Our dear Kendra from Knitted By God's Plan is planning the release of her next book, The Ankulen! And to celebrate the exciting event, she hosting a series of world-building posts in which she discusses the many different and memorable worlds that have influenced and inspired her. And, the kind blogger that she is, she has invited us all to join in the fun! And how could any world be more memorable than Middle-earth, the home of hobbits, dragons, elves, dwarves, and Rhosgobel rabbits? :)
To start things off, let me tell you how I was introduced to this world of J. R. R. Tolkien's. I first learned of Middle-earth just after The Return of the King came out in 2003. My aunt and uncle watched the films, and knowing my family's love of classic and fantasy, recommended that my parents watch them. My dad was familiar with LOTR, having read it and enjoyed it when he was younger, so he and Mom watched them. However, they told us that if we wanted to watch the movies, we had to read the books first. So, we got our copies and dutifully began reading, starting with The Hobbit first.
I must say, the first time through Tolkien's books was difficult for me. I had just come from reading The Boxcar Children and such books, so LOTR was something entirely new. And big. I wandered through most of the chapters, not exactly sure what was going on, but I managed to read all three of them. My older sister Beth had also finished the books at that point, so we pestered our parents to watch the movies. First viewing... we were hooked. I had always enjoyed fantasy, but LOTR took it to new heights. From that, we watched the extended editions of the films, which I abslobloominglutely recommend to any who loves Tolkien as I. I've also read The Silmarillian, The Children of Hurin, the appendices in the back of The Return of the King, and watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. And yes, I am very much looking forward to the extended AUJ as well as The Desolation of Smaug. I won't go about that, because it could fill an entire post. Quite a lengthy post, in fact.
But why is Middle-earth so memorable? One reason I believe it is so is because of the way Tolkien portrayed it. The classic story, the unforgettable characters... it's the kind of stuff that stays with you. That means something. Even if you were too small to understand why. It's not some fluff and nonsense tale. When you're reading Tolkien's works, you don't think about it being a story. It becomes real. The characters are real. Tolkien believed them real, so how could we do any less?
Middle-earth has touched fiction, especially fantasy, in a way that no other story has ever touched the literary world. Tolkien's world has influenced so many writers, myself included. Elves are no longer the tiny, fat people who follow Santa Claus around and make toys. Neither are they pixie-like beings who glow in the dark and eat berries. Who thinks of them anymore when we have the regal inhabitants of Lothlorien and Mirkwood? Dwarves are no longer the stumpy, cartooned people who appear beside Snow White with funny hats and spectacles. Who, when hearing the the word dwarf, can imagine anything other than the dark bearded characters who wield axes and sing about blunting knives? Middle-earth has changed the face of fantasy.
Tolkien has also influenced writers to include maps alongside the stories. Who, after reading LOTR, has ever had the urge to make a map of his or her own? Tolkien made his maps so detailed, that one does not simply forget them. The mountains encasing Mordor... the long string of the Great River... the shadows of Mirkwood... the cheery face of the Shire... the elegance of Lothlorien... the homey atmosphere of Bag End... the lonesomeness of the crossroads... Weathertop... Minas Morgul... etc. You cannot mention one of these places without conjuring to mind images of Middle-earth.
One last thing... for those of you wondering about my opinion on the magic in LOTR, please read this post.