Tolkien Reading Day 2019!

The Tolkien Society has dubbed March 25th Tolkien Reading Day! This year, the Society has selected the topic ‘Tolkien and the Mysterious‘! In celebration of this topic, I thought I would make a what I am calling a Reading Day Roundup! I am pulling together bits and pieces of my First Impressions series and Tolkien Experience Project contributions that have to do with mystery! I hope you enjoy!

 

Tolkien Experience Contributions:

Only two contributes (to this point) have mentioned “mystery” in their responses: Tanya P. and Putri Prihatini. Interestingly, both of them mention mystery when they are describing their favorite parts of Tolkien!

Putri Prihatini says

I love the way Tolkien obscured many references when his characters mention history, characters, and stories from the past. He was supposedly the “know it all” in his world, but he restrained himself from revealing too much to the readers. This makes me feel the sense of mystery and wonder for the past, which results in some serious digging if I want to know more. When reading LOTR, for example, I only know as much as what the characters know, which makes me feel connected to them.

Tanya P. notes

Moria is one of my favorite locations in Middle-earth. Its perpetual darkness conceals secrets that I long to uncover. And I love the moment when Gandalf lifts this veil of mystery and gives his companions, and readers, a tiny glimpse of what they are missing.

It is interesting that one talks about preserving mystery while the other talks about unveiling or revealing mystery. Read more from Tanya P. and Putri Prihatini in their full Tolkien Experience Project contributions!

 

First Impressions series:

In my First Impressions series, I am reconstructing my first reading of The Lord of the Rings. I have mentioned mystery on three occasions over the course of the series so far. The first is when the hobbits meet Strider in Bree:

It is the artistry of Tolkien, however, to prolong the mystery and only unravel Aragorn’s true significance bit by bit.

I really enjoyed not knowing who this character really was and getting to know him slowly! I also mentioned mystery when I talked about The Watcher in the Water! I disliked the movie adaptation because Tolkien was very careful not to reveal too much about this  creature:

Despite how the movie interprets this event, Tolkien’s characterization of the action leaves more mystery surrounding the nature of the Watcher.

Finally, I mentioned mystery in my entry on the Mirror of Galadriel! I was speaking of elf magic and how the way that the elves perceive ‘magic’ convinced me of its reality in Middle-earth:

[Their] rational approach to magic was so verisimilitudinous with the way that people who understand a concept dispel the mystery of those who do not that I was completely sold on the existence of ‘magic’ in Tolkien’s world.

Wow, these very disparate observations all touch on mystery in interesting ways!

What are you reading to celebrate Tolkien and the mysterious on this Tolkien Reading Day?

Luke-shelton.com Shortlisted for Tolkien Society Awards 2019!

The Tolkien Society has released their shortlist for their 2019 awards, and I am truly humbled that this website has made the shortlist for the Best Website category!

I have tried to make the website a space for honest and open discussion, a place where people can share their experiences with Tolkien. It is only because people have responded to that idea with warmth, generosity, and insight that the Tolkien Experience Project and the larger website are still here at all!

So I wanted to sincerely thank all of the, now almost sixty, contributors to the project and also thank the readers who follow the project and the First Impressions series!

If you want to see the complete shortlists, they are available here: Tolkien Society Awards 2019

I am honored just to be nominated, and every nominee, in every category, has indeed made the Tolkien community a better place this year!

Thank you,

-Luke

The Tolkien Birthday Toast–A Reflection on Reflection

For a few years now, I have followed the tradition of the Tolkien Birthday Toast that I was first introduced to through the Tolkien Society.

You can visit the Tolkien Society’s page explaining the toast for more information or for the basic procedures.

Today I wanted to take a moment to laud the simple traditions that fandom inspires. It is easy to look at something like the Tolkien Birthday Toast from the outside and assume it is nothing more than an exercise performed by a group of over-enthusiastic nerds.

I think there is something a bit more, though.

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At this point, the toast is a shared, communal tradition that lends itself to something that our everyday lives increasingly push out: reflection.

I call it a communal experience because, whether one celebrates it alone or in the company of others, there is an understanding that this act is something shared. Different fans and groups of fans across the world will do this same act, and participating in something that large gives a sense of unity and belonging.

It is more than that, though. This sense of community is nice, but what is the community about? Why does it matter?

Having the toast focus on the author rather than a specific text or event makes this activity a very special kind of reflection. It is a moment to pause and appreciate the achievements of an author and the life he lived. Tolkien was not a writer by trade, he was an academic. While many people were drawn to him because of his creative endeavors, those are only part of Tolkien’s influence. The toast allows people with varying degrees and experiences with Tolkien and his work to participate, and this is important!

This is the point that intersects the most with my interests as a researcher into the reception of Tolkien’s writings: The Toast invariably calls participants to reflect on the ways that Tolkien’s writings have produced meaning in their lives.

Often, participants will share stories of how they first read Tolkien or how Tolkien changed the way they saw the world. These stories are the kind of reflection that are increasingly pushed aside in a fast-paced culture.

A tradition that practices taking a moment and recalling these stories of connection and inspiration is well worth participating in! So tonight, at 9pm, consider raising a glass to The Professor!