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Old 08-24-2009, 06:35 AM   #1
E÷nwŰ
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Tolkien: The author or the reader (No, this is not another canonicity thread)

Many members of this forum have mentioned that Tolkien has made them interested in many different things, such as medieval life, archery, languages, nature and gardening, to name but a few.

I, for example, already had an interest in languages, and after reading Lord of the Rings it increased much more, leading to try to learn some Old English and just other languages in general.

Tolkien's works also draw in people who already have an interest in such subjects, which makes you want to read them more.

So, what I am asking is- What are your experiences on the subject? Is it Tolkien who inspired your interests or were you drawn to Tolkien because of your previous interests? Which way round was it for you?
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Old 08-24-2009, 08:34 AM   #2
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Ah, but there is a third way, at least for me. I first read LotR at age 11, and by then, many of what would become my lifelong interests were already begun, and no interests I developed later on were inspired by any one specific person or book. However, I can say beyond a doubt that reading Tolkien's work inspired what I might call the enhancement of my interests. I was already interested in illustrating stories before I read LotR, for instance; afterward, Tolkien's works inspired me to continue to develop this interest because it provided such a rich source of material to depict. I've been writing music most of my life; when I started composing symphonies in my more recent years, it was Tolkien's work that gave me the inspiration for the stories to tell with my music. I'd also been writing poems and prose since my early years of elementary school; Tolkien was definitely one of the authors who influenced and inspired me when I turned to writing novels. But only one of them; my style bears precious little resemblance to his. My interest in the medieval, alas, was largely inspired by Katherine Kurtz, not Tolkien, as well as a desire to participate in the local chapter of the SCA (because of other friends who were involved); botany became an interest long before, because I often hid out in the woods and fields to get away from my abusive family; my interest in languages came, I think, from being exposed to Polish at home and Latin at school, and so on.

I do think that the question of whether Tolkien inspires your interests or your interests draw you to Tolkien depends a lot on what age you are when you first read his work. But perhaps not.
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Old 08-24-2009, 08:44 AM   #3
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I do think that the question of whether Tolkien inspires your interests or your interests draw you to Tolkien depends a lot on what age you are when you first read his work. But perhaps not.
I think that is indeed the key, at least for me. I also read LOTR for the first time when I was around 10 or 11, though I'd been read The Hobbit when I was even younger.
In my case, I think Tolkien sparked the Anglophilia that has been with me ever since, as well as an interest in languages. His style of writing made such an impression that I find myself sometimes unconsciously imitating it, both here on the Downs and elsewhere.
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Old 08-24-2009, 10:22 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by E÷nwŰ View Post
Many members of this forum have mentioned that Tolkien has made them interested in many different things, such as medieval life, archery, languages, nature and gardening, to name but a few.

I, for example, already had an interest in languages, and after reading Lord of the Rings it increased much more, leading to try to learn some Old English and just other languages in general.

Tolkien's works also draw in people who already have an interest in such subjects, which makes you want to read them more.

So, what I am asking is- What are your experiences on the subject? Is it Tolkien who inspired your interests or were you drawn to Tolkien because of your previous interests? Which way round was it for you?
Seeing the first LOTR film is what drew me to J.R.R. Tolkien's works. At the time I had no special interests that made Middle-earth stand out to me, but the film awoke in me something that had been dormant: I was an adolescent, lost in a struggle to conform and find acceptance to the detriment of nurturing my imagination, creativity, and intellect. Absorbing the mythic vastness of Middle-earth, spending hours ruminating on all the amazing possibilities that spilled off the edges of the pages of those books, was being born into a freer and higher world. Though it was a realm of fantasy, it was so grounded in timeless mythos that it suffused my eyes with new sight for this world.

I am formally studying languages at the moment, and can say truthfully that Tolkien has inspired me in that direction. I also credit LOTR and other Middle-earth lore with enriching my experience of the natural world, and with laying fertile soil for my poetic, prosaic, and musical faculties to take root.
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Old 08-24-2009, 10:23 AM   #5
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I wasn't much of a reader in my youth, more into sports and video games. However when I was about 21 or 22 is when I first read LotR and I devoured it. Since then Tolkien really helped get me into reading in general and fantasy in particular.
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Old 08-24-2009, 10:51 AM   #6
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Before I read LOTR I was not into writing but I was into reading. After reading it I began to get more interested in writing. Before reading anything by Tolkien I had an interest in history mostly the middle ages and after reading LOTR my interest expanded to many more ares of history. Which is how I managed to learn more about South American history than anything else despite putting more effort into learning about other areas of history. Overall reading Tolkien expanded my few interests into many more.
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Old 08-24-2009, 11:08 AM   #7
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I was into reading and writing before Tolkien, and you could even call my attempts of writing "fantasy" to a large part. I actually became aware of Tolkien from large part only because of the word "Hobbit", as my first encounter with fantasy itself was in the form of one RPG, a Czech game akin to Dungeons and Dragons (a simplified copy of that), where among other races, there was "hobbit". Never encountering that before, you can imagine I found it quite surprising and funny that somebody wrote a book of that name. Of course only later I realised that it was the race that was taken from the book, and not vice versa.

I believe there was a similar thread (or more, actually) related to this topic, by the way, as I recall writing on them (certainly there was at least one like "how did you come to LotR" and then another one whose name I forgot, but its topic was a lot similar to this, something like how or whether did LotR affect the subjects you are interested in, like I recall for example people writing there that it nudged them to study English or old languages or literature or stuff like that).
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Old 08-24-2009, 11:28 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by E÷nwŰ View Post
So, what I am asking is- What are your experiences on the subject? Is it Tolkien who inspired your interests or were you drawn to Tolkien because of your previous interests? Which way round was it for you?
Both. It was a positive feedback loop.
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Old 08-26-2009, 12:11 AM   #9
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For the most part reading Tolkien's works was more of a self-discovery for me. I guess that I was made aware that yes, I actually am very interested in something through reading, this is probably why it was so captivating to me, my pre-existing interests found a friend. Languages definitely fall in that category, I've always had an interest in languages--be they native or foreign to me--but Tolkien was the first author in whose works languages *lived* and felt real, structured and deep. I've also always been interested in nature, and plants especially, so the connection to nature that seemed to permeate Tolkien's works made me feel like I'm in a place where I want to be, where a tree is not "just a tree" but something worth a mention. Etc. I think the books mostly opened up my eyes to what it is that I am, helped me sort things out, and this made me feel welcome. Every time I re-read them I go through this process of self-questioning and realizations.

But some things I've definitely become interested in solely thanks to Tolkien. The one that comes to mind immediately is archery, and this is somewhat serendipitous that I should take an interest in that. When I went to college I joined the archery club we had and this is where I met my husband who is (cheesy, but true) my soulmate, no other person ever came close. Although he joined the club because he likes to shoot things and is quite talented at it, not for any other reason
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Old 08-26-2009, 09:54 AM   #10
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I guess I'm another case of positive feedback loop. I first read LotR at about 17, and at the time the great thing about it (apart from the gripping story) was that it brought together several things I'd been interested in before - languages (English and Latin were my favourite subjects in school), mythology (I'd read both Norse and Greek myths in digests), early history and ancient civilizations. I'd read some other fantasy before (mostly sword-and-sorcery Ó la Michael Moorcock), but Tolkien first showed me that fantasy could be serious and thoughtful literature and prepared the way for the likes of Ursula LeGuin and Stephen Donaldson. The Silmarillion's short appendix on etymologies was my first glimpse of comparative and historical linguistics, which still fascinates me today (at times I regret that I didn't make an academic career of that fascination, but then again, maybe it's better that I can freely cultivate it as a hobby).
Most of all this was unconscious first, but shortly thereafter I read Carpenter's biography, which was a real eye-opener, as it showed me how all these matters - language, history, mythology - tied in with each other for Tolkien. It also pointed out some of Tolkien's influences and made me curious about them, leading me to George MacDonald, William Morris and the Kalevala; the latter in turn lead me to discovering Sibelius and Gallen-Kallela (hi there, Nogrod!). Beowulf, the Mabinogion, Edda and Icelandic Sagas led to history of the Dark Ages, etc.pp. - the tree is still branching out and hardly going to stop any time soon.
One influence I was conscious of from the start was Tolkien's part in shaping my political consciousness. His portrayal of 'the machine' and the damages done to the Shire by Saruman's industrialization planted the first seeds of doubt about the benefits of unlimited technological progress and interest in preserving the environment (those were the heydays of the no-nukes-movement, late 70s/early 80s). William Morris' blend of environmentalism, esthetics and socialism was another early influence, followed by many others and several changes of mind, but Tolkien laid the foundations.
Last not least, without Tolkien and the Downs I might never have realized how much fun participating in an online community can be!
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Old 08-27-2009, 10:56 PM   #11
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In my case, I think Tolkien sparked the Anglophilia that has been with me ever since, as well as an interest in languages. His style of writing made such an impression that I find myself sometimes unconsciously imitating it, both here on the Downs and elsewhere.
Ditto. Tolkien was what really introduced me to a land outside of Alaska. As a result I am now one of the most dedicated Anglophiles in my school at least. Only out-weirded by one person, and she will probably post here later.

At age thirteen I though that my life would be pretty much the same and I would like the same things forever, that little fantasy of mine changed with my introduction to LotR. (Which you can read in at least two threads) After I had read Tolkien I wanted to read more. I had always been a reader, having known how to read by the age of four, but I never enjoyed it as much as I do now. Now you cannot make me read a book that is less than one hunded pages, at least. Other than that, Tolkien has introduced me to a new way of thinkning. My parents raised me as somewhat a outdoorsy girl, but they never taught me to respect nature, something that Tolkien has done. Now I don't want to disturb the Ents.

New interests formed because of Tolkien: England, tea, poetry, history, languages. Over all, Tolkien has effected my daily life. I wouldn't say many things I say if it weren't for LotR. It has definintely made me want to learn more. I have a bigger vocabularly because of it, if nothing else. Oh, and a lot more friends thanks to the Barrow-Downs. I am a happier person than I was two years ago, that's for sure.
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Old 09-03-2009, 07:04 AM   #12
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