The first time I read Lord of the Rings was shortly before the movies came out (about a year before, I think). But it wasn’t because of them, exactly. I don’t think I would have been interested in the books much earlier than that, anyway. I started reading fantasy with authors like Jane Yolen, Susan Fletcher & Tamora Pierce. I don’t think I would have gotten into LotR much earlier than I did (movie or no movie, probably) especially since I didn’t start with The Hobbit. I managed to miss The Hobbit completely as a child, and only read it after reading LotR.
As far as the movies go, I really disliked RotK when it came out and I feel like none of the movies have really held up in retrospect, largely because RotK magnified everything I didn’t like about the first two films. (As you can probably guess, I never watched The Hobbit films.)
[note: I didn’t spend much time writing this when I first posted, so I couldn’t resist go back to edit it a bit]
1. What’s your favorite Middle-earth story/book?
It’s a tie between LotR and The Silmarillion. I would probably have to flip a coin to decide. Also, I adore The Children of Hurin.
I like The Hobbit but I’m not as invested in it, compared to Tolkien’s other books.
2. Do you have a favorite subplot?
In LotR: Sam and Frodo in Ithilien + the siege of Gondor.
In The Silmarillion… well, my favorite thing in The Silmarillion is the Noldor. But their story is prominent enough that perhaps it isn’t a subplot. Maybe the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, to be a bit more specific. (I said in my review of the book that this is my favorite chapter, but I definitely have other favorite parts that don’t make up a whole chapter.)
late edit: or, hang on, can I count the Oath as a subplot? I guess that has to be it — the Oath & the Feanorians have always captivated me, even when I read the book for the first time and a lot of stuff didn’t quite click yet.
3. What’s your favorite theme in Tolkien’s books? (Can be in one specific story, or overall.)
Probably the theme of joy in the midst of sorrow that pervades almost all the stories of Middle-earth. There’s a wonderful lecture on this by Dimitri Fimi, which you can listen to here:
4. Do you have a favorite weapon from Middle-earth?
I’ve never thought about this one. Maybe Anglachel, aka Gurthang. It’s so creepy!
5. Would you like to be a hobbit?
Sure! I’d probably have some Took in me though. I might have a hard time staying put in the Shire.
6. Do you have a favorite romance/couple?
Beren and Luthien, probably. I read the Lay of Leithian in The Lays of Beleriand (this was years before Beren and Luthien came out). In some ways I prefer it to the version in chapter 19 of The Silmarillion; I love all their dialogue (and the other characters’, too). I really enjoyed Beren and Luthien, though; getting to read all the versions of their story was great.
I love it for being one of the few happy endings in The Silmarillion, although I love the tragedies too.
There’s so much great art of these two. Apart from Alan Lee’s illustrations I have to recommend:
Anke Eissmann’s Lay of Leithian sequence:
(The only art with short-haired Luthien I’ve ever seen. I’ve always wondered why everyone draws her with her hair grown back after she cut it off in Hirilorn. I doubt that she would have bothered to stop and regrow it right away, even if she could have.)
I also have a fascination with Feanor/Nerdanel. I love that she was the only person he would listen to, although that didn’t last. I love pretty much everything we are told about them (which isn’t much).
“While still in early youth Feanor wedded Nerdanel, a maiden of the Noldor; at which many wondered, for she was not among the fairest of her people. But she was strong, and free of mind, and filled with the desire of knowledge. In her youth she loved to wander far from the dwellings of the Noldor, either beside the long shores of the Sea or in the hills; and thus she and Feanor had met and were companions in many journeys” — History of Middle-earth 10: Morgoth’s Ring
I have not found much art with them, but here are a few depictions I really like:
I don’t have quite the same level of enthusiasm for Faramir/Eowyn, but I really like it.
7. What’s your favorite Middle-earth creature? (Can be “real” or “imaginary.”)
Elves! But I don’t think I really “got” the Elves until I read The Silmarillion; I appreciate their role in LotR more since then. Wait, do Elves count as a “creature?”
If not: then maybe Arien the Maia, who guides the Sun.
“Arien the maiden was mightier than he (Tilion), and she was chosen because she had not feared the heats of Laurelin, and was unhurt by them, being from the beginning a spirit of fire, whom nonetheless Melkor had not deceived nor drawn to his service. Fair indeed was Arien to behold, but too bright were her eyes for even the Eldar to look on, and leaving Valinor he forsook the form and raiment which, like the Valar, she had there worn, and she was a naked flame, terrible in the fullness of her splendour.”
8. What character do you look the most like?
Hmm, I don’t know. I can’t think of a character who really looks like me, but maybe I’m forgetting someone.
9. Are there any books about Middle-earth or Professor Tolkien (but not written by him) you recommend?
Tolkien & the Great War by John Garth (I really need to reread this, as I read it a long time ago) and Splintered Light by Verlyn Flieger (which I read and reviewed earlier this year at GoodReads). There are some other books at the library that I want to get to but haven’t read (The Road to Middle-earth by Tom Shippey + There Would Always Be A Fairy Tale by Verlyn Flieger.)
10. List up to ten of your favorite lines/quotations from the Middle-earth books and/or movies.
1 – “The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for ever fence it out.” [LotR]
2 – “The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.” [LotR]
3 – “The road must be trod, but it will be very hard. And neither strength nor wisdom will carry us far upon it. This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet it is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: Small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.”[LotR]
4 – “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: the city of the Men of Númenor, and I would have her loved for her memory, her ancientry, her beauty, and her present wisdom. Not feared, save as men may fear the dignity of a man, old and wise.” [LotR]
5 – “But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually – their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on – and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same – like old Mr Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into?” [LotR]
6 – “It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.” [LotR]
7 – “Mightier than Este is Nienna, sister of the Feanturi; she dwells alone. She is acquainted with grief, and mourns for every wound that Arda has suffered in the marring of Melkor. So great was her sorrow, as the Music unfolded, that her song turned to lamentation long before its end, and those who hearken to her learn pity, and endurance in hope.” [The Silmarillion]
8 – “In Aman we have come through bliss to woe. The other we will now try: through sorrow to find joy; or freedom, at the least.” [The Silmarillion]
9 “But now a cry went up, passing up the wind from the south from vale to vale, and Elves and Men lifted their voices in wonder and joy. For unsummoned and unlooked for Turgon had opened the leaguer of Gondolin, and was come with an army ten thousand strong, with bright mail and long swords and spears like a forest. Then when Fingon heard afar the great trumpet of Turgon his brother, the shadow passed and his heart was uplifted, and he shouted aloud: ‘Utulie’n aure! Aiya Eldalie ar Atanatari, utulie’n aure! The day has come! Behold, people of the Eldar and Fathers of Men, the day has come!'” [The Silmarillion]
10 – “And when this new star was seen at evening, Maedhros spoke to Maglor his brother, and he said: ‘Surely that is a Silmaril that shines now in the West?’
And Maglor answered: ‘If it be truly the Silmaril which we saw cast into the sea that rises again by the power of the Valar, then let us be glad; for its glory is now seen by many, and is yet secure from all evil.’” [The Silmarillion]