TEP #47 –Alicia Fox-Lenz

For this episode, our guest is a steward of the Mythopoeic Society and an independent researcher who loves experimenting with new perspectives on Tolkien: Alicia Fox-Lenz!

Alicia is the Social Media Officer of the Mythopoeic Society, as well as a member of their stewardship council.. She is currently editing a scholarly volume on Tolkien and gaming, which should be published by McFarland later this year. She also co-hosts a famous yearly Middle-earth movie marathon with her husband. We were so excited that she could join us!

Unedited 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!

Links to audio of this interview are below!

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TEP #46 — Sonali Chunodkar

For this episode, we have a guest who is an independent researcher who delves into the interaction between Tolkien and readers: Sonali Chunodkar!

Sonali has an MPhil and a PhD, for which both her theses focused on Tolkien’s work. She has recently presented papers at several Tolkien conferences, including a recent Tolkien Society Seminar. We are thrilled that she could join us to talk about her Tolkien experience!

Unedited 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!

Links to audio of this interview are below!

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

TEP #45 — Brian D. Egede-Pedersen

For this episode, we have a guest whose view on Tolkien totally rocks (sorry)– Brian D. Egede-Pedersen

Brian has an MA in history and a minor in English Literature from the University of Southern Denmark. Since his graduation, he has worked as a secondary school teacher and an assistant professor at the University of Southern Denmark. Hi research interests include the appropriation of history, the metal genre of music, and the works of J.R.R. Tolkien!

Unedited 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!

Links to audio of this interview are below!

Subscribe to the podcast via:

Please consider supporting the Podcast on Patreon!

Comments or questions:

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  • Comment on this blog post
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Andrei Guchin’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (204)

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 Andrei Guchin’s responses:


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

When I was 11, The Fellowship of the Ring by Peter Jackson was released. I couldn’t go to the cinema to watch it, but I remember doing it at a friend’s house a couple of months after the premiere. I loved it! The story, the special effects, the orcs, the elves, everything. After that, I asked my parents to buy me the books. From then on, there was no coming back.

Nowadays I have a bookshelf with more than 60 Tolkien related books – including a collection of The Hobbit in different languages-, maps, posters, paintings, figures, T-shirts, and more.

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

Generally speaking, the way he describes the places in a very detailed manner, revealing his love of trees and nature. This is something that I usually do when I am anywhere so I feel very represented. I tend to remember more about places than people.

I also love how he developed a proper culture behind each race. The alphabets, languages, songs, myths, etc. Everything is explained so well and so well connected to the rest of Middle-earth that you could believe that they are real.

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

I spend most of my time with my head in Tolkien’s worlds, so I have many stories to share here. I had the privilege of visiting New Zealand some years ago and have been in many places where the movies were filmed. It was amazing, just like being in Middle-earth! Being in Hobbiton was a very emotional experience for me.

Most recently, the last time I read The Hobbit, I was going through a hard time in my life, so I got to this part of the book when Bilbo says “So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their ending”. I never paid special attention to this quote before, but that time it was as if Tolkien himself was telling me that face to face. I felt relieved, hopeful. Nowadays this is one of my favorite quotes from Tolkien’s work.

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

When I was a child I liked Middle-earth’s stories because of the adventures, the battles, the magic, the creatures, etc. I enjoyed watching the epic scenes in the movies and playing the video games. Nowadays I keep enjoying that, but I understood that they are more than just fairy tales and I started looking at the stories with other eyes. All the books introduce situations that can be easily translated to real life situations, from daily challenges to more complex concepts like life, death, friendship, love, life purpose and more. It’s really interesting to see how quotes like “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us” may have different meanings depending on the moment of your life in which you are reading it.

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

I wonder if there is anyone who ever answers “No” to this question.

There are so many different flavors in Tolkien’s work when it comes to tales or stories that I find it very hard for anyone not to find a story they enjoy. From Letters from Father Christmas to The Silmarillion, you will always find a good fit for you. And if you are the sort of person who says that fantasy books aren’t for you, you might want to take a look at the “On Fairy-Stories” essay and see if it changes your mind.


You can find more from Andrei Guchin on Twitter!

Caitlin’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (203)

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 Caitlin’s responses:


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

My mother started reading me the books when I was 4.

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

Oh, gosh. Well, Lord of the Rings is my favorite, though I certainly enjoy The Hobbit and The Silmarillion. What I really appreciate is how decent and nonviolent, even though they are good at it when absolutely necessary, the charaters are and also the enduring friendships. Lord of the Rings is basically a master class in non-toxic masculinity. I think I picked up on that even when I was small and that’s why it is a story that sticks.

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

Excellent question. The Andy-Serkis-narrated audiobooks have been a joy in these times, Mom reading to me in the old four poster when I was a kid, seeing The Fellowship of the Ring movie with my mom and brother.

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

Yes. My frequent re-reads and re-visits (via the movies and audiobooks) of the stories give me a different or deeper understanding each time. I understand the themes and lessons more explicitly now, at almost 50, than I did when I was a child.

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

Absolutely. There are a lot of very important life lessons in those stories about what is important and how to be a decent person.


You can find more from Caitlin on Twitter!

TEP #44 — Ted Nasmith

We am so excited that we get to start off season three with a very notable artist: Ted Nasmith!

Ted is one of the biggest names in the Tolkien art world. He has had the opportunity to be in multiple official Tolkien calendar, as well as illustrate editions of Tolkien’s work. Most recently, he has been involved with editions of The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales! He also has a written piece in the official 2023 Tolkien Calendar. You can see examples of his work on his website!

We hope you enjoy our conversation with Ted as much as we enjoyed the chance to speak with him!

Unedited 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!

Links to audio of this interview are below!

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

Kyria Van Gasse’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (202)

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 Kyria Van Gasse’s responses:


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

I was introduced through my grandfather, who is obsessed with Tolkien’s works. He collects all the Dutch translations of his books, extended editions of the movies, various art and even makes drawings and paintings of Tolkien’s world himself. It was only natural that he introduced me to the magical world at a fairly young age (I think I saw the movies the moment they were available on DVD, and I am turning 22 this year, so you can count back :P). We also have various pets in the family who are named after Tolkien characters, so you could say the professor’s world really lives within us.

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

I’m going to be very basic and say the magical whimsyness of the world. Although I like to say I’d be an elf in his world, I know at heart I am a homely hobbit and I have such a big love for the Shire. The chapters or scenes that happen in that place are my favourite out of all, although I also have a fondness for Théoden and his Rohan (we recently named a cat Rohan!). I just love the world so much and how everyone can find something in it to get lost for a while.

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

Definitely back when I was a kid and had weekly sleepover nights at my grandparents. My grandfather used to read stories to us every night, and there was a while where those stories where pages from a daily Tolkien calendar. He read excerpts, showed us maps and drawings, sang the little songs… It really made Tolkien a big part of my childhood. We also had this yearly tradition of watching the full extended editions over a few weeks, so I feel like I know these movies by heart and they kinda shaped me in a way.

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

I think I look at it more as a source of inspiration now, or more like a thing that I’d like to be able to do. I write fantasy as well, and although my writing style is totally not like Tolkien’s, I do believe some parts of his work influenced the way I write. I also really love how he made fantasy a serious business, and showed it wasn’t just a genre for kids’ stories, but a fully fledged part of the literature industry.

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

I would definitely recommend it to anyone into fantasy, or starting to get into fantasy (although I’d say they perhaps should either watch the movies first or start with The Hobbit, as LOTR itself is perhaps a bit too much as a starting fantasy reader).


You can find more from Kyria Van Gasse on Twitter!

Laurie (Laurie in WA) Magan’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (201)

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  Laurie Magan’s responses:


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

My mom showed me the Rankin/Bass Hobbit cartoon in 1977 (I was 9 years old). She also had a Hobbit/LOTR set on our bookshelf (which now, battered and much loved these many years later, has pride of place in my collection), and so I read The Hobbit either immediately before or immediately after. I honestly can’t remember which. I do remember that I moved immediately into LOTR after reading The Hobbit. So my first experience of Tolkien was NOT through the books but was through visual media. I see this as a great way to take part in discussion with people who first came to Tolkien through the Jackson films, as we have something in common–our first impressions of Tolkien were not text-based, but we still find things in the text to absolutely love.

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

That has changed over time. At first, when I was a child, it was the fairy story aspect. I loved stories about elves and wizards and dragons, and Tolkien was definitely talking to me on that level. I spent my middle (primary) and high school years escaping into the world Tolkien had created (I will freely admit that I got lost there more than once). As I got into my twenties, I began to read the works from a different perspective and to see themes of friendship, and fidelity, and hope in Tolkien’s writing. Those themes sustained me through more than a few dark times. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate the inspirations and sources that Tolkien drew on, as well as the language. Tolkien was my gateway to Old and Middle English, and woke the word-nerd in me. I think the language is something that has always drawn me to Tolkien’s work, but I’ve only recently (in the past ten years or so) actually become aware of that.

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

This is a really hard question to answer. Every time I read LOTR, or The Silmarillion, or Smith of Wooton Major, I find something new. That’s one of the joys of reading Tolkien: there is always something new to discover, no matter how many times I’ve already that book or that chapter or that passage. I think I’d have to say my favorite experience is reading “On Fairy Stories” for the first time and connecting that to the world that Tolkien has built in Middle-earth. That was a real “light bulb moment” for me. Here, in a few pages, was Tolkien explaining to me WHY fairy stories (and LOTR) matter. It was the author himself telling me that my love of faerie was justified, and that I was not alone in yearning for other worlds (while at the same time still appreciating the world we all share).

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

Absolutely yes and absolutely no.

Absolutely yes in that I now read Tolkien more critically, more closely. I am now more cognizant of word choice, and when I see a word like “dryad” I wonder “Why did Professor Tolkien use such an obviously non-Germanic word there?” I look for connections between LOTR and The Silmarillion and the older stories, especially those “blink and you miss it” moments that would have been fascinating textual ruins to a reader in 1960. (Eärendil? Who is that? And where can I learn more???)

Absolutely no in that I still read Tolkien (and especially LOTR) for the story. I love the characters, and the relationships between those characters. I am still overwhelmed every time I read about Théoden leading his people into battle, and terrified when Frodo encounters Shelob in the tunnel.) The Black Riders still frighten me; The Dead Marshes still move me in ways I don’t quite understand; and Gandalf still reminds me afresh, every time, that pity (in the original sense of the word) might just be the salvation of us all.

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

I would and I do. I don’t expect that everyone will enjoy it, but I still recommend it. I love Middle-earth, and the people who inhabit it, and I get excited when I meet other people who feel the same.

Tony Meade’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (200)

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  Tony Meade’s responses:


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

As a kid and teenager, I was aware of Tolkien, but I never read it because the way people talked about it, it seemed like it was something that was daunting to get into, and that it was kind of a closed club, so I never got started with it. It wasn’t until I saw the film of The Fellowship of the Ring on opening night in 2001, and after the seven-minute prologue, I was in, and I knew that I wanted to learn everything there was to know about that world. In the year between the first two films, I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings novel, and between the second and third films, I read The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales. I really haven’t stopped since.

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

There are so many things, but if I had to break down to three things, it is the use of language, the metaphysical underpinnings, and the moral/ethical world that it exists in.

As far as language, Tolkien doesn’t write like anyone else, and his ability to use archaic words, in both denotation and connotation, is truly unique. He also has a poetic quality in his prose that is absent from most modern literature. You get the feeling that you are reading something both ancient and modern at the same time.

I’ve often said that I prefer the Ainulindalë to the Genesis account, or any other creation story for that matter, as it is not only having a feeling of mystical authenticity, but it also manages to capture the issues of good and evil, of fate and free will, and the different roles of divine and incarnate beings. And the metaphor of music as the mechanism of Creation appeals to me as a musician and sound engineer on a different level.

Lastly, Tolkien’s ability to explore complex issues of moral and ethical choices, including how good people go bad, the importance of both means and ends, and the importance of hope can not be more applicable to the modern world. I’ve often said that Tolkien not only makes you want to be a better person, but also shows you how.

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

Back in 2003, I was going through one of the darkest periods of my life, due to a number of life crises happening at the same time. Reading through The Lord of the Rings during that time was one of the only things that helped me get through it. Losing myself in the lore of the Prologue and Appendices helped me forget my troubles, and I found hope for myself in those pages.

During that time, I also did my first readthrough of The Silmarillion, but I did it with the audiobook, which I highly recommend for first time readers. That language is really meant to be heard spoken aloud, like epic verse or scripture, so I felt like I really got it the first time around. It was also something that I lose myself in during that troubled time, and it helped me immensely.

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

I have definitely taken a more academic approach over time and increased my reading of Tolkien’s work both in breadth and depth. I have now read all of the published and edited works at least once, and thanks to amazing academics like Drs. Corey Olsen, Mike Drout, Tom Shippey, Verlyn Flieger, and many others, I’ve been able to study so much of his work in great detail. I’ve also made a special effort to study Tolkien’s non-Middle-earth works, as I feel that these are really revealing of Tolkien’s character as a man, and the things that he was interested in life generally. Of course, I still read The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion once annually.

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

Of course, and if for no other reason than that Tolkien is one of the greatest storytellers of the modern era. It’s obvious to me, going through the early drafts of his work, that despite both his and his observers’ emphasis on his fictional world-building, created languages, and so on, Tolkien really valued good storytelling above all else, which sets him apart from many other authors who have followed in his footsteps.

But also, I think in these current days we need Tolkien’s explorations of the nature of evil, its pitfalls and snares, and how we must face up to it more than ever, and I’ve often said that The Lord of the Rings is the greatest literary exploration of the nature of evil ever printed. I hope that more people can find the time to explore the world that Tolkien created, and how they can apply those experiences to their own lives.


You can find more from Tony Meade on Twitter!

Jasper’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (199)

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   Jasper’s responses:


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

I was perhaps 5 or 6 when my dad first started The Hobbit with me as a bed time story. We had an old set of all of the (then) published Middle-earth books bound in green leather and marbled card, and he would read for me every night. Once we finished The Hobbit, he began reading The Fellowship of the Ring, which might have been a little old for a 6 year old, but I loved it nonetheless. We moved on to The Two Towers when I was about 7, and I have the distinct memory of forgetting our copy when we went on holiday and my dad scolding me for forgetting it, but buying a cheap paperback version anyway so that we didn’t have to miss a week of Frodo’s journey.

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

When I was a child it was definitely the world he had built, the vastness and scope of the place that I felt fully immersed in, even during the long and unwieldy songs, and the Ent portions. As an adult, though, it’s got to be the linguistics. I actually chose to do my Masters degree in Historical Linguistics, with a focus on Old Germanic Dialects directly due to Tolkien’s own scholarship. Studying diachronic linguistics, then returning to the worlds and languages Tolkien created, you can really appreciate how much he loved both his academic and creative writing. The progression of Primitive Quendian to Common Eldarin, then to Quenya and Telerin, then down to Sindarin and all the different branches, is so organic. The detail with which he notes changes in phonology and morphology in The Etymologies is so exciting and mirrors his own studies into Proto-Germanic and its related dialects so beautifully. It’s hard not to get very nerdy about it right alongside him.

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

The first Peter Jackson movie was released when I was 8, and my childhood best friend and I would spend hours in the fields around his house playing Rangers, fighting Orcs and speaking all the Elvish we could remember. We saw each other after school almost every day, and we didn’t stop playing our elaborate, dramatised Middle-earth games until we were 13.

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

Absolutely. As I mentioned above, choosing to study linguistics in the same vein has given me a whole new respect for the world, languages and cultures that Tolkien created, however as an adult there are things now that I find wanting in that world. In many ways it was a product of its time (though it was as much a product of Beowulf’s time too) and as such there are limitations to the world-building that a current writer of Fantasy wouldn’t dare restrict themselves to. Fantasy nowadays without more than 2 or 3 women in an entire series feels off, as does a cast without representation beyond the White Brythonic/Norse cultures of Tolkien’s wheelhouse. I find now that as much as I love and respect Tolkien’s original works, I want people who are adapting and building upon his works to create something that better reflects those who are consuming it. Why should the beautiful, graceful races of Middle-earth be blonde haired and blue eyed? Why is it only ever the villains that are described in ways that evoke the cultures of People of Colour? Why should the sweeping romances be just between a man and a woman? In Tolkien’s day these things might have been out of the scope of most of his readers, but as seminal a work of Fantasy as he created in his world of Middle-earth, our world and its imaginations have grown exponentially, and any Fantasy should reflect that and take it in its stride. That’s one of the things I love about Tolkien’s work, though, it’s not difficult to imagine infinite different facets of life in Middle-earth. Whether that is Orcs really understanding what a ‘menu’ is, and therefore having a complex and nuanced culture of their own beyond being “villainous creatures”, or the truth of Dwarf women and the more complicated relationship Dwarves may have to sex and gender. There is so much more that Tolkien’s works can become when put in the diverse and variable hands of the people who love it.

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

Yes, but I understand that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I would love people to love Tolkien as much as I do, but there is so much more Fantasy written now that is more engaging, easier to read, and better reflects its readers. Perhaps dipping a toe into Middle-earth might be appropriate for people who want the linguistics or the history, or just to see how newer Fantasy has been shaped by the success of Tolkien’s works, but I don’t think it’s necessarily an accessible, ‘one size fits all’ kind of Fantasy.