“In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit…”
As for many, my love affair with Tolkien’s works began when reading The Hobbit. Moving on to The Lord of the Rings, I found a new world of fantasy, linguistics, and beauty opened for me and I quickly went on to read The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales as well. This all happened during high school.*
Soon I was reading Beowulf — the local bookstore had the Seamus Heaney translation — and reading up on myths and more. I’d always had a fancy for the weird and the fantastical, but it was only in high school that I started reading writers like Pratchett and Tolkien. And, while Pratchett’s works are brilliant, it was Tolkien’s works that led me to go “I need to write more of this kind of thing…” and “I need to know more about language and I think that that is what I need to study”.
So, blame my mother and Tolkien for making me a writer!
9 August 2001 — The Day Mom Bought Me The Lord of the Rings As a Surprise
Tolkien also came into my life at just the right time. You see, I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (more specifically) in grade 10 – just a few months after losing both grandparents and moving to a new and much smaller place.
Losing grandparents are usually not the nicest thing in the world, but you have to understand that I grew up with them and helped care for them through Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Cancer. Basically right up to the end. They were in frail care for only a few weeks before passing away. So what I needed was a book of hope.** I had never cried as much in a book before reading The Lord of the Rings. I actually stopped for a few days after Boromir’s death as I couldn’t bear to watch the whole fellowship die (hey, I didn’t know what was going to happen).
I finished reading the book before the movies came out (both happened in 2001), and still remember that my mom got me tickets for the first show of Fellowship somehow even though money was more than tight at that time. And, after the movie, my mom was hooked as well! (Mwahahahaha)
The way to university
Thanks to the movies I was able to learn a lot about Tolkien himself and found out that you can study old languages at university. So I decided on studying to be a language practitioner and at last got the chance of learning Gothic and Old Norse in my honours year through the Afrikaans department (Afrikaans was my one major). During undergrad I was able to learn some Middle Dutch as well, whoohoo!
To say that Tolkien has had an influence on my life is an understatement. It is thanks to his work that I’ve found my passion and my calling in life. That is why, during Tolkien week, I think about the giant impact one man and his work can have on the world. If my writing can do but a smidgen of that, I’d be happy.
*Now, you may ask yourself how I didn’t know about The Hobbit sooner seeing as how everyone who’s English seems to know about it and to have read it at least as a child? One, I’m not English (it’s my second language) and two, fantasy literature is not that big a thing in the Afrikaans culture (can I change that? We’ll have to see… Ha!)
** Please don’t start preaching to me here about the Bible also being a book of hope. I know.