The 365 Commitment

On Elves

I remember the day I became fascinated with reading. It was in 1st grade and up until that point I think I was a little slow to the concept. However, the teacher at the time opened my eyes to the fact that people recorded their ideas down in these books and I could learn on my own by understanding their words. I was an immediate convert, reading everything I could find. This became a bit of a clandestine effort, or at least I thought it was. I would read books my father was reading, some that my mother had stuffed in boxes. I read those time life books you by from travelling sales people and I even decided to try to read every National Geographic magazine. I did not meet that goal, but I did make a serious dent in it! I do not remember when I discovered C.S. Lewis. I was still pretty young. I am thinking between 8 and 10 years old. My friend Michael had a bunch of these types of books that his father bought him. His mom was always after him to read, but the reading material was pretty dense for our age and Michael would spend his time reading comic books instead. However, that was when I started reading the Wardrobe. I became fascinated with science fiction and epic fantasy novels. I discovered Tolkien not much after that and that blew my mind. I think I have read the Lord of Rings once a decade since I was 12.

Terry Brooks was an author equally inspired by Tolkien. He was in law school in the late sixties when he first read the Lord of the Rings. That caused him to pick the Fantasy Fiction genre and he decided to dive into the secret world of Elves. You see when I was a kid, elves were cool. Today it is all about vampires, werewolves, and witches but I was enthralled by stories of Elves. Brooks created a post apocalyptic world, it was the seventies remember? The world was going to end by nuclear war, so he kept in that theme. Anyway the story goes that the Elves were actually in hiding so when we all annihilated ourselves, the Elves could then reestablish themselves openly. The nuclear conflict causes some morphing of species and we get things that resembled Trolls, Gnomes, and Dwarves. Of course, there are still some human populations left however, the technology has been largely wasted. Magic has returned and that is the setting the Terry Brooks wrote all of his novels.

When I was a kid I got caught up in the saga of Elves versus Demons and all that. The battles, the magical spells the mysterious Druids. This was fun to read about and the story line, although interesting, was not as important to me. I read the books again a few years ago for fun, and I noticed some themes in the story line that were interesting. You see Terry Brooks first started the Sword of Shannara in 1967 while he was in Law School. It would take him 7 years to finish this book. Finally in 1977, it released as a paper back and was an instant success. I cannot help, knowing the political climate of the time of how Mr. Brooks incorporated the issues of the day in his writings. It is subtle, but very expertly done. As a young boy I was influenced by the concept that ordinary people could become heroes and influences the world around them. Now that I am older I realize that the arrogance of youth can have a tendency to repeat the mistakes of the past. Both points were made by Brooks, and I have an even deeper appreciation of that now.

If we lived longer lives, like an Elf in Brooks’ novel then how would that impact how we viewed the world around us? Would we take more or less risk? Would we treat each day as precious, or would we begin to spend them frivolously? As I pondered this concept today, I thought that a person with an extremely longevity would most likely start to squander days and start to take things for granted. We would begin to take larger risks because would become less concerned with the inevitability of death. Then I had this thought – why do we humans, who have a pretty short life times act like elves?

Guy Reams

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