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 John 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 John David Cofield‘s responses:
How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
I first came into contact with J.R.R. Tolkien and Middle-earth in the summer of 1968. I was 11 and during summer vacation I subscribed to a newsletter for grade school children put out by the My Weekly Reader organization. One issue had a long feature article about these amazing books written by a professor in England. There were illustrations of hobbits and hobbit holes and one of Gollum watching Frodo at the Cracks of Doom. I was fascinated by what I read in that newsletter but the local library didn’t have any Tolkien books, so I put the newsletter aside and went on to other things. Then in April 1969 when I was 12 and in the 6th grade I spotted The Hobbit in my elementary school library. I checked it out and fell in love with it from the first page. That summer I bought paperback copies of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and I’ve never been without at least one copy of each ever since.
What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
It’s difficult to narrow down to a favorite part, but as a historian and former high school history teacher I know I’ve always enjoyed sections like The Council of Elrond where a lot of the background history is presented.
What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
Again its difficult to narrow down to a fondest experience, but I know that I first read The Lord of the Rings during an unhappy time in my family’s history. We had made an unfortunate move from one town to another where none of us were happy and where we only stayed for 6 months before moving back to the first town. So during those months The Lord of the Rings was a distraction and a source of happiness for me.
Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
As a twelve year old and as a teenager I read Tolkien for the adventure and the story. After nearly 50 years I still love the adventure and story, but I’m also much more aware of the deep values behind the surface plot. Additionally, so many years of reading has left a patina of memory on each page, and I can often remember reading a certain passage many years earlier, reminding me of some of the thoughts and reactions I had to it then.
Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
I would definitely recommend reading Tolkien, with the caution that it can become a central life theme. Not that that’s anything but positive, but people do need to be aware that “the book” is more than just a book to me and to many others.