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 Liam 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 a 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 Liam Chung’s responses:
How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
My mom religiously buys out library sales, and owns copies of almost every classic work of literature, from The Name of the Rose to The Great Gatsby. Naturally, she owned an absolutely ANCIENT copy of LOTR, and as a kid I was so enticed by the art and style of the books that I read The Hobbit at around 9. I didn’t get around to the rest of the books until I was about 13, but when I got there I fell in love with them, and after I finished reading them on my mom’s edition, I went out and bought my own leather bound copy.
2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
Easy. When Samwise fights Shelob to protect Frodo at the end of The Two Towers. I still remember reading it for the first time, and being blown away. I especially remember glancing at the table of contents and seeing the name of the chapter, “The Choices of Master Samwise,” and being incredibly excited to get there, because (at the time) Samwise was my favorite character.
3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
I finished The Return of the King sitting outside in my backyard, and felt a powerful sense of peace after finishing that epilogue-esque ending with Sam returning home to his family. Nothing special, but an incredibly meaningful moment in my life.
4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
Yes. My view of the characters and their struggles has been put in context just by being able to sit with them for a couple years, and I’m sure it will continue. The most notable change was after I read The Silmarillion, and a lot of the prologue in Fellowship of the Ring was put into context. It completely changed how I viewed the entire adventure, because it made it more like these tiny figures marching through a world that’s much older and much more jaded than they are.
5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
Absolutely. I recognize it’s not for everyone, and the vast majority of people I recommend it to say “it’s so boring! I couldn’t finish it!” and at this point, I just sigh and move on. But it means a lot to me when I can actually talk someone into reading them and enjoying them. I remember I had this English teacher in high school who, upon finding out the LOTR was my favorite work of literature, proceeded to just absolutely trash them, saying how they’re a lazy children’s book where nothing happens. I’m not sure I’ve ever been more angry in my whole life, but I survived. I hope that one day she changes her mind.