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ask me anything, Tolkien version

I'm sick in bed today and could use some distraction, so I thought I'd try another one of those "ask me anything" memes. This time let's do it with Tolkien. Whether it's my fanfic, my thoughts on a Tolkien character or story, or a more personal question along the lines of why I've spent so much of my time volunteering with, reading, and writing in the Tolkien fandom, I'd love some questions to answer.

So have at it. :-)


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 30th, 2013 06:17 pm (UTC)
When the films came out, did any of the actors/casting choices enhance your feeling or interest in the character? Match your vision? Get on your nerves because it wasn't how you imagined he or she would be?
Oct. 30th, 2013 06:31 pm (UTC)
You know, I had very few expectations going into the film because I hadn't actually read the books previously! I'd heard the radio drama (the BBC version) so I knew the basic plot, but really you don't fall in love with Tolkien until you read Tolkien, all the little details no adaptation can properly capture.

That said, I have noticed two characters are much more vibrant if I'm rereading a passage shortly after rewatching the movies: Saruman and Boromir. Saruman is such a cryptic character, ageless really, and it takes a great veteran like Christopher Lee to do him anything approaching justice. And Boromir! Msr. Bean's slight eye roll when he says they have a cave troll. The sadness and doubt when he and Aragorn talk in Lothlorien, the way that his description of Aragorn's return has an edge of... faith, I guess, to it. The way he says "no more than a broken heirloom" has a skepticism edged through with a dare that Aragorn will prove him wrong.

I could talk all day about the way that John Nobles's portrayal of Denethor was so, so wrong, but I think those are direction and script problems more than actor problems. Certainly when I heard that PJ had chosen a fine old Shakespearean actor to play Denethor (by that time I had read the books), it made a lot of sense. Actually, that's probably a major part of my frustration: it was an actor that should have been able to do the role justice.
Oct. 30th, 2013 07:21 pm (UTC)
I couldn't agree more about Sean Bean's Boromir. He truly infused that character with depth and humanity. I felt the same way about Bernard Hill's Theoden.
Oct. 31st, 2013 04:03 am (UTC)
The films made me notice Boromir too.
Oct. 30th, 2013 06:33 pm (UTC)
One casting choice that did jump out to me: Ian Holm is Bilbo in the films of course, but Frodo in the BBC production. I was a tad worried that would throw me off, but really the overlap just set up a nice familial connection for me.
Oct. 31st, 2013 01:09 am (UTC)
Do you recall the first fanfic you read in the Tolkien fandom? If so, what was it? Did you like it particularly and if so why? Had you read fanfic of any other sort before?

Oct. 31st, 2013 09:16 am (UTC)
When I first came to the Tolkien fandom, I found someone to work with me on Lady of Gondor, and he pointed me to the Henneth_Annun listserv, which in turn pointed me to henneth-annun.net. Being my normal methodical self, I just started going by the authors alphabetically. I didn't want to miss anything by just reading the new stories. I think I got as far as altariel before I got worn out of that spurt (and really, Una has such lovely stuff and was such a welcoming presence on the H_A list, I could spend months just losing myself in it all - and this was before I'd read the books and before ROTK came out!). I eventually made it I think as far as lady_branwyn.

But you were asking for firsties. That would be A.L. Milton, in particular "Shards of Time," a story about the legacy of Eowyn and told by Barahir. I knew who Faramir and Eowyn were, but only through the movies, and the fact that they would end up together --that there might be romance at all in Lord of the Rings-- seemed so implausible at that point. (I missed out on the last two episodes of the BBC adaptation for some reason, so this really was a revelation to me.) Never mind the whole plot line being explored in that story. It was assuming events that at that time I just didn't have any exposure to. And the character of Barahir was a revelation; it just made the whole world seem real, that there would be a historicity to it all (still one of my fave motifs). So when I badly sprained an ankle several weeks later and was laid up in bed, and after I'd swept through all the Harry Potter books I'd recently acquired (I think through year four at the time), I went tootling around the dorm looking for more books to read, and a neighbor lent me her trilogy. "Shards of Time" is great on its own, once you know the events being dealt with, and on a reread I appreciated it much, much more. But for me, it's biggest impact was that it got me to actually sit down and read the books.

Which, needless to say, I was beyond taken with. I was completely enraptured with the Lord of the Rings book, even more than the FOTR movie and much more than TTT which was a disappointment, though I ended up seeing it maybe eight times in the cinema - cheap student tickets and good timing and escapism more than anything. But when I say my recent head-over-heels, grab-me-by-the-jugular love of Sherlock is the most fannish I've felt in ages, it's this first reading of LOTR that's the other event I have in mind. I read the whole trilogy, twice, inside of a week.

But we were talking about fanfic. I didn't quite "get" the first story I read, but I got that there was something more to be gotten and I wanted it quite badly. Also, I quite liked the writing and the characters even though I didn't quite get what it was all about. I loved her other story about an elephant trainer in Harad, and even after always was excited when I saw she had no work out to read.

As for other fanfic: Tolkien was the first fandom I ever published in. Actually the only fandom, setting aside some flirtations in ficlet form with Ellen Kushner's "Swordspoint" novels (I actually have a ficlet in the works) and a few other 'verses I've written gift-fics in. I did write some stories about Bashir's backstory growing up as a mutant and Quark's life during the Cardassian occupation in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. But at the time I had no concept of fanfic and just did it for myself.

Edited at 2013-10-31 09:18 am (UTC)
Oct. 31st, 2013 04:05 am (UTC)
Who is your favourite character and are the strong friendships in Tolkien part of the reason you love his work?
Oct. 31st, 2013 09:40 am (UTC)
You know, it's weird: I have been very attached to the relationships, but not necessarily what I would call friendships. And I don't mean romantic relationships, either. I mean characters that from an aesthetic or philosophical perspective make interesting comments on each other but that aren't what you'd consider friendship.

Case #1: Denethor, Faramir, and Aragorn and the different ways they rule and relate to Gondor. I've found the parallels here intensely meaningful and think it's a fascinating portrayal of power. For instance, Denethor is all about preserving things, locking them in stone almost like the Elves with their rings, whereas Aragorn obviously takes a much larger view. Faramir's real strength is in his ability to balance the two. His first loyalty is to Gondor (unlike Aragorn, who spends great periods of time wandering away from his homeland) and he is intensely devoted to those people and their needs, and also his filial duty to Denethor. But Faramir is also submissive to what I can only call the Good: he recognizes a duty greater than his duty to Gondor and is willing to sacrifice himself to meet it. I think that tells you a great deal about power in Tolkien.

Other examples that have fascinated me:

--- Sauron/Annatar, Celebrimbor, and Galadriel
--- Tar-Miriel, Ar-Pharazon, and Elendil
--- Smeagol, Gollum, and Frodo (and to a lesser extent, Bilbo)
--- Thorin, Gandalf, and Thranduil
--- Gandalf, Saruman, and Radagast
--- Faramir/Eowyn and Lothiriel/Eomer (and, in my verse -- I know, not yours -- the other great Gondor + Rohan romance, Boromir/Theodred)

I could probably go on here, but thats enough for a taste. It's not that these characters are really friendly, they may have an emotional connection but they may not. It's more thematic. There are these different characters approaching the same basic problem from different angles and giving them a slightly different perspective on it. I think it's the cyclic nature of the world. I think it's the way you have all these different cultures, so well worked out and with their own divisions, yet there's a strand, a shared narrative running through them that forces my mind to see these parallels.

I find that exhilarating, I guess. It makes me feel like I get something the more I think about this world. It's philosophically very deep in a way I can grasp onto.
Nov. 1st, 2013 03:30 am (UTC)
Thank you, you have given me lots of food for thought.
Oct. 31st, 2013 08:34 am (UTC)
What was your first Tolkien fan fic about? And the first one you posted--if the two are not the same?
Oct. 31st, 2013 08:51 am (UTC)
My first Tolkien fan fic was awful! It was a novella-length piece about a... sister? half-sister? cousin? Eventually adoptive sister, in any event, of Boromir and Faramir who lived for a time among the Ents before going to Rohan on a kind of diplomatic exchange, eventually seeing to the Rohirrim at Harrowdale once Eowyn rode off to war and IIRC getting Eomer to fall in love with her. It also had a prologue to rival the Ainulindale, and I think I even gave her magenta hair at some point.

The scary thing: I'm honestly not exaggerating here. At least not intentionally. It's called "Lady of Gondor, and some bits of it are passable, particularly toward the end. In the final chapter, for example, there's an interesting description of Aragorn's and Arwen's wedding tying it in with both Elven mythology and the new alliances Gondor is at the center of. That layout is kind of at the center of all my fics set around that wedding. But mainly I've left it up because of the history. If it weren't my first piece I'd have tried to delete all vestiges. It's honestly like I was trying to hit every question on the Mary Sue litmus test.

My first story I'm actually okay with? Let's see. I think that would be A Conspiracy Forged, which is about Pippin's experience at Bilbo's birthday party and also touches on Merry's growing suspicions about Bilbo's ring. Although maybe it was the poem "Arise, about Merry's decision to fight the Witch King at Pelennor. I know that poem was written while I was still in Staffordshire, U.K., because it was inspired by a particular statue of Icarus crouching and about to take flight, in the building where some of my classes were at Keele University. That was the spring I was writing Lady of Gondor, but I can't remember absolutely whether it was the first thing I wrote. It's also the first thing tanaquilotr wrote, if memory serves, and that got me involved with the Machete Betas, my first writing circle.

Edited at 2013-10-31 08:52 am (UTC)
Oct. 31st, 2013 08:41 pm (UTC)
What do you like most within Tolkien fandom, and what do you dislike most? I mean this as a broad question - could be something in the texts themselves, the films, the fanfic, the fans, the community, whatever. Also, why?
Oct. 31st, 2013 08:52 pm (UTC)
(me being me, I can haz too many questions, and maybe these are a bit more self centered than you wanted, but...:P I'm trying to grow as a writer, so I can become more like you and the other authors who have been in fandom longer than me, who I respect and esteem greatly)

1) What was the first fic of mine that you ever read, and how did you come to read it?

2) What is your favourite story of mine and why?

3) What is your favourite OC of mine (if you have one?)

4) I've written stories encompassing all Ages and various peoples in Tolkien's work. What, in your opinion, is my best fit when it comes to the various Ages of Arda and the beings that dwell within?

5) What canon character do you think I write best and why?

6) On the flip side, where could I improve? What bothers you about my writing, and where could I use more practice?

7) If you wanted me to write a fic especially for you, who and what would it be about?
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )



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