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Tolkien Reading Day

On this first edition of Travel Tuesday I choose to take a trip all the way to Middle Earth.

March 25th, to J.R.R. Tolkien fans, is known as the day Middle Earth was given a fresh start. It is the day, in The Lord of the Rings, that Sauron was defeated and safety and peace were reinstated.
I love the name Tolkien Reading Day because right there in its name I am given an excuse, any excuse really, to read some of my favourite fictional stories. I am a fan of a day that tells me to read, especially if it’s Tolkien I’m reading.
***
According to The Tolkien Society website:
“It is a date of renewal: the change from fear and oppression to new hope and, in the tradition of Gondor from then onwards, the New Year. Re-reading Tolkien (or, for many, reading him for the first time) will be an act of renewal and refreshening our appreciation of his works.”
***
I know a lot of people, many voracious readers and book lovers, they simply can not stand his novels. Some find his descriptions lengthy and overdone and they can’t make it through one book let alone several. There certainly are a lot of characters to keep track of and names and places to wrap your head around. I won’t say I have it all straight because I would be lying if I did.
Tolkien didn’t just write a few stories. He created a whole world and envisioned every part of it: from the maps of the places and settings, to the different species and races of beings, to their histories and the languages they spoke. I can’t really fully grasp how he did it all. It’s more like fiction come to life for me, as if I were learning facts and figures in a history lesson in school.
Tolkien Reading Day was started back in 2003 and suggested to The Tolkien Society as an idea for an annual day on the calendar by a New York journalist. He and others were so moved by the books and the movies that he inquired as to why there was no day to celebrate them.
In 2003 I had barely even heard of The Lord of the Rings, let alone anything else written by an old dude named Tolkien. Sure, my brothers were obsessed by the movies that had just come out and I refused, more than once, to see them in the theatre when they were released. I thought fantasy was the worst book or movie genre there was. I hated the sound of sword fights, giant battles with beasts, and some trek to some evil Mount Doom. What did all that have to offer me?
My first memory of anything Tolkien was when my fourth grade teacher read The Hobbit aloud to us in class. I have a few vague recollections of a “Hobbit” finding his way out of some mountain, but that’s where it ended for me. Perhaps I spent those hours daydreaming or doodling on a piece of paper. For whatever reason, at the age of ten, the story and the characters had little to no effect and left no impression on me at the time. I speak to this in an earlier blog post, but I was never a huge reader as a child. I could and did read, but my love of the written word developed slowly, over time. I can’t say I always loved it like I do now.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I decided to watch the movies, on a whim, in one of those situations where my brother presented me with three DVD’s and I reached out and picked one at random.
This was a cold and snowy Saturday in January and I will never forget it. We watched all three films in the trilogy within 24 hours. I went to sleep after watching the first two, all the names of the characters running around in my head, as I tried hard to memorize them until I eventually drifted off to sleep.
The next morning, as the credits rolled and Annie Lennox sang the closing lyrics I was speechless and moved beyond words. It was one of the best weekends of my life because it started something, sparked something inside of me. From then on out I was hooked. My mind had been blown and I knew I’d never feel the same about books and literature. Nothing could quite top that feeling for me.
***
Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie.
One ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
***
The first time I heard that poem read to me, (at the start of Fellowship of the Ring) by the narrator on the audio book I was listening to, I shivered slightly and was mesmerized. I have lost track of how many times I have since read The Lord of the Rings. I had to make up for all those years I’d had no clue what I was missing out on.
I have not read all Tolkien’s books, I must admit. The Silmarillion has alluded me, still to be tackled. The ages of Middle Earth are filled with stories and tales I have yet to devour.
I am glad there is a celebrated day for such a brilliant man and his writing. I will read some Tolkien today in his honour and I will imagine all the crazy Tolkien fans around the world reading too. It feels very inclusive. His actual birthday was back in January, around the same time of year I first decided to give The Lord of the Rings a chance and boy am I glad I did. That decision has given me an appreciation for literature I hadn’t previously felt. What he did for me personally: his creation of Middle Earth has lead to an enrichment to my love and appreciation for literature in a brand new way. He provided me with a whole new world to escape into and a way to forget my problems and find adventure and lessons in love, loyalty, and forgiveness. All these themes can be found in Tolkien’s work if you can get past the goblins and trolls and the pages and pages of thick descriptions, to the heart of the story; basic truths about life and humanity, good and evil.
Happy Tolkien Reading Day to you all.
Which of Tolkien’s works have you read? Do you agree he is brilliant or just downright boring or both?

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14 thoughts on “Tolkien Reading Day

  1. Hi Kerry. I have read all that I know of. The Silmarillion was not my favourite but still worth a read. You may know that The Tolkien Society currently has a website of the same name under construction. This is not normally a genre, if one can even call it such, that normally appeals to me but his work specifically does. The style, which some find over-embroidered gives layers of texture that I find useful and adds a strange gravitas to what might otherwise lack it. Certainly the number of characters and the dynamics require a lot of attention but one could say the same of Tolstoy. I will take the liberty of reposting this link on BHB as for some reason it did not show up well and I had to track your site down through my browser. Thanks for your fresh and informative perspective.

  2. Hi Kerry, I haven’t read the books, but I have watched a few of the Lord of the Rings movies. I also like the magical worlds that transport you from our world – it is like escaping our existence, even for a little while. I am reminded of a book I read a long time ago by Clive Barker, Weaveworld. You might like it.

  3. Hi Kerry; you wrote an amazing post here. Not only does it talk about the man and this prolific writing career as well as your own personal experience with tolking and the world he created. and as a life long lover of reading I love that one of my all time favorites got you hooked on reading. thanks so much for sharing and tai care, Max

  4. ballnchainz says:

    This is Jay

    This is a very good write-up and just like you i refused to watch those movies until it came on cable and because they are so long i kept dealing a sleep and waking up and rewinding them.

  5. Hi Kerry
    I haven’t read any of Tolkien’s book but a funny thing – someone gave me a set of his videos and when my 7 year old grandson saw them he asked if he could see them – since they were more his speed than mine I gave them to him. Just goes to show – Tolkiens work is still going around.
    Lenie

  6. I am a huge Tolkien fan and have read all of his books. I have actually read The Lord of The Rings Trilogy several times. It does take a bit to get into it because of the many characters and dialects that were created, but when you do it really is hard to put it down. The fact that his books are still being read tells me he has stood the test to time. 🙂

    Welcome to BHB, 🙂 Susan Cooper

  7. Pingback: What Do Gloria Steinem and J.r.r. Tolkien Have In Common? | Her Headache

  8. Ack! I’ve never even heard of Tolkien Reading Day! I have to say I’m one of those who’s not a big fan, due to all the reasons you listed in your post, but you make a good argument for that day. Thanks for expanding my horizons – maybe I should give him another chance.

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