Meet the man behind the Youtube channel, 'Voice of Geekdom'!
Daniel Bone has a deep knowledge of Tolkien and his legendarium. Learn what inspired Dan to delve into Tolkien and what continues to fuel his passion for Middle Earth!
You'll love Dan's passion for the detailed world building of Tolkien!
Be sure to visit his channel here!
We hope you enjoy this interview and let us know what you think!
What did you learn, and how did hearing from Dan inspire you?
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Leah: “Thank you so much for being here, Dan! Do you like to be called Daniel or Dan?
Dan: “My friends call me Dan, so you may do the same.”
Leah: “Thank you! So, just a brief introduction for our audience and people who might not have discovered you yet – what is it that you do and why?”
Dan: “I'm a YouTube content creator and I create lore videos and I do podcasts and live streams on JRR Tolkien’s legendarium and the Lord of the Rings and especially The Silmarillion, actually. I focus quite a lot on The Silmarillion. I have a long running series on my channel where I break down The Silmarillion chapter by chapter and provide kind of an introduction for new readers, and as the series has gone on, it's gotten more and more involved. I began talking about the legendarium and the drafting process and lots of other things as well. So, I do a lot of content on that, and I'm also starting to do more and more coverage of Amazon’s The Rings of Power series coming out in about six weeks. So I'm just stepping up my coverage of that now.”
Leah: “Very cool. Can I ask, I'm kind of curious what got you interested in Tolkien and the legendarium to begin with, and how did you end up deciding I'm going to make a YouTube channel out of this?”
Dan: “So, I have been a lifelong fan for as long as I can really remember. The story of how I first read The Hobbit actually came to light recently when I was talking to my dad about it, having started a Tolkien channel. He was the one who first read The Hobbit to me, and it was when I was in hospital getting grommets put in my ears. So, it was, you know, it was a mild operation for a six year old child, but I had to be in hospital for the night and he was reading The Hobbit to me at the time, and he read The Hobbit to me while I was in the hospital bed. And so we had like, he had an audience of all the other kids on the ward who, some of them were having their tonsils out and some of them would have in the same operation I had. And so, that was my first introduction to The Hobbit. Shortly afterwards he, I took the book off him and read it myself. And then it wasn't very long until I was doing the same thing with the Lord of the Rings. So, my dad, I begged my dad to read me more Tolkien, and he did, he read the Lord of the Rings to me at about eight. And then I took the book off him and read it myself at the same age. I was a very early starter. It's a few more years before I was ready for The Silmarillion, but yeah, so I've always been a fan. And I just, I love the wealth of Middle Earth. I want to live there. I want to move in. It's the ultimate escapism, and it's been a lifelong passion. And I just, I have this picture of Middle Earth in my head that’s just always been there. It's been like a realm within my own brain, as long as I can remember.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, I was out of work. I was, I'm a software developer. I used to work as an app developer. And I worked in the games industry before, but I was, I'd gone freelance in 2019 and it was very bad timing for me. So, I couldn't find any freelance work when the pandemic hit. And so I started a YouTube channel with something to do with all the extra free time that I had at that point. I met a few friends along the way. A good friend of mine, Helen from The Clueless Fangirl had me on her channel first. And so we became friendly and I started doing content with her, and then it wasn't long before I started Voice of Geekdom at that point. And as I say, I've met loads and loads of interesting, talented, wonderful people, along the way. And a lot of people have encouraged me, and so I've just ran with it. And as it's kind of grown, I've started to take it more and more seriously. And with the opportunity, of the new TV show coming out, I'm very much taking it seriously this year. So it's a, it's very much a, a passion project.”
Leah: “Wow. I love that. I have a couple of questions, and I hope it's okay if I just kind of, we'll do a little rapid fire, is that okay?”
Dan: “Yeah, go for it.”
Leah: “Okay. What do you think people struggle with the most when they're first introduced to the world of Tolkien?”
Dan: “I think it depends which, what their entry point is and what age we're talking about very often. With the Lord of the Rings, it's very often, it's all the landscape description – kind of drags for some people. It's a very, very important component of the Lord of the Rings. And it's something that you have to kind of absorb and either you get it or you don't, and if you don't enjoy that stuff, then you probably won't enjoy Tolkien. And then of course there's all the songs, the random poems and songs, and a lot of people will comment on those and say, you know, what is this doing here? I don't understand this. Personally, as I've gotten older, I've come to appreciate the poetry more and more. I actually think possibly Tolkien was a more accomplished poet than he was as a writer of prose in some ways. But I think those are two of the main factors with the Lord of the Rings.
And of course with The Silmarillion, it's the names that they get you a lot. Very often it's everybody has the same name or a variation of the same name. All of the Elven names start with an F or a G. And they're all very similar. And so it's the genealogies and just kind of filtering which characters are important, which ones aren't, because it's like a history rather than a novel. So with that book, that's the difficulty there. And I don't very often hear people complain about being able to parse The Hobbit. The Hobbit is written for children, and I think Tolkien achieves the aim of writing for children quite well in the Hobbit. And what's wonderful about The Hobbit is that it gets more serious as you get through it. So it starts off like a children's fairy tale. And then as you get towards the latter stages of the book, it becomes like a normal saga almost. And so I think people who get into Tolkien young and start with The Hobbit, it generally stays with them on some level. But it's, yeah, there are a few factors.”
Leah: “And do you have any advice for people who have never read The Silmarillion? Did I say it right?”
Dan: “More or less. Technically you should trill the R, so it's like Silmarillion, but I don't do that every time I say the word because I speak English. So it's yeah, The Silmarillion is, I think people are sometimes, sometimes people approach it with the wrong expectations. They're expecting more of the Lord of the Rings, and actually what they’re getting is one version of the mythology that Tolkien was writing for his entire life. And the Genesis of that mythology was linguistic, which is why we have all the names. It's why when you get to chapter 14 of The Silmarillion, which is just a run down of the geography of Beleriand, it's just lots and lots of names of places and lots of translations of those names. And so that, that stuff was really, really important to Tolkien, but a lot of readers will get to parts like that in The Silmarillion and think, what is this just kind of vomit of language that I don't understand, if you'll forgive the metaphor. But it's, I think it's, that's sort of the, the nomenclature just like it's just thrown at you. There's just so many names. And then of course the language style is very kind of archaic and almost pseudo-biblical in a way on some level. So it's an acquired taste, shall we say, in terms of the prose style, but it's a genius work of imagination and world building, and that's how you have to look at it.”
Leah: “That's really good to know. I think that, like you said, setting the expectation ahead of time. Hey, this is not The Hobbit, this is not going to read in the same way. I think that is helpful. So why, why should people read The Silmarillion?”
Dan: “I think if you want to know more about Middle Earth and you want to understand the underlying mythology of the Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion is the place to start. And there's some wonderful stories in there as well. I mean, I can talk about the problems with The Silmarillion, but the story of The Oath of Fëanor and the curse and, and what happens to the Ñoldor, it's like a, it's like an epic Greek tragedy kind of feeling and there’s some really wonderful self-contained stories within there. And, and the thing about The Silmarillion as well is it's based on older legends, that Tolkien wrote when he was a very young man. So there's also, there's other versions of a lot of these things that are also well worth reading. The version of The Fall of Gondolin storyline in The Silmarillion for instance, has a version, which was first written in the twenties by Tolkien in The Book of Lost Tales. And that version of the story is absolutely brilliant. It's a little juvenile in places and can do with some editing, but it opens up a wider world to you to know the stories and to get the baseline of the stories. There's all these unpublished works that Tolkien was working on throughout his life. And so it's, yeah, it's just as an expansion of the world, and it's a, it's a good broad high-level look at Tolkien’s world building. And that was where he was really excelling in what he was doing. It was the world building, the languages, the calendars, the races, the history. And so that's, that's the jumping off point for all of that stuff. It's The Silmarillion.”
Leah: “Wow. So you think – should people start there?”
Dan: “No, I think people should start with The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. The Silmarillion is a – it's a difficult read.”
Leah: “Yes. I've heard. I have not attempted it yet myself. I have it. I'm ready. I got my bookmark and everything, but I haven't jumped in yet. So now I know what to expect. Who do you look up to in the Tolkien community and why?”
Dan: “Oh, that's a great question. Well, I've been lucky enough to meet some of my heroes.
One of my inspirations for my channel was my friend, Dr. Corey Olsen from Signum University, who some of your readers might know as the Tolkien Professor. I actually met him in person recently because I was at Mythmoot Nine in DC a month ago. And I got an interview with him there. Why I admire Corey is I think just his passion for communicating, learning, and making it affordable for all. What he does with his university is, it's a fully online university that has a kind of distributed learning material that is taught online and it's – it keeps the costs low and it keeps the overall package high quality. But it's a different way of learning. He's been quite inventive with the way that he's used the online space in a way that's different to a brick and mortar university, but takes advantage of some of the things that you can do in the digital space. And it's, and the key thing is that it's affordable.”
Leah: “And is it all centered around Tolkien? Or what is he doing with that?”
Dan: “No. Well, it's, yeah, I suppose it is centered on Tolkien. That was the starting point. It was his podcast I think was what it grew out of – he would be able to tell you the story better. But the thing about Signum is that it grew out of Tolkien. It grew from his podcast and people asking for classes on this and more material. And so they started doing classes and it just grew and grew, and then it grew to things that were sort of adjacent to Tolkien, is the way he's explained it to me before. So, you know it might be gothic horror, or it might be Greek tragedy, or it might be Norse sagas, et cetera. And then they've got philology courses as well. So you probably know Tolkien was a philologist. He was interested in the study of the history of language. And so he told me once when I interviewed him that theirs was the only growing germanic philology department in any university in the world, everywhere, everywhere in the world, germanic philology is kind of falling by the wayside and less and less people are interested in studying it, but because this is a Tolkien centered learning environment that was obviously of interest to a lot of his students and so on. So that's something I think we should be proud of as well, because I think that's really, really important.
So yeah, I think he was one of the inspirations for starting my channel. It's funny being friends with him now, cause I listened to his podcasts religiously throughout the pandemic. And his was probably the voice that I heard the most that year. It's always on in the background while I was doing other things and yeah, it's a little odd being friends with him now, but yeah, there's a few, there's a few people, you know, there's other scholars as well. I'm a big fan of Tom Shippey as well. His books have been really important to my understanding of Tolkien over the years. And there are various other scholars. I also am a big fan of the movies as well. I enjoy Peter Jackson's contributions to the Tolkien fandom as well. Those adaptations have been really, really important and introduced so many people to the books, which is really, really great, I think. So yeah, there's a whole bunch of people, but Corey is the one that jumps out because he's been so kind to me and I've have this friendship with him now.”
Leah: “That's lovely. I love hearing about that and yeah, and it's great that the adaptation, Peter Jackson, that they have contributed as well in their own way. What's the number one question or comment you get on a regular basis?”
Dan: “I suppose one of the most common comments is when is the next video out.”
Leah: “Well that's a good thing!”
Dan: “It's a positive thing. People that are always waiting for the next chapter or the next part of the current chapter of The Silmarillion series that I do. And I can't get those videos out quickly enough for people sometimes, but yeah. I guess – I dunno, people want to know what I'm covering next and when the next videos are, it's those kinds of comments are the ones that are the most common place. I don't know that there's anything else that I could potentially think of, but I wasn't expecting the question.”
Leah: “Maybe related to the content itself? I don't know if you have, like, a common Tolkien related question that you get, or…”
Dan: “My viewers are fairly well-informed. They tend to be fairly well-informed people that comment regularly. So I don't often get, you know, kind of like the low hanging fruit questions, like why didn't Frodo and Sam take the Eagles to Mount Doom. Those sorts of questions – there are, you know, those kinds of questions. Do Balrogs have wings or not? Those kinds of questions. I don't tend to get those as much as other content creators. I don't think, anyway.
Leah: “Why do you think that your audience is a little more educated in the Tolkien world than some other creators out there?”
Dan: “I tend to – my style is quite academic and quite – I tend to use a lot of quotations in my videos and I tend to stick quite closely to the text and then I'll bring in other sources and things. I don't like to say that, you know, my content is more high brow, but I do think that my style lends itself towards people who are already somewhat familiar with the books. With that said, like a lot of my readers are first-time readers. So with The Silmarillion series, and one of the comments that I get a lot is thank God for you and their series, because I'm finally understanding this book, which is great to hear. I've actually had a lot of people contact me and say, I found your content and I've now bought The Silmarillion and read it.”
Leah: “How’s that make you feel?”
Dan: “I feel – it makes me feel great. Yeah, I'm transmitting my love to others and there's no better feeling. I don't think.”
Leah: “Wow. That's very cool. So, and along those lines, I was going to ask, what are you most proud of that you've accomplished so far?”
Dan: “Probably that, actually, probably introducing people to The Silmarillion and then getting people through the book for the first time, there are people who have, you know, commented, I've tried to read this book two times, three times, four times, but this time is working and it's thanks to your explanations. I love to hear that.”
Leah: “Yeah, that's gotta feel really good. It's like, if you can help foster more love for the books or for more depth of knowledge, like that's gotta be such a good feeling and it's a passion project to begin with.”
Dan: “Yeah. Yeah. I guess my general sort of positivity as well. I mean, I don't tend to be – I don't like to talk about things that I'm not a fan of, you know. There's all this negativity surrounding the new show at the moment and I'm trying to be as kind of even-handed with it as I can be. I'm honest about things that I’m potentially concerned about. But I'm open-minded, and I'm positive about things I do enjoy. So I tend to get a lot of comments from people who are just pleased to have a non toxic space to be able to talk about this stuff. Which is, you know, it's always a hard line to kind of keep to, because I have to be honest with the viewers too, but I do like reading those kinds of comments as well.”
Leah: “Yeah. Yeah. That's very good to know. Along those lines of what are you proud of – I was going to ask, what are you currently excited about?”
Dan: “Hmm. Certainly like the Tolkien fandom is about to explode with the new TV show, one would think. And so I'm very excited to see what they're doing with the second age material. It's a very interesting choice of adaptation to do because there's not that much actual prose that's written about the Second Age. There's the Akallabêth in The Silmarillion, which covers the story of the downfall of Númenor. And then there are kind of isolated essays and notes. And then there's the appendices to the Lord of the Rings, which are at the back of Return of the King, of course. And so there are these disparate sources, some of which the Amazon people have rights to, and some of which they don't, and we don't know exactly how that deal works, but from what we can make out, they have access to the appendices only, and they have to negotiate on a case by case basis for the other stuff. But I'm very excited for those stories to be told for the first time and to see somebody's interpretation of those on screen is going to be really interesting. And it's going to open up the conversation in new ways, because when you judge an adaptation, you have to think about the creative choices that they have to make to bring that to the screen.”
Leah: “Yeah, that can't be an easy job.”
Dan: “No, no, it's absolutely not an easy job. And there's a lot of pressure on the showrunners and I'm optimistic until I have reason not to be. So for me, I'm looking at it as a learning experience about Tolkien and thinking about the choices that they've made, looking at it kind of academically and dispassionately, but also with a certain degree of personal excitement to see some of this stuff on screen.”
Leah: “Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. I'll be looking forward to seeing your material and hearing your perspectives from that academic perspective. And, just kind of going into the next question, what are you scared or worried about? And it doesn't have to be related to Rings of Power, it could be anything in this space, but I'm assuming there's some trepidation with this.”
Dan: “Well, as a content creator, you're kind of taking a leap in a way. And you know, I have been working on, you know, doing my day job at times while I've been running the channel, I've taken freelance work on and stuff to support myself, but also I'm taking a little bit of a leap and putting so much time into something which takes a long time to bring to fruition.”
Leah: “Is that regarding each episode or going into the Rings of Power content?:
Dan: “So in terms of the content, I do intend to be doing live stream reviews after the episodes air. So that will be quite late at night for me as well. So presumably we don't know what time it's going to come out, but presumably it's going to be live streams in the early hours and not much sleep during the show's run. So I'm going to be putting lots of effort in. I'm looking at trying to hire an editor to take some of the pressure off of me cause I'm doing everything myself currently.”
Leah: “Yeah, that's a lot of work.”
Dan: “Yeah, very much is, very much. So I suppose I would say that I don't have any trepidation about it because if the channel doesn't work out, long-term then I’ll always have the channel as a hobby and a secondary source of income potentially, and a side business. But with that said, I do really want to bring it to a successful point where I can do this full-time and support myself in doing it. I just love talking about things that I love, you know, and bringing it to other people and and helping people to understand things that they haven't maybe considered in the books and stuff. It's just, it's a joy to be able to do, but I do worry that I won't be able to do it full time ever.
Because it – getting to that point, getting to that threshold is the goal at the moment.”
Leah: “Right. Funny enough, my next question is if you could snap your fingers and everything would be exactly the way you want, what would you be doing?”
Dan: “There are a few answers that I could give to that question, but I suppose I would like to, you know – the goal of the moment is to reach kind of a level of subscription with my channel that would support itself basically. So I’d have enough viewers and enough interested returning viewers for the channel to be able to support itself. And so that's the goal and I'm trying to reach that goal potentially this year, hopefully.”
Leah: “Okay. Well, I have faith that you can do it.”
Dan: “I hope so!”
Leah: “There’s so much buzz and conversation and your content is very rich. I believe you can do it. Hopefully we can send a few more subscribers your way as well.”
Dan: “Yeah, I'd be delighted. Yeah. Anybody who wants to view my content, they can find it at Voice of Geekdom on YouTube and all comers are welcome and hopefully everyone will find something interesting to get their teeth into there.”
Leah: “Absolutely. So just one last question for you. What's one piece of advice that you would give new Tolkien fans who are just coming into this journey, just being introduced, maybe through these adaptations, maybe Rings of Power is their very first introduction to the world of Tolkien. What's your advice for those people?”
Dan: “Just enjoy it. And don't put too much pressure on yourself to understand everything all at once, because this is simply the most detailed fictional world ever created. I think, I mean, the histories are just vast. There's years and years of feigned history, as he referred to it in one of his letters, there's, you know, two languages that are fairly well-developed and fleshed out, and there are numerous other sort of languages, which he sketched and so on. There's so much information there, but just let all of that just wash over you and just enjoy it for what it is as the kind of – the feeling of the illusion of historicity of this world and just enjoy the stories, and the information will seep in the more you immerse yourself in it, the more you'll understand. But start with the simplest story, start with The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings and just enjoy the stories for what they are.”
Leah: “Beautiful. That was very succinct, and I think it's great advice. Thank you so much. And of course everybody visit Dan’s channel, it's Voice of Geekdom. So you can just type that in and find it. Is there any particular video you think people should start with when they first come to your channel?”
Dan: “I have a few videos that – there was one that did rather well a while back, which was a video on whether or not Frodo and Sam would have been reunited in the West. A lot of people don't realize this, but obviously Frodo sails away at the end of the Lord of the Rings on the boat with the Elves and Gandalf and Bilbo. And later on in the appendices, we learn that Sam, one day, does sail West as well, but it's decades later. And so the video was examining the question of whether or not it was likely that Frodo would still be alive at that point after all that he suffered – Frodo’s considerably older than Sam. And obviously he suffered a fairly serious wound and dealt with a lot of emotional turmoil during the course of the quest. And so I was looking at some of the evidence on whether or not they may have been reunited. So that was an interesting video that did rather well. I have a few videos on the Tooks and I have an interesting video on Pippin and Gandalf's relationship, which is one of my favorite relationships in The Lord of the Rings – that kind of frenemies bromance that they sort of have. It’s wonderfully entertaining, really well adapted by Peter Jackson, actually, that relationship as well, especially in the third film, but it's so, so interesting in the books, those two characters. Cause Pippin has a sort of enlightenment moment when they reach Minas Tirith, and he kind of rose up, being the youngest of the four hobbits. So it's quite an interesting journey to look at. So that's another one. And then of course my Silmarillion series as well. So I start from the beginning of that and just, yeah, marathon those.”
Leah: “Excellent. Well, we will make note of those specific videos in The Silmarillion series. And if people decide to go on that journey, they'll have a wonderful guide to lead them. So I really appreciate your time and for doing this quick interview and I think people are really gonna love it.”
Dan: “Thank you very much. You've been very generous and I appreciate the invitation.”
Leah: “Absolutely. Anytime! Cool. Thank you so much.”