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 ‘Druidsfire’ 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 Druidsfire’s responses:
How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
When I was in single digits, we were assigned The Hobbit in Literature/English class. After reading it and falling in love with the dear old Hobbit and his love of maps, I found that there was a sequel trilogy, and was delighted that my favorite author Peter S. Beagle had done the foreword for it. Because Beagle’s own work was so influential in my life at the time, his ‘vouching’ for Lord of the Rings ensured I’d read it. And I never looked back.
2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
“Elves, sir!” It’s Tolkien’s fault that any time I play a game where Elves are a playable race, my main is always an elf. The worldbuilding and the history is second to none.
3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
I’ve been a 12-year player of Lord of the Rings Online, so my fondest experience is getting to actually play in Middle-earth and inhabit this world I love so much on a daily basis. A couple of years ago, the game progressed in the story to the end of the Ring, and some months previous to that expansion’s release, I had the opportunity to interview some of the developers from Standing Stone Games, the studio that makes LotRO. I’d asked their primary story designer Jeff ‘MadeofLions’ Libby how they would handle that iconic and singular moment. One of the game’s features is called ‘session play’, where the player steps outside their own character to play through a short sequence as another character that their own couldn’t be present. They’d used this for things like players getting to witness the taking of the Oath with Isildur at the Stone of Erech, the first meeting of Gandalf and Aragorn, and even the breaking of the Fellowship and the fall of Boromir.
I’d surmised that they would turn the end of the Ring sequence on its head and let the players go through the event as Gollum instead of Frodo or Sam… and I was right. They of course wouldn’t answer at the time so as not to spoil the surprise, but when I got to the event after the expansion was released months later, I had the privilege of being the first streamer to play through it on the game’s Twitch channel. And yes, I yelled, ‘I called it! I called it!’ After my stream, I contacted Libby through the game’s forums and enthused about how they handled that scene and having guessed their plan so long ago. He admitted that he’d actually been miffed that I’d called it way back then, but then said it meant that they’d made the correct choice when they designed that piece of iconic content. Being a part of that has meant so much to me, and it’s one of my favorite LotRO stories to tell.
4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
Yes indeed! Before, I was merely a passive reader or viewer of the various animated and movie adaptations. Now I play in LotRO, I support Professor Corey Olsen’s Twitch streams by moderating and archiving, and I’ve even played in a couple of tabletop games. I’ve grown beyond the little girl who was always sad to hear the name Gondolin into a middle-aged woman who knows the various histories of the lost city and feels even more sorrow at Maeglin’s betrayal, and yet hope, because there are works of the First Age which still survived until the end of the Third that even the malice of Morgoth and his armies couldn’t destroy.
5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
Absolutely! Sure, some folks might feel The Silmarillion is a bit dry compared to the other works, it’s still worthy to read at least once. And if one liked the Middle-earth works, they might be interested in trying some of the others.