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 Thomas G. 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 Thomas G’s responses:
How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
My dad read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to me as bedtime stories when I was a child. I was introduced to The Silmarillion when I was looking for an audiobook to listen to on a family road trip and saw an audio version of a Tolkien book I hadn’t read.
2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
The world building. That was what inspired me to become a writer. My earliest attempts at original fiction were very focused on the world building as a result. I have sought out all of The History of Middle Earth, because seeing how Tolkien progressed through various iterations of his stories is something I find incredibly fascinating. The (relatively) newly released Fall of Gondolin is a particular favorite of mine.
I have also really loved the characters, especially the elves (Legolas was an early favorite). I realized recently that the reason that I got so attached to the elves was that my ideal gender presentation very easily falls into they way elves are depicted. The long haired, beautiful masculinity, particularly of the Noldorin elves of The Silmarillion, is something that I find very appealing. Jenny Dolfen’s depictions of Fingon are absolutely gorgeous.
3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
Being able to create my own meaning from a huge body of work. There are so many ways that working with HoME and the various iterations of the stories that can make for a number of incredible and varied interpretations of the work, both academic and fannish.
There is also something I find quite special about sitting down to watch the extended cuts of the LotR films. They are among a very small number of movies that I can just get completely lost in watching.
4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
Tolkien was my first foray into fanfiction before I knew what fanfiction even was. I was eight or nine and I’d just seen the Fellowship of the Ring movie for the first time, and I decided, “I like these characters, I’m going to write a story with them,” and I’ve been writing Tolkien based fanfiction pretty much ever since.
My early interaction with Tolkien’s work was primarily with the LoTR and The Hobbit, however, the more I got into The Silmarillion, they more I wanted to learn about all the specifics and the differences that emerged in the earlier drafts that make up HoME (Such as the scrapped LotR storyline where Legolas and Gimli get captured by Saruman). As I’ve gotten older and fallen in love with academic research, my interest in Tolkien has gotten more academic as well.
5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
Yes. Not to everyone of course, but if someone is interested in the high fantasy genre, but hasn’t read The Hobbit or LotR, I think suggesting those as future reading would be fitting. I’d feel the same way for someone maybe just trying to dip their toes into that genre for the first time.
If someone already likes Tolkien and is interested in reading more, I would absolutely recommend The Silmarillion. I find it’s a more challenging read than The Hobbit or LotR so I probably would not recommend The Silmarillion to someone who hasn’t read any Tolkien before and the same would apply to HoME.