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 Miles 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 Miles S‘s responses:
How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
I was first introduced to The Lord of the Rings when I was nine years old. I had been reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and had enjoyed it immensely. My father had a Brilliantine paperback edition of The Fellowship of the Ring (with the wonderful Barbara Remington cover art) and gave it to me, telling me, “there is a very scary part where they make a journey underground and encounter a dreadful spirit of the underworld!” I was so intrigued that I began to read it almost immediately and was soon completely engrossed in the story. Of course, The Bridge of Khazad-dum had me enthralled and I was devastated when Gandalf the Grey fell into darkness.
What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
It really is difficult for me to define what I feel is my favorite part of Tolkien’s work. I was absolutely enthralled with Middle-earth after my first (of many) readings of The Lord of the Rings, and that was not diminished by subsequent, multiple readings of The Hobbit and The Silmarillion. If anything I would have to say that perhaps those three works are my favorites of the Tolkien catalogue. I have not been quite as big a fan of most of his posthumously published material (with the exception of The Silmarillion of course which he was working on prior to his death) because I am not sure whether Professor Tolkien would have wanted this material published.
What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
One of my fondest experiences associated with Tolkien’s work is perhaps my first reading of The Silmarillion when I was 16 years of age. I had pre-ordered my copy from the local bookstore and taken the bus to pick it up the day it arrived. At first I found the narrative odd and disjointed, but being a lover of Tolkien and possessing the dogged determination that comes with young adulthood, I soldiered on and very quickly fell under the spell of the incredibly vast and complex universe that Professor Tolkien wove around me. I found the history of the Elves to be incredibly noble and tragic, and the story of Feanor, the Silmarils and the flight of the Noldor to Middle Earth reminded me of the legends and myths I had read in books on ancient Greek/Roman and Norse mythology. I keenly remember reading of the Dagor Bragollach and the madness of Fingolfin; of his riding forth alone to Angband to challenge Morgoth to single combat. When I read the line “and Morgoth came” the hairs rose on the back of my neck and a shock of fearful anticipation coursed through me like an electric current. There have been very few times, before or since when the written word has been able to elicit that kind of a response in me.
Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
Of course my approach to Tolkien’s work has changed over time. After multiple readings of his work, and vastly more experience gained through reading the works of other authors, my appreciation of Tolkien has been modified and placed in the context of a greater appreciation of literature in general.
Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
As for recommending Tolkien, I have been doing so ever since I first experienced his work. I think part of the genius of Tolkien’s work is that it is approachable by readers of any calibre. One only has to look at the popularity of the very simplistic, commercial movie versions of his work to see how it can appeal across a large demographic.