Shoptalk: Why I read Tolkien each year….

readingclrWhy I read Tolkien once a year....

At the beginning of each year, I usually dedicate my evening reading to one of my favorite series, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.  Right Now i am reading this adventure to my 5 year old. This  though is usually preceeded by the Silmarillion which is followed by the Hobbit. I enjoy reading them in order. The whole process takes about 3 weeks, usually in the evening. Yet, the question, really one would ask is why?

I mean why would I choose to dedicate 3 weeks of my time to a mythological fight over a tiny ring and a bunch over dramatic elves?

Well, like everything I do, there is usually a reason and the main reason is remind me, why I write and draw fantasy.

I enjoy the works of Tolkien for many many reasons. It also gives me hope in my own works through his own journeys and how he was 50 when the Lord of the Rings was first published. So as I approach 40 I realize there is still plenty of time for me in getting the bean completed how I envision it.

The next thing is the depth of the story he created. Tolkien wanted to create a mythology of his homeland. He was a professor, who loved history, poetry and languages. He drew  from his experiences and his love for mythology and crafted that into a tale, that is in my opinion one fantastic read.

He is the first true fantasy writer of elves, dwarves, goblins, wizards and fallen angels. His works have influenced thousands of writers, artists and film makers. Many other great series of books came about from their authors reading Tolkien as well a whole generation of gamers.

smaugclrYet to be honest it took a long time for me to actually enjoy the books. My parents had them when I was a teen and as I tried to read them, I found myself struggling to even get through the hobbit. So I put them down.

It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that I found my appreciation for his works. I read the LOTR first. I was blown away, I did not realize how much I had missed. It was quite inspiring to see how much depth was in his books and his world. I found myself hungering for more.

Being a history nut, I found myself looking for more and more on what his world was about. I found it in the The Silmarillion. It made sense and helped me as I started to create my own world together.

Tolkiens work showed the importance of detail, cultural differences, legends, realistic settings and drawing on personal experiences.

His characters were enjoyable and I enjoyed the fact that many were noble, and though flawed still were able to overcome their difficulties. (something the movie felt it needed to take away).

He surprised us with the real hero of his tale, the humble sam, as well as the insanity of gollum, and the pride and vanity of Feanor, he was a real jerk. He set a standard that in my opinion has rarely been repeated.

The movies, are incredibly visual, yet I wish they had spent as much time developing the story as they had on creating the authenticity of the races and locations. I am so glad I found the books first before the movie.

I am not a nut. I rarely draw fan art, and I don’t feel a need to dress up. Yet I do draw on the creative influence he helps establish. I appreciate that. I pay homage to him and I am reminded that it is perfectly ok to take time to craft my story. I also understand not everyone gets it. That is ok, I am fine with that. He can be a difficult read, but when you finally get it… man… you will see the true gem hidden within his work.

So in a nutshell- that is why I read Tolkien once a year…. to stay inspired.



Hammer » 5 Jun 2014 » Reply


Coming across your post was like breathing in fresh air…I'll admit I haven't re-read the series. In fact I don't recall reading it. My step-father, who was more like my best friend as a child, read all the books to me as a bedtime story and I could envision the scenes clearly. I recall all the animation movies and book records that I listened to. I thank God I have lived long enough to see the movies developed. Regardless of the views, I enjoy watching the movies whenever I want a mind recess. Lastly, I appreciate your appreciation of Tolkien's background and age. It also gives me hope that one day I will focus enough time and energy to get what is in my head into a medium to share with others.

Gerri » 14 Mar 2014 » Reply

I read the hobbit when I was in my early teens because I found myself bored at my grandparents house. There was a tattered copy there my mother had borrowed from a friend and never got around to returning, so I picked it up to entertain myself and boy, was I entertained! I loved the story and expected to love the three LOTR books as well but so, far I haven't made a lot of headway into them. I love how you mentioned that it took you awhile to 'get' Tolkien's world because so many people are saying that they discovered the books in their teens and fell in love with them straight away. Makes a person feel more than a little nervous that there might be something wrong with not understanding the books right away. Someday, I'll pick up the series again and hopefully be blown away again by Tolkien's genius. For now, I'll follow your example and try not to force things to happen 🙂

LuckyWeasel » 9 May 2013 » Reply

Tolkien is amazing. I do have the books, and I did read both LOTR and Hobbit, but once a year I try to watch all three the movies. I am more of a visual person, but especially after reading the books I did enjoy the movies more. Now the have started with the Hobbit, so I can't wait for the Desolation of Smaug. But yes his creativity to create his own world, with it's own history, which can be applied to real world situations… amazing. TS Lewis Narnia comes close to it, but Tolkien is superior.

Nordictrack Nate » 27 Apr 2011 » Reply

This is a great tribute to Tolkien and his books. I wish i had read the books before i saw the movies like you. That would have made a world of difference. But luckily i can read the books and enjoy them as their own deal and watch the movie and enjoy it the same way. They are two separate things, thats how they've got to be. and jackson knew that when he started. I like that you are setting out to create your own world. Tolkien is a great guide to follow. The best. Great post. I like your drawings a lot. The second i saw the one with the boy reading on the chair with his legs up and Tolkien lit surrounding him i set it as my background. I hope you don't mind. it reminded me of myself. Your illustration of the fellowship is awesome too. Great work.

Kafran » 22 Dec 2010 » Reply

My mother used to read LOTR to my brother and I when we were just 10 an 6. That book had the three books in it (not the silmarillion nor the hobbit).
I found it again at the bottom of an old big trunk we had at home when I was fifteen more or less. I've had since then that book beside my bed as I like to read some chapters from time to time.
It really changed my view of tales and plunged me into a more complex universe of fantasy.

    Trav the bean » 22 Dec 2010 » Reply

    That's really cool. There is so much power in parents taking a moment to just read to their kids. You got a cool mom

Joumana » 21 Dec 2010 » Reply

Funnily I actually do the same. I must have read or listened to the unabridged text about 12 times since I first read it. My creativity emerged when I first read LOTR, and still now he is my biggest inspiration, even though I'm not writing fantasy right now. I have a future story in the works though that came as an epiphany the first time I listened ot it as an audiobook, and for it I studied closely how Tolkien achieved the feelings he creates in the reader.
I didn't bother with the movies, I'm quite happy with the images in my own head.

    Trav the bean » 21 Dec 2010 » Reply

    Isn't awesome to see the influence one man had had over so many different creators. It's pretty universal. I must say for the most part the imagery is perfect in the films..:) that's about it. Yet I do enjoy creating my own ideas as well.

Mercy » 21 Dec 2010 » Reply

Nice to hear that someone else loves Tolkien. I've probably read it 25 or so times and loved every minute of it.

Also, I love the sketch of the Fellowship as bears. Especially Aragorn and Boromir!

    Trav the bean » 21 Dec 2010 » Reply

    I especially love how he was influenced by so many things and how well he utilized them so well in his stories. What is nice for me is seeing I am not the only who feels that way about his work.

    Glad you like the bears… I am trying some new with my non-bean post. I figure they will hang out more and more in my posts.:) I am glad you noticed them, sometimes I wonder.:)

ironhenry » 21 Dec 2010 » Reply

His speech just flows so nicely that I love reading them out loud.

    Trav the bean » 21 Dec 2010 » Reply

    it sure does- with all the versions out there as well both animated and live action, I like putting some of the voices I was really pleased with in tune with the right character

Tom » 21 Dec 2010 » Reply

Cool post, Trav. So many people re-read them, I've done it about 40 times myself, and just read them again over the fall, for many of the very same reasons, but mainly just because I enjoy them so much. I got hooked in Jr. High and always loved them. I also really dig the Silmarillion too, even though many don't seem to enjoy it as much.

    Trav the bean » 21 Dec 2010 » Reply

    Thanks man- I enjoyed the Rankin Bass versions so many years ago that gave me interest. I am just a little sad i was not younger when I actually got into reading the books..

    The Silmarillion- is actually written like an old bible… 🙂 more like the historical aspects. It has a very old world like feel to it. I almost enjoy that book more at times….

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