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 Zane 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 Zane Libiete’s responses:
1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
I read The Hobbit in 1991 at the age of ten, as soon as it was translated in Latvian. I liked it, but no more. A long gap followed, until the first of the LOTR movies was released in 2001. I remember that after watching it I thought for some reason that this is a very strange film but that I like it a lot and that I would like to read the book. But there was neither Latvian translation, nor English edition available at the time. For the next year I was in Sweden, studying. Quite homesick, I spent long hours in the evenings in the computer class surfing the internet, and there I somehow found a copy of The Lord of the Rings in English. A typed Word document! I printed it, read it, and I was drawn into Middle-earth. And there I have remained, to this day.
2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
My favourite work is The Silmarillion, and the favourite parts are several. The Music of the Ainur, the idea of creation through music. The rescue of Maedhros. ‘Utúlien aurë!’, that moment before the Battle of Unnumbered Tears. The song-duel of Finrod and Sauron. Friendship, trust and hope are the themes that move me most, and I am endlessly fascinated by Tolkien’s skill to create depth and complexity of an event or a character with a single sentence.
3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
My visit to the exhibition of the Bodleian Library in Oxford in autumn 2018. That was a bit strange. I accidentally found out about this exhibition only a few weeks before its closure. I usually do not make spontaneous decisions about traveling, but on that occasion, I had the plane tickets bought on the same evening. I spent a wonderful day in Oxford and then a wonderful day in Warwick, wandering around the castle and along the river and reciting ‘Kortirion among the Trees’. A few months before this trip I had read the first volumes of HoME and memorized it. My interest in things can take quite extreme forms sometimes…
4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
Yes, a lot. Initially I was more attracted to The Lord of the Rings, and I used to re-read it once a year, as well as to re-watch the movies quite often. Gradually my interest shifted more towards the foundations of the legendarium, and I acquired the other books too, being particularly impressed by The History of Middle-earth. Two years ago I became a member of the Tolkien Society and started to read more of the scholarly works. With time, I have come to appreciate the language and stylistic nuances more and more, as well as the literary development of the works. I follow the podcast of The Tolkien Professor Cory Olsen and his Mythgard Academy recordings, and I find his in-depth knowledge of Tolkien’s works amazing. During the recent years I have also discovered a lot of wonderful Tolkien-inspired art and music; my favourite Tolkien artist is Jenny Dolfen, and I love the music by The Tolkien Ensemble and also Paul Corfield Godfrey’s Epic Scenes from The Silmarillion.
From my first reading of the LOTR I have been creatively inspired by Tolkien’s books and made illustrations of my favourite scenes and places. However, I am not a professional artist and only lately, encouraged by the supportive atmosphere of the Tolkien Society FB page, I have started to share my paintings.
5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
I definitely would. Tolkien’s works have helped me through some of the darkest times of my life. I think that the themes of escape, recovery and consolation are extremely relevant nowadays. Still, I would recommend people read Tolkien in English, if possible. I do not believe that translation can convey the full beauty of the language. These works are ‘primarily linguistic’, after all.
For more from Zane, you can find her on Facebook!