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 Casey 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 Casey Hilsee‘s responses:
1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
I am one of those folk, perhaps more common these days, who grew up with the movies and not the books. When I was maybe 7 or 8 I was captivated by Jackson’s adaptation of Fellowship and spent my childhood watching the films regularly. I did give The Lord of the Rings book a shot but didn’t make it past the first chapter. When I got to college I began reading a lot of C.S. Lewis and began learning a bit about his life, with a particular focus on the Inklings. I knew he and Tolkien were friends, and since I loved the films, I decided to give Tolkien a go, reading The Hobbit aloud to my now-wife. We absolutely loved it. I promptly spent Christmas break reading The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and Carpenter’s biography. It has turned into a full-on obsession and I haven’t looked back.
2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
My favorite part of his work is the way he’s able to weave what he believed and saw as ideal into his works and characters without it diminishing the quality and vastness of what he was doing. It’s a truly inspirational book, one that encourages me to strive to be a more noble man, a better husband and father, a more faithful Christian. He paints a beautiful portrait of what is good, true, and beautiful.
3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
It’s definitely reading The Hobbit out loud to my wife when we were engaged. It was a wonderful shared experience, one we still recall to this day. We still share many conversations about Middle-earth and Tolkien’s mythology.
4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
It absolutely has. I initially read it as just another fantasy novel, the grandfather of modern fantasy for sure, but not much more. After reading it and discovering The Silmarillion my view changed. I also discovered the academic side of Tolkien fandom, as well as the breadth of Tolkien’s work, such as his translation of Beowulf and “On Faerie Stories,” which has led me to analyze the texts in such a different way than I do any other novel I’ve read. Thank you especially to Shawn and Alan at the Prancing Pony Podcast for introducing me to the vast world of Tolkien fandom out here!
5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
Absolutely! I definitely think his works are worth at least trying out. He’s still hovering over every single conversation about the greatest books in the English language and over every discussion of fantasy novels. His influence is inescapable. I would definitely recommend different things to different people based on where they’re at and what they like, but I do recommend him every chance I get. If you know me in person and I haven’t recommended a Tolkien book to you yet, we just haven’t spent enough time together!