Marie Prosser’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (46)

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 Marie 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 Marie Prosser’s responses:


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

Honestly, my first introduction to Tolkien’s work was the Rankin/Bass Hobbit and Return of the King films, which my family had copies of on VHS, and I did read The Hobbit as a middle school student. None of this was particularly memorable, though, and I have to say that the Rankin/Bass Return of the King barely spoiled the books at all ;). I read The Lord of the Rings when I was 12, and that was what began a lifelong love of Tolkien’s work.

How it happened was like this: The summer before seventh grade, I wanted to read Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, but for whatever reason, could not find a copy of it at the library. So, I was going through the bookshelf in my parent’s office (the one that had their old college textbooks on it), and was quite pleased to find a selection of novels that included the Jules Verne book. Next to it was the Ballantine paperback copies of Lord of the Rings, which I was not overly excited about at the time. But after I finished the book I wanted, I did eventually pick them up. The covers were…not encouraging, to say the least, but I remembered liking The Hobbit, so. I of course enjoyed them immensely. I had reached Return of the King by Christmas break, and I remember I was supposed to be finishing an art project (a grid drawing of a bird). I sat at the bookshelf in my bedroom, and I would read a chapter, then work on the drawing, read a chapter…. I still have that drawing, and it reminds me of the first time I read the books. My mother got it framed for me, because she knew I liked it so much. I re-read the books for the first time in 9th grade, and then again in 10th grade. I don’t really re-read them any more, but that’s mostly because at this point I know them so well I don’t need to; I just look up passages when I want to.

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

I am most partial to The Silmarillion. I love that story, and what he did with creating such a poignant story where everyone fails but there’s still a hopeful ending. The Silmarillion hurts sometimes, but it is so beautiful and I love it.

The part of Tolkien’s writing I love the most is his love of trees and stars. I too love trees and stars, and at this point, it’s difficult for me to say whether I love these things because I read Tolkien, or if I love Tolkien because he shares my love of these things. It is not unusual for me to greet Orion (I mean Menelmacar) when I go outside at night, just as the elves Frodo met in the Shire do.

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

Oh, that’s an easy one! ALEP. A Long Expected Party is a Tolkien-themed event in the Shaker Village outside Lexington, Kentucky every three years. It is AMAZING and I love it very much. The people I’ve met there have become good friends. What kinds of friends? Well, I live with one of them; that’s where I met my roommate. I went on vacation with a bunch of them in June. And I’ve visited Banff and Calgary’s Stampede because one of them invited me to her place. I dated someone who also attends the event, which involved explaining to immigration how we met. So, yeah. It is dear to my heart and important to me and just amazing from so many points of view – hiking in the woods in costume, hanging out at a bonfire, recreating Bilbo’s birthday party, music and dancing, singing ‘Rolling Down the Hole’ at the top of my voice at 2 AM – you know, a good time! Oh, and I teach a Tengwar class there.

Second choice would be visiting Tolkien’s grave in Oxford. I sat next to it and had a nice long conversation, and then left a green stone that I’d brought with me.

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

Certainly. When I first read the book, I mostly just thought about it. I would close my eyes and picture the forests of Middle-earth, and my teacher would ask me if I was meditating. I did make some sketches, I suppose, but I didn’t really know how to engage with a book yet.

When I was in high school, I tackled the Appendices more seriously. I taught myself how to write in runes, and I would often doodle on my schoolwork in them. I would make copies of the runic alphabet for my friends, so they could read the messages I wrote. My boyfriend even wrote a font program so I could type in runes; the first thing I typed was ‘bright blue my jacket is and my boots are yellow.’ I wrote ‘A Elbereth Gilthoniel’ on the wall in the set room during the school musical. I checked Humphrey Carpenter’s biography out of the school library, and was saddened to learn that Tolkien died before I was born – I called a friend and told her that we weren’t even alive at the same time! [The Balantine books I’d read were printed in 1972 and had the ‘respect for living authors’ disclaimer on the back, so it was news to me.] I read The Silmarillion and disliked it. I told my sister about it, though, and she said she wanted to marry Finrod (or Ulmo). A friend lent me Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings after we’d wandered around talking about Tolkien’s work for hours. I also came across the artwork of the Brothers Hildebrandt; I liked Galadriel’s Mirror the best.

When I was in college, I took a slightly more academic approach. My geography class required me to go to the library every week to view videos, and while I was there, I would go up to the Tolkien section and check out a different book of literary criticism on him each week. I was largely disappointed. Tom Shippey’s The Road to Middle-earth was the only one that actually taught me something new. I also read Letters and discovered what Tolkien’s opinion of a young American engineer was (that’s what I was at the time, so.) Luckily for me, I went on to take a few medieval history classes, so I likely wouldn’t have made the faux pas about feudalism. Whew! My college roommate (and best friend) learned Tengwar with me, and we wrote on each other’s notes during the classes we took together.

Then, the summer of ’99 was consumed by ‘So, did you hear they’re making a movie of Lord of the Rings?’ and I discovered online messageboards (my home was TORc, TheOneRing.com) Conveniently, Tolkien’s books were on my bookshelf, within reach of my computer, so I learned the ‘look it up!’ rule of answering questions in online discussions. My time there discussing Tolkien’s books in detail with other fans is most of the reason why I know Tolkien’s writing so well. I also decided to read the books aloud to my brothers in 2000. My youngest brother had requested The Hobbit when he was five, mostly because he liked Rankin/Bass’ Gollum, but now he was ten, so I thought he was ready for it. Each evening that summer, I would come home from work, swordfight with my brothers in the backyard using sticks, and then read Lord of the Rings to them after dinner. I drew them a sketch of Helm’s Deep (with labels!) so they could understand the battle and answered their questions as we went. It was a lot of fun, for me and them! I went on to recount most of the stories in The Silmarillion to my youngest brother while I was painting our parents’ living room. He would ask me questions, and I would tell him about First Age elves. I should not be terribly surprised that his middle school reading included Hamlet and The Silmarillion. He is still an avid reader to this day and loves fantasy; he’s currently trying to get me to read The Name of the Wind.

After college, my best friend made me a fleece cloak. It was a revelation to me that if the clothes you wanted to wear didn’t exist in the store to buy, you could make them yourself! I learned how to sew with my mother’s help, and made a dress with lacing on the back and a bodice. The bodice became part of my Hobbit costume and I still wear it. In 2004, I wrote my first fanfiction. It was about hobbits, and mostly nothing happened :P. I went on to write about Maedhros trapped in the Halls of Mandos and a young Elrond at the end of the First Age. I also read a lot of other people’s fanfiction and discovered another way to engage with Tolkien’s work. In fanfic, the whole point was to expand the story, to make your own choices and decisions about what these characters would do, what these places were like, how events unfold. Tolkien’s ‘unexplored vistas’ call out for that! I also discovered the artists Anke Eissmann, Jenny Dolfen, and Catherine Karina Chmiel who imagined Tolkien’s world visually in a way I found very appealing. Their love for The Silmarillion (and certain Sons of Fëanor!) likely keep me coming back to them as my favorite Tolkien artists.

As a teacher, I had opportunities to work Tolkien into my classroom. Did you know that there are examples of all the various types of erosion in The Hobbit? My earth science students found that out when they had to match the passage to the vocab word. Did you know that blond hair travels in hobbit families the same way it does in human families? My biology students got to study inheritance patterns in hobbit family trees. And of course I could always write what was happening in Middle-earth under the date. On October 6th, it was dark in the dell under Weathertop….

I discovered conventions and costuming, starting in 2006 at the Gathering of the Fellowship in Toronto. (Oh, I also had the opportunity to see the Lord of the Rings musical in both Toronto and London; it was very interesting, but not necessarily good. I liked it!) I’ve already mentioned ALEP, so you know where this goes, and I’ve also attended DragonCon three times. My costumes include: an orc, an ent, Varda, Elwing, Curufin, random wood elves and hobbits. Oh, and I made a costume for Finduilas of Dol Amroth specifically so I could make the starry mantle but not wear a blond wig for Eowyn 😛 The costumes from Peter Jackson’s film are very lovely, but I’ve never made a recreation of one. I did get to see them up close at the exhibit in Boston, which was fun.

Most recently, my efforts have been directed towards the Silmarillion Film Project, contributing to a collaborative group effort to adapt The Silmarillion to a television series, spearheaded by Corey Olsen with the help of Trish Lambert and Dave Kale. I mostly help with script outlining, but it’s been great to work with artists – we have maps, we have costumes, we have location scouting, we have artwork…everything you would need to create for this adaptation is fair game to tackle. So there’s been all sorts of fun conversations, like how do the Light of the Trees influence the architecture of Tirion (do all the windows face west?) and what visual changes does Melkor undergo when he is transitioning from fair-seeming to tyrant of Angband, and how do you handle first contact between the elves and the dwarves?

The short answer: I have transitioned from being a passive reader to engaging the text academically, and then later creatively, and I feel that this last is the most fruitful and rewarding, so I intend to keep doing it. I also very much enjoy reading Tolkien’s work aloud.

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

Yes, of course. It’s very good. I would say that The Lord of the Rings is one of the best books ever written, and that it has surprisingly few flaws. People love it for a reason. But I take a strict ‘no pushing’ policy. I have friends and family members who have never read Tolkien’s work, and I do not push them to do so. I recognize that it is not to everyone’s taste, so if someone tells me that they prefer nonfiction to fiction, I’m not going to say, “You know what you should read? Lord of the Rings!” But at the same time, everyone knows I love it. It’s one of the first five things you learn about me, typically – you either find out that I’ve lived in Ethiopia, I’m Catholic, I used to teach high school, I grew up as the oldest of five kids on an apple orchard…or that I love Tolkien.


If you want to hear more from Marie Prosser, check out his great SFF blog: https://domnardireviews.wordpress.com or follow him on twitter: @Nardiviews

Marcel Aubron-Bülles’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (45)

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 Marcel 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 Marcel Aubron-Bülles’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

A really bad sunburn on the first day of our family’s holidays beside the Adriatic Sea in then Yugoslavia confined me to our quarters – and there was that horribly green German three volume edition of The Lord of the Rings.

For the next two days and nights I barely slept and only rarely left the room I was reading the books in. Returning home to Cologne I became one of the youngest members ever of a British Council library and found The Hobbit, The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, Pictures, Journeys of Frodo by Barbara Strachey and The Book of Lost Tales I + II and The Lays of Beleriand.

When I had finished those I started reading historical fiction, introductions into Welsh and Old English, and asked the local English bookshop whether they had “something like Tolkien.”

They gave me The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett.

The rest is, as they say, history.

What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

I have to say that in the course of years with different interests shaping and/ or changing my imagination (including the study of British and American History as well as English Literature and Linguistics) I have come to appreciate different things at different times. The Lord of the Rings is, of course, to this day the single most important book in my life; however, I have come to adore and appreciate and respect other titles not generally considered ‘Middle-earth’, that is, his scholarly or Non-Middle-earth works.

Finn and Hengest, for example, I have reasons to assume to be a manuscript for a modern ‘CSI: Linguistics’ TV series; On Fairy-Stories is to me – even if the wording or the argument itself may not sound as polished as one might wish – on the same level as E.M. Forster expounding qualities of the novel as such; Letters from Father Christmas is such a whimsical, lovingly illustrated quasi-autobiography of the writer and father that you can either simply read them out to a rapt audience or mine them for background information on the development of the ‘Legendarium’; and the list continues …

What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

The fact I had the privilege and honour to found a literary society promoting interest in the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien which in its twenty year existence has grown to an incredible source of community activities, scholarly publications and events, and the fellowship such societies offer around the world.

Plus: I met my wife Sauronita thanks to the Professor.
Nota bene: The nickname was given by Melkor. No pun intended.

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

Yes, certainly – in the sense of a wider range of approaches to Tolkien’s life and works. It is obvious that theology, medievalist studies and any linguistic efforts are at the forefront of scholarly work in terms of JRRT. However, there are many other fields of interest which can shed light on many still undiscovered aspects of Tolkien’s imagination.

I am particularly interested in the reception of Tolkien’s works in the public eye and the fandom they have spawned, its past, present and future. As I have been a Tolkien activist and volunteer for 25+ years now (and a ‘fan’ myself for more than thirty) I am very much looking forward to be part of this outstanding group of people everywhere in the world, whatever the individual focus may be.

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

Yes, I would.

As the long-time chairman to a Tolkien society it was, of course, my job to convince people to become members of our society and I am very proud to this day that at one fantasy festival of about 150 people which took place in an old medieval castle I managed to convince five people to join us in one evening – the last one demanding I would offer my back so he could sign the application form on it – as it happened in Schwarzenegger’s rendition of “Running Man.” And no, I was spared the pain … he simply signed 😉

But aside from such anecdotes of which there are many I would always ask the person in question first what they do like – is it drama, is it tragedy, is it light-hearted comedy, is it high epic fantasy? – and then I would chose from the wide range of options available a title that person will probably never have heard of as many do not know about Tolkien’s ‘minor works.’ They offer such different approaches there’s always something out there to suggest.

If I needed to supply catch words they would possibly be: heroic romance, epic fantasy, fellowship, literary classics, fandom (always depending on the individual sales pitch!) But again, I would work from what I was being offered by the person asking me for suggestions and then decide what needed to be said or suggested.

I incidentally coined the slogan “Literature. Fantasy. Fandom” for the German Tolkien Society to quickly explain at fairs and conventions what we do as a society – and it has helped people to better understand how we see ourselves and what we do provide as a community of Arda Activists [another term I coined just now. It’s a term-in-development but I think there is potential in this.]

And that is how I would recommend Tolkien to anyone appreciative of (fantasy) literature – there is so much to explore on so many different levels you’ll have quite a few books to read.

There is nobody like him. You might as well read books.

Why not?


For more Tolkien- related material from Marcel Aubron-Bülles, you can find him on Twitter or Instagram, or follow his blog: The Tolkienist.

Artnoose’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (44)

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 Artnoose 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 Artnoose’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

As a child (maybe around age 7), I watched the Rankin Bass animated movie of The Hobbit. Either I saw it several times, or else the Gollum scene really made an impression on me, but I remember playing Gollum tag with my sister and cousin, where were would take turns chasing each other while saying, “Precioussss… my precioussss…” I never ended up reading any of the books until adulthood, when the LotR movies started coming out. I had just gone through a difficult break-up and wanted to immerse myself in escapist fantasy fiction. I figured that four books full of hobbits and elves would do the trick, and I was right! At the time, my housemate Jenn was in the terminal stage of cancer, and I would talk to her about what I was reading. I remember complaining about how much singing people did and that I just kind of breezed through the poetry. Jenn would chide me, “Artnoose! Don’t skip the poems!!” Even today, my copy of The Silmarillion is the one I got from her when she died.

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

I was asked this question recently by a nine-year-old, and I had to think about it for a minute because I had never really thought about what specifically I liked. I decided that for me the biggest draw is the extensive world-building Tolkien did. The thing about Tolkien is that you can delve as deeply or shallowly as you like. There are people who can read just The Hobbit and LotR trilogy and leave it at that, maybe even reading those works many times over their lifetime. While that’s completely fine, other people can dive into The Silmarillion and learn the many back stories that inform the major works. What I found is that once I got that far in, I learned (primarily through the Tolkien Professor podcasts by this point) that if I wanted, I could explore even further because of all the work Tolkien did on the languages and histories of the people of Middle-earth. The wealth of information that Tolkien left behind (and that Christopher Tolkien has sifted through) can enrich the readings of the main texts, and yet even still, there are mysteries (such as the fate of the Entwives) that invite further wondering.

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

One fond experience I can think of is listening to the LotR audiobook during my pregnancy. I was determined to finish before the baby came, and I was doing pretty well until I decided to be a full completist and listen to the appendices, too. I hit a “nesting” point where my due date was approaching and my sister was getting ready to fly into town. I was cleaning my living room while listening to the long family trees of Dwarves and Hobbits. My kid was late, wouldn’t you know, and I did manage to finish the audiobook.

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

My reading of Tolkien’s works outside of the canonical novels has greatly enriched my experience. When I think back of my preliminary reading of the trilogy, my main takeaways were the bonds of the Fellowship and the intensity of Frodo’s suffering. After having read The Silmarillion several times and shuffling through the History of Middle Earth series, I am more aware of greater themes present in the works, such as sacrifice, hope, and chance. It is completely valid to be the kind of Tolkien fan who reads the main books frequently without bothering with any of the auxiliary texts, but I have found that even reading things like Leaf By Niggle or The Father Christmas Letters have yielded small bits of understanding that only make my subsequent readings of The Hobbit and LotR even more profound. What began as a literary escape from difficult times transitioned into a lens with which I view my passage through this life.

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

I understand that Tolkien isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and I have learned to not take it personally if someone hates or is disinterested in his work. I tend to recommend it only if someone is vaguely interested in a Medievalist form of fantasy fiction to begin with. I struggle sometimes with wanting to recommend Tolkien to my son, who currently is six years old. I think he knows by now that Tolkien is kind of my thing, so he resists it somewhat. He also thinks that it’s going to be scary. I showed him the Rankin Bass animated Hobbit, and while he liked it and didn’t think it was too scary, he also doesn’t really talk about it or ask to watch it again. Sometimes he says he would be okay with me reading him The Hobbit, and other times he says he’s not interested. I did read him Roverandom, and again, he liked it but did not talk about it afterward or refer to it like he does with books he really enjoys. I got him a bunch of Medievalist fantasy children’s books at the library, and he has already torn through a few different series. I suspect that we will read The Hobbit at some point, and if he ever wants to read the trilogy, he knows where to find it.


Artnoose published Ker-bloom! a great letterpress zine!

Becky Dillon’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (43)

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 Becky 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 Becky Dillon’s responses:


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

“Read this,” she said as we brushed shoulder-to-shoulder in the exchange of classes back in 1965, and she pushed a strangely covered book under my nose.
“What? More unicorns and dragons and fairies? Please, Kathy, no!”
“This is different. Trust me!” I was sceptical, but I took the book from her anyway as she turned on her heel and sped away to her next class.
“Hmmm. The Two Towers. It doesn’t sound promising; more like Rapunzel…”

Of course, I was wrong.

It seemed that Kathy’s boyfriend had stumbled on this series of three books that he thought were cool and insisted that Kathy read them so they could discuss them. Kathy, in her need for support, was sharing the set with others, including me, and I got the second book because the first one was already lent out to a mutual friend who was keen to read this ‘new’ view of fantasy. Kathy, herself, was finishing the third.

Yes, I eventually got to read them in the correct order, and have been doing so every couple of years since then – albeit in one volume!

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

 My favourite part of Tolkien’s work is the imaginative children’s works; specifically Smith of Wootton Major, with Roverandom a close second. Tolkien’s love of story for the sake of story shows in his attention to detail and great sense of humour. Who else but Tolkien would invest so much time in the creation of the ‘Father Christmas Letters’ or the Girabbit in Mr Bliss’ garden? And, all of it is tied together with his own artwork. Although much of the published titles use the work of others (ie.:Pauline Baynes), Tolkien still had his own sense of art communicating the story as much as the words, and for a children’s book, pictures were a necessity.

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

As existential as it may sound, the first time I got off the train in Oxford and walked up the street to the Magdalen Martyr’s Memorial and onto St. Giles and the Eagle and Child. I knew then that I would never have a better experience with Tolkien as my reference; almost as if I was ‘reading’ Oxford for the first time.

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

Absolutely. Even after some 20+ reads of ‘Lord of the Rings,’ I have found that the more I read and discuss the more depth I find.
I am a member of an on-line reader’s group called the Grey Havens Palantír, and we are again reading LotR; being on Chapter VII, ‘In the House of Tom Bombadil.’ The previous chapter has opened up new insights, as re-reads always do, and I am always excited about new finds and new perceptions. The Story, for sake of the Story, will always intrigue me, but finding new details and new direction in the well-read text is always exciting.

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

It would depend on the person involved. There are some who would not enjoy/appreciate Tolkien, and I would like to think that I should be able to discern those characters. I have found that it takes a special character to enjoy the work and the ideals put forth, and it is that which I would need to consider before any recommendation.


For more Tolkien, follow the page that Becky Dillon contributes to on Facebook: International Tolkien Fellowship-News & Publications!

William J. Meyer’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (42)

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 William 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 William J. Meyer’s responses:


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

I was first introduced to Tolkien’s work when my older brother-in-law Brendon gave me a box set of paperbacks which included The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. These editions were the ones with the Darrell K. Sweet covers. The cardboard box was just as much a part of the reading experience as Tolkien’s words, and I would look at that art for hours. In particular, the giant eagle in its nest on the cover of The Hobbit held my rapt attention.

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

My favorite part would be the sense of one age ending and another one beginning. Especially in the final pages of Return of the King. But my favorite single moment would have to be Éowyn slaying the Witch-King.

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

I was re-reading The Lord of the Rings in college and happened to be visiting my parents. I stopped at Appendix B, where, we are told, Legolas and Gimli sail over the sea and leave Middle-earth together after the deaths of Aragorn, Merry, and Pippin. The final line is, “And when that ship passed an end was come in Middle-earth of the Fellowship of the Ring.” I felt this wave of emotion and burst into tears. Can’t really articulate why, though I reckon it felt like a dissolution of friendship, and the end of an heroic age, sure. Anyway, I was crying and my step-dad asked me to explain why. I tried to explain, but he didn’t like fantasy or sci-fi, and had no idea about Tolkien, so it was kind of a funny moment in retrospect because he was like, “What is happening?”

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

I’m sure it has, but I’m not self-aware enough to describe how.

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

Yes, I would recommend it, because I feel like a lot of classic literature, it transcends the pop culture image we have of it. And beyond all the resonant themes of mythology, it’s just plain fun!


To hear more from William J. Meyer, you can follow him on Twitter!

Putri Prihatini’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (41)

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 Putri 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 Putri Prihatini’s responses:


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

In 2002. That year, the hype for LOTR movies was high, and I went to the book store after finding out that they had been adapted from books. The Indonesian editions of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, and The Hobbit had just hit the shelves. I purchased FOTR without thinking. Later, I remember laying still on my bed late at night, thinking “Wow, what did I just read?” I later went back to the store and purchased the others. The rest is history.

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

Lots of things, but mainly how layered and sophisticated his world-building aspects are. When I was still a beginner reader, I felt like his stories were not something that happened in a fantasy world, but could have happened at some points in the past. I also love how nuanced his characters and stories are. They are not as “black and white” as some people might accuse.

Finally, I love the way Tolkien obscured many references when his characters mention history, characters, and stories from the past. He was supposedly the “know it all” in his world, but he restrained himself from revealing too much to the readers. This makes me feel the sense of mystery and wonder for the past, which results in some serious digging if I want to know more. When reading LOTR, for example, I only know as much as what the characters know, which makes me feel connected to them.

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

Reading The Silmarillion for the first time in 2005. I felt like everything that was mentioned vaguely in LOTR finally came to life, with all the tragedies, conflicts, and larger-than-life characters. Also, it was the first Tolkien’s book that I read in English. My English reading skill was still below average at that time, and it took me one year to finish the book. It was so rewarding, and my reading skill improved greatly.

More recent example was when my paper was presented at Tolkien Society Seminar 2018, by none other than Nelson Goering. While I was unable to visit due to financial reasons, I was touched because people whom I never met went out of their way to help my paper to be presented. As a person who did not have literature, Classic, linguistic, or other Tolkien-related academic backgrounds, it felt like an acknowledgment from the community.

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

Yes. The first time I read Tolkien, I was intrigued by the stories and adventures, and how it was connected with the movies I had watched, nothing more. Later, I started to notice new layers and understanding when rereading the books. When my experiences and knowledge grew, I saw more nuanced insight and new understanding about many aspects of the stories. These things prompted me to start buying more books that could help me see more behind these new layers, even outside the recommended biographies, History of Middle-earth, and Tolkien’s letter collections. In short, I grew with his books, and his books “grew” with me.

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

Yes! I will always recommend it when someone asks me about good fantasy fiction books. Tolkien’s work provides good examples of detailed world-building, powerful characters, and nuanced stories that require you to look deeper, even into the words his characters use when speaking. I would also recommend Tolkien’s non Middle-earth books, especially for new readers who just found out about Tolkien from movies.


For more thoughts on Tolkien’s life and works from Putri Prihatini, visit The Lore Master: Blog Tolkien Indonesia!

Onthetrail’s Experience –Tolkien Experience Project (40)

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 Onthetrail 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 Onthetrail’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

Tolkien books were on our shelves from as early as I can remember and when I was 7 my father and I read The Hobbit together over the Christmas holidays. I then read The Lord of the Rings shortly after. I quickly picked up The Silmarillion which was somewhat of a blur during the first read and like The Lord of the Rings took months to finish but I was already hooked.

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

As a child I would have said reading anything set in or around the Shire but now I am far more interested in Tolkien’s early forming of his imagined world, I am especially fond of The Book of Lost Tales. The Cottage of Lost Play is my favorite Tolkien work.

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

Probably reading The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and volume one of The Book of Lost Tales during a hike around North Wales.

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

I have two modes of approaching Tolkien now, so I would say yes. I read for enjoyment and also for study (which of course I enjoy but I try to focus differently). I study at the desk and I curl up on the sofa when I just sit and read for the joy of it.

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

Absolutely. If I meet people who show an interest but don’t own a copy then they always go home with a copy. Mostly a copy I picked up second hand for that purpose.

Xenia M’s–Tolkien Experience Project (40)

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 Xenia 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 Xenia M’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

I was a wannabe hippie at a very small high school in rural Ohio in the late 1960’s. There was a girl named Joyce who was further advanced in hippie-dom than I was so I looked to her for guidance. She was reading a book with a very psychedelic cover so naturally I had to get a copy. It was The Fellowship of the Ring. I don’t think Joyce ever finished the book; she mostly carried it around for effect. But I devoured it and saved my allowance money (some hippie!) for the next two volumes. I read them over and over.

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

I liked the travel sections the best when the Fellowship is traveling through woods, mountains, and Moria.

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

I used to hike a lot as a young person and imagine I was part of a Fellowship traveling through Middle-earth.

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

Yes, I have been affected by two things:

1. The Tolkien Professor’s podcasts, which led to participating live in the Tuesday and Wednesday night Mythgard classes, which led to enrolling in Signum University as a graduate student. The course work has caused me to take a more scholarly look at Tolkien’s writing. Happily, this has not been dry but actually has enhanced my enjoyment. I notice subtleties that I had previously overlooked.

2. The Peter Jackson movies, for better or for worse. Previously, I didn’t pay much attention to the battle scenes and JRRT didn’t elaborate on them too much either but the movies made the battles extremely, possibly overly, exciting. Also the monsters, such as the cave troll and the oliphants were very exciting in the movies. Also, when I read the books now I have an actor’s face for every character which I suppose is OK but not something I would have wished for.

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

Yes! Especially to people who are overly involved with politics, accounting, databases, etc. I suggest they start with The Lord of the Rings, then The Hobbit, and then The Silmarillion, in that order.

Patricia Minger’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (39)

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 Patricia 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 Patricia Minger’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

I found The Hobbit in the school library when I was about ten years old. I immediately loved it, although I don’t remember that first reading very clearly. I was one of those kids who stayed up late reading by the light of the 15-watt bulb in the hall outside my room. (Which may explain why I needed glasses by the time I was twelve.) I devoured the whole thing in about two nights running.

I did not start reading The Lord of the Rings until I was about thirteen. I dimly recall my mother saying the book was ‘too old’ for me. She never read it, so I don’t know why she thought that. Once I did start, I read it continuously about three times. The descriptions of the places enthralled me, and the adventure of it all. The maps fascinated me. I would have followed Aragorn into battle. I took Sam to my heart. I wept when Frodo left the Grey Havens.  I loved fantasy of any kind, but without knowing it, I grokked that this was the ‘deep magic’ version of the genre. To this day when I start to re-read it, I eagerly anticipate it like a new experience.

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

My favorite part of Tolkien’s work shifts with time and experience, but I have always had a great appreciation for the landscapes he paints, particularly certain breathless, stunning moments. Certainly, the environment functions as a character, one that occasionally comes to life and speaks. It was no surprise to learn that Tolkien saw with the eye of an artist. Some of his paintings express elemental visions, and are as striking as his prose.

I think the strengths of the PJ films were the visuals, and Howard Shore’s exquisite score. There are those who take exception to some of the adaptation, but those two features outweighed any possible flaws of the script. Surprisingly, my imagination limited the magnitude of scenes like the Ride of the Rohirrim, or the Mines of Moria, and the movies fully fleshed these out for me without dislodging my own impressions. And the music: the music of the Ainur! A worthy sub-creation.

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

My fondest experience of Tolkien’s work has to be the bond it has created between my sister and me. When we were growing up, it was our job to wash the dishes after dinner. For many years we took turns reading aloud, one of us working while the other read. We went through many books in those years, but my favorite was The Lord of the Rings. It has led us on many adventures together, from Mythgard and Signum University, to the A Long Expected Party (ALEP) community based in Kentucky, to midnight premieres of the movies, to Oxford and the recent Bodleian Library exhibit.

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

Naturally my approach to Tolkien has changed over the years. In my original readings, where all I had was the story in front of me, I took it at face value. In more recent times I have absorbed the scholarship of people like Verlyn Flieger, Michael Drout, Tom Shippey, Corey Olsen, and so many more, and I have experienced more depth to my readings, more questions, more attention to details. His essays, his shorter works, and Christopher Tolkien’s extensive exploration found in The History of Middle Earth of course inform my understanding and curiosity. Getting my BA in English also gave me a better idea of context.

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

Would I recommend Tolkien’s work? Yes. With the caveat that his work is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea. The Lord of the Rings is magnificent. It rises above genre in the way that all truly great works of fiction do. But I will also admit that if someone asks me ‘Would I like it?’ I do not give a quick answer. I sort of feel a protectiveness about it. I don’t want someone to read it who will not like it, or who might even hate it. I usually qualify a recommendation with the caveat that while I found it a revelation of what literature could be, I do not expect that will be everyone’s experience.


For more thoughts from Patricia Minger, see her Facebook page!

Miles S’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (38)

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 Miles 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 Miles S‘s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

I was first introduced to The Lord of the Rings when I was nine years old. I had been reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and had enjoyed it immensely. My father had a Brilliantine paperback edition of The Fellowship of the Ring (with the wonderful Barbara Remington cover art) and gave it to me, telling me, “there is a very scary part where they make a journey underground and encounter a dreadful spirit of the underworld!” I was so intrigued that I began to read it almost immediately and was soon completely engrossed in the story. Of course, The Bridge of Khazad-dum had me enthralled and I was devastated when Gandalf the Grey fell into darkness.

What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

It really is difficult for me to define what I feel is my favorite part of Tolkien’s work. I was absolutely enthralled with Middle-earth after my first (of many) readings of The Lord of the Rings, and that was not diminished by subsequent, multiple readings of The Hobbit and The Silmarillion. If anything I would have to say that perhaps those three works are my favorites of the Tolkien catalogue. I have not been quite as big a fan of most of his posthumously published material (with the exception of The Silmarillion of course which he was working on prior to his death) because I am not sure whether Professor Tolkien would have wanted this material published.

What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

One of my fondest experiences associated with Tolkien’s work is perhaps my first reading of The Silmarillion when I was 16 years of age. I had pre-ordered my copy from the local bookstore and taken the bus to pick it up the day it arrived. At first I found the narrative odd and disjointed, but being a lover of Tolkien and possessing the dogged determination that comes with young adulthood, I soldiered on and very quickly fell under the spell of the incredibly vast and complex universe that Professor Tolkien wove around me.  I found the history of the Elves to be incredibly noble and tragic, and the story of Feanor, the Silmarils and the flight of the Noldor to Middle Earth reminded me of the legends and myths I had read in books on ancient Greek/Roman and Norse mythology. I keenly remember reading of the Dagor Bragollach and the madness of Fingolfin; of his riding forth alone to Angband to challenge Morgoth to single combat. When I read the line “and Morgoth came” the hairs rose on the back of my neck and a shock of fearful anticipation coursed through me like an electric current. There have been very few times, before or since when the written word has been able to elicit that kind of a response in me.

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

Of course my approach to Tolkien’s work has changed over time. After multiple readings of his work, and vastly more experience gained through reading the works of other authors, my appreciation of Tolkien has been modified and placed in the context of a greater appreciation of literature in general.

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

As for recommending Tolkien, I have been doing so ever since I first experienced his work. I think part of the genius of Tolkien’s work is that it is approachable by readers of any calibre. One only has to look at the popularity of the very simplistic, commercial movie versions of his work to see how it can appeal across a large demographic.