I'd grown up on a steady reading diet of Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, The Boxcar Children, various poorly-written childrens' historicals, and the like since I'd first began reading a lot four years before. I also enjoyed reading fairytales (the original Grimms were my favorite, which shows how twisted my mind was at an early age), mythology, and watching science fiction and fantasy films--I have fond memories of viewings of The Never-Ending Story, Star Wars, the Bass-Rankin animated The Hobbit, and even snippets of Star Trek--yet for some reason, I'd never thought to ask about fantasy and science fiction books, even when some of these films clearly said "Based on the book by [author's name]."
But on that Carolina trip, I fell in love with fantasy. I don't remember much of my first audio reading of LotR, although the memory is seared into my brain of cowering in my seat in the car, zooming down the darkened highway, while we listened to Shelob attacking Frodo and Sam. That scene truly terrified me. But, the rest of the story must have made an impression on me and my dad, because the first thing he did when we arrived home was to pull the trilogy off his bookshelves and hand it to me.
I became, shortly, a fanatic for all things fantasy--but especially Tolkien. I sought out the rest of his writings and devoured them. I memorized the poems and songs; I cried when there was no Tom Bombadil in the Peter Jackson movies. I pressed friends and family into reading the books and didn't understand why no one else loved them and obsessed over them as much as I did, back before I'd ever even heard the term 'fangirl'. Aragorn was my first fictional crush, followed quickly by Fili and Kili (yes, I adored them before they were portrayed by Dwarven rockstars). ;)
There was so much depth to love about these stories, and such a rich history in The Silmarillion. I loved the friendship and loyalty between Sam and Frodo, and it got me through a time in my life when I didn't have that many friends. Boromir is still in my top favorite redemptive story arcs.
Though I'm more active in other fandoms these days, Middle-Earth still has a dear place in my heart, as it shaped so much of who I am. Without Tolkien and his stories about the bravery of hobbits, I wouldn't be a writer, and I certainly wouldn't be a fangirl. I truly can't imagine what my life would be like if I hadn't stepped out that door and traveled that road with Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.
What about you? Did you guys have a fandom that shaped your life?