Sunday, September 21, 2014

Into the West: What Tolkien Means to Me

When I was 13, I met this girl. Her name was Elizabeth. At first, I thought she was a stuck-up prig who would rather chase her siblings around like a proper big sister than talk with strangers. (No, I’ve never been that great at making new friends.)

Well, in a year, we were having heart-to-heart chats in her bedroom at 3 a.m., so obviously, we worked it out. She became the closest thing that I had, up until that time, for a sister. That’s a story for another day, though. Some nights we discussed troubles in our life, or our dreams for the future, or funny stuff we’d discovered recently. But a whole lot of the time, we discussed Tolkien.

Elizabeth, or “Eruwaedhiel,” which could be more appropriate for this post, is the sole reason I know what Ents are or that there are different types of Orcs.

I love The Lord of the Rings. And anything Middle-Earth related.

I will admit upfront that, yes, I have seen the movies more than I have read the books. But I am not so weak. I have read The Hobbit, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King. I thought I would read The Histories of Middle-Earth, but got stuck because I tried to start with The Lays of Beleriand. I gave up on that, and read The Silmarillion instead. Now I'm struggling to resist the urge to proclaim that book's wonders to random members of the general public. I also work a full-time job, and have a lot of interests, and, well, I’m busy.

But I digress. Tolkiendil holds a special place in my heart because it was my original fandom. Which is hilarious, considering that 9 years ago, I thought Merry was a girl. (Hey, no one ever showed me the spelling!) And once Elizabeth converted me, it only took about a year to win over my younger brothers. They were a tad hard to convince, but Helm’s Deep finished them off, and they are now dedicated fans, too.

I also have Tolkien to thank for these:

1. I can politely insult people. 

Hey, if you smile through a “nostach be Orch gaer”, people’ll never guess you just degraded them lower than a pig. I also find that “labo vi Orodruin” makes me feel just as good as “shove off.”

2. I have learned the proper reaction to Gregorian chant. 


Look: I apologize if you love that style of music, but 99% of them make me want to rub my eyeballs with habañeros.  I have heard a couple of chants that sound ethereally beautiful, but most of them remind me of funeral dirges. 


Alright, so this is strictly from the movie. But, I say, something about knowing how twisted Denethor’s mind was, and the camera zooming in on him popping cherry tomatoes and ripping chicken meat off the bone really just messed with my mind. Hearing Pippin sing his terribly sad song in the background only made it worse.

4. Éowyn. Simply Éowyn.

I love her. And I didn't realize I loved her until I finished The Return of the King. Every time I watched the short scene between her and Faramir, I wondered what the story was behind that look. Now I know. Their love story had me in tears, and I finally saw how strong Éowyn was. And she wasn't afraid to change, once Faramir helped her realize that she was wasting her time pining for battle.  

5. Some days, it is perfectly okay to put on a cowboy hat, grab a spatula, and run outside yelling “FORTH, ÉORLINGAS!”

Okay, so maybe I didn’t actually do this. But, come on, I mean, Howard Shore’s scores are seriously motivating. The hat and spatula just happened to be sitting there. I was tempted, until I remembered that we have neighbors.

6. As I just said, the music, people, the music

I can’t think of very many other movies’ music that conveys so much emotion, and I always find myself relating those emotions to parts of my life. I am not joking when I say that I come close to tears whenever I hear the Shire theme. Frodo and Sam basically went to hell, and then finally came back home in one piece. And then, they had to help the people they loved put their beloved Shire back together. That’s a myriad of emotions right there, and, somehow, Howard Shore managed to convey that in a short arrangement of notes.  Then there’s “Into the West”. I don't think we should talk about the amount of tears that evokes. This version right here is the best rendition of all time of this song.

 7. Just the amount of time Tolkien has been in my life. 

My only regret is that I never read the books sooner. We’d be here all week if I tried to count how many times Elizabeth and her sisters and I watched the scene with Legolas swinging majestically onto a horse. And not only was my first best friend a LOTR fan, but my second best friend was also a fan. And her parents, and all four of her siblings. Add in my two brothers who are convinced Aragorn and Éomer were inspired by themselves, and, well…Middle-Earth is a large part of my life, and the people I love. 

EDIT to add: my mom's story. Her only experience with Tolkien is she "watched some animated movie in the 70s, and the only she could remember after 40 years was" EXTINGUISH MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! [we happily helped trigger her memory. :D ]

I love Tolkien. What else can I say?


  1. LOVE IT! Especially the bit about the shoe shop in the Shire -- Cowboy walked past as I was reading this, saw that, and chuckled :-)

    I was 21 when I first saw the LOTR movies and became a fan. I'd read "The Hobbit" in high school, but was not a fan. And yes, I really wish I'd read LOTR sooner than 21, because I think my brother and I could have had a great time playing in Middle Earth when I was still living at home.

    "Forth, now, and fear no darkness!"

    1. Well, I'm glad I could make Cowboy laugh. ;-)

      You just made me remember a funny story my mom has about watching the animated Hobbit when she was in school. I think I might edit my post. :-) But, yes, brothers are a lot of fun when you're into things like LOTR. They were arguing on the way to service today over who was actually Aragorn. I think they settled that the younger one was Gimli. I told them that as long as I could be Eowyn, and neither of them was Faramir, I didn't really give a care.

      We have deep theological discussions on Sunday, as you can see.

    2. Deep theological discussions should not be limited to one day of the week. Neither should deep Tolkienological discussions.

      I probably relate most to Sam.

    3. Again, quite right, quite right. But our deep discussions are a bit sporadic, and some people look at us funny when we start waxing eloquent on things like Evenstars and Khazad-dum.

      I honestly don't know whom I relate to. I identify with Eowyn's having a few hard knocks, and getting her hopes dashed, but my personality is a lot like Merry. I get overly-excited, and sometimes I forget to take things seriously.

  2. Oh, yes yes yes! The Lord of the Rings is simply amazing. It's always so awesome to find other fans :) I just found your blog, and I'm looking forward to reading more of your posts!

    1. Why, thank you, Hannah! I'm just looking through your blog now. I see you live in Ireland, and that is cooler than pints. Also, I did not know there was a Pooh cookbook, and I now have an uncontrollable to find that. :-)