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 Ina 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 Ina’s responses:
How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
I was introduced by my German/philosophy teacher at the German grammar school I was attending at the time. I was 17.
He gave me the three-volume German edition of The Lord of the Rings, published by Klett-Cotta. When I handed it back to him, he asked me if I had liked it, and I told him I hadn’t.
I also didn’t understand what the hype was all about. At the time, I didn’t understand why I hadn’t liked it.
Several years later, my English had improved, so I decided to read the original version (since I had been lucky enough to find an affordable one-volume edition with the appendices; English books used to be very expensive in Germany before the advent of Amazon).
I devoured the book within a few days and loved it!
I also realised why I hadn’t liked the German translation:
a) All the songs and poems were translated with rhyme and meter, which is commendable; however, the meaning/content went out the window, so I hadn’t understood the backstory of the ring and the history of Middle-Earth.
b) The prose of the German translation is by no means on a par with Tolkien’s use of language. Also, the translator had changed a number of the names to what he probably thought was easier for German readers. I only found it confusing.
I‘ve read it several times since then and love it more each time.
2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
My favourite work by Tolkien is still The Lord oft he Rings, although I have also read The Hobbit and The Silmarillion.
3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
My fondest experiences are:
a) Reading such a magical, beautiful book in the original language.
b) Watching The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (the extended version). One thing I like about the films in particular is that the female characters are portrayed more strongly – and as stronger.
4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
Well, I’m 50 now and have a somewhat more mature approach (I hope). As a young adult, I read novels mostly for entertainment. Then I went to university to study English and learned much about literature, so I came to appreciate it more. Nowadays, I also want to know about the author’s and the story’s backgrounds.
5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
I definitely recommend Tolkien’s work to others – if at all possible, in English. The Lord of the Rings is a milestone of unprecedented genius. You can read it on many levels, starting from reading it simply for pleasure all the way to writing your thesis on it. It’s a marvel of world-building, which makes the reader see something new every time they read it. For me, it’s the best book of the 20th century.