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 fan.
To see the idea behind this project, or if you are interested in sharing your own, visit the project homepage. If you enjoy this series, please consider helping us fund the project using the support page.
I want to thank Donato Giancola for allowing me to use his artwork for this project. Prints are available on his website!
Now, on to Nick Polk’s responses:
1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
I was introduced to Tolkien’s work through the Rankin/Bass animated adaptation of The Hobbit. I don’t have a lot of memory associated with watching it, but according to my parents, I watched The Hobbit frequently as a child under ten years old. In sixth grade, I was assigned The Hobbit for reading. From there I became aware of Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of The Rings. I quickly rented The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers from Blockbuster and watched them on repeat. Not long after, my family went to see The Return of the King at our local movie theater. From there, I only watched the movies on repeat. I actually didn’t seriously approach The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, or The Silmarillion until college. When I first read through those books, I became obsessed.
2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
My favorite part of Tolkien’s work–particularly the legendarium–is the veiled religiosity throughout it. Tolkien was a Roman Catholic and I have experienced that influence in my own readings of the Legendarium, but I love that it is not explicit. Like many other aspects of Tolkien’s work, the religiosity and religious themes can be approached universally. One does not have to be a Roman Catholic, a Christian of any kind, or even a theist to appreciate Tolkien’s creativity. There is value in the Ainulindale whether or not someone is an atheist, Buddhist, or Methodist. I find spiritual fulfillment in Tolkien’s works even if I have a very different worldview than Tolkien’s.
3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
I am currently in a Legendarium reading group. We made our goal for 2021 to begin and meet virtually during the pandemic, and meet in person when it is safe to do so. We have already started The Silmarillion, and I have already had a blast with our group message and brief discussions on it.
4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
My initial approach to the Legendarium in college helped me reformulate and reinforce my faith. I come from a Wesleyan-Nazarene Christian background and I was struggling with whether or not I could consider myself a “Christian” at that point in my life. I have always been interested in theology and it is what I did my undergraduate degree in. Tolkien has not been spared my theological lenses. While that is still my primary interest in Tolkien (besides the love of the tales), I have really found a curiosity for those that engage Tolkien on a critical literary level. Approaching Tolkien literarily has help widen my scope of appreciation for Tolkien and the Legendarium. It has also helped me broaden my understanding of Tolkien and the important approaches to the Legendarium, rather than pigeon-holing my approach to a theological level.
5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
I would recommend Tolkien’s work to anybody. Now, I would not suggest Tolkien’s work to others in the tone of a fanatic, but I believe there is something for everyone in Tolkien’s work if one is open to interacting with it. Tolkien radically changed my worldview, my extracurricular and academic interests, and even the direction of my life. If someone is able to develop some form of relationship with Tolkien’s work, I see that as a win.