Literary Influences

What can I say that millions of others haven’t already said or thought.  This is an amazing series…the consummate story of good versus evil.  I can’t image a literary life without having read J.R.R. Tolkien’s books, starting with The Hobbit and going to the end of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  As wonderful as the movies were/are, I think reading the books was a much deeper experience and should be a part of every person’s library.

Looking back on it, I think that one of the things that stuck with me was the plight of Frodo.  When I first read it I don’t think that I quite understood what Tolkien was trying to say about the nature of evil as embodied in the ring.  Sure, it was obvious that it was evil and that it magnified extreme passions.  What I am referring to are the more subtle aspects of what it did to Frodo – how his continued possession of the ring increasingly weighed him down, how in the end it won out even over him, and how afterward his mind was irreparably harmed by the experience.  Tolkein was masterful in the way his story drew parallels with our life journey and our frailties as an imperfect species.

There are some direct connections with this philosophical/spiritual concept and what is being discovered on a scientific level.  What I am referring to is the potentiation of neural pathways in the human brain.  Thought processes and deep emotions are directly related to patterns of neural firing in the brian/cerebral cortex.  A specific thought process, if repeated over and over again, causes the strengthening, or potentiation, of the corresponding specific pattern of neurons.  Over time, the strengthening of these pathways has the potential to indelibly change who you are.  Focus on the negative and that in many respects is what you become.  These ideas are not new in the study of the neurogenesis of psychoaffective disorders such as depression and anxiety disorders.  In a way, in Frodo’s journey is a lesson for all of us – focus on evil, stay in close proximity to it, choose to keep it as company, and it will change who we are, and the damage could potentially be irreparable.  The same principle of course goes for the forces of good.

There are definite story lines within The Chronicles of Gillean that embody this concept, most poignantly with the main protagonists Jake Gillean and Ben Murray.






Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott, 1820

Certainly can’t think of childhood and the wild influences books have had on my imagination without thinking of Ivanhoe.  This story boasts a cast of characters that are memorable and continue to spark imaginations almost 200 years after pen was first put to paper.  The cast includes the disowned son – Wilfred, his angry father Cedric, the band of outlaws following Robin of Locksely, King Richard the Lionhearted returning to claim his throne, the beautiful Rowena and Rebecca, and a cast of villains including Prince John, Brian de Bois-Guilbert, Reginald Front-de-Boeuf, and Maurice de Bracy.

In the story, set in Twelfth Century England, we see people driven by passions and emotions.  Through their trials we can certainly gain an insight into what Sir Walter Scott may have witnessed in the struggles of his day.  Through his work it is easy to imagine what he might have said if asked at a dinner party his opinion about the nature of man.  He said as much in his work. He portrayed ambitious and ruthless men wrapping themselves in cloaks of clerical righteousness. Those with power and means, the nobility, disenfranchised others of less socially fortunate birth.  Even those of lower birth embraced the extreme hatreds and prejudice of the day…in this case anti-semitism.  At the same time, there is an opposing force, a force for good fighting valiantly against the negatives humanity has to offer.  At its heart – it’s a wonderful old-fashioned tale of good versus evil.  You have to read it for yourself to see how it ends.