cover image Tolkien: Lighting Up the Darkness

Tolkien: Lighting Up the Darkness

Willy Duraffourg and Giancarlo Caracuzzo, trans. from the French by Fabrice Sapolsky. Ablaze, $16.99 (112p) ISBN 978-1-68497-187-9

This illuminating albeit brief graphic novelization of the life of J.R.R. Tolkien spotlights the author’s upbringing and wartime struggles before becoming world-renowned as the creator of The Lord of the Rings. The narrative by French duo Duraffourg and Caracuzzo opens in 1892 with Tolkien’s birth and childhood spent between South Africa and England, a period that cemented his love of myth, languages (including his own invented tongue, through which he communicated with his brother), and nature. The bulk of the volume covers Tolkien’s harrowing years as a soldier in the Great War, during which he wrote poetry in letters to his close circle of school friends, his mind more often straying to elves than thoughts of training or battle strategy. A series of encounters presage the author’s later literary inventions—a strict professor poo-pooing Tolkien’s interpretation of Macbeth hints at the Ents; a tank reminds him of a dragon. Most revealing are the ways in which loss, including a close fellowship torn apart by the war, sharpen Tolkien’s sense of mortality. The art has a clean and classic look, with visual elements of light and darkness neatly paralleling the story arc. Though diehard Tolkien fans might wish for a more thorough treatment, this still satisfies. (Feb.)