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 Patricia 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 Patricia Minger’s responses:
How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
I found The Hobbit in the school library when I was about ten years old. I immediately loved it, although I don’t remember that first reading very clearly. I was one of those kids who stayed up late reading by the light of the 15-watt bulb in the hall outside my room. (Which may explain why I needed glasses by the time I was twelve.) I devoured the whole thing in about two nights running.
I did not start reading The Lord of the Rings until I was about thirteen. I dimly recall my mother saying the book was ‘too old’ for me. She never read it, so I don’t know why she thought that. Once I did start, I read it continuously about three times. The descriptions of the places enthralled me, and the adventure of it all. The maps fascinated me. I would have followed Aragorn into battle. I took Sam to my heart. I wept when Frodo left the Grey Havens. I loved fantasy of any kind, but without knowing it, I grokked that this was the ‘deep magic’ version of the genre. To this day when I start to re-read it, I eagerly anticipate it like a new experience.
2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
My favorite part of Tolkien’s work shifts with time and experience, but I have always had a great appreciation for the landscapes he paints, particularly certain breathless, stunning moments. Certainly, the environment functions as a character, one that occasionally comes to life and speaks. It was no surprise to learn that Tolkien saw with the eye of an artist. Some of his paintings express elemental visions, and are as striking as his prose.
I think the strengths of the PJ films were the visuals, and Howard Shore’s exquisite score. There are those who take exception to some of the adaptation, but those two features outweighed any possible flaws of the script. Surprisingly, my imagination limited the magnitude of scenes like the Ride of the Rohirrim, or the Mines of Moria, and the movies fully fleshed these out for me without dislodging my own impressions. And the music: the music of the Ainur! A worthy sub-creation.
3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
My fondest experience of Tolkien’s work has to be the bond it has created between my sister and me. When we were growing up, it was our job to wash the dishes after dinner. For many years we took turns reading aloud, one of us working while the other read. We went through many books in those years, but my favorite was The Lord of the Rings. It has led us on many adventures together, from Mythgard and Signum University, to the A Long Expected Party (ALEP) community based in Kentucky, to midnight premieres of the movies, to Oxford and the recent Bodleian Library exhibit.
4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
Naturally my approach to Tolkien has changed over the years. In my original readings, where all I had was the story in front of me, I took it at face value. In more recent times I have absorbed the scholarship of people like Verlyn Flieger, Michael Drout, Tom Shippey, Corey Olsen, and so many more, and I have experienced more depth to my readings, more questions, more attention to details. His essays, his shorter works, and Christopher Tolkien’s extensive exploration found in The History of Middle Earth of course inform my understanding and curiosity. Getting my BA in English also gave me a better idea of context.
5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
Would I recommend Tolkien’s work? Yes. With the caveat that his work is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. The Lord of the Rings is magnificent. It rises above genre in the way that all truly great works of fiction do. But I will also admit that if someone asks me ‘Would I like it?’ I do not give a quick answer. I sort of feel a protectiveness about it. I don’t want someone to read it who will not like it, or who might even hate it. I usually qualify a recommendation with the caveat that while I found it a revelation of what literature could be, I do not expect that will be everyone’s experience.
For more thoughts from Patricia Minger, see her Facebook page!