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I’ve thought about this moment for so long – the moment when I sat down to put my final thoughts in writing. Though this will be a long post, I don’t think it can do justice to the 900-some that I’ve already put down. There is much I want to say, but it will always be dwarfed by the enormity of writing a post every single day for two and a half years. Did I actually write more words than Tolkien in this tale? I might have. It’s close, at any rate. It doesn’t matter. The final product, or the end, is much less when compared to the whole, the journey. So, I sit here, taking my first sips of a scotch given to me by my father for Christmas 2012 (I saved it for a special occasion, which I learned would be this moment), trying to explain what all this was and what it meant.

Let’s start at the beginning. What a very good place to start.

It was the summer of 2011. I had just graduated from college at Northwestern University about a month and a half prior, and I was bored. Hammered into my brain by commencement speeches (one from the biggest Tolkien nerd of them all, Mr. Stephen Colbert) was the idea that I had to make my own way. I went to school for theatre, so that meant that I was looking to make art – to create something. I didn’t know what to do. I was auditioning, of course, and looking for day jobs to pay the bills that were about to kick in (I still hadn’t moved out of my college apartment, though I would shortly), but I hadn’t found a job, and I don’t believe that I had even yet auditioned for the first role that I would land, which was, coincidentally, from the first audition I had post-graduation.

In case you’re curious, this is about the point where my word count equals near to the length of an average post. We’re going WAY over that today.

Okay, I guess this post can have pictures.

Okay, I guess this post can have pictures.

At the time, I really felt the need to make something, and make something original. Unfortunately, I’ve never quite had the ability to come up with something all my own. I had some ideas, but they never amounted to anything. Then, I got a gift. On a trip out to the East Coast to see my girlfriend’s family, her mother gave me my birthday present early. It was the beautiful, leather-bound 50th Anniversary Edition of The Lord of the Rings. Upon returning home, I knew I had to do something special with this book. I wanted to delve into it as deeply as I could, and combining that desire with an oddly unique short story concept (Jorge Luis Borges’ “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote”), I had my plan.

For those of you who might not have been aware, I actually wrote the entirety of Lord of the Rings as I wrote this blog. I typed it up, purely for myself, in a plain text document. This mimics what Borges’ character does, rewriting Don Quixote word for word. The narrator of Borges’ story, a book reviewer, finds Menard’s version of Don Quixote more insightful than the original. Theoretically, that can’t be possible. It’s the same book, but that’s the quirk of the magical realism. Something is new about it – updated, modern. Menard was a genius.

I am not a genius. If I was, this would probably have turned into a source of income, or at least wildly popular online. “If no one’s paying you after 500 pages,” a friend told me shortly after beginning, “you might want to stop.” I laughed that off. This was never meant to be classically successful, but interesting, fun, and a way to get my creative juices flowing. Sure, the scope of this project was mind-numbing (1000 straight days?!), but I thought that added to the challenge. I have to admit, I really did think I’d screw up at some point or another, out of boredom, anger, or other things keeping me busy. I never did. I hung with it. That friend from above? “It’s quite the stunning achievement,” he said just last night. He’s actually a professional TV/book/film critic over at the AV Club. He knows things.

Meanwhile, I'm more like Jon Snow.

Meanwhile, I’m more like Jon Snow.

As for end goals, I…didn’t really have any, or know what they might be. I wanted to know more about Lord of the Rings, sure, but that was more of a hobby interest. I wanted to create my own art. Yes, I did that. Also, some part of me wants to write a book at some point in my life. It’s a side dream. I don’t want to be a writer professionally, but I do enjoy it. And I thought that if I could literally write this great work myself (meaning Lord of the Rings), maybe I would understand a little bit more about how to author such a piece. I don’t know if I really got that, but I understand how quotes and semicolons work better now. That’s a start.

In truth, I probably learned more general life lessons than anything else. Routines are good; they’re something to hold on to, but they can also drag you down into monotony. While I always knew that I would at least have a small part of my day blocked off for focused writing, I also always had a twinge of anxiety that I had to get it done. That feeling when you get home at 3am and you know you still have to hammer out a cogent blog post? Not a good one. That similar feeling when you go to bed knowing that you have next to no time the following day to do your post? Also not great. (I wrote posts as early as 5am, and as late as 4am.) But I did it, and somehow, I know now that I can commit to doing things like that. I’ll find the time. If you really want to do something, and you make it a priority, it’ll happen.

In other life lessons, creating is hard work, but it can be done at times of need. I think it’s a romantic notion that inspiration will always be there when your greatest work happens. As much as I want to be a romantic, that’s just not true. Sometimes, you have to slog through something. Sometimes, something great comes out of it. It doesn’t always, but once you get started, you can hit that rhythm. Getting started when you’re not feeling it is the hardest thing. I still have that problem with a lot of things I do that are self-motivated. Just start. Get those first lines out, onto the page or into the room, and perhaps great things will follow. In a way, you create your own inspiration.

…I think I was inspired a bit by writing that.

So, what do I do now? Well, for a long time, I’ve meant to read The Silmarillion. I actually haven’t done that before. That’s on my list, along with reading Lord of the Rings for pleasure at a totally normal pace. I read fast, so I could probably have it done in a week or two instead of two and a half years. That will be a different experience. Though some people have asked, I have no plans to do this sort of project again anytime soon (and no, not with The Hobbit). It was a lot of work, and I want to focus some of that energy in other places now. I’d like to use my new-found hour or two every day towards other endeavors, whatever they may be. We’ll see.

That’s it, at least for the part of this post that most people will care about. Below, I’m going to list some fun facts, along with some special thanks to those who helped me along the way. This was a wild ride in many ways, some that I didn’t expect. Thanks for joining me, in whatever small way, in the musings of my strange mind.

P.S. Have you ever hovered your cursor over one of the pictures on the blog? There’s ALT text hidden there! REPLAY VALUE!

——————————————————————-

Fun facts! A lot of things happened since I started this blog. Let’s talk about them.

The blog was started (with the introductory post) on July 26th, 2011. It has been…

996 days since then! 2 years, 8 months, and 22 days!

Where did I post all these posts?

-Evanston, IL (my apartment, a Starbucks in town, possibly other places)

-Chicago, IL (my apartment, friends’ apartments, the French Market at Ogilvie Transportation Center, the office where I worked, possibly other places)

-St. Charles, IL (my parents’ house)

-St. Louis, MO (friend’s apartment, a hotel just outside of town)

-Spring Lake, NJ (a bed and breakfast on the shore, girlfriend’s grandfather’s house)

-Austin, TX (my apartment, friends’ house, a hotel in town)

I think that’s everywhere!

I spent two and a half years reading ONE book, but I read others, too!

-The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay

Ender’s Game

A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, A Dance with Dragons

Neverwhere

-Lots of plays

I think that’s everything!

I recorded songs! About those…

I recorded 66 separate tracks, totaling 39 different songs (and one medley). According to my iTunes, it totals 1 hour and 33 minutes of music. Meanwhile, I totally learned how to play the ukulele…but not so much the mandolin. (Still working!)

And what about other things going on in my life? During this time…

-I’ve lived in three different apartments in three cities – Evanston and Chicago, IL and Austin, TX.

-I’ve had three “major” jobs. (And numerous part-time or temp positions.)

-I’ve performed in three plays, five films, one TV documentary, one local commercial, five voiceover spots, and one really awkward a cappella concert.

-I’ve had one amazingly supportive girlfriend.

The above being said, let’s get to the people I want to thank.

-Briana, my girlfriend, who doesn’t think this is at all strange.

-Barb and Peter, my parents, who don’t understand this, but “skim” it anyway.

-Debbie and Jeff, my girlfriend’s parents, who bought me the book in the first place.

-J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote the book in the first place.

-Jorge Luis Borges, who wrote a strange short story that inspired me in a strange way.

-Sharon and Anakin, friends who kept up every day, and who I believe are my top commenters.

-Dan, a friend who I’m pretty sure read most of this, and who started his own short-lived blog.

-Sam, a friend who I’m pretty sure didn’t read most of this, but who would totally get each and every one of my jokes.

-Ned, a friend whose blog (though never finished) inspired me to start my own.

-Kevin, a friend who I admire immensely as a writer and creative thinker.

-Phil, a reader who I inspired to finish his own project, and whose project inspired me to keep on going.

-Justin, a friend whose motivation inspires me, and my roommate for two of these years.

-Matt, a friend whose exuberance at the discovery of this blog was unmatched.

-/r/tolkienfans, a subreddit where my blog got just a small bit of publicity, and a community of Tolkien enthusiasts who talk about really interesting things. It was here that I first got hooked on Reddit. (I try to help out when I can, especially with textual evidence! Hint: my account name is an anagram of Pierre Menard!)

-You, reader, because no thank you list would be complete without a cheesy shout-out to you, whoever you are!

That’s all, folks! Live well, do interesting things, and be happy! It’s more fun that way.

-Dave

This ends now.

Home again.

Home again.

Sam, Merry, and Pippin ride home in silence. Merry and Pippin ride on ahead once they arrive back in the Shire, and Sam returns to Bag End. Rosie is waiting for him with dinner and his daughter. All is well.

That’s the end.

Admittedly, I find this post more difficult than what I have planned for tomorrow, because I’ve been thinking about those thoughts for quite a while. Today is, after all, just another normal post. Like the end of many chapters, it’s not even a full page, and the action is rather simple. If it weren’t the end of the book, there wouldn’t be much more to say. However, because it is the end, there’s more meaning.

I find the style of the narrative at the end very interesting. “And he went on, and there was yellow light, and fire within,” it goes. There’s a lot of “and” this, “and” that, and it feels like someone rambling on about unimportant events. It’s the start of Sam’s new life – the happy life he’s always wanted at home in the Shire. Things aren’t dramatic or epic. He can settle down to live happily.

This is part of the reason why Frodo had to leave. Frodo (like Bilbo) had a flair for adventure. Once dragged into the journey, he let it consume him. He learned an immeasurable amount about himself, but he was never able to shake the restless nerves that he grew to live with over the course of the tale. Frodo accepted that he must take the ring, and even volunteered to do so at the Council of Elrond. Sam, on the other hand, never really did that. He got lumped in with Frodo when Gandalf discovered him listening in, and Sam’s thoughts to keep him in good spirits on the road were almost always of home. He has an easier time slipping back to his good life at peace.

And so, the end isn’t a big deal. It’s the beginning of a new tale, but not one that will keep us gripped with excitement. We leave our heroes here.

...is the beginning.

…is the beginning.

Of course, this isn’t quite my end. I have a retrospective conclusion planned for tomorrow. What have I learned? What was it like? What are some cool/fun facts? What’s next? I’m going to post a big long bunch of thoughts tomorrow to say a lot about this experience.

Just over two and a half years ago, I sat down to write a blog. It went by incredibly fast. I regret to announce that – though, as I said, two and a half years is far too short a time to to write among you – this is the END. I am going. I am leaving NOW. GOOD-BYE!

No one dies today.

“‘Well, I’m back,’ he said.”

I started to feel the first pangs of emotion when reading/typing today’s page. This probably won’t be startlingly hard for me, but something feels so final about this. Two more.

Frodo, Sam, Bilbo, and the elves ride up to the Grey Havens, where Círdan, the shipwright, greets them. Standing by a white boat is Gandalf, dressed in white and with his ring showing. Merry and Pippin ride up quickly behind the group, having been summoned by Gandalf. He doesn’t want Sam to ride back alone.

Friends are good!

Friends are good!

The time comes for those leaving to sail away. The ship dwindles into the horizon, and Frodo sees the white shores approach sometime in the night through the rain clearing into a sunrise. Sam stands back at the Grey Havens with Merry and Pippin long into the night.

First Mentions:

-the Far Downs: Hills far to the west of the Shire. Downs are all over the place.

-Narya: Gandalf’s ring of the Three, the Ring of Fire. “Wielder of the Flame of Anor!”

I’m a little struck by the timeline here, but I think it’s purposefully contracted. The narrative makes it seem like Frodo’s journey across the sea takes but one night. I don’t think that can be possible, but it could be true…with some magic. All things are well in the word, after all, and the winds and waves should be with them.

And one line has always stood with me from this page: “…he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.” For some reason, I had always thought that those were the last lines of the book. They’re not; I learned that some time ago, but it always feels more final than what the end truly is. In truth, there’s somewhat of a short “epilogue” to follow with Sam returning to the Shire, but I guess I feel like the story ends with Frodo’s departure.

Some people argue that Sam is the real main character in this huge story of many. I don’t disagree, but I just like that line so much. It does feel like the end to me, and it’s what made me just a touch emotional today.

Feels.

Feels.

Okay, okay, I wasn’t crying or anything, but it felt…weird.

Words My Computer Didn’t Like:

-Narya

How cool is it, on the second to last page, that we’re still finding new things? Novel from beginning to end, this…um, novel.

We end tomorrow. (Conclusion to follow that.)

No one dies today.

“Beside him stood Merry and Pippin, and they were silent.”

Yes, one more journey. No, we won’t be following it closely. Frodo’s leaving.

Appropriate James Van Der Beek moment.

Appropriate James Van Der Beek moment.

Having never found true happiness back in the Shire, Frodo intends to leave Middle-earth on a ship with the elves and Bilbo. As ring-bearers, they are allowed to join. Frodo wishes for Sam to ride with them, at least to the Grey Havens, before returning home. He has so much more to live for back in the Shire, and Frodo wants him to go live his life to its fullest.

And so, they ride, passing through the Shire hardly noticeably.

First Mentions:

-Frodo: A future child of Sam’s, when he finally does have a boy.

-Rosie: Another future Gamgee, named for her mother.

-Merry: Sensing a pattern?

-Goldilocks: What?! That’s not someone we know.

-Pippin: Okay, Sam does eventually name his children after all his friends.

So…no one can see them? I see this one way: Galadriel’s ring still has some of its power. We learned earlier (MUCH earlier) that her ring, Nenya, has the power of hiding things its owner wishes to keep hidden. Is she using it now? Unfortunately, the power is leaving the Three as the One Ring has been destroyed, but perhaps there’s enough left in there to help the band along their way. I actually totally see the value in going about unnoticed. This wouldn’t be a good time for random hobbits to be running up to Elrond and Galadriel, wanting to hang out with some elves.

OHMYGOD I NEED A PICTURE WITH THIS PERSON.

OHMYGOD I NEED A PICTURE WITH THIS PERSON.

Anyway, just like Bilbo planned his departure from the Shire, it looks like Frodo has been thinking about this for quite a while. He doesn’t have the things keeping him there like Sam does. Frodo even takes a theoretical glimpse into Sam’s future, seeing more children and Sam being elected Mayor. All of these things eventually come true.

(Sam and Rosie end up have 13 children in total, in case you were curious.)

No one dies today.

“And when they passed from the Shire, going about the south skirts of the White Downs, they came to the…”

So, when I thought we had our last song, and a nice bit of symmetry, I was wrong. Frodo sings softly to himself, followed by a response from elves in the forest. Sam watches a whole band, led by Elrond and Galadriel, emerge out of the trees. Bilbo rides just behind the lead. They greet Frodo and Sam, and Lady Galadriel remarks that Sam has used her gift (the soil and mallorn seed) well.

These hands are too clean.

These hands are too clean.

First Mentions:

-Vilya: Elrond’s ring of the Three. Gold with a blue stone.

I’m not sure what Vilya’s power is, but it’s known also as the Ring of Air. Wind power? Nah, too Captain Planet.

And we have one last song…

Tolkien Songs In Real Life:

This is an interesting one. Technically, it’s two songs, but I figured it would make more sense to be combined into one. And…well, let’s look at it.

Frodo sings the beginning:

“Still round the corner there may wait

A new road or a secret gate;

And though I oft have passed them by,

A day will come at last when I

Shall take the hidden paths that run

West of the Moon, East of the Sun.”

Look familiar? I’ll get to it. Frodo is answered by the following from the elves:

“A! Elbereth Gilthoniel!

silivren penna míriel

o menel aglar elenath,

Gilthoniel, A! Elbereth!

We still remember, we who dwell

In this far land beneath the trees

The starlight on the Western Seas.”

Finally, I present:

And In The End

(Keep the Car Running – Arcade Fire, Clocks – Coldplay, Mykonos – Fleet Foxes)

In semi-Beatles Abbey Road medley fashion, it’s the last track, one would assume. I thought that it made sense, considering that all three “sections” of lyrics are heavily taken from earlier songs, but with minor changes. Frodo’s stanza calls back to “Keep the Walk Going”, all the way back on pages 77 and 78. The first bit of elven singing comes from “Elrocks” on page 238, and the second is from “Valinos”, page 79.

I found it fun to combine the last two songs, and they worked pretty well together. I felt that made some sense. Gildor (the elf who Frodo, Sam, and Pippin met in the Shire) rides with Elrond and Galadriel, and, though not implicitly stated, I could see his group singing the “Valinos” lines while Elrond’s house sings “Elrocks”. And it worked!

Get it.

Get it.

With that, I’m running out of steam for the night. I definitely didn’t see this song coming, so I had to spend some time this afternoon getting everything put together. Thank goodness I didn’t have to adapt the songs from total scratch. I’m okay with some repeating.

Words My Computer Didn’t Like:

-Vilya

I keep combining Gandalf’s ring (Narya) with Vilya in my mind, creating Varya, the Russian Chekhov ring of sadness.

No one dies today.

“‘So that’s settled. And now…'”

This page moves by fast. Frodo and Sam are looking at the Red Book, full of Bilbo’s and Frodo’s stories. Its title page is a mess of scratched out ideas.

Because sometimes you change the title.

Because sometimes you change the title.

Frodo’s story is unfinished, and a few pages are left blank at the end. Frodo will give the book to Sam, and now it’s Sam’s turn to write.

Frodo and Sam set out from Bag End on September 21st (the day before the big birthday day). They ride out through the Shire, seeing parts of it that they saw at the very beginning of their great journey.

First Mentions:

-Strider: Frodo’s pony, the very one that bore him all the way home from Minas Tirith. It’s no secret who he’s named after.

-the Stock Road: A road through the Shire, undoubtedly to Stock.

And, I mean, about half this page is taken up with the numerous titles, subtitles, and parenthetical additions to the titles of the Red Book. It was quite the tale, and the story’s changed since Bilbo first put it down. I think some of his edits are in there, but also those that Frodo changed or added once his story became a part of the whole. Once again, I’ll bring up that this is technically the framing device of the whole book. If you want to think of it this way, we’re reading the Red Book right now.

Or, don’t think of it that way. Sometimes it feels more like an adaptation of the Red Book. It has been mentioned that many editions are made throughout the following years and years, so it’s possible that someone eventually fleshed out this great tale from the ramblings of the two hobbits.

Well, Tolkien did that, I guess. META.

Sly dog.

Sly dog.

Finally, I want to touch on one sad note. According to the Internet (well, according to…life), the horse who played Shadowfax in the films, Blanco, has died. He fell ill some time ago, and the decision was made today to put him out of his suffering. While unfortunate, I’m sure many horses couldn’t have ever dreamed (if horses do that) of being such a beautifully prominent character on screen. And I’m sure that he lived as good a life as a horse can.

But in our story…

No one dies today.

“‘It seems like a dream now.'”

Kids! Sam has a kid! Little Elanor Gamgee is welcomed into the world on March 25th, which is odd. It’s also the date that the ring was destroyed. Sam and Frodo note the coincidence.

Life goes on, and Elanor is nearly six months old when Frodo tells Sam that Bilbo’s (and Frodo’s, too) birthday is coming up once again. He’s going to be 131, making him the oldest known hobbit ever to live.

But still awesome.

But still awesome.

Frodo has something up his sleeve. He asks Sam if Rosie will be alright with him going away for a bit, but not for long. Sam assumes that Frodo means to go visit Bilbo in Rivendell.

First Mentions:

-Elanor: Sam’s firstborn daughter! Named after the flowers of Lothlórien.

This, friends, this is our endgame. Frodo’s going away. He finishes writing/editing his and Bilbo’s book, and gives it to Sam. He also gives Sam the keys to Bag End. Just like Bilbo at the very beginning, Frodo’s decided that it’s time to go now. Not much longer, and this is the last plot point.

In happier news, Sam and Rosie wanted to name their child Frodo, but…well, Frodo isn’t a girl’s name. I’m pretty sure that they don’t have the technology yet in the Shire to know if a baby’s going to be a boy or a girl, and I guess the Gamgee family just assumed that a boy was coming. They were wrong. However, Frodo’s the one to suggest that they name her after a flower, as many hobbits do when naming baby girls. Sam picks a beautiful flower from his journey, and one that no other hobbit is sure to know.

Thank goodness they didn't name her after one of these.

Thank goodness they didn’t name her after one of these.

Words My Computer Didn’t Like:

-maildchild

-maidchildren

-beautifuller

Sam, what’s that? Beautifuller? I’ve made concessions for your ruralisms before, calling them quaint or whatever, but this may just be too far. You have a daughter now! Teach your child to speak!

No one dies today.

“At the beginning there were many leaves covered with Bilbo’s…”