Nelson Goering’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (18)

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 Nelson 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 Nelson Georing’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

My parents read The Hobbit to me when I was 5 or so. I vaguely remember that I was initially reluctant, but my dad persuaded me to listen to him read the first chapter. That was all it took to hook me, and after that it was me asking them to read me The Lord of the Rings, and then re-reading both books many times on my own ever since. Tolkien’s other works came later. The Silmarillion I think I just sort of discovered on my own, on a bookshelf in the house (I’m not sure my parents had ever actually read it). I read that when I was about 12 (took me two tries: I started reading it during the summer one year, got stalled out, and tried again sixth months later — once I got past the initial cosmogonical bits, I finished it in two or three days). Things like The History of Middle-earth came later, when I started to get involved with online Tolkien communities, especially the Lord of the Rings Plaza.

2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

Probably the later parts of The Hobbit, from their arrival at the Lonely Mountain through the Battle of Five Armies. These have everything that’s best about Tolkien: a strong feeling of the natural world, complex political tensions (even more complicated than is obvious at first glance), an elegiac tone as they wander in the ruins of the past, witty conversations, exciting action, and a dragon.

3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

Just sitting and reading, especially when the weather is doing something interesting, or while travelling. No one big moment stands out, but there are hundreds of small ones.

4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?

I suppose it’s broadened a bit. Maybe the biggest change is reading his academic work, since I always have two hats on: my Tolkien fan hat, and my philologist hat. It’s odd reading something like his essay on ‘Ofermod’, which I think is thoroughly wrong in terms of argument, but is interesting to me as something Tolkien wrote. But the basic thing with his stories is to just sit and read and enjoy, and that hasn’t changed a bit for me, whether it’s The Hobbit, The Wanderings of Húrin, or The New Lay of Gudrún.

5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?

I personally think Tolkien is the best writer of his generation, but I don’t actually recommend him very often. This is mostly because nearly everyone I know is already familiar with at least some of his writings anyway, and partly because I feel really good things are best stumbled across, not hyped up. I do sometimes recommend particular works by Tolkien, such as The Fall of Arthur, to people who I think might enjoy them but may not run across them on their own.

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