As part of our Tolkien Reading Celebration, we’ll be interviewing different bloggers about their love for Tolkien and what makes his works so special for them.
Sara Letourneau is a Massachusetts-based writer who practices joy and versatility in her work. In addition to working on her YA fantasy novel, she reviews tea at A Bibliophile’s Reverie and explores literary themes at DIY MFA. Her poetry has been published in The Curry Arts Journal, Soul-Lit, The Eunoia Review, Underground Voices, and two anthologies. Learn more about Sara at her website / blog, Twitter, and Goodreads.
Tell us about yourself! How did you come to love Tolkien and what do you enjoy reading about his works?
I was a “late bloomer” when it came to reading Tolkien’s works. I had heard of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings for years, but didn’t read the latter trilogy until 2004 – and after having seen Peter Jackson’s film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings. (I know. Blasphemous, isn’t it? *lol*) But I had loved the films, and I figured it was only right that I read the books. That choice changed my life forever.
It’s hard to say what I specifically enjoy about Tolkien’s work. There’s a sentimentality about it, since Tolkien was my gateway into fantasy literature. Also, his world-building skills are and always will be second to none. He makes Middle-Earth seem so real, as if the stories are chapters from its history. I also love the characters and the themes Tolkien explored in his stories, especially friendship and loyalty.
But on a personal level, I’ll always remember how The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s writing in general reinvigorated my love of reading. Most of what I read in high school didn’t appeal to me, so for several years I stopped reading outside of school assignments. In other words, reading was no longer fun for me. Then I read The Lord of the Rings, and something reawakened. I had rediscovered the pleasure and magic of storytelling, thanks to Middle-Earth and Tolkien. That sense of gratitude is what drives me to continue reading his stories. I’ve since read The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, and the novel-length version of The Children of Húrin. This year, I’m planning on reading Unfinished Tales.
What’s one thing you learned from Tolkien you think everyone else should know?
Everyone can be heroes. Kings, warriors, and wizards aren’t the only ones who save the day. Sometimes it’s the everyperson, someone like you or me who finds the courage to do what needs to be done. Both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are wonderful examples of this. Hobbits like Frodo and Bilbo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee may be shorter and less physically powerful than their Men, Dwarf, and Elf companions, but they’re not lacking in heart, selflessness, or determination.
Tell us about one of your favorite passages or scenes.
How about this one from Chapter 2 of The Fellowship of the Ring? It comes after Gandalf explains the history of the One Ring to Frodo:
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
This bit of wisdom speaks volumes. It reminds me that we have to rise to the challenges that come our way, and to take advantage of the time we have while we’re alive. We might question why fate tests us and wish certain things had never happened, just as Frodo does. However, we can choose how to respond to those challenges – and that choice can make all the difference between succeeding or failing, growing from experience or running away in denial.
Do you have any Tolkien confessions?
Well, I’ve already confessed to seeing the LOTR films before reading the books. The only other “Tolkien confession” I can think of is that The Hobbit (or, rather, the first installment of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy) inspired my current fantasy WIP.
Of course, when I first got the idea, I didn’t want it to be Middle-Earth fanfiction, but a story with its own world and totally different characters. So, I began asking myself questions like, “How would my quest story be different from The Hobbit?” and “How can I make the world I’m creating and the people who inhabit it different from those in Middle-Earth?” There may be a nod or two to the inspiration, but the WIP has developed a life of its own and I couldn’t be more proud of it.
One last “Tolkien confession,” if it counts: I’m using Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings as an example character in the Character Evolution Files, an ongoing blog series about character arcs. You can check out the series here.
If you could visit any place in Middle Earth, where would you go?
Everywhere! Rivendell would be high on my list. It’s so ethereal, lush, and pristine. I’d probably walk through Elrond’s gardens and watch the waterfall for hours! And I can’t forget the Shire, either. Hobbits are so down-to-earth and friendly – I think I’d feel right at home with them! One day I’d love to go to New Zealand, visit the actual Hobbiton set, and stand at the threshold of Bag End. That in itself would be magical.
Picture time! Show us your Tolkien shelf or some Tolkien merchandise you’re excited about.
Here’s my current stack of Tolkien novels! I’ve read all of them except Unfinished Tales, but that will change soon.😉
From top to bottom: The Fellowship of the Rings, The Two Towers, Return of the King, The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, The Children of Húrin, and Unfinished Tales.