There’s so much to be written (and has been written about) Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, but to me it’s the oliphant in the room. I first read these books when I was eleven or twelve, so my reading tastes grew up in the shadow of Tolkien. For my generation, Tolkien’s influence was doubly amplified by the wildly successful film franchise and the even more successful YA/children’s fantasy genre he inspired, which hit the ground running and hasn’t slowed down since. Whenever I come across an orc, or dwarf, or a highly advanced race of beings who live in the woods in a fantasy book, I think of Tolkien. Tolkien even changed the way we spell the plural form of noun, “dwarf” to “dwarves,” which now exists alongside the original, “dwarfs.” The Lord of the Rings had a wide resounding effect, too, in the visual arts, rock music, and video games. Like the tentacles at the Gates of Moria, Tolkien seems to come out of nowhere to latch on to readers and drag them into his immersive world.
For me, the deep legendarium full of mountain fortresses and swords guided a childhood obsession with the Medieval era, which over time grew into an academic interest in historical research. My friends and family still know me as the “fantasy guy” or the “Medieval history guy”. Getting an email from a friend with a history joke or a text about reading Fellowship of the Ring yet again always brightens my day and reminds of the ways I’m connected through one book series.
-- Aaron Heil, Library Assistant / Readers' Advisor