Mike Leister’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (213)

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 Mike’s responses:

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

When I was 6 or 7, I was given an illustrated version of The Hobbit that contained the story as well as stills and production sketches from the Rankin Bass movie that I used to pore over – I was simultaneously captivated and horrified by Gollum and the goblins (strangely, Smaug didn’t frighten me at all).

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

The depth and breadth of his world-building. I love that The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings work as stories on their own, but that if you’re committed enough, you can delve into so many different layers: history, mythology, theology, philology, geography, poetry and songs – there’s something for almost everyone. Finding Unfinished Tales and then The History of Middle-earth just deepened my love and appreciation for the core stories.

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

When I was 10, I went to the library and “discovered” Lord of the Rings on the shelves. Being young (and not looking at the cover very closely), I didn’t realize that the story had been split into three books, so I just grabbed the first copy on the shelf, and thus ended up reading The Two Towers first. Thankfully, the synopsis was very descriptive and helpful in figuring out that I had definitely missed something. Even after starting in the middle, I was hooked.

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

Definitely. I’ve been re-reading The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings every year since 1985, and every time, I find something different to appreciate. When people ask why I keep reading the same books so many times, I liken it to returning to the same vacation destination every year – there’s plenty of enjoyable parts that feel familiar and comfortable, but I always manage to uncover something new every time I visit. As I’ve gotten older, I find myself appreciating Tolkien’s attention to detail, especially in his descriptions of meals.

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

I would, but I wouldn’t ever go into too much detail, because I’d want that person to be able to experience Tolkien’s work with fresh eyes. I have a young son who is a voracious reader. He’s not quite ready for The Hobbit yet, but I can’t wait to introduce him when he is and get his perspective on these amazing stories.

You can find Mike Leister on Twitter!

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