Telling friends, family and work colleagues that you’re “really into Tolkien” can provoke both amusement and bemusement. We’re used to this; we’re also used to being asked the same familiar questions again and again. I’ve pooled together a selection of the most-asked questions with a handy cheat-sheet of suggested answers.
Do you speak Elvish?
No! No one goes around having casual conversations in Elvish: notwithstanding the difficulty of learning another language, Tolkien simply didn’t invent enough words to be able to have full conversations. Furthermore, Tolkien’s languages evolved over his lifetime: not only is there not one “Elvish” language – no more than there is one “European” language – but the individual languages like Sindarin and Quenya changed over Tolkien’s lifetime.
Do you dress up?
I don’t do that either (and nor do 90% of us)! But, why would it be strange for people to dress up as an elf but it’s fine for millions of people to dress up as a football player?
Do you guys hold conventions and get together?
Yes! Every September the Tolkien Society holds Oxonmoot (a long-weekend in an Oxford college) whilst smials around the world hold regular events in their areas. There are dozens of Tolkien societies all around the world which all host their own events. We get together with our friends sharing our love of Tolkien, enjoying the company of others, and sampling plenty of food and drink!
What do you think of the films?
I love/like/am different/dislike/hate to them [delete as appropriate]. I prefer the books, though!
As an addition to think you might get “Do you want to go to/Have you been to New Zealand?“, “What is your favourite film?“, “What most annoys you about the films?” – I advise preparing answers to all of those!
Have you read all the books?
I’ve read The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, if that’s what you mean. But there is also Unfinished Tales, The Children of Húrin, the twelve-volume History of Middle-earth series, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Bilbo’s Last Song; on top of that there are Tolkien’s works not about Middle-earth including Roverandom, Farmer Giles of Ham, Smith of Wootton Major, Leaf by Niggle, Mr. Bliss and Letters from Father Christmas; finally there is all of Tolkien’s scholarly works. So there is an awful lot to read!
[For non-Christians] Why do you like Tolkien if he was a Christian?
Because they’re great stories! Just as I can enjoy books written by an author from another political party, I can also enjoy stories written by an author from another faith.
Why don’t the eagles just fly to Mount Doom?
Because a) they’d get shot down and b) it would make the secret quest rather obvious! Actually, Tolkien himself was rather tired of the question by observing that “People gallop about on Eagles at the least provocation” and pointing out: “‘Nine Walkers’ and they immediately go up in the air!” [For more of these sorts of questions see our FAQs.]
If you can think of any more commonly-asked questions please do add them in the comments below.
Shaun is the current Chair of The Tolkien Society. Elected in 2013, Shaun regularly speaks about adaptations of Tolkien’s works whilst passionately believing the Society needs to reach out to new audiences. In his spare time can be found in the cinema, playing video games and Lego, or on Twitter.