Lo’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (67)

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 Lo 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 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 Lo’s responses:


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

I was, sadly, introduced to Tolkien through Peter Jackson’s movies. I tried reading The Hobbit when I was younger, around 11, but I admit to not having made it past the tedious beginning with the genealogy and things. At that time, I stuck mostly to nonfiction. I had discovered paganism after starting middle school, and devoured any book on nature religions and the occult that I could find. Of course, when I did finally see the movie a year later, I was VERY ready to absorb the values, characters, and story given to me by the saga. I read the trilogy, The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, as well the Lost and Unfinished Tales, and even part of Lays not long after.

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

My favorite part of Tolkien’s work is his philosophy. Of crafting “sub-creations”, of myth-making, of living fully and peacefully, of his skepticism of industry and money, and, even though I am still pagan, of his religious devotion. He endeared me in a most profound way to the art of slowness, deep listening, and conviviality. He shaped my deep interest in environmental matters, and my respect for honest labor of the soil. He helped to form the basis of my understanding of the world and of the importance of story. Small things no longer elude me, and I know that wonder is often found in the humblest of places.

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

If I ignore the fun times I had with friends in high school who would get together to watch all 3 films in one day every year, or dress up with them as characters for Halloween, my fondest moments were probably over the course of reading The Silmarillion. Certain scenes, lines of dialogue, images, would stick out to me, and I would have to put down the book to process what had happened. Invariably I would sit for a while, or here and there over several days, and ponder things like Feanor burning the ships, or the men and elves arguing about the pain of death and the pain of immortality, or the sinking of Beleriand and the idea that a world could truly be changed for ever.

I was also wholly enamored with the act of “sub-creating” itself, and dove head-first into designing otherworldly alphabetic ciphers when I was younger. My affinity for writing and storytelling eventually combined with alphabets to pull me towards hobbyist language creation in high school, which I didn’t have much of a gift for in the end. Fortunately, my artistic talents prevailed, and in college I started a graphic novel that owes a great deal of its narrative, philosophical, and world-building sensibilities to Tolkien’s influence. And though I’ve since shifted focus away from linguistics and genealogies, I hope that I’ve successfully conveyed in my own work the same sense of deep history as well as the wonder and vastness of nature that so moved me when reading about Middle-earth.

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

Absolutely. When I was younger, I was drawn to the idealism underpinning the stories of many of Middle-earth’s heroes. From Aragorn to Glorfindel, I was most receptive to scenes of bravery and beauty, as well as the aesthetics of a world that values such things highly. But in the past 5 years or so, I’ve since come to better understand the plight of our own world, and that it will, in my lifetime, also be changed forever. I’ve since come to see many of Tolkien’s tales to be tales of collapse, of peoples navigating a shrinking, increasingly hostile world, and the end of days in a most literal way. But maybe the most valuable lesson to be had with that reading is that the years will always march on, no matter how old you feel, no matter the tragedies you’ve witnessed, and that the best thing to do is to surround yourself with good food, good pipe-weed, and good company. And to remember that all things will pass.

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

I have and I do recommend Tolkien’s work for the simple reason that it is one of the bedrocks of my life and that knowing at least part of his corpus is one of the quickest ways to understand me, as well as the kind of humility and values I strive to represent.


To see Lo’s work, you can visit aquapunk.co!

Thoughts on Post-Conference Feelings and Imposter Syndrome

Hello everyone, I posted this thread on my social media sites, and it received some attention, so I thought it might be worth sharing here, and I will also elaborate a little more because I can do that in a blog!

It started as just thinking aloud, so I began with “Important post-conference reminder (mostly for myself, but I though it might help someone else):” but it has evolved and many people seemed to find it helpful. I hope you do too!


It is wonderful to be engaged in a field where I am able to meet others and get excited about their projects and ideas for the future! I am privileged to have such opportunities, so I want to get everything I can out of them. Importantly, then, I want to concentrate on keeping the joy that comes from these events and not let it feed imposter syndrome!

It is easy, especially when I am feeling melancholy after a wonderful conference ends, to make a harmful transition from “these people are remarkable and I am fortunate to meet them” to “I’m not as remarkable and I don’t know if my project is worth doing”. Ideally, I want to sit with the first thought, and avoid the second.

This is difficult, though, especially for introverts. It is okay to feel sad and even a little depressed after “being up” for several days. It is normal, and many people experience the same feeling. Allow yourself to be sad, this is part of life. The trick is to allow yourself the time you need to recover without allowing this sadness to combine with the thoughts that are harmful.

These times of recovery are often the times when doubts are most likely to come up. I struggle with this a lot! I will give you some things that I have learned to help myself, though I still struggle, and maybe they will help you!

Things to remember:

  1. Forgive yourself: it is okay to be sad. This just means that you have enjoyed the past several days and the people you have met!
  2. Thoughts like this are something that a lot of people struggle with. Remember that rebounding will happen, these thoughts are temporary!
  3. Most importantly, reaching out to others is the best way to help imposter syndrome!

Talking about imposter syndrome doesn’t make the feelings go away entirely, but knowing that you are not alone eases a lot of the stress and anxiety associated with it.

If you don’t have anyone to reach out to, message me!

Thomas G’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (66)

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 Thomas G. 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 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 Thomas G’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

My dad read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to me as bedtime stories when I was a child. I was introduced to The Silmarillion when I was looking for an audiobook to listen to on a family road trip and saw an audio version of a Tolkien book I hadn’t read.

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

The world building. That was what inspired me to become a writer. My earliest attempts at original fiction were very focused on the world building as a result. I have sought out all of The History of Middle Earth, because seeing how Tolkien progressed through various iterations of his stories is something I find incredibly fascinating. The (relatively) newly released Fall of Gondolin is a particular favorite of mine.

I have also really loved the characters, especially the elves (Legolas was an early favorite). I realized recently that the reason that I got so attached to the elves was that my ideal gender presentation very easily falls into they way elves are depicted. The long haired, beautiful masculinity, particularly of the Noldorin elves of The Silmarillion, is something that I find very appealing. Jenny Dolfen’s depictions of Fingon are absolutely gorgeous.

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

Being able to create my own meaning from a huge body of work. There are so many ways that working with HoME and the various iterations of the stories that can make for a number of incredible and varied interpretations of the work, both academic and fannish.

There is also something I find quite special about sitting down to watch the extended cuts of the LotR films. They are among a very small number of movies that I can just get completely lost in watching.

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

Tolkien was my first foray into fanfiction before I knew what fanfiction even was. I was eight or nine and I’d just seen the Fellowship of the Ring movie for the first time, and I decided, “I like these characters, I’m going to write a story with them,” and I’ve been writing Tolkien based fanfiction pretty much ever since.

My early interaction with Tolkien’s work was primarily with the LoTR and The Hobbit, however, the more I got into The Silmarillion, they more I wanted to learn about all the specifics and the differences that emerged in the earlier drafts that make up HoME (Such as the scrapped LotR storyline where Legolas and Gimli get captured by Saruman). As I’ve gotten older and fallen in love with academic research, my interest in Tolkien has gotten more academic as well.

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

Yes. Not to everyone of course, but if someone is interested in the high fantasy genre, but hasn’t read The Hobbit or LotR, I think suggesting those as future reading would be fitting. I’d feel the same way for someone maybe just trying to dip their toes into that genre for the first time.

If someone already likes Tolkien and is interested in reading more, I would absolutely recommend The Silmarillion. I find it’s a more challenging read than The Hobbit or LotR so I probably would not recommend The Silmarillion to someone who hasn’t read any Tolkien before and the same would apply to HoME.


For more Tolkien talk from Thomas G, you can follow him on Twitter or his blog!

Elyanna C’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (65)

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 Elyanna C. 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 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 Elyanna C’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

I was first introduced when I was about 9/10 to the LOTR movies via my dad, but I don’t remember having any lasting impressions from that first exposure. The real moment I got thoroughly invested was when I was studying The Hobbit as a part of my ELA (English Language Arts) class in Hong Kong in 2012 when The Hobbit films were coming out. That’s when I really started to participate in a “fandom” like setting online on Tumblr and joined a Tolkien roleplay community where I was introduced to The Silmarillion in around 2014. From there I began to branch out to The Histories of Middle-earth. I then moved back to the UK in 2015 when I started being exposed to the Tolkien Society, and after attending a few events I’ve recently joined as a member and am due to present at Tolkien 2019 in August. I am currently 19 so I’ve only just fallen out of the young readers category.

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

Probably the nuances and dualities of pretty much everything in his work. There’s always the theme of hope and triumph, but also cynicism and price of victory in Frodo’s success. There’s the equal capability for all races in Tolkien’s works to both enrich and destroy cultures and one another, but there’s also the moral grey and the debates that can be made about the nature of evil in Tolkien’s world — if the orcs are considered by Tolkien to be entirely irredeemably evil and so separate from the sentient “good” races, then how are they capable of creating and speaking language in the form of Black Speech? (Personally, I’m a big fan of the “it’s a perversion of the Valarin language spoken by the Valar and Maia” theory due to their similar sounding harsh consonants, and how perfectly it fits into the whole evil is a perversion of good idea in Tolkien).

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

Probably my discovery of The Silmarillion and its special place in my life — it felt like I had picked up an anthology of myths and histories from a world I didn’t feel as alienated from as opposed to Ancient Greek/Roman mythologies. Those were the stories that stuck with me the most — one of the reasons why I’ve applied for Medical School to become a doctor in the first place is because I was so moved by Fingon’s rescue of Maedhros! Even while on work experience in A&E I was subconsciously picturing myself as a Fingon-like figure, and I really didn’t mind offering my help to the nurses and other staff present whether it was requesting photocopies of paperwork, or cleaning up bodily fluids. The other influence was Eowyn’s decision to transition to a life of healing after experiencing and fighting in war, so in that my career aspirations are very personally linked to Tolkien and the influence his works have had on my life. I’ve also made several close friends, some of whom I’ve known for the better half of a decade now through the online Tolkien fandom space who I still speak to on a regular basis.

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

I think as a result of my first lasting impactful exposure to Tolkien’s works being in an academic setting, I’ve tended to read Tolkien in more or less an academic light from the very beginning, and analyses done by other fans online in “meta” posts have definitely influenced the way I read certain characters with a lot more nuance than I might have in my original readings of the text. Who knew the fanbase could be so divided on Fëanor? There’s also the matter of me being a POC (Chinese-British) fan in a fanbase which I would argue has few to no visible POC fan communities which has shaped my interactions within in the fanbases both online and in real life. There’s also the matter of some of the contents of Tolkien’s letters which would be considered rather ignorant today regarding his attitudes towards certain people groups which I would say actually did hurt me quite a bit as a young fan. Why should I continue enjoying a man’s work when he described the features of the only evil irredeemable race as “Mongoloid” when I instead interpreted the majority of Elves to look similar to me in that we both share a similar physical description of fair skin and dark hair? While I definitely still think there are problematic attitudes hidden within even more well-known and documented instances of real-life people groups (*cough*Easterlings*cough*) being given problematic treatment in both the films and the original texts, I’d like to think that he was more enlightened than the average person of his time and as such his particular views on race and ethnicity are a product of his time. And with that, I can safely continue enjoying and consuming Tolkien content to my heart’s desire with a sound mind so long as I take those small problematic details when they pop up with a generous sprinkling of salt.

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

Definitely! There’s a piece of Tolkien’s work everyone can appreciate, embrace and participate in whether it’s the “not all those who wander are lost” fridge magnet quote, the Peter Jackson movies, the Hobbit and LOTR books, or The Silmarillion and other posthumous works. Personally, I’ve been able to take the most out of the Silmarillion as my go-to work which I guess warrants a label of being a little pretentious, but I don’t mind. That’s just my personal experience and everyone else is entitled to their own just as I am to mine.


For more Tolkien talk from Elyanna C., you can follow her on Twitter!

Jean ‘Druidsfire’ Prior’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (64)

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 ‘Druidsfire’ 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 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 Druidsfire’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

When I was in single digits, we were assigned The Hobbit in Literature/English class. After reading it and falling in love with the dear old Hobbit and his love of maps, I found that there was a sequel trilogy, and was delighted that my favorite author Peter S. Beagle had done the foreword for it. Because Beagle’s own work was so influential in my life at the time, his ‘vouching’ for Lord of the Rings ensured I’d read it. And I never looked back.

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

“Elves, sir!” It’s Tolkien’s fault that any time I play a game where Elves are a playable race, my main is always an elf. The worldbuilding and the history is second to none.

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

I’ve been a 12-year player of Lord of the Rings Online, so my fondest experience is getting to actually play in Middle-earth and inhabit this world I love so much on a daily basis. A couple of years ago, the game progressed in the story to the end of the Ring, and some months previous to that expansion’s release, I had the opportunity to interview some of the developers from Standing Stone Games, the studio that makes LotRO. I’d asked their primary story designer Jeff ‘MadeofLions’ Libby how they would handle that iconic and singular moment. One of the game’s features is called ‘session play’, where the player steps outside their own character to play through a short sequence as another character that their own couldn’t be present. They’d used this for things like players getting to witness the taking of the Oath with Isildur at the Stone of Erech, the first meeting of Gandalf and Aragorn, and even the breaking of the Fellowship and the fall of Boromir.

I’d surmised that they would turn the end of the Ring sequence on its head and let the players go through the event as Gollum instead of Frodo or Sam… and I was right. They of course wouldn’t answer at the time so as not to spoil the surprise, but when I got to the event after the expansion was released months later, I had the privilege of being the first streamer to play through it on the game’s Twitch channel. And yes, I yelled, ‘I called it! I called it!’ After my stream, I contacted Libby through the game’s forums and enthused about how they handled that scene and having guessed their plan so long ago. He admitted that he’d actually been miffed that I’d called it way back then, but then said it meant that they’d made the correct choice when they designed that piece of iconic content. Being a part of that has meant so much to me, and it’s one of my favorite LotRO stories to tell.

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

Yes indeed! Before, I was merely a passive reader or viewer of the various animated and movie adaptations. Now I play in LotRO, I support Professor Corey Olsen’s Twitch streams by moderating and archiving, and I’ve even played in a couple of tabletop games. I’ve grown beyond the little girl who was always sad to hear the name Gondolin into a middle-aged woman who knows the various histories of the lost city and feels even more sorrow at Maeglin’s betrayal, and yet hope, because there are works of the First Age which still survived until the end of the Third that even the malice of Morgoth and his armies couldn’t destroy.

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

Absolutely! Sure, some folks might feel The Silmarillion is a bit dry compared to the other works, it’s still worthy to read at least once. And if one liked the Middle-earth works, they might be interested in trying some of the others.


For more Tolkien talk from Jean ‘Druidsfire’ Prior, follow her on Twitter or view her website!

Xavier Accart’s Experience –Tolkien Experience Project (63)

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 Xavier 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 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 Xavier Accart’s responses:


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

In primary school, in 1981. I was a ten year old boy and our teacher proposed us to read The Hobbit.

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

The Lord of the Rings

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

The reading of The Lord of the Rings in the years 1983-1984.

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

Yes. I appreciated The Silmarillion at 15 or 16 years old. But now I can no longer read it. Perhaps because I know the real christian metaphysic.

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

Yes, because it opens your mind and heart to very ancient and permanent truth. There is the invisible lamp of christian faith which shines inside, and also the light of an Universal Truth, and more precisely the Tradition of our European forefathers.


If you want to follow Xavier Accart, you can find him on Twitter!

Brad M’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (62)

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 Brad 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 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 Brad M’s responses:


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

I was first introduced to J.R.R. Tolkien unknowingly as a very young child via the Rankin and Bass animated movies, though I must confess it made little if any impact. I found as an adult a children’s book that was an old book of the “turn the page at the tone.” Read-along books with an LP stuffed in a collection of my children’s books.

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

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

My first real introduction was in 6th-7th grade. I had absolutely worn out my paperback copies of Chronicles of Narnia, and my mother took me to a small bookstore in my hometown to get a new book. The old gentleman behind the desk suggested The Hobbit. I spent the next three days eagerly devouring that and Rapidly followed with Lord of the rings. Silmarillion was next as I was desperate for anything written by The Professor.

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

I read Lord of the Rings about once a year.

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

I recommend The Professor to any student of Sci-fi/ Fantasy.

Dr. Sian Pehrsson’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (61)

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 Dr. Pehrsson and the other participants for this.

To see the idea behind this project, check out this page

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 Dr. Sian Pehrsson’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

By my father. He is a huge classic sci-fi and fantasy fan and as a preteen I was mowing through hiscollection of Norse mythology, Analog, Asimov and Anderson when Christmas rolled around and there under the tree was the Allen-Unwin complete boxed set with LOTR, The Hobbit, Tree and Leaf and Farmer Giles of Ham. I spent the break completely lost in Middle-earth, utterly entranced. It was 1977, Star Wars had just come out the spring before, and there was so much excitement about new worlds—new stories- fandom really taking off. A few short years later the BBC radio play came out and I fell in love all over again. Funnily enough my father had not read Tolkien himself at that point and when he borrowed mine, he decided it wasn’t his cup of tea. I still remember our huge discussion at the breakfast table about ‘high fantasy’ versus Moorcock. My mother and sister hid!

What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

How much space do I have? I have always loved the layering of backstory—the sense of other Ages, places and adventures wound so seamlessly into present plot. LOTR and specifically TTT is my favourite, but I devoured the LOTR Appendices and Silmarillion and HoME and anything I could get my hands on, wanting to know more. There is always a sense with his writing that the story is a duck gliding placidly across a pond while underneath its legs are madly paddling.  He is also a master at describing scene and environment, and as an Earth Scientist that is instinctively very near to my heart.   My absolute favourite section is the moving discussion in The Two Towers where Faramir gives Frodo and Sam some lore of Gondor and Numenor and they discuss their interactions with the Elves and then Sam accidentally reveals Isildur’s Bane.  I was horrified to learn that JRR considered cutting more of it out and putting it in the appendices!   And every Christmas The Father Christmas Letters is set out on our coffee table, to reread for the delight of its story and art—a connection to the magic time in Childhood when we still believed and our now grown son did.  As someone who has mapped the Arctic its depiction of a hidden realm always makes me smile.

What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

My fondest experience actually came out of tragedy.   In 2007 our baby daughter died.  It was an utterly devastating experience and my friends at work were searching for a gift that could be something of a balm.  They went out and sought a prelease copy of The Children of Hurin knowing that JRR was my favourite author—and having no idea what the story was!   It was such a moving and kind act… I did read it a month or so later—transported for a little while out of my own world.

My second fondest experience was discovering that one of our post-doctoral fellows was also a fan and had put up a meme of Boromir (One does not simply do Structural Geology) on his office door!  Of course I had to respond in kind.  Our hallway is slightly plastered with Rangers now… quite fitting for a team that spends long periods in the wilds.

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

Absolutely.  As a teen I read it purely as transportation and entertainment.  Now as an adult I read it much more critically, intrigued to understand more of how he pulled the threads together, fascinated by how profound changes in science, culture, and politics through the start of the 20th century influenced even obliquely parts of his works.  Diving into scholarship on the philological, cultural and thematic aspects is a growing pleasure.   Coming back to Tolkien after a lifetime of science writing I am also fascinated with how many scientists are fans and how they interpret everything from Tectonics to Climate to Astrophysics for ME.  My favourite piece is Erik Klemetti’s rheological analysis of how Gollum would have bounced off the surface of the circulating lava lake at Sammath Naur.  Before bursting into flame.   And there might or might not be an exploration of the geological evolution of ME on my harddrive….

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

Yes.  And I have many times over the years.   From a purely historical standpoint, it is the legendarium that launched a thousand copycats (Sword of Shannara anyone?) and laid the foundation for modern works like The Game of Thrones to enter the popular mainstream. I always encourage those who enjoyed GOT and Jackson’s movies to read the books—and they are always surprised how much more there is to love! As someone said there is more going on in a single JRR paragraph than in most author’s entire books.  If only I had a dollar for every time a surprised friend (with gentle encouragement) dipped a toe into The Silmarillion only to find themselves lost!  More fundamentally his works can be read on many levels and hence there are few keen readers that cannot find something to like therein.  I have found some inclined to not move on from Fellowship to The Two Towers–the pacing in the first book is quite different from the latter two—but perseverance pays off.

There is also a noticeable generational shift in attitudes toward his work.  Middle-Aged friends still have that unfortunate ‘genre writing is less serious’ attitude and may not pick it up whereas GenY and youth of my son’s age are quite unabashed about fandom of any sort—books, movies, comics–it’s refreshing.  I caught my son telling a buddy that I could give Stephen Colbert a run for his money in a Tolkien quiz.  He was proud of it—not embarrassed–that is huge change.

Troels Forchhammer’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (60)

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 Troels (or Parmakenta) and the other participants for this.

To see the idea behind this project, check out this page

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 Troels Forchhammer’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

I honestly do not remember how I was first introduced to Tolkien’s work.  I do remember hearing of Tolkien’s death, which was less than two months before my seventh birthday, and I suspect that I had been reading The Hobbit by then (or had had it read aloud to me, though I would have been able to read it myself at that point).

Otherwise, my first certain memory is getting a set of Danish book club paperback editions of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion for my eighteenth birthday. I still have those books – particularly my  The Lord of the Rings volumes are now in tatters because I read them again and again, but they have a place on my shelves.

My second introduction to Tolkien was by way of student colleague with whom I did a project for Computer Science at Uni. We met at his place for our work, and he had an English set of The Lord of the Rings that I borrowed.  Reading that, I realised how much richer was the language and story in the original, and I was completely enchanted. The decade following that, I usually had at least one Tolkien book in English on loan from the public library in Copenhagen – then I bought my own first English edition just before the turn of the millennium: A nice Houghton-Mifflin hardback with large folding maps and Alan Lee illustrations on the dustwrapper.

What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

I do not think that I can specify a single favourite part of Tolkien’s work – it is something that is depends on the situation, my mood, the purpose …

In some ways, my favourite part is Ulmo’s appearance to Tuor at Nevrast … his speech sends chills down my spine every time!

Or the Smith essay … “the love of Faery is the love of love” …

Or the alliterative poetry …

“Tide was turning.   Timbers broken,

dead men and drowned,   a dark jetsam,

were left to lie   on the long beaches;

rocks robed with red   rose from water.”

Or his description of Secondary Belief in On Fairy-stories which is the most precise description of my own reading experience that I know of.

Or the host praising Frodo (and Sam) at the Cormallen … brings tears to my eyes every time.

I do have some less favourite parts … the long Lay of Leithian in rhyming couplets is something I find impossible to read for more than 5 or 10 minutes at a time (making it quite an effort to get anywhere in that text). I also find that The Hobbit is one of my less favoured parts of Tolkien’s work, whereas The Lord of the Rings is definitely among my most favoured parts.

What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

My fondest experience of Tolkien’s work is another of those questions with many contending experiences.  That first reading of The Lord of the Rings in English would count very high, as would the gradual discovery of the depth of the text and of other texts – discovering passages so beautiful that the sheer beauty of the language brings tears to my eyes, or passages so intricate and dense with ideas that unravelling them is a great puzzle.

My first encounters with good Tolkien criticism – Tom Shippey and Verlyn Flieger – are other very fond experiences. As a physicist, Tom and Verlyn have been instrumental in opening up for me new ways of looking at a text.

But perhaps the fondest experience has been the slow and gradual piecing together of many passages and other bits of information to produce an understanding of Tolkien and his work as he and it evolved throughout his life.

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

The way I approach Tolkien’s work has changed quite a lot and many times.

The first change was brought on by reading The Lord of the Rings in the original language.  The Danish translation is decent enough, and the story is, in and of itself, sufficiently captivating that I have read my first copy to tatters, but it does somewhat reduce the richness of the language, and suddenly getting this full range of tones and colours was, to me, far more significant than moving from black &white TV to colour TV (which we did in my youth).  What are mere images to the beauty that is the written word!

For a number of years I looked at Tolkien’s world, desiring to know every knowable detail about this sub-creation. This was very much spurred on by joining the on-line Tolkien community around the turn of the millennium, and I started to read Tolkien’s other works to understand this world: Unfinished Tales and The History of Middle-earth took me to another level, and I understood that the idea of a single “true” conception of Middle-earth is in and of itself a fallacy – a dangerous fallacy that obscures the nature of Tolkien’s legendarium.

Encountering proper criticism from the likes of Tom Shippey and Verlyn Flieger has changed my approach once more. Their desire to explore and understand the links between author, sub-creation, and text highly is contagious to me, later adding the context of the author (social, historical, physical, literary, etc.) to the mixture.  The reader, however, does not really interest me – for me, the reader is only interesting as a source of errors to be eliminated (it may seem paradoxical that I nonetheless contribute here, but the fact that I am uninterested in the topic does not mean that I do not consider it a worthy topic of academic research – I merely insist that it is not a study of Tolkien).

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

I do not generally offer recommendations unless asked for them, but I would obviously gladly recommend Tolkien’s work to people whenever I have reasons to believe that they would enjoy it.  I am careful to not recommend it to people whom I think would not enjoy it, and I tend to respect people for reacting negatively to Tolkien’s work – it is their right to find his work unbearable.

I am perfectly happy to tell people about my own passion for Tolkien, and (when they pretend just the tiniest interest 😉 ) shower them with information, but I hesitate to recommend Tolkien’s work unless they ask for recommendations (where to start, what to read next, etc.) – I am careful not to presume that others will like something that I like, even if we have other things in common.

For children, I would probably recommend Astrid Lindgren before Tolkien – not because Tolkien’s children’s books are bad, but because Lindgren in my honest opinion was far superior to Tolkien as a writer for children (here I have the advantage of being able to read both authors in their original language). Also, unfortunately neither of the Danish translations of The Hobbit is particularly good.


For more from Troels, you can follow the blog on his website, Parma-kenta!

Tolkien 2019 Announcement

Hello friends, I wanted to share some exciting news with you.

I will be attending the Tolkien 2019 conference in Birmingham, England this August!Tolkien-2019-logo

I will be presenting a paper entitled “The Lord of the Rings, Young Readers, and Questions of Genre”. I would love for anyone interested in my research to attend!

I am very much looking forward to meeting up with friends and colleagues, as well as participating in the largest event ever hosted by the Tolkien Society!

If you would like more information, the event staff have posted a full schedule of events!