If you love Tolkien’s Melkor you may as well love Vin Diesel – because he does

Six dice of various colours. 4-sided die, 6-sided die, 8-sided die, 10-sided die, 12-sided die and 20-sided die
Six dice of various colours. 4-sided die, 6-sided die, 8-sided die, 10-sided die, 12-sided die and 20-sided die

In a recent interview with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show New York actor Vin Diesel (again) proved his geek street cred. It has been known for quite a few years that the action star of blockbuster series like The Fast and The Furious, xXx and Riddick has been an active Dungeon & Dragon player for decades. He was even asked to write the foreword to the 30th anniversary publication on D&D called 30 Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons & Dragons. One of the characters he played in D&D was Melkor, a witch hunter drow with spellcasting abilities.

Tattooed across the stomach of Xander Cage (Vin Diesel’s character) in the 2002 movie, xXx, is the name “Melkor”, which Diesel explained (on the Conan O’Brien Show) is the name of one of his old D&D characters. Quoted in: ‘Dragon’ magazine #320, p. 33.
Vin Diesel is a man of many talents. He used to be a breakdancer and bouncer in New York City but it is his love for the roleplaying classic Dungeons & Dragons which makes him stand out of the crowd of action stars in the last couple of decades. It was with Dragon magazine issue #320 -the 30th anniversary special issue- that this became more widely known to the public. Or rather with this interview
he gave with the Conan O’Brien Show in 2003 in which he confessed to playing D&D for 24 years, starting in the 70’s. In a D&D forum it was added that this drow was a “double specialised” char, i.e. in early versions of the game you could do this – hinting at how early Diesel started playing.

In xXx, one of the most successful action films in recent years, Diesel played alongside Celeborn -or rather Marton Csokas- and had a huge tattoo below his belly button: MELKOR in Schwabacher script (?) capitals. Interesting for me to see the “German” connection; I also have to mention that the film starts off with a Rammstein concert.

Visit this link for the clip with Jimmy Fallon; visit the World’s Most Dangerous Dungeon Master for more videos and clips on Diesel and his D&D connection.

Picture credit Six dice of various colours. 4-sided die, 6-sided die, 8-sided die, 10-sided die, 12-sided die and 20-sided die. By Diacritica (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

P.S.: In case you do not happen to know Melkor – have a look at the Tolkien Gateway.

UPDATE. P.P.S.: Thanks to Troels Forchhammer’s kind intervention I would like to make absolutely clear there is no connection whatsoever between Vin Diesel and Tolkien except for the actor (probably) chosing a random name from a glossary (a list of names) for a new character he wanted play with Dungeons & Dragons. From my research into this I cannot see a single piece of evidence that Vin Diesel knew more of Tolkien than his name and that he had written books like The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. Which does not imply he has read them, either. However, a fun choice for a drow. 😉

TheTolkienist

A Tolkien fan for twenty-five years (and more to come...) Founding chairman of the German Tolkien Society, Co-Founder of Ring*Con, Co-Founder of the ITF, host, presenter and fantasy expert

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  • TroelsForchhammer

    As a long-time D&D player myself, I love that Vin Diesel is such a dedicated player with good memories of the game.

    The Tolkien-connection, however, is to darned vague that I have to call nonsense on this. Mr. Diesel knows that The Silmarillion is by J.R.R. Tolkien, that it was published after The Lord of the Rings and he has looked in the glossary to find the name “Melkor”. That is the full extent of it, and, frankly, unless a much deeper connection with the book is revealed at some later time, this belongs in the same class as the Edgbaston Waterworks and the Burren.

    • True enough, Troels – someone browsing through the glossary of a (friend’s?) book to find a cool-sounding name for his new char when playing a drow (one of the cultures I never could get my head around ;)) shouldn’t possibly be called a Tolkien fan.

      However, except for the title there is no such statement. Not in the slightest.

      And even that isn’t straightforward in its meaning 🙂 Which I most surely kept in mind.

      Have you gone over to Daniel’s blog post with the TS? _That_ is making an assumption which isn’t possible to maintain, I would agree with you: “Vin Diesel reveals his love of The Silmarillion.” Which he does not.

      And in fact I have watched about half a dozen interviews with him on his D&D background and that particular character. I have browsed through several D&D websites, old fora entries etc. I spent three and a half hours for research alone.

      Yes, he has heard of Tolkien and he had “The Silmarillion” in his hand – but nothing except for that. 🙂 His years as a youngster where spent skateboarding, breakdancing and spending time on D&D, as far as I can tell.

      But I do concede the point that I should possibly add a statement explaining that there is no link at all between Vin Diesel and him (possibly) being a Tolkien fan *g*

      • TroelsForchhammer

        You’re right, of course – I mostly did react to the title (and perhaps some lingering frustration at the allegations at the TS site).

        And perhaps I react a bit stronger when you do something like this because I am used to a very high degree of intellectual / scholarly integrity from you – and if that is damning with praise, at least the praise isn’t faint 🙂

        • Thank you very much, Troels – these words mean a lot to me!

          And yes, we are now at crossroads, I believe. How will fandom go forward? How will appreciation of Tolkien go forward? Will he be Shakespearianised and his quotes turn into everyday proverbs people don’t know the origin of? Will the new fans coming from the films do things differently, will they stay with Tolkien?

          I think it is important for some of the Old Guard to shine a light; what kind of light, in what direction or for what purpose I haven’t the slightest clue. However, I know that I have had the great pleasure and honour to meet wonderful people because of my love for Tolkien.

          If I can keep this going -and even with the tiny steps I know I am only capable of – then I will do this. And I think making websites like the Tolkienist or the Tolkien Society go-to-places combining both fun and entertainment with serious discussion and scholarship is the only way forward to make these discussions, this knowledge available to a wider audience.

          If we don’t do it, noone will. 😉 Or maybe I am simply mistaken, who knows!