123 reasons we’re headed back to Middle Earth for Tolkien Reading Day
If J.R.R. Tolkien were still alive today, he’d be 123-years-old, and probably flabbergasted at the cultural tour-de-force that his writings have become. Though it’s been decades since the celebrated English fantasy author passed away, his seminal works — The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy — are the source of many fantastic movies, video games, other inspirations, as well as being fantastic reads.
The Tolkien Society, run by fans of his work, has reserved March 25 of every year as Tolkien Reading Day: A day to read your favorite Tolkien passages and continue sharing his legacy. Having been a dedicated LOTR fangirl in my teen years (my email username at one point was quenya_girl), you know I’ll be celebrating.
While 2015’s specific Tolkien Reading Day theme is “friendship in Tolkien’s works,” instead of just sharing passages of Frodo and Sam’s bond, Legolas and Gimli’s unlikely friendship, or Thorin and Bilbo’s camaraderie, we’re listing out 123 reasons why Middle Earth, its many stories and forms, and its maker have such a special place in the hearts of fans across generations:
1. The fact that Tolkien is the godfather of modern epic fantasy of all mediums, and the genre definitely traces much of its current popularity to his work.
2. The dedicated fan scholar culture which has grown around his works.
3. The dedicated fan culture which has grown around the many adaptations of his works.
4. Peter Jackson’s amazing films for the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films.
5. Howard Shore’s amazing scores for the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films.
6. Blasting said amazing scores and pretending to be a member of the Rohirrim heading toward Gondor, or Frodo and Sam trekking toward Mordor.
7. Laughing at (but hoping for) the idea of a standalone The Silmarillion movie.
8. The joy felt when Jackson and co. folded a lot of that material into The Hobbit films.
9. Listening to the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit actors speak in Elvish.
10. Learning Quenya, Sindarin, and the rest of the beautiful Elvish languages.
11. In fact, all of the languages Tolkien created for Middle Earth: Khuzdul, Entish, Rohirric… over 20 fully-formed languages total.
12. The name of the collected works of Tolkien — the Legendarium.
13. The fact that you can now take Tolkien-based college courses (which I did, though it was a freshman orientation seminar versus a catalogued course).
14. The Lego Middle Earth universes. Just look at them!
15. Also, The Lego Movie‘s Middle Zealand.
16. Middle Earth AU Fanfiction. (Who wrote a Survivor/LOTR parody fanfiction when she was in middle school? This gal.)
17. All Middle Earth-based fanfiction. Unlike some authors, Tolkien never spoke out about the practice. (To be fair, there are many reasons why that never happened.)
18. The Beatles live-action Lord of the Rings that never was. With Paul McCartney as Frodo Baggins, Ringo Starr as Samwise Gamgee, George Harrison as Gandalf, and John Lennon as Gollum, and with Stanley Kubrick directing.
19. Watching the 1978 Ralph Bakshi animated Lord of the Rings film.
20. Learning about the inspirations behind Lord of the Rings, like the epic Norse Völsunga saga.
21. The many stories inspired by Tolkien’s Middle Earth.
22. Stephen Colbert’s #1 fanboy stanning for Tolkien’s works.
23. Stephen Colbert’s cameo in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
24. Looking at John Howe and Alan Lee’s beautiful conceptual Middle Earth illustrations.
25. This fan’s passionate explanation of the different bows used in The Hobbit films.
26. The feeling when you watch all three extended editions of the Lord of the Rings movies back-to-back-to-back.
27. The excitement that there will probably be extended editions of all three parts of The Hobbit.
28. The day you will inevitably lose when you watch the extended editions of The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings back-to-back-to-back-to… you get the gist.
29. The beginning of Andy Serkis’ illustrious motion capture acting career.
30. Trying to shriek like a Nazgul whenever you had a sore throat.
31. Whipping your binders out of your backpack like Aragorn unsheathing the reforged Narsil/Anduril.
32. Sneaking around your house at night pretending to be Bilbo trying not to awake Smaug. (Your parents were Smaug.)
33. “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”
34. “They’re taking the hobbits to Isengard!”
35. Looking up “Dwarf racist party dad” Thranduil fanart on Tumblr.
36. Debating books vs. movies with people who favored the other.
37. Reading all. of. the. appendices.
38. Thinking Orlando Bloom was utterly dreamy as Legolas.
39. Rolling your eyes whenever someone complained that the books were too long.
40. Rolling your eyes whenever someone complained that the movies were too long.
41. Trying to grow your hair long like an elf’s.
42. Trying to grow your beard long like a dwarf’s.
43. Trying to get away with walking barefoot outside because “all the hobbits do that!”
44. Billy Boyd’s/Pippin’s songs for the films. Go on, listen to “The White Tree,” do it.
45. Talking to yourself like Gollum/Smeagol when you think nobody’s listening.
46. Hissing “My precious” when someone asks to borrow a charger.
47. Answering all questions about shortcuts of any kind with “Mushrooms!”
48. Boil em, mash em, stick em in a stew.
49. Having crippling arachnophobia because of Shelob.
50. Pronouncing Mordor like “Morlhldorlhl.”
51. Bookmarking every page Tolkien mentions food. Seriously, the man could’ve had a career as a food writer.
52. King Theoden’s rousing speech to the Rohirrim before they join the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
53. Begging your parents to go to New Zealand to visit the Hobbiton set. (Still doing this.)
54. That time period in the mid-2000s when Skymall stocked every Lord of the Rings collectible possible.
55. Weeping over every mention of Beren and Luthien.
56. The brotherly moments between Boromir and Faramir in the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings films.
57. Extensively researching the names and histories of all 19 Rings of Power (not counting the One).
58. Noting every difference between the books and the movies.
59. The moment when Boromir sounds the Horn of Gondor and you realize that the Fellowship might not actually all make it.
60. Chiding people who used the word “epic” for anything other than describing Homer’s and Tolkien’s works.
61. “One does not simply walk into Mordor.”
62. Bill the Pony.
63. “But no living man am I!”/”I am no man!”
64. Actually reading The Silmarillion.
65. Being kind of mad that the filmmakers didn’t name the last Hobbit movie There and Back Again.
66. This amazing Minecraft-set Minas Tirith.
67. Gollum’s riddles.
68. Setting Tolkien’s poems to music and playing it.
69. Saying “If you want him, come and claim him!” whenever someone tries to take something back from you.
70. Archery lessons.
71. Mythopoeia, written after a discussion with contemporaries C. S. Lewis and Hugo Dyson, and Tolkien’s general defense of the myth tradition.
72. Shouting “Shire!… Baggins!…” whenever someone asks an uncomfortable question.
73. The delight of realizing that there are other wizards in Middle Earth besides Gandalf and Saruman.
74. The confusion of realizing that two of those other wizards are total footnotes in Tolkien’s writings (they have names — Alatar and Pallando).
75. The many one-off stories Tolkien slips into his narratives.
76. Trying to learn how to ride and race a horse.
77. “Eleventy first.”
78. This poem:
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
79. Saying “Mellon” whenever you’re locked out.
80. Elf-inspired fashion (lots of long robes, natural colors).
81. Wheedling your SO to gift you an Evenstar.
82. Viggo Mortensen’s ability to clean up from Strider to King Aragorn, son of Arathorn.
83. Prosthetic elf ears.
84. Trying to convince your parents to let you get the same Tengwar “nine” tattoo that the Fellowship members (save John Rhys-Davies) got.
85. Giving Middle Earth’s animal steeds nicknames like the Swag Stag.
86. Wearing a replica of the One Ring and pretending it could actually make you invisible. (Like when your parents yelled at you to do your homework.)
87. Tolkien’s firm anti-war stance.
88. “Speaking” “Entish” to trees.
89. Naming all of the members in your friend group after Thorin’s company.
90. Reading up on the other races and culture of Middle Earth.
91. Connecting with other Tolkien fan sites and trading graphics and favorite passages.
93. Having to explain to everyone that no, the eagles couldn’t have dropped the Ring into Mount Doom, stop telling me that.
94. This “epic rap battle” between Tolkien and George R.R. Martin.
95. The fact that the success of the Lord of the Rings films inspired film and TV producers to look into Martin’s budding fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, which was later adapted into HBO’s smash hit Game of Thrones.
96. Debating the various WWII/Lord of the Rings parallels despite Tolkien’s assertions that there were no parallels.
97. Not understanding what “the Halfling’s leaf” was.
98. Cheering when Denethor finally died.
99. Wondering where all the female characters were.
100. Having to explain that Aragorn was part of a super-race of men.
101. Those amazing Air New Zealand ads.
102. Catching and releasing moths and pretending that you can speak to them.
103. The chill you get down your back when you read the description of the Balrog in Moria.
104. Debating the merits of adding Tauriel and romance to The Hobbit.
105. Attempting to bake your own lembas bread.
106. Trying to convince your friends to read the books.
107. Wondering how to pronounce all of the names; learning some of the pronunciations from the films.
108. Screaming when Bilbo transforms at the sight of the Ring in Fellowship.
109. “The way is shut.”
110. Slipping book quotes into daily conversation.
111. The utter anguish at watching Sean Bean’s Boromir’s death. (One of many in-character deaths for the actor; see #95.)
112. “My brother. My captain. My king.”
113. Debating over which city would’ve been the best to live in. (The right answer is Rivendell.)
114. The first time you listen to “Stairway to Heaven” and realize that you already know some of the lyrics.
115. Having an irrational fear of big eyes.
116. Poring over the descriptions of Galadriel’s gifts for the Fellowship.
117. Learning how to play the major soundtrack themes on different instruments.
118. Referring to Tolkien’s collective writings as The Red Book of Westmarch.
119. “Fool of a Took!”
120. Practicing holidays and festivals mentioned in the series, like the fall of Sauron. (Magical fireworks not included.)
121. Crying the first time you turned the last page of The Return of the King.
122. The validation felt by fantasy nerds when Lord of the Rings became an Oscar-winning trilogy of films.
123. Celebrating the fantasy genre and the many worlds and wonders contained within.
Think I missed any? Have any other fun Middle Earth-related memories? Get them in the comments, and show us the meaning of haste!