This is one in a series of posts where the content is provided by a guest who has graciously answered five questions about their experience as a Tolkien reader. I am very humbled that anyone volunteers to spend time in this busy world to answer questions for my blog, and so I give my sincerest thanks to Jeremiah and the other participants for this.
To see the idea behind this project, check out this page
I want to thank Donato Giancola for allowing me to use his stunning portrait of J.R.R Tolkien as the featured image for this project. If you would like to purchase print of this painting, they are available on his website!
If you would like to contribute your own experience, you can do so by using the form on the contact page, or by emailing me directly.
Now, on to Jeremiah B’s responses:
How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
My dad introduced me to Tolkien by sitting me down at about the age of 4 to watch the Rankin-Bass animated version of The Hobbit, and I’ve gone ever-deeper into the legendarium from there. But I often return to that animated classic, and I’ll always defend it as being brilliantly executed from those who like to call it silly or weird. While it is never flawless, it manages to capture in 1hr18m what the big-budget Hollywood adaptation managed to miss almost entirely in the course of nine hours.
What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
This depends on what you mean by ‘part’. My favourite book remains The Lord of the Rings. But my favourite “quality” or “thing” about Tolkien and his work is how rich, deep, and real it feels. When I read it, it “feels” like it could all really have happened. Tolkien achieves this quality through many mechanisms which aren’t appropriate for this short-reply format. But I’ve not felt that quality with my (admittedly limited) experiences with other fantasy novels.
What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
I often wish I could ‘forget’ Tolkien and ‘re-discover’ him for the first time. The closest I can get is reading to my daughter (who is 10 as of writing this) and watching her reactions. It is wonderful. I’m letting her dictate the speed of her introduction because I hope it will make her more naturally take to the material. I don’t want it forced. But so far we’ve managed to go through The Hobbit (twice), Smith of Wootton Major, Farmer Giles of Ham, and Roverandom, and we’ve recently begun The Fellowship of the Ring.
However, equally important to me is my wife, who I met through an online book forum discussing Tolkien. This was back in 2004 when meeting people from the Internet was much more taboo than it even is now. It’s safe to say that without Tolkien, my life would be completely different: I wouldn’t be married to this woman, I wouldn’t have my daughter, and I wouldn’t have moved 3500 miles from my hometown across the Atlantic.
Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
Yes! Like many, I used to skip the poetry. And I didn’t really start to go in for “Tolkien studies” until I was in my 20s. Instead, I merely read cover-to-cover (skipping the appendices), and moved on. Now I read more carefully and I often read for different reasons (studying a particular concept, and of course, for pleasure). I’ve broadened my Tolkien bookshelf and “to be read” pile significantly, which now includes essays, papers, and books by many other authors who have, in turn, offered a unique perspective on Tolkien.
Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
I would (and have several times) recommend Tolkien to anyone who likes mythology/ high fantasy/ romance novels and isn’t afraid of large sections of the narrative being devoted to the description of a landscape or local flora. But I accept that Tolkien is not for everyone!
To see more of Jeremiah B’s thoughts on Tolkien, head over to his fantastic blog: https://mathomhouse.wordpress.com/