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 Michael Connery’s responses:
1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
It’s been so long (25+ years, probably) that I don’t clearly recall. I was probably 11 – 12 years old and I was gifted the old Ballantine paperbacks, the ones from the 70s with Tolkien’s artwork on the covers. Like most people, I believe I read The Hobbit first and was very proud to remember all of the dwarves names. I also have a vague recollection of seeing Bakshi’s animated movies even younger than that, but wouldn’t say I was fully aware of what I was watching.
2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
It’s changed over time. Throughout all of it, I would say that feeling of Anemoia — nostalgia for a place/time you’ve never been — has been the through line and a big part of what keeps me coming back. In terms of the work itself, it’s shifted throughout the years, from The Old Forest/Barrow Downs and Lorien to the Ride of the Rohirrim. Lately I’ve been more fond of the epic scope of The Silmarillion and the extended version of The Fall of Gondolin in particular.
3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
Fondest might not be the right word. Shortly after college I worked a night-shift paralegal job at a big law firm. I’d work from 8pm – 8am every day, then come home and read The Silmarillion for a few hours before sleeping the day away and starting again. It was certainly an intense way to experience The Silmarillion for the first time, and reversing my sleep schedule added to the disorientation of it.
4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
As I’ve grown older and done more than half a dozen read-throughs of the core works (if not more), I’ve grown more interested in the History of Middle-earth. Reading the drafts was illuminating, both in understanding Tolkien’s intent but also the sheer amount of work and change between some of the drafts. Now I’m starting to dive into Tolkien’s letters (starting with 131 before proceeding chronologically). I’ll probably do the Carpenter biography next.
5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
I recommend it constantly to people, but one of my greatest joys in 2020 was reading it aloud to my nine year old son for the first time. We’ll see if he turns into a convert. My youngest is four and I’m looking forward to doing the same for him when he’s older.
You can find more from Michael Connery on Twitter!