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 Maria 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 Maria Zielenbach’s responses:
1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
My mother read The Hobbit to me and my brother when I was very young (under 6) and I do not remember it at all. When I was about 8, my uncle lent the German radio play of The Lord of the Rings to my brother. I remember very well when my brother asked me to listed to the scene at the Gates of Moria and had me try the riddle – I failed 😀 However, I do not recall listening to the Mount Doom scene for the first time – I sometimes joke that in my world the Ring has always been destroyed.
2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
I really like all the stories related to Númenor and the Second Age in general. My favourite scene, however, is the one at the Barrow-downs since I enjoy this kind of horror a lot.
3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
I met a lot of awesome people (some of my closest friends now) through Tolkien related events. Tolkien fans seem to be a very special kind of species – a very great one actually 😀
When it comes to a very personal moment, I very fondly recall reading the biography by Humphrey Carpenter for the first time. I realized how many of Tolkien’s thoughts and views on Myths and languages I had unknowingly shared with him for a long time. Maybe that is one of the reasons why I like his works so much.
4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
As I told before, I started out with the radio play of The Lord of the Rings, next came the radio play of The Hobbit. After that, when I was about 13, I tried to read The Lord of the Rings in German – and hated it. But fortunately, I had also taken The Silmarillion from the library and that was much more to my taste. Perhaps the problem was the German translations of The Lord of the Rings (I still do not like them today). I never read The Lord of the Rings in full until I was about 20 and well established in the Tolkien Fan scene. Only then I tried the English original and the spirit took over, so to say. So the change was from Silmarillion to The Lord of the Rings.
5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
I regularly recommend Tolkien to both friends and the public when I visit events with the German Tolkien Society. I think The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings still rank very high on the list of the best Fantasy books ever published, and I am specially trying to convince people who have only seen the movies that the books a worth a read. I have encountered several people in Germany who, like me, struggle with the translations but enjoyed the original a lot better. I also think that with Tolkien a ‘holistic’ access to Fantasy literature is not possible. Most Fantasy (and Science Fiction) authors, consciously or unconsciously, make reference to Tolkien’s works or consider them as common knowledge of their readers.
You can find more from Maria on Twitter!