Tolkien holds a special place in my book-heart, and in my more desiccated heart-heart. It does not go too far, I think, to say that I wouldn’t be doing any of this but for Tolkien. And by any of this, I’m not sure that I only mean the blogging. It was Tolkien who turned a spark of a love for reading into a roaring conflagration. As a poor kid from the southern Appalachian Mountains, it was largely a facility with the written word that got me from there to here.
It almost didn’t happen. And then I wouldn’t be giving you an entire summer of posts on Tolkien (you will be able to find every post linked at the bottom of this post). I will be posting on Tolkien every Thursday through the end of August. This is no truncated summer session. Read on for more about my history with Tolkien and more about what you can expect from Summer School: Tolkien 101.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when I was first exposed to Tolkien. I was reading something, or maybe playing the original Final Fantasy game on Nintendo, and my mom said, “If you like that, you will love this book called The Hobbit.” I resisted. I was a pretentious child, and The Hobbit sounded like a children’s book (a misperception I will return to). Nevertheless, she persisted.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when, but I know that I was eleven or younger. I say eleven or younger because I spent much of the week my brother died fiddling with the Lord of the Rings Adventure Game RPG. Escape from the jailer indeed.
For a long time I reread The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings on an annual basis (at least). The Lord of the Rings has a reputation as a tough book, but I used to tear through the entire trilogy in a day. I was obsessed enough to be nicknamed “Frodo” in elementary school. Albeit not quite obsessed enough to actually make it through The Silmarillion. That will have to wait for this summer [ed: next summer].
All this was long before the Peter Jackson movies mind you. I’ve grown to appreciate them over the years, but I am very glad that they weren’t my introduction to Tolkien, just as I’m very glad that Harry Potter wasn’t my introduction to fantasy. Everything need not be dumbed down. And The Lord of the Rings may not be an easy read, but it isn’t exactly Faulkner. After all, I was able to handle it in elementary school (so maybe I confused Saruman and Sauron the first time through).
Of course my appreciation for Jackson’s movies may ebb now that I’m finally rereading the books. Yes, as remarkable as it is, I may not have read the books since the first movie came out.
So this is my chance to reread the books. It is my chance to read my own little hobbit, known on the internet by the nom de gerber “no-angel,” The Hobbit. (She is a bit young for it, perhaps, but she did perk right up when I read that wonderful paragraph describing Smaug. Children already know that dragons exist, indeed.)
It is also a chance for me to finally read The Silmarillion all the way through and to read some more nonfiction on Tolkien [ed: at least the latter was true]. I will be starting with my thoughts on rereading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
I will talk about the movies. I made the mistake of watching Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies. I will finally watch the extended cuts of Jackson’s movies and will be rewatching the animated movies for the first time since I was a kid.
For nonfiction, I’ve already read The Fellowship and started Sørina Higgins’ collection of essays on The Inklings and King Arthur [ed: which I also didn’t finish]. I have a copy of The History of the Hobbit and hope to reread Author of the Century and A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War. [ed: didn’t happen, but I still wrote posts on both]. J.R.R. Tolkien has always been fascinating as a man, but only more so now that I am a father and an academic myself.
I may even throw in some dank memes like I’m a millennial or something.
As with my Summer of Conan series, this post will serve as an index for the entire series. I will add links to each post as they are published. So bookmark this post or just go ahead and follow the blog!