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!

Trevor Bowen’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (58)

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 Trevor 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 Trevor Bowen’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

I stumbled upon a copy of The Hobbit in my primary school library when I was 10 years old. I can still remember the way my heart jumped and my intrigue was kindled, when I first opened the book and saw the enchanting inside cover. There was strange symbols I was later to learn are called runes, indecipherable points of the compass, and references to spiders, a Lonely Mountain and a Long Lake! And who were Thror and the Elvenking, and just what is a Great Worm? As I started to read, I quickly realized here was an adventures to be had; here was an escape from the everydayness of school and home life: here was a land I could travel to in my imagination and explore. The Hobbit whetted my appetite for my discovery of Tolkien’s trilogy which I savored with the same interest and enthusiasm. I traveled to many other imaginary lands in my younger years, and beyond our galaxy when I was a teenager. But I have always returned to Middle-earth, and still do.

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

I find it fascinating the way Tolkien created a mythology with a timescale spanning eons. There are creation stories, ancient chronicles, a fragmented antiquity of familial and tribal histories of amazingly nuanced detail and background. The magnitude of these annals is incredible in itself, and I find the depth and complexity of his storytelling throughout the ages compelling to read. It is wonderful the way these subtle through-lines, originating in earlier ages, are embedded within the well-known stories of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. I particularly enjoy reading the “Ainulindalë” and the way music themes are incorporated into the building of the Eä and Arda.

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

I have read some of Tolkien’s works to groups of children, in particular The Hobbit. I have been quite surprised and reassured that children still enjoy having stories read to them, even though they have grown up in a world with so many exciting forms of digital entertainment. I realized for the first time that reading a text aloud is so much different from reading a story in your head. I had read The Hobbit many times previously, but in reading the story aloud, I experienced a different appreciation in how Tolkien crafted words and created imagery. In many of the children’s eyes, I could see that spark of attentiveness and interest that told me they had tasted something of the magic of Tolkien’s writings.

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

Over the years I have progressed from being a ‘recreational’ reader of Tolkien’s writings enjoying regular re-readings of my favorite texts, to a more scholarly approach. Now there is a longing to dig deeper into his life and background, and to explore the expansive detail of his legendarium. I thoroughly enjoy delving into much of Christopher Tolkien’s History of Middle Earth, Tolkien’s minor works and the range of other texts published since the Professor passed away. I have put together a treasured collection of biographies, essays and reference books all Tolkien related. I enjoy following an element of his legendarium, exploring the languages created, cultures and creatures and the multitude of layers that go into making up his fascinating sub creation.

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

Yes, I would. I think other people deserve to be exposed to stories that are both enthralling and entertaining at a heartfelt level, and challenging in the moral and cognitive sense. Reading Tolkien’s works often affect me emotionally and intellectually. I appreciate what he wrote in the preface to The Lord of the Rings: “applicability to the thought and experience of readers”. As a writer he gives the reader freedom to apply the outcomes you think and feel from reading his works to your own life. To me, there is much truth and encouragement in Tolkien’s work that can be supportive of a positive and fulfilling life of any reader.


For more Tolkien talk from Trevor Bowen, follow the Melbourne Tolkien Smial on Facebook!

Airin’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (57)

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 Airin 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 Airin’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

I come from a family of bookworms, and when I was around 10, my older sister recommended The Hobbit to me. I enjoyed it well enough, but it was only when I read The Lord of the Rings a few years later (again recommended by my sister) that I fell irrevocably in love with Tolkien.

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

I find the themes deeply moving: the joy like swords, wells of sorrow, tears of blessedness, pain and delight flowing together. The depth of his world-building is also absolutely fascinating. The languages, the cultures, the histories—everything is so detailed and real that you can immerse yourself completely in his world.

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

My first few years as a fan. Immediately after I read The Lord of the Rings, I borrowed every Tolkien book I could find at my local library. When I exhausted their meager selection, I went to a bigger one. I will never forget the thrill and heartache I experienced when I first read the tragic tales of the Elder Days. It was (and still is) the greatest literary adventure that I ever embarked upon.

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

Definitely. At first, I was mainly interested in the histories and back stories, but now that I’ve read most of his fiction, I feel more drawn to examining his elaborate world-building, complicated characters, and subtle themes. I’ve only been a fan for a dozen years, so there is still much to discover. But even if I spend my whole life studying Tolkien, I happily doubt I will ever hit bottom.

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

If someone shows interest or if I think they might be interested, I would give a restrained recommendation. I consider Tolkien the Bible of English literature, but I know the dangers of reading a book with high expectations so I try not to hype a book that may not be their cup of tea. Better to expect little and be pleasantly surprised!


You can follow Airin on Twitter!

Megan N. Fontenot’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (56)

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 Megan 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 Megan N. Fontenot’s responses:


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

My family read a lot growing up. Since we were homeschooled, my mom would read all sorts of classics to us during the day, and then my dad would read something each night after dinner. So, two of my brothers and I had heard both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings read aloud by my dad probably by the time I was 6 or 7. I was an imaginative child who adopted the persona of favorite characters in the books my parents read to us with startling dexterity in a child so young. I distinctly remember trekking about our house with a blanket thrown over my shoulders as a cloak: I was Frodo, and after a little coaxing I convinced my little brother to follow me around as my faithful Samwise. But although I enjoyed both of those books at that age, I didn’t really latch onto them until I re-read both as a young teen, ironically because my older brother told me they were “kind of Celtic” and I was obsessed with Celticism at the time.

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

Wow. This is always a difficult question for me because I’m so intensely involved in everything Tolkien I can get my hands on… Here are a few things I especially love, though: Éowyn’s triumph over the Witchking and her subsequent healing alongside Faramir; the coming of Tuor and Voronwë to Gondolin; the humor and pathos of Tolkien’s various shorter stories (including the ones “for children,” like Roverandom); Legolas’s fascinating relationship with ecology; Finrod’s contest with Sauron; Fingon’s rescue of Maedhros; and the singing-into-being of Arda.

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

I love the experience of sharing Tolkien with other people, honestly. I’m never more keenly aware of the power of his stories than when I connect with people over his work and we can share our excitement and curiosity. And I especially love hearing from people to whom I’ve recommended his work. It’s almost like getting to experience that first-time thrill all over again! Stories are made to be shared, and Tolkien’s have inspired entire communities of enthusiasts who are able to put aside differences and come together and share their love of a single thing… and that’s powerful. We desperately need stories that inspire friendship, community, and hope in our world, and Tolkien’s seem to do that particularly well.

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

Most definitely. A decade-ish ago, when I first took up The Lord of the Rings again as a young teen, I never expected to one day consider myself a Tolkien scholar. In the intervening years, I’ve learned so much about Tolkien himself, his way of creating, the world he lived in, the world he was creating… I would be concerned if my approach hadn’t changed! I can say for certain that I’ve been able to cultivate a critical attitude towards Tolkien’s work that allows me to write about it academically—which is in some respects really hard to do for someone who’s also a diehard fan. But I’ve found that my ability to approach Tolkien’s oeuvre critically has only deepened my appreciation and love for what he accomplished, even while I can also see its flaws.

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

Absolutely. I recommend it every chance I get. Tolkien’s work is special, having certain qualities that never fail to move me; and opening his world to others is a joyful experience, like sharing good news or a great gift. When I recommend it, I often tell people that it takes effort and patience on the part of the reader, but that they won’t fail to be rewarded. The length of The Lord of the Rings, for example, makes the excitement and relief of its eucatastrophe all the more potent. You feel as though you’ve made the journey alongside the characters. It’s just beautiful.


For more from Megan, you can go to her website, or follow her series on Tor.com!

John Hancock’s Experience–Tolkien Experience (54)

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 John 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 John Hancock’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

When I was at Adelaide University in the 70s there was a strong JRRT following. It appeared to have a significant cultural influence on many of my fellow students, even in the science faculty of which I was a part.

I bought a paperback copy of LOTR and once I started to read could not put it down. I was transported in a way that I never experienced previously and have not since.

I also bought another paperback The Adventures of Tom Bombadil which contains some short stories such as Leaf By Niggle and various poems. When my children were young I would often read the poems to them which they still remember.

After that I read LOTR every year until I was about forty. After that I have read it on average about every two to three years.

The original LOTR and TAOTB have long since fallen to pieces due to their constant use and have been replaced.

Once the movies were released I instantly became a fan and have watched them many times, and the commentaries and extras numerous times as well.

I also purchased The Silmarillion and have read that a number of times as well.

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

That is like having to choose between your children. If I had to choose I think it would be his poetry. More specifically, “Poems and Songs of Middle Earth.” Although not strictly adhering to the “Middle-earth” mythology it seems to me to encapsulate JRRT’s creative ability.

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

Back in Uni a friend loaned me a record of “The Poems and Songs of Middle Earth” and I subsequently bought the four record set.

It has a song cycle of songs sung by William Elvin and music by Donald Swan (of Flanders and Swan fame), and readings of poems and extracts from the book by Tolkien himself.

I spent many hours listening to these records.

I subsequently bought the hard cover book “Poems and Songs of Middle Earth” which contained the piano score of the Swan song cycle. I am sure I drove my family mad trying to play and sing the songs.

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

I cannot say that it has really. Well, that is not strictly true.

When I first read his work I was captivated and amazed at the complexity and sheer imagination. As I discovered more about the world that Tolkien created I become more and more engrossed in his legendarium.

Having discovered so much scholarly work, particularly The Tolkien Professor, it has given me a greater appreciation of the literary merits of JTTR’s work.

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

Short answer yes. Long answer maybe. I have found that many people have no desire for or appreciation of fantasy. That is not to say that they would not appreciate JRRT’s writings but I have found that it just leaves many people cold.

To be blunt he is not for everyone. However it has not stopped me recommending his work and never will but I rarely recommend others of his works such as The Silmarillian.


For more from John Hancock, check out his Twitter or his Facebook!

Cristina Montes’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (53)

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 Cristina 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 Cristina Montes’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

A philosophy professor in college (sometime between 1993-1997) recommended that I read Tolkien. It was only many years later, however, that I actually got around to doing so. That was when the LOTR movies were about to come out. I wanted to read the books before watching the movies.

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

I love the LOTR trilogy. It’s an annual ritual for me to re-read it. I simply love the story, the themes, the world Tolkien created, his characters, and the word-craft.

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

When I went to Spain to study for a year, I discovered that my Spanish landlady also has a passion for Tolkien. From that instant, the two of us became very good friends. She even lent me the Spanish edition of LOTR when she found out I read the trilogy once a year.

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

Yes. Every time I read the LOTR trilogy, different parts of it resonate depending on the personal issues I’m dealing with at the moment I’m reading the trilogy. Also, through time, I have read Tolkien biographies and commentaries and studies on his works; these have enriched my understanding and appreciation of Tolkien’s works and have given me new ways of viewing his works. Because of this, each re-reading of the LOTR trilogy is a unique experience.

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

Of course! Tolkien’s work has enriched my world and has made me a better person in more ways than one.

Michael Flowers–Tolkien Experience Project (52)

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 Michael 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 Michael Flowers’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

At Junior High School an English teacher retired, and we were given a science teacher for one hour a week. He obviously didn’t know how to conduct an English class. His solution was to get us to read in turn out loud The Hobbit to the rest of the class. I can remember personally reciting the bit about the dwarves approaching the fires of the Elvenking. I even had time to look up and see the whole class was spellbound. At the end of the academic year we hadn’t even finished the book, so I got it that Christmas, and read it all through myself.

A few years later on a school prize-giving day someone in another class got this strange thick green paperback book with a yellow spine – myself and others were receiving chunky hardback history books, or atlases. On investigation this green book was Pauline Baynes’ cover of The Lord of the Rings. I got it the following Christmas and read it through several times. I remember the first time I wondered who Arwen was at the end (I missed her earlier entrance in Rivendell, or forgot all about her). I was also surprised that Strider became the King.

A couple of years later I remember going into W.H. Smiths and coming across a desk absolutely covered with piles of a strange book with a floral design on the cover – this was the launch of The Silmarillion. I got the paperback for Christmas once it became available, but it took at least 3 attempts before I could get past the first two “chapters”.

What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

Without question The Lord of the Rings. I prefer his mature style with a detailed attention to landscape and nature. I also like his building of suspense, and contrast between safe havens and places of danger. My favourite chapters of all are “The Shadow of the Past” and “The Council of Elrond.”

What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

I didn’t enjoy my senior school very much, but I remember once reading The Lord of the Ringswalking between classes, waiting outside classes in every spare moment. Then reading it at home once I got back from school. I think I managed to read it using every spare moment in 11 days. I remember finding the 3 volumes in Hull’s central library in the reference section for the first time, and being amazed by the appendices. My paperback copy only had the Aragorn and Arwen appendix. I was still at school, but spend lots of 2p pieces photocopying the appendices I wanted to read at home. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to buy the third volume in hardback, but pocket money was tight then – only 20p a week. I loved the 1981 BBC radio adaptation, and that helped with the pronunciation of words like Celeborn and Isengard – the pronunciation appendices meant nothing to me at the time!

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

Yes, when I first read it as a teenager my favourite chapters were “The Uruk-Hai” and “Shelob’s Lair”, but as an adult I definitely prefer “The King of the Golden Hall” and “Treebeard”. After I studied English literature at university were Tolkien wasn’t even mentioned, and I got the impression he was despised, I feared I would find the books childish. However, I found that the narrative had added depth, especially the sections dealing with the Riders of Rohan – after studying Old English. The first teenage readings were made at breakneck speed as the excitement mounted. Now, I like to take my time and savour all the words. However, I do find the Frodo, Sam & Gollum less interesting once one knows what happens next.

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

When I first read it, it was a secret vice. You weren’t supposed to mention liking it, a bit like you couldn’t mention if you enjoyed Abba. The films have made Tolkien more acceptable and mainstream. However, I probably wouldn’t recommend Tolkien to a stranger. You need to know a person’s taste before recommending Tolkien. There are still some diehard realists who don’t like fiction in which there is an element of fantasy. I’ve heard several people gave up on the TV series “Game of Thrones” as soon as the dragons appeared!


If you want more of Michael’s thoughts on Tolkien and other topics, visit his blog at http://www.eybirdwatching.blogspot.com/

Maria do Rosario Monteiro’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (51)

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 do Rosario Monteiro 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 Maria do Rosario Monteiro’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

By a side comment made by Professor Sansonetti while giving a lecture on alchemy during my Master in Comparative Literature at Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, 30 years ago.

What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

I do not have one! There are several: The LOR, The Cosmogonic myth in Silmarillion, “The fall of Númenor”, Unfinished Tales, etc.

What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

The discovery of multiple layers of intertwined myths

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

It changes every time I re-read it because in 30 years I have changed also.

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

Yes. There is a bunch of reasons I cannot outline in a single answer. Usually, it takes me a whole semester teaching it, and I never get to the bottom. There is no way anyone who reads Tolkien will not become a “re-reader.” And the movies are a different creation, using a different art, that does not substitute the books. My advice is always the same: first, read the book, create your inner image of each character and of the space, get the feeling of traveling WITH the hobbits. Then, see the movies. If one does not follow this order will lose forever the ability to became a sub-creator of Middle-earth, that is what readers are or should be. Do not lose the possibility of imagining your own Galadriel, your own Gandalf, etc.


For more thoughts on Tolkien and other topics from Maria do Rosario Monteiro, you can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.