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 RossRN 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 RossRN’s responses:
How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
My parents were not Tolkien fans, nor were any friends growing up. I first learned of The Hobbit by seeing the animated Hobbit on TV when I was in elementary school. In 6th grade, I got The Hobbit video game for my Commodore 64 and while I struggled with getting through the portcullis in the barrels, I was already falling in love with the world of Tolkien. It was then that I bought a copy of The Hobbit and a box set of The Lord of the Rings and read them for the first time.
What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
My favorite part of Tolkien’s work is what I’ve come to consider the depth of it. By that, I mean at each stage of my life as I’ve reread The Hobbit and LoTR, I’ve taken away more from it based on my own life experience. Even more depth was granted with the History of Middle Earth. Being able to see the development of the story, the different ideas and considerations that were made is something I find unique. Finally, the publication of his Letters, Essays, and Translations opens your thinking even further as to the influences and decisions he made in this writing. It is truly unique.
What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
Hands down reading The Hobbit and LoTR to my daughter when she was five years old. She had seen the first Harry Potter and wanted me to read that to her as her bedtime story. I told her we would do that once we read The Hobbit and LoTR. She agreed. Each night I read to her and each morning while walking to school we talked about it. I saw the stories in such a new light and it was fun to discuss influences of Tolkien on the world of Harry Potter when we read those.
The experience re-awakened my love of Tolkien and over the past 15 years I’ve greatly expanded my collection and reading of many more of his works.
Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
To the comments made above, once I recognized the depth, I couldn’t get enough. I not only re-read works, but read all of HoME and many other works by and about him. In between, I’d reread The Hobbit and LoTR with a new appreciation and context. I think it is mostly my own experience in life opening my eyes a bit more as I get older, but each time I reread these books I find previously missed gems and concepts. I don’t look for them, I just notice them and more readily identify them. Each read gives me food for thought.
Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
I respect Tolkien is not for everyone. I find it hard to recommend to an adult who hasn’t read it already as it seems many people have predetermined notions of the books based on the movies.
People who haven’t read his works are often shocked that I would have read the books to my daughter at such a young age, mostly because of the movies. Honestly, when I read it to her, she understood it based on her age and experience. To her it was a wonderful, fantastical journey of good vs. evil. It had very ‘basic’ messages of temptation, which as you get older you start to view as being much more complex, none-the-less, she enjoyed it and I think any child would. If you are reading it to your child and discussing it, you can choose what is right to discuss with them and how to do it in the right way for them.