Published today on JRR Tolkien Examiner.
Photomontage from public domain image.
Apart from losing weight and cutting back on that “social” drinking, I can’t think of a better New Year’s resolution than to devote more of your time and energy to the works of JRR Tolkien.
Whether you were introduced to Tolkien by Orlando Bloom’s shield-surfing antics, or if you have read The Lord of the Rings every summer since the 3rd grade (guilty), there is always more you can do to become the Tolkien superfan you have always aspired to be.
Here are ten suggestions:
1.) On, January 3rd, J.R.R. Tolkien’s eleventy-seventh birthday, join some friends at a British pub and hoist a pint to The Professor.
2.) Watch all three LOTR films, extended versions only, back to back, in one day. Invite some friends over. Serve chips (French fries), fresh mushrooms, Guinness and stewed coney. And here’s a recipe for lembas.
3.) Reread (or, gasp!, read for the first time) The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Be sure to actually read the poems and songs. And the appendices.
4.) Read The Silmarillion, even if you have always avoided it. You won’t be sorry. It will answer most of the questions you were left with after The Lord of the Rings — who is Sauron? Where are all the Elves going? How could Gandalf come back from the dead? — and it’s an amazing book, especially if you’re unfamiliar with Tolkien’s source material.
5.) Now that you’ve read The Silmarillion, you probably think Túrin Turambar was a complete jerk and entirely unsympathetic. Read the whole story in The Children of Húrin, and you’ll change your mind.
6.) Play some Lord of the Rings games. The best tabletop game out there is Hasbro/Parker Bros’ JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings – be sure to get the Sauron Expansion. For video games, try The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age and especially The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II.
7.) Try The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar, even if you have never played an MMO before.
8.) Now it’s time to take the next step, from Tolkien fan to Tolkien superfan. Read Unfinished Tales and the first five volumes of The History of Middle Earth — The Book of Lost Tales Volumes 1&2, The Lays of Beleriand, The Shaping of Middle-earth, and The Lost Road and Other Writings. These contain the history of the writing of The Silmarillion, and will give you a complete background in the history and cosmology of Middle-earth. The other seven volumes of HoME are worth checking out, but in my experience they’re not worth reading cover-to-cover; although there are worthwhile bits, like the famous discussion of death and immortality between Finrod Felagund and Andreth Saelind of the House of Bëor in Volume 10, Morgoth’s Ring.
10.) Get acquainted with Tolkien’s published works that were unrelated, or only tangentially related, to his Middle Earth Legendarium: Tales from the Perilous Realm (which includes Roverandom, On Fairy Stories, Farmer Giles of Ham, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, Smith of Wootton Major and Leaf by Niggle), Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and this past year’s The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún.
You’ll notice I didn’t suggest learning to speak Quenya or Sindarin — that’s for next year!