You are foolishly happy when you hand J.R.R. Tolkien tickets to see Snow White.
“Everyone loves it,” you say. “And there’s dwarves.”
Tolkien handles the tickets like they are covered in orc blood. “You want me to see a film by that man?” he says. “Destroyer of tradition, mutilator of culture? With his horrible talking mouse?”
“You have talking trees.”
“Noble,” he mutters. “Rooted in folklore.” He begins to shred the tickets.
You snatch them away. “We’re going. Look at you. You’ve been wearing the same waistcoat for six days now.”
He’s going through a bad break-up, so you try to be patient with him. But C.S. Lewis isn’t everything, you know? There are other scholars out there. Like you. Come on.
“All we do anymore is drink sherry and do dramatic readings of Beowulf,” you say. He gives you a look of incomprehension, clearly wondering what else you could possibly want from life.
“I want to go out,” you clarify.
His lip curls. “That’s what Clive used to say.”
“Just get in the car.”
Tolkien mutters to himself as Mickey Mouse prances across the screen, doing American things he doesn’t understand or approve of. “Voice of the devil,” you hear.
When Snow White appears, you really enjoy yourself. Singing birds? Precious. Animation style? Charming. You’re having a great time. That Disney guy knows his work.
Tolkien is less charmed. “He cannot be serious,” he mutters. “Those aren’t dwarves. Those are insulting travesties. It’s like he’s never read the Edda.”
You shush him.
“What is your lineage?” He implores the dwarves onscreen. “Where is your beard?” He asks Dopey.
The people seated in front of you grumble, clearly thinking about shushing Tolkien too.
Snow White cleans for a while. Everyone else whistles while they work.
“These imbeciles bring shame to the House of Durin.”
“I swear to god,” you say.
He is quiet for two whole songs. You almost relax.
“Dwarf songs are supposed to be grave and ancestral, not catchy,” he wails. He begins humming Over the Misty Mountains.
You privately think Durin’s Folk could learn a thing or two from the Disney dwarves.
Tolkien’s face is in his hands. “I’d rather face a Balrog with nothing but this popcorn.”
What even is the point of trying to take him someplace nice, you think to yourself. Guess you’ll have to stick to late nights at The Bod, giggling at naughty illuminations in Old Norse manuscripts.
After the movie Tolkien sulks outside of the theater, aggressively smoking his pipe and glowering at the cheerful marquee letters that spell out Disney.
“I refuse to believe people enjoy this,” he says.
“Lewis said it could use more lions,” you agree.
Tolkien looks up sharply. “You’re—speaking to him?”
“Shit,” you mutter.
“I can’t believe you’re doing this to me.”
“Please don’t overreact,” you say. “We’re just working on a paper.”
“What about our paper on The Mabinogion?” He tamps the pipe, dangerously. “You can’t just walk away from that.”
“I’m not. You knew I was working with other scholars.”
“But why? What are they studying that I’m not?”
“There’s more to life than Welsh literature, John.”
“No there’s not!” he screams. “You sound just like Clive!” He empties his pipe over your Oxfords.
You consider brushing the ashes from your shoes, but just shake your head in regret and walk away into the night. He shouts something after you in the Dark Tongue of Mordor. You wince. Low blow, John.