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Interview with Catherine Kohman
Part Two (Adam)

Cate Kohman and Alan Lee

1. What stories/tales from "Silmarillion"/HoME are most precious to you and why are they significant?

I am currently listening to the audio book of The Silmarillion, so it´s fairly fresh in my mind. I love the Valaquenta with its description of the Valar, and I often use this quote about Ulmo, since I have had a deep longing ever since I was born and lived beside the sea:

"....and there make music upon his great horns, the Ulumúri, that are wrought of white shell; and those to whom that music comes hear it ever after in their hearts, and longing for the sea never leaves them again."

"Of the Coming of the Elves..." is one of my favorite chapters, since I´ve long felt I am of the Wandering Nandor ;) But the tale of Beren and Luthien (and Huan!) is probably the most beloved part of The Silmarillion for me. However, each time I read or listen to it, I find appreciation for new parts of the tale, as yesterday I was listening to the meeting of Finrod Felagund with the Edain and quite touched by the tale.

I´ve only delved into sections of The History of Middle-earth, though one of my next projects is to read it from beginning to end. I love Tolkien´s poem, "The Cottage of Lost Play", from The Book of Lost Tales, since it has personal meaning for me about a lost childhood paradise.

I have also read Unfinished Tales, and have re-read "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn" several times, so that is also one of my favorite stories.

2. What are your favourite characters in LOTR/"Silmarillion"/HoME/"Hobbit"?

Now that´s what we call a "tall order". In LOTR, my favorite characters are the Elves, in particular, Legolas and Glorfindel, for their strength and beauty. Though I love all of the "good" characters, especially the hobbits. In my current reading of LOTR, I´ve also recalled my fondness for Faramir because of his nobility and his high regard for the history of his people. He shares so many similarities with Aragorn that they could have been brothers.

Of all the characters in The Silmarillion, it´s hard to make a choice. I suppose it would be Luthien, for her courage and resourcefulness, but I also like Melian quite a bit. She is so wise, yet unable to prevent the doom of the Noldor from falling even upon Doriath. Huan is my favorite animal in The Silmarillion, and his sacrifice always brings me to tears. I haven´t read the complete History of Middle-earth, so I´m not able to choose a favorite yet.

In The Hobbit, my favorite characters are Bilbo, Gandalf and Elrond. I´d pick Gandalf outright if he didn´t disappear for half of the book, and I hope Legolas doesn´t disapprove of me for not picking his father, Thrainduil.

3. Have you ever read Tolkien books in language(s) other than English?

I have not read Tolkien in any other language, though that would be something I would enjoy. Or having it read aloud to me in another language, since my linguistic background is too limited at the moment.

4. What can you tell us about Tolkienistic conferences/international Tolkienistic conferences you participated in? What can you tell us about Birmingham 2005?

I´ve only been to the conference at Marquette in 2004, and Tolkien 2005 in Birmingham. The Marquette conference was relatively small, and the program was one stream, so we didn´t have to miss hearing anyone speak. Almost all of the top scholars from the US spoke there, as well as some international scholars. It had a good program of academic presentations, though there were entertaining ones as well by Tom Shippey and Gary Hunnewell. I went to college at Marquette, so it was also sort of a homecoming for me. The art exhibit called The Invented Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien was amazing. I found it so interesting to see Tolkien´s own sketches, maps and detailed chronologies. I was especially moved by pages from the manuscript for The Lord of the Rings in Tolkien´s own cramped hand, which included all of his scratchings out and multitude of changes.

Because it was a smaller conference I had the opportunity to meet authors Tom Shippey and John Garth and artist Ted Nasmith, which was exciting and educational. By my unofficial observation, almost l´ of the attendees were women. I met several new friends there, and we later met up at Tolkien 2005.

The Tolkien Society´s conference in Birmingham, England, seemed huge in comparison. There were over 700 attendees, and the conference ran five full days at Aston University. There was no possible way to attend all the presentations since there were as many as five streams of programs going at the same time. And they went from the early morning until late in the evening. The main building at Aston, where the presentations were held, was a confusing warren of different towers and floors that we began to call "Hogwarts" for its disappearing elevators and staircases. The Tolkien Society volunteers were quite helpful and gracious in getting us to where we were trying to go.

After hours of presentations, your head would start to spin and you´d need to take a break. We were in downtown "Brum" just a few days after it had been entirely evacuated due to terrorist threats (this was just a few weeks after the bombings on the London tube). We headed downtown anyway, spending some time in the beautiful flower-filled heart of the city and enjoying the fine Indian food. It has a lovely art museum as well. And speaking of art, I had the luck to meet Alan Lee twice and spoke to him about his work on the LOTR films and his future projects. He was very kind and generous, and even repeated his presentation so everyone who wanted to hear it could attend.

My favorite presentations at Tolkien 2005 were:

Alan Lee on the art of the films
Tom Shippey on the wise sayings of Tolkien´s characters
John Garth on the effect of WWI on the younger Tolkien, i.e. The Dead Marshes
Lynnette Porter on courage and adaptability in LOTR characters
Anna Smol on male friendship in LOTR
Martin Barker on his huge international LOTR film research project
David Bratman on hobbit names (not from Kentucky!)
Beth Russell on Galadriel and her lovers

There were many others I enjoyed, and way too many that I missed that I would have enjoyed had I been able to be in two (or three) places at once. (I wished I had had Hermione Granger´s Time Turner then!)

In the evenings there were exciting entertainments like The Reduced Silmarillion Company, the Costume Extravaganza and the International Readings from LOTR. Too many wonderful things to hear and do. Every night we fell into bed exhausted but happy.

The Birmingham conference was more evenly divided between men and women, scholars and fans. The fellowship between fans from around the world was heartwarming. LOTR fans are generally of "the highest quality", as Sam would say, and very entertaining folk. The Tolkien Society people probably don´t want to hear it, but how about a 60th anniversary party in Oxford? They did a great job and I wish them many thanks. It was a once in a lifetime experience.

5. What do you think about Bakshi´s film based upon LOTR? I mean the cartoon.

I haven´t seen it since it first came out. At first I was excited because I had high hopes, but when I realized it only went as far as Helm´s Deep, I was extremely disappointed. And I yearned for a better adaptation, a live-action adaptation. One of these days I will have to watch it again just out of curiosity´s sake.

6. What do you think about elven languages? Do you know any of them or are you going to learn one?

I love the Elvish languages. They are so beautiful in sound and rich in meaning. I know some scholars don´t like the idea of fans trying to create a spoken version of Elvish, but there are so many people out there who love the languages, it may happen anyway. I prefer Sindarin since that´s what the Elves of Middle-earth spoke, and when I write in Elvish, I use Sindarin. However, I know only phrases and some basic word construction. I would like to learn the grammar and have a larger vocabulary. Right now I mainly play around with creating names in Elvish, for people and for places. I did receive a book on Sindarin as a Christmas gift and I look forward to studying that.

I often joke about forming a Middle-earth colony in some place like New Zealand, where we would all speak Elvish. Do you think the Kiwis (the New Zealanders) would mind? ;)

7. Do you usually read Tolkien books surrounded by silence or accompanied by sound?

I usually read Tolkien books in silence, since music can be distracting. But I actually listen to LOTR and The Silmarillion in my car several times a year, which is like having someone read it aloud to you. It´s a different sort of experience, and the story as read by Rob Inglis often brings tears to my eyes. And I love listening to the poetry in the books.

I mean do you read Tolkien books listening to any music?
If yes then could you tell us about this music?

When I worked on Lembas for the Soul, I most often listened to the film soundtracks. When I´m writing my own fiction, I listen to Celtic music and artists like Enya and Clannad, or Loreena McKennitt. Kari Holman, a Lembas author, recently recommended Gary Stadler to me, and I just listened to his Fairy Heart Magic, which is quite ethereal and similar to Enya. But my preferred Middle-earth music is still Howard Shore´s--ROTK is my favorite of the film cds. Another Lembas author recommended a website called Radio Rivendell, which I mean to visit more often.

8. Do you consider yourself a Tolkienist/Tolkienite/Tolkien scholar?

Since I am not an academic and haven´t presented any papers on Tolkien, I don´t consider myself a Tolkien scholar. If by the term "Tolkienist", you mean someone who reads and studies the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, then that is how I would refer to myself. I don´t know what you would call someone who studies Tolkien fans!

9. Could you tell us about American Tolkienists? Could you tell us about American Tolkien Society/American Tolkienistic organizations?

As I said above, I live in a rural area where there aren´t a large number of Tolkien fans. I belong to the Tolkien Society, but there are no chapters near where I live. I guess I will have to found one. All my experience has been with people I´ve met at the various conferences and online, and they are very bright, very dedicated people who are a lot of fun to be around. Several of the Lembas authors are also involved in The Society for Creative Anachronism ( ) and other medieval re-enactment groups. I think many other Tolkien fans also engage in these sorts of activities.

You might also ask Lynnette Porter, one of the Lembas authors, about American fandom since she has just attended the One Ring Celebration in Los Angeles this weekend. She spoke at the conference and her book Unsung Heroes of The Lord of the Rings was up for the Best Tolkien-themed book of 2005, the category that Lembas for the Soul was also nominated in.

10. How can you describe the collaboration with people from all around the world on "Lembas for the Soul"?

An exhilarating, tumultuous ride. I have been touched by so many of the stories, and made lots of new friends across the globe. I´ve heard from the authors that writing their story and having it published has changed their lives in some good way, and that makes me proud to have been the creative force behind that change. Of course, LOTR itself is the basis for all of this wonder, which is something none of us will ever forget.

It´s been crazy to get emails from someone sitting in the middle of the night on a flight layover in the Singapore airport-Dana, who is laughing with joy and shock because I just told her I wanted to include her story in the book. I ended up asking Dana Tonello to do the cover for the book as well, so emails have been flying back and forth from Missouri to Perth, Australia since late summer. Each author contact I´ve made for the book has been unique and enriching.

I especially enjoyed meeting 9 of the authors at the launch party in Indianapolis, and we are already working on getting more of the Lembas authors together in person. For now, we have our own little moot online, a hilarious and sometimes outrageous place for us to hang out. We have authors from almost every continent (no one from Antarctica--sorry, emperor penguins!)

Now we´re starting to hear from readers how much the book has meant to them, and though it might not have changed their lives, it´s given them joy and a new perspective on the greater meaning of LOTR in their lives. I like to think of it as a ripple effect, or the light of Eärendil spreading to through all the dark corners of the world.

11. Are you interested in other fantasy books? If yes then what are your favourite authors?

I´ve always been interested in fantasy. My published novel, The Beckoning Ghost , is a romantic fantasy. Of my fantasy author preferences, Tolkien is far and away my favorite, but other fantasy books I enjoy are Philip Pullman´s His Dark Materials series, Garth Nix´s Sabriel series, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Mirror of Her Dreams by Stephen Donaldson, and A Vision of Light by Judith Merkle Riley. One thing these books all have in common is strong female characters. I´m currently planning a series of library discussions focusing on that very topic.

There are many new fantasy authors I´d like to try; it´s just a matter of finding the time when you have a regular job, publish books and also write yourself.

12. Have you ever met any Polish Tolkienists? If yes then what are your impressions?

There were a large number of Polish Tolkienists at the Birmingham conference. I met Anna Dabkowska from the Aiglos staff in the art room and we had a lively discussion about Tolkien artists within earshot of some of the best!

On Sunday evening some of us went to the outskirts of Birmingham, where Tolkien lived as a child, to visit Sarehole Mill and Moseley Bog. There we met up with Gary Hunnewell and a vanload of Polish Tolkienists on the same quest. "Sandyman´s Mill" was closed, but since we had a local guide, we invited the Polish fans along for the hike. I wish I remembered some of their names! I do remember hiking through "The Old Forest" with the Polish group and hearing them sing a song that sounded like Tom Bombadil´s and another snippet of something that sounded lovely but I didn´t understand. However, they had to get back to Aston in time for the International LOTR Readings presentation, so they found their own way back out of the "Vale of the Withywindle", led by the valiant Gary in his grey suit (he´d given a presentation when the Polish Tolkienists swept him along the road, rather like Bilbo and the dwarves in The Hobbit .). So I have fond memories of the few Polish Tolkienists I have been lucky to meet, in person and online.

13. And last but not least. An out of curiosity question. If you lived in Middle Earth who would you like to be? Why?

In character, I feel I am most similar to Eowyn, but hers is not the life I would choose for myself. I would rather be Legolas, because of my love for all things Elvish. How wonderful to be that fair, strong, fearless and loyal. He moves to Ithilien after the War of the Ring to be closer to Aragorn and Gimli, and brings other Elves with him to make Ithilien the most beautiful realm east of the sea.

Living just across the Anduin from Minas Tirith, he also meets Merry and Pippin when they visit Gondor, as well as Prince Imrahil, Faramir, Eowyn and Eomer. When Aragorn finally goes "beyond the circles of this world", Legolas builds his own grey ship and takes his friend Gimli with him, finally satisfying his longing for the sea. Together they sail to the Undying Lands, where they will (hopefully) meet Gandalf, Frodo and Bilbo again, along with all of Legolas´s Elvish kin. I can think of no better life in Middle-earth than that.

I´d like to thank you for your time and attention.
I´d like to thank you once again for your time and answers.

You are most welcome. Thank you for your interest in Lembas for the Soul , and I hope you will enjoy reading it. Interested fans can also visit the White Tree Press site for more information at .

Nai elen siluva lyenna - may a star shine upon you!

Catherine Kohman

Answers copyright 2006 Catherine Kohman

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