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 Becky 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 Becky Dillon’s responses:
1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
“Read this,” she said as we brushed shoulder-to-shoulder in the exchange of classes back in 1965, and she pushed a strangely covered book under my nose.
“What? More unicorns and dragons and fairies? Please, Kathy, no!”
“This is different. Trust me!” I was sceptical, but I took the book from her anyway as she turned on her heel and sped away to her next class.
“Hmmm. The Two Towers. It doesn’t sound promising; more like Rapunzel…”
Of course, I was wrong.
It seemed that Kathy’s boyfriend had stumbled on this series of three books that he thought were cool and insisted that Kathy read them so they could discuss them. Kathy, in her need for support, was sharing the set with others, including me, and I got the second book because the first one was already lent out to a mutual friend who was keen to read this ‘new’ view of fantasy. Kathy, herself, was finishing the third.
Yes, I eventually got to read them in the correct order, and have been doing so every couple of years since then – albeit in one volume!
2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
My favourite part of Tolkien’s work is the imaginative children’s works; specifically Smith of Wootton Major, with Roverandom a close second. Tolkien’s love of story for the sake of story shows in his attention to detail and great sense of humour. Who else but Tolkien would invest so much time in the creation of the ‘Father Christmas Letters’ or the Girabbit in Mr Bliss’ garden? And, all of it is tied together with his own artwork. Although much of the published titles use the work of others (ie.:Pauline Baynes), Tolkien still had his own sense of art communicating the story as much as the words, and for a children’s book, pictures were a necessity.
3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
As existential as it may sound, the first time I got off the train in Oxford and walked up the street to the Magdalen Martyr’s Memorial and onto St. Giles and the Eagle and Child. I knew then that I would never have a better experience with Tolkien as my reference; almost as if I was ‘reading’ Oxford for the first time.
4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
Absolutely. Even after some 20+ reads of ‘Lord of the Rings,’ I have found that the more I read and discuss the more depth I find.
I am a member of an on-line reader’s group called the Grey Havens Palantír, and we are again reading LotR; being on Chapter VII, ‘In the House of Tom Bombadil.’ The previous chapter has opened up new insights, as re-reads always do, and I am always excited about new finds and new perceptions. The Story, for sake of the Story, will always intrigue me, but finding new details and new direction in the well-read text is always exciting.
5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
It would depend on the person involved. There are some who would not enjoy/appreciate Tolkien, and I would like to think that I should be able to discern those characters. I have found that it takes a special character to enjoy the work and the ideals put forth, and it is that which I would need to consider before any recommendation.
For more Tolkien, follow the page that Becky Dillon contributes to on Facebook: International Tolkien Fellowship-News & Publications!