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 Putri 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 Putri Prihatini’s responses:
1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
In 2002. That year, the hype for LOTR movies was high, and I went to the book store after finding out that they had been adapted from books. The Indonesian editions of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, and The Hobbit had just hit the shelves. I purchased FOTR without thinking. Later, I remember laying still on my bed late at night, thinking “Wow, what did I just read?” I later went back to the store and purchased the others. The rest is history.
2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
Lots of things, but mainly how layered and sophisticated his world-building aspects are. When I was still a beginner reader, I felt like his stories were not something that happened in a fantasy world, but could have happened at some points in the past. I also love how nuanced his characters and stories are. They are not as “black and white” as some people might accuse.
Finally, I love the way Tolkien obscured many references when his characters mention history, characters, and stories from the past. He was supposedly the “know it all” in his world, but he restrained himself from revealing too much to the readers. This makes me feel the sense of mystery and wonder for the past, which results in some serious digging if I want to know more. When reading LOTR, for example, I only know as much as what the characters know, which makes me feel connected to them.
3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
Reading The Silmarillion for the first time in 2005. I felt like everything that was mentioned vaguely in LOTR finally came to life, with all the tragedies, conflicts, and larger-than-life characters. Also, it was the first Tolkien’s book that I read in English. My English reading skill was still below average at that time, and it took me one year to finish the book. It was so rewarding, and my reading skill improved greatly.
More recent example was when my paper was presented at Tolkien Society Seminar 2018, by none other than Nelson Goering. While I was unable to visit due to financial reasons, I was touched because people whom I never met went out of their way to help my paper to be presented. As a person who did not have literature, Classic, linguistic, or other Tolkien-related academic backgrounds, it felt like an acknowledgment from the community.
4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
Yes. The first time I read Tolkien, I was intrigued by the stories and adventures, and how it was connected with the movies I had watched, nothing more. Later, I started to notice new layers and understanding when rereading the books. When my experiences and knowledge grew, I saw more nuanced insight and new understanding about many aspects of the stories. These things prompted me to start buying more books that could help me see more behind these new layers, even outside the recommended biographies, History of Middle-earth, and Tolkien’s letter collections. In short, I grew with his books, and his books “grew” with me.
5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
Yes! I will always recommend it when someone asks me about good fantasy fiction books. Tolkien’s work provides good examples of detailed world-building, powerful characters, and nuanced stories that require you to look deeper, even into the words his characters use when speaking. I would also recommend Tolkien’s non Middle-earth books, especially for new readers who just found out about Tolkien from movies.
For more thoughts on Tolkien’s life and works from Putri Prihatini, visit The Lore Master: Blog Tolkien Indonesia!