26th March 2021
Tolkien Reading Day
Did you know that SURLY has 36 books and 3 CDs written either by or about J.R.R. Tolkien? Perhaps you have borrowed one of these in the past… Perhaps you even know the importance of March 25th… a day dedicated entirely to reading the mastery that is Tolkein’s writing! In honour of Tolkien Reading Day, we explore the story behind the author himself and look at what texts you can read in celebration.
The man, the myth, the legend…
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (what an iconic name) was of Prussian heritage, born in South Africa. He spent most of his life in England under the care of a Catholic priest following the loss of both his parents.
During his teen years he experienced his first encounter with constructed languages, and would go on to formulate several of his own throughout his life. Oh, and did I forget to mention, he also formed a secret society with his school friends (hero behaviour). He went on to study classics, before moving to literature at Exeter College in Oxford – whose alumni just so happen to also include many other writers such as Philip Pullman and Martin Amis. At the age of 16, Tolkien met Edith Mary Bratt, and would later marry her during World War I. After departing the military, he worked on the etymology and history of words for the Oxford English Dictionary before becoming a professor. It was during his time at Pembroke college that Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and the first two volumes of The Lord of the Rings.
If you are interested in learning more about the life of this award-winning author, check out The Tolkien family album written by two of Tolkien’s two children, and The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien for an insight into the creative genius of this man.
Understanding the world of Middle-Earth…
If you’ve decided to take on the challenge of reading LOTR (we wish you luck) there are plenty of modern companion texts by various authors that you can read alongside. Our suggestions below take you through the different creatures and characters you’ll encounter, and they feature wonderful illustrations!
- The Complete Guide to Middle-Earth: An A-Z Guide to the Names and Events in the Fantasy World of J. R. R. Tolkien from The Hobbit to The Silmarillion by Robert Foster
- Tolkien : The illustrated encyclopedia by David Day
- The Hobbit Chronicles: Creatures & Characters by Daniel Falconer
- Characters from Tolkien (A Tolkien bestiary) by David Day
What to read if you’ve already finished The Lord of The Rings (several times)...
If you’ve already accomplished the feat of actually finishing the books, first take a moment to celebrate and congratulate yourself. Once you’ve done that, you may very well feel what all readers experience – a book hangover. If you find yourself constantly thinking about your favourite characters and moments in the series, to the point that you can’t even begin to imagine reading another book, do not fret! There are plenty of books (much shorter books mind you) that will take you right back to the story and the world within it.
First and foremost, try reading Lin Carter’s Tolkien: A look behind The Lord of the Rings. This work provides a comprehensive critique of Tolkien’s work and it’s literary impact, as well as exploring how he influenced our contemporary understanding of high fantasy. Even if you haven’t yet read the complete collection of books by Tolkien, Carter does a fantastic job of summarising them.
But if you just want to immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of Middle Earth life, why not listen to Poems and songs of Middle Earth : Poems in English and Elvish. We have the LP on campus, so why not pop over to SURLY and have a listen. While there may not be any scientific proof, legend has it that listening to these mountainous shanties may improve your exam performance or at the very least, your ability to memorise those poetry readings you totally meant to get started on a few weeks ago….
That concludes our suggestions for honouring Tolkien Reading Day – let us know how you’ll be celebrating! Perhaps you’ll bake some of Bilbo’s Tea Cake, or maybe you’ll finally clean your room in search of that ring your grandmother gave you years ago…