20 September 2012

How Tolkien Has Inspired Me

I have only been a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s for about eleven years now; but at the age of twenty-two, that seems almost like an entire lifetime. I first read The Hobbit at a time in my life where I despised the fantasy genre; the first time my mother suggested I read it, I remember crying out, almost with disgust, “What the heck is a hobbit? Sure sounds like something I wouldn’t enjoy!”

But after some more pressing, I caved. Giving this book a chance opened my eyes and showed me that the genre could not only be fun, but that it could also possess a sense of realism that I never thought was possible. As I read The Hobbit for the first time, it was easy to forget that in our world, creatures like Hobbits, Orcs, stone-trolls, and dragons don’t exist. I like to think Professor Tolkien inspired me to read with an open mind and give all genres a chance, regardless of any preconceived notions I might have.

Moving on to The Lord of the Rings, I became even more engrossed in Tolkien’s world. Middle-earth was complex and so deeply constructed that it didn’t feel like a setting made up for the sake of telling a story; rather, it felt like a place which actually existed.

Even if it wasn’t technically a real place one could visit, Middle-earth was an exciting escape from “the real world.” I spent the most important years of my life (in terms of growth and development) reading and carefully studying everything Tolkien had written about its inhabitants. To some extent, I separated myself from my peers, who found it odd that I could spend so much time with my nose in a book, let alone one as “geeky” as The Lord of the Rings. But while everyone else was struggling to fit in, I was slowly discovering myself and my passions.

Perhaps most importantly, my passion for Tolkien helped me to branch out of my comfort zone. An introvert with an aversion to public speaking, I started an after school Tolkien book club/classroom, where I took on the unfamiliar role of teacher and helped my friends and classmates further understand the points Tolkien was trying to make, while occasionally teaching them Elvish phrases or the traditions of the various cultures in Middle-earth. It was at that time someone remarked that I would one day shine as a teacher of Tolkien’s writing, and that was when I knew I had found my calling.

I like to think that Professor Tolkien inspired me to become a better reader, writer, and student.  

Cheers and happy Tolkien Week everyone! 

How has Tolkien inspired you? Feel free to share your story below or on Twitter!

2 comments:

  1. What an amazing post. I'll try to be brief with all the things I have in my head since I too consider Tolkien's work as a great inspiration. You can all skip to "Personal" if you want a quick read.

    This may seem odd, and even wrong for some people. First I must say that interpretation is far beyond the author's scope. This is something I assimilated from a song writer's comment about his own work, he said something like this (and it applies to books and art as well): once you create a song and play it each person will have a song of its own... each one will identify things and relate it to his / her real life even if I meant something different, personal.

    The richness in Tolkien's work is the depth is so deep and detailed that interpretation is far more deep for a piece of art (we may think it should be the opposite but it is not).

    Personally

    Inspiration from his books and related derivative art (movies, imagery) gave me a point of comparison with real life. I may summarize this as concepts:

    - Evil, in the books is well defined, almost tangible. There is doubt in the good side and imperfection, but evil is very, very defined. In real life good and evil and all its shades are very mixed in everyone. It is not so simple.

    - Hope: no need to explain that the books (maybe based on Tolkien experiences with war and other issues) praise hope as a very important driving force.

    - Do what you must do, no matter what: no matter if you are comfort with your life, your world seems almost perfect or the opposite: get out! step outside or you will never find out what it is all about. The concept of taking risks to see how things are are always present to me in his works. And learn in the process... or you will end up falling to shadows :)

    - Details (same as Britta here) if you like Tolkien works you are almost obligated to dig deeper even if you are not an everyday reader or detailed person (I'm not). Everyone has its own depth but anyway the work demands for more insight... to learn more.

    - Reference: beliefs aside, Tolkien works have endless examples of teaching, friendship, concepts, ideas, behavioural matters. Each character has its own traits and it is very easy to take advice. I always considered The Silmarillion as a Bible-like book. Full of teachings among the other books. I know a lot of readers asked themselves "What would xxxx do in this escenario" since all characters are loaded with wisdom (or lack of it).

    It is also a matter of debate but to me Tolkien poured in his books more than meets the eye and more than research can bring... it is an ongoing resource that can be used to compare real life events since his own life experience is mixed inside the story.

    He was a man interested in the whys and structure of writing and he lived many issues from first hand.

    So all and all I learned a different perspective and all that comes within that from his books and related art.

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  2. Beautiful post, Britta. Glad to know that Professor Tolkien influenced your life in such a positive way! I also first had contact with Tolkien 11 years ago, and I have spent a lot of time dedicating myself to it, while others were probably spending their time in more "standard-normal" stuff. I would have loved to be in your book club! :) Glad to know as well you heard your calling!! :)

    May Tolkien keep guiding our paths!!

    PS: 9/21/1937, The Hobbit was first published!

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