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 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 Hancock’s responses:
How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
When I was at Adelaide University in the 70s there was a strong JRRT following. It appeared to have a significant cultural influence on many of my fellow students, even in the science faculty of which I was a part.
I bought a paperback copy of LOTR and once I started to read could not put it down. I was transported in a way that I never experienced previously and have not since.
I also bought another paperback The Adventures of Tom Bombadil which contains some short stories such as Leaf By Niggle and various poems. When my children were young I would often read the poems to them which they still remember.
After that I read LOTR every year until I was about forty. After that I have read it on average about every two to three years.
The original LOTR and TAOTB have long since fallen to pieces due to their constant use and have been replaced.
Once the movies were released I instantly became a fan and have watched them many times, and the commentaries and extras numerous times as well.
I also purchased The Silmarillion and have read that a number of times as well.
2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
That is like having to choose between your children. If I had to choose I think it would be his poetry. More specifically, “Poems and Songs of Middle Earth.” Although not strictly adhering to the “Middle-earth” mythology it seems to me to encapsulate JRRT’s creative ability.
3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
Back in Uni a friend loaned me a record of “The Poems and Songs of Middle Earth” and I subsequently bought the four record set.
It has a song cycle of songs sung by William Elvin and music by Donald Swan (of Flanders and Swan fame), and readings of poems and extracts from the book by Tolkien himself.
I spent many hours listening to these records.
I subsequently bought the hard cover book “Poems and Songs of Middle Earth” which contained the piano score of the Swan song cycle. I am sure I drove my family mad trying to play and sing the songs.
4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
I cannot say that it has really. Well, that is not strictly true.
When I first read his work I was captivated and amazed at the complexity and sheer imagination. As I discovered more about the world that Tolkien created I become more and more engrossed in his legendarium.
Having discovered so much scholarly work, particularly The Tolkien Professor, it has given me a greater appreciation of the literary merits of JTTR’s work.
5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
Short answer yes. Long answer maybe. I have found that many people have no desire for or appreciation of fantasy. That is not to say that they would not appreciate JRRT’s writings but I have found that it just leaves many people cold.
To be blunt he is not for everyone. However it has not stopped me recommending his work and never will but I rarely recommend others of his works such as The Silmarillian.