Tolkien Reading Day
It is a first and promising anniversary – Tolkien Reading Day is now ten years old and is going from strength to strength. All over the world people are reading Tolkien’s works, alone or together, to show their appreciation for the most popular author of the twentieth century. This year’s suggested topic is ‘Tolkien’s Landscapes’ and the Tolkien Society which started this wonderful event has some reading suggestions for you. However, you are perfectly free to choose any book by Tolkien or about his life and works for your perusal. It is about taking some time out of your schedule to read again.
Views of the Shire
The Hobbit, Chapter 2, Roast Mutton
‘At first they had passed through hobbit-lands, a wild respectable country inhabited by decent folk, with good roads, an inn or two, and now and then a dwarf or a farmer ambling by on business. Then they came to lands where people spoke strangely, and sang songs Bilbo had never heard before. Now they had gone on far into the Lone-lands, where there were no people left, no inns, and the roads grew steadily worse. Not far ahead were dreary hills, rising higher and higher, dark with trees. On some of them were old castles with an evil look, as if they had been built by wicked people. Everything seemed gloomy, for the weather that day had taken a nasty turn. Mostly it had been as good as May can be, even in merry tales, but now it was cold and wet ..’
The Ring Sets out, Chapter 3, Three is Company
‘.. they crossed the Water, west of Hobbiton, by a narrow plank-bridge. The stream was there no more than a winding black ribbon, bordered with leaning alder-trees. A mile or two further south they hastily crossed the great road from the Brandywine Bridge; they were now in the Tookland and bending south-eastwards they made for the Green Hill Country. As they began to climb its first slopes they looked back and saw the lamps in Hobbiton far off twinkling in the gentle valley of the Water. Soon it disappeared in the folds of the darkened land, and was followed by Bywater beside its grey pool. When the light of the last farm was far behind, peeping among the trees, .. ‘
A view of the Undying lands
The Silmarillion, Quenta Silmarillion, Chapter 5 Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalië
‘There they dwelt, and if they wished they could see the light of the Trees, and could tread the golden streets of Valmar and the crystal stairs of Tirion upon Túna, the green hill; but most of all they sailed in their swift ships on the waters of the Bay of Elvenhome, or walked in the waves upon the shore with their hair gleaming in the light beyond the hill. Many jewels the Noldor gave them, opals and diamonds and pale crystals, which they strewed upon the shores and scattered in the pools; marvellous were the beaches of Elendë in those days. And many pearls they won for themselves from the sea, and their halls were of pearl, and of pearl were the mansions of Olwë at Alqualondë, the Haven of the Swans, lit with many lamps. For that was their city, and the haven of their ships; and those were made in the likeness of swans, with beaks of gold and eyes of gold and jet. The gate of that harbour was an arch of living rock sea-carved; and it lay upon the confines of Eldamar, north of the Calacirya, where the light of the stars was bright and clear.’ Quotes taken from Tolkien Society website.
Now, March 25th will have some meaning for readers of The Lord of the Rings: It is the day when Sauron is vanquished and peace in Middle-earth is restored at the end of the Third Age. To historians, medievalists and theologians this date is of another importance (and Tolkien will, in all probability, have had this date in mind being a devout Roman Catholic) – it is the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary he revered and for many centuries and for many countries the day the new year began (January 1st is a rather recent development). The Annunciation Style was officially used in the Kingdom of Great Britain until January 1st, 1752. To anyone studying medieval history of Europe dating a document according to our modern reckoning is a nightmare (if you don’t believe in calendar apps but good old-fashioned work ;)) – to Tolkien it was the day when evil was vanquished and a new life began. And yes, it may not be a coincidence that this way of beginning a new year was also called Lady Day Style – and there is a Lady Galadriel.
Enjoy reading the stories J.R.R. Tolkien wrote. They are worth it.
P.S.: Not everyone sticks strictly to March 25th. As this event is very often organised in cooperation with bookshops and libraries a Saturday is much more convenient; with some countries Sunday is a great idea. Just give it a quick Google and you’ll find many events all over the world.