This is my favourite inscription. This gardening book was a gift from Tolkien to his wife in 1964. By that time The Lord of the Rings was being widely read, and The Silmarillion was yet to be put together under one cover.
I have just come back from my first visit to some of the sites of the First World War. We visited sites around Ypres and Albert. We know that Tolkien was involved in the Battle of the Somme and was certainly stationed near Albert. The week that we spent visiting these sites was one of the best trips that I have ever made; I can't believe that I have left it till now to visit these sites, and I am very grateful to the party who I travelled with for their participation in that week. A hundred years on and the sacrifice that was made on those battlefields will never be forgotten or erased - the evidence of the battles is all over that part of France and Belgium, and the memorials and graveyards are very beautiful and worthy.
The perspective of those who took part in the First World War is now well known and celebrated, in poems, letters and biographies, and above all, in the graveyards of Flanders. Tolkien's perspective is quite different. What flowed out of his experience of the Battle of the Somme took the most extraordinary literary form. What he wrote was not simply another story or account, but a story about the triumph of goodness. The Lord of the Rings is indeed fantasy, but is embedded with Christian metaphor.
The First World War, by which the secularism of that age imploded in the most horrific way, was taken by Tolkien as the place in which to write about grace and virtue. In today's subjective age when everyone has his or her own story, many of which have to be published, Tolkien's story of The Lord of the Rings appears as anything but subjective.
In a culture which has lost its bearings, Tolkien's story has a very important place; from the darkness of war, and today's darkness of human subjectivity, seemingly remote from God, Tolkien wrote a story which goes beyond mere human subjectivity, and places everything on the platform of grace.
Many today are busy trying the recast English literature in a pagan framework, but this will in no way change God's plan.