Look! Another tag! A Tolkien Tag at that! I’m sure you’re all shocked that I’m doing one.
I’ll just wait over here while you get over this great shock.
Anyway. I saw this tag on Mary’s blog, Mary and the Words, and she got it from Bookwormmuse, who likely got it from its creator, Andrea Heckler on Youtube. So now I’m going to do it, because I haven’t done a tag for a while, and I haven’t done a Tolkien Tag for an age.
So here we go.
How did your Middle-earth journey begin?
“In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit….”
Literally. That’s where it began. Way back in sixth grade, my friend N, who sat across from me at school, was going on and on about this book he was reading. He loved it, and because he was so excited about reading it, I wanted to read it, too. This book was The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. I went right to the school library and checked it out, read it, loved it, and immediately wanted to read everything else this Tolkien guy had ever written. So I went back to the school library to see what they had.
What they had was an old, red clothbound book with faded lettering stamped on the spine. The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien. So I grabbed that one.
Don’t look at me like that. I was eleven. This was before geek culture ruled the world, before the Peter Jackson films, and before the internet was in everyone’s homes. I had no idea. And yes, it said in the front of the book that this was the third part of The Lord of the Rings, but I didn’t look at that. I was eleven. I was also very confused by this story about a Hobbit named Pippin who was going on a frightening adventure with the wizard Gandalf to some city called Minas Tirith. But I was intrigued enough to carry on and adored every last page, although I was extremely confused when I got to the next part and these other Hobbits called Frodo and Sam were suddenly the stars of the story. But I kept reading and learned to love these other Hobbits, too, and when I was finished with that, I went back to the school library and found a different Tolkien book waiting. This was one another clothbound book (in blue, if you want to know). It was called The Two Towers. So I read that one as quickly as I could, and when I was done with that, I went back to the school library and found yet another clothbound Tolkien book (in green this time). That one was called The Fellowship of the Ring, and when I finished reading that, everything made a lot more sense.
And because I loved the story so much, I reread the books again. In the right order. And then I read them again. And again. And again. I checked out the school library’s copies so many times that my parents ended up buying me the mass market paperback boxed set (the one with the terrible 1980s cover art) for the following Christmas. So I read those over and over again. I still have them. I don’t read them anymore, because a college roommate borrowed The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, and The Two Towers and kind of trashed them, so they’re not in great shape anymore…
Surprisingly, I am still friends with her. And she’s now a librarian who takes very good care of books.
So that’s where I started my journey into Middle-earth. Because my sixth grade friend was excited about a book.
What is your favorite Middle-earth book?
Whichever one I am currently reading, though I will admit to a bit more fondness for The Lord of the Rings itself. But The Silmarillion and The Hobbit are so close behind, and so far I’ve enjoyed rereading the first History of Middle-earth books.
I imagine this is something like being asked to choose your favorite child.
What is your favorite movie?
Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. All three of them. They exist as a single story, and are meant to be watched back to back to back. We’ll not talk about the dodgy Bass & Rankin animated version of The Hobbit from 1977, or the dodgier Lord of the Rings animated film directed by Ralph Baskhi from 1978. Yes, I have seen them. No, I will not talk about them. As far as I’m concerned, there are only three Lord of the Rings films, and they were directed by Peter Jackson.
Movies or Books
Books. There are so many stories and histories and cultural ruins in the books that simply could not have appeared in the movies. I mean, how would they have fit in Bilbo’s poem about Eärendil the Mariner or Legolas’s story about Nimrodel, or the real fate of Saruman or the love story between Faramir and Éowyn, or why the blue mantle Faramir gives her is significant, or any of the million other details that are present in the books that simply could not have been explained in the films?
That said, the Peter Jackson films are my favorites of all time, and I will continue to watch them no matter their flaws. Because they’re great.
Who are your favorite characters?
Yes. Because if you remove any one of them from the book, the whole story falls apart. And I know, I know. We didn’t completely need Bergil or Ioreth or Prince Imrahil, and the movies got along just fine without them, but I missed them all the same.
What Middle-earth race would you be?
This is a difficult one. At first thought, it would seem like being an Elf would be great! They’re beautiful, wise, and they’re basically immortal. But when you dig deeper into Elven history and culture, it’s less great. As the centuries go and and they slowly diminish in power and influence, they start trying to preserve the memory of the Elder Days, and so they almost stagnate. Elves of the Third Age tend to be extremely insular, too, and suspicious of the other races nearly to the point of being racist (just check out Haldir’s reaction to Gimli showing up in Lorien). Also, immortality sounds like a great idea, right up until you realize that they will endure for as long as the world endures, unable to do anything about the world’s decline until the end of time.
I also wouldn’t want to be a Hobbit, for while they have a relaxed sense about life and what matters (food, beer, pipeweed), they also have a myopic view of the world, are suspicious of outsides (who might even be those weirdos from half a mile down the road), and are always gossiping about their neighbors. Which is very much like a small town, and given that I moved away from the small town I grew up in as soon as I could, I would not want to return to the small town life. So I would not want to be a Hobbit.
Nor would I want to be a Dwarf, because Dwarf women make up just a third of their society and often aren’t allowed to travel. Forget that. Also, Dwarf women have beards. I do not want a beard. Nor would I want to be an Ent, because the Ent-wives vanished a long time ago.
And because Orcs, Uruk-Hai, Trolls, and other races of a less savory nature are, you know, awful, I wouldn’t want to be a part of them, either.
So that leaves the race of Men, in spite of their shorter life spans and their frailties. Especially if I got to live in Rohan, with its wide-open spaces, mountains, and horses.
Best actor/character casting match?
You keep asking these silly questions. But if I had to answer, I’d say Viggo Mortensen was the perfect choice for Aragorn, and Sean Astin was the perfect choice for Sam. Not that any of the actors did a terrible job. They were all wonderful. Even Third Guy from the Left at the Council of Elrond was well cast. The entire cast has so embodied these roles for me that I can’t even imagine anyone else in those roles.
So it’s going to be really weird in ten years, when Hollywood decides it wants to make a new version of The Lord of the Rings, because they’re probably going to screw it up. Peter Jackson and Co. had some crazy magic going on in the late 1990s to get those films made. I don’t think you can recreate that.
What is your favorite place in Middle-earth?
I mean, there are plenty of places I would love to visit. Lothlórien in the springtime, Rivendell in the autumn, Bag Eng in the winter. I’d love to see the Tower of Ecthelion rising about Minas Tirith, and to see all seven levels of the city. And I’ve love to see Osgiliath in its prime and Ithilien and Henneth Annûn and Wellinghall and the Argonath.
But let’s face it. I’m a prairie girl. And I love horses. So if I had to choose a place to live, it would be in Rohan– particularly in Edoras so I could visit Meduseld and listen to the great stories being told.
Plus, you know. Horses.
What is your favorite quote from the books or movies?
Faramir says it, in The Two Towers. The book, not the movie.
“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”
That’s it. That’s the quote. It’s the one that wraps up the warrior ethos of The Lord of the Rings, and Tolkien’s thoughts on war, in general. He understood the necessity of it, how we must rise up against tyrants and destroyers. But he hated the notion of loving the sword and the battle for their own sakes. These things are necessary to defend what we love, but it’s the things that we love, that we fight to defend, that we should focus on.
So that’s the tag. I’ll probably track down some other Tolkien tags in the future, but that’s all for now. Feel free to give it a try yourself, if you’re so inclined. Gandalf’s not here to say “you shall not pass” or anything like that.