Today is the Tolkien Society’s international Tolkien Reading Day! The theme this year is friendship.
Let us know what you’re reading in the comments below or by using #TolkienReadingDay on Twitter.
To celebrate Tolkien Reading Day 2015, we’ve put together a series of videos featuring various Tolkien scholars (and two Tolkien Society trustees) reading some of their favourite passages on the theme of friendship. Enjoy!
We start by looking at Tolkien’s own friendships. In the foreword to the second edition of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien wrote that “by 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead.” One of those close friends killed during the First World War was G. B. Smith, a core member of the T.C.B.S. (the small group of friends from King Edward’s School, Birmingham) and a Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers. Here John Garth – author of Tolkien and the Great War – reads a moving extract from a letter from G. B. Smith to Tolkien.
Dr Mark Atherton
While Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College, Oxford, Tolkien made several profound contributions to Beowulf studies. He wrote the famous ‘Monsters and the Critics’ essay, and even completed a prose translation of the whole poem (published in 2014). Here Dr Mark Atherton – author of There and Back Again: J. R. R. Tolkien and the Origins of The Hobbit – reads the section from Tolkien’s translation where the word “friend” is used and then reads part of the same passage in Old English.
The relationship between Bilbo Baggins and Thorin Oakenshield is one of The Hobbit‘s most complex. Here Daniel Helen – a trustee of the Tolkien Society – reads a passage from “The Return Journey” in which the two characters reconcile and part in friendship before Thorin’s death.
Here Verne Walker – the Tolkien Society’s Education Secretary – reads from “Mount Doom” in The Return of the King. In this passage Frodo and Sam come near to the end of their quest to destroy the Ring. The date is 25th March, a day on which Frodo and Sam’s friendship reached its zenith. Without each other and without their friendship the quest would have failed. Today we celebrate all of Tolkien’s friendships as epitomised here by Frodo and Sam.
Dr Dimitra Fimi
Here Dr Dimitra Fimi – author of Tolkien, Race and Cultural History: From Fairies to Hobbits – reads a passage from “A Journey in the Dark” in The Fellowship of the Ring. When the Fellowship reach the West-door of Moria they find the Doors of Durin inscribed “Ennyn Durin Aran Moria. Pedo Mellon a Minno.“. When translated properly, these words reveal that to open the doors one must say “mellon“, the Sindarin word for “friend”. By giving such authority and significance to the word, Tolkien emphasises just how important friendship is in Middle-earth.
Dr Corey Olsen
Leaf by Niggle is arguably one of Tolkien’s most philosophical and (dare it be mentioned) allegorical works. Here Dr Corey Olsen – President of the Mythgard Institute – reads a couple of passages to highlight the relationship between Niggle and his neighbour Parish.
Dr Stuart D. Lee
Here Dr Stuart D. Lee – editor of A Companion to J. R. R. Tolkien – reads an extract from “Many Partings” in The Return of the King. In this passage we see the ending of the Fellowship of the Ring. It is the poignant farewell of good friends and the affirmation of lasting friendships and possible meetings in the future.
We hope this has given you some ideas for possible readings related to the theme – there are many more to explore! Our thanks to John Garth, Dr Mark Atherton, Dr Dimitra Fimi, Dr Stuart D. Lee, and Dr Corey Olsen for taking part.