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 Peter 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 Peter Turecek’s responses:
1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
When I was roughly 10 years old, my father gave me the Abrams Artbooks large paperback edition of The Hobbit, which was illustrated with pictures from the Rankin Bass movie. I read that book to pieces, quite literally—pages started to fall from the glue binding because I read it so much. I read The Lord of the Rings a couple of years later and then tackled, unsuccessfully, The Silmarillion.
2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
It’s the vivid storytelling. His writing makes you FEEL and you are transported to and immersed in his world, so much richer at heart for the experience.
3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
For me it’s the quiet heroism of the hobbits—Bilbo, Frodo, Sam. They’re not looking for glory and renown. They are simply trying to help to make the world a better place by their actions. The author Patrick Rothfuss summed it up well: “The truth is that the world is full of dragons, and none of us are as powerful or cool as we’d like to be. And that sucks. But when you’re confronted with that fact, you can either crawl into a hole and quit, or you can get out there, take off your shoes, and Bilbo it up.”
4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
Tolkien has been there for me throughout my life. His works have been a refuge, a comfort, a spark of courage, an escape, and an inspiration, all at different times. I remember during childhood injuries or illnesses being laid up in bed, reading The Hobbit or LOTR or even once listening to the BBC radio play of LOTR, helping to make the time pass so quickly. I remember reading LOTR annually in high school, at times torn by self doubt, the fiery heights and deep doldrums of teen romance, or perceived parallel paths of new adventures, all mirroring life moments.
In high school and college, I started to take a more analytical bent, broadening to other Tolkien works and writing papers related to Tolkien for English or Religion or other courses.
On my first trip ever to London in the mid 1990s as a new analyst, I found a signed first edition of The Hobbit! I kick myself for passing on it but it was literally half of my annual salary at the time (and that was before the movies had been announced). I did finally start some collecting, including UK first editions of LOTR and a signed copy of The Road Goes Ever On.
I’ve also found moments of irony in my life via Tolkien. Almost six month after triple bypass surgery, I realized that the date of my open heart surgery was October 6th, the same day Frodo was stabbed on Weathertop, the wound ultimately making him wiser for the experience. (Let’s hope I took away some wisdom of my own!)
As a private pilot, when I was able to finally buy myself an airplane, I named it Gwaihir. The link to the blog entry of the naming contest is here.
5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
Absolutely and unconditionally. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ll introduce it at the very least. I tried to introduce my wife to The Hobbit, reading aloud to her. Unfortunately (fortunately?!), we found that my voice (not Tolkien) was a strong sleep aid for her.