Jelena Filipovic’s Experience– Tolkien Experience Project (166)

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 Jelena Filipovic’s responses:


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

Peter Jackson’s movies introduced me to Tolkien in 2001 as the The Fellowship of the Ring came out. I was 9 years old. I remember very vaguely first seeing an ad for the movie (I’m guessing that was part of the trailer) on TV and there being something sublime and ‘otherworldly’ about the feel of the movie, even in those few seconds which I had seen the ad. This had drawn my attention, making me curious and wanting to see the movie at the cinema.

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

My favourite part of Tolkien’s work has changed, and no doubt will continue to change, throughout the years. Something which I didn’t fully perceive when I watched the movies as a child, but which has grown on me in the last 8 years, ever since I read The Silmarillion, is the Christian spirit in and of Tolkien’s work – and in the man himself. For this reason my love for him and his works has grown and continues to grow. Tolkien’s work has expanded my perception of Christianity. If the Old Testament is a difficult and maybe even somewhat tedious read, The Silmarillion is like a reading guide or introduction to it; The Lord of the Rings is like the New Testament (and I stress the word ‘like’). Tolkien is one particular author who has made me a better Christian.

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

I cherished the moments I had watched the LOTR movies at the cinema throughout the years 2001-2004. I love the times I had read the LOTR books over the summer holidays (one book each summer) while also listening to Howard Shore’s musical score from the movies as I read. Sometimes I would also listen to other songs while reading any of Tolkien’s Middle-earth related texts and later these songs would always remind me of the atmosphere or scenes from that particular book. One memorable experience is when I was in Zakynthos (Greece) in summer 2016 and was reading The Lost Road and Other Writings. Whenever I was at the beach, looking out at the sea, walking along the shore, I thought of the story of Númenor and all its people and all that happened to it. On one particular day while I was still in Zakynthos it happened to be cloudy (just a little bit windy too) and I wrote in my journal, as I sat on the porch of the apartment where we were staying, how the moment I was experiencing then and there felt like it was the calm before a storm that the people of Númenor must have felt before its ultimate downfall.

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

Very much so. It certainly has deepened and, I dare say, “matured” (whatever mature means), but the love with which I approach it is the same.

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

I would definitely recommend the movies to everyone and anyone who hasn’t seen them, primarily LOTR and The Hobbit more or less. As for Tolkien’s written work, I would not recommend them to just anyone, especially if I know a person well, who is not into this genre, this style of writing, etc., or not into reading in general. The texts aren’t perhaps readerly for everybody.


You can find more from Jelena Filipovic on Twitter and Instagram!

TEP #35 — Erik Mueller-Harder

For this episode, I had the chance to talk to one of the nicest people in Tolkien scholarship: Erik Mueller-Harder!

Erik’s scholarly focus is on cartography and map-making. This interest has led him to closely investigate the first maps that Tolkien ever created for The Lord of the Rings, and his conference presentations on the subject are mesmerizing! In addition to this personal focus, Erik has also created a website (tolkienists.org) that has helpful resources for any Tolkien fan or researcher! This is where you will find the Tolkien Society Award nominated Tolkien Art Index, as well as his LRCitations, and a forum that is a hub for researchers and scholars!

Links to audio of this interview are below!

Video of this interview is available exclusively to our patrons on Patreon! Subscribing at $5/month gets you access to video interviews, behind-the-scenes information, early releases, an exclusive patron-only series, and other bonus content!

Subscribe to the podcast via:

Please consider supporting the Podcast on Patreon!

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

Chris Stevens’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (165)

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 Chris Stevens’s responses:


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

It’s strange, I can remember almost exactly when a friend of mine recommended it. It’s a fairly vivid memory considering how long ago it was (1973). It was in Spanish class when I was a junior in high school (16 yrs old). I don’t think I’d read anything like it before. I typically read science fiction, mysteries, spy novels, although I did like stories of knights. I think I had read Ivanhoe not long before this. I started The Lord of the Rings but when I was partway through the prologue, I discovered there was an earlier book. As I like reading things in order, I went back to the bookstore to buy The Hobbit. I probably read the whole series 3-4 times per year through college. Although I don’t read them as frequently now, they are like old friends when I sit down to read them. Needless to say, they have made an impression on me.

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

Difficult question: The Fellowship is probably my favorite individual volume. However, I love The Silmarillion. A couple years before it came out, I had read something about this other book that Tolkien wrote, and I couldn’t find anything else about it. (no Wikipedia in those “elder days”) Therefore, I wrote to Houghton Mifflin for more information. They kindly responded telling me that his son was preparing it for publication, and it would be out in a couple of years. With all the anticipation, I bought it immediately when it appeared in a book club list. I was blown away.

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

In 2010 I stumbled on Corey Olsen’s Tolkien Professor recordings of his Tolkien class. I continued to follow his podcast and was honored to participate in his Silmarillion Seminar. The seminar met weekly for most of 2011 and I learned so much that I never previously considered, and it was great fun. Several of us attended Mythcon in Albuquerque that summer. It was so much fun meeting the “Silmarillionaires” face to face.

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

Very much so. Before I discovered Professor Olsen’s podcasts, I had read The Hobbit, The Silmarillion and the “Trilogy” * countless times. However, in retrospect my readings were quite superficial. Participating in the Silm. Seminar really opened my eyes to the depths of his work.

*(Don’t shoot me: I know it’s not a trilogy but that’s what everyone called it when I first started reading it. LOL)

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

Absolutely. I definitely recommend The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. They are great stories and Tolkien’s prose is first rate. They hold up for many, many readings. I get something out of them every time I read them even now.

As much as I love The Silmarillion, I only recommend it with a caution. You have to know what you’re getting into. If you are expecting something like the other published works, you will be disappointed. You also can’t expect to just read it once and “get it”. There is just too much there. I know I’m biased but reading through it along with the Silmarillion Seminar podcast, is a great way to get into it. I think Unfinished Tales should be read along with The Silmarillion.

The Histories should probably only be approached if you are REALLY, REALLY interested in the stories’ development. I have read a lot of the Histories but sometimes they can be difficult.  Volume 10 and 11 on the “later Silmarillion”  are my favorites.  I’ve yet to read volume 12,  The Peoples of Middle-earth.

Sean J’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (164)

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 Sean J’s responses:


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

I was probably around the age of 8 when I discovered the shiny box set of Tolkien books belonging to my mother on a shelf in our living room. The gold box with the cool symbols on it finally lured me into checking out the books inside, and I loved the hand drawn appearance of the covers. I remember being struck by the picture of the author on the backs- “This OLD man wrote these? I bet they’re boring.” How very little did I know… I still credit my mom for introducing me as it was her set of books.

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

After starting it as a teen, being confounded by the language, and then abandoning it until years later, The Silmarillion stands today as my favorite of all his works. In particular, the Ainulindalë stands out for me. I became enamoured of Roman, Greek, and in particular Norse mythology from a very young age and so was drawn to the creation myth Tolkien describes there and enjoyed reading and discovering how this world I’d come to love so deeply came to be. To this day I find the depth and breadth of Middle-earth provides me with unending joy. I find something new upon nearly every reading.

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

The way in which being immersed in his work led me towards other, similar interests. Falling in love with the Elves, the Numenorians, and dragons very much led me to discover Dungeons & Dragons, and roleplaying in general.

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

Somewhat though not completely. I’m still primarily a fan of his Middle-earth writings, but I’ve read through the entirety of The History of Middle-earth (at least the 12 volumes I’m aware of) edited by Christopher Tolkien, and as I grew older and wiser, I’ve been able to glean more detail and information as to the creation of his world. I’ve always been fascinated by the languages he created but haven’t spent any time officially involved in academic study of Tolkien.

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

The Hobbit is one of the books I will always recommend to any reader, of almost any age, and while I know Tolkien isn’t for everyone, I tend to leave that choice up to the reader. Tolkien’s work is one of the things I enjoy most in the world, so I’m always glad to share my love of it with anyone who asks.


You can find more from Sean J at his blog!

TEP #34 – Kristine Larsen

For this episode, Sara sat down with our good friend and ‘Tolkienian Astronomer’: Dr. Kristine Larsen!

Kristine is a professor of astronomy at Central Connecticut State University. Her research and teaching focus in the sometimes uncomfortable points of intersection between science and society, including: women in science,; misconceptions, conspiracy theories, and pseudoscience; the popularization of science for general audiences; and the uses/misuses of science in popular culture (including zombie films, science fiction TV series, and the fiction of Tolkien, Lewis, Gaiman and more). She has been writing on Tolkien since the early 2000s, and her paper Deconstructing Durin’s Day: Science, Scientific Fan Fiction, and the Fan-Scholar won the 2020 Tolkien Society Award for best article! We hope you enjoy this interview as much as we did!

Links to audio of this interview are below!

Video of this interview is available exclusively to our patrons on Patreon! Subscribing at $5/month gets you access to video interviews, behind-the-scenes information, early releases, an exclusive patron-only series, and other bonus content!

Subscribe to the podcast via:

Please consider supporting the Podcast on Patreon!

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

Courtney Petrucci’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (163)

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 Courtney Petrucci’s responses:


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

When The Fellowship of the Ring hit movie theaters, I was in fifth grade. My dad suggested we go see it, and based on the title alone I figured it would be boring (as only a ten year old would assume). I had no idea who Tolkien was and I had never heard of The Lord of the Rings, but I went to see the movie anyway.

I remember being entirely immersed in Middle-earth as Peter Jackson imagined it. I was completely in awe. I think it was then that I also learned not to judge a work by its title. I had always been an imaginative kid, but this film was really the catalyst for my lifelong love of fantasy fiction.

After the movie, my mom mentioned that it was based on a book, so I went on the hunt for a copy of Fellowship and buried myself in it. Seeing the film adaptation before reading the book definitely influenced my first reading of Tolkien, but I learned to see Tolkien’s Middle-earth in my own way over my many subsequent rereadings of The Lord of the Rings.

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

I’m torn between the epic battle scenes from the LOTR films and the beautiful images of the Shire from the text. I know these are two complete opposites, but both bring out an intense emotional reaction in me. Théoden’s Ride Now! speech gives me this huge adrenaline rush, and the Rohirrim facing certain death yet riding to meet it anyway makes my eyes water. It’s an equally powerful scene in the text. I remember seeing this battle scene in theaters and I can still feel those cries in my chest from the surround sound.

On the other hand, I find the Shire’s green, rolling hills and the slow, simple, way of life my ideal happy place. I enjoy retreating there while I daydream sometimes, and I can imagine myself living in a cozy hobbit hole, content to tend my garden and enjoy many meals and cups of tea with friends. To me, the Shire is the ideal place to make one’s home. Tolkien said he was “in fact a hobbit,” and maybe I would make a decent hobbit too.

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

I wrote my undergrad thesis on Gollum as an “unexpected hero”. The bare bones of my argument were that it was Gollum who succeeded where Frodo failed; Frodo decides to keep the Ring instead of throwing it into Mount Doom, and at the last moment Gollum bites Frodo’s finger off to get the Ring and then falls into the fire with it.

My senior year of college orbited around this thesis. It was more important to me than my student teaching, and definitely caused me more stress and anxiety. Now I look back on that year and remember my hours sitting in the library reading and highlighting all the work on Tolkien I could get my hands on, and I miss it. Despite all the sleep lost over drafting, editing, and meeting deadlines, I wish I could go back to those quiet hours that were entirely dedicated to learning about Tolkien and his work. I miss talking out my scattered thoughts and questions with my classmates and the excitement we shared when we had some small epiphany. My undergrad thesis is my favorite experience with Tolkien’s work so far.

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

I think my initial approach to any of Tolkien’s texts, especially his essays and letters, starts out as academic. I read with the purpose of answering a question. But when I reread his works once those questions are answered, I let myself slide into the world of Middle-earth to find the Escape he talks about in OFS [On Fairy-Stories]. Sometimes a new question will pop up while I revisit his stories, but for the most part I let myself relax and enjoy my subsequent readings.

I’ve always admired his artwork; I’ve never tried to interpret his art through a scholarly lens and I don’t think it’s supposed to be scrutinized or dissected the way his written work can be. I went to the Tolkien exhibit at the Morgan Library and Museum in 2019 to see his originals and how they developed, and I found such joy in simply being able to see them for myself.

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

Of course! I think anyone who loves reading should try out Tolkien’s work. His extensive world-building is perfect for readers who are looking for escape and immersion, and his use of languages and mythologies continue to provide scholars with academic material. I wouldn’t, however, recommend Tolkien to my students who don’t already like to read. Since most of Tolkien’s work, especially LOTR and The Silmarillion, is long and complex, people who aren’t big fans of reading might be turned off. For those readers, I might recommend The Hobbit, or at least a section of it to start.

Lisa’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (162)

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 Lisa’s responses:


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

My father introduced me to Tolkien. He worked multiple jobs to support our large family and when he was home there was always a book near the loo. (I guess that was the only time he could relax and read in peace for 5 minutes haha.) I asked him about his book one day and that was when I learnt about LOTR.

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

I love the magic interweaved throughout Tolkien’s work. Elves, men, hobbits, dwarves, wizards and mythical beasts all working together. It brought me into a new world when I started reading.

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

My fondest experiences (I have 2 sorry!) First was reading the LOTR trilogy at age 12 whilst on school holidays, I read them in ten days because I could not put down the books. It’s still to this day the most beautiful, immersive story I’ve ever read and I re-read every once in a while now I’m older. Second was reading the books with my son. Seeing a child find the amazement I was lucky enough to experience at a young age is so special.

When the first movie was screening Dad and Mum found the time in-between their crazy work schedules to take me to watch it together at the cinema. I cherish every moment I have with my Dad and LOTR really brought us together, it’s been a special bond ever since.

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

Time has changed my appreciation for Tolkien’s work in the sense that I can see the next generation enjoying the magic of his storytelling that I enjoy so much. My dad probably felt the same when I was young.

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

I always recommend Tolkien’s work to anyone willing to listen, unfortunately people don’t seem to buy/read books much now but the movies are a great start for beginners and hopefully he will keep having an impact on those that choose to read.

TEP #33 — Putri Prihatini

For this episode, Sarah had the opportunity to talk with a blogger and fan who is new to the scene compared to our other guests, but she is already having an impact: Putri Prihatini!

Putri writes the blog ‘The Loremaster: Blog Tolkien Indonesia’ where she writes posts in Indonesian and in English.

Her article “Greed and Blood: Powerful Objects in The Silmarillion and Javanese Book of Monarchs” was nominated for the Tolkien Society Award for Best Article in 2021. Find more from Putri on her blog!

Links to audio of this interview are below!

Video of this interview is available exclusively to our patrons on Patreon! Subscribing at $5/month gets you access to video interviews, behind-the-scenes information, early releases, an exclusive patron-only series, and other bonus content!

Subscribe to the podcast via:

Please consider supporting the Podcast on Patreon!

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

Michael Fabrizio’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (161)

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 Michael Fabrizio’s responses:


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

I was but a young child so I can not speak with clarity as to my discovery but I have been reading Tolkien’s works since I was in 1st grade. This love grows yearly since then and each re-read brings discoveries and more understanding than I first had!

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

I have to go with The Two Towers and more specifically The Battle Of Helms Deep. This battle pushed my imagination beyond what was possible and when the Peter Jackson’s adaptation brought it to life that became solidified as my favorite moment from then on.

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

My fondest experience of Tolkien’s work would be my cousin Ben letting me read his copy of the trilogy. I never forgot that little act of kindness from him even if he probably forgets. Being able to remember fondly a family member who I love with the works of my favorite author is a blessing I can’t be more thankful for.

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

My approach to Tolkien would originally just be a yearly reading of the classic trilogy but has evolved with time to cross checking books through every journey into Arda! Between The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, The Lord of The Rings, and Unfinished Tales (plus more in my collection!) I grew from just reading simply to fully delving and immersing myself. I could spiel about my more specific progress and methodical learning style but I think it’s enough to say I am just more thorough as time moves on.

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

I can happily answer I always recommend Tolkien, at best you love him and at worst you gained a new experience with which to think about. Fully drawn out universes tend to attract enjoyment so I lead my recommendation with that.


You can read more from Michael Fabrizio on Twitter!

Rebecca Davis’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (160)

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 Rebecca Davis’s responses:


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

I got the The Hobbit as assigned reading from my homeschool curriculum when I was 8 and didn’t make it through the first chapter before setting it aside- I found the names silly and confusing. I was reintroduced to Tolkien when I did a study abroad in Oxford my junior year of college and that was when I really became a fan.

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

The characters and the richness of the story. There is a reality to his work, as if I’m getting a peak into a world that once was.

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

My first extended edition marathon. 7 pm to 7 am. The jokes got sillier as the night got later- I may have said “Wheeeeeeeee!” when Denethor jumped off of the Pier.

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

Very much. I have found the story richer the older I get. I used to consider Faramir a consolation prize for Eowyn before I really came to understand his character and outlook. I have also been able to have some really great discussions with other fans over different concepts that I wouldn’t have had when I first re-discovered him.

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

I do to all my students 🙂 There is a quality to his stories that more modern fantasy stories lack. Take Beren and Luthien for example- Luthien is a wonderful example of a subversion of the fairytale princess. I also need my students to be able to get my references and jokes, especially when I tell them their paper is as awesome as Fingolfin’s charge to the gates of Morgoth.


You can read more from Rebecca Davis on Twitter!