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Happy Tolkien Reading Day

First of all, I have to take a minute to wish my very best friend, Vanessa, a wonderfully happy birthday!! I miss you and I hope you and the fam are doing awesome. I love you so much!

Now, if you don’t know what Tolkien Reading Day is, let me elaborate. Every year on March 25, Tolkienites, Ringers, and general reading enthusiasts alike come together to honor arguably one of the most influential writers in the world: J.R.R. Tolkien. This day itself is historic in Middle-earth as it was the day The One Ring was finally destroyed. Then, this amazing group, called the Tolkien Society, uses this day to also honor the great works of Tolkien and his influence on the literary community and beyond.

This year, they are spreading the message of hope and courage. If you’ve never checked out their website before, you should. They have so much about Tolkien on there that you might become a scholar yourself in no time! I, myself, am still learning so much about him every time I read his books or books about him.

Usually, when this day comes around, I try really hard to read one of the many books I have in my collection, and call it a day. In fact, I have almost all of the books in the Middle-earth collection. There’s a new one coming out June 21 that will be another addition to the Histories of Middle-earth, which I am SO excited to get and read.

What do I normally read for Tolkien Reading Day? Well, that varies. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a given, although I don’t know that I can read the entire trilogy in one day. If I read one of those books, I usually pick just one. I have this gorgeous volume with illustrations in it by Alan Lee. If you’ve never seen his work of Middle-earth, it is simply stunning and one of the best at capturing what is in my imagination as I read. In my opinion, anyway.

If I’m feeling adventurous, I love diving into The Silmarillion. It’s a tough read, I’ll give you that, but it’s very much worth it. If you are an aspiring Ringer or Tolkienite, I strongly recommend you give it a shot and start with The Silmarillion. It‘s essentially the Bible of Middle-earth, telling us how it all came into creation. It actually helps you understand why the Elves go into the West or the Undying Lands when they leave Middle-earth at the end of the Third Age.

From there, you can peruse the Histories of Middle-earth. Those take you through everything that led up to The Hobbit so that you have a better understanding of why The One Ring even exists and why it was so important it was destroyed. Essentially, when Middle-earth was created by Illuvatar, there was one being named Morgoth who created Darkness and all the foul things that live in it. He even created Ungoliant, which is the predecessor to Shelob—for those of you who have seen the movies. Sauron was a pupil of Morgoth who took over when Morgoth was eradicated from Middle-earth. It’s a long journey, but it’s quite worth it—as are most long journeys when you get to the end.

Personally, one of my favorites outside of the trilogy, is Beren and Luthien. It’s a tragic love story about a Mortal Man and an Elven Maiden. In The Two Towers, Aragon actually sings the lays of this story. The tale of Beren and Luthien can be purchased as part of The Lays of Beleriand or as a stand alone book. Either way, that’s what Aragorn sings about. In the extended version of the movies—which is the only way you should ever watch those films, by the way—Eowyn hears Aragorn humming and she asks what he’s singing about and he tells her a two-line summary, which I won’t put here because it’s a spoiler for the story! In spite of its tragedy, it’s a very beautiful story that I would recommend to anyone.

The theme from the Tolkien Society this year of hope and courage is quite fitting. Consider all that we’ve been through as a collective in the last year. Everyone has had to face the challenges of the pandemic in their own way. So many people have died. So many people were hurt by words and/or actions of others. For those of us who have made it through to the other side, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We just have to keep having hope.

Think of Covid as The One Ring. It can touch many and claim their lives through various methods, but it just takes a few of us to maintain hope and have the courage to keep pushing forward.

The example the Tolkien Society uses for this is Samwise Gamgee. Honestly, I couldn’t think of a better example. It’s said that Tolkien always wrote Sam to be the true hero. After all, he’s the only one to bear the burden of The One Ring and not be affected by its power. There are so many moments when Sam maintains in hope in a way that just takes my breath away and moves me to tears.

When my dad died a year ago (not from the pandemic, thank God), I just kept thinking of what Samwise would do. My answer always boiled down to these two quotes:

”It’s all wrong. By rights, we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened? But, in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer....Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something....[T]here’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.” —The Two Towers

That one quote, long as it is, has gotten me through countless dark days. Because, in the end, the world keeps spinning with or without us. Pandemic or no pandemic. It’s a test of our resilience and our faith in, not just a higher being or whatever you choose to believe, but in ourselves. We are made to push through darkness one way or another. I believe Tolkien was trying to tell all of us—through Sam—that this weight of darkness is normal. Everyone feels it. In 2019 we all felt it differently, but in 2020, we felt it as a collective. Some people are like Boromir and have their moments of consumption by the darkness. Some people are like Aragorn, where we see the darkness and face it head-on. Others, still, are like Frodo. Try as you might to resist the darkness, you can’t always do it and you can’t always do alone. And that’s okay. That’s what the Samwise Gamgee’s of the world are for.

So what’s the second quote that gets me through dark times? Well, remembering exactly what I just said.

“I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.”—Samwise Gamgee, The Return of the King

That one line gives me chills and makes me tear up every single time I watch that movie. The crux of having hope and courage isn’t always having hope and courage to dive headfirst into a situation to conquer it. Sometimes it takes more courage to ask for help and have hope that you will pull through with someone else to lean on. Not all of us can be Goliath’s. Some of us are David’s, and that’s okay. Just remember, you don’t have to carry your darkness alone. The pandemic has left a lot of ruin in its wake, but if we just remember to have a little bit of hope and courage, we can push through and come out on the other side.

An important lesson Frodo teaches us is that once all is said and done, we can’t go back to the life we used to live. We have to adjust our lives to better suit who we are now. We’re stronger than we were before. We’re wiser than we were before. Maybe we wash our hands more than we did before. Whatever it is, you may not be able to reclaim your old life, but I promise something beautiful is waiting for you in the sunlight.

Clearly, I love Tolkien and his messages of strength, courage, and hope throughout Middle-earth. It’s my hope, that celebrating the prolific impact he has had on literature (and film, for that matter!) will give you a little pep in your step if you need one. And, even if you don’t think you need one, I promise his stories will lift your heart anyway.

I don’t claim to be the biggest Tolkienite or Ringer in the world, by any means. I firmly believe that title goes to Stephen Colbert! However, I will say that Tolkien was my inspiration for really diving deep into writing and letting my imagination run wild. I‘ll never forget seeing The Fellowship of the Ring with my mom back in December 2001–that movie is 20 this year, by the way!

Anyway, I had no idea that movie was a trilogy and I had no idea it was a trilogy of books first. I just knew that I was crazy in love with what I saw on that big screen. At Pointe Orlando in Florida, we saw the movie. Downstairs from the theatre was a book store. They had the displays of books in the window that included both the trilogy and The Hobbit. My wonderful mother was kind enough to get that box set for me. I distinctly remember taking about a week to read each of The Hobbit and the first two in the trilogy. But The Return of the King? Oh, I finished that bad boy in a day. I just couldn’t put it down! That was when I knew I wanted to make my own world one day. A world where courage and hope prevailed even in the darkest times.

So I started working on some stories. It would be over a decade before I got around to Angel of Death and that would come about from an unexpected source of inspiration, but I can’t ever forget my roots. I was inspired to love writing when I took that Florida Writes test, but I was more inspired to be creative and imaginative when I was introduced to Tolkien. Which reminds me: if you haven’t seen the biopic called “Tolkien”, you really should. While it’s not entirely accurate regarding his life before he wrote The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, I found it entirely accurate regarding how he saw life. Not to say that the movie did anything with his theories of life and whatnot. No, I’m talking about how the movie depicted the imagination of a writer. When you watch it, you’ll understand what I mean.

Tolkien is portrayed as seeing visions of what he wants to write about come to life in front of him. It’s hard to explain, but I connected with that on a deep level. The best way I can think to describe it is that I can be looking at something ordinary—cooking dinner, for instance, and maybe while I’m boiling water, I see a vision of a scene I want to write for my current story. It’s like it’s there as a movie being projected for only me to see. It’s that moment when inspiration strikes and your imagination just goes wild, putting all the pieces of this puzzle together to form a picture you didn’t know you wanted to see. I was moved to tears when they did that because I felt like someone got it. Someone showed the world what it’s like to be a writer and to have all these ideas floating in your head that try to mesh together as one coherent and cohesive thing. Definitely worth a viewing at least once.

While I know I can’t ever be as great an author as Tolkien, I know I can be me. I can bleed my soul onto the pages you read just like he did for all of us; and I can be great in my own way. We all can. It just starts with a dream. Add a little dash of hope and courage, and you’ve got a dream come true!

J.R.R. Tolkien has been an inspiration to countless people from all walks of life. This year, I hope that he will inspire you in some form or another. Even if that means you’re just inspired to pick up The Hobbit for the first time. Whatever you do, I hope you enjoy it and carry some of the messages he gives you into your life as reminders that you can do this. You are a bright star shining through the darkness of whatever is weighing on you right now. It sounds overly positive, but isn’t that something we could all use right now? I think so, anyway.

Welp, that does it for this week’s entry. Stay tuned next week for another early-release blog because.........IT’S BOOK RELEASE DAY!! That’s right. Next Wednesday, March 31, is the official release of In the Beginning. I’ll have a special post to celebrate that includes a little insight into that unexpected source of inspiration that I talked about earlier.

Love always,

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Unknown member
Mar 25, 2021

So we’ll written and inspiring 💜

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