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 Elise 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 Elise Trudel Cedeño’s responses:
1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
I was introduced to Tolkien when my dad rented the Rankin and Bass Hobbit film and Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings. I had never heard of Tolkien before, and I had no idea that the films were adapted from books at that time. Not long after, Peter Jackson’s Fellowship came out, and while I attempted to read The Lord of the Rings, I wasn’t entirely successful. I also had no clue that The Hobbit was a children’s book! The lore was entirely over my head at age eleven, and I had a hard time separating the films from the text. I tried again in college with what I felt was a much greater success, and I’ve been slowly working through Tolkien’s other books as well. I think, however, The Lord of the Rings will always be my first love.
2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
My favorite parts of Tolkien’s work are the relationships and friendships that are developed over the lore and the stories. Whether it’s Sam and Frodo, Legolas and Gimli, Beren and Luthien, or others, it’s clear to me how much Tolkien values “human” relationships and emotions, He understands love and friendship’s many forms and he excellently develops characters to embody these values.
3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
My fondest experience was in the summer of 2018. I had listened to Corey Olsen’s podcasts before, and I had been following Mythgard and Signum University for a while. After taking two classes with Signum I had to take a semester off because I was getting married, moving to a new apartment, looking for new employment, and going on my honeymoon to New Zealand! I decided to prepare for the trip by listening to the Mythgard podcast episodes for The Lord of the Rings. Listening to Corey’s close reading analyses helped me understand the layers of the text that I had not considered previously. I took copious notes to help me focus, and it made my NYC subway commute much more bearable. When I got to New Zealand and visited the Hobbiton movie set, Mt. Ngauruhoe (Mt. Doom) and Mt. Sunday (Edoras), I felt a deep connection with the land and with Tolkien. I could see the armies of Gil-galad and Elendil and Sauron massing at the foot of Mt. Doom, or Bilbo sitting in his garden at Bag End. When the tour bus takes you into the set at Hobbiton, an introductory video is played for the tourists to watch, with Howard Shore’s “Concerning Hobbits” playing in the background. I started crying with absolute joy that I was finally experiencing this world physically, and not just in my imagination. My poor husband just looked at me as if I were crazy, and to this day he still teases me about it. On the other hand, he was such a good sport about taking me there, and of course he enjoyed the complimentary beer at the Green Dragon.
4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
Absolutely. Since joining the Signum University and Mythgard community, I’ve learned a lot more about Tolkien’s craft and how he developed Middle-earth over time. I’m able to analyze his content now more effectively, and I have been branching out into his lesser-known works as well. Last year, I read his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as well as The Fall of Arthur. His mastery of poetry and alliterative meter in Fall of Arthur is unparalleled, in my opinion. I’ve also found that Tolkien’s work is also great for oral reading. Hearing his work is just as delightful, if not more so, as reading it.
5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
It depends on to whom I am making the recommendation. If it were my students or to someone who had never read Tolkien before, I would certainly recommend The Hobbit. If it were to someone who had a bit more experience with literature or someone who was looking for a challenge, I would certainly recommend Tolkien’s poetry or his Histories. If someone is looking for something wacky, entertaining, and an excellent example of a father’s bedtime story gone wild… then there’s nothing better than Mr. Bliss.