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 Rob 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 Rob C’s responses:
1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
I first read The Hobbit when I was about 12 or 13 years old. One of my close friends had already read the books and we have similar interests and tastes in books, so I gave it a try. The Hobbit was completely readable and I was immediately drawn into this fascinating but vast realm of peaceful farmland, ancient mountains, fire breathing dragons, untamed forests and all kinds of peoples.
The Lord Of The Rings was more difficult for me to finish at the time mainly due to Tolkien’s incomparable skill at world-building and the minute detail he layered into his writing. It was all a bit much for a young reader. I would reread the trilogy later in high school and truly become hooked.
2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
The history that Tolkien references in the trilogy and a little in The Hobbit may be my favorite part. Every race has their own history and where they intersect with the other races. Tolkien valued history and understood its importance to life and that comes through in his writing.
3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
There’s no one experience but the feeling of being transported back in time and space to another world is so powerful and believable, it’s amazing. At the same time, the world of Middle-earth is not some foreign planet with strange unknown plants and animals, but is very similar to our own.
Tolkien’s Middle-earth helped to inspire me to be more adventurous and appreciative of the natural beauty all around me. Living in Kentucky in the United States, I sometimes imagine that parts of it are The Shire, with all the quiet farms in the central and western parts of the state. While in the east, there are thousands of acres of protected forests that could be Mirkwood or the Misty Mountains. It’s certainly made my childhood a very adventurous one.
4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
I am nearly 30 now and I have read The Silmarillion, The Unfinished Tales, The Letters of J.R.R Tolkien, and J.R.R Tolkien: A Biography. I guess you could say my approach has become more serious or scholarly due to the sheer volume of history, notes, and detail you can read. Of course, I still find myself with the same amazement and level of absorption whenever I reread The Silmarillion, Hobbit, or The Lord Of The Rings. I plan to read the complete History of Middle-rarth one day, plus his other essays and non-Middle-earth stories. Like any classic book, I can always reread it and still find some new detail or appreciate something familiar, in a new perspective based on my current situation in life.
5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
Absolutely! I believe The Hobbit is the mark of the classic fantasy adventure story. A child can read it on their own by age 12 or it can be read to them earlier. I would only caution people who’ve read The Hobbit and are about to read the trilogy for the first time, to be ready for a dramatic shift in tone. The Hobbit was written with Tolkien’s children in mind. The Lord Of The Rings was written for adults as is The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales.
Tolkien wanted a fantasy genre that was written for adults because he loved this genre but in his time most fantasy stories were written for children. Take your time reading anything by Tolkien and you will not be disappointed. The care and detail he poured into his books and stories is still arguably unrivaled to this day. The languages, histories, cultures, peoples, places, and a creation myth he created, it’s almost too much to comprehend that one man wrote this in one lifetime.