Roman’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (83)

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 Roman 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 Roman’s responses:


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

I’m from Russia, and Tolkien’s universe has been with me since I was a really little child. I remember when we lived with my parents in their old apartments, before I was 4 years old. And already at that time I was a fan! I had watched all of Peter Jackson’s trilogy! I don’t remember any moments of my life, in which I didn’t know about Middle-earth.

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

You remember Lurtz? The big orc who killed Boromir? He was the symbol of “Fellowship of the Ring” to me. When I wanted to watch the movie in childhood, I would just call my mom and say: “mom, I wanna watch “Lord of the Rings! With orcius!” (yea, I called him orcius.) The symbol of the second film was definitely Lorien’s elves. You remember their movements, when they entered Helm’s Deep? Yes, I liked to repeat them. It amused the parents very much! And the third film hasn’t a symbol, because my disk was very bad and the DVD-player wouldn’t play it, so I had to watch that film later.

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

I was read a books when I was… Maybe 9-10 years old. We read it with my dad. It was very interesting to compare the film and books, and now I can accurately say what they do and do not do better. On one hand, Tom Bombadil was cut from films, on the other Peter Jackson’s films remain masterpieces for all times. So I guess I really like both 🙂

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

You know, Luke, I’m telling you very personal thoughts. When I feel bad, I’m literally transported THERE. I imagine I’m a hobbit, and I walk down Hobbiton to my hole, with the garden in front of it. Watching the sunset, Smoking “Old Toby,” and it’s just an amazing feeling. Tolkien was able to create a world that helps me every moment of my life. Movies that have been with me since I was a child, the books came a little later, but anyway, “Two Towers” is my favorite book of all time. The desire to be transported from this world somewhere there, far away from here.

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

Tolkien Experience Project Update!

Hello, dear readers!

I wanted to take the opportunity to let you know that something very exciting is happening to the Tolkien Experience Project!

I wanted to share the news here first. I appreciate the fact that you follow my blog and I wanted to let my dedicated readers know before anyone else! I will be sharing this same announcement on social media later today.

A big change is coming in January and I am so excited I can barely contain the news!

 

For now, I wanted to let you know that I have changed some of the social media accounts for the Tolkien Experience Project:

–On Facebook, you will now find it as @TolkienExperience (if you are already following, this name change will not affect you!)

–I have created a dedicated Tolkien Experience Twitter account: @TolkienExp

–And a dedicated email address for it: TolkienExperience@gmail.com

 

Keep watching here and on the social media accounts for exciting updates and announcements all month long!

Again, thank you so much for your readership! The support of this community has meant a great deal to me since I started the blog.

–Luke

M.L. Corbier’s Experience–Tolkien Experience (82)

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 M.L. Corbier 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 M.L. Corbier’s responses:


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

My introduction to Tolkien’s work was twofold actually, as there was an introduction and a re-introduction. The first was when a classmate of mine mentioned a book called In de Ban van de Ring, the Dutch translation of The Lord of the Rings. It translates along the lines of enthralled by the ring and I thought that sounded utterly stupid and ignored it completely as I wasn’t into jewellery at all. A couple of years later, my best friend asked whether I wanted to go to the Peter Jackson and company’s film adaptation of something called The Lord of the Rings and I agreed as the trailer looked rather neat and exciting, and he was my best friend after all. The film amused us but my friend was slightly disappointed as lots of things from the book weren’t in it. At this time I didn’t really read anything besides football magazines, but I agreed to give it a try nonetheless. I was blown away by the richness, so I quickly moved on to my friend’s copies of The Two Towers and The Return of the King. I didn’t really get why there were appendices in a novel but was intrigued enough to pick up The Silmarillion. That turned out to be a grave mistake. It is an incredibly rich and stunning story, but I don’t think a teenage, non-native speaker of English is the perfect audience for it. At the same time I was in my final year of high school and back then to graduate you had to read an impressive pile of books. First fifteen books in Dutch which was fine until my teacher complained that I read too many humour books and should move on to more serious literature – so the fun vanished immediately. I also had to read twelve English books but was forced to read Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe which is an interesting, important and valuable read but certainly not when you’re a teenager. To add insult to injury there were also eight books in German on the list to read… In the end, I was so put off by reading that I didn’t touch a book for five or six years. After those dark years, I went to study English Language and Culture and one of the texts we had to study was “Ancrene Wisse” and on the list of secondary sources I found an essay by a certain Tolkien, J.R.R. That name rang a bell and it came back when I was introduced to “Sir Gawayn and þe Grene Knyȝt” and again when an unreadable poem titled “Beowulf” showed up. It was then that my interest was rekindled and I have read Tolkien continuously and extensively from that point onwards.

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

I have two favourites these days but after long and careful deliberation, I will say “Sellic Spell.” What Tolkien did perhaps even better than writing fantasy is reconstructing things to show how they might have been. Due to an illegible word, one of the most problematic parts in the Anglo-Saxon epic “Beowulf” is a thief stealing a golden cup from a dragon. So it’s hardly a surprise when you find out Bilbo nicks a cup from Smaug’s heap in The Hobbit. Tolkien argued that before this epic poem there must have been a folktale that would have explained certain things that don’t make much sense at first glance. Tolkien explains the character by the name of Handshoe in the story and its introduction for example. I love this in Tolkien’s works as it combines the two reasons I have for enjoying them. The first is pure entertainment but the second is from a more academic point of view: thinking about “Beowulf” in a particular way interests me.

I have to mention my second favourite now of course but will do so shortly. It is The Father Christmas Letters. I believe every parent reading those letters is thinking about doing the same thing for her or his offspring (even when they know they can’t really pull it off).

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

My master thesis was on Tolkien and linguistic relativity. In short, linguistic relativity means that a language affects the world view of the speakers of that language. I wasn’t all that impressed with my own research to be honest and need to do it again properly now that I know better what I should be doing, but locking myself in a room to surround myself with huge piles of books by and on Tolkien is indeed a fond memory. Also my professor deemed the research interesting enough to give me my Master’s degree which is a fond experience as well!

I do hope to replace this experience with a new one when my daughter is old enough to be read The Hobbit though…

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

Definitely. I first read the Ring trilogy because of Peter Jackson and company’s film adaptations. That was nothing but entertainment. But then I went to university and focussed more and more on literary masters such as Geoffrey Chaucer (anyone excited for Tolkien’s Lost Chaucer) and Sir Thomas Malory. That meant, of course, that I started to enjoy reading the professor’s commentary on “Beowulf,” his translations of “Pearl,” “Sir Orfeo” and others, and his reworking of the “Völsungasaga” and the Arthurian legends. I’m reading Tolkien’s works in a different way now than before. That is in its own really rewarding though I wish of course I could go back to the day when I discovered the works for the first time and could dive in it without any idea what will be around the next corner.

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

I take it a step further than recommending it actually. As a high school teacher of English I have to write a curriculum for my pupils and I can alter it as I see fit. I always include a little Tolkien in the curriculum – even the fiercely hated “Goblin Feet” has been part of it at a certain point!

However, I would never force a student to read a certain book as long as they can come up with a good alternative. As I recalled above, my high school teacher forced his pupils to read stuff they didn’t give a rat’s arse about and for me it meant I wouldn’t touch a book with a ten-foot pole for a long while afterwards. I’m a way more lenient teacher and believe there is a tremendous power in discovering your own reading taste. If I make a pupil read The Silmarillion and the result is that  she never wants to read Tolkien or any book for that matter again, I have failed as a teacher. If she wants to read Fifty Shades of Grey and enjoys it partly because I have encouraged her to keep on reading, and then she keeps on reading other works (and hopefully moving on to something less shady) I did a good job. I would only recommend Tolkien’s works to people who I think would enjoy it. There are many great books in the world and many different tastes after all! Though some tastes are greater than others of course…

Una McCormack’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (81)

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 Una McCormack 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 Una McCormack’s responses:


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

My first encounter with Tolkien’s work was with the cover of the single volume of The Lord of the Rings, illustrated by Pauline Baynes. It has a bright yellow spine – very distinctive – wild and wonderful landscapes, and strange and marvellous creatures. I can still remember looking at these images, not knowing anything about the book, wondering what the story might be, and making up my own stories about them.

I had The Hobbit read to me when I was small, and also it was a very memorable Jackanory in 1979 (when I was 7). I suspect I had it read to me about the same time. Then, in 1981, when I was 9, the BBC radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings was transmitted. My dad, my siblings, and I would sit in front of the radio and listen to each part – it took twenty-six weeks! One of my siblings taped some of them (not all; tapes weren’t cheap!), and I had those tapes for years. I read The Lord of the Rings soon after, although I didn’t follow all of it. I read The Silmarillion for the first time when I was around 11 years old: again, I didn’t follow much, but I followed enough.

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

The earliest moments that imprinted on me remain the ones that come to mind first. Éowyn’s courageous stand against the Witch-king. Merry’s farewell to Théoden. Galadriel’s rejection of the Ring. A little later, I adored Unfinished Tales, particularly the Narn I Hin Hurin, the Quest for Erebor, and the minutiae of information about Istari and palantiri. In my thirties, I became greatly absorbed in the story of Denethor, Faramir, Boromir, and Finduilas, who seem to be the closest to ‘modern’ characters as we might know them; i.e. there is more emphasis on their psychology.

What has remained constant is that sense of coming home when I open The Lord of the Rings. I breathe the September air of the book, and I am back in Middle-earth, with the rain and the green smell.

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

So many to choose. Sharing this delight with my dad (who died when I was 12). Consoling myself through my adolescence (Tolkien understood childhood bereavement). After the first Peter Jackson movie was released, I started to write fanfiction (quite a lot of it), and became very involved in online fanfiction groups: I set up a mailing list, and was involved in the creation of a fanfiction archive. This has given me some very happy memories, of writing with and for friends, and meeting people who love Tolkien as much as I do.

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

Of course, it is more than forty years since I first encountered it, and I have changed hugely in that time! But I always come back to Tolkien.

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

These days, not really. Surely everyone knows by now whether or not Tolkien is their thing?! If you like it, I’ll find out; if you don’t, I’m unlikely to persuade you!

I am, however, looking forward to my young daughter discovering The Lord of the Rings. I hope she likes it too.


You can follow Una McCormack on Twitter for more great Tolkien and other fantasy content!

An Open Letter to Christopher Tolkien on His 95th Birthday

An open letter to Christopher Tolkien:

Dear sir,

I wanted to share something with you on this day of special magnificence, your ninety-fifth birthday. For more than a year, I have asked for fans of your father’s work to send me their story for a series I call the Tolkien Experience Project. I ask a few questions for each participant to answer, and, in doing so, they share how they learned about J.R.R. Tolkien, what they love about his writing, how his writing has influenced their life, and how their approach to his texts has changed over time.

I wanted to make you aware of this project today especially. If you have the chance to read through some of the entries, you will find that many of the participants express gratitude for your father’s work and for your own. Your seemingly tireless dedication to editing and publishing texts and notes has influenced the lives of thousands. I know that this small sample does not do justice to the breadth and depth of Tolkien readers (both your father’s and your own), but maybe, just maybe, reading one or two will bring you a small bit of happiness on this, your birthday.

To see the project, you can go to: https://luke-shelton.com/tolkien-experience-project/

I would like to say happy birthday and sincerely thank you for all you have done to shape our understanding of your father’s work, of fantasy writing, of the creative process, and of Old English texts.

 

Sincerely,

Luke Shelton

Ed Strietelmeier’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (80)

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 Strietelmeier 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 Strietelmeier’s responses:


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

I was first introduced to Tolkien when my father read The Hobbit to me as a bedtime story while I was in elementary school in the 1980s. Along with The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit became absolutely foundational in my psyche and worldview. It was as if I was both “walk[ing] in legends [and] on the green earth in the daylight” to paraphrase the Rider of Rohan as he speaks to Aragorn in The Two Towers.

I was also introduced to the Rankin Bass Hobbit and Lord of the Rings cartoons as well as the Ralph Bakshi Lord of the Rings while I was a kid. Looking back I cringe at so many aspects of those films, but at the time they really captured my imagination and made me love the stories even more. In a way they were like the silly figure of the Fairy Queen that Nokes put on the Great Cake in Smith of Wootton Major. To paraphrase the Fairy Queen, “Better a little [movie], maybe, than no memory of Faery at all. For some only a glimpse. For some an awakening…”

It was not until junior high that I read the Lord of the Rings myself, using my father’s old Ballantine paperback copies, which have since simply fallen apart! It was a long read for me at that age, but completely worth it.

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

There are so many to choose from! If forced to pick, I’d say the sequence in The Return of the King that begins with Chapter IV, “The Siege of Gondor” and ends with Chapter VI “The Battle of the Pelennor Fields.” These chapters have just about anything you could want.

All of the important parts connect to create a truly remarkable experience: The sense of impending doom that hangs over Minas Tirith jumps off the page and makes the moment when the cock crows and the horns of the Rohirrim call out so amazing. Reading about the Ride of the Rohirrim makes you feel like you are going along with them, on the way to Mundburg. The moment when Theoden sees the city under siege, slumps, but then gathers himself with the change of wind and the sound of the gate collapsing is Tolkien’s blending of providence and free will in microcosm. Eowyn and the Witch King.

Ultimately the moment when Eomer defies the Black Ships only to see the flag of Gondor and the arrival of Aragorn is the culmination of the entire experience. This moment is so powerful it’s hard to describe. But, even with all of that excitement and glory, you still are reminded of all those who fell and the loss that went into this miraculous victory. Simply amazing.

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

My fondest experience has been reading The Hobbit to my oldest daughter (age 8 at the time). I watched her laugh out loud during the unexpected party, get scared at Gollum’s chapter, and wish she could live in Beorn’s house with his animals. She even drew her own version of Thror’s map and gave it to me.

At the end of the book we had a really thoughtful conversation about the “dragon sickness” and who really deserved the treasure in the Lonely Mountain. She could see how both the dwarves and the Lake Men had a claim but didn’t really see how the Elf King fit into the equation (which is a fair point!). In the end, she was just glad they found a way to work together. It has been one of my happiest experiences as a parent to date.

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

Yes. I have been a Tolkien fan since childhood, but my interest rose to a whole new level in 2013 when I began listening to the Tolkien Professor Podcast. Corey Olsen’s lectures opened up a wider and deeper understanding in Tolkien’s works for me. His “Silmarillion Seminar” helped me to finally read The Silmarillion and understand it for the masterpiece that it is. Now I am able to see the wisdom, depth, and significance in Tolkien’s words in a new way.

I had read Tolkien’s various works sporadically over the years, but since listening to the Tolkien Professor as well as the Prancing Pony Podcast I’ve been reading the “Legendarium” annually. I’m a Lutheran pastor and my annual reading connects with the liturgical, or church, calendar. I read The Hobbit during the Christmas Season (12 days), The Silmarillion during the Season of Epiphany (January 6th to whenever Ash Wednesday arrives), and then The Lord of the Rings during Lent (40 days, plus Sundays). I’ve done this for the past 5 years: it’s been challenging but overwhelmingly rewarding.

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

Would I?!?!? I’ve been handing used copies of Lord of the Rings to friends for a few years now! As a pastor and preacher, Tolkien quotes and themes find their way into my sermons regularly (although I try to no “over-do” it). His themes of escape, recovery, and the consolation of the happy-ending (eucatastrophy!) have crept into my way of seeing the world. Tolkien’s works have helped me recover a sense of wonder in our own world, which I have attempted to share with my two daughters. I hope they can carry that forward into their own lives.

I find that Tolkien’s works get at some of the central aspects of life and faith: providence, grace, the importance of mercy, the humbling of the strong and the rise of the weak, the sense of loss and sadness that so many people experience, bravery in the face of impossible challenges, and so much more. Tolkien’s works have helped so many people deal with their sadness and the losses they have suffered, I feel like his books can provide comfort and hope for people facing “the Shadow.”

Anne-Laure J.’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (79)

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 Anne-Laure J. 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 Anne-Laure J.’s responses:


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

I was given The Lords of the Rings when I was about 11 and got hooked

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

My favorite book is The Silmarillion and within it my favorite part is the fall of Gondolin. When I read the book that was recently published which details the evolution of the story, it strengthened my preference for this part. It embodies the whole of Tolkien’s universe : love, treason, death, grief, valor, high deeds.

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

I spent one week with the most knowledgeable Tolkien specialists of France (and Adam Tolkien came too !) in a castle in Normandy in 2012. While I am usually isolated in my « geekness », it was great to meet fans and experts and delve into the specifics of Tolkien’s work.

I also spent one month in 2010 in New-Zealand to visit all the locations where the filming took place : Hobbiton (Matamata), Edoras (Mount Sunday), Dimholt Road (Putangirua Pinnacles), Mt Doom (MT Ngauruhoe), etc. It was breathtaking. One may agree or disagree with the way the movies were made but one thing is for sure : New Zealand is what Middle-earth would have looked like.

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

No, I don’t think so. I still feel the same pleasure I felt when I first discovered The Lord of The Rings. Every time I reread one of the books, I discover something new.

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

I can not recommend it enough. Sadly none of my friends/family are into it.

It has brought so much joy to me to discover this world that I want everybody to be able to benefit from it.


For more from Trotter, you can find her on Twitter!

Publication: “The Tombs of Atuan” in the Literary Encyclopedia

I have more exciting publication news!81ADO2jTZuL

My entry for Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Tombs of Atuan (the second book in the Earthsea cycle) has been published in the Literary Encyclopedia!

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

Just like the first entry on A Wizard of Earthsea, this entry gives an overview of the plot of the work, discusses the cultural climate around its publication, summarizes the critical response to the work, and then traces a few key themes.

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

Trotter’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (78)

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 Trotter 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 Trotter’s responses:


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

My teacher in 1973, read The Hobbit, one chapter per week, to my class, I was six years old at the time and loved the book. I spent my Christmas gift money in 1978 on a paperback copy of the UK Lord of the Rings, and a paperback copy of the UK Silmarillion, which had been first released in Hardback the year before. A couple of years later I noticed that my paperback Lord of the Rings was not as useful as the Hardback editions, the maps were not good and only one Appendix was included.

That started me down the route of collecting Tolkien’s books.

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

UK Hobbits

I have to go for The Hobbit, I own the first 40 UK hardback impressions of this book, plus quite a few more copies, and this is my favourite book by my favourite author. I love the whole book, but Riddles in the Dark is my favourite chapter.

 

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

For me, it is Tolkien saying that “I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.” And then reading Leaf by Niggle, which is a wonderful allegory about the Professor. Leaf by Niggle is very underrated, and I urge everyone who is interested in Tolkien to read this wonderful short story.

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

Yes, as a Tolkien book collector I have collected items, that non collectors may not have read or seen. I love having items that Tolkien was personally involved with, my precious is a 1968 1st UK paperback one volume edition of The Lord of the Rings, that he signed.

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

Have to say that I am struggling with this question, would anyone not recommend Tolkien’s work?
Absolutely I would recommend Tolkien’s work. He is still the number one fantasy writer, and it would be very difficult for anyone to claim his crown.
I’d love to be able to reread The Lord of the Rings again for the first time, like I did in 1978, that would be fantastic.


For more from Trotter, you can find him on Twitter or on Tolkienguide.com where he uses the same screen name!

Reading Questions for Dracula by Bram Stoker

Welcome to the spookiest time of the year!

dracula-between-myth-and-reality

Last year I lead a local book group through reading Dracula by Bram Stoker and had a blast! I thought that this year I would share some of the questions I used to prompt discussion among group members! I hope you enjoy the questions and that they make you want to revisit the book! I would welcome any discussion that they inspire!

(Note that Dracula is written in the format of an epistolary novel–a book made up of a collection of letters–and so each chapter will contain several letters.)

Things to think about from chapters 1 & 2:
–What indications do the locals give to Jonathan that his travels may end poorly?
–How does Jonathan respond to these indications? Why?
–How would you describe the appearance of castle? Who lives in the castle?
–Pay close attention to the description of Dracula. How is it similar to your expectations? How is it different?

Things to think about from _Dracula_ chapters 3 & 4:
–How much of Dracula’s family history is really his family history, and how much is his personal history?
–The scene at the end of chapter three is one of the most famous from the story. What does it tell us about other vampires? What does it tell us about Dracula?
–Harker is finally able to piece together all of Dracula’s plans. Does he get them right? What does he leave out or get wrong? Pay attention to these kinds of questions as you keep reading. Remember the Neil Gaiman quote, none of the narrators have all of the facts, so we have to work with what they give us.
–How is the end of chapter 4 enhanced because we are reading Harker’s journal?

Things to think about from _Dracula_ chapters 5 & 6:
–There is a dramatic shift in the narrative in chapter five. We suddenly start hearing multiple narrators. Each person who writes will be an important character in the story, so remember who is who. Their writing helps to develop their characters!
–We hear from women for the first time in the story. How does Stoker define their roles in society and relationships here? Do they accept those roles or push against them?
–Whitby is a city on the northeast coast of England (in Yorkshire). A lot of chapter 6 takes place here. Why is it dangerous for Lucy to sleepwalk? (PS. if you don’t understand every word of Mr. Swales, that’s okay! Just try to get the general idea!)
–Dr. Seward seems very preoccupied with his latest patient in this chapter. Why is Renfield important in this part of the story?

Things to think about from _Dracula_ chapters 7 & 8:
–The captain’s account of the ship’s voyage is haunting. Are his rationalizations of what is going on throughout his account believable?
–Mina begins to log Lucy’s illness. What seems to influence when Lucy feels ill or when she seems better?
–We glimpse back to Seward and Renfield again: Renfield escapes and goes to meet his master. How does he know that his master is there? How does this affect him?
–Okay, time to take stock: by the end of chapter 8, what powers have we seen Dracula use?

Things to think about from _Dracula_ chapters 9 & 10:
–The arrival of Van Helsing! This character has seen almost as many appearances in popular culture as Dracula himself. Pay close attention to what he actually looks like and how he acts.
–The end of chapter nine is a good place to take inventory of the cast of the story. All of the important characters have been introduced and their relationships to one another are set, though they will continue to change a bit.
–Blood transfusion was a relatively new concept at the time _Dracula_ was written. Whether or not blood typing was an understood science, it is clear that Stoker was uninformed about it. This is just one of the things we will have to accept in order to get into the story.
–We know a lot more about Lucy’s illness than any of the other characters. Remember, none of them have read Harker’s journal! When does Van Helsing suspect something unnatural? Why doesn’t he tell Seward of his suspicions immediately?

Things to think about from _Dracula_ chapters 11 & 12:
–We have already seen things ascribed to fate/chance/luck. That will continue throughout the story. How does this idea relate to the religious theme in the story?
–When we see the zookeeper is interviewed by the newspaper reporter, it is one of several times where Stoker portrays a difference in class between two characters in some very overt ways. What kind of social commentary does Stoker make in this interaction? What other places do you see different classes interacting?
–A change comes over Lucy after the tragic night. She seems more solid when asleep and more ethereal when awake. What does this change mean? Why is it described in this way?
— At the end of 12 there is no doubt that Van Helsing suspects that Lucy’s death is not the end of the ordeal. Yet he still does not tell anyone else what he suspects. Why? Perhaps more importantly: is he right to do this?

Things to think about from _Dracula_ chapters 13 & 14:
–Van Helsing tells Seward he wants to mangle Lucy’s body. Is it believable that Seward would agree to this without knowing why?
–The stories of the ‘bloofer lady’ start to spread in the Hampstead area of London. Who does this lady attack? Why?
–Jonathan sees Dracula in London and hasn’t slept well since, so Mina decides to read his journal. What are her reactions like?
–Mina and Van Helsing begin to add up all of the pieces. How does this change Van Helsing’s approach to Lucy/Dracula? How does it impact Mina and Jonathan?

Things to think about from _Dracula_ chapters 15 & 16:
—Van Helsing finally starts proving his suspicions to Seward. What kind of evidence does he present and how receptive is Seward to his theories?
–Van Helsing uses sacramental/spiritually significant items to keep Lucy in or out of her tomb. Why/how does this work?
–How is Lucy’s character different now from before?
–The group is about to prepare for an even bigger challenge. Pay attention to how their approach to confronting Dracula is different than their approach to confronting Lucy. Why?

Things to think about from _Dracula_ chapters 17 & 18:
–Pay close attention to the way the men treat Mina in these two chapters (look esp. closely at Van Helsing’s “man’s brain” comments). Do you think Stoker wants his readers to approve or disapprove of this treatment?
–The entire group shares notes. Who takes the lead in this part of the story?
–Mina meets Renfield. He is surprisingly polite, but warns her. Why does he warn her here? What is his purpose? What is the purpose to the story? Later he begs to leave but won’t say why. remember this section.
–The group meets to discuss Dracula and his powers. this is a good final place to take stock. Where have we seen each of the powers they talk about?

Things to think about from _Dracula_ chapters 19 & 20:
–The men go to investigate Carfax abbey. They only find some of the count’s boxes, how does this change their plans?
–Mina feels odd and has strange drams in her sleep. We have seen this before!
–Renfield is more erratic than ever, and then has a gruesome “accident”. Why does he die here and not later?
–By the end of the chapter, everyone is working on their own part of the plan to confront Dracula. How does this compare to what Van Helsing said at the outset: they would need to stick together and use all of their resources? How is it still true to his intent? How is it different?

Things to think about from _Dracula_ chapters 21 & 22:
–Renfield’s confession: is this the most sane we have seen Renfield? What is the difference between sanity and madness in this book?
–What is the purpose of the ‘baptism of blood’? Did Dracula baptize Lucy too? How do you know?
–What does Mina’s condition mean to her? To the others?
–The group plans to break into Carfax. Note the subtle critiques of classism that occur while they carry out this plan: what makes the plan seem respectable to others (like the locksmith or police)? what does this indicate about that kind of respectability?

Things to think about from _Dracula_ chapters 23 & 24:
–Remember that Mina’s ordeal is the worst thing going right now: who is reacting to it the worst? Who is bearing up pretty well?
–The confrontation at Carfax: victory? defeat? stalemate? You decide!
–Originally the group decided not to tell Mina what was going on. This decision led to her ‘baptism’ by Dracula. Now that Dracula can interact with Mina’s mind the group once again excludes her from their deliberations. How are these two exclusions the same? How are they different?
–Hypnosis was cutting edge science at the time (as was trepanning, phonographs, etc). How do the protagonists incorporate both new technology and old beliefs in their fight against Dracula?

Things to think about from _Dracula_ chapters 25 & 26:
–The group goes on a road trip! There is a lot of what some people might call ‘hurry up and wait’ in these chapters. How does the flow of the book change? Do you like this change?
–Mina is changing. What is different about the way she acts now as opposed to when she was first under Dracula’s influence?
–They take an account about Dracula’s arrival in Galatz. What elements of his arrival here are similar to his arrival at Whitby?
–Now the group splits up to chase Dracula in three different routes. How does the ‘compiled documents’ style of the book enable this? Do you like how the narrative jumps around here?

Things to think about from _Dracula_ chapter 27:
–How close is Mina to becoming a vampire?
–How do you like the pace of the ending?
–How do you like the results?
–The introduction I posted by Niel Gaiman suggests that Dracula may not be vanquished. What do you think?


I should also include a shout-out to to the fantastic close read seminar and adaptation discussion series that Mythgard Academy did a few years ago!