Manuel’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (146)

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 Manuel’s responses:


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

My first contact with Tolkien´s work was through the movies at age 7. I was visiting my Uncle (who later found out was a huge Tolkien fan) and he was watching The Fellowship of the Ring on TV. Sadly, I can´t exactly remember what it was that hooked me, but by next year I was watching The Two Towers in the cinema with my parents (they both fell asleep), and The Return of the King the year after that, this time with some of my closest friends.

After re-watching the movies several times, I decided, on my Uncle´s advice, to buy the books and start this never ending, but equally amazing journey, of discovering Middle-earth and Tolkien´s work.

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

My favorite part must be the depth of his work. As a curious individual at heart, once I´m interested in something, I try to delve deeper into whatever it is that has my attention, often to be disappointed as there just seems to be nothing more than what is presented in the surface. With Tolkien this is never a problem.

I quickly became amazed and fascinated at how almost every single place, every single character (be it a main one or not) has a background or a backstory and that this is covered deeply in his other works, how everything is so deeply interconnected and beautifully imagined and written that you almost feel Middle-earth is real and you can learn about it in your History class in school.

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

Probably sharing time with my friends. After watching the LoTR movies together many times, we decided to recreate the plot on a Dungeons & Dragons campaign.

The number of hours we spent recreating the maps, laughing, eating, not sleeping and playing are very close to my heart and something we will always remember.

Looking back, I was very fortunate to have such good friends to share this passion with.

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

It certainly has. At a young age, when my strongest approach to his work was the movie adaptations, I was more interested in action and dialogues than anything else. As I’ve “matured”, reading the descriptions of the landscapes, the cultures, history, etc. are what interest me the most and what keeps me always hooked and marveled.

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

Every time I get the chance! Whenever someone asks me who my favorite author is or what my favorite books are. Tolkien created a whole new genre of fantasy literature and world creation. Most of the people I know enjoy some sort of similar novels or movies / series, so I always recommend them to read the one who got it all started.


You can read more from Manuel on Twitter!

The Best (And Worst) Reference Books For Tolkien

There are so many books that propose to be authoritative and essential to studying Tolkien and/or Middle-earth that I thought it might be helpful for me to put together a list of recommended books. This list is focused specifically on reference books: encyclopedias, dictionaries, atlases, guides, companions, etc.I have already addressed biographies in a separate post.

In a way, this will help readers interested in digging deeper to avoid texts that may have inaccuracies or fabrications.

I have split my list into books that I recommend and books that I do not recommend. There are, of course, many more reference works that I have not commented on. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list. I welcome feedback and additions in the comments!

Many thanks to Dimitra Fimi, Andrew Higgins, Jeremy Edmonds, James Tauber, Shaun Gunner, and Nelson Goering for sharing their thoughts with me as I compiled this list (any inaccuracies that persist, however, are my own)!

One final thing: I try to make as much public content as possible. So please, while you are here, look around the site at the resources and the archives. If you like what you see, come back often, and maybe even consider visiting the Support page.


Recommended

Tolkien’s World from A to Z: The Complete Guide to Middle-earth by Robert Foster

A strong candidate for the most useful reference book for Middle-earth. It offers simple definitions like a dictionary, and also has citation of where to find important passages (unlike the Tyler book below, which lacks the references).

The Lord of The Rings: A Reader’s Companion by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull

This is a very informative and helpful volume with a lot contextual information about The Lord of the Rings. It also includes some previously unpublished primary material.

2006 Mythopoeic Award Winner for Inklings Studies

The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide (second edition) by Christina Scull and Wayne Hammond

This is an excellent resource and is essential for scholars. If you only want a casual introduction, however, this is not the book for you because of its heavy price tag. Please note that the newer edition has three volumes instead of two.

2007 Mythopoeic Award Winner for Inklings Studies

The Atlas of Middle-earth (Revised Edition) by Karen Wynn Fonstad

There are two books that propose to be atlases of Tolkien’s world (see the Strachey book below). This is the more popular of the two, and I must admit that I use it more often simply because it has maps for the first and second ages. It isn’t perfect, but it is certainly helpful.

The Annotated Hobbit (Revised and Expanded Edition) by Douglas A. Anderson

This functions very similarly to the Hammond and Scull book above, but focuses in on The Hobbit with a lot of extra-textual information and context.

Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth by Catherine McIlwaine

Although it’s original intent as a catalogue for the exhibition it accompanied does limit it’s scope (compared to other reference works) it is a very useful piece for knowing more about Tolkien and about artifacts in his life. Personally, I view it as more of a biography (which is why it is listed in my post about biographies), but I have caved to pressure to put it here as well. There is great production value in this book!.

J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia edited by Michael D.C. Drout

This one is more of a specialist text, and the price reflects that. It is not essential to understanding Tolkien’s work, but it has a lot of entries that help to contextualize the work and explain different facets of it.

J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull

This text, along with The Art of the Lord of the Rings and The Art of The Hobbit (also by Hammond and Scull) are seminal works for looking at Tolkien’s achievements and development as an artist. Again, there is a very high production value on these books! (Not to be confused with other texts with similar titles but different editors.)

The Complete Tolkien Companion by J.E.A. Tyler

This newer edition incorporates material from Unfinished Tales and parts of History of Middle-earth, so don’t confuse it with the earlier editions with slightly different titles. A useful text but, as noted above, it lacks the references which would make it more useful.

An Introduction to Elvish by Jim Allan

This is the best guide to elvish currently available. It is dated and there had been a lot of new material published since, but it is still a useful guide to methodology. There is ongoing work on Tolkien’s languages by the Elven Linguistic Fellowship. (See free resources below for more.)

Journeys of Frodo by Barbara Strachey

This is a decent atlas, although it does have some problems with scaling. As I said above, this book is more specific than the Fonstad atlas so I end up not using it as much. (This one is a bit older so it is hard to find in as usable a condition, but the maps are all on a single page, so the part you want is never buried in the binding.)

Tolkien’s Library by Oronzo Cilli

This book is an attempt to catalogue the books that Tolkien owned, read, or referenced. A couple of people have made qualms about parts of the text, but overall it remains a helpful guide.

Flora and Fauna of Middle-earth by Walter S. Judd and Graham A. Judd

I have put this as the last recommended text because, in some ways, it is not strictly a reference work. At times, the authors speculate what plants could be the inspiration for or equivalent of those found in Middle-earth. This isn’t quite the intent of a stereotypical reference book, but it is an interesting resource nonetheless.


Not Recommended

The Languages of Tolkien’s Middle-earth by Ruth S. Noel

An early attempt to make sense of Tolkien’s languages that has not aged well.

David Day Texts

David Day is frequently disparaged in discussions about Tolkien reference books. I will just mention two concerns: First, there are errors and spaces where Day seems to suggest that something is of Tolkien’s invention when it is in fact his own. Second, the various books with his name often seem to repackage the same information in different ways. (Day has claimed that the various reprints are the fault of his publisher.) Unfortunately, these reprints never seem to incorporate corrections to errors pointed out in previous editions.

It is best to avoid all David Day books.


Free Resources

Every fledgling scholar or fan wanting to dig deeper knows the importance of free resources, so here are some credible online resources to help you expand your knowledge pool:

Mythlore: this is the peer-reviewed journal of the Mythopoeic society. The journal is Open Access and is available online.

Journal of Tolkien Research: This is another Open Access Online journal that is peer-reviewed by very reputable Tolkien scholars.

LOTRProject.com: This website, created by Emil Johansson, has a lot of very useful resources like family trees, maps, and calendars

Elvish.org: This is the homepage for the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship, and it is the source for the most up-to-date information about Tolkien’s languages. Of particular note is this essay by Hostetter.

The Tolkien Art Index: Scholar Erik Mueller-Harder has compiled a useful index of every piece of art by Tolkien.

LR Citations: Another helpful tool by Erik Mueller-Harder that lets you cross-reference different settings and editions of The Lord of the Rings.

Ardalambion: This is an online guide to Tolkien’s invented languages.

Digital Tolkien: James Tauber has many useful projects in the work. The most complete is a catalogue of textual variants in print copies of The Silmarillion.

Tolkien Gateway: This is a fan-run online encyclopedia. It has good entries for many topics about Tolkien and his work.


As I said at the beginning, this is not an exhaustive list. I only had a couple of hours to spend pulling it all together. I welcome and encourage feedback in the comments! I will occasionally update this list to reflect new developments!

TEP #25 — Diverse Tolkien

For this week’s episode of the Tolkien Experience Podcast, I am very excited to share our interview with the creator of Diverse Tolkien!

While she does not want me to use her name, the creator of Diverse Tolkien can be found on Twitter and Tumblr where she focuses on discussing anti-blackness in Tolkien’s work and in the fan community. She wanted me to let you know about her exciting event: Diverse Tolkien Week! This event will be on Twitter and Tumblr during the last week of February. Please listen to the episode to find out more and join in the event later this month!

Please consider supporting the Podcast on Patreon!

Subscribe to the podcast via:

Comments or questions:

  • Visit us at Facebook or Twitter
  • Comment on this blog post
  • Send us an e-mail from the contact page
  • Email TolkienExperience (at) gmail (dot) com

Leith Skilling’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (145)

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 reader. I am very humbled that anyone volunteers to spend time in this busy world to answer questions for my blog, and so I give my sincerest thanks to Leith and the other participants for this.

To see the idea behind this project, check out this page.

I want to thank Donato Giancola for allowing me to use his stunning portrait of J.R.R Tolkien as the featured image for this project. If you would like to purchase a print of this painting, they are available on his website!

If you would like to contribute your own experience, you can do so by using the form on the contact page, or by emailing me directly.

Now, on to Leith Skilling’s responses:


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

My father read The Lord Of The Rings aloud to me when I was probably about six, but I was much too young to truly grasp the story – that being said, I was entranced by the map of Middle-earth in the edition my family owned, and I would draw characters and scenes from the story on the book’s few blank pages. It’s safe to say Tolkien inspired my passion for art as well as for writing.

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

My favorite part is an overarching theme in The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit: the idea that simple people living simple lives can be heroic because of – rather than in spite of – their humility, their compassion, and their humanity.

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

Being able to interact with some of the wonderful people in the Tolkien Community has been a joy and an unexpected blessing, especially during these trying times. Reading Tolkien’s works aloud to my family during this quarantine has also been a special personal experience.

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

Until I read The Silmarillion, I had only acknowledged that Tolkien inspired in me a love of writing. But The Silmarillion opened my eyes to how deeply Tolkien’s works have changed the way I live my life. It’s a book that puts everything into perspective, I think, including the reader’s own experiences.

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

I would recommend Tolkien’s work to anyone: especially nowadays. More than ever, it’s crucial that we understand the importance of empathy, and the need to protect and preserve the earth itself before it’s too late – Tolkien’s works are valuable for teaching both of those things, and for instilling in readers a responsibility to be the stewards of this Middle-earth that we need to be.


You can read more from Leith Skilling on Twitter!

Jon B’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (144)

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 reader. I am very humbled that anyone volunteers to spend time in this busy world to answer questions for my blog, and so I give my sincerest thanks to Jon and the other participants for this.

To see the idea behind this project, check out this page

I want to thank Donato Giancola for allowing me to use his stunning portrait of J.R.R Tolkien as the featured image for this project. If you would like to purchase a print of this painting, they are available on his website!

If you would like to contribute your own experience, you can do so by using the form on the contact page, or by emailing me directly.

Now, on to Jon B’s responses:


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

My parents had a copy of The Hobbit sitting on a bookshelf, and a thought I’d give it a try. Over 40 years later, I’m still obsessed.

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

I love Tolkien’s world-building. You really get a sense of each story taking place in a world that’s much larger than the individual story. I’ll also take the opportunity to plug my favorite somewhat obscure Tolkien story – “Athrabeth Finrod Ah Andreth,” from Morgoth’s Ring.

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

Seeing the film of The Fellowship of the Ring, and being amazed that somehow Peter Jackson had gotten into my head and produced the look and feel of Middle-earth perfectly.

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

I have begun in recent years to try to consider Tolkien’s actual philosophy and thinking rather than just reading the stories as stories.

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

Absolutely. I get such joy out of it – why wouldn’t I want to share that with others?


You can read more from Jon on Twitter!

TEP #24 — Marcel Aubron-Bülles

We have a fantastic guest to start off our second season of the Tolkien Experience Podcast: Marcel Aubron-Bülles!

Marcel, also known as The Tolkienist, is very involved in Tolkien fandom. Marcel is best know for his work as the founder of the German Tolkien Society. He is also an independent Tolkien scholar, and a very active member of the Tolkien Society and Tolkien Tribe. He has recently started a Patreon where you can keep up with his travels and Tolkien news.

Please consider supporting the Podcast on Patreon!

Subscribe to the podcast via:

Comments or questions:

  • Visit us at Facebook or Twitter
  • Comment on this blog post
  • Send us an e-mail from the contact page
  • Email TolkienExperience (at) gmail (dot) com

Marie Louise’s Experience — Tolkien Experience (143)

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 reader. I am very humbled that anyone volunteers to spend time in this busy world to answer questions for my blog, and so I give my sincerest thanks to Marie Louise and the other participants for this.

To see the idea behind this project, check out this page

I want to thank Donato Giancola for allowing me to use his stunning portrait of J.R.R Tolkien as the featured image for this project. If you would like to purchase a print of this painting, they are available on his website!

If you would like to contribute your own experience, you can do so by using the form on the contact page, or by emailing me directly.

Now, on to Marie Louise’s responses:


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

My dad read The Hobbit aloud to my sister and I when we were very little – I think I was about 4 years old. It is one of my favorite memories, sitting on either side of him on the couch. We also watched the animated Rankin-Bass films when we were young and they were a major part of my childhood.

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

The themes of life and death, duty, stewardship, and forgiveness. I was raised in a very Catholic household and recognized these as very Catholic themes. I am no longer Christian, but Tolkien’s work is still a touchstone to those parts of Christianity that were very important to me.

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

Reading Tolkien aloud! His writing is very lyrical and perfect for sharing. When I was 11, I remember my dad reading The Lord of the Rings aloud to us around the fire while on a camping trip. Years later after I moved 12 hours away from home, I kept in touch with my sister over Skype by having breakfast every Sunday morning and reading The Silmarillion aloud to her over the course of year or two.

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

My relationship with Tolkien’s work has grown with me over my whole life. When I was little Gollum was the monster under my bed, when I was in high school it was my nerdy obsession, and as an adult it is my connection both to my family and to my former religion.

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

I do all the time! I gave my niece a copy of The Hobbit to read together with her dad and all my friends know they can get me talking about Tolkien at the drop of a hat. I want to share the beautiful experiences I’ve had with other people who I hope will find them just as meaningful.


You can read more from Marie Louise on her blog!

Alkisti’s Experience – Tolkien Experience Project (142)

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 reader. I am very humbled that anyone volunteers to spend time in this busy world to answer questions for my blog, and so I give my sincerest thanks to Alkisti and the other participants for this.

To see the idea behind this project, check out this page

I want to thank Donato Giancola for allowing me to use his stunning portrait of J.R.R Tolkien as the featured image for this project. If you would like to purchase a print of this painting, they are available on his website!

If you would like to contribute your own experience, you can do so by using the form on the contact page, or by emailing me directly.

Now, on to Alkisti’s responses:


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

I was going through a bad break-up when I was around 16 and my father bought me the Lord of the Rings books to have something to occupy my mind with. I’m so glad I have editions with pre-movie covers!

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

The invented languages and how a whole world was built around them. The light at the end of the tunnel.

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

I always go back to how I was first introduced to Tolkien’s work because through the years it has become a very dear experience and one I’m very fond of. The LotR movies are some of the few book adaptations I like and I still cry obsessively when I watch certain scenes – even if it’s isolated ones on YouTube. I sometimes do it on purpose even. I believe it must be the notion of the Sublime some of the scenes evoke. The emotions are so intense and so very rare, even in real life experiences.

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

What started as (just) an epic fantasy story has become one of my favourite stories and worlds of all time that has accompanied me for several years. I’ve become more engaged into the details after these years and I’m also interested to see deeper into the story and its compartments as well as the ways it came to be. I’ve started to read work on Tolkien now, instead of stopping at Tolkien’s work.

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

Of course! Although several people find it hard to get into his books because they find the writing overly detailed and intricate, I’d think they miss out from what is perhaps the most wholesome world that has ever been imagined if they do not engage with Tolkien’s work be it via reading or a different way.


You can read more from Alkisti on Twitter!

Tolkien Experience Launches Patreon Account

Hello everyone!

If you follow me on social media, you may have already seen the big news. If not, here it is:

I have launched a Patreon to help support the Tolkien Experience Project and the Tolkien Experience Podcast!

It has become too much for me to continue paying for the fees for the website and the podcast, so I have started a crowdfunding effort! I am very fortunate in that the response has been very positive so far.

Thankfully, enough people have already joined that I will be able to keep the lights on around here, and even be able to have better audio quality on the podcast!

I have added some more goals to the Patreon that people constantly ask for, namely: more content! If we are able to reach some of those goals, I will be able to create even more for you and the other readers and listeners!

So head over to Patreon to see the perks available at each patron level!

Alistair S’s Experience – Tolkien Experience Project (141)

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 reader. I am very humbled that anyone volunteers to spend time in this busy world to answer questions for my blog, and so I give my sincerest thanks to Alistair and the other participants for this.

To see the idea behind this project, check out this page

I want to thank Donato Giancola for allowing me to use his stunning portrait of J.R.R Tolkien as the featured image for this project. If you would like to purchase a print of this painting, they are available on his website!

If you would like to contribute your own experience, you can do so by using the form on the contact page, or by emailing me directly.

Now, on to Alistair S’s responses:


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

I first became aware at Primary school at the age of 9 or 10 when we were set to write an essay on a book we were reading. Someone in class wrote about The Two Towers. I had never heard of it so he described it and recommended The Hobbit. I found a second hand copy at a jumble sale and that was me hooked. Later another friend lent me The Lord of the Rings. I still remember the edition, hardback with the dust jacket with Pauline Baynes’s illustrations. Those were good times to discover Tolkien as soon after came the Ralph Bakshi film and the BBC Radio 4 adaptation.

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

I think now there are two aspects that have become favourite. The ‘quiet’ moments of The Lord of the Rings such as meeting the Elves outside the Shire, the Rivendell passages and the Houses of Healing. Also I have recently started exploring the works that Christopher Tolkien has added to the canon such as The Fall of Gondolin and that has opened up a whole world.

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

There are several to be honest. Reading Lord of the Rings about every six months as a teenager was magical. Discovering all the different artists who have interpreted Middle-earth – Rodney Matthews, Brothers Hildebrandt, Alan Lee, John Howe, Michael Kaluta, Ted Naismith and so many more. Listening to Blind Guardian’s concept album – Nightfall in Middle-earth–just fantastic. Watching The Fellowship of the Ring film and against the odds it was great. Lastly when my son fell in love with Middle-earth too and it is a huge bond we have in common.

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

Yes it has as when I first discovered it I gravitated to the Hobbits as I think is natural in children. Later I found the Elves to be more attractive as I imagined them hanging out in forests drinking cider. Later Aragorn who has to take up the mantle almost of adulthood and responsibility as we ourselves do. I suspect the next stage for me will be identifying with Gandalf or Radagast. I hope so. Other than that I have begun to explore the wider world of Middle-earth via The Silmarillion, The Fall of Gondolin whereas I used to stick to The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings only. I think my appreciation of his creation has only deepened over the years,

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

I would always recommend it but I appreciate it is not for everyone. I have tried F.Scott Fitzgerald, Patrick O’Brian and some other notables but can’t really get into them so I believe in ‘each to their own.’


For more from Ed, you can find him on Twitter!