In the Johnson household, we are crazy about all things Tolkien. Yes, we did indeed read all the books. Yes, we do love all the LOTR movies. No, it is best not to ask our more vocal Tolkien fans about the Hobbit movies. My big strong hubby nearly cried when we finally visited The Eagle and Child, a lifelong dream for him. Google it, if you don’t know what it is.
Today’s guest post is from my friend Jill Richardson, a fellow Tolkien lover and Jesus follower. I met her last year at Jen Hatmaker’s house and have been a huge fan ever since. After I met her, I found out she wrote a book called Hobbits, You and the Spiritual World. I, of course, ordered it immediately. I invited her back today because she is re-launching her book this week and I LOVE THIS BOOK! I’ll let Jill tell you more below, but be sure to join the party on Facebook to get all the details.
An Unexpected Party! by Jill Richardson
Three years ago, I wrote a book about hobbits. And elves. And dwarves. And some pretty kick-butt women as well. Mostly, about God. It was designed as a devotional for teens, but a lot of adults have loved it, too. Here’s the back cover copy:
“Hobbits, elves, and dragons have become common fantasy characters but do they have more relevance to your life than you think? Are they as real as, or the same as, people you meet every day? Maybe not literally, but J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous characters bring to life real character qualities we all can learn from, whether good or bad. What can the bravery of a hobbit, the faith of a elf, or the greed of a dragon teach teens about themselves? How can their stories lead us to the real Kingdom where God is working out way more than a fantasy for his people? Dig in to these familiar characters and relevant Bible passages to find out. Come out understanding how to live your own epic story!”
I love Tolkien, and I love teens/young adults, and I LOVE connecting the next generation to faith. It’s been a journey — an adventure, one might say! — that I can’t wait to continue.
I am having a party over on Facebook, and I would love it if you could join me. Come to the party, enter contests, win prizes, have fun, see weird photos, get recipes for hobbit food. What else could anyone want? #hobbitdevo.
- Why The Hobbit? What sparked your interest in Tolkien?
Hah. Years ago,my brother tried to get me to read the books. He said they were the greatest things ever. I tried first with The Silmarillion and said, “Yeah, right. Don’t think so.” Can you think of a better way to bore a fifteenish-year-old girl? Fast forward to years later when my husband started to read them to our girls when they were elementary school aged. I listened, saw the first movie, then picked the books up myself and devoured them. There is something magic about Tolkien’s skill mixed with real, unforgettable, and deep characters, and a story of epic good and evil fought by everyday heroes. Who else would get away with such unlikely heroes? He manages to show both the greatness and depth of evil in humankind in this small world of his.
- Why would teenagers want to read this book?
It might seem that fictional fantasy characters don’t have much in common with real teenagers. But that is so not true. They feel inadequate, afraid, angry, proud, exhausted, hopeful—all the things we all feel. Teens are looking for their adventure in life—how do they fit in this world and what is their task? In Tolkien’s world, it’s all about tasks and unique callings; it’s about normal, average people finding their place and doing great things. How do they do it?
- How is this book different from all the other ones out there on this topic?
Well, I have a professor who endorsed my book who said in his reply email, “When I first received your request, I thought, ‘No, not another one of those books! Then I read it and loved it.’” So—it’s not another one of those books? Another reviewer called it “delightfully sarcastic and irreverent while deeply spiritual.” I rather like being called that.
- What’s here they won’t get in the book or the movie?
What is the unique Christian perspective Tolkien wrote with that may not have translated into film? Also, teens can see themselves in these characters when they study them individually. They have take home value.
- Who is your favorite character in the book? Why?
Sooo hard to answer. I have to say I love Eowyn. I didn’t at first; I thought she was too cold and discontent. But her loyalty and fierce need to do something important—I can so relate to that. Plus, she’s a princess who isn’t afraid to pick up a sword and fight for what matters to her. How cool is that? I love strong female models, since I have three girls.
- Describe the process of writing each chapter.
Fun? A lot of fun. But other than that . . . I figured out what really stood out as far as a character trait or lesson for each person. Some were easy—some difficult. Then, where do you see that in the book? It was tough using only one quote! Where do you see that in Scripture? How can a person apply that Scripture to daily life? I tried to be very, very practical and fun while working with serious stuff. I think it worked.
- What was the best moment in working on this book?
It had to be when I got the endorsement from said professor. He’s a giant in the field, and I knew sending the request it was such a reach. No way I’d even make it past the gatekeepers. But I did. It felt like I’d applied to Harvard and got a scholarship. I learned a great lesson in just going for it.
- So, the movies. Pro, con–are you a purist or an action-adventure junkie?
Hmm. Leaning more toward the former. But not completely. The thing for me is character development. What makes a story great is what choices the character has to make and how his or her journey is followed. The first Hobbit movie did OK in that regard, but I really think the second one failed. It lost track of its focus. I don’t mind additions and changes that help move things along—I LOVED the LOTR movies, changes and all. But in this last installment the main character is all but forgotten. It seems he’s just sold out to a lot of video game crap I’d expect from lesser directors.
- Why do you think Tolkien is of such enduring interest to people?
The reasons I mention in question one. People can completely relate to his characters. They are not larger than life—they are us. (Except maybe a wizard or two. They’re a bit larger than we are.) They don’t start out amazing—they grow into it with hard work and love. That’s who we are, or who we should be. And we know that. We feel it. It’s very real. Also, everyone feels intrinsically called to something important. We are constantly seeking that. Some find it—some don”t. But we’re pulled toward stories that speak to that.
- Do you really own Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit and can you really beat anyone at it?
Short answer—yes. Thought I am a bit rusty. OK, my middle daughter and I are a pretty matched pair. But put the two of us together on a team—yeah, bring it on.
- Tell me something more about you.
I used to teach high schoolers, and I loved it. Odd enough for you? I truly think they are a great age. I’ve spent ten years working in community theater, performing and directing. I have pictures of me doing so that will never see the light of Facebook. Pink hair, purple tights, giant false eyelashes? Yep, I’ve done it on stage. But—I’m a flaming introvert. Hugely so. I am also a pastor, which is a fun bit of mold breaking as well as serious stuff. I love my three daughters and one husband, manage our three cats, garden on an acre in the western suburbs of Chicago, and plan our next vacation as soon as we get home from the last one.
Read more from Jill on her website.