I’m so, so excited to host a wonderful guest on the blog today… my lovely friend Claire from Bitches with Books! The two of us pretty much clicked instantly when we discovered we were both museum geeks, and we’ve met up several times in real life, and plan another meeting soon. I decided Claire would be the perfect person to geek out over Tolkien with, so over the course of March, I’ll be sharing posts of the two of us discussing Tolkien and all things Middle-earth.
Rinn: Claire, thank you so much for joining me for this! I’m so excited to discuss Tolkien with a good friend and fellow lover of all things Middle-earth. So my first question is… what initially drew you to Tolkien’s works?
Claire: Well hallllooooo there Rinn, this is so exciting! Y’all wouldn’t believe the squeal I let out when Rinn asked me to do this, but to answer your first question- what did draw me to Tolkien’s works? I’d have to say my mother actually. I’ve always been very bookish and when my mother noticed I loved reading she bought me a set of classics, which I unfortunately couldn’t stand (I really tried to like them but just couldn’t!). When I was a teen I was haunting the fantasy section at the Barnes and Nobles during a holiday (after developing a solid addiction to fantasy because of Harry Potter and Eragon), and my mother came by and saw me looking at Lord of the Rings and she made a very sour face. Of all the classics, she didn’t like Tolkien’s works. So what does a teenager do? I went and bought the series and fell in love. I’ve not had a proper reread of it and I’m just doing so now- it’s so good to read them again! It feels like coming home. Oh, I will also admit that after I read the books and the films came out, I was extra-addicted. The adaptations might not be faithful, but they are good.
What I want to know is, how did you get into Tolkien, Rinn, and do you think his works have had an impact on your life? Beyond the literary as well I wonder.
Rinn: Well as you know, I’ve always been a huuuge fan of fantasy fiction. I remember my mum buying me a graphic novel version of The Hobbit when I was perhaps 8 or 9, and I really liked it. Then a few years later I heard that they were turning The Lord of the Rings into a film, so I took it upon myself to read the books first – I was 10, and that’s pretty much when my Tolkien obsession began. I devoured the books, loved the films so much, bought ALL the merchandise I could find (I even had one of those massive cardboard cutouts they have in cinemas of The Two Towers on display in my bedroom). And then I was known all throughout secondary school for being obsessed with The Lord of the Rings. I’ve always been a big reader (duh) but LotR made me feel something I’d never felt before. It got me through those awkward teenage years, something familiar to come back to, it helped me through depression and not being able to cope with various changes to my life. I have previously written a post on why it is ‘my precious’ which I think explains it pretty well. I’ve now read it (almost) every year since I was 10, apart from the past two years – hence why I’m doing my re-read and making a big deal out of it this month! So, to summarise: MAJOR HUGE IMPORTANT LIFE CHANGING EVENT when I first picked up LotR. Such a massive impact on my teenage years and who I was as a person, as well as my reading/film etc tastes.
Also I’d just like to add that I WALKED PAST TOLKIEN’S OLD HOUSE TODAY. Bonus of living in Oxford. I may have freaked out a little bit when I noticed, but had to restrain myself because I was with a colleague. I’ll go back on my own one day…
So now my next question for you… is there a character from Tolkien’s works that you really love, or who you could compare yourself to?
Claire: When I first went to The Eagle and Child – the pub he’d converse with his fellow Inklings with, I freaked out. I felt like it was such a pilgrimage and such a beautiful thing, I almost got a bit weepy! If anyone is ever in Oxford you have to go to The Eagle and Child, you have to!
To answer your question, I don’t think that there is a character that I can compare myself to (it’s not one of those novels for me for some reason). I do like the race of Hobbits, I like their lifestyle- I am overly fond of food, sort and a tad hairy myself so I think I’d fit right in. I love forests and gardens as well. I also see a bit of Gimli in me, the sheer stubbornness of it all but to dwell in the dark and dry of a deep mountain, I could never do that. I will say that when it comes to loving a character, I have a strong fondness for Samwise Gamgee, I think he’s the real Original Gangster of the entire Lord of the Rings series. Why?
- He did so much and hardly ever-in fact never- asked for anything in return. He got told to go on this journey and out of sheer loyalty went along with it. If Gandalf told me to go with Frodo I’d have laughed and sprinted right back out that door. Nope and nope and nope.
- He was uncommonly brave. He doesn’t have “bravado” or “machismo” but he never ran from a fight, he stayed his ground even though he was terrified, he never left Mr. Frodo’s side.
- He was also plenty darn smart. Again, not the loud or obvious kind, he was never GREAT at anything but good at so much and he had so much common sense. #TeamSamwiseGamgee
Funny enough, I’m not a big fan of Tolkien’s elves, they are a tad cruel in my opinion and removed from everything in Middle Earth which I know is part of the point but that pisses me off. Why live in a place if you don’t involve yourself (as in 100% fully commit and I know not all elves were like that, just some)? Meh.