Well, folks, it’s Tolkien Blog Party week, and that means celebratory dancing and feasting amongst the Boffins, Bracegirdles, Hornblowers, and Proudfoots (ProudFEET!). I am once again insanely busy this week (it’s always the weeks I want to blog that I can’t), so I have once again not written that Meriadoc Brandybuck Appreciation Post I’ve been meaning to write for years. But Hamlette, who is hosting all this hobbity goodness over at The Edge of the Precipice, has a Tolkien-related tag, and I can at least fill that out!
Who first introduced you to Middle-earth?
That would be my dearly beloved aunt. I cannot remember when I first knew that she was a Lord of the Rings fan, because I always knew it. That is My Aunt, who reads Lord of the Rings and murder mysteries and always gives me wintergreen flavor Lifesavers. I remember being a little kid, flopped stomach-down on her bed, peering at the cover of the book she was reading, and asking, “What’s that?”
She told me it was Lord of the Rings, one of her favorite books. Which I knew already because I had eyes and a working memory. I told her I meant what was it about. I think she said it was too hard to explain and I’d read it one day for myself.
So I levered myself up on my elbows and peered down at the pages. In my upside-down reading I gleaned something about giant spiders, soldiers with weird names, and a tower. “Spiders,” I said, with an emotion that was not admiration.
My aunt explained to me that there were giant spiders in the book. I did not see the point of this. She amended that it was one (1) giant spider, singular. I did not see that this made a noticeable difference in the inadvisability of the situation. She liked this book?
My aunt explained that it was a very good book and this was just an intense part. The hobbits—
“Hobbits.” Worse and worse! I didn’t even recognize the name of this (likely nasty) bug!
My aunt tried to explain hobbits to me. Without noted success. At least they weren’t bugs. They were being chased by the spiders. And by the soldiers with weird names. And they were carrying a ring and that was important for some reason.
I flopped myself back off the bed and went to find some other way to alleviate my boredom.
The Christmas that I was twelve (…it might have been eleven, now that I think about it), we spent it at my grandfather’s house. We generally did this. My aunt, as usual, brought books to entertain herself in between cooking the turkey and the pumpkin chiffon pie, and one of these was The Hobbit. She’d never read The Hobbit. Tried, never gotten through it. Since Lord of the Rings was her favorite book, this hardly seemed right. A quiet Christmas holiday seemed the perfect time to right this wrong.
Ah, but she reckoned without me. For I looked upon the cover and thought it looked like an interesting book. An innocent enough beginning, but it did not end there. Oh no—for I opened to the first chapter. And I read it. I did not find it particularly interesting, but I had nothing else to do, so I read the second chapter.
Very little of the world outside Middle-earth existed for me for the next three days.
The next fall, my mom and I watched the extended edition of The Fellowship of the Ring in small snatches at lunchtime on Tuesdays while my little sisters were at co-op. A few months after that I checked out the three volumes (all different editions) of The Lord of the Rings from the library. I was fortunate enough to get sick after doing this, and I spent six days lying in bed reading blissfully.
It is the hardest I have ever fallen for a book, I think. Even The Silmarillion, following soon after, enchanted me with its remote and mythic sadness in a way no other story had—and I was a passionate lover of such tales as those of Roland and Oliver, Beowulf, Cu Chulainn, the Norse gods.
Many thanks to my mom and my aunt, the best friends a little bookworm could have.
Has your love of Middle-earth affected your life?
It depends what you mean by that. Have I ever made friends or had new and exciting experiences directly because of my love of Middle-earth? No. (Though there was that one time I hammered out Elrond’s exact percentage of elf-to-human blood with a relative stranger in IHOP at 1 a.m….)
Has it affected how I think about things? My taste in literature? My philosophy of story? The way I write? Yes.
It’s led to fun times hanging out with my mom. And arguing with my aunt over what makes something “fantasy”—her liking Lord of the Rings and disliking fantasy doesn’t mean it isn’t fantasy. Magic rings and wizards and elves, anyone? (My aunt: “Yes, but—*stops, perplexed*”)
It’s led to me being one-sixth accepted into the brotherhood of nerds when I did robotics—I had at least seen Fellowship, although I hadn’t seen Two Towers or Return of the King or any of the original Star Wars trilogy.
It’s led to me being told, far too many times, how much I look like Legolas.
Or “that elf from those movies your mom likes,” as my dad puts it.
Have you ever dressed up like a Tolkien character?
No. Unless there’s a Tolkien character who goes around in hoodies and skinny jeans all the time that I’m forgetting.
What people in your real life would you want in your company if you had to take the Ring to Mordor?
Ooh, I like this question! Nine of ’em?
- My sister Palestrina // good in a crisis, knows martial arts, we work well together, suffers from the kind of steely determination that makes Sherlock Holmes look weak-willed
- Palestrina’s friend Patrick Mahomes // not the football player, just looks exactly like him; works out; EMT and currently in paramedic school; super smart; also kind, observant, and fun to hang out with
- Palestrina’s other friend (also mine) Zwingli // super short and cheerful, definite hobbit vibes, can fix things, surprisingly strong, kind of a protective person in a good way if you’re walking down the dark alleys of a sketchy city or Mordor
- my dad // can fix anything, boundless energy, strong, very good humble person so we don’t gotta worry about Boromir shenanigans
- my friend H // matches Palestrina on the steely determination scale, went camping one time for two weeks with her and Palestrina and we conquered ALL OBSTACLES, eternally and determinedly cheerful, can shoot a bow, ran cross country
- Gun Husband Man // custom-builds his own guns, repurposes his own ammo, single-handedly keeps his fridge stocked with venison chili, has very good aim (terrifyingly good), is generally a Large Strong Man who would Come In Handy
- Best Old Lady Friend // you’d understand if you met her. Don’t mess with old fashioned Missouri grandmas, not the real genuine articles anyhow
- my friend M // studies far far too much true crime, would therefore know what the bad guys were gonna do long before they did it, hates humanity and would be a nice antidote to the others’ cheerfulness
- Helicopter Pilot Guy // met him at a gun range one time, bandaged my hand for me which was super nice, did it effectively which was even nicer, seems smart and therefore useful
What Middle-earth location would you most like to visit?
Rohan, I think. It’s my favorite. I’d get to meet Eomer and Eowyn, who are also my favorite, and then I could visit Fangorn too, because it’s right on the border and might as well be counted as the same place. I need some Ents in my life. Horselords and rolling plains and remote hills full of secret stone paths and sung alliterative poetry also make a good addition to one’s life.
Are there any secondary characters you think deserve more attention?
Heaps. Beregond is fantastic and I love him, Eomer is one of my favorites and needs more love, technically Treebeard also doesn’t get as much love as he deserves, I’ve wanted to write a post for years about Merry because I feel like he gets so much less love than the other three main hobbits and he’s my favorite, and that’s just in The Lord of the Rings. In The Silmarillion, Maedhros is my favorite character. He’s so good—I mean as a character, not as a moral example—and honestly almost every character in The Silmarillion is underrated. Even Galadriel. Galadriel from beginning of Silmarillion to end of Return of the King is such a cool character with such a cool arc. Fingolfin! Hurin I also like a lot. (Bitterness is such an endearing character trait, you know?) Ungoliant? How about Ungoliant? Super underrated villainess. And in The Hobbit, can we get a standing ovation for Bard? Because the fellow’s simply fantastic. (Bjorn is also so, so cool, and almost none of his coolness makes it into the book…even though it did somehow, because you do know, from reading the book, that he’s cool.)
Also there needs to be an Appreciation Week solely for Farmer Giles’s gray mare, of Farmer Giles of Ham.
Would you rather attend Faramir’s wedding or Samwise’s wedding?
Sam’s wedding seems like to involve far more country cooking and country dancing. I would like both, please.
Faramir’s wedding might be awesome, though. Sort of a once-in-a-lifetime event. Only chance to survey the wonders of Gondor’s great city as an anonymous face in the crowd. Pomp and ceremony and splendor. Ancient traditions. Beautifulness in general.
I’ll still go to Sam’s wedding. Then I can talk to Merry, and be comfortable, and dance.
How many books by J. R. R. Tolkien have you read?
Hmm, I’m going to interpret “book” as “work” and make a list here:
- The Hobbit
- The Lord of the Rings
- The Silmarillion
- The Children of Hurin
- Farmer Giles of Ham
- Smith of Wootton Major
- Leaf by Niggle
- On Fairy-Stories
- The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
- a good chunk of his letters that I spent far too long looking through in the library one time…?
So that makes ten, really. Eleven if you count Mythopoeia. The only one I still mean to read that I haven’t yet is his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
I love literally every single one of his things I’ve read, too, except Leaf by Niggle. “Love” might be slightly strong for The Children of Hurin (so. sad.) and The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (fun? pretty? but not much more), but even those I really like and am happy to own.
Are there any books about Middle-earth or Professor Tolkien (but not written by him) that you recommend?
I haven’t read any, so no, I fear not. A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War sounds interesting, if you’re into that kind of thing. I’ve heard good things about Joseph Pearce’s Bilbo’s Journey and Frodo’s Journey.
But I am not into those kinds of books, myself, so I have never read them.
List up to ten of your favorite lines/quotations from the Middle-earth books and/or movies.
“Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And many that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”
“I remember it was long ago—in the time of the war between Sauron and the Men of the Sea—desire came over me to see Fimbrethil again. Very fair she was still in my eyes, when I had last seen her, though little like the Entmaiden of old. For the Entwives were bent and browned by their labour; their hair parched by the sun to the hue of ripe corn and their cheeks like red apples. Yet their eyes were still the eyes of our own people. We crossed over Anduin and came to their land; but we found a desert: it was all burned and uprooted, for war had passed over it. But the Entwives were not there. Long we called, and long we searched; and we asked all folk that we met which way the Entwives had gone. Some said they had never seen them; and some said that they had seen them walking away west, and some said east, and others south. But nowhere that we went could we find them. Our sorrow was very great. Yet the wild wood called, and we returned to it. For many years we used to go out every now and again and look for the Entwives, walking far and wide and calling them by their beautiful names. But as time passed we went more seldom and wandered less far. And now the Entwives are only a memory for us, and our beards are long and grey.”
“Almost felt you liked the Forest! That’s good! That’s uncommonly kind of you,” said a strange voice. “Turn round and let me have a look at your faces. I almost feel that I dislike you both, but do not let us be hasty.”
“I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”
“As for myself,” said Eomer, “I have little knowledge of these deep matters; but I need it not. This I know, and it is enough, that as my friend Aragorn succoured me and my people, so I will aid him when he calls. I will go.”
Frodo bowed low. “I am answered,” he said, “and I place myself at your service, if that is of any worth to one so high and honorable.”
“It is of great worth,” said Faramir.
Yet it is told among the Eldar that the Valar endeavoured ever, in despite of Melkor, to rule the Earth and to prepare it for the coming of the Firstborn; and they built lands and Melkor destroyed them; valleys they delved and Melkor raised them up; mountains they carved and Melkor threw them down; seas they hollowed and Melkor spilled them; and naught might have peace or come to lasting growth, for as surely as the Valar began a labour so would Melkor undo it or corrupt it. And yet their labour was not all in vain; and though nowhere and in no work was their will and purpose wholly fulfilled, and all things were in hue and shape other than the Valar had at first intended, slowly nonetheless the Earth was fashioned and made firm. And thus was the habitation of the Children of Iluvatar established at the last in the Deeps of Time and amidst the innumerable stars.
“You’ll live to regret it, young fellow! Why didn’t you go too? You don’t belong here; you’re no Baggins—you—you’re a Brandybuck!”
“Did you hear that, Merry? That was an insult, if you like,” said Frodo as he shut the door on her.
“It was a compliment,” said Merry Brandybuck, “and so, of course, not true.”
“But it is said: Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger. The choice is yours: to go or wait.”
“And it is also said,” answered Frodo: “Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes.”
“Is it indeed?” laughed Gildor. “Elves seldom give unguarded advice, for advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise, and all courses may run ill.”