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 Lo 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 Lo’s responses:
1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
I was, sadly, introduced to Tolkien through Peter Jackson’s movies. I tried reading The Hobbit when I was younger, around 11, but I admit to not having made it past the tedious beginning with the genealogy and things. At that time, I stuck mostly to nonfiction. I had discovered paganism after starting middle school, and devoured any book on nature religions and the occult that I could find. Of course, when I did finally see the movie a year later, I was VERY ready to absorb the values, characters, and story given to me by the saga. I read the trilogy, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, as well the Lost and Unfinished Tales, and even part of Lays not long after.
2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
My favorite part of Tolkien’s work is his philosophy. Of crafting “sub-creations”, of myth-making, of living fully and peacefully, of his skepticism of industry and money, and, even though I am still pagan, of his religious devotion. He endeared me in a most profound way to the art of slowness, deep listening, and conviviality. He shaped my deep interest in environmental matters, and my respect for honest labor of the soil. He helped to form the basis of my understanding of the world and of the importance of story. Small things no longer elude me, and I know that wonder is often found in the humblest of places.
3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
If I ignore the fun times I had with friends in high school who would get together to watch all 3 films in one day every year, or dress up with them as characters for Halloween, my fondest moments were probably over the course of reading The Silmarillion. Certain scenes, lines of dialogue, images, would stick out to me, and I would have to put down the book to process what had happened. Invariably I would sit for a while, or here and there over several days, and ponder things like Feanor burning the ships, or the men and elves arguing about the pain of death and the pain of immortality, or the sinking of Beleriand and the idea that a world could truly be changed for ever.
I was also wholly enamored with the act of “sub-creating” itself, and dove head-first into designing otherworldly alphabetic ciphers when I was younger. My affinity for writing and storytelling eventually combined with alphabets to pull me towards hobbyist language creation in high school, which I didn’t have much of a gift for in the end. Fortunately, my artistic talents prevailed, and in college I started a graphic novel that owes a great deal of its narrative, philosophical, and world-building sensibilities to Tolkien’s influence. And though I’ve since shifted focus away from linguistics and genealogies, I hope that I’ve successfully conveyed in my own work the same sense of deep history as well as the wonder and vastness of nature that so moved me when reading about Middle-earth.
4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
Absolutely. When I was younger, I was drawn to the idealism underpinning the stories of many of Middle-earth’s heroes. From Aragorn to Glorfindel, I was most receptive to scenes of bravery and beauty, as well as the aesthetics of a world that values such things highly. But in the past 5 years or so, I’ve since come to better understand the plight of our own world, and that it will, in my lifetime, also be changed forever. I’ve since come to see many of Tolkien’s tales to be tales of collapse, of peoples navigating a shrinking, increasingly hostile world, and the end of days in a most literal way. But maybe the most valuable lesson to be had with that reading is that the years will always march on, no matter how old you feel, no matter the tragedies you’ve witnessed, and that the best thing to do is to surround yourself with good food, good pipe-weed, and good company. And to remember that all things will pass.
5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
I have and I do recommend Tolkien’s work for the simple reason that it is one of the bedrocks of my life and that knowing at least part of his corpus is one of the quickest ways to understand me, as well as the kind of humility and values I strive to represent.
To see Lo’s work, you can visit aquapunk.co!