Luke Shelton mentioned on Tor.com!

Thanks to David Urbach for bringing this to my attention through the Tolkien Experience Facebook page!

00CIoTGK_400x400-300x300Megan N Fontenot has been writing an excellent series on the characters of Middle-earth on TOR.com since early 2019. If you haven’t been reading them, you should be! Megan has an exceptional ability to communicate complex ideas through language that is engaging and approachable.

In her article on Gandalf, published yesterday, Megan graciously cited my work on young readers of LOTR! I am humbled that she remembers my work, and excited for the mention!

In return, I would like to use my own platform, small as it may be, to remind everyone that Megan is an award-winning scholar, having won the Alexei Kondratiex Award for best student paper at the 2018 Mythcon. Here paper was entitled “‘No Pagan ever loved his god’: Tolkien, Thompson, and the Beautification of the Gods” and is available to read online!

Megan and I met at the 2018 Mythcon in Atlanta, GA, and have communicated several times since. (We have even discussed working together on a couple of articles!) She is a remarkably kind and insightful scholar, writer, and person, and I really encourage you to follow her scholarship!

She maintains a profile on hcommons where you can see more of her work!

Publication: “Tehanu” in the Literary Encyclopedia

Hello everyone!

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I am excited to share with you that my entry for Ursula K. LeGuin’s Tehanu has been published in the Literary Encyclopedia!

The article is available now, but unfortunately it is a subscription service. Check with your local institutions to see if they have access!

In summary, the entry gives an overview of the plot of the work, discusses the cultural climate around its publication, summarizes the critical response to the work, and then traces a few key themes.

This is one of my favorite series, so it was a joy to revisit the book. The whole process was a fun experience, and one that I hope to repeat soon!

You can find the book on Amazon: Tehanu (4) (Earthsea Cycle)

Nathan Pope’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (89)

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 Nathan 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 Nathan Pope’s responses:


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

I admit that I was a late comer to Tolkien’s work. I had not heard of any of his works till The Fellowship of the Ring came out in theaters. I was in 8th grade and had seen the trailers and the character busts at the local movie theater. I was interested but I have to admit that I thought the whole thing strange, I mean dwarves and elves and trolls? I had only children’ stories to guide my thinking. For Christmas break my parents took us to the movies and I figured I would give it a try. I ended up seeing the movie 7 times that break, needless to say, I was hooked. In addition to seeing the movie 7 times, I also read the whole Lord of the Rings in a week and a half. I then moved onto The Hobbit. I did not discover The Silmarillion until summer break and I do admit that although I made it all the way through I did not understand most of it. I read and read all three volumes so much that by the time The Two Towers came out I was waiting in line for the midnight showing and more excited than I can ever remember being.

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

My favorite parts of Tolkien’s work are the rich histories and back stories that permeate everywhere. Every time I read some of Tolkien’s work, which is constant because I am on a never ceasing rotation, I am also impressed by how rich the world is and how even the slightest character has been given thought and depth.

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

The Fellowship of the Ring movie is still  my favorite of all the movies and no matter what I am doing I will stop and watch if given the chance, extended edition of course.

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

My approach has changed somewhat over time in regards to Tolkien’s works. In the beginning I was ever thirsty for more and always eager to discover more that I had not read. Now I still attack and absorb the material but in a deeper way, hoping to recover that first time experience and feeling with a deeper understanding and closer reading of the text.

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

I would of course recommend and have done so. I am a middle school teacher and I am actually teaching The Hobbit this year to my students. We are doing it during our activity period and it has been wonderful. It is slow going because of the frequent stops to answer questions and the even more frequent digressions into the text but both the students and myself are having a great time.

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TEP #2-Janet Brennan Croft

Our second guest on the Tolkien Experience Podcast is an editor, scholar, and librarian who has been a prolific contributor to the field of Tolkien studies: Janet Brennan Croft!

rskMSfB5_400x400Janet Brennan Croft is the editor of Mythlore, one of the most well-respected English-language peer-reviewed journals in the world that focuses on Tolkien and other mythopoeic literature. In addition to editing this influential journal, Croft has edited several collected volumes of scholarship, and is perhaps best known for her monograph: War and the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien, which won the 2005 Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inklings Studies. We are very excited that she agreed to be our guest for the podcast, and we hope you enjoy the interview!

 

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  • 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

Below are links to some of Janet Brennan Croft’s books (if you purchase a book using our link, you help to support the podcast!):

Ms. L’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (88)

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 Ms. L 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 Ms. L’s responses:


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

When I was in fifth grade in Southern California, we would take recess after lunch and then return to our classroom to put our heads down and listen to our teacher read us a story. In fifth grade, the story was The Hobbit.

Up to this point in my reading career, I had attempted to read classics my mother bought me – The Little House on the Prairie novels by Laura Ingalls Wilder (I had been named after her, I found out later in life), Little Women, and settled for Nancy Drew Mysteries because at least I wasn’t bored by the mysteries. Everything else didn’t really capture my attention or make me want to read further.

As soon as the teacher began reading, I was enthralled. After class, I asked her the name of the author. I went home and immediately told my mother I wanted to read more from J.R.R. Tolkien. She bought me everything from a used bookstore by him – The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings box set (with the weird, psychedelic Ace cover), The Silmarillion, and the Tolkien Reader.

In two years I advanced from fourth grade to high school levels of reading ability. I use this story to inspire my own students, because my love of reading, which had begun with The Hobbit, led me to become an English teacher.

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

I was first attracted by the idea of wizards, dwarves and elves, but soon my fascination settled into Tolkien’s concept of elves as being majestic and powerful, specifically represented by Galadriel and Celeborn.

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

Strangely enough, my fondest experience is looking back at my struggle in reading The Silmarillion. I had attempted to read it several times, but the complexity and the many characters one had to remember would stop me again and again. Finally, as an adult and a teacher, I had a particularly well-behaved silent reading class one year, and was able to read it in its entirety by getting a blank notebook and taking very precise notes, then indexing the entire thing.

Another equally amusing experience was, while in college, writing a genetics breakdown for elvish hair color in the early days of the Internet; the paper is floating out there, still.

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

My experience of Tolkien as a child and young adult was isolated. I was reading his works in the late 70’s and early 80’s and was the only person in my immediate peer group that had the patience to read it; many of my friends could read but found the pacing of Fellowship particularly trying. I took notes, re-read, bought Tolkien calendars, read other books by or about Tolkien, read pastiches and fantasy books, but it was all done in isolation.

This changed when The Hobbit animated special came out (and then the animated movie) and I could share my enthusiasm with my friends, and then again when the live-action movies came out and the Internet began to share more information that I could read. It’s now a social experience with various online communities, which I enjoy very much.

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

I would recommend The Hobbit to almost anyone who might be curious about Tolkien. I think it’s a good indicator to whether they can read The Lord of the Rings, and its pacing and humor are engaging to most age groups. I think there are a few frustrating things about Tolkien’s style – his strange pacing, lack of character description for some key characters, and then dizzyingly precise description of geographical locations; these might stimmy modern readers. Finally, The Silmarillion should not be recommended to the weak-willed *laugh*!

PhD Viva Completed!

I wanted to just send a short note out today letting you all know that yesterday I successfully completed my PhD viva. For my American readers, we would say that I defended my dissertation. The results were that I passed with minor corrections!

This means that I have a month to make mostly grammatical/typological corrections and then submit the completed thesis.

This is excellent news for me personally, and a huge boon for my project on the response of young readers of LotR!

Now we are starting to look into publication options for the project!

I just wanted to say again, I am so thankful to each of the participants who agreed to be a part of the study and to their parents/guardians for allowing participation. I could not have come this far without each of you, and I am so grateful! I share this accomplishment with all of you!

For anyone who wants to know more about the PhD Project, you can visit my information page.

Dana Marie’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (87)

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 Dana 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 Dana Marie’s responses:


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

The year is 1999. I’m a simmering pot of anxiety and insecurity molded into the shape of an eleven-year-old human girl, living in a brand new place. My parents had whisked us out of the city and into the suburbs; a move I now see as selfless and in our best interests, but at the time was undoubtedly a betrayal of the highest order and beyond the limits of my forgiveness. My mom took me for a drive to explore our new neighborhood and we ended up at a secondhand bookshop, which I can only assume was an admittedly clever ploy to buy her way back into my good graces with my drug of choice—books. I have few memories from my childhood, but somehow I’ll never forget the way that shop smelled, the glossy art books behind the counter, or how hard it was to squeeze through those cramped aisles. The first book I set my eyes on was The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. I hadn’t read it and I didn’t know much about it, but I knew these were quite famous books. As I flipped through the yellowed pages, I could tell they’d been cherished.image0 I grabbed The Hobbit and all three books of The Lord of the Rings—all of them editions printed in the 60s (with the exception of The Two Towers, which was a bit newer and wasn’t part of the same set as the others—I too often wonder who has that second book) and $4 later, I had no idea “where I’d be swept off to.” I can remember reading The Hobbit all the way home, giggling at the anecdotes about hobbits and being absolutely blown away by how vivid and charming and engrossing this new story was. I burrowed down into that hobbit hole and did not come up for air until I had finished reading all of them. Those books were my first friends in this scary new world, and I was alone no longer. You know that feeling when you enjoy something for the first time, and how you always wish you could return to that moment? I can’t read these books again with new eyes (unless I grow old enough to forget and re-read them, fingers crossed) but when I close mine, I can smell the musty editions I bought, I can touch the fibers in the pages, and I can feel that warm, cozy feeling that first made me love these books all those years ago—the same feeling Bilbo missed, the same feeling Thorin and company longed to return to, the feeling Sam comes back to when all is said and done—the feeling of home.

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

The following years would be filled with more (real) friends and many more books as well, but no story (or, arguably, person) would ever find their way into my heart the way Tolkien did. Of course, those years were filled with much more Tolkien, too. Unbeknownst to me, just as I was first falling in love with these books, on the other side of the world, an overgrown bespectacled hobbit and his Lúthien were stepping out of the door and onto the road of their own Tolkien adventure. I remember how nervous I was before that first film came out; so very concerned they would not do my precious novels justice. What they ended up doing was melting my heart like a ring in a volcano. I still feel these are the greatest films ever made (a hill I will die on with a song in my heart) but it was more than that. It was a chance to share this epic, beautiful, emotional, captivating, heart-melting story with people I loved—people who loved me too, but not enough to suffer the perceived torture of reading a book. My friends binged junk food and gushed over how hot Orlando Bloom was, (fact check: still true) and went back with me to see whichever one was in theatres even when they’d already seen it; later, my family let me play the extended DVDs even if the game was on. Yes, they fell asleep, but hey, they watched it. And sure, they thought my learning Elvish was a cause for concern, but they knew what Elvish was, so I took the W.

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

One of my favorite memories to date is of going with my mom to see the first two extended films shown in the theatre before the midnight release of RotK. They let us bring pillows and blankets, and order outside food—which, to a preteen skipping school to go to the movies, with her mom, was about the coolest thing I’d ever done. We spent about twenty two hours at that theatre, in plastic chairs with a room full of strangers in costumes, watching movies we already owned, and it was the absolute best. Looking back, I know how dreadfully painful this must have been for Mom, but she did it, with a smile, for me. I didn’t have the slightest inkling that she was anything but thrilled to be there. That year for Christmas, she handmade a decorated wooden chest to store my Tolkien books and all my Lord of the Rings merchandise that had begun accumulating around the house like the treasures of a hoarder. I still get choked up whenever I see it, thinking of all the hours she put into it just for me. Years later, after I moved out of the house and was living in another country, my mom would flip the channel to any LotR movie that was playing on TV, simply because she missed me. (I know, right? Could you die?) By the time I’d moved back to the US, she was obsessed. Nowadays she quotes the films constantly, cries like a baby whenever we watch them, and gives me a run for my money in the LotR movie version of Trivial Pursuit. Lately she has been dying to dress in cosplay and go to Comic-Con together—I’ve created a monster! However, in all seriousness, and as trite as it might sound, I do love having this to share with her and I’ll treasure these memories for the rest of my life.

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

Wherever I go in the world, Tolkien seems to follow. A few years ago I used his newly published translation to study Beowulf. When I taught English abroad, I used his excerpts in my lessons. I have the Russian version of The Hobbit that I use in my own language learning. I bought The Silmarillion in high school but I couldn’t really get into it. In the last year or two I went back and revisited it to find that it’s possibly my favorite of all his work. I read it slowly and re-read it, I highlighted and annotated it and cross-referenced with his letters and other writings. I’ve learned from this experience how much I’ve changed as a reader—in my tastes, but also in my methods. I’ve also found my love for Tolkien’s work has grown and deepened with time; after having studied literature at a collegiate level, or as I come to appreciate the subtleties of it, or go back and read things I never discovered before. I myself have been considering writing as a career path, and all of this Tolkien deep-diving has helped me get inside the head of an author. I’m forever grateful that he spent so much time writing about writing and documenting his process and his self-critiques. No author could ever hope to come close to achieving what J.R.R. Tolkien has done, but hopefully I have taken something from all the time I’ve spent in his world and it will inform my writing in the future. I can only hope. If nothing else, I’ve learned the sheer power of a good story; it can entertain and inform and inspire and fulfill you, yes, but it can also bring people together; teach us empathy for experiences outside our own, and form bonds of friendship that last far beyond the end of the tale. When you look at the cultural impact of The Lord of the Rings in the 60s, for example—the music of Led Zeppelin, the “Frodo Lives” buttons, and so on—it is evident how it altered the collective consciousness. Again I run the risk of sounding trite, but a good story can change the world.

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

I would not hesitate to recommend Tolkien to any reader, because there’s something in his work for everyone. You can escape to a world of magical beings; a world where the lines of good and evil are firmly drawn in the sand, and the right path is clearly laid before your beloved heroes. Perhaps you’d rather lose yourself in a novel that explores fundamental truths about the human experience, celebrates the triumph of the human spirit, and teaches the value of love, loyalty, friendship, sacrifice and perseverance. You might not be a fan of novels and you prefer poetry. Maybe you’re a history buff and you’re intrigued by a dense supposed European mythology. It’s possible you’re looking for a book filled with action and suspense, or a funny book filled with cute anecdotes and whimsical songs, or maybe you just want something comforting and familiar to curl up with and wrap around you like a warm blanket. Whatever your preference, I could recommend the very same author. There is a whole world waiting for you; a very tangible one that you can see, hear, smell, feel and taste, and one you won’t want to leave. There is so much excitement waiting for you, and joy; suspense, laughs, tears, thrills and adventures. All you have to do is peel the cover back and begin. I’ll even let you borrow mine.


You can follow Dana Marie on Twitter!

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TEP #1-Dimitra Fimi

Our first guest on the Tolkien Experience Podcast is a longtime mentor, colleague, and friend to our hosts: Dr. Dimitra Fimi.

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Dr. Fimi is known around the world as a preeminent scholar in Tolkien studies and an influential scholar in wider fields. She is perhaps best known for her book Tolkien, Race and Cultural History, which won the 2010 Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inklings Studies. She also co-edited a critical edition of Tolkien’s A Secret Vice with Andrew Higgins. This volume won the 2017 Tolkien Society Award for Best Book! We are delighted that she agreed to be our first guest for the podcast, and we hope you enjoy the interview!

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

If you want to see Dr. Fimi’s presentation on “Tolkien, Folklore, and Foxes” from the Tolkien2019 conference, it is available on YouTube.

Below are links to Dr. Fimi’s books (if you purchase a book using our link, you help to support the podcast!):

Publication: “The Farthest Shore” in the Literary Encyclopedia

Hello everyone!

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I am excited to share with you that my entry for Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Farthest Shore has been published in the Literary Encyclopedia!

The article is available now, but unfortunately it is a subscription service. Check with your local institutions to see if they have access!

In summary, the entry gives an overview of the plot of the work, discusses the cultural climate around its publication, summarizes the critical response to the work, and then traces a few key themes.

This is one of my favorite series, so it was a joy to revisit the book. The whole process was a fun experience, and one that I hope to repeat soon!

You can purchase the book from Amazon: The Farthest Shore (The Earthsea Cycle, Book 3)

Top Posts in 2019, #1:”The Best (and Worst) Books for Tolkien Biography”

This holiday season, I am closing out the year with a countdown of my top ten posts of the year!

For 2019, the number two post was: The Best (and Worst) Books for Tolkien Biography

Prior to the release of Tolkien, the biopic of the author earlier this year, I took some time to make a list of biographical reading for anyone who would want to have some background about Tolkien before going to the film. I prefaced the list by sharing why I put it together:

I have seen several news stories along the lines of “books to read before seeing Tolkien” around the internet recently. While I applaud news outlets for encouraging reading tied to movies, several of these posts, though certainly not all, recommend reading Tolkien’s fantasy works instead of reading works about Tolkien.

This is one blog post where I would highly recommend reading the comments! Several scholars and critics have added their opinions on the works I have listed, and it makes the post even more useful!51NJu5ExghL._SX313_BO1,204,203,200_

Be sure to look at the list if you want the best resources available for Tolkien biography!

A special note: Thank you for following my blog and making it such a wonderful community! As you have probably heard by now, there are some big changes in store for the website, and I am so excited to share them with you! If you haven’t already, please take a minute to look at the brand new Tolkien Experience Podcast, or to revisit the original Tolkien Experience Project (which is still taking submissions)!