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March 25, 2010

Geek Out!: Happy Tolkien Reading Day!

Posted: 09:50 AM ET
The Fellowship Festival 2004
The Fellowship Festival 2004

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's Marquee and SciTech blogs

Every year since 2003, fans of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic tales have gathered on March 25 for meetups at local libraries, schools, universities and elsewhere to celebrate the works of one of the original geek icons.

March 25 is the date that Sauron, the evil overlord, is overthrown in Tolkien's "Return of the King."

It all started when the Tolkien Society, a group dedicated to the "Lord of the Rings" author, were approached by a journalist who asked why there was no day of celebration for Tolkien to match the one for James Joyce.

Thus, Tolkien Reading Day was born.

Each year, there is a different theme for the day (this year it's "Tolkien's Seafarers"). Fans - encouraged to attend in costume, of course - read aloud some of their favorite sections for about ten minutes or less, and participate in "musical interludes." Some people even bring recordings of Tolkien himself giving a reading.

Since the final Oscar-winning film of the "Lord of the Rings" series was released, Tolkien Reading Day has been the main event to bring Tolkien fans back to basics.

One of the most popular forums at Tolkien fansite, is "The Reading Room."

Patricia Dawson, a senior staff member with the site, said that the original purpose of the site 11 years ago was to post the latest news about Peter Jackson's films (Jackson, and subsquently, Guillermo Del Toro, have a close relationship with the site). Since then, she said, the site, with its 4,500 message board members, has been even more "grounded in (Tolkien's) works and readings." The aforementioned "Reading Room" is a place for scholarly discussion.

Fans, young and old, flock to Tolkien Reading Day, according to Dawson. Some of them were fans long before the idea of having an online community first came about.

Young children, she said, "do some of the best readings I’ve ever seen." She has even heard of 24-hour reading marathons taking place.

To be sure, the long-awaited "Hobbit" movie is still a big topic among fans online. Del Toro keeps visitors aware of the latest developments, including recent "enquires from above" about releasing it in 3-D, in the aftermath of "Avatar."

Until "The Hobbit" hits theaters, however, fans will continue to pay tribute every year to the man who first wrote that book over 70 years ago.

If you stop by your local library today, you might just be get the opportunity to join them.

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Filed under: Geek Out! • pop culture

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Taliesin   March 25th, 2010 10:33 am ET

Great post! Glad to see the spotlight on one of my favourite activites featuring one of my favourite authors!

A Hobbit's Tale» Blog Archive » Happy Tolkien Reading Day   March 25th, 2010 12:04 pm ET

[...] Links of interest: CNN discusses Tolkien Reading Day: [...]

Anthony R. Miller » Post Topic » Happy Tolkien Reading Day   March 25th, 2010 12:05 pm ET

[...] Links of interest: CNN discusses Tolkien Reading Day: [...]

Sarnatauron   March 25th, 2010 12:39 pm ET

Tolkien made his hobbits small of stature to show that they did not share in the large ambitions shared by the other races of Middle Earth; therefore, they were able to save the world. In a perfect world, this lesson could be learned by those who have desecrated this age with hatefulness, spitting and stonewalling. Unfortunately, the world does not seem to be leaning toward perfection.

Guest Poster   March 25th, 2010 12:45 pm ET

The society has also sponsored Hobbit Day (Sept 22) as well as Tolkien Week (the week that includes Hobbit Day, Sept 19-25, 2010) for many years.

Due Due   March 25th, 2010 12:46 pm ET

Best books ever. I feel sorry for kids these days reading this half-ass rip-off fantasy called Harry Potter. It really is sad. LOTR is one of my most memorable childhood novels and is one of the greatest stories in literature.

Kania   March 25th, 2010 12:51 pm ET

I'm a big Tolkien's fan love his books.

Happy Defeat of Sauron Day… « Blood and Stardust   March 25th, 2010 1:17 pm ET

[...] #gallery-1 { margin: auto; } #gallery-1 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 33%; } #gallery-1 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-1 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } [...]

SeattleSheila   March 25th, 2010 1:18 pm ET

Time to dust off my copies of LOTR and rediscover them. It doesn't matter how many time you do it, you find or see something new each time.

David Fisher   March 25th, 2010 1:30 pm ET

I loved the trilogy and the Silmarillion. Read on my fellow Tolkeinians!

Kevin Kittelson   March 25th, 2010 1:36 pm ET

How cool, I had no idea but I just picked up The Hobbit two days ago to read it again (for about the 25th time).

Mort the Sport   March 25th, 2010 1:45 pm ET

To Due Due: I have read the books eight times and I think it is the best story ever told. However, don't dismiss Harry Potter. Those novels have done more to engage youth to read more than any single event or writing. Millions of kids have picked up a book due to Harry Potter. FYI, the LOTR is indeed geared towards an older youth, whereas H.P appeals to younger children and adults as well.

Gail   March 25th, 2010 2:17 pm ET

I read the books in 1972 for the first time, and for many years, have celebrated the overthrow of Sauron by dipping into a favorite chapter or two. Gorgon, we are not freaks, but we enjoy the amazing skill and literary talent it took to create these books. I agree with David Fisher (above)- READ ON!!!!

old vaudevillian   March 25th, 2010 2:19 pm ET

I loved these books as a child, but now I cannot help but think that they are racist, masogynistic and glorify war. Sorry, I guess I grew up.

wist   March 25th, 2010 2:19 pm ET

I love Tolkien books but I just have one word


Move out of your parents basements.

drow   March 25th, 2010 2:19 pm ET

anything that gets kids to read = all good

except the sparkly vampire books.

Sean   March 25th, 2010 3:09 pm ET

I am not much of a reader as I find most books can't keep my attention the whole way through. I can say that when I read The Hobbit many years back, I recall not being able to put it down and is one of the very few books that I've finished – cover to cover. Tolkien had the nack of to stir my imagination and for that he gets the 'Big Ups' from me! 🙂

Gail   March 25th, 2010 3:32 pm ET

Hey wist...I not only don't live in my parent's basement, my children don't live in mine!!!

Old can a story which glorifies a variety of races/peoples gathering together to defeat a single evil be racist? A story in which women get to do things that no man can achieve- how can that be MISogynist? And a story where young men return from war changed not for the better, and where good men die needlessly be said to glorify war? Hemmingway glorified war. Tolkien learned first hand the horrible cruelty and waste of war. I grew up too, and as I have, I've learned that the story gives me new things to think about each time I've read it.

Gimli Richardson   March 25th, 2010 3:34 pm ET

If anyone thinks these stories are racist, misogynistic, and glorify war, then they really don't understand the author and his intentions. He fought in the Great War (WW I) and had no love of it; and was a lover of things natural. He had more in common with his Hobbits than he did his other heroes and peoples. He held no hatred or distrust of women, but rather held them up as examples of righteouness and purity. If you've out-grown the stories that is fine; to each his own. But don't hear what is not being said.

Roon   March 25th, 2010 3:48 pm ET

Old vaudevillian, you miss the point of the books entirely. Racist? The nine-member Fellowship had no less that four different races as members, plus Gandalf. Glorify war? The purpose of the Fellowship was the destruction of the most powerful weapon in the world.

So you grew up, huh? Sounds like it would have been better for you to have remained a child, or childlike. Maybe you should re-read Tolkien's works, and get back in touch with who you were back then... we would all do well to maintain a childlike sense of wonder at the world, I think, and the world would be better for it.

new vaudvillian   March 25th, 2010 3:52 pm ET

old vaudevillian = has either never read/understood JRR's works, or is a REAL troll.

I will now stop feeding the trolls.

seriously?   March 25th, 2010 4:02 pm ET

old vaudevillian – "I loved these books as a child, but now I cannot help but think that they are racist, masogynistic and glorify war. Sorry, I guess I grew up."

- Seriously Dude(ette)? The man was orphaned young, eventually became very close friends with his literary colleagues, only to serve in the "Great" War and see most if not all of them die.

/begin sarcasm
Ya, war must have seemed very "glorious" to him.
/end sarcasm

Go grow up some more.

LJ   March 25th, 2010 4:06 pm ET

A lot of you really need to get out a little more often, and you might even try getting a date.

Ralf The Dog   March 25th, 2010 4:20 pm ET

These books are a nice short read. I do think that kids who grow up only reading short stories like this as well as War and Peace should read longer more complex works as well.

John   March 25th, 2010 4:59 pm ET

Due Due: "Best books ever."

Sorry, but you really need to get out and read more stuff. While I love Tolkien and his novels (and try to read them at least once every other year), they are, quite frankly, loaded with poor phrasing and not very strong storytelling (five pages to describe a tree, anyone?).

I'll also speak in favor of J.K. Rowling's writing because comparing the two is comparing apples and oranges. Tolkien wrote "High Fantasy", Rowling writes "Urban Fantasy" (along with Charles de Lint, Neil Gaiman, and numerous others). Both are excellent subgenres when done well.

To LJ: I write the above as a happily married man with a PhD in Literature (specializing in medieval and fantasy lit).

Happy (Belated) Tolkien Reading Day? « The Pirates! In an Adventure with the Stock Market   March 25th, 2010 11:55 pm ET

[...] a Comment Wow.  I mean, I'm a fan too, but wow.  Hahaha!  Evidently, today was officially Tolkien Reading Day!  Some are going so far as to go a full 24 hours of nothing but reading their favorite Tolkien [...]

Shadowmist   March 26th, 2010 11:42 am ET

so a journalist wondered why there was no day for Tolkien when there was for James Joyce?

I'm as big a fan of the Professor's works as the next, but one would have to concede that his books did not have exactly the social relevance of say... Ulyssses. Tolkien is simply not nearly as important a writer as Joyce when it comes to social impact.

I also occasionally have a problem with his catergorisation of pretty fair races as good and dark "ugly" skinned races i.e. "orcs" as always evil It seems very much an echo of standard white English prejudice.

Feliz Dia de Leitura Tolkien | Tudo Pop   April 10th, 2010 5:05 pm ET

[...] dia, desde de 2003, os fãs de Tolkien se reunem para envergonhar seus pais em lugares públicos. [CNN] [...]

Tolkien Reading Day Goes Mainstream | Tolkien Studies Blog   August 28th, 2011 7:33 pm ET

[...] has now officially recognized Tolkien Reading Day another in a growing list of misappropriated Gregorian Calendar dates applied to Tolkien's [...]

Amelia   October 26th, 2011 6:40 pm ET

I love this post! It's like a website for fans. 🙂 href="

Sheeja   April 4th, 2012 12:48 am ET

Just a little FYI: My fehatr is a English and Literature professor at a Bible University, and he teaches a class called "Inklings." Named after the writing group that C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams were apart of, the class has a wealth of knowledge about their writings.If your daughter ever needs any info for her studies, let me know! I can easily put her in contact with my dad...(P.S. in case you don't know, I am apart of the TOS Review Crew, so you can get my contact info there.)

Happy Tolkien Reading Day! – JANUARY MAGAZINE   June 23rd, 2015 6:07 am ET

[...] The full piece is here. [...]

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