Br. Pius, Norbertine friar’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (98)

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 Br. Pius, Norbertine friar, 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 Br. Pius, Norbertine friar’s responses:


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

I was introduced to Tolkien’s works by the wonderful films of Peter Jackson. Back in my childhood, I really enjoyed watching them, especially with my father who’s also a little bit addicted to the story (at least I made him interested in it). He thinks that everyone knows something about Tolkien’s breath-taking universe. Of course, after watching the films, I felt a hole inside me. I mean, they weren’t enough for my always-working imagination, so I wanted to know much more about Middle-earth. I immediately searched for The Lord of the Rings books in a bookstore’s online page and I bought my first ones by the beloved Professor. I was so happy when I received them and I read them as soon as it was possible during my vacation at my granny’s garden. I imagined that I was sitting on Bilbo’s bench, looking at his wonderful flowers and admiring Gandalf’s fireworks upon the sky.

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

Naturally, my favourite parts are my first reading experience, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but I also really venerate the whole of the universe which was made by Tolkien. I have to tell you that I’m not really into man-created worlds. I mean, I never saw Star Wars, Star Trek and several adaptations like these, but I was fulfilled by Tolkien’s work after reading just the first and the smallest part of it. The best part of all for me are the first sentences of the Hobbit, as I always feel so delightful and comfortable while reading: “In a hole under the ground…”

It lasted till my twenties,  as now I can look from another perspective at my Tolkien readings, as I’m older and I manage to understand the fond meaning of these works. I mean the real meaning of them. I like to think about the sequences and wise sayings of Tolkien, which can be suitable for every situation in our life.

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

I have to tell that I’m a Norbertine friar, so my fondest experience was that I realised the religious side of Tolkien’s work. Even during reading, I stopped and I thought about where I’ve met with a situation or story like that in my philosophical or theological studies, or even in the Holy Scripture. Sometimes, if I start to talk about it to others, they look at me as one might look at something which is strange, as if they’ve never heard that the world made by Tolkien can also be seen as a religious or philosophical work. But yeah, he was a dedicated and conservative catholic, which makes him more sympathetic to me.
As I’m still studying philosophy and theology this year, I’ve decided to research the philosophical, especially metaphysical, relations of The Lord of the Rings for my annual exam.

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

Indeed! Of course, as my first reading experience was in the beginning of my teenage period and the last was after entering the Norbertine convent. As I had time to spend reading during my formation, I mean the period of postulancy, I decided to extend a little bit my collection of Tolkien’s works. So I bought some studies about him, some language books of Quenya and Sindarin, and even a Hungarian-Quenya dictionary. That is not because I wanted to be fluent in elvish, as I have much more studies to do, even in Latin or Greek, it was just to have a closer look into this eye-catching universe. After that, I read The Silmarillon, Children of Hurin, The Lost Tales, and the History of Middle-earth… I’m so addicted to it all. They’re so deep, so fond, I managed not to see Tolkien’s work as a fairy tale as I did in my teenage years. I really understand now the idea of sub-creation

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

I would recommend Tolkien’s work, but divided into age-levels. I mean, The Hobbit and The Father Christmas Letters are suitable for children as they’re written for them. To deeply understand the whole universe, we should be a little bit older. I mean, to find the real things behind the fairy tale, which I explained in my other answers. By the way, I think we should recommend the reading of Tolkien’s work for everyone as it has a meaning, maybe a different meaning for everyone. It could be a fairy tale or something to read before going to bed, but it can be someone’s fondest reading experience or even a subject to do research on or to find the real meaning of. I also really recommend it to religious people who know about Holy Scripture and have theological and philosophical knowledge, as they also can have a nice experience in finding these meanings of the novels.


If you want to talk to Br. Pius, Norbertine friar, you can find him on Facebook!

Steffan O’Sullivan’s Experience–Tolkien Experience (97)

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 Steffan 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 Steffan O’Sullivan’s responses:


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

While browsing in a book store, I stumbled across the first US paperback publication of The Hobbit in 1965, when it had just been released. I was in high school, and a science fiction and fantasy reader since the late 1950s, so frequently checked the shelves for anything new.

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

The Hobbit, closely followed by the tale of Beren and Lúthien as found in The Silmarillion.

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

Reading The Hobbit out loud to various people, both children and adults, over the years. They’ve all loved it.

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

Well, sometimes I skip right to my favorite parts, but mostly my approach is the same. That is, I settle down to immerse myself in Tolkien’s worlds.

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

I have, and do, and will continue to do so. Because it’s unique, and simply the best at what it does. I tell people The Hobbit is the best book written in the last hundred years, though I confess I haven’t read *all* the competition. I say it anyway.

David Hamblin’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (96)

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 David 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 David Hamblin’s responses:


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

My father read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings to me when I was a child. I believe I’d have been about 6 with the latter. I can’t recall a time without The Lord of the Rings in my life. In my dad’s peerless logic reading TLOTR meant he didn’t have to choose another book for about a year.

I watched the Ralph Bakshi version as a child recorded off the TV. I listened to the Brian Sibley adaptation on 13 cassettes which my Dad had painstakingly recorded off the radio.

I used to carry around at least one of the books all the time (1 of 7 as Tolkien intended)

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

In terms of dramatic moments it would be Faramir’s rejection of the Ring.

In terms of comedy (an underrated aspect of Tolkien’s work) Gollum’s delicious reaction to being told that “The fish from this pool are dearly bought” *drops fish* “Don’t want fish.”

In terms of aspects the sheer volume and depth of the work in question. The fact that poetry is interwoven throughout the text. The fact that it is indeed the richest of worlds.

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

Probably interacting with my Dad. We discuss the (excellent) Brian Sibley adaptation constantly (as a by the by I dropped an email to Brian Sibley just saying how much of an influence he had on me recently and was delighted to receive a response. He was lovely.) We play one of the board games (sumptuously illustrated) “Confrontation” regularly.

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

I have become curiously tribal around fidelity of the text. Mostly in jest. Mostly. I was somewhat mercurial about TLOTR films but overall felt they captured the world. The Hobbit films are an affront to Eru and should be cast into Orodruin…

I follow Christopher Lee’s reported lead of reading in full annually.

John Howe, Alan Lee, Ted Nasmith remain the holy trinity of The Lord of the Rings illustrators. Others are great but they have their own niche carved at the top.

I have had the Balrog wings debate (I am in favour) but Nasmith’s depiction on the bridge of Khazad-dûm made me open to the alternative. John Howe’s resplendent Smaug remains my favourite Hobbit cover.

There is an unabashed sentimentality to The Lord of the Rings that I have always found to be deeply reassuring.

Also just a quick note to say that Tolkien inspired me to write poetry of my own. Tolkien was also a gateway to Games Workshop.

It is no accident that my profile pic on twitter shows me with key influences displayed. One of which is the Tolkien rune pendant bought for me by my wife.

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

I do little else but recommend Tolkien’s work! The fact is Tolkien has informed my worldview significantly. While his disdain for allegory is well documented there are aspects of his principles that seep through. I too am Catholic and it is fair to say that Tolkien reinforced & articulated certain principles I hold dear. My stance on the death penalty (vigorous opposition) is in part based on faith & politics but informed and articulated by “It was pity that stayed his hand”, etc.

Speaking of politics – I am of a Socialist mien (and even my Catholoicism is Liberation Theology based) and fully au fait with the knowledge that Tolkien would not be enamoured with me. No matter. While speaking at a Trade Union conference I took the liberty of quoting Tolkien/Gandalf on the subject of the attacks on library services (and society as a whole as I see it). “He that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom”. There is a power in his words. That alone is reason enough to recommend.


To talk with David Hamblin about Tolkie, you can find him on Twitter!

Terence Aries’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (95)

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 Terence 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 Terence Aries’s responses:


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

It began, as it so often does, with my mother handing me The Hobbit when I was looking for something to read. I must’ve been seven at the time and had just come off Watership Down. I was quickly taken by the book and fascinated by the runes on the map in the front. Even more so when my mother told me what those runes meant (she had translated them herself) and then showed me how it corresponded with the English words. A year later I began the first of many readings of The Lord of the Rings and it was that book, together with Watership Down, that drove me to start reading in English at a very early age and I’ve never stopped since. Between readings of The Lord of the Rings my mother also supplied me with copies of Tolkien’s other works such as Mr. Bliss and Leaf by Niggle (a story that I quickly dismissed and only very recently read for the second time, this time appreciating it far more than originally).

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

The little nooks and crannies. The sketched descriptions of places such as Brandybuck Hall that allows you to fill in the details using your own imagination. Where does the road in Ithilien lead, where the crossroads? But also the descriptions of the landscape and weather. Some people might find it too much, but I can feel the blanket of warmth and hear the lazy buzzing of insects when the Hobbits come to the Withywindle at the tail end of summer.

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

There’s too many I think, it is always a sense of homecoming. But looking back, those times my mother said “Are you ready for more? Here’s LOTR. Want more? Here’s The Silmarillion. Want more? Here’s Unfinished Tales, sending me farther into this world than she herself had ever gone must take precedence.

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

Of course it has, as a child I read it for the sense of wonder and adventure, as I grew older I found more layers; the similarities to WW1 for instance. And it was only recently that I noticed the perfect description of Frodo’s PTSD when they pass Weathertop or Bilbo’s instructions to Frodo to take all the notes and books and finish them, he wouldn’t be too critical of the results. Which exactly what Christopher ended up doing.

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

We just gave the Hobbit to my 10 year old nephew with the promise that there is more…

Josh Chaffin’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (94)

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 Josh 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 Josh Chaffin’s responses:


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

My mother showed me the Rankin Bass adaptation of The Hobbit, which I believe she checked out from our local library on VHS. She then would also read to us from the book as a bedtime story. As I understand it, one of her dates with my father was to see the Bakshi Lord of the Rings animated film, and that’s how she was introduced to Middle-earth. She in turn introduced me and my sister.

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

The fact that evil is never vanquished once and for all, it’s a constant battle, but it is a battle that will be won eventually. We must learn to find the light in the dark places.

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

That would be a tie between listening to my mother read Tolkien’s works to me, and listening to my father narrate his own recollections of the events of Lord of the Rings at the dinner table.

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

Yes. I used to read them just for lighthearted fun, but as I age, I find immersing myself in the Legendarium for escape from everyday life has become more a necessary aspect of survival. Instead of reading for mere entertainment, I read for encouragement and rejuvenation.

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

Absolutely would recommend him. His works as a whole have helped solidify the way I view the world around me, and I believe everyone has something to learn from it, to help them grow and function as a human being.


If you want to connect with Josh Chaffin, you can do so on Twitter!

SheilaMS’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (93)

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 SheilaMS 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 SheilaMS’s responses:


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

I first heard about Tolkien through a fella I was dating in the late months of 1971.  Having just graduated from high school, a private Catholic institution that provided me with what most people today might consider a college degree in liberal arts, I was a green teenager.  Working as a photo finisher because I had no money for college, I lived in a house with a group of girls from the photo shop and from high school. We had no TV. Books provided me with my only solitary entertainment.  Of course the fella and his friends, who included me in their little clique, loved to stay up all night on weekends drinking Mountain Dew and playing cards. The smoking of “pipe weed” would sometimes be added to enliven the atmosphere.  By and large, we were a harmless group who would retire at about 5 AM to the local Hasty Tasty Pancake House for bacon and eggs after a hard night of Euchre.

Not as studious as I but a graduate of the same high school, this fella surprised me one day by showing me a set of three books he had obtained from an old Army pal.  Entitled The Lord of the Rings, he called it fantasy.  As he finished each book, he loaned it to me.  While my relationship with the fella fizzled, my fascination with Tolkien did not.  In my twenties, I re-read LotR several more times.

But not until many years later did I read The Hobbit.  This peculiar reverse order of my introduction to Tolkien shaped my initial impressions of his work.  I didn’t understand the Ring’s influence on its bearer until I read The Hobbit, because of course, the Ring’s sway immediately prompted Bilbo to lie to Gandalf about his encounter with Gollum.  Only in the last 10 years did I read The Silmarillion.  And since my first encounter with The Lord of the Rings I’ve read it and The Hobbit many, many, times.  I now have electronic copies of the big five (Silmarillion, Hobbit, LotR) that I use for research.  The power of NOOK enables me to enjoy frequent lookups and cross indexing as never before. My library continues to grow thanks to the hard work of Christopher Tolkien who I understand has published the last of his father’s works.  I received the Histories of Middle-earth, 12 books in 3 volumes, for Christmas and reading The Fall of Gondolin currently winds me down at night.

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

Without a doubt, every word that Tolkien writes about Hobbits.

Through Hobbits (halflings, as he has other characters call them), Tolkien tells us that if we live up to even half of our potential, we can be heroic and courageous, simple and kind, and that the everyday things we do celebrate life.  I think Peter Jackson’s movies totally miss this very important point.

Jackson’s Boromir belittles Frodo, calling him “little one” and in one scene, brushes snow out of Frodo’s hair as if he is a small child when Frodo is undoubtedly older than Boromir.  By the Bruinen, Jackson gives Arwen a scene facing down the Ringwraiths that was given to Frodo by Tolkien. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo defies the Nine himself riding alone on Asfaloth.  And Jackson omits “The Scouring of the Shire” from his film trilogy. Tolkien brings his trilogy full circle in this chapter of Return of the King.  Hobbits demonstrate their strength, resilience, leadership, and skill freeing the Shire of its captors.  (I omitted other examples for the sake of brevity but anyone who watches the movies with me understands that Jackson’s short shrift of Hobbits is a sore point with me.)

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

Although I love the movies and can, by no means, match my knowledge of Tolkien’s many works with any true scholar, my love and my ultimate pleasure lies in re-reading Tolkien’s stories.  Tolkien created a dangerous world where good, after much toil, overcomes evil and realized hopes triumph over bleak despairs. But I think my real enjoyment derives from the many beautiful words Tolkien created to tell his tales.  One cannot turn a page without discovering some unique name, poem, or phrase in Quenya or Sindarin – names like Lύthien Tinύviel, Mithrandir, Lothlórien, and Arwen Undómiel – that sing without music. Even Lobelia Sackville-Baggins possesses a certain charm.  Oddly, people who say they cannot ‘wade through’ The Lord of the Rings complain most often about the many proper names Tolkien uses.  To me, they provide the magic.

In that spirit, most of what I study focuses on Sindarin.  As a retired software engineer who no longer studies computer languages or anything else full time, my interests include needlework and grandchildren to whom I write letters using the Anglo-Saxon runes.  They each have a card made by me that gives them the key using the standard ‘The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.’

unnamed And my approach has become much broader than Tolkien’s original published fantasy. The Children of Hύrin, The Fall of Arthur, The Fall of Gondolin, The History of Middle-earth, The History of The Lord of The Rings, Unfinished Tales Vol I-II, and about 8 different versions of The Hobbit live on my bookshelves.  I even purchased the Latin translation.

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

My most recent acquisition, J.R.R. Tolkien A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter, arrived today and adds to other titles about the Master, himself, including The Inklings and The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien.  I could go on and on having acquired books of maps, books of illustrations, books on the movies, companion books, books on Sindarin, books on how to write Tolkien’s invented languages, and so many collectibles that in every corner of my home, I can see some part of Tolkien’s fantasy world but I should probably stop here.  In short, my first casual approach to Tolkien has intensified over the years and my husband, good man that he is, surprises me every year with figures and jewelry from the Weta Workshop in New Zealand. I even have the full-scale Sting, made in Spain, hanging on the wall in my office.

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

I think everyone could get something good from Tolkien’s work.  The man was a genius. And who doesn’t need to take a trip away from the very real problems plaguing the world today?  But my kids, who love the Jackson movies, just won’t sit down and read the books. My oldest granddaughter has the books and all three grandkids have read The Hobbit.  They probably read it because when they were younger and came to my house every weekend, I read one chapter to them every night before they went to bed.  I did all the characters in different voices – I still do a respectable Gollum – and they loved it. Having that exposure at such a young age got them interested in Middle-earth.  As they get older, I hope they read The Lord of the Rings.  Once they do that, they will want to read The Silmarillion.  I’ve told them parts of that story when the movies reference it.  At least they know where to get it!

Since I only recently discovered podcasts, my current project involves listening to all the past episodes of  “The Prancing Pony Podcast” and since Microsoft took it upon themselves to change the format of True Type fonts to something that doesn’t support Dan Smith’s Fantasy Fonts, I may try to contact him about redoing his fonts in the new format.  Mostly, I intend to read Tolkien until my eyes are too tired to see. His stories fascinate me, his characters engage me, and his world draws me in as no other story teller ever has or ever will.


You can find SheilaMS on Twitter, where she talks about Tolkien and other topics!

Catherine Warr’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (92)

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 Catherine 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 Catherine Warr’s responses:


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

I remember the moment very clearly. I hadn’t watched or read anything Tolkien when I was little, and the first time I experienced it was when I was walking round a car boot sale when I was very young, when out of the corner of my eye I spotted the DVD of The Fellowship of the Ring. I hadn’t a clue what it was, but, being interested in knights and castles and all things fantasy, I thought I’d give it a shot. I was hooked immediately.

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

I touch on this in a later question, but the depictions of the Shire and Rohan always were particularly powerful for me. The Shire was quintessential, picture-postcard England, a romanticised, pre-Industrial Arcadia which nevertheless touched on something real. The fight for survival of the Shire always struck me particularly powerfully as I view the same thing to be happening today. I’ve come to appreciate that latter aspect more nowadays, as I’m older. When I was younger, I was obsessed with Rohan – I just loved the aesthetic and how it mirrored the Anglo-Saxons.

Finally, growing up as a tomboy, I was always incredibly grateful for characters like Eowyn who weren’t typical girls, because I could finally relate to her. I hated dolls and dresses and makeup, and whereas most fantasy stories have their female princesses obsessed with exactly that, I was finally happy to have a fictional female character who legitimised my own interests – showing me it was okay for me to want to play with swords.

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

Not an experience per se, but how it influenced me growing up. Every since I can remember, every week my parents took me out to visit a historic house, castle, museum, site of interest etc, and, as kids do, I would often project LOTR onto places I visited. Visiting a forest? I’d imagine epic battles between orcs and Aragorn. Visiting something Anglo-Saxon? That’s straight out of Rohan. LOTR was for a long time my obsession and informed, for a long time, my interpretation of the world. Tolkien’s Shire was the perfect, idealistic vision of the countryside I’d go for rides out in, and it still forms my mental image of perfect England – *my* England.

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

I’ve found that, as I’ve got older, I’ve come to notice and understand the analogies and metaphors in The Lord of the Rings more than when I was a kid. When I was younger, it was just a jolly good fantasy romp. But now, I’ve come to appreciate the deeper meanings. For example, though not explicitly intended by Tolkien, the way characters describe the power of the Ring comes very close to descriptions of the power and effects of sin, and Tolkien’s Catholicism almost might have had something of a subconscious influence on this.

I’ve found his descriptions of the Shire particularly more powerful now, especially with the theme of the destruction of the countryside and ‘old ways’ of life for the purpose of advancements in technology and industry – it’s something I never grasped as a kid.

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

Of course! It formed a huge obsession of mine as a kid and really shaped my interests and activities. LOTR often gets criticised for being too simplistic, too goodies-vs-baddies, in contrast to works like A Song of Ice and Fire. But I think that’s missing the point – we never, for example, say that Beauty and the Beast is unrealistic, because we understand that that was never the point or intention. LOTR is the most magnificent modern expression of the most fundamental theme in world storytelling – of the triumph of good over evil.


You can hear more from Catherine at her YouTube channel: Yorkshire’s Hidden History!

Phil Dean’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (91)

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 Phil 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 Phil Dean‘s responses:


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

Well it’s been the best part of forty years since I discovered Tolkien, so my recollection of this is slightly hazy. I do remember my parents buying me The Lord of the Rings as a gift, and I still have the rather battered and worn remains of these three books to this day – the 1981 Unwin editions, complete with the gorgeous cover art of Pauline Baynes. But I think prior to this I had been enthralled by a copy of The Hobbit I’d borrowed from the school library, attracted by Tolkien’s own marvelously evocative cover painting, which led to me spending an awful lot of time drawing mountain ranges of my own!

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

I’d have to say The Lord of the Rings. Because it’s such a lengthy tale, you get to immerse yourself in Middle-earth for such a long time, to the point where I find it really rather depressing to have to leave it at the end. I’ll try and find time to read it every year or two, and I never enjoy it any less for knowing it so well. But I find The Silmarillion to be a jaw-droppingly awesome piece of work, one which I’ve learnt to appreciate more and more the older I get. This is the real heart of Tolkien’s work, and it is a truly astonishing achievement. And I feel like it would be remiss of me not to mention “Leaf By Niggle,” a little work of genius which I think gives us a very insightful look at Tolkien himself.

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

This is going to perhaps sound rather heretical to some, but spending a day at Hobbiton in New Zealand was amazing. I know that of course in reality it’s simply a movie set, but I loved Peter Jackson’s movies and – for good or bad – his superb visual representation of many of the locations in The Lord of the Rings have become embedded in my mind, and many others. Having an ale in The Green Dragon was brilliant, but standing outside Bag End brought a tear to my eye. “In a hole in the ground their lived a hobbit” – and there I was actually standing outside the front door of that hole. Sure, it’s not really that hole, but it felt like it was. I’ve travelled a lot and visited countless historical marvels, but this felt as real as any of them to me.

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

Yes, very much so. First and foremost I love the stories for what they are – great stories, and that hasn’t changed at all. And I’ve always loved reading mythology and history, so I was able to appreciate what a great work The Silmarillion was outside of the stories themselves. But it wasn’t until I started listening to the podcasts of the Tolkien Professor (Corey Olsen) five or six years ago that I truly began to understand Tolkien’s work on a deeper level. Olsen revealed so many layers that I’d been hitherto unaware of, and it felt like I discovered the books all over again. Realising that Bombadil was actually speaking in a sort of accentual Anglo-Saxon verse blew my mind!

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

Absolutely I would – at least to a certain type of person. Tolkien is one of the best writers at connecting us to something buried deep inside, to a world of faerie, of fantasy. To something other than everyday existence. I think the human mind needs this, and is much poorer when bereft of it. It is perhaps the one place we’re truly free. Of course many people are not going to read about elves or hobbits regardless of how good the story is, and that’s just fine – there are many other gateways to walk through!


You can find much more from Phil Dean on his website!

Paul Wulfrun’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (90)

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 Paul 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 Paul Wulfrun’s responses:


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

My Father (who had also read Tolkien as a child) bought me a fourth edition copy of The Hobbit from a thrift shop in our local area when I was around 6 years of age. It was old, a little beaten up, but it was the first book I ever owned that smelled like an actual book!

On that note, I would like to thank Craig Holland from 7C (as it states on the first page of my copy) for donating your book and giving me years of good reading since. This very week I have begun reading it to my two children for the first time and I hope that they find it as magical and enthralling as I did.

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

His ability to weave a story that seems ageless and wide. Even in his smaller works such as ‘Smith of Wootton Major’, through a mere 16 pages he crafts a world you can visualise and immerse yourself within.

Then, to truly craft a universe, he builds history and bloodlines, ties characters from the past to those of present day, allowing their tales to be woven into a tapestry equal to the epics of Indo-European mythology.

One of his many goals was to make a universe that felt commonplace within the history of our own and I believe he achieved this better than any author to date.

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

The first time I heard Tolkien recite elvish for the first time. Specifically, ‘Namárië’ (more commonly known as ‘Farewell to Lorien’) whose lines are given to Galadriel within the texts.

Any time I hear elvish recited properly (be it Sindarin, Quenyan, Noldorin, etc) it is truly a beautiful and profound experience. Howard Shore’s fantastic soundscape for the films brought it to a whole new level.

As an aside, visiting a Tolkien Moot and a trip to New Zealand are two experiences sitting readily on my Bucket list!

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

Being young when I was first entrenched into the world of Tolkien, my first reads focussed on the drama, the quicker paced areas surrounding war and battle. Now that I am older, I love sitting within the words of each paragraph, delving into them to understand the knowledge, pretence and prophecy that they hold within the story. The minds of Hammond, Scull, Olsen, Shippey and many more have allowed me to acquire further meaning and I love diving ever deeper into his mythos. To the point where I almost love The Silmarillion more than the main work.

I also love to collect quotes, of which the one I have chosen to ponder this week is;

Do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend: the city of the Men of Numenor. – Faramir

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

As a teacher and educator, I always find myself recommending Tolkien’s works for one reason or another.

The Hobbit is a fantastic introduction to greater fiction for primary readers, with many of his lesser works adding to the library of resources that can be utilised to study English and writing. His works are so wonderfully crafted that all of them can scale accordingly for any year level.

From a personal point of view, I want people to read his work so I can discuss it with them, to inspire and give a story of hope within a masterfully crafted fantasy setting the likes of which we more than likely will not ever see again.

Nathan Pope’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (89)

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 Nathan 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 Nathan Pope’s responses:


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

I admit that I was a late comer to Tolkien’s work. I had not heard of any of his works till The Fellowship of the Ring came out in theaters. I was in 8th grade and had seen the trailers and the character busts at the local movie theater. I was interested but I have to admit that I thought the whole thing strange, I mean dwarves and elves and trolls? I had only children’ stories to guide my thinking. For Christmas break my parents took us to the movies and I figured I would give it a try. I ended up seeing the movie 7 times that break, needless to say, I was hooked. In addition to seeing the movie 7 times, I also read the whole Lord of the Rings in a week and a half. I then moved onto The Hobbit. I did not discover The Silmarillion until summer break and I do admit that although I made it all the way through I did not understand most of it. I read and read all three volumes so much that by the time The Two Towers came out I was waiting in line for the midnight showing and more excited than I can ever remember being.

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

My favorite parts of Tolkien’s work are the rich histories and back stories that permeate everywhere. Every time I read some of Tolkien’s work, which is constant because I am on a never ceasing rotation, I am also impressed by how rich the world is and how even the slightest character has been given thought and depth.

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

The Fellowship of the Ring movie is still  my favorite of all the movies and no matter what I am doing I will stop and watch if given the chance, extended edition of course.

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

My approach has changed somewhat over time in regards to Tolkien’s works. In the beginning I was ever thirsty for more and always eager to discover more that I had not read. Now I still attack and absorb the material but in a deeper way, hoping to recover that first time experience and feeling with a deeper understanding and closer reading of the text.

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

I would of course recommend and have done so. I am a middle school teacher and I am actually teaching The Hobbit this year to my students. We are doing it during our activity period and it has been wonderful. It is slow going because of the frequent stops to answer questions and the even more frequent digressions into the text but both the students and myself are having a great time.