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 Robert 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 Robert Falzon’s responses:
1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
When the movies came out, I was about 17 years old, and a school friend of mine told me about Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings. I first bought the CD with Howard Shore’s music for the The Fellowship of the Ring, then I watched the movies, and finally I read the books. The experience remained with me but for a long time I did not delve deeper. Until a couple of years ago when I started to read more and more of Tolkien’s works as well as about Tolkien’s works. I am now building my own little collection of Tolkien books.
2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
Perhaps the most difficult question! I would have to say Leaf by Niggle. It contains everything and gives me so much encouragement: the parts when Niggle sees his tree, all beautiful and complete, just as he had imagined it and yet even more beautiful; when his work with Parish becomes a source of rest and comfort for others; when Niggle and Parish are heard laughing in the mountains at the end, oblivious to the pathetic remarks of Tompkins. If I had to choose a part from the Legendarium (still a very difficult thing to do) it would have to be Ainulindale, because in it there is everything that will happen after: pretty much like the Christological Hymns we find in St Paul’s Epistles. God’s or Illuvatar’s vision that will materialise in time, with the cooperation of the Ainur, and everything, even Melkor’s dissonance, leads to the completion of that vision; and still the freedom of Men is always respected. I find this very encouraging.
3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
Very recently I was collecting data from young adults in view of my Masters in Spirituality dissertation about how they engaged with Tolkien’s works (connecting with life experiences and so on) and we got to have 5 discussion workshops spread over 5 months. Discussing Tolkien’s works takes the experience of reading Tolkien to another level.
4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
Definitely. Whereas before I was mostly interested in the movies, now I am much more interested in the original written works. Not only that: I used to look at The Lord of the Rings as allegory, but now I have realised that this was quite inappropriate and am enjoying it and the rest of the Legendarium, simply as story with a high degree of applicability. I am also interested in languages. I haven’t started learning Sindarin, but I have started learning Old English. I’d love to learn the other old languages that influenced Tolkien in his development of Elvish. I’d like to see more through his eyes.
5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
Definitely. But I also would like to be careful to recommend Tolkien’s works at the right moment for each person so as to be sure that they appreciate them more. Having said that, I firmly believe that in our metamodern age, fantasy should be integrated further in school curricula in an interdisciplinary approach to schooling. Fantasy equips children, youth and adults to approach a reality when we are no longer sure of what is real. Postmodernism has almost changed anthropology – we sometimes talk of the post-human era – and fantasy helps us in the “recovery” of the human. Tolkien’s fantasy, then, makes sure that this recovery is done well as his ethics are sound and his aesthetics are rich.