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 Samantha 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 Samantha Y’s responses:
1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
When I was 7 years old, I had a babysitter named Becky. She is half-Korean like me, and she was an incredibly exciting and charming person. I was totally enthralled with her. She loved The Lord of the Rings, and so I wanted to be a fan as well. She took me to the first movie when it came out, and she took me to a “hobbit party” that many years later has inspired me to host my own every year.
2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
It’s so hard to choose! Generally, I love the message that even the smallest, most insignificant being can make the difference in turning the world from dark to light. For that reason, I think the moment the One Ring is destroyed and you recognize all of the moments and choices that led to that outcome is my favorite part of his work. However I also really love his essay On Fairy-stories!
3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
I spent a summer in high school studying children’s literature at Oxford. I met a couple other Tolkien fans in my class, and the three of us went to the Eagle and Child pub. Discussing his and C.S. Lewis’s works in that room was such a magical experience, it felt like the Professor could have been just around the corner.
4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
Yes! I was such a big fan from an early age, so it was really disappointing and sad to read Junot Diaz’s book The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and realize that some young readers may have had such a negative reaction to Tolkien’s work. However that inspired me to investigate further the racial implications and impact of the Orcs for example. I have had conversations about these issues with a professor of critical race theory, read Tolkien, Race and Cultural History, and even corresponded with podcast hosts of The Prancing Pony Podcast on the issue. I don’t think there’s anything “wrong” with Tolkien’s works. Rather, I see it as my responsibility as an avid fan and member of a 21st century society to wrestle with these issues and self-educate.
5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
Absolutely! I love these stories for so many reasons. They are foundational for anyone interested in fantasy fiction. There is likely no other example of a canon so meticulously and beautifully detailed. Regardless of a person’s interest in fairy stories, it is a true masterpiece, an objectively significant work of art that made a huge mark on our culture.