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 David 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 David Hamblin’s responses:
1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
My father read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to me when I was a child. I believe I’d have been about 6 with the latter. I can’t recall a time without The Lord of the Rings in my life. In my dad’s peerless logic reading TLOTR meant he didn’t have to choose another book for about a year.
I watched the Ralph Bakshi version as a child recorded off the TV. I listened to the Brian Sibley adaptation on 13 cassettes which my Dad had painstakingly recorded off the radio.
I used to carry around at least one of the books all the time (1 of 7 as Tolkien intended)
2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
In terms of dramatic moments it would be Faramir’s rejection of the Ring.
In terms of comedy (an underrated aspect of Tolkien’s work) Gollum’s delicious reaction to being told that “The fish from this pool are dearly bought” *drops fish* “Don’t want fish.”
In terms of aspects the sheer volume and depth of the work in question. The fact that poetry is interwoven throughout the text. The fact that it is indeed the richest of worlds.
3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
Probably interacting with my Dad. We discuss the (excellent) Brian Sibley adaptation constantly (as a by the by I dropped an email to Brian Sibley just saying how much of an influence he had on me recently and was delighted to receive a response. He was lovely.) We play one of the board games (sumptuously illustrated) “Confrontation” regularly.
4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
I have become curiously tribal around fidelity of the text. Mostly in jest. Mostly. I was somewhat mercurial about TLOTR films but overall felt they captured the world. The Hobbit films are an affront to Eru and should be cast into Orodruin…
I follow Christopher Lee’s reported lead of reading in full annually.
John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith remain the holy trinity of The Lord of the Rings illustrators. Others are great but they have their own niche carved at the top.
I have had the Balrog wings debate (I am in favour) but Nasmith’s depiction on the bridge of Khazad-dûm made me open to the alternative. John Howe’s resplendent Smaug remains my favourite Hobbit cover.
There is an unabashed sentimentality to The Lord of the Rings that I have always found to be deeply reassuring.
Also just a quick note to say that Tolkien inspired me to write poetry of my own. Tolkien was also a gateway to Games Workshop.
It is no accident that my profile pic on twitter shows me with key influences displayed. One of which is the Tolkien rune pendant bought for me by my wife.
5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
I do little else but recommend Tolkien’s work! The fact is Tolkien has informed my worldview significantly. While his disdain for allegory is well documented there are aspects of his principles that seep through. I too am Catholic and it is fair to say that Tolkien reinforced & articulated certain principles I hold dear. My stance on the death penalty (vigorous opposition) is in part based on faith & politics but informed and articulated by “It was pity that stayed his hand”, etc.
Speaking of politics – I am of a Socialist mien (and even my Catholoicism is Liberation Theology based) and fully au fait with the knowledge that Tolkien would not be enamoured with me. No matter. While speaking at a Trade Union conference I took the liberty of quoting Tolkien/Gandalf on the subject of the attacks on library services (and society as a whole as I see it). “He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom”. There is a power in his words. That alone is reason enough to recommend.
To talk with David Hamblin about Tolkie, you can find him on Twitter!