Steve’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (140)

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 Steve 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 Steve’s responses:


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

I’d heard on and off about The Hobbit and Bilbo Baggins so that the names were vaguely familiar to me as a child and teenager, but my first real introduction was the trailer to the 2001 adaptation of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” I watched the trailer over and over because it looked so good! I ended up seeing the first movie in theaters seven times. From there, I read the LotR trilogy for the first time and started obsessing over Middle-earth

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

The movies (Peter Jackson’s adaptations) are my favorite way to partake. They’re my favorite movie experience ever in my life. I adored The Hobbit trilogy, so that’d probably be number two, though I’ve got two sourcebooks (Foster’s Tolkien’s World from A to Z: The Complete Guide to Middle-earth and Tyler’s The Complete Tolkien Companion that I can pour over endlessly. I got REALLY into the LotR tradeable card game Decipher published in the early 00’s. And I love Martin Shaw’s audiobook reading of The Silmarillion.

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

Watching each of the Peter Jackson chapters for the first time. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before and filled me with a deep longing to learn more and experience more of Tolkien’s work.

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

I’ve only appreciated it more and more as I’ve expanded into his non-Middle-earth works (like Roverandom) and dived deeper into his Middle-earth works (I’m low-key obsessed with The Silmarillion). I’ve come to appreciate it on a religious level, finding poignant lessons and comparisons with what Tolkien writes about and my own faith and beliefs.

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

Absolutely. I will tell anyone to watch the movies. Beyond that, there’s a depth to his writings that makes it so each time one reads, one can find new things or new insights or new little discoveries. He can be heavy at times – it’s not always light or easily digestible writing – but there’s a richness to his stories and words that takes it beyond just fantasy. There’s almost a divine quality to his work that take it beyond world-building and really make it feel like world-creating.


You can find Steve on Twitter!

Reading Tolkien during the Insurrection

I happened to be reading the final three chapters of The Lord of the Rings this week as supporters of an incompetent president attempted an insurrection in America. I am going through the book with a middle school student, and did not want to burden them with these thoughts, so instead I thought I would inflict them upon you. My apologies!


As an avid Tolkien reader and researcher, sometimes I can’t help but reflect on the ways that my reading and real-world events sometimes intersect. This is especially true when I am in the process of rereading one of his primary works.

I know that white supremacists and white nationalists have used Tolkien to support their ideals and bolster their racist sense of identity. Unfortunately, Tolkien’s work is open to that interpretation in many respects. Thankfully, it is also open to interpretations that run counter to those beliefs.

If we use Tolkien’s biography, it is fairly easy to say that he would not agree with open fascism or Nazism. For this, we have his letters to revert to. I am not interested in Tolkien’s actual opinions today, so much as with the ways that his text can be interpreted by readers.

Recently, many have chosen to talk about Tolkien’s themes of hope and courage during this tough time. The Tolkien Society announced that “hope and courage” is their theme for Tolkien Reading Day this year, the Athrabeth podcast recently released an episode focusing on Nienna and the themes of “Endurance and Hope”, and Polygon released an article by Susana Polo talking about how Tolkien’s text is a source for hope.

I want to propose a different lens through which to look at the text today. Tolkien does not simply give us hope for a better future or strength to endure hardship. Instead, the text can be read as a call to action, a challenge to us as readers to not sit idly by. I find no better place for this theme than in the final chapters I was reading this week.

During the Scouring of the Shire, Sam claims that the ruination he sees is like Mordor. To this, Frodo responds:

‘Yes, this is Mordor,’ said Frodo. ‘Just one of its works. Saruman was doing its work all the time, even when he thought he was working for himself. And the same with those that Saruman tricked, like Lotho.’

RK, VI, viii (p.1018 in 50th ed.)

Here, I am led to the realization that the way Lotho grasps for power, enabled by corrupt and amoral external influences, has the exact same kind of impact as the more global problems that Fellowship’s quest was undertaken to defeat. This message places the, arguably, more mundane conflict in the Shire alongside the more noteworthy happenings in the text by showing their shared cause: an overreaching for power, an entitlement that is unwarranted, and a greed that is unsatisfied. These are the same motivators for Sauron, for Saruman, and for Lotho.

Furthermore, it illustrates that the consequences of this impulse are evil and damaging, no matter where they occur. The devastation of the party tree, the way that the field is barren of grass, and the quarry taking up Bagshot Row are haunting, if dim, reflections of the Dead Marshes outside of Mordor, or the areas where trees have been ripped out and uprooted around Orthanc.

Some have incorrectly argued that Sauron represents a kind of creeping pluralism. That is utterly incorrect from this vantage point. When we realize that Saruman and Lotho have become miniature Saurons, it becomes clear that this pride, this sense of identity that elevates oneself over someone else, is what really leads to the evil that they commit. It is clear that the text acts as a condemnation of these kinds of beliefs.

This perspective is compounded when I consider that many of the heroes of the story: Frodo, Sam, Gandalf, all demonstrate humility and right action as their central characteristics.

So what do our heroes do with this knowledge?

They do what Gandalf suggests they “have been trained for” (RK, VI,vii [p.996 in 50th]). Gandalf’s framing is that the hobbits’ excursion into the larger world was really a means by which they could grow as individuals. It was a way for them to grow in maturity and knowledge so that they could handle this specific moment in the Shire. In a sense, Gandalf re-frames the narrative so that the Scouring of the Shire is the climax.

Pippin, Merry, Sam, and Frodo start a rebellion and confront the ruffians. they try to end the occupation as peacefully as possible. In fact, they are able to manage their task with far fewer deaths than they expected. There was the killing of a ruffian boss in one skirmish, the killing of Wormtongue (who himself killed Saruman), and then one battle where many ruffians were killed because they refused to surrender.

Then they set about trying to undo the damage that Lotho, Saruman, and the ruffians caused. They disbanded the regiments that had been installed around the Shire, reduced the number of Shirrifs to their normal duties, and set about rebuilding the land and infrastructure that had been ruined.

So what lessons can the reader take from this?

Honestly, many different interpretations are possible, but here is how I read this chapter.

Tolkien challenges us to not be inactive when hardship comes. Not even when it is in our own land. It is the inaction of the hobbits in the Shire that allows the ruffians to have their way. This is underscored by both Farmer Cotton and by Robin Smallborrow.

Tolkien illustrates how those who take action against a totalitarian regime at home will likely suffer consequences, but that they will be celebrated for their efforts. The prime example of this is the raising of Lobelia in the esteem of the Shire hobbits. Additional evidence is the way that Pippin and Merry become heroes for their part in organizing the hobbits.

After the ruffians are removed from the Shire, steps are taken to ensure that this kind of thing will not happen again. Frodo helps to decentralize the power in the Shire, and eventually Sam, one of the most down to earth hobbits in the whole story, is made the mayor.


To conclude, I think that Tolkien’s text forces us to confront a statement that Gandalf makes Frodo at the very beginning of LotR. When Frodo laments that he has to live in such a dreadful time, Gandalf states,

‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to
decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given, us.’

FR, I, ii (p.51 in 50th ed.)

Tolkien’s text demonstrates that we have to do something more than hope and endure. Readers are called to action against the kind of self-aggrandizement that leads to dictators. If we are to live through awful times, we must oppose the actions that make them awful. To do otherwise would be to ensure that future generations will have to deal with the problems that we allowed to persist.


Obviously, this is a quickly-written and cursory overview. But I find it is an okay introduction to one of the key themes that I read in the text. I am very open to discussing this further and I welcome your comments. Does this perspective make sense to you? Is it one that you have read from the text before?

Robert Falzon’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (139)

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 Robert 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 Robert Falzon’s responses:


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

When the movies came out, I was about 17 years old, and a school friend of mine told me about Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings. I first bought the CD with Howard Shore’s music for the The Fellowship of the Ring, then I watched the movies, and finally I read the books. The experience remained with me but for a long time I did not delve deeper. Until a couple of years ago when I started to read more and more of Tolkien’s works as well as about Tolkien’s works. I am now building my own little collection of Tolkien books.

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

Perhaps the most difficult question! I would have to say Leaf by Niggle. It contains everything and gives me so much encouragement: the parts when Niggle sees his tree, all beautiful and complete, just as he had imagined it and yet even more beautiful; when his work with Parish becomes a source of rest and comfort for others; when Niggle and Parish are heard laughing in the mountains at the end, oblivious to the pathetic remarks of Tompkins. If I had to choose a part from the Legendarium (still a very difficult thing to do) it would have to be Ainulindale, because in it there is everything that will happen after: pretty much like the Christological Hymns we find in St Paul’s Epistles. God’s or Illuvatar’s vision that will materialise in time, with the cooperation of the Ainur, and everything, even Melkor’s dissonance, leads to the completion of that vision; and still the freedom of Men is always respected. I find this very encouraging.

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

Very recently I was collecting data from young adults in view of my Masters in Spirituality dissertation about how they engaged with Tolkien’s works (connecting with life experiences and so on) and we got to have 5 discussion workshops spread over 5 months. Discussing Tolkien’s works takes the experience of reading Tolkien to another level.

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

Definitely. Whereas before I was mostly interested in the movies, now I am much more interested in the original written works. Not only that: I used to look at The Lord of the Rings as allegory, but now I have realised that this was quite inappropriate and am enjoying it and the rest of the Legendarium, simply as story with a high degree of applicability. I am also interested in languages. I haven’t started learning Sindarin, but I have started learning Old English. I’d love to learn the other old languages that influenced Tolkien in his development of Elvish. I’d like to see more through his eyes.

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

Definitely. But I also would like to be careful to recommend Tolkien’s works at the right moment for each person so as to be sure that they appreciate them more. Having said that, I firmly believe that in our metamodern age, fantasy should be integrated further in school curricula in an interdisciplinary approach to schooling. Fantasy equips children, youth and adults to approach a reality when we are no longer sure of what is real. Postmodernism has almost changed anthropology – we sometimes talk of the post-human era – and fantasy helps us in the “recovery” of the human. Tolkien’s fantasy, then, makes sure that this recovery is done well as his ethics are sound and his aesthetics are rich.

Zane Libiete’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (138)

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 Zane 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 Zane Libiete’s responses:


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

I read The Hobbit in 1991 at the age of ten, as soon as it was translated in Latvian. I liked it, but no more. A long gap followed, until the first of the LOTR movies was released in 2001. I remember that after watching it I thought for some reason that this is a very strange film but that I like it a lot and that I would like to read the book. But there was neither Latvian translation, nor English edition available at the time. For the next year I was in Sweden, studying. Quite homesick, I spent long hours in the evenings in the computer class surfing the internet, and there I somehow found a copy of The Lord of the Rings in English. A typed Word document! I printed it, read it, and I was drawn into Middle-earth. And there I have remained, to this day.

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

My favourite work is The Silmarillion, and the favourite parts are several. The Music of the Ainur, the idea of creation through music. The rescue of Maedhros. ‘Utúlien aurë!’, that moment before the Battle of Unnumbered Tears. The song-duel of Finrod and Sauron. Friendship, trust and hope are the themes that move me most, and I am endlessly fascinated by Tolkien’s skill to create depth and complexity of an event or a character with a single sentence.

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

My visit to the exhibition of the Bodleian Library in Oxford in autumn 2018. That was a bit strange. I accidentally found out about this exhibition only a few weeks before its closure. I usually do not make spontaneous decisions about traveling, but on that occasion, I had the plane tickets bought on the same evening. I spent a wonderful day in Oxford and then a wonderful day in Warwick, wandering around the castle and along the river and reciting ‘Kortirion among the Trees’. A few months before this trip I had read the first volumes of HoME and memorized it. My interest in things can take quite extreme forms sometimes…

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

Yes, a lot. Initially I was more attracted to The Lord of the Rings, and I used to re-read it once a year, as well as to re-watch the movies quite often. Gradually my interest shifted more towards the foundations of the legendarium, and I acquired the other books too, being particularly impressed by The History of Middle-earth. Two years ago I became a member of the Tolkien Society and started to read more of the scholarly works. With time, I have come to appreciate the language and stylistic nuances more and more, as well as the literary development of the works. I follow the podcast of The Tolkien Professor Cory Olsen and his Mythgard Academy recordings, and I find his in-depth knowledge of Tolkien’s works amazing. During the recent years I have also discovered a lot of wonderful Tolkien-inspired art and music; my favourite Tolkien artist is Jenny Dolfen, and I love the music by The Tolkien Ensemble and also Paul Corfield Godfrey’s Epic Scenes from The Silmarillion.

From my first reading of the LOTR I have been creatively inspired by Tolkien’s books and made illustrations of my favourite scenes and places. However, I am not a professional artist and only lately, encouraged by the supportive atmosphere of the Tolkien Society FB page, I have started to share my paintings.

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

I definitely would. Tolkien’s works have helped me through some of the darkest times of my life. I think that the themes of escape, recovery and consolation are extremely relevant nowadays. Still, I would recommend people read Tolkien in English, if possible. I do not believe that translation can convey the full beauty of the language. These works are ‘primarily linguistic’, after all.


For more from Zane, you can find her on Facebook!

JuanKi Kürsch’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (137)

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 JuanKi 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 JuanKi Kürsch’s responses:


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

I discovered The Hobbit at the public library in Jaén (Spain) when
I was 13. Somebody told me there was “a sequel”…

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

Even if Lord of the Rings is more heroic, dense and adventurous, I
think I still prefer the “natural spontaneity” of The Hobbit as a story.

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

One of the happiest moments in my life was when I successfully
defended my master thesis on the origin and evolution of Gollum (it
was worth the effort).

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

When I was 13-19 years old, I kept on discovering Tolkien’s
mythology; after some decades, I continue looking for linguistic and
philological details.

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

I will always recommend Professor Tolkien’s work to anybody and anywhere.

Maria Romeiras Amado’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (136)

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 Maria 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 Maria Romeiras Amado’s responses:


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

I read The Hobbit very young, in a Portuguese translation that was around my parents’ library. Loved it. After that I remember the first animation movie. I read the LOTR and The Silmarillion years later. I am now 54 and usually read LOTR every other year. This year I just revisited The Hobbit. I also like to watch Peter Jackson’s LOTR trilogy.

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

LOTR for sure. Huge fan.

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

The fact that my father bought The Hobbit for my brothers and me and years later I gave LOTR to my teenage son who is already an expert!

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

Of course. Over the tears we come to appreciate the beauty of the text, it is amazing, beautiful, alive. Even for non-native English speakers. But Portuguese tend to read books in their original versions.

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

For sure! It is a beautiful universe and a beautiful linguistic exercise to dive in. I am a 54 year historian and he is one of my favorite authors!

Charlie Robinson’s Experience–Tolkien Experience (135)

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 Charlie 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 Charlie Robinson’s responses:


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

Summer 2002, when I was 10, on our family holiday to Northumberland. My parents always got us audiobooks to listen to in the car to distract from the 6+ hours it took to drive from Southampton. That summer, among others, we had the 1968 BBC dramatization of The Hobbit with Paul Daneman as Bilbo. I was hooked pretty much instantly: the music, the aesthetic, the characterisations, everything about it was enchanting. My parents bought me a copy of the book from a bookshop in Berwick-upon-Tweed (which I still have), but in the excitement of the holiday, I never quite got into it – the move from dramatized audiobook to Tolkien’s prose was an adjustment that I didn’t manage for a long time. On the way home from that holiday, we stopped in with my grandparents, who lent me their tapes of Brian Sibley’s 1981 dramatization of The Lord of the Rings. These I adored even more than The Hobbit. I learned all the songs, and still know them today – Sam’s song at Cirith Ungol is my favourite. I read the books at the time, but I barely remember it – again, the transition from dramatization to prose didn’t entirely work for me. I attempted The Silmarillion and got nowhere significant. That year, I saw the first two films, and between those and the Sibley dramatizations, with some vague memories of the books, I fell in love with Tolkien’s world. I didn’t re-read the books until my early 20s, and had that strange experience of half-remembering a book I’d read as a child, but simultaneously wondering if it was the same one. It was the closest thing to being able to read it for the first time again, and it was utterly marvellous, even having watched and listened to the adaptations in the intervening fourteen years. It’s always felt like a guilty secret to me that I have read the books only twice compared to dozens of times each for the films and radio plays. I know there is a brand of Tolkien fan who would consider that a lamentably small number, and it’s taken a long time to feel emboldened to be honest about it, which I think is a shame.

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

I have lots, and most of them are adaptation-specific, but Frodo’s illness and the Grey Havens in all its forms has got to be one of them. Frodo’s illness resonates very strongly with me, particularly Ian Holm’s cry of “where shall I find rest?”, and the Grey Havens, with its peacefulness, its mystery, its liminality, its promise of healing, and the conclusion of both the Fellowship’s travels and the entire age of the elves is so majestically powerful. Howard Shore’s soundtrack with that cor anglais solo (at the end of ‘The Grey Havens’ on the complete recordings) and Annie Lennox’s ‘Into the West’, Alan Lee’s pictures, Stephen Oliver’s setting of Bilbo’s Last Song, all woven around Tolkien’s own words and descriptions makes for something incredibly beautiful and poignant. It always stops me in my tracks, whichever version I’m getting it from, and it leaves me thinking for a long time afterwards, every time.

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

When I read The Lord of the Rings again in my early 20s, followed by The Silmarillion for the first time. Having a long break away from the full text of the former, and having not got further than perhaps the Valaquenta on my first attempt at the latter, it was overwhelming and fascinating to dive deep into Tolkien’s world in his own words. The intervening 14 years between my first reading and my second almost reset my experiences of the book, even though I had watched the films and listened to the dramatizations dozens and dozens of times. It felt like reading the book for the first time again (an experience I envy for anyone who still has it ahead of them), separate from the experiences of those adaptations, and then adding the world of The Silmarillion to that just blew the whole thing open for me.

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

Definitely! When I was first encountering it, it was quite a cerebral experience for me. I didn’t know I was autistic back then (I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 21), but it was probably one of my first major special interests, and it’s the one that’s lasted the longest. I loved learning all the facts and trivia, trying to learn how to write in Tengwar, how to speak Sindarin, I even made a little Elvish dictionary by breaking down all the names and translations in Robert Foster’s Complete Guide to Middle-earth. As I’ve got older, though, I’ve appreciated it more on an emotional level than I did as a child. Frodo’s mental journey is a very, very familiar one to me, and my late Granny had a Tookish streak that I didn’t understand until last year. Sam’s courage and love for growing things has been a balm and inspiration in the ups and downs of a new career as a gardener, and the passing of the elves just gets more poignant all the time for me. I think for a long time, I’d held off the obsessive bits of my interest because I’d been teased for loving Lord of the Rings so much at school. I’d kept it at arm’s length as a scholarly, nerdy pursuit. But finding my place in the fandom, realising that I am allowed, nay, encouraged, to love these books, this world, this author as much as I do, and that I’m not alone in that love have been huge moments that only happened in the last year or two.

Additionally, the more I listen to historically under-represented voices in the fandom (thinking particularly of those speaking on the experiences of non-white fans), the more I am beginning to understand the complexities of Tolkien and his fandom. As I become more integrated with both, I am also more frustrated with both and with myself for their limitations and my acceptance of them. So my personal growth with Tolkien is happening at the same time as, and entwined with, these considerations, which is a strange, sometimes bewildering, fascinating, and valuable experience. I’m also still chewing over how my identities as a disabled, autistic, queer fan actually work together as well – I’d not really imagined until recently that they could ever be relevant, but the more personally involved I get with Tolkien’s work, the more I end up thinking about it. One day, I may even have some answers…

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

Between my own insecurities about looking like “one of those nerds” (which I am, but I am other things too) and the knowledge that the fandom isn’t always a comfortable place to be for everyone, I do sometimes hesitate to recommend Tolkien. As I am sure many other autistic and/or neurodivergent folk will know, balancing between sharing your love for a subject with people and info-dumping on them so hard they end up too dazed to take the recommendation is tricky! I love the films, radio plays, audiobooks, and print books equally and for different reasons, and I enjoy sharing that love with people along whatever lines they want to work, especially if someone finds a way to access Tolkien that they didn’t know about – I love it when people realise they can access Tolkien, having thought they couldn’t before. If someone has only seen the films, I think that’s great, and there’s loads to talk about there. I want to suggest the books in those conversations, purely for a different and slightly expanded take on the same material, but I’m always wary because of the slightly gatekeeper-ish nature of that suggestion in other contexts.

For all that, though, I would ultimately recommend him to anyone who was even tangentially interested in fantasy, who enjoyed the films, who enjoys a good radio play, or enjoys authors who riff off and invent mythology. I like to think of the fandom as a huge expanse of land with many different routes in and many places to set up camp once you’re in there. There is room for all, and new spots popping up all the time (I think those who come by way of Amazon will end up with a decent-sized pitch!) – it’s all the fandom, it’s all based on the same stuff, and in the end, the more the merrier.


You can read more from Charlie on their excellent blog!

Hugo G.’s Expereince –Tolkien Experience (134)

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 Hugo 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 Hugo G’s responses:


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

I was younger when I first watched Peter Jackson’s trilogy of The Lord of The Rings. I remember having read Bilbo the Hobbit’s edition of 2003. Then I played the eponymous video game on PS2. I even started a collection of LoTR figures by Games Workshop. At this point, I didn’t know much about Tolkien. It was when I became a student that I worked more on Tolkien’s works and life. It was during this period I discovered his world was far beyond just LoTR and The Hobbit.

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

Elves for sure. Perhaps my favorite scene of all of Jackson’s movies is the rescue of the Elves during the battle of Helm’s Deep. It was many years after the first time I watched that I learned this scene wasn’t written by Tolkien and was just an epic addition of Peter Jackson. Obviously Orlando Bloom’s performance as Legolas was outstanding for a 10 year old boy. And even if I’m 24 now, to my eyes Bloom’s acting is still outstanding. I even had the chance to see him in a play in London and even take a selfie with him. It’s some kind of the realization of a boyish dream. I was so proud! 

During the battle of Helm’s Deep, I love the death of Haldir. Obviously I wasn’t happy and was even sad when I saw it, but I really appreciate the fact that he and his elves are coming to their death because of honor. It was honor that brought them to Helm’s Deep. It was honor and respect for the past, a past alliance between Elves and Men, that brought them to rescue the Rohirrim. This scene perhaps taught me the most important lesson of my life: you always need to be yourself, to be whole with yourself even if it leads to your death. I recognize this kind of mantra is very close to knighthood and chivalry tales, but, after all, why not. Why not apply this very old way of thinking in today’s actual society ? It needs it. Anyway, I started studying the role of Elves in Tolkien’s work and in the fantasy genre in general. Tolkien’s interpretation of these traditional German little sneaky creatures is very important and begets what modern fantasy is. Currently I’m reading more about the cosmogony (and even writing an article on it) and the relationship of fate and swords. 

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

My fondest experience with Tolkien’s work was maybe when I went to Wolvercote Cemetery and read the first lines of The Child of Hùrin by his grave. I mean I’m partisan of the metalpectic beliefs and you can’t imagine what I felt during this moment. From a young boy living in country in the east of France, I grew up and went to Oxford in order to collect myself in one of the most important places of Tolkien. It’s an unforgettable memory and I’m planning to do this kind of cultural pilgrimage each year.

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

Yes obviously. I discovered him as a fan and now I’m more interested to know him and his work from an university and researcher point of view. I know this path is very long and endless, but I really wish to know as much as I can about him. That’s why I joined the Tolkien Society, and that’s why I would like to submit many articles I will write.

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

It’s difficult to recommend Tolkien’s work to someone who isn’t an initiate. From my point of view, it’s hard to read. The only one I have read and that I could ever recommend is The Hobbit. But the rest of his work I know is difficult and someone who doesn’t know a little bit about Middle-earth would be lost.

Here are some meme which I think illustrate my point of view about perhaps the most difficult book of Tolkien :


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

Ed Pierce’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (133)

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 Ed 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 Ed Pierce’s responses:


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

When I was around six or seven years old a group who did dramatic readings of literature visited my elementary school and put on a performance. One of their readings was of the “Riddles in the Dark” chapter from The Hobbit. Shortly after that I discovered The Hobbit book in the public library and read it. I may have also had a vague recollection of the Rankin/Bass Return of the King TV movie which came out around this time (I was born in 1973, and the movie came out in 1980) although I don’t recall actually watching it before I read The Hobbit (perhaps this was a good thing). After reading The Hobbit, I promptly went out and bought The Lord of the Rings and read it as well. This was followed a few years later by Unfinished Tales, The Silmarillion, and then eventually the HOME series. A new volume of the latter would come out around October or November almost every year from 1983 until 1996, and starting with volume III, I’d usually get the latest volume for Christmas every year (it was always my favorite present each year!).

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

It’s hard to decide. Perhaps how deeply it touches upon the themes of loss, of friendship, and of doing what is right in the face of adversity.

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

Nothing probably beats the experience of reading The Lord of the Rings (not just the first time, but the increased appreciation and enjoyment with each re-reading), but I also have especially fond memories of my first time reading the Turin story (as it appeared it Unfinished Tales—I read this before I read the chapter on Turin in The Silmarillion), as well as the magical experience of reading Smith of Wootton Major for the first time.

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

Not really, except that obviously I can appreciate some of the adult themes now more than I did when I was younger.

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

Definitely (with some reservations). I have learned that many people don’t have the patience to read through The Silmarillion or similar works (it takes a certain amount of concentration, and—as Tom Shippey has pointed out—if you don’t make a concerted effort to keep track of everyone and learn their familial relation to one another, a lot of the richness will get lost on you early on), but I think that there are many people who would enjoy The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, or some of Tolkien’s lighter and/or shorter works (like Farmer Giles or Leaf by Niggle) if they give it a try. However, I’ve also learned that trying to foist something on someone often leads nowhere, so I rarely try to recommend Tolkien unless someone shows interest first in that direction.


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

A Personal Post

I know that my “brand” is Tolkien and fantasy content. Many of you subscribe to my site specifically to see that content, and I appreciate your support!

I will go ahead and let you know that this post has nothing to do with Tolkien, instead it is about my personal and family situation over the past few of weeks. If you want to hear it, please keep reading. If not, I understand completely and you are certainly under no obligation to hear the story.

I will go ahead and warn that this post does involve COVID and death. So please know that beforehand and I would encourage you to not read it or to read it in a way that minimizes your stress and anxiety if this topic is difficult for you. I hope to share something of what I am going through, and I certainly don’t want to cause pain or suffering for anyone reading.

If any of you have seen me posting on social media about my grandparents and my uncle Dan, this is where I am going to share much more of that story. I am still too close to the events to really reflect on them, so this is mostly going to be a recounting of events and information. Maybe later I will have the strength to revisit this and share my feelings, but I can’t promise that.

If you are inspired to help my family, there is GoFundMe that my brother has set up to help pay for medical expenses.


Dan, Ray, and Jean at a birthday celebration

I know that a lot of people have had a difficult, stressful early November. We recently had “the most important election ever” here in America and tension and feelings have been running high for many people.

In the midst of all of this societal upheaval, my family has also been suffering from a personal catastrophe. Unfortunately, this personal catastrophe is all too familiar for many this year who have seen COVID ravage their families.

In early October, my grandmother was scheduling a back surgery because her stability and mobility were declining. At that time she had a cough and was tested for COVID because that is standard procedure. She tested negative. After a few days, she was showing more symptoms of illness, so my mother took her to the hospital. Some of my other family members were also feeling unwell and were already waiting on their results for COVID, but we didn’t think grandmom had COVID because she had just been tested.

On Sunday, Oct. 11, grandmom received a positive test result for COVID. That same day, we heard that of the three other family members tested, one was positive for COVID (a cousin).

Dan, my uncle, took my grandfather and they were both tested for COVID the next day, on Monday, Oct. 12. They both received negative test results on Oct. 15. We were staying cautious, though, because of grandmom’s negative test result that developed into COVID.

Both of my parents waited until Oct. 14th to be tested for COVID (thinking that they may get a negative result if they went too early) and both received their negative results on Oct. 16th.

Also on Oct. 16th, my grandad was showing signs of delirium So they had him taken to the hospital for care. Up to this point, my grandmother was not deteriorating quickly, and we still had a lot of hope that she would recover. In fact, we the family was planning what to do about her back surgery that was scheduled to take place not too long after she had to go in to the hospital.

–I should add that while all of this was going on, my parent’s house was also trespassed into and my father’s wallet taken. We found out that it was a man who was intoxicated. His father had died and the man confused my parents house for his house. He had wandered in thinking it was his own house. My parents didn’t press charges.–

On Saturday, Oct. 17th, we learned that grandad had tested positive for COVID.

From this point on, for both of my grandparents, it was a struggle. Just like the cliche, there were some good days and bad days. Days when there was hope for a full recovery, and days when we knew they would never come home.

On Oct. 20, my grandmother needed to go to the ICU, but there were no beds available. They had to transport her to a different hospital. They managed to take her to the hospital where my grandfather had been admitted.

My brother was tested for COVID on Oct. 21, out of an abundance of caution. Also, a second negative test result came back for my mother. Even though Dan’s test was negative, he started feeling ill and he had a fever, so he was self-quarantining.

On Oct. 25 my mom, as the designated visitor to her parents, started being able to visit them in the hospital. I know this was a great comfort to her, and I am sure it was also a comfort to her parents. This was the day that grandmom made it clear that she did not want to go on a ventilator.

On Oct. 26 Dan went back to the hospital. He had a high fever overnight, shortness of breath, and tightness in his chest. He went to the ER and had Pneumonia. They gave him some medicine and sent him back home.

On Oct. 27, grandad was transferred to the ICU because he couldn’t keep his oxygen levels up. Dan was managing pretty well at home, and grandmom had come to terms with death. She had started telling my mother that she was ready to “go home”.

On Oct 27, we had a moment of happiness:

Jean and Ray share a few moments in the ICU

Since both of my grandparents were in the same ICU, the medical teams made it possible for them to spend two hours in the same room. My mother was also there.

During this time, Dan was still at home managing a high fever and pneumonia. On Oct. 28th, Dan went back to the hospital because his symptoms were getting worse. They changes his medicines and admitted him to the hospital.

On Oct. 29th, Dan was moved to the ICU and placed on a ventilator. On Oct. 30th, they placed Dan on an ECMO machine.

On Oct. 31st, my mother FaceTimed her children and grandchildren from her mother’s hospital room. I am so grateful that she gave us the chance to say goodbye to our grandmother. Dan seemed to be doing well on the ECMO machine today.

Oct. 31st is my dad’s birthday, so on Nov. 1st, we all visited each other in a Zoom meeting. This was such a welcome chance to interact with each other and be happy where we have had so much sadness lately!

Also on Nov. 1st, it looked like grandad was going into ARDS, grandmom was in end-of-life care, and Dan was stabilizing on ECMO.

On Nov. 3, at 3:04 AM, my grandfather died.

On the same day, my grandmother was still slowly declining and Dan holding stable and sedated. This pattern would continue for a few days.

On Nov. 7th, at 11:51 PM, my grandmother died.

Dan is still sedated on ECMO as I write this post.

I hope to come back and give updates when I have something else to share. I won’t write another post (unless people tell me they want another post), I will just edit this page with any additional information.


We have been fortunate in that our community has taken notice of our hard times and rallied around us.

Some newspapers and TV stations have already covered the story:

My mom was interviewed on News Channel 5

My brother was interviewed on News 4 Nashville and WKRN

An article about our story appeared in the Williamson Homepage

Three restaurants have agreed to have charity events to support Dan’s care, and dozens of people have already given money to help us cover all of the medical expenses from the past month.

If you would like to help us cover Dan’s medical expenses, please use our GoFundMe Page.


Update on January 1, 2020:

I have not had the strength to update this page until now. A month ago today, Dan also passed away from COVID-19.

It is easy to understand the death of my grandparents, even if it is difficult to deal with their loss. They were older, they already had several health issues.

The loss of my uncle is crushing and inexplicable. My sister-in-law- said it best when she said that it is “unfair”.

It hurts because he was so young, he was 49. It hurts because he leaves behind so many people who he was still in the process of helping, like his daughter who is in college. It hurts because what killed him was a pandemic that took advantage of his desire to care for his sick parents.

Please protect your loved ones. With this pandemic, that means care for the people in your bubble, and do not visit with other friends and family. I know it is hard, it is so hard. All we want is to be with the people we care about. This virus feeds on our desire for community and interaction. Yes, this distance has many negative consequences, but the sacrifices are so worth it to keep your friends and family alive.

I will end this post with the obituaries of my grandparents and my uncle. I will also end it with a plea to please wear your mask, please wash your hands frequently, and please avoid indoor social gatherings. I do not want any more families to suffer what so many already have.

Ray and Jean Hester’s Obituary

Dan Hester’s obituary