==The Doctor and the Storyteller==
Near the end of the Battle of the Somme in 1916, Dr. Watson tends to an ill young soldier who will go on to become one of the most beloved writers of all time.
October 29th, 1916
R.A.M.C. Field Hospital near the Somme River
Watson pressed the damp cloth on the young man's forehead. Young man? The aging doctor shook his head: the soldier was little more than a boy—mid-twenties, perhaps, but certainly no older.
The young soldier stirred in his sleep, murmuring. Blasted trench fever… it was claiming too many of their boys—not by death but simply by putting badly-needed men out of commission. Some of sick ones were being shipped back home for treatment—Watson hoped this poor lad would have that chance.
There was a gold band on his left ring finger.
The Doctor picked up the soldier's dog tags. Second Lieutenant John R. R. Tolkien. He nodded thoughtfully and glanced down at the lad's pack, wondering if there were any letters in there from the lieutenant's wife. Perhaps he could notify her of her husband's illness. It was worth a try.
When he'd been about the lieutenant's age, the good Doctor would never have dreamed of searching through another man's belongings. Living with Sherlock Holmes for two decades, however, put a unique slant on one's ethics. Watson pulled up a small stash of papers, several of them envelopes with the name Edith Tolkien on the return address. Ah-ha!
The barely-legible scribbling on the pages behind the letters, however, caught his eye, and he strained to make out the words. After a minute of deciphering the writing, he realized that it was a story, something akin to medieval legends.
The boy was a writer. He felt his weathered face brighten in something like a smile.
He would make sure himself that young Tolkien got home, to his wife and to his storytelling.
September 23rd, 1937
Queen Anne Street, London
Sherlock Holmes glanced over the top of his newspaper at his best friend. "My dear Watson, you are looking deucedly chipper."
"That I am, Holmes," Watson said happily, lowering himself to his seat by the fire and opening a book.
"And that book is the source of your happiness, on this abominably wet and dreary day?"
Hmm, the old boy's rheumatism must have been acting up again. If Watson's own joints had been complaining, he had hardly noticed. "Quite. This is written by a lad—well, not lad nowadays, that was twenty years ago—that I tended to in France. I remember him because he was the only writer I ever came across. Chap's name is John Ronald Reuel Tolkien—this book is called The Hobbit."
Holmes arched an eyebrow. "What, pray tell, is a Hobbit?"
"Well, now, let's see." Watson leafed to Chapter One, ignoring his friend's sardonic look. "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit…"
So, what'd you think? I don't remember how exactly I came up with this idea, but when I did, I was so excited about it! I'm glad to have it finally written out. There's less to it than I'd originally intended, but my imagination came up with more than was perhaps historically credible because I'd forgotten my dates. Anyhow, I'm still very happy with how it turned out. If you would like to see a companion piece in which a lucid Tolkien converses with Watson, please let me know!
If you're unfamiliar with the life of the man who wrote The Lord of the Rings, this story probably doesn't mean much to you. However, it's true that 2nd Lt. J.R.R. Tolkien (aged 24) came down with trench fever on October 27th, 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. He was shipped back to England on November 8th. The rest of his unit, the eleventh battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers, was completely wiped out before the end of the battle on November 18th. (Things like that only reinforce my belief in a God Almighty. ;-})
The Hobbit was first published September 31st, 1937. Holmes and Watson would have been 83 and 85, respectively. Oh, and that last line is the opening of the book—don't sue me; every Tolkien fan worth his salt knows that line.
Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, M.D. belong to the public domain (they do; look it up), and The Hobbit belongs to the Tolkien Estate. J.R.R. Tolkien belongs to Heaven, now. The idea to mix it all together is totally mine.