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Old 02-04-2008, 04:16 AM   #1
Thinlómien
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Silmaril Powerful Tolkien experiences

Has there been some very powerful, Tolkien-related experience in your life? If yes, what was it and how was it? I think I'd be intrigued to hear some of those.

I think there are plenty of threads focusing on how it felt to first read the LotR or see the PJ movies, so let's not concentrate on that here. Other, "less mainstream" experiences and stories are very welcome on this thread. Like, for example, stories of plays you've seen, music you've listened, RPG's you've played or discussions you've had, or whatever, only imagination is the limit.

Now that I'm rambling here, I might as well start.

About a year ago, I was in a training for summer camp councellors. The training weekends are cosy and nice and every night one of the trainers reads aloud a bedtime tale. One of these tales I will probably never forget. Usually, the tales are read aloud from some book. This time, however, the storyteller, a guy in his early twenties, told us the story in his own words. That was because he was blind. He told us the story of Aghan the Drûg from The Unfinished Tales. Amazing is a lame word to describe it. It was dark except for the gentle light of a lamp far away. We trainees were laying on mattresses and on one another. It was very silent except for the quiet and calm voice of the blind storyteller. He told the story - which is a very powerful and moving story in itself - in his own words, but Tolkien's way of telling a story shone through it, and the storyteller's way of telling it was by no means degrading to the elaborate and lovingly-woven pattern of Tolkien's language. The storyteller told everything smoothly, didn't leave anything out or get mixed up in his own words. He truly seemed to know the story by heart and his love for it could be heard in how he told it. I could not do anything but listen and be drawn to Middle-Earth as if by a spell woven by both Tolkien and the storyteller. I wished he'd never finish his tale. When he did, I was not the only one in the room with tears in my eyes.
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Old 02-04-2008, 12:37 PM   #2
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Thumbs up Nice thread

The most powerful Tolkien-related experience I had was on New Year's Eve at the end of 2004. My mother, my sister and I decided to read aloud a chapter from LOTR that night. We lit many candles-we always have a lot of candles around the house during the winter holidays-and we settled down to read Lothlorien. . I remember it was my sister's turn and she had reached the part when Legolas sings about Nimrodel. The poem, the way she was reading it, the candlelit room-everything seemed to put me under a spell. I think that is how the hobbits must have felt when hearing the elves singing in Rivendell. In that moment I discovered Middle-earth-that is, I knew it already from the books and the movies but this time it was no longer remote but tangible and so very real! In that moment I was no longer sitting in my house but in some glade in Lothlorien listening to the Lay of Nimrodel. It was an extraordinary experience, and I know I shall never forget it.
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Old 02-05-2008, 08:47 AM   #3
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It was August, two and a half years ago, in Birmingham (England). The international event to top all fan events, 'Tolkien 2005', was in full progress, and I was enjoying every minute of it - except for the agony of having to choose between so many interesting lectures that were scheduled simultaneously. I had heard people talk about many different aspects of Tolkien's works and had eagerly exchanged opinions with other attendees. After about three days, a certain feeling of overload had set in, and as I looked at the programme, I decided I couldn't take in any more.

And there it was - the announcement that the Cambridge Tolkien Society would be doing a reading of the BBC's LotR dramatisation for a couple of hours on Sunday morning. After so much information about Tolkien and his works, this was the opportunity to get back to the basics, letting his own words speak.

It was a real highlight! Various members read the different characters and narrative passages, sound effects etc. were played from pre-recordings (they had done the whole thing previously, so this was only an excerpt), and some of the songs were sung beautifully by an excellent singer. We, the audience, laughed at the funny passages, were spellbound by the magic of the story, even though we all knew it well, and at the end, I was not the only one who was weeping, moved by the emotions that were brought to life.

For me, that was the answer to the question we often ask ourselves: "Can you go back and recapture the magic?" Yes, you can, and especially so if Tolkien's words are heard aloud, not merely read silently. As a shared (not solitary) experience, it was very special, and something that I will never forget.


Oh, and that reminds me of another special reading experience that also was shared and audible, though I was sitting at my computer alone. Back in the early days of my membership here, chatting was very much a part of the fellowship of Downers. I had read about a previous voice chat which involved people reading characters and narration aloud, and we got enough of us together, despite time zone differences (in Germany, England, and the US, Canada too, IIRC), chose passages/chapters that worked for the number of people, and distributed the roles. It was amazing to put on my headphone, open my book, and hear the voices of people I'd never met personally, speaking the words I knew and loved so well. Hearing two Brits, Rimbaud and Squatter, reading the exchange between the two wizards at Orthanc with their great accents, was wonderful and memorable!


I think that we often don't realize how powerful Tolkien's words are when spoken aloud. He wrote with a sense of rhythm and a poetic beauty that comes across strongest when we actually hear the story. Perhaps that's one of the reasons why audio books are so popular nowadays - but wouldn't it be even better to get people together and read to and/or with each other aloud?! I find it very interesting that the powerful experiences people have shared here take place in situations like that!
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Old 02-06-2008, 03:44 PM   #4
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Does realizing that one of Tolkien's characters had been the most positive role model in one's entire life count?
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Old 02-06-2008, 06:05 PM   #5
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Silmaril

I remember one night from a good three years ago or more, now. It was one of those perfect summer nights, you know the ones: the air was clear and cool--neither too warm, nor too cold. We lived at that time in the country. I'd been in a Tolkien mood (when am I not?), and there was just something about the quality of the evening that made anything possible.

My brother and I brought the book outside, and I had my little flashlight along. We sat on the deck under that expanse of sky. I read Bilbo's poem about Earendil aloud, and something about the moment really fell into place. Everything was words and breeze and sky and stars. I can't say I was moved to tears by it, but I've got chills just thinking about that night. It was a rare moment for my brother and I--instead of being off with our own interests, we were truly together in one moment for the first time in a long time.

It was as if the boundaries between Middle-earth and our own world had, for one single moment of clarity, ceased to exist.
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Old 02-06-2008, 10:23 PM   #6
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Does realizing that one of Tolkien's characters had been the most positive role model in one's entire life count?
I certainly think it does!

This happened some years ago, back when I was just beginning to become a Tolkien fan. My family was about to move south for my dad's job, and my friend and I had persuaded both our parents for us to spend the night together. My best friend and I were outside late at night walking through the woods, looking up at the stars, and talking about the wonderful times we have had together.

My friend suddenly began talking about how us parting was sort of like Sam and Frodo saying goodbye to each other at the Grey Havens. I would be leaving him behind to move on to a better place, but no matter how far I moved away, the wonderful adventures that we have had together would always make us feel like brothers.

I’m not an emotional guy,(as The Great Elven Warrior can tell you) but right there and then I teared up and felt closer to him than ever. Tolkien just has a wonderful way of creating wonderful moments in his books that everyone can relate to in real life.
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Old 02-08-2008, 03:57 PM   #7
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I know I have said this elsewhere ....

and it dates me terribly but Jackanory and the great Bernard Cribbins narrating the Hobbit. Jackanory was actor reading a story illustrated by a few line drawings over the course of a week.

They were always well done but this was wonderful - absolutely captivating. I missed the last episode and bought the book and the rest is history.
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Old 02-13-2008, 05:53 PM   #8
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Does realizing that one of Tolkien's characters had been the most positive role model in one's entire life count?
Who was it?
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Old 02-13-2008, 05:54 PM   #9
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I loved to hear your Tolkien experiences.
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Old 02-13-2008, 07:27 PM   #10
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It was Gandalf. I wrote an essay about it nearly 6 years ago, and posted it on my website. If you want, you can read it here.
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Old 02-14-2008, 07:22 AM   #11
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For more than seven years now, I've been so drawn to Tolkien that I actually majored in Comparative Literature and have thought of thesising on The Silm or some literary theory as applied to the whole Tolkien legendarium.

The most powerful reading of Tolkien for me was Smith of Wooton Major (and ironically the first thing I read of him, back when I was a kid who thought this was simply a nice but weird fairy story) a couple of months ago, in a small dainty university in the city of Baguio up in the Cordillera mountains. The cold winds that a girl from the tropics doesn't feel anywhere else in her homeland, plus the pine-trees and the fog, the Romantic ambiance, made me feel very... strange, or for want of better term, ethereal.

And then my best friend came, sat with me on one of the benches in our university where I was reading this, and suddenly I felt the sadness that I had to leave Baguio because I've been accepted at the main university and I just couldn't let that chance pass. He hugged me tight and just sat silently with me, letting me lean on him while I reread the same fairy story I have loved for years, with tears on my eyes for the first time while reading this very familiar story. All of a sudden kasi, I just realize the... sorrow, for want of better term, of Smith realizing that his meeting with the Queen should be his last journey to Faery.

Needless to say, the city of Baguio is my Faery.
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Old 03-16-2010, 04:32 PM   #12
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Silmaril

Just giving a big *POKE* to this thread since it was brought to my mind last weekend - because I met the blind storyteller guy again.

It was definitely weird to see him. I didn't want to ruin my memory of his wonderful storytelling by going to tell him I still remember it and afterwards engage in a lame Tolkien discussion (you may tell me I'm stupid because I didn't use the opportunity to get to know this guy better or because I'm a pessimist ) but I had to give him and the other trainers there personal anonymous feedback so I wrote to him that I still remember his bedtime story from years ago. I hope he was happy to hear it.

And now I read through this thread again, and I like it a lot, so I hope everybody who missed this thread last time around comes and scribbles something here, because these experiences are so beautiful and it makes me happy to read them.
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Old 03-17-2010, 02:17 AM   #13
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This is a good thread (thanks for resurrecting it, Lommy!) to remind all of you of the upcoming Tolkien Reading Day on March 25. You can read about it on the Tolkien Society's page. I have also started a thread on the announcement sub-forum so that we can share ideas and plans for celebrating it, as well as our experiences afterward.

Let's be inspired by the previous experiences posted here!
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Old 03-17-2010, 04:29 PM   #14
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Well, I'm not really sure that this counts as "inspiring" but, I wrote my university admissions essay on trying to learn Elvish. They always say "try to find something that's unique and different" and I'm fairly sure that that was the only essay they received that year about that topic. Haha, I guess the message is that Tolkien is so near and dear to my heart that I couldn't have possibly chosen anything else to write about and that probably (hopefully) came across when the admissions directors were reading it.

...and it's always hilarious to see people's reactions when I tell them about how I got accepted to college. "Excuse me, you wrote about what???!?!?! Sh*t, I should have written about something more interesting!"
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Old 03-18-2010, 08:39 AM   #15
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Thumbs up

Haha, that's cool, Abercrombie. Good to see you back on the 'downs, btw.
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Old 04-10-2010, 10:09 PM   #16
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Though I haven't had a specifically magical experience reading Tolkien (however, I have read Tolkien out loud to some before) I remember one day during which I started to re-read some chapters of the Fellowship of the Ring, I got to Lothlorien. That is when I became fully aware of how enchanting Tolkien is. I felt virtually transported to Middle-earth, and I wasn't aware of my surroundings at all. I had Lothlorien in my head. It was a very surreal experience, but it really opened my eyes. Afterwards I had a very different outlook on things, though I couldn't tell how, what, or why. . .

I also loved the time where Lauri went camping with my family and she brought the Sil, she didn't want to read it, however, so I did. I read it out loud to everybody sitting around the campfire. Nobody else enjoyed it, but that didn't matter. I was so peaceful, I remember, because I got to share this book with my best friend and cousins. THey were actually listening to me too!
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Old 02-07-2012, 06:58 PM   #17
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This time, however, the storyteller, a guy in his early twenties, told us the story in his own words. That was because he was blind. He told us the story of Aghan the Drûg from The Unfinished Tales. Amazing is a lame word to describe it.
Lommy, I can't say that I had a similar experience (because I haven't ) but I can easily relate to it. When I read UT I found Aghan's story something more than just "special"; UT is filled with touching emotional stories. But this one really triggered something inside me. After I finished the book I went back and reread the story, and although I couldn't be full of it I could not recapture the full depth of the feeling I had when I first read it. It is the kind of thing that only happens once.

Another Tolkien moment that I had is when I was watching Earendil. I know this might sound silly, but I have been trying to catch the right moment for a few months before I succeeded - either I was too early, or too late, or it was too cloudy, or I just plain forgot. And this time it wasn't me but my sister who noticed it. She said that the first star is out, and my mother corrected her saying that it's Venus. I stood outside just looking at it and thinking about how Gil-Estel first appeared, and the whole story behind it, until my mother called me home. All the tales seem much more real when you look at this clear silvery bright spot in the darkening sky (and it was unusually bright, considering that the sky was just beginning to darken). It's much easier to think of it as Earendil with the Silmaril on his brow guiding his shining ship through the sky than any scientific term.

I'm not sure why this moment was so special. I wasn't really interested in Gil-Estel: the North Star is and will remain my star. It's all the stories, I guess.
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