To join in on the fun in this series of bee posts, I’m going to let you in on a deep, dark secret: I’m a geek. Not surprised? Most people aren’t when I just say that.
Let me just preface this by saying that I’m geeky for many things: knitting, Harry Potter, craft supplies, Sherlock Holmes, but nothing, NOTHING as much as my first true love (sorry, Cinnamon Buns), Lord of the Rings. It is well known among my friends that I have a passion for all things hobbity. The thing is, very few people know how deep the geekiness actually goes. I always kept some of the geekier stuff private, just so people wouldn’t think I was too insane. Now I’m embracing it by telling you the story, hive!
This secret has a bit of backstory. My dad read me The Hobbit when I was four. As soon as we’d finished the book, I grabbed it because I wanted to “read it self!” So I did. A few years later, I was about 10 and decided to read Lord of the Rings. That first readthrough was a real slog, and felt like it took forever. But, the moment I finished, I immediately started again from the begining, and that’s when my love started growing. That year I made friends with a new girl in school, and we’d go to her house, climb the big grey tree in her front yard (the tree’s name was Gandalf), talk about elves, and study the rune writing in the inner cover of The Hobbit. That was in about 1994.
And then about five or six years later, they announced that some guy called Peter Jackson was making a movie of Lord of the Rings. I became a bit obsessed with movie news and sneak peeks and absolutely anything I could find on the Internet about the movie. As the release day in 2001 came up, I entered a newspaper competition in my city. You had to answer the question each week, then mail in or drop off your ballot. People would be picked from those who answered right, and there would be a quiz night. I put in my ballots, scoffing at how dumb the questions were. Then I got the call that I was one of the people picked! The quiz night was to be held at a local castle, and prizes would be awarded later. The night came, and I put on my best elfy attire.
We went through the castle (I can’t remember if I was with Mum or Dad!), and I answered questions at various stations. The questions got harder and harder as you went through. I answered most of them. At the end, we were given a pass to AN ADVANCE SCREENING OF THE FILM!
I did this for two years in a row. When Return of the King came out, I entered the same competition every week and wasn’t drawn out of the hat. I even (this is embarassing) stopped by the office to make sure there hadn’t been a mistake. I almost pulled the “but don’t you know who I am?!” card, but thought better of it and left empty handed. You see, it’s all very well to have fun fooling around on quiz night and laugh about who would ever be able to answer the last few (hardest) questions, like some of the people there. The thing was, in 2001 I was in the top three, and in 2002 I tied for first. I have the swag to prove it!
I have to say that watching those movies at the advance screenings were amazing moments. Just about everyone there was as passionate about the movies and books as I was, and it was so great to be in the middle of such a crowd, cheering and clapping at a movie. How often to moviegoers clap? Not very often, I think. We laugh, cheered, and cried together, and it was beautiful. (Sub-secret: I still can’t watch Return of the King without crying when Aragorn bows to the hobbits. When I first saw it in theatres, I started crying at the lighting of the beacons and didn’t stop until it was well over!)
Fellowship of the Ring came out in my first year of university. I was taking science classes, and they all had 100+ students in them. I knew no one and was too shy to approach people. I had a lot of time between my classes, so I decided to start teaching myself Elvish in my big two-and-a-half-hour gap between bio and physics. I’d find a corner somewhere and pull out my books, my notebook, and the Sindarin dictionary I’d printed off the Internet. I also taught myself to write English in Elvish script. That was much easier than a new language! I never got too far with Sindarin (there is more than one Elvish language, don’t you know!), but I enjoyed reading the word lists.
Then I got involved with a new fansite called The Council of Elrond (not to be confused with the site of the same name and hyphens in the web address). I ended up being made an admin, focusing on the encyclopedia they were writing from scratch. I started doing that work in my gaps between classes—that’s when I bought myself a one-book paperback copy of LotR to write in and make notes on! I kept a notebook with my goals for the day and reports of what entries I’d written, and what I’d validated or rejected of the articles other users submitted.
Sadly (I’m still a little remorseful about this), school and social life got busy once I switched to the theatre department, and I just sort of faded away without asking anyone to take over my duties. Eventually they replaced me, but I was busy enough with school that I knew it made sense. My name is still on a bunch of the entries, though!
I was one of those unbearable people when the movies came out. You know the type—the ones that could talk for hours about the tiniest of details and debate (with references, from memory) whether Legolas was blonde in the book, if Balrogs really have wings, how cutting Tom Bombadil and adding made-up Arwen scenes completely changed everything…Yeah. People learned not to get me started. Speaking of not getting started, do not get me started on people who went to see the movies without reading the books first! Don’t worry, I’m more tolerant now. Now I just say, “Oh, you’ve seen the movies? You should totally read the books now.”
A few more crazy things as proof of the depth of my geekery. Here is my bookshelf at the time I was writing the encyclopedia:
Note that each book has its own bookmark. Yes, I collected LotR bookmarks. The big series on the right is the History of Middle Earth—Christopher Tolkien published a lot of his father’s drafts. They’re a dense but really cool read. Bilbo was originally called Bingo Baggins! Here are all those books now:
Elrond stands on the bookshelf in the office now. Note about that Elrond action figure: I bought a lot of action figures and left them in the boxes. I was/am hoping that they’ll be expensive collectors’ items one day! But I loved the movie Elrond so much I had to buy two so I could take one out of the box!
I bought this journal in a bookstore and started writing in it. I wasn’t writing my thoughts, though…there was a popular and silly series of diary entries from the various characters called The Very Secret Diaries floating around the Internets back in the day, and I decided to transcribe them into the journal! I didn’t finish, but there are a few in my copy:
I made up different handwriting and used different pens for each character.
Most of my geekery is in a series of Rubbermaid tubs in my parents’ house. I’ve got the LotR chess set, LotR Trivial Pursuit game (No one ever wants to play that with me. I wonder why?), various puzzles, tons of boxed-up action figures, movie posters, and I can’t even remember what else. Oh yes…I was working on the night of the 2004 Oscars, when Return of the King was nominated in almost every category, so Mum recorded it on the VCR for me. I came home as soon as I could and watched the tape. I think I was crying by the end of the broadcast! That tape is in a bin still, even though we don’t have a VCR anymore. If you don’t remember that fateful night (shame!) that’s the year Return of the King won everything.
I’ve toned it down a bit since all the movies were released. I’ve forgotten any Sindarin I managed to teach myself. I still read the series about once a year, and the highest compliment I can give clothes is that they make me feel “elfy.” I have noticed myself pouncing on any piece of The Hobbit movie news I can find, though, so it may all come rushing back!
Lord of the Rings geekery: Been there, done that, wrote the encyclopedia.