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 said, “Yeah, right. Don't think so.” 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 does that matter to God? How do we learn from both of those things?
How could this book help youth leaders disciple kids?
The book takes twenty character traits everyone can relate to. It pulls that trait out of a Tolkien character and then relates it to the Bible. Can a teen learn about dealing with pride, frustration, or fear from Thorin, Eowyn, or Aragorn? Can she learn to find hope in hopelessness from Arwen? Can he understand how to channel his crazy whims from Pippin? Absolutely—and I have a few national youth leaders, college professors, and authors backing me on that claim!
What's here they won't get in the book or the movie?
A relationship between the fandom and the Bible. 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.
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.
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.
How do you see teens, parents, and churches using this book?
Of course, it's a devotional, so I see teens using it for their daily (or sort of daily, I know what it's like) reading and praying time. Parents and grandparents play a huge role in finding resources for their kids and giving them to them. Parents, youth leaders, grandparents, any caring adults in a kid's life (and let's face it, some have so few)--should be seeking out resources to help kids build character. That's really the point. That it entertains as well—bonus! I can easily see youth leaders using it in a group setting, and I actually have lesson plans for that. Best of all—give it to your friends, kids. The ones who love these movies/books but may not necessarily think about God too much.
Describe what the book is about, how it's organized, and what a reader can expect.
It's about twenty Tolkien characters, who they are, what makes them do what they do, good or bad, and how that relates to both God and the reader. As far as organization, each character is introduced, quoted, and discussed. Add a relevant Bible passage, discussion/journal questions, and action steps for each person to take going forward. Choose to memorize the short Scripture at the end. A reader can expect to be both entertained and challenged. I try to have a lot of fun with it, but I don't shy away from tough questions and applications. Teenagers are capable of asking tough questions. They are more than able to recognize things that need changing. I refuse to talk down to a teenager or make it easy for them. They are intelligent, fun, and up for a challenge, and that's what I make the book as well.
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.
Jill Richardson contact info:
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!
Jill Richardson has done a doubly difficult deed. She has written a book about the Bible and The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and she has written a book that both adults and teenagers will enjoy. Her trick is that this is a book that successfully uses Tolkien to understand the Bible instead of a book that unsuccessfully uses the Bible to understand Tolkien.
For another thing, it's a book for teenagers that most adults will also enjoy, understand, and profit from instead of a book for adults that most teenagers will enjoy, understand, and profit from (which is much more difficult). And it works. It's both sprightly and profound, funny and serious, full of loving sarcasm and realistic moral truth.
--Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy, Boston College, Author of The Philosophy of Tolkien
Author Jill Richardson may well have been born in the Shire, so well does she know the inhabitants of Tolkien's Middle Earth. But the truths in this book are anything but fantasy. They strike close to the heart where we all have the God-given desire for valorous deeds and new worlds to explore.
--Wayne Thomas Batson , Bestselling Author of The Door Within Trilogy, The Dark Sea Annals, and GHOST
Jill Richardson reminds us that the real quest from Tolkien’s books took place in the minds and hearts of his characters. Coupled with the revelation of the real-life adventures in Scripture, she has the necessary formula to inspire life change in students. This book offers our awakening to the ongoing spiritual voyage imparted upon equally fragmentary followers of Christ.
I can’t get over the way that this book draws you into the various plots and personas of Middle-earth. With so much to love from Tolkien’s novels, that foundation provides a place for us to see Biblical stories with a new sense of awe and authenticity. What is even greater is the way students are inspired to find their own place in God’s epic journey.
--Jason Boyer, National Director of Youth Ministry, Free Methodist Church USA
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