On a long flight, I watched a movie called Tolkien that tells the story of the formative years of J. R. R. Tolkien, the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
Tolkien Was a Master of Story and Languages
Tolkien was born in 1892 and spent most of his life in and around Birmingham, UK. He was bright, imaginative, and extremely good with language even inventing his own languages (Elvish).
His mother used to tell him and his brother stories at night in dramatic fashion about kings and queens and warriors and princesses and fiery dragons. These stories along with the many books he read as a child would become the basis for his writing The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and many other fantasy works.
Tolkien was deeply affected by his time in the military during World War I. He fought in the battle of the Somme in France where a stalemate took place between the Germans and Allied Forces that lasted several years.
If you have seen the movie, Wonder Woman, you will recall how Diana (Wonder Woman) jumped out of the trenches and charged across no man’s land to attack the Germans. This is where Tolkien served. He survived the battle but lost two of his best friends.
After the war, Tolkien spent a number of years trying to regain his humanity, his creativity, and his love of fantasy stories. It would be 17 years before The Hobbit was published. The Hobbit was so well received that the publisher quickly asked for a sequel which became The Lord of the Rings.
Why Are Stories Important?
Stories are effective because they are memorable, relatable, and multi-dimensional.
(I’ll discuss how stories are multidimensional in the next post.)
Stories are the most effective form of teaching. We have used stories since the beginning of man to pass down our history and important lessons of life.
However, stories do more than pass along knowledge. They inspire us to do great things and help us aspire to be better people. In essence, stories shape our identity.
The Modern Identity Crisis
Psychologist, Rollo May, theorized that modern generations are experiencing an identity crisis due to the lack of stories and storytelling while the media constantly challenges their identity.
Between advertising, social media, and traditional media, you are bombarded every day with hundreds or thousands of messages telling you who you should be. The situation is compounded by the breakdown of the traditional family unit and the ever-increasing pace of change.
The simple fact is that humans are wired for story. Have you ever noticed how books or movies about true stories seem to hold greater meaning for us?
It’s because we can see ourselves in their characters. Their actions inspire us to act and set an example of who we aspire to be.
Here’s the Midlife Message:
Stories make us feel good. They inspire us into action and aspire us to be like their characters. However, unless we think about what these stories mean, what can they teach us, and how we can implement them in our lives, then they are just nice stories.
Here’s the Mighty Challenge of the Day:
What stories resonate with you the most? Which characters do you identify with? What qualities do these characters have that you most admire? How can you implement those qualities into your life right now?
May the force be with you!