Alastair’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (173)

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 Alastair’s responses:

1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

I was about 6. We were just about to move house and it was a very traumatic time for me. My dad bought a copy of Lord of the Rings and started reading it to me. I got frustrated because he was taking too long (hardly surprising 1000+ pages takes a while to read!) This prompted me to start reading it myself. A few years later I became obsessed with the Bakshi film and the computer game of The Hobbit.

2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

In the books, I love the early, disconnected Tom Bombadil parts. I have never found Tolkien’s battle descriptions particularly enthralling. More of a retelling of a history than an exciting account. However, both Bakshi and Jackson did make great and stirring versions of Helm’s Deep.

3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

Reading the journey to Weathertop with my Dad. Him putting on silly voices for all the hobbits.

4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?

As I grew and developed my tastes in literature I would often revisit Tolkien. I found his writing a little dry at times. More of a history book than a narrative. As a child I just could not get into The Silmarillion at all. When comparing him to other early fantasy writers such as Robert E Howard I initially found his characters and dialogue bland and the action dull. However, as a teacher who uses Dungeons and Dragons as a way of motivating often disaffected students it is difficult to underestimate the world he has created.

5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?

I do. With reservations. Tolkien takes time and effort to appreciate. Many readers are turned off by the slower burn style of story telling. Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion take a lot more effort than The Hobbit. The language is dating and not always accessible to younger readers. The worlds and situations have not. The films and media exposure helps, as does the rise in popularity in fantasy role playing games. I often recommend his work to literature students keen on fantasy.

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