Monday, March 7, 2016

An Open Letter to New Fans

Dear, dear new fans,

Welcome to the wonderful world of Tolkien!

I'm sure you're a bit overwhelmed, and may not know where to start, but let me assure you that there are plenty of veteran fans to help you out and places for every type of Tolkien watcher/reader.  There are so many different ways that Tolkien fans are made...

Perhaps you are a scholarly fan: someone who read the books in school, at university, through a course of some sort, and are interested in analyzing the themes, connecting the story to other medieval literature, or learning from Professor Tolkien and his way with words; the type of person who listens to lectures by Tom Shippey and reads all of the prefaces by Christopher Tolkien.

Book in the hand

Or maybe you're a "geek" (I personally prefer the term "nerd"...) who watched the movies and became unprecedentedly obsessed with elves and all things fantasy.  Maybe you're interested in collecting action figures or T-shirts and going to Ring-con .  You're welcome here too!

Possibly you have been led here by a well-meaning friend, but you just don't know where to start.  Even if you can't tell the difference between Isengard and Isildur (I've been there) all of us fans are certainly ecstatic that you have joined us on this quest.

Ooh, maybe you're that kid from church youth group who was introduced to C.S. Lewis and Tolkien in conjunction and after going through your Narnia phase (or maybe whilst) you are transitioning into the more detailed and sometimes darker world of Middle-earth.

Maybe you're a combination of all these things (I am literally a bit of everything above) or maybe you don't fit into any of these categories.  One thing is sure: there is a lot to learn and swoon over in these books and movies and other works related...a lot of fan art to browse, a lot of original scores to listen, tons of fanfiction to peruse, hundreds of thousands of essays (and still not enough!) to read and analyze, millions of fans worldwide to fangirl/boy with, and hundreds of blogs just like this one where all sorts of fans are having fun just sharing their thoughts about things for you to explore.

If you don't know where to start, I would say with the movies.  If you are more of a book person, go right ahead.  But I know a lot of people (particularly young people) would rather get a taste of Tolkien without too much of a time commitment.  The movies are a great way of pulling you in, and we hope you stay.

You've probably already had some experience that got you interested in the world of elves and wizards and now it's time to really immerse yourself.  If you haven't read the books, read them.  If you haven't read The Silmarillion, read it.  It is worth your time, I promise.

Once you've gotten through the books and movies, you probably have a good idea which direction you're going off into.  Route A: if you loved the movies most and are fascinated by the elves and the wizards and the places like Rivendell and Lothlorien, you just might be more of a geek/nerd fan.  Try out some of the video games (which many scholars would find blasphemous, but if that is what you're into, I say try it out) or maybe look into seeing the extended editions.

Free stock photo of controller, xbox, gaming, joystick

Route B: is for people who are completely ritual with their readings of the books and who mentally annotate for citations they might want in their next essay.  For you, I would recommend listening to Tom Shippey, reading different critics of Tolkien (including C.S. Lewis) and perhaps looking into the History of Middle-earth series or J.R.R. Tolkien's other works (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, his translation of Beowulf and other medieval lit, Farmer Giles of Ham, Smith of Wooten Major, Leaf by Niggle, etc.).  As for me, I'm more of a...

Route C: being a little bit of everything.  Having an obsession with both the fantasy of Tolkien and the historically medieval grounds for the beliefs of that world, being interested in both the Christian themes and the pagan traditions, listening to lectures and then taking a break to go browse through memes.

The bottom line is that there is no cookie cutter mold for how to be a good fan.  There is no strategy of what to do first and how to do it.  The most important thing for any new fan to recognize is that there is a wealth of knowledge and people that are willing to share it with you.  Aa' i'sul i'ennorath nora lanne'lle, may the wind of Middle-earth fill your sails and blow you to new places and new discovery.

Tolo ar lin,
Lover of Lembas

sea, landscape, mountains


  1. I'm a happy medium of the scholar and the geek. :) I started out as a geek who devoured the books and loved the movies, and now as I've matured, I've become very interested in the intellectual appreciation of Tolkien's writings. :)

    1. I think I'm the same way, though I still retain some (okay, a lot) of my geeky side ;)

    2. Oh, I've got plenty of that too. I'm still kind of obsessed with elves... XD