Hannah’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (153)

This is one in a series of posts where the content is provided by a guest who has graciously answered five questions about their experience as a Tolkien fan.

To see the idea behind this project, or if you are interested in sharing your own, visit the project homepage. If you enjoy this series, please consider helping us fund the project using the support page.

I want to thank Donato Giancola for allowing me to use his artwork for this project. Prints are available on his website!

Now, on to Hannah’s responses:


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

My dad read The Hobbit to me as a bedtime story during my childhood

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

For sentimental reasons I love The Hobbit, but I think a lot of my favorite writing is in LotR. Everything there is so rich, multilayered, and well-considered. I like how he can deal with really dark and serious subjects but also have a jolly time without being blasè about the hard stuff.

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

I taught literature, for a season, in Northern Iraq. I was teaching a group of 9th graders LotR around the same time that ISIS was growing in power and heading toward the area I was teaching in. Almost all of my students were Muslim and struggling with how they should react to other Muslims doing things that were so horrible in the name of their shared beliefs.

We were reading through the section where Gandalf is talking with Saruman about what they should do in response to Sauron’s rise to power. Saruman argues that they, being good, should join Sauron in order to influence him away from doing great evil, thus “lessening” the evil that he is inevitably going to do. Gandalf argues that they should stand against Sauron because that is what True Good would do. We had a long and lively class discussion about this and how it related to what they were dealing with in their real lives. It was good for them to see Gandalf disagree and even go against what the wisest and most knowledgeable of his order thought they should do. They felt empowered to be guided by their own moral compass rather than by what strong outside forces suggested.

I loved that Tolkien wrote something so powerful without knowing how far-reaching its messages would go. He wrote it with love and care because he loved and cared about it, not because he wanted to change the world. And yet he did. His writings have changed the world. I’ve seen it.

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

Absolutley! I went from reading for fun, to reading to teach (i.e. doing lots of research into mythology, learning about Tolkien himself, actively seeking out themes) and now I am re-reading them, slowly, for the love of it.

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

I do, frequently, but not to everyone. I don’t recommend it to people who are not interested in fantasy or taking on a long reading project. I might suggest The Hobbit or one of his shorter retellings, but his style is not for everyone. And that’s okay!

Doug Hagler’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (152)

This is one in a series of posts where the content is provided by a guest who has graciously answered five questions about their experience as a Tolkien fan.

To see the idea behind this project, or if you are interested in sharing your own, visit the project homepage. If you enjoy this series, please consider helping us fund the project using the support page.

I want to thank Donato Giancola for allowing me to use his artwork for this project. Prints are available on his website!

Now, on to Doug Hagler’s responses:


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

There was a passage from The Hobbit in my reading textbook in Middle School (the book also introduced me to A Wizard of Earthsea). I went to the library looking for the book, and found The Two Towers by the same author. I took that home and read it loved it, but was confused because so many characters were introduced without any explanation. Then I realized it was the second book in a trilogy written after The Hobbit. But by then I was already hooked.

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

The depth. Just a brief example – learning that when Bilbo comes home to an auction of his possessions, it is because Tolkien was discussing with other scholars whether the Old English word that is the source of “auction” in English means something like an auction, or if it rather means ‘a mess.’ And so Tolkien ended his story with an auction that was also a mess. Or how the ents march because Tolkien was deeply disappointed with Shakespeare’s ‘march of the trees’, or the multiple layers of archaism in the Council of Elrond and how they are masterfully and intentionally used. Because of his scholarly background, Tolkien had a mastery of the English language, rather than the conventions of fiction, and it shows in so many hidden but extraordinary ways.

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

Hunkering down to read The Fellowship of the Ring on a Friday, not able to sleep because of the Weathertop scenes that night, then reading through the rest of Saturday and moving on to the full trilogy that weekend. My parents occasionally coming in to ask whether I’d like food.

Also, the experience of seeing The Fellowship of the Ring on opening night. Still by far the most powerful experience I’ve had in a movie theater.

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

Definitely. Every time I dig deeper, there is more there. It’s why I think he succeeded in his goal to create a new mythology.

I’ve also changed in my approach, in that I’ve come to understand the problems in his work and the worldview it sometimes represents. I now love it critically, where I used to love it uncritically, but I still love it.

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

Absolutely. I recommend Tolkien’s work to everyone, even though I know his work isn’t necessarily for everyone. But for someone who is interested in a modern mythology for northern Europe, as well as a masterpiece of idiosyncratic fiction that was the labor of love of a scholar’s lifetime, there isn’t even a close second to Tolkien. 


You can read more from Doug Hagler on Twitter or his blog!

Simone’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (151)

This is one in a series of posts where the content is provided by a guest who has graciously answered five questions about their experience as a Tolkien fan.

To see the idea behind this project, or if you are interested in sharing your own, visit the project homepage. If you enjoy this series, please consider helping us fund the project using the support page.

I want to thank Donato Giancola for allowing me to use his artwork for this project. Prints are available on his website!

Now, on to Simone’s responses:


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

My parents really liked the movies. But I was a rebellious child even before my teens and decided that if my parents liked it, I did not. However when being “forced” to watch it during family time, I fell in love. The next day I started reading The Hobbit!

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

The Pelennor Fields

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

I met my best friend through our shared love for Tolkien and I will be forever grateful.

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

Definitely, I read The Hobbit when I was 9 and while I loved it, I Definitely missed things as children do. (Also because I first read the books in Dutch)

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

Yes absolutely. Tolkien’s world is so vast and beautiful I want everyone to experience it. However I always tell people that its okay to not like his writing style/if they have to get used to it. I love it, but not everyone has to.

Fredrik’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (150)

This is one in a series of posts where the content is provided by a guest who has graciously answered five questions about their experience as a Tolkien fan.

To see the idea behind this project, or if you are interested in sharing your own, visit the project homepage. If you enjoy this series, please consider helping us fund the project using the support page.

I want to thank Donato Giancola for allowing me to use his artwork for this project. Prints are available on his website!

Now, on to Fredrik’s responses:


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

A friend introduced me to the Swedish tabletop roleplaying game “Drakar och Demoner” and since I enjoyed it he suggested that I should read The Hobbit and LOTR. I was about 9-10 at the time and really liked the books.

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

I must say LOTR. It is the work I enjoy the most.

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

All hours spent reading and loving the books. Also playing games related to Tolkien’s works, most of all Lord of the Rings Online where I made new friends who also liked Tolkien´s work.

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

Yes, growing older (I’m 48 now) and learning more about his life’s work have made me love it even more. I wrote a Bachelor thesis at University about Tolkien’s use of OE [Old English] words as names but for the last couple of years I have most listened to podcasts as a way to learn more. Especially podcasts like Exploring the Lord of Rings with Corey Olsen and The Prancing Pony Podcast with Alan and Shawn have been important for me in recent years.

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

Of course 🙂 It is so much more than LOTR, it is a wonderful world, mytholgy and a great community.

Alkisti’s Experience – Tolkien Experience Project (142)

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 Alkisti 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 Alkisti’s responses:


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

I was going through a bad break-up when I was around 16 and my father bought me the Lord of the Rings books to have something to occupy my mind with. I’m so glad I have editions with pre-movie covers!

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

The invented languages and how a whole world was built around them. The light at the end of the tunnel.

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

I always go back to how I was first introduced to Tolkien’s work because through the years it has become a very dear experience and one I’m very fond of. The LotR movies are some of the few book adaptations I like and I still cry obsessively when I watch certain scenes – even if it’s isolated ones on YouTube. I sometimes do it on purpose even. I believe it must be the notion of the Sublime some of the scenes evoke. The emotions are so intense and so very rare, even in real life experiences.

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

What started as (just) an epic fantasy story has become one of my favourite stories and worlds of all time that has accompanied me for several years. I’ve become more engaged into the details after these years and I’m also interested to see deeper into the story and its compartments as well as the ways it came to be. I’ve started to read work on Tolkien now, instead of stopping at Tolkien’s work.

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

Of course! Although several people find it hard to get into his books because they find the writing overly detailed and intricate, I’d think they miss out from what is perhaps the most wholesome world that has ever been imagined if they do not engage with Tolkien’s work be it via reading or a different way.


You can read more from Alkisti on Twitter!

Alistair S’s Experience – Tolkien Experience Project (141)

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 Alistair 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 Alistair S’s responses:


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

I first became aware at Primary school at the age of 9 or 10 when we were set to write an essay on a book we were reading. Someone in class wrote about The Two Towers. I had never heard of it so he described it and recommended The Hobbit. I found a second hand copy at a jumble sale and that was me hooked. Later another friend lent me The Lord of the Rings. I still remember the edition, hardback with the dust jacket with Pauline Baynes’s illustrations. Those were good times to discover Tolkien as soon after came the Ralph Bakshi film and the BBC Radio 4 adaptation.

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

I think now there are two aspects that have become favourite. The ‘quiet’ moments of The Lord of the Rings such as meeting the Elves outside the Shire, the Rivendell passages and the Houses of Healing. Also I have recently started exploring the works that Christopher Tolkien has added to the canon such as The Fall of Gondolin and that has opened up a whole world.

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

There are several to be honest. Reading Lord of the Rings about every six months as a teenager was magical. Discovering all the different artists who have interpreted Middle-earth – Rodney Matthews, Brothers Hildebrandt, Alan Lee, John Howe, Michael Kaluta, Ted Naismith and so many more. Listening to Blind Guardian’s concept album – Nightfall in Middle-earth–just fantastic. Watching The Fellowship of the Ring film and against the odds it was great. Lastly when my son fell in love with Middle-earth too and it is a huge bond we have in common.

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

Yes it has as when I first discovered it I gravitated to the Hobbits as I think is natural in children. Later I found the Elves to be more attractive as I imagined them hanging out in forests drinking cider. Later Aragorn who has to take up the mantle almost of adulthood and responsibility as we ourselves do. I suspect the next stage for me will be identifying with Gandalf or Radagast. I hope so. Other than that I have begun to explore the wider world of Middle-earth via The Silmarillion, The Fall of Gondolin whereas I used to stick to The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings only. I think my appreciation of his creation has only deepened over the years,

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

I would always recommend it but I appreciate it is not for everyone. I have tried F.Scott Fitzgerald, Patrick O’Brian and some other notables but can’t really get into them so I believe in ‘each to their own.’


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

Steve’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (140)

This is one in a series of posts where the content is provided by a guest who has graciously answered five questions about their experience as a Tolkien reader. I am very humbled that anyone volunteers to spend time in this busy world to answer questions for my blog, and so I give my sincerest thanks to Steve and the other participants for this.

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

I want to thank Donato Giancola for allowing me to use his stunning portrait of J.R.R Tolkien as the featured image for this project. If you would like to purchase a print of this painting, they are available on his website!

If you would like to contribute your own experience, you can do so by using the form on the contact page, or by emailing me directly.

Now, on to Steve’s responses:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


You can find Steve on Twitter!

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

This is one in a series of posts where the content is provided by a guest who has graciously answered five questions about their experience as a Tolkien reader. I am very humbled that anyone volunteers to spend time in this busy world to answer questions for my blog, and so I give my sincerest thanks to Robert and the other participants for this.

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

I want to thank Donato Giancola for allowing me to use his stunning portrait of J.R.R Tolkien as the featured image for this project. If you would like to purchase a print of this painting, they are available on his website!

If you would like to contribute your own experience, you can do so by using the form on the contact page, or by emailing me directly.

Now, on to Robert Falzon’s responses:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is one in a series of posts where the content is provided by a guest who has graciously answered five questions about their experience as a Tolkien reader. I am very humbled that anyone volunteers to spend time in this busy world to answer questions for my blog, and so I give my sincerest thanks to Zane and the other participants for this.

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

I want to thank Donato Giancola for allowing me to use his stunning portrait of J.R.R Tolkien as the featured image for this project. If you would like to purchase a print of this painting, they are available on his website!

If you would like to contribute your own experience, you can do so by using the form on the contact page, or by emailing me directly.

Now, on to Zane Libiete’s responses:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

This is one in a series of posts where the content is provided by a guest who has graciously answered five questions about their experience as a Tolkien reader. I am very humbled that anyone volunteers to spend time in this busy world to answer questions for my blog, and so I give my sincerest thanks to JuanKi and the other participants for this.

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

I want to thank Donato Giancola for allowing me to use his stunning portrait of J.R.R Tolkien as the featured image for this project. If you would like to purchase a print of this painting, they are available on his website!

If you would like to contribute your own experience, you can do so by using the form on the contact page, or by emailing me directly.

Now, on to JuanKi Kürsch’s responses:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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