacting her until he turned 21. Tolkien obeyed—and immediately proposed to Edith the second he came of age.
This interlude of Holy Ghosting inflamed Tolkien and Edith’s ardor, if the kissing book is anything to go by. It’s just an account book—a habit tracker, really, of Tolkien's studytime at Oxford. He wasn’t the most studious young man (gotta work on those OCs!!!), so he and Edith worked out a system wherein, for every hour that he studied, he would earn as many kisses from his lady love.
Let me just say that the straight couple in front of me were so overwhelmed by this romantic gesture that they immediately turned to each other and vowed to start keeping a kissing book themselves. Maybe… love… is the real magic of Middle-Earth.
(jk we already knew that I mean Legolas and Gimli went to the Grey Havens together c’monnn)