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In 1997, the BBC carried out a poll that was answered by more than 25.000 English readers, who declared J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings as "best book of the 20th century". Then the Spanish newspaper ABC decided to encourage readers of its cultural supplement to do a similar election: Which are the best books of 20th century? The Lord of the Rings got the seventh position. Afterwards, BBC elected one hundred artistic works which defined the century, including movies, paintings, sculptures or poetry. One of these works was, again, The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien.
More than 60 years have passed since Tolkien published The Hobbit, the fantastic story about how Mr. Bilbo Baggins helped some dwarves to plunder back the treasure of Smaug, the dragon. But Tolkien's work is still alive for millions of readers all over the world who read and reread it, and comment it, and get together, play with his characters, quote his books... What is in the work of this Oxford professor, this linguist lover of sounds, polyglot and inventor of languages for his world of Fantasy, story-teller for his sons, friends and readers, an admired philologist who loved coloured waistcoats and smoking his pipe, an ecologist by heart, enemy of the totalitarianism of his time?
Some say that his great goal was creating fantasies so detailed and likely that seem true: "a different world, but not too different; familiar, but not too familiar", said Paul Kocher. Others say that his works teach us the meaning of the important things: loyalty, friendship, love, nature, art, mortality and, always in the foreground, hope. For other people, Tolkien made the modern man believe again in myths, gods, heroes, noble and heroic deeds that we cannot find in our gloomy world.
It is also told that he created the modern genre of High Fantasy, his Middle Earth being the first of many worlds that, following his steps, seek what Tolkien termed "the inner consistency of reality". But over all these things Tolkien was, as the Smith of Wooton Major, a bearer of the Star of Faerie, the world of Fantasy, a dangerous realm of which he was cartographer and guide. For the mortal who gets in this land, as everybody who dares to go into the pages he wrote, is changed for ever when comes back. So far goes the power of an Artist.