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 Björn 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 Björn Axén’s responses:
1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
My teacher read The Hobbit for the class when I was 10. Since then I have loved Tolkien. I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time between eleven and twelve and then The Silmarillion when I was fourteen (all of these in Swedish). During my later teenage years I read them in English.
2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
I really love different parts of his works. I clearly remember when Aragorn tells the Hobbits about Beren and Lúthien, and Gil-Galad and Elendil and The Last Alliance and how it was like a window opened up to the mythic legends and I was astonished. I remember that I really wondered about what a Balrog was. It was clearly something very terrible. Legolas’s reaction indicated that the elves knew about Balrogs. All this was like a window into a new universe which of course leads to The Silmarillion.
When I read The Silmarllion I concluded that it’s a distillation, a clear crystal, of European myths. I am most fascinated by Tolkien’s languages and I have studied Quenya and can write tengwar fluently (but I do not read it that well). I have an ongoing project to construct a Black Speech of Mordor (from the base of primitive Elvish). For the last few years I have been really intrigued by Narn i Chîn Húrin (i.e. The Children of Húrin) and how Tolkien weaves together the myths of Sigurd Fafnisbane, Kullervo and Oedipus and incorporates this amalgam story into his own greater mythology.
3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
When my teacher read The Hobbit for the class. He drew the map in different colours on the black board with a beautiful dragon. After that I started to draw maps and dragons instead of cars.
4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
Yes, very much. First there was listening to The Hobbit, reading The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. Then trying to understand his languages and studying Quenya and some Sindarin and other parts of the lore. I was a member of Mellonath Daeron, the language guild of the Forodrim (Stockholm’s Tolkien society). Some years ago I had a part in organizing two Tolkien LARPs (live action role playing) called Utumno and Simbelmynë. After that, I played the table top roleplaying game The One Ring for some years. Since then I have allowed myself to delve deeper into the world of Tolkien and read through all of the History of Middle-earth and read other things that inspired Tolkien, such as the Kalevala, Beowulf and Old Norse Literature (which is really an interest that I found before I heard of Tolkien). In the last four years I have started to explore Tolkien’s languages again (which is really a great way to understand his works) by developing my Neo-Black Speech called Zhâburi and ”collecting” other ”dialects”, i.e. to describe other works of Neo-Black Speeches. I have also started to improve my German by reading Der Herr der Ringe, the German translation of The Lord of the Rings. I have an idea that I should read in the north germanic languages and Dutch. (Danish and Norwegian will not really be difficult (as they are very closely related to Swedish) but Icelandic and Dutch require that I learn to read the two languages.)
5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
Yes, I’m especially promoting The Children of Húrin as one of the best fantasy or really neo-myths of all time. Still, I really understand that Tolkien is not for everyone. I see Tolkien as an author that reintroduced the myth to the disenchanted modern world. And I think this is what makes people so fascinated by his works.
You can find more from Björn Axén at his blog!