The Lord Of The Rings At 15: The Fellowship Interview Each Other

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To celebrate the 15th anniversary of The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring, we asked each of its nine heroes to pose nine questions to another. Prepare for nostalgia, philosophy and shocking vinegar-based revelations

This is the Extended Edition of an article that first ran in the January 2017 issue of Empire. Subscribe now.


Elijah Wood (Frodo)

Lord Of The Rings Questions set by John Rhys-Davies

1. What surprised you most about The Lord Of The Rings?
How intimate such a large-scale production felt. I had nothing to compare it to then, but this quality has become more special over time. All of us embarked on something that had never been done before on such a massive scale, tucked away in beautiful New Zealand, and it all felt homegrown, like the world’s largest independent film. That feeling of family and forging a path as we were working was truly extraordinary.

2. Did it open new doors for you?
Being a part of them certainly opened new opportunities for me as an actor. More profoundly, living abroad for the first time and the personal growth I experienced as a result set me forth on the rest of my life.

3. Was there any detriment workwise to doing it?
I don’t think so. I definitely remember a feeling of not wanting to rest on the success of the films, but I didn’t feel pigeonholed. I just knew I had to keep working and challenging myself.

4. Have you acquired new interests?
I DJ records as a hobby, which has increasingly become a source of enjoyment and expression. I’ve always wanted to open a bar and perhaps a restaurant, as I’d love to marry the creativity of designing a space whilst giving a great chef a place to create. And opening a record store is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a teenager. Certainly no shortage of things I’ve dreamed about.

5. What car do you drive?
I have a 1984 Mercedes Diesel Wagon. It’s long been a favourite car of mine and I finally found one in excellent and well-loved condition last year.

All of us embarked on something that had never been done before.

6. I hear you have a new TV series. What is it about?
It’s called Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and it’s based on Douglas Adams’ series of books. It’s difficult to summarise, but essentially a wild, funny, mad detective show with a case that is constantly revealing itself as it goes along. Dirk Gently, a detective that relies on intuition and coincidence rather than clues and gathered logical information, leads the swirl of mad activity. I’ve genuinely never seen anything quite like it and I’m excited for people to dig in.

7. Are you seeing someone?
Yes, sir.

8. What do you say when young people ask about becoming an actor?
I say that integrity is of the utmost importance and that one should love the craft and have no other reasons beyond that love and passion to invest their time. Also, that it takes hard work and perseverance and that, ultimately, living life outside of the work will push one’s growth and experience to be better actors. Work with friends, create with like-minded people. Don’t wait for the opportunities to come to you. Create your own.

9. Where do you see yourself being another 15 years down the road?
Still making films and hopefully directing. And I imagine I’ll still be talking about these films: my love of New Zealand, the closeness of the cast and crew, the craftsmanship of the various departments and the new roads they paved, and so much more. These films and the making of them truly encapsulate so many experiences, memories and life that I never tire of discussing them.


Ian McKellen (Gandalf)

Lord Of The Rings Questions set by Elijah Wood

1. It’s been nearly 20 years since we all first arrived in New Zealand. What are your memories of those first months?
I am the sort of optimist who forgets the negatives and only remembers the positives. So discovering New Zealand’s culture and scenery sums up the joy of it all, and the family atmosphere Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh nurtured nurtured among the cast and crew, many of them, like us, far from friends and home.

2. What were your favourite parts of the country visited on free time?
Milford Sound, without a doubt, despite the biting, flying insects. The Coromandel coast in the North Island, where you can bathe in hot water on the beach and stare out at the South Pacific, green and sparkling.

3. How long did it take you to recover from the constant barrage of script revisions?
It was tiresome, wasn’t it? Particularly for this theatre actor who has spent a career honouring a text, honed and settled before production starts. Still, it kept us on our toes and I always had the paperback LOTR hidden in my robe, to refer to.

4. What felt most unique to you about the project?
The real thrill — and an unusual one — was to know that millions of Tolkien fans wanted the film to be made. When we returned to complete filming after the release of the first one, there were none of the usual worries about whether our efforts would be appreciated.

5. Upon visiting Bag End for the first time since it was relocated to Peter’s home, I discovered a letter Gandalf had written to Frodo sitting on the mantlepiece. Do you know if he received Frodo’s reply?
I don’t recall Gandalf mentioning it last time we spoke. Perhaps he simply forgot — not even wizards are perfect.

6. At the end of all things, I’ll never forget returning home and finding it quite bizarre to assimilate to life again. How did you find it?
A bit different for me, as I’ve often done wonderful long-lasting jobs away from home. But as it turned out I was back for the three Hobbit movies — it was such a joy that you were there too, for a little while.

I keep Glamdring in my hatstand and the pointy hat in the basement.

7. It’s not often discussed that every line of dialogue was re-recorded in ADR for the entire trilogy. Though daunting, I remember it being a very intricate creative process. How was your experience?
ADR is fun — a technical challenge that sometimes can improve original readings. Has it occurred to you that everyone in Middle-earth wore a wig and most of us a prosthetic of some sort? Feet and ears for you, nose for me.

8. What did you keep from your time as Gandalf?
Eternal gratitude for being included in one of the great film adventures of all time. I keep Glamdring in my hatstand and the pointy hat in the basement, often worn by visiting youngsters. Gandalf’s staff is behind the bar in my Thames-side pub The Grapes, in East London. Don’t tell Peter, but the keys to Bag End are hanging up at home.

9. How did your Hobbit experience differ from The Lord Of The Rings? Oh, and I’m sorry about the loud music the Hobbits often played in our shared make-up trailer. (And I miss and love you.)
So many old friends behind the camera, but I missed the old team of actors. Mind you, it was a joy to work with Martin Freeman and the dwarves. I was glad to be rid of that old stick Gandalf the White. The Grey was always my favourite.

Don’t you remember when it was my turn to play a track, I asked for silence instead? Now I’m nostalgic, remembering those early mornings in the make-up trailer, six days a week, season by season.


Sean Astin (Samwise)

Lord Of The Rings Questions set by Ian McKellen

1. Coming from an acting family, was there ever anything else you imagined doing?
By 14, I had decided on three modest goals and repeated them often to everyone. I wanted to be a world-class filmmaker, CEO of a multi-billion-dollar entertainment company and President of the United States. I’ve had to settle for journeyman actor. C’est la vie.

2. Without checking your website, how many awards have you have won?
Not as many as my mom used to think I should have. Maybe ten? I’m most proud of the SAG Ensemble Award we claimed together for Return Of The King. It’s particularly meaningful because of two seemingly contradictory reasons: first, my Mom was President of the Screen Actors' Guild and two, our epic billion-dollar trilogy was a non-union, non-Screen Actors Guild project. I actually love the statue. It is quite heavy — I tell folks it weighs the same as my sense of self-worth. Also, it was only a nomination, but being recognised for my short film, Kangaroo Court, by the Motion Picture Academy was thrilling. My dad was nominated for an Oscar in the same category three decades earlier.

3. How’s the foundation in your mother’s memory proceeding?
Slowly. Thank you so much for asking. We’ve raised $46,000, 1/5th of the target. This is a generous and beautiful expression of love. At the moment, we are exploring holding a 5k walk/run in the Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, her home town of 30 years. I think it would be a cool living memorial for her and, over time, a fundraising engine. We’ve spoken with Bank of America as a possible sponsor. There are a few major mental-health-care coalitions that have expressed enthusiasm for helping the Patty Duke Mental Health Project find a specific mission. Pretty please stay tuned!

I love the statue. It is quite heavy — I tell folks it weighs the same as my sense of self-worth.

4. Did you ever discover how Samwise got his name?
As a half-wise or simple person myself, like ol’ Sam, I never saw the need to know.

5. Where do you keep the sword you were given when you completed LOTR?
I think it’s in the garage, or maybe a cupboard, or in storage with a ton of fan art that I’ve been given over the years. I think you had already been officially “farewelled” by Peter and everyone, but I cried heavily through my send-off. I remember being presented with my costume, including Sam’s backpack (pots, pans, sausages, elven rope, lembas bread, box of salt) and sword. But the most moving trophy was the wee dress [my daughter] Ali wore as she portrayed Eleanor in the last moments of ROTK.

6. Will you ever do a New Zealand marathon?
Is it possible you know I successfully completed the Ironman triathlon in Kona, Hawaii, last October? Ironman invited me to participate in one of their New Zealand triathlons, in the shadow of Mt. Doom (Ruapehu) in the middle of the North Island. I’m seriously considering it for March 2018.

7. Would you like to be a guide at what remains of Hobbiton?
No. I wouldn’t mind building a Hobbit hotel there, though.

8. Did you ever have another tattoo?
Not yet. But I like the idea of someday getting a tattoo of my running charity #Run3rd’s colorful logo. It’s called that because I run first for myself, second for my wife and third for whomever I dedicate the race to.

9. Will you give my love to the family?
I can’t give them something they will never lose. The impact you’ve had on Ali was extraordinary and greater than you could ever know. She now studies drama at Harvard and did a report on one of your Shakespeare masterclasses (thanks, YouTube). Okay, I will give them your love. But, it’s only polite for you to accept ours right back :-)))

I have only one question for you. When may I work with you again?


Dominic Monaghan (Merry)

Lord Of The Rings Questions set by Sean Astin

1. Why haven’t we seen each other in forever?
Because we are both busy, successful people with families and we live well over an hour away from each other. But you will always be in my heart, Hobbit brother. Also, you smell of vinegar.

2. I heard you got hurt. Are you okay?
Hmm, this week? I’m always getting hurt. I want my dead body to be strewn with scars. I broke my foot in Bali and healed poorly. I needed surgery to make sure all my toe and foot bones behave well moving forward.

3. Are you ever going to manage Manchester United?
Ha, I wish. Are you gonna manage the Dodgers? That’s the hardest football job in the world outside of the England job. Luckily, over the years I’ve got to know some players and staff. Manchester United is one of my happy places. I’ve converted many people to United fans. Including you!

4. What is the state of your body, vis-à-vis tattoos?
I think I have 12. It's hard because some can be considered one when others would think they are two. I only get them when I absolutely have to. My last one says “What matters most is how well we walk through fire”.

5. If there is ever a Goonies sequel, would you be in it?
Of course! It’s one of my favourite childhood movies. Up there with Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. I want to go down into the treasure spot!

We are all sponges to other humans' vibes.

6. You spend so much time with deadly creatures [in TV show Wild Things With Dominic Monaghan]… do you think people can be poisonous too?
You mean venomous? Certainly in terms of energy. We are all sponges to other humans’ vibes and want to empathise. But I will not seek out complainers or blamers. Good vibes only.

7. Which Beatle would you be and why?
Even though Lennon is my God and favourite, I think he was in hell a lot of the time, so living as him might be torture. George seemed to have the most fun. Zenned out. Great garden. Gorgeous women. Meditation. Exploration into other realms. Cosmic.

8. Are you happy?
With these questions? 71 per cent. In life? Of course! My foot is irksome but my life is an A+. I'd give myself a solid 86 per cent currently. Also my little nephew makes me beam.

9. Whatever happened to that black car?
Empire readers should know that Sean sold me his BMW 318i after I moved to LA. Yes, sold it to me. From one millionaire Hobbit to another with barely a tuppence to my name! After buying it I had to sell my body on Hollywood Boulevard. Thankfully my body is tight like a Ukrainian gymnast’s and I made the money back in days. Well, nights.

I gave it away after it almost killed me on my driveway. I was having it towed after it had stopped working and it pinned me to my house. I was very close to death. Maybe the closest I’ve been. So yes, Sean Astin almost killed me. After taking my cash. I love you, Sean!


Billy Boyd (Pippin)

Lord Of The Rings Questions set by Dominic Monaghan

1. What has been the greatest lesson of being a dad?
Seeing the world through a new pair of eyes. It teaches you how exciting everything can be if we really try to look at something anew.

2. Give an example of a genius.
Prince. So many wonderful songs, different genres, incredible playing, beautiful songwriting, amazing performances. Probably no-one had a bigger impact on my growing up. So sad that he passed away so young. It would have been so good to hear what music and ideas he would have brought us as he grew older.

3. Which existing song do you wish you had written?
I could easily pick a Prince song! But to mix it up a bit, I will pick one from George Harrison. Can you imagine being the other songwriter in a band with Lennon and McCartney? It must have been so hard to bring a song to the table, but we are so blessed that he did. Here Comes The Sun, My Sweet Lord, Within You Without You — all so good! But I will go with Something. Such a beautiful, beautiful song.

Can I identify myself with Stan Laurel? I’m not that funny!

4. What is your favourite thing about our friendship?
So many things, my dearest Dom! I love how relaxed we are in each other’s company. And the ability for our time together to take us anywhere. We might be chatting about music, which brings us to watching a documentary about The Stone Roses — then there’s a part in it where they are eating Indian food so we pause it to go to an Indian restaurant, where we will talk through a film idea where we play sound men for The Hollies in the Himalayas or something. I like the adventures we go on, even when we’re just sitting on your sofa drinking a bottle of wine.

5. What would be your one magic wish for planet Earth?
Peace, peace, peace. We can’t over-emphasise this. Everything else that happens in the world — great inventions, huge leaps forward in whatever field — always seem tainted if we are still hating and killing each other because of race, religion and geography. While we have an ‘us’ and ‘them’ there will always be tension and violence, so we have to all stand together to make real changes to the world.

6. What inspires you more than anything else?
The size of the universe. I find if I just sit and think about it, it makes me happy and somehow inspires me.

7. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
This is so hard because it will always sound egotistical. Can I identify myself with Stan Laurel? I’m not that funny! Gandhi? I’m not that good! But to answer off the top of my head I would say George Harrison. When I read about him or see him talking I can identify with his thinking. He loved to create but was not overly comfortable with promoting.

8. What would you tell the 18-year-old Billy and what would you ask the 100-year-old Billy?
To 18: Have fun, travel, read more. Don’t worry about being bad at something. Oh, and learn a language.

To 100: If you could live again, where in the world would you spend most of your time?

9. You are stranded on an island. You can know only one concept fully and truly. What is it?
Meditation.


Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn)

Lord Of The Rings Questions set by Billy Boyd

1. Is there a Shakespearian character you would like to play?
I would, at this time in my life, choose either Shylock or Timon. Of the female characters, Margaret of Anjou.

2. If you could speak one other language, what would it be?
Arabic. I speak a little, but would like to be fluent in it because it would allow me to better understand, and more ably try to make myself understood, in countries that have Arabic as their primary language. It would also give me a better chance to do something concrete, in the field, to help refugees in and from the Middle East.

3. If you could play for one sports team in the world, which would it be?
As an attacking midfielder for football team Club Atlético San Lorenzo de Almagro, of Boedo, Argentina.

4. If you could live one day over, which would you pick?
I would rather not live any day over again. Things have been, are, and will be just so, and justly so.

5. If you could own any piece of art, what would it be?
A Poplar-Lined Road At Sunset, France by Minerva Chapman.

Cedar-wood campfire roasted Agria potatoes with aioli sauce on the side.

6. Is there a scene from Tolkien not in the films that you wish was?
I’d like to have seen what Peter Jackson would have done with the character Ghân-buri-Ghân, the chief of the Drúedain, wild men of the Drúadan Forest. Seeing him lead King Théoden and his army of Rohirrim through the forest to join the fight to save Minas Tirith would have been thrilling. Towards the end of Tolkien’s The Return Of The King, the Forest of Drúadan is given by newly-crowned Aragorn to Ghân and his people for their exclusive use, leaving it to them to decide that from then on if anyone else is to be allowed to enter it. I suppose all of that extra material would have given the already thematically complex and quite lengthy movie far too long a running time and an overwhelming amount of information for viewers to easily assimilate. Die-hard Tolkien aficionados, however, might have enjoyed the character, as he is a one-of-a-kind noble descendant of prehistoric humans.

7. If you could eat one thing right now, what would it be?
Cedar-wood campfire roasted Agria potatoes with aioli sauce on the side.

8. If you could kiss me again, would you?
I am anxiously counting the interminable minutes that pass until it happens again.

9. If you could play with one band, who would it be?
I would love to tour with guitarist Buckethead, with the accompaniment, as needed, of high-tide surf in winter, running up and down a gravel beach, the morning tunes of song sparrows, different kinds of rain on a variety of tin roofs, and Johnny Hartman singing Irving Berlin’s They Say It’s Wonderful from the 1963 LP John Coltrane And Johnny Hartman. I’d play piano and maybe sing now and then, or recite poems — and we’d jam together in ancient movie houses and natural outdoor settings, with projected silent movies for inspiration. Movies like Dreyer’s The Passion Of Joan Of Arc, Murnau’s Sunrise, Vidor’s The Crowd, Steiner’s H2O, or Reiniger’s The Adventures of Prince Akhmed, as well as anonymous family home-movies. Or perhaps simply just you and me, a guitar, a piano, and your lovely voice. And Buckethead ought to come with us — why not?


Sean Bean (Boromir)

Lord Of The Rings Questions set by Viggo Mortensen

1. Is there a scene from LOTR you would want to reshoot?
I wouldn’t mind going back and doing it all again. The first one anyway :)

2. What character have you most enjoyed playing in the theatre?
Macbeth. The darkness of the story that runs throughout the play always fascinated me. Macbeth is inherently evil and obsessed with power to the point that he is driven insane. I first saw it performed with Ian McKellen and Judi Dench in Wath-upon-Dearne near Rotherham and found it totally enthralling. I suppose it was always an ambition to play the part and I went on to do so in the West End. But basically, I just like evil shit!

3. Did you watch the Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy?
Yes, I did and was very impressed. It was so interesting to see characters like Bilbo and Gandalf in their early years. The landscapes and ancient woodland settings jolted my memories of being on the set of Lord Of The Rings. And you in full costume, fishing in a river in the middle of the night like a nutcase.

4. When were you last in New Zealand?
Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to go back since we finished filming. One conciliation is that my daughter married a Kiwi earlier this year. He has a large family there, so we’ll always have a place to stay when I make the journey back one day.

5. Which of the books you’ve read this year is your favourite?
My favourite, as usual, is the one I am reading presently. Which is Berlin Noir by Phillip Kerr. I also enjoy reading books by John Pilger and George Orwell.

My garden is a mixture of topiaries and evergreens, with areas of wilderness you can get lost in.

6. I remember from our time filming the last battle and Boromir’s death scene as reimagined by Peter Jackson for The Fellowship Of The Ring that we spoke about the beautiful native beech forests near Glenorchy on the South Island of New Zealand. We share an interest in gardening and especially in the planting and care of trees. In the past month I’ve been preparing some new trees that I’ve enjoyed seeing grow up in clay pots since last winter — Basque Country oaks, a silver birch, and a few North American red oaks and sugar maples. They are now ready for transplanting. I like putting trees in the ground, near home as well as in the gardens and fields those of friends if they desire it. What have you been planting lately?
Some weeping silver birch and willow. I intend to plant more saplings of elder, hornbeam, dogwood and hawthorn every autumn, so in time I’ll create a small wood with various leaf colours. My garden is a mixture of topiaries and evergreens, with areas of wilderness you can get lost in.

7. What is the worst injury you have ever suffered?
I fell through a glass door as a child and almost lost my leg. It was hanging off and took me nearly a year to recover. But I’m alright now, thanks.

8. Do you believe we humans have free will?
Yes, I believe we have if we allow it to thrive and develop, without the impositions of propaganda and prejudice. Free will can only flourish when we are surrounded by art, literature and music. Not control and oppression.

9. It has been a while since you and I have seen each other — I believe the last time was at the Empire Awards a few years ago — and I miss your company. I cannot for the life of me remember whose turn it is to buy the next round. Do you?
I think it’s yours. Actually, I don’t remember either. I do remember sharing a bottle of whiskey with you, which you took up on to the stage when you won your well-earned award. (After your fine critique of Russell Crowe.) It was a fine night.


Orlando Bloom (Legolas)

Lord Of The Rings

Questions set by Sean Bean

1. Do you find yourself always having to explain the meaning of your LOTR tattoo?
All day and night.

2. Have you still got any of the stuff you nicked from the set?
Er... I did not 'nick' anything! I was too young and innocent for that. Actually I lie, I may have somehow managed to wander off with an Elven broach.

3. Where do you call home these days?
Between the US and the UK. Too long in one and I crave the other. I’ve called Shanghai home for the last two months: I am here now filming.

4. What is your TV guilty pleasure?
Most recently Stranger Things — reminds me of the Americana I watched and loved on TV growing up. I tend to wait until the whole season is out and then binge.

5. What do you believe is most destructive to the soul?
That’s a big question. Are you forcing me to think and feel, Sean? Well, Albert Einstein, one of the wizards of our time, said “stupidity, fear and greed”. There’s a lot that around, particularly if you turn on the news. The US Presidential campaign is a classic. The antidotes are courage, wisdom and compassion — which are coincidentally the qualities of most Hobbits. The rest of us elves and humans have to work harder to manifest them.

I may have somehow managed to wander off with an Elven broach.

6. The last time I enjoyed your company was in a pub in North London on a hot summer’s afternoon. What’s your most vivid memory of us hanging out?
Ah… let’s get nostalgic. Remember when you and I got stranded between two landslides? We were driving from the top of the South Island to the bottom. We all know how you hate to fly and this was a way to avoid that flight down. The rain started just before we left and didn’t stop for 12 hours. We had to manoeuvre around tree debris and I remember thinking, “I wish this car was a 4x4.” Then we drove up to a landslide that had taken out the whole road. We had to turn back, only to be told while refuelling at a petrol station that there’d been an even bigger slide in the other direction. We had to be on set the next day, so ended up being choppered out in torrential rain and howling wind. It had compounded into your worst nightmare! I’ll never forget those white knuckles of yours clasping my knee as the chopper took off.

7. What was it like becoming a father?
No single moment has had such a profound effect on my life as when I held my son after his mother had remarkably endured 27 hours of labor. That should teach any man the meaning of respect for mothers the world over.

8. As a heartthrob myself, I wondered if you had any tips to stop the signs of aging? (Just asking for a friend.)
Being a heartthrob yourself, you’ll know that there’s only one answer to tell your friend: love. When your heart throbs it keeps you younger. That’s why we’re called heartthrobs — duh.

9. What is your passion, apart from acting?
Mastering the art of living, which I will never do, so that learning curve keeps me thoroughly occupied!


John Rhys-Davies (Gimli)

Lord Of The Rings Questions set by Orlando Bloom

1. What was the last photo you took on your phone?
Mock me, would you, you piss-taking, pointy-eared devil! He knows, gentle readers, that I still use the phone I had in NZ in 1999, a Nokia 6310i, which has no camera! Actually I have 11 of them, six working at any given time. Tri-band, almost unbreakable, work anywhere in the world. Downside? Battery life. I’m having to charge mine every nine days now.

2. What advice would you give drama students?
Learn this. It sums up everything involved in a successful entertainment career: “The Drama’s Laws the Drama’s Patrons give/ And we, who live to please, must please to live.” Think about it every day of your working life. Apply it.

3. What’s been your happiest moment?
You mean apart from holding my children in my arms, exultation between the sheets, flying a plane into a sweet landing? Well, it must have been working with you, dear chap!

4. Do you regret not getting the Fellowship tattoo? There’s still time!
I have seen tattoos on the arms of military men that I understand, respect and honour. I have seen tattoos on some very unattractive people and recognise them as an attempt (misplaced) to inject a bit of decoration onto an unappealing canvas. I have never seen a tattoo that added to the beauty of a person. To me, tattoo is herd-identification, and I'm not a herd animal. That’s not to say I think of any of the Fellowship as herd animals! (Animals certainly!) I just think that young people celebrate their exhilaration in a herd-like way before they grow wise enough to know better. If you want to show you can take the pain, give a kidney and save a life!

Mock me, would you, you piss-taking, pointy-eared devil!

5. Who inspires you?
The historical characters of my childhood reading included Leonidas, Richard Grenville, Drake. My father, Rhys, an unarmed colonial policeman whom I once saw talk down an armed lynch mob trying to kill a drunken driver who had run over and killed a child. Dad was a Welsh teetotaller who hated drunk drivers, but he stood for the law. There were 300 angry knife-waving people around him and he must have known how close he was to death, but he was calm and serene and carried the day by his authority. What a gift to give a son! To show moral and physical courage at the same time!

Thoreau observed, “Most men live lives of quiet desperation.” Most women too. Talk to steel-mill men in Wales, miners in West Virginia, farmers in the Waikato, the citizens of an oil town like Bartlesville where I'm currently filming Starbright, and you’ll hear the same worries, sense the same fears. Those who can live like this and still be kind and decent and stay the course are the the ones who most inspire me. Ordinary heroes abound.

6. When you procrastinate, what do you do?
Wot! Me procrastinate? Never! What others may perceive as my procrastination is of course, deep thought, a detailed and exhaustive analysis of the pros and cons of each question and the myriad multi-faceted implications that might result from any seemingly straightforward utterance. A letter from the IRS is as challenging as a game of postal chess with Korchnoi. It’s not procrastination — it’s ENT-Think. Let Treebeard be your model for such deliberations!

7. What is a skill you would like to learn?
Brevity.

8. Can you share one memory from your childhood in Tanzania?
I saw a slave ship — a dhow — in Dar-Es-Salaam harbour in 1955. Saudi Arabia only abolished slavery ten years later. I have a fury against any religion that justifies slavery. It is an abomination and still widespread.

9. If you could be any animal, what would it be?
In my African childhood my totem was the elephant. Now I see myself as an old silverback gorilla, keeping watch for possible places for ambush, whilst the troop grazes. And there are far too many places for an ambush. More than in my youth.

Glad to see you’ve learned not to capsize canoes. Though looking at the pictures I’m glad I’m not hanging out with you these days. Stay the course, my Elvish friend. Love to you and yours, and all of the Nine and the Greater Fellowship of fans and readers.

PS say “hi” to Mum.

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