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 Ian 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 Ian L. Collier’s responses:
1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
Technically at school as my class of 12 year old kids had The Hobbit as a book to read as a class reading (each taking turns to read it) but as my father died around then I didn’t finish it with the class and forgot all about it – you can guess why. 4 years later though during the summer holiday from school I saw my sister reading a book with a strange design of a ring & strange red letters and asked what it was – she told me I could read it after I’d read The Hobbit. So I read The Hobbit and then sneaked reading of The Lord of the Rings (in 3 volumes) as my sister hadn’t finished it but had to go to work at her summer job – so I could read it when she wasn’t at home – and then went to get copy of from the library to read straight away after. I’d read Catch22 in a similar fashion earlier but have only re-read that once unlike TH & LotR etc 😉
2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
Oh now that is something I would describe as very hard to pin down beyond ‘all of it’ In TH & LotR There’s the sheer depth of the world you experience around the characters and action. TH may be a bedtime story for kids but there are all these hints at older stranger things around the edges, in LotR there are even more and then at the end you get the appendices and “Tale of Years” with all these little snippets of ‘history’. After that you find The Silmarillion with its mythology and then the wars of the elves that are hinted at in TH. Unfinished Tales is a gem as it bridges Sil & TH/LotR with background information and also new stories.
After that you can discover Farmer Giles of Ham, or Niggle and his Tree, and the Father Christmas Letters are jewels of imagination and artistry, Tolkien’s output is a deep well of wonderful tales or scholarship wrapped up in fiction.
There is also the pleasure to be found in reading them aloud to other people (kids & adults).
3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
Reading Farmer Giles of Ham with a group of students in Taruithorn (The Oxford Tolkien Society) who had never read it before – it was a delight.
4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
Not really, I still just pick up a book from my shelves – they are quite tame so there’s no need to sneak up on them.
5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
Of course I would, and have, before the films actually came out I was interviewed a few times for the Tolkien Society and I was asked what I would say to someone who had tried to read LotR and given up – my reply was to read it until the end of the Council of Elrond and if you weren’t hooked then not to worry about it – books are different to each readers’ taste and for some people the ebb and flow of familiarity and danger as FotR takes you from birthday parties, on to shadowy hunters etc works to draw you in but for others …