Kitty Lowell: How did your love for Tolkien start?
Angela P Nicholas: Although The Lord of the Rings was very much in fashion during my student days in the late sixties and early seventies I wasn’t interested in it at that stage – probably because I didn’t tend to follow fashions! It was not until a few years later, in 1973, that a friend persuaded me to read it. He stressed that it would be a good idea to read The Hobbit first and promised me that I was “in for a treat”. I was hooked immediately and when I got together with my future husband soon afterwards I wasted no time in introducing him to Tolkien’s works as well! I re-read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings several times during the seventies and bought The Silmarillion as soon as it was published in 1977. Further readings have followed since, especially while working on Aragorn, extending to Unfinished Tales, the twelve volumes of The History of Middle-earth and Tolkien’s Letters as well.
KL: Tolkien created many amazing characters. Was Aragorn your favourite one or did you have another?
APN: Aragorn was my favourite character right from my first reading. I had borrowed the three-volume edition from my local library and after finishing The Fellowship of the Ring I remember opening The Two Towers and thinking “Oh good” when I saw that the first word was “Aragorn”. A few pages later, as he knelt by the dead Boromir weeping and blaming himself for everything which had gone wrong, he was firmly established as my favourite character – strong and courageous but with a very human side as well. Subsequent readings, including the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings, reinforced my view and also made me aware of the complexity and significance of this character.
Many of the other characters also appeal to me, for example Halbarad, Faramir, Galadriel, and Elrond and his family. Among the Hobbits I have a soft spot for Merry.
KL: At 450 pages, your work is very thorough and it functions as a companion to Aragorn, in a sense. What made you want to write a book about this man?
APN: I think it was because I found him the most interesting and appealing fictional character I had encountered. I was influenced by all of the following:
- Admiration for his courage, compassion, loyalty, endurance, self-sacrifice and his gift of healing.
- Empathy with his indecisiveness and self-blame, particularly after the loss of Gandalf, and with his long wait until he could marry Arwen.
- My belief that he was frequently undervalued or misinterpreted, coupled with the desire to address these issues. He was often doing essential things to help and protect Frodo behind the scenes but you have to read between the lines to realise this. The prime example is the confrontation with Sauron in the Palantír of Orthanc which was a hugely courageous and significant deed, but one which is easily overlooked or underestimated.
- The appeal of the king in disguise, scruffy, homeless, and fleeing danger. [Another interest of mine is the Jacobite movement so perhaps I have a penchant for exiled monarchs!]
- Appreciation of his travels. [I’ve been on trekking holidays in the past, some of them at high altitude and in difficult and hostile conditions, so I am able to relate to Aragorn’s Ranger lifestyle to some extent.]
- The image of Strider in the Prancing Pony. [This has a special appeal as my husband and I also enjoy visiting our local pubs, usually managing to find a quiet seat in the corner, so we can watch what’s going on!]
However, the real credit for triggering the research project which would eventually result in the book must go to Peter Jackson and his films of The Lord of the Rings (2001-3). I saw them many times and although I enjoyed Viggo Mortensen’s portrayal of Aragorn it was clear that this wasn’t the character I’d come to know and love from reading the book. I, therefore, turned to the book again with the aim of rediscovering Tolkien’s Aragorn, originally for my own satisfaction but then, as the project grew, with publication in mind.
KL: What was the hardest part about writing this book?
APN: Putting the index together, once for the first edition, and again for the second. [I must acknowledge the enormous amount of help I had from my husband, Chris, in this!]
Leaving that aside I really enjoyed writing the book. Perhaps the trickiest part was Chapter 2.4 on Aragorn’s relationship with Legolas and Gimli, as I was actually having to deal with multiple relationships simultaneously: namely the threesome, Legolas with Aragorn, Gimli with Aragorn and Legolas and Gimli with each other (a relationship which has, of course, attracted a lot of attention in its own right).
KL: Christina Scull, a well-established writer, as well as HarperCollins’ author of many Tolkien related books, wrote the foreword to your work. What was your reaction in hearing her say that it was “The most enjoyable work on Tolkien I have read in many years”?
APN: Disbelief (initially)? Relief? Gratitude? Pleasure? All of these…
KL: Has this welcome made you want to tackle a new project?
APN: Given that I’ve been involved in this particular project for the last 16 years I think the answer has to be “no” to anything else on that scale. However, I wouldn’t be averse to tackling something smaller. Also, I have written a few articles for Amon Hen, both before and since Aragorn, and hope to continue doing this.
Kitty L loves books, space, fiction, frogs, furry animals and coffee. A lot of coffee. Fantasy, SF and Dark Fantasy have cocooned her world since the Mesolithic period. And she likes it like that.