The Book That’s Not Supposed to Exist (Guest Post by Joanna Maciejewska)

Tolkien Reading Event 2017

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Poetry and Songs in Tolkien’s Fiction. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts! Check out the complete schedule here.


The Last Ringbearer

Whenever I watch Aragorn’s coronation scene in The Return of the King, with Eowyn standing in the crowd beside Faramir, I can’t resist thinking: “Poor Eowyn. A victim of the Elven conspiracy!” What an odd thought, you say? Not so much if you have read the book that changed my perception of the coronation scene.

I’m not a devoted Tolkien fan. Yes, I read it when I was young, but before him there were countless other books, including another pioneer writer, Robert E. Howard, and a Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski (if you’ve heard of the Witcher video games, he’s the writer who wrote the books the games were based on), so The Lord of the Rings was just (I can almost hear you gasping!) another fantasy book, and I never fell in love with it. I could probably redeem myself by admitting I loved The Silmarilion much more, but that would likely be countered by the fact I enjoyed the Hobbit movies.

Anyway, I digress. My experience of the Aragorn’s coronation comes from the The Last Ringbearer by Kiryll Yeskov, as opposed to Tolkien.

The Last Ringbearer was fun. Even though it kept the major events that readers know from The Lord of the Rings intact, it depicted the war between Orcs and other races from an entirely different angle. The story focused on the quest to separate the Elven world from the magicless Middle Earth—a mission given to two soldiers from the destroyed Mordor army by a Nazgul, but the more interesting bits were in the background. For example, the poor Orcs were attacked for their attempts of bringing industrial progress and science to the Middle Earth, and their bad and cruel image was nothing more than Elven propaganda aiming to discredit their enemies.

I won’t recount the whole story, as it’s available on Wikipedia (or you might decide you want to read it yourself), but as you might have guessed, in The Last Ringbearer, it’s Eowyn who is Aragorn’s loved one, but he is stuck with Arwen due to Elven plots. In this reimagining of Middle Earth’s history, it’s not the happily ever after one could expect.

What’s even more interesting than the story in the book is… the book’s story.

Even though it’s been published in Russia, and then translated into several languages (including Polish which made it available for me), it’s considered copyright infringement by the Tolkien Estate, so has never been commercially translated or published in English.

I learned about the book’s rough path long after I’d read The Last Ringbearer, and it made me regret I hadn’t paid closer attention to reading this book (which I got from the library), and that I didn’t reread the original work along with it, to discover more interesting tidbits of the alternative story of Middle Earth. All I have left is the memory of the Elven conspiracy that always returns when I see poor Eowyn standing beside Faramir.

But now, after all those years, since my English is much better than when I was young, I might reach for the non-commercial translation available on the net, and once more explore all the details that had escaped me during my first read-through.

What about you? Would you read The Last Ringbearer if it was published in English? Maybe you stumbled upon its non-commercial English translation available online? What did you think of it? Or maybe you agree with Tolkien Estate’s stand on the derivative works and would rather not see this book around?

About the Author

I grew up in Poland, spent over 8 years in Ireland, and I’ve recently moved to Arizona. I have several short stories published in Polish magazines (“Nowa Fantastyka”, “Science-Fiction Fantasy i Horror”, “Magazyn Fantastyczny”, “Esensja”) and anthologies (Fabryka Słów, Replika, Solaris).

Visit Joanna at http://melfka.com.

How I Discovered The Fantasy Genre Through Tolkien (Guest Post by E.E. Rawls)

Tolkien Reading Event 2017

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Poetry and Songs in Tolkien’s Fiction. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts! Check out the complete schedule here.


Tolkien Books

Fantasy took on a whole other light for me the day I first met Tolkien’s work: The Lord of the Rings.

It was the year my family moved back to America from Italy—a difficult transition, as Italy had been my home for 6 years, and was the longest we had remained in one place for my dad’s job. That year was a low point in life, and I needed something encouraging, something adventurous, to lift me up. The timing of this could not have been more perfect.

There was a movie coming out in theaters called The Fellowship of the Ring. I knew nothing of it or Tolkien, but my parents seemed pretty excited about it. They couldn’t remember the whole story, so they gave me vague summaries of the series which I didn’t understand at all. But the movie’s preview showed elves and gorgeous mountains covered in snow, so I thought, “Sure, why not. I’ll go see it.” Little did I know what I was in for!

The movie began, with dark enthralling scenery and a melodic voice. My eyes grew wide as I was sucked into another world.

This was fantasy unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. I knew I liked fairies and other fantasy-ish things, but I hadn’t been deeply immersed in the fantasy genre until this moment. There were elves who were not the happy helpers of Santa. There were more-than-creepy goblins, trolls, and orcs. Grand places like the Mines of Moriah, and enchanting Lothlorien, and gorgeous Rivendell—places beyond my limited imagination! And there were hobbits, a new race of people who were the smallest of all, and a lot like me. Froddo was the only one brave enough to take on the challenge of destroying the Ring. Small as he may be, and ignorant of combat skills and traveling, yet he was the one person willing to give his life to save the world—and that captivated me. It made me see that, no matter what I lacked in ability, anything was possible if only I put my mind to it.

Once the movie ended (and on such a heartbreaking cliffhanger!), I went straight to the bookstore and bought the whole series and The Hobbit. I could not wait a whole year to find out what happened next! So I read them all within two weeks, and went looking for more great works in the fantasy genre afterward. The Lord of the Rings gave me the escape and time I needed to adjust to a new life situation, and it voiced lessons I would hold close for years.

My favorite quotes are:

“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.”

“It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened. But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.” (This scene touched me so much, I remember the tears in theaters!)

Even after so many years, Tolkien’s world has stuck with me, just as it has for so many of you, and is what encouraged me to begin creating my own worlds through writing. This year I hope to publish my own debut fantasy novel, and all because I went to the theater that day, long ago, and met Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

About the Author

E. E. Rawls is a full-time author currently residing in New England. Europe is the source of her writing inspiration, after having lived in Italy for six years. A time spent road-tripping through the Alps, exploring castle ruins and dungeons, wandering Victorian towns and tucked-away villages, discovering their hidden legends. She now lives off of coffee, games, and bookshelves, with goals to one day master the arts of drawing, riding a dragon, and speaking Tolkien’s language of the Elves.

You follow her blog at  www.rawlse.wordpress.com or sign up for to get exclusive content from her about her projects at http://eepurl.com/2F36f.

Tolkien Lessons: How His Work Influences My Work (Guest Post by Linda White @BookManiaLife)

Tolkien Reading Event 2017

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Poetry and Songs in Tolkien’s Fiction. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts! Check out the complete schedule here.


Tolkien Books

Last year, I attended a local con here called CONvergence. I was an Invited Participant (their caps, not mine) and they asked that I be on at least four panels. I was looking at the schedule and one session jumped out at me right away – Perambulatory Journeys. All I could think of was Tolkien. I mean, I could think of no others.

Curious, I put out a call on Facebook, and lots of folks came back with other suggestions. Who knew? But Tolkien was tops on my list. The conversation at the panel was great, and even delved into Pokemon territory (this was right before the game got hot).

Sometime during this whole process, it hit me that I was, myself, writing a perambulatory journey. I wasn’t trying to copy Tolkien, but my characters needed to get from point A to point B, and since my work is set in Neolithic Great Britain, there weren’t a whole lot of options. They walked.

How long does it take to walk from Salisbury Plain to Orkney? How many obstacles would they encounter? What would happen to them along the way? How would they eat? These were all questions I would have to face. Research. Lots of research. My world was real. I knew that my characters were walking a fixed number of miles. Tolkien had no such limitations. How far was it to Mordor, anyway? In some ways, I kind of envied him. Why hadn’t I been brilliant enough to invent the whole world, even if only to save myself all these bothersome details? But that didn’t fit the story I wanted to tell, so it was a moot question. Would sure have made things easier, though.

And the other obstacles. Crossing water made me research the types of boats that would have been used at the time. I couldn’t just invent it. And for food, I am not going to go ahead and invent something like cram or lamas bread, because really, that’s been done. For me, it ended up meaning a lot of research into the foods that would have occurred naturally – berries and nuts and other hunter-gatherer fodder. But these were real considerations. And Tolkien had to consider them too – if only so that his world would be consistent. He couldn’t have wooden boats used in an area devoid of trees. He couldn’t have too many gentle comforts (think how many times they had to run or were captured and lost everything!). The small thing like Bilbo finding his pipe intact towards the end of his journey made it all that much more touching.

I am rereading The Lord of the Rings right now, and enjoying it. I think I have read it twice before, but it has been years. I am finding swaths that I don’t remember, because the movies are so ingrained on my brain. But those parallels are helpful too. What did the movie makers leave out? Why? What is really necessary to tell the story? It is helpful to look at a story that I know really well (and to be fair, doesn’t have the emotional attachment that I probably have to Harry Potter), and make these comparisons. Then I look at my own work and think, huh. What is this scene doing? How can I set up this bit so that it is useful later? And if I introduce this character just once, and never mention him again, is he really necessary?

So while I don’t want to write the same story – I don’t want to be derivative in any way – there are lessons here. I have realized I have several books about the world, apart from the multiple copies I own of the stories. So complex, and so deep. This time on my reread, I am looking further into the background. I am actually using the books that I have, like A Guide to Middle Earth by Robert Foster and The J.R.R. Tolkien Handbook (which is like an encyclopedia).

Apart from the obvious walking parallels, Tolkien is never far from my mind when I think about writing. If you’ve read the biography by Humphrey Carter (which is excellent), you will know that Tolkien started out with languages, and generally invented the story and the world to give his languages a culture to belong to. It’s absolutely fascinating, especially for me, someone who once tried to build a major in linguistics (it didn’t exist at my college and there weren’t enough classes to cobble one together). He spent years playing with these languages. Then he spent years writing the stories.

Unfortunately, he also spent a lot of time playing solitaire in his study, and every time I think of what he could have been doing instead, it makes me cringe. And I take that as an example for myself, when I find that I am a) spending too much time on bookstagram or Twitter or b) spending too much time diddling about doing things that simply will not matter.

We only have a given amount of time on this earth, and we must use it wisely. And if you’ve got a story to tell, a world to tell people about, do the telling! Don’t fritter away your time. And do the homework. Make it worthwhile.

About the Author

Linda White will be collecting books as long as the floors hold out. And she wants to read them all! She loves beautiful books. Read, travel, hike, book arts, paper crafts. She runs BookMania, an editorial services agency, and Publishing Bones, a website for writers. You can also visit her on Twitter and Instagram.

Myths, Marriage, and Making a Fool of Myself: Tolkien’s Legacy (Guest Post by Claire Wong)

Tolkien Reading Event 2017

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Poetry and Songs in Tolkien’s Fiction. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts! Check out the complete schedule here.


Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun

There’s a lot of advice I’d like to go back and give to my 15-year-old self, and somewhere on that list would be “make sure you marry someone who accepts and endorses your love of Tolkien’s work.”

So when my husband surprised me on my birthday with a copy of a brand new posthumously-published Tolkien book, I knew I’d made some good life choices to reach this point.

The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun is a book containing two long poems that tell the stories of characters such as Sigurd, Brynhild and Gudrun. It’s inspired by Old Norse mythology and features dragons, dwarves, doomed marriages and grisly deaths. This is not likely to be made into a film trilogy any time soon.

Gripping though the story is, it’s the style that really stands out. For where many authors choose to “update” mythology for their own time, retelling an old story in a modern format (Adele Geras’ novels “Troy” and “Dido” are just two of hundreds of examples you could find), Tolkien has stayed true to his source material by writing the poems in the traditional style of the Norse Poetic Edda. It’s not difficult to spot comparisons with Old English and Beowulf as you read it. The effect of this is that the reader is transported to another time and place. You have to imagine yourself in a Viking hall in a Scandinavian land many centuries ago. In the light of a roaring fire, a bard steps forward and begins to recite: he is telling you the story of the Volsungs.

It was therefore perhaps an error on my part to take this book into work and read it during my coffee break. You see, so good is Tolkien at his craft, that the words on the page are just crying out to be spoken aloud. Go on, read this next section out and see how delicious the words are:

In forge’s fire
of flaming wrath
was heaviest hammer
hewn and wielded.
Thunder and lightning
Thor the mighty
flung among them,
felled and sundered.

Isn’t it wonderful? The rising and falling rhythm with the alliteration makes a beautiful combination. It’s wonderful, that is, unless, like me, you just accidentally read those words out to a room full of your colleagues. Ignore the strange looks; they don’t understand.

Spoken poetry has been an important part of many cultures, from the Ancient Greek poet conjuring up the destruction of Troy by reciting lines from the Iliad, to today’s poetry slams where performers compete to deliver the most powerful verses. Some words simply refuse to stay confined to a page.

I challenge you to get through The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun without needing to hear how the words sound as Sigurd faces the dragon Fafnir:

but fell Fafnir
folk all name him
of dragons direst,
dreaming evil

Or indeed when he wakes Brynhild from her enchanted slumber, rather like Sleeping Beauty except that Brynhild is a lot fiercer than your average fairy tale princess, and even in her sleeping state wears full armour with a sword by her side. The relationship between these two is also less ‘happily ever after’ and more grim Norse myth, but you’ll have to read the book to find out exactly why.

All this muttering poetry to myself reminded me of another favourite Tolkien quote, from The Two Towers, where Gandalf says “I was talking aloud to myself. A habit of the old: they choose the wisest person present to speak to…!”

So if anyone looks at you oddly while you read Tolkien’s poetry, just tell them it’s a sign of your wisdom.

About the Author

Claire is an author and charity worker based in Yorkshire, where she spends a lot of time writing her next novel from a two-hundred-year-old cottage while drinking coffee and listening to folk music. Visit her at Claire Wong Writing.

My Journey Through Middle-Earth (Guest Post by Nandini)

Tolkien Reading Event 2017

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Poetry and Songs in Tolkien’s Fiction. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts! Check out the complete schedule here.


My fascination with this fictional land began at the age of ten, when my brother was watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy on TV. I caught only parts of it, but was so intrigued that I borrowed the DVD box-set from a friend and re-watched it in full with my family. I vaguely remember sitting on my bed, trying to recall how the soundtrack went because I was mesmerised. I’d like to believe that I haven’t truly left Middle-Earth since then.

I borrowed the complete unabridged collection of the books from my school library two years later. I finished a majority of it when I had taken sick leave for three days – I distinctly recall taking the bulky book with me when I was waiting to see the doctor at his clinic. I tried to read as many books by Tolkien that I could get my hands on after that and breezed through The Hobbit, The Children of Húrin, Unfinished Tales, The Book of Lost Tales and The Shaping of Middle-Earth. The most obvious piece missing from this list is The Silmarillion, which I plan to finish in March 2017 as a part of my personal celebration of the Tolkien Reading Day.

If someone told me to close my eyes and picture my happy place, it would be Lothlórien. There’s just something magical and ethereal about Middle-Earth that I can’t quite put into words. The strange beauty, the descriptions of the land and the awareness that each rock, tree or creature has its own purpose and will transports me into a place that seems surreal. Reading through the rich prose gives me a feeling of going on a vacation without having left the comfort of my room. I get lost in the pages and when I put down the book, it seems as if I’ve emerged from a dream. I have yet to find another series that has provided such an immersive experience. I am in awe of how detailed the world is; the words make the place come alive in my mind. The characters also make up a large part of why the series is special to me. It is incredible how some characters who only appear briefly in the story are so memorable – take Lady Galadriel or Tom Bombadil, for instance. My favourite of the lot, however, is Samwise Gamgee, who many believe to be the actual hero.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy has had such a huge impact on my reading habits and my personality that I consider it to be a part of me. Fantasy became my favourite genre after I fell in love with the trilogy. I’ve talked about it on my blog several times and even dedicated a month-long series to it. My kind and considerate friends gifted me a replica of the Evenstar necklace from the films for my 21st birthday. I found the hardcover movie tie-in edition of The Return of the King quite by accident at a bookstore for a ridiculously low price and I can’t resist the urge to talk about how extraordinarily lucky I was that day. I recently won a quiz that had The Lord of the Rings as one of its five main topics and got all the questions based on it right. I do a marathon of the films and re-read the books every year – it’s almost become a ritual now.

Being such an ardent fan also comes with a sense of responsibility, especially in the digital world where opinions are broadcast on a daily basis. Some comparisons between Tolkien and George Martin’s works have sprung up these days, with debaters being unaware of how different they are and arguing for the sake of winning some sort of popularity vote. Tolkien’s works have also been criticised as being racist or unsuitable for the modern reader. Some of the comments on such topics seem to have no basis in fact and have left me outraged, to be honest. I do realise that I have a personal bias with regard to this, so I try not to respond where I feel this would be an issue. While healthy debates are quite welcome and are necessary, I feel that as a member of this wonderful community of readers who love and respect Tolkien’s works, it is my duty to not descend to the level of trolls and engage with them just to prove a point, which could potentially harm the reputation of other fans across the world. My sole aim is to share the joy of reading that I have experienced and I hope that my journey would encourage another to try out his works as well.

I’d like to conclude by sharing a few lines from my favourite song in the books:

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.”
–The Road Goes Ever On (The Fellowship of the Ring)

About the Author

Nandini Pages That Rustle

Nandini Bharadwaj, a 21-year-old from Bangalore, India, is an expert at dabbling in a bit of everything. She will graduate as a Telecommunication engineer in May 2017 and wants to earn a PhD someday. When she’s not typing up posts for her blogs, Pages That Rustle and Unputdownable Books, one can find her stuck in a book, watching a movie or marathoning a TV show. She also likes to cook, and her favourite flavour is chocolate. Her biggest dream is to have a packed and organised floor-to-ceiling bookshelf in her bedroom. She can be found online on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and Goodreads.

Tolkien Reading Event 2017: Introduction and Schedule

Tolkien Reading Event 2017
Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Poetry and Songs in Tolkien’s Fiction. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts!

Schedule

More Tolkien Resources

If you can’t wait for this year’s Tolkien posts, you can check out what we’ve done with past Tolkien Reading Celebrations here.

*LotR clip art is from CuteGraphicSupply on Etsy.

Wanted: Guest Posts for Tolkien Reading Event (March 2017)

Tolkien Reading Event 2017

During March 2017, Pages Unbound will be running our fourth Tolkien Reading Event.  Every year on March 25, the Tolkien Society celebrates Tolkien Reading Day, and we like to expand on the event by hosting several days’ worth of Tolkien-related content.  We have had some wonderful guest posts in the past and would like to invite you to submit a guest post this year.

Update: The Tolkien Society has announced that the 2017 theme will be Poetry and Songs in Tolkien’s Fiction.

Post Options

The Tolkien Reading Event is open to a wide variety of posts.  In previous events, we have featured everything from book reviews to quizzes to serious literary criticism.   Pitch us an idea for any type of post you would like!  You can also review books and movies that have been featured before; we love new perspectives! See a full list of past posts here.

If you need ideas, we are particularly open to posts about:

  • the official theme: poetry and songs in Tolkien’s fiction
  • any aspect of The Silmarillion
  • the art of Middle-Earth
  • a tour of your Tolkien collection (books or merchandise)
  • The Story of Kullervo (or Tolkien and the Kalevala)
  • Tolkien’s influence on other fantasy works
  • Tolkien’s villains
  • your personal journey reading Tolkien
  • reviews of books about (not by) Tolkien
  • reflections on Tolkien’s “minor” works (Farmer Giles of Ham, Smith of Wooton Major, Roverandom)

Details

If you are interested in participating, please fill out the Google form below.  We will begin the event on Monday, March 20, and so would like to receive guest posts by March 13.  We will contact everyone with final details around that time (such as what day your guest post will be scheduled).  Please feel free to spread the word to fellow Tolkien fans!

Update: We had a couple questions about post length. We have no specific target length, just however long you feel you need to address the topic.

*LOTR clip art by Nesca at CuteGraphicSupply.