Lucy’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (197)

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  Lucy’s responses:

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

My father was an OG Tolkien nerd in the 60s/70s, and read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings to me as a kid. I actually dodged an enormous bullet in that I was almost named Éowyn before the movies came out, after which it would have been… rough.

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

To be addressed in more depth in 4, but I’ve always appreciated that his work manages to be optimistic but not naïve about human nature. On a more personal note, my parents moved away from NYC shortly after 9/11, when I was still pretty young, and reading the trilogy to myself for the first time shortly after that gave me a huge soft spot for Boromir, as I too was extremely homesick and had a Minas Tirith/Manhattan-sized chip on my shoulder. He’s still hands-down my favorite, for even more reasons than that we’re both from objectively the best cities in our respective worlds—but it hurts a bit that I got to move back home.

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

After we moved, my father stayed in NYC six days a week for work. I actually barely spoke to him in person until he retired when I was in my late teens, but until then, he wrote me two letters at least once a week. The first was from him, about everyday life. Mostly just goofy stuff when I was younger, but as I got older he told me about his childhood, complained about his boss, etc.

The second letter would be signed by and in the “voice” of one of several Tolkien characters, determined by whether: I liked them, he found them interesting, and he could think of a reasonably in-character reason for them to be writing to a random child in 21st century USA. I remember Bilbo (researching a book on Big People), Maedhros (as an exercise in writing left-handed), and Faramir (interested in foreign life) featuring most prominently, but there were quite a few others as well. Even after I was too old to suspend my disbelief, it was oddly reassuring to have pen-pals who I knew were written by my father and therefore cared about me, but would provide advice or insight that I could pretend wasn’t from a parent.

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

Absolutely, especially given how young I was when I first read them. I’ve definitely become much more aware of and critical of a lot of the racial and religious biases in his work as I’ve gotten older, and a linguistics minor in college gave me a very cool perspective, but more importantly, I went to grad school for and now work in forensic psychology. I love it, but it’s a field that makes it easy to become very cynical, and (as referenced in 2) I think that Tolkien beautifully addresses the flaws of individuals without being hopeless about humanity at large. In my office, I actually have a framed watercolor of the quote:
“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”

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

I would, and I have, but the nature of my recommendation has evolved quite a bit over time.

You can find more from Lucy on Twitter!

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