Or the Ins and Outs of Tolkien Fandom

John Howe writes: Meeting Tolkien fans is invariably an engaging experience – occasionally delightful, sometimes moving, often a little scary – but never ordinary.

It’s not that they form an always identifiable body, like Trekkies – who I find a little frightening – I mean, to lavish such attention on costumes that look like something Yves Saint-Laurent binned as a bad idea in the 70’s is beyond me, and do we REALLY need more than one Mr. Spock ? – or the exuberant kaleidoscope of Star Wars fans. Tolkien fans come in many shapes, sizes and disguises, from über-serious comma-counters to elegant and flighty Elves. (I’ve just learned that there is debate amongst Star Trek fans as to the correct denomination; “Trekkers” being apparently preferred by those “Trekkies” who “have a life”. Why do I find this deeply perturbing?)

Some encounters with fans are quite striking. I was sitting once in a tiny wee book fair in deepest rural France, my mind absorbed with wondering what I was doing there and doing a complicated sketch in a book to pass the time, when, in the top corner of my vision, two enormous, Kong-like sets of hairy knuckles lowered themselves down on the table in front of me. I raised my eyes, which travelled up two chain-mail (!) clad forearms the size of my thighs, over a mantle of fur, to a hirsute face set off by quite startling eyes (or at least the glints I could make put under the beetling brows). “Sir Howe, I am Boern,” it rumbled. I nearly jumped out of my skin (until I remembered Beorn only ate honey.) Continue…