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 Trevor 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 Trevor Bowen’s responses:
How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
I stumbled upon a copy of The Hobbit in my primary school library when I was 10 years old. I can still remember the way my heart jumped and my intrigue was kindled, when I first opened the book and saw the enchanting inside cover. There was strange symbols I was later to learn are called runes, indecipherable points of the compass, and references to spiders, a Lonely Mountain and a Long Lake! And who were Thror and the Elvenking, and just what is a Great Worm? As I started to read, I quickly realized here was an adventures to be had; here was an escape from the everydayness of school and home life: here was a land I could travel to in my imagination and explore. The Hobbit whetted my appetite for my discovery of Tolkien’s trilogy which I savored with the same interest and enthusiasm. I traveled to many other imaginary lands in my younger years, and beyond our galaxy when I was a teenager. But I have always returned to Middle-earth, and still do.
2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
I find it fascinating the way Tolkien created a mythology with a timescale spanning eons. There are creation stories, ancient chronicles, a fragmented antiquity of familial and tribal histories of amazingly nuanced detail and background. The magnitude of these annals is incredible in itself, and I find the depth and complexity of his storytelling throughout the ages compelling to read. It is wonderful the way these subtle through-lines, originating in earlier ages, are embedded within the well-known stories of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. I particularly enjoy reading the “Ainulindalë” and the way music themes are incorporated into the building of the Eä and Arda.
3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
I have read some of Tolkien’s works to groups of children, in particular The Hobbit. I have been quite surprised and reassured that children still enjoy having stories read to them, even though they have grown up in a world with so many exciting forms of digital entertainment. I realized for the first time that reading a text aloud is so much different from reading a story in your head. I had read The Hobbit many times previously, but in reading the story aloud, I experienced a different appreciation in how Tolkien crafted words and created imagery. In many of the children’s eyes, I could see that spark of attentiveness and interest that told me they had tasted something of the magic of Tolkien’s writings.
4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
Over the years I have progressed from being a ‘recreational’ reader of Tolkien’s writings enjoying regular re-readings of my favorite texts, to a more scholarly approach. Now there is a longing to dig deeper into his life and background, and to explore the expansive detail of his legendarium. I thoroughly enjoy delving into much of Christopher Tolkien’s History of Middle Earth, Tolkien’s minor works and the range of other texts published since the Professor passed away. I have put together a treasured collection of biographies, essays and reference books all Tolkien related. I enjoy following an element of his legendarium, exploring the languages created, cultures and creatures and the multitude of layers that go into making up his fascinating sub creation.
5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
Yes, I would. I think other people deserve to be exposed to stories that are both enthralling and entertaining at a heartfelt level, and challenging in the moral and cognitive sense. Reading Tolkien’s works often affect me emotionally and intellectually. I appreciate what he wrote in the preface to The Lord of the Rings: “applicability to the thought and experience of readers”. As a writer he gives the reader freedom to apply the outcomes you think and feel from reading his works to your own life. To me, there is much truth and encouragement in Tolkien’s work that can be supportive of a positive and fulfilling life of any reader.
For more Tolkien talk from Trevor Bowen, follow the Melbourne Tolkien Smial on Facebook!