Well, here it is the first in a series of articles by Mark-Edmond about Tolkien and Middle Earth.

If you want to comment on what Mark is writing about go for it, go to the MessageBoard and comment away. I’m really looking forward to this quite a bit. So without any more ramblings, here it is:

“I haven’t read Tolkien. Well, okay, I think I started the Hobbit at one point, but didn’t get very far. And then I saw some animated TV or movie version of the Hobbit. But, that was all at least 10 years ago, I’m thinking, and a vague picture of an animated Bilbo taking a ring (that turns the bearer invisible) from the hideous Golem whose pet-name for the ring is “”Precious,”” is all that I can remember.

At any rate, some friends of mine-avid Tolkien fans-have created this web site for other Tolkien aficionados. On the one hand it’s the home of the “Countdown to the Lord of the Rings movies.” On the other (much larger hand) it’s the beginning of a dynamic community; a place for people to come and share and discuss anything Tolkien-not just the upcoming movies.

These two friends of mine, Ted and Jonathan, have such respect and such high esteem for Tolkien as a person, a writer, and a creator, I began to think, “”maybe I should give this Tolkien fellow a try.”” Besides, I’ve been a fan of fantasy since before I was a teenager, and as a recent graduate with a degree in history, I’m interested in going to the roots of the modern fantasy genre. That would be Tolkien-arguably the “”father of the modern fantasy genre,”” as Jonathan calls him.

I’ve decided to read The Lord of the Rings trilogy. But, not yet. I’m going to start with the Silmarillion and the Hobbit. Doing so isn’t absolutely necessary, I’m told; The Lord of the Rings is supposedly very good on its own. But, I’ve heard such good things about The Silmarillion, and how it really gives the reader a much greater understanding of the “”big picture,”” of what’s going on behind the events in The Lord of the Rings, that I’m anxious to digest it before starting with The Lord of the Rings, itself. The Hobbit, which is perhaps more of a kids book, is referred to on occasion in The Lord of the Rings, so I thought I should be familiar with it, as well. So, I’m being sure to “”cover all the bases,”” before I begin on my quest through the trilogy.

Now, Ted has had The Silmarillion, read in its entirety by Martin Shaw, on CD for a while now, and he and Jonathan both listened to it. From what they’ve said, The Silmarillion really is fantastic-if perhaps a bit tedious at times. I’m a terribly slow reader and the Silmarillion is quite long and can be a very slow read (not the perfect combination). So, I’m looking forward to being able to listen to it, instead.

As I listen to The Silmarillion and read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, I’ll be submitting a brief (and I do mean brief) play-by-play (chapter-by-chapter) of my reactions, thoughts, and overall impressions of Tolkien’s work. I am, after all, pretty much a Tolkien virgin, and I welcome you all to follow me as I’m “de-virginized,” if you will.

If you haven’t read (or listened to) The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, or The Lord of the Rings, you probably don’t want to read my columns–I’ll most definitely spoil it for you. Instead, why not get The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy today and follow along? Then, you can compare your reactions with mine. In fact, feel free to send in your own comments along the way. As we journey through these books, chances are you’ll find yourself disagreeing with me, or catching something I may have missed.

Or, if you have read The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit, but it’s been a while, why not read (or listen to) The Silmarillion and read them again? Chances are you’ll see something new-especially if you haven’t yet experienced The Silmarillion. One small request, though, please don’t include information from later in the books when you send in your own comments and reactions-remember this is my first time.

I’ll be honest. I’m a bit of a skeptic, so if Tolkien comes close to deserving the praise some of you hardcore fans give him, I’ll definitely be surprised. I’m certainly not expecting The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings to be bad. But, come on! Can anyone, really be that good?

We’ll just have to see, now, won’t we?”