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.

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TEP #2-Janet Brennan Croft

Our second guest on the Tolkien Experience Podcast is an editor, scholar, and librarian who has been a prolific contributor to the field of Tolkien studies: Janet Brennan Croft!

rskMSfB5_400x400Janet Brennan Croft is the editor of Mythlore, one of the most well-respected English-language peer-reviewed journals in the world that focuses on Tolkien and other mythopoeic literature. In addition to editing this influential journal, Croft has edited several collected volumes of scholarship, and is perhaps best known for her monograph: War and the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien, which won the 2005 Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inklings Studies. We are very excited that she agreed to be our guest for the podcast, and we hope you enjoy the interview!

 

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Below are links to some of Janet Brennan Croft’s books (if you purchase a book using our link, you help to support the podcast!):

Ms. L’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (88)

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 Ms. L 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 Ms. L’s responses:


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

When I was in fifth grade in Southern California, we would take recess after lunch and then return to our classroom to put our heads down and listen to our teacher read us a story. In fifth grade, the story was The Hobbit.

Up to this point in my reading career, I had attempted to read classics my mother bought me – The Little House on the Prairie novels by Laura Ingalls Wilder (I had been named after her, I found out later in life), Little Women, and settled for Nancy Drew Mysteries because at least I wasn’t bored by the mysteries. Everything else didn’t really capture my attention or make me want to read further.

As soon as the teacher began reading, I was enthralled. After class, I asked her the name of the author. I went home and immediately told my mother I wanted to read more from J.R.R. Tolkien. She bought me everything from a used bookstore by him – The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings box set (with the weird, psychedelic Ace cover), The Silmarillion, and the Tolkien Reader.

In two years I advanced from fourth grade to high school levels of reading ability. I use this story to inspire my own students, because my love of reading, which had begun with The Hobbit, led me to become an English teacher.

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

I was first attracted by the idea of wizards, dwarves and elves, but soon my fascination settled into Tolkien’s concept of elves as being majestic and powerful, specifically represented by Galadriel and Celeborn.

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

Strangely enough, my fondest experience is looking back at my struggle in reading The Silmarillion. I had attempted to read it several times, but the complexity and the many characters one had to remember would stop me again and again. Finally, as an adult and a teacher, I had a particularly well-behaved silent reading class one year, and was able to read it in its entirety by getting a blank notebook and taking very precise notes, then indexing the entire thing.

Another equally amusing experience was, while in college, writing a genetics breakdown for elvish hair color in the early days of the Internet; the paper is floating out there, still.

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

My experience of Tolkien as a child and young adult was isolated. I was reading his works in the late 70’s and early 80’s and was the only person in my immediate peer group that had the patience to read it; many of my friends could read but found the pacing of Fellowship particularly trying. I took notes, re-read, bought Tolkien calendars, read other books by or about Tolkien, read pastiches and fantasy books, but it was all done in isolation.

This changed when The Hobbit animated special came out (and then the animated movie) and I could share my enthusiasm with my friends, and then again when the live-action movies came out and the Internet began to share more information that I could read. It’s now a social experience with various online communities, which I enjoy very much.

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

I would recommend The Hobbit to almost anyone who might be curious about Tolkien. I think it’s a good indicator to whether they can read The Lord of the Rings, and its pacing and humor are engaging to most age groups. I think there are a few frustrating things about Tolkien’s style – his strange pacing, lack of character description for some key characters, and then dizzyingly precise description of geographical locations; these might stimmy modern readers. Finally, The Silmarillion should not be recommended to the weak-willed *laugh*!

Dana Marie’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (87)

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 Dana 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 Dana Marie’s responses:


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

The year is 1999. I’m a simmering pot of anxiety and insecurity molded into the shape of an eleven-year-old human girl, living in a brand new place. My parents had whisked us out of the city and into the suburbs; a move I now see as selfless and in our best interests, but at the time was undoubtedly a betrayal of the highest order and beyond the limits of my forgiveness. My mom took me for a drive to explore our new neighborhood and we ended up at a secondhand bookshop, which I can only assume was an admittedly clever ploy to buy her way back into my good graces with my drug of choice—books. I have few memories from my childhood, but somehow I’ll never forget the way that shop smelled, the glossy art books behind the counter, or how hard it was to squeeze through those cramped aisles. The first book I set my eyes on was The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. I hadn’t read it and I didn’t know much about it, but I knew these were quite famous books. As I flipped through the yellowed pages, I could tell they’d been cherished.image0 I grabbed The Hobbit and all three books of The Lord of the Rings—all of them editions printed in the 60s (with the exception of The Two Towers, which was a bit newer and wasn’t part of the same set as the others—I too often wonder who has that second book) and $4 later, I had no idea “where I’d be swept off to.” I can remember reading The Hobbit all the way home, giggling at the anecdotes about hobbits and being absolutely blown away by how vivid and charming and engrossing this new story was. I burrowed down into that hobbit hole and did not come up for air until I had finished reading all of them. Those books were my first friends in this scary new world, and I was alone no longer. You know that feeling when you enjoy something for the first time, and how you always wish you could return to that moment? I can’t read these books again with new eyes (unless I grow old enough to forget and re-read them, fingers crossed) but when I close mine, I can smell the musty editions I bought, I can touch the fibers in the pages, and I can feel that warm, cozy feeling that first made me love these books all those years ago—the same feeling Bilbo missed, the same feeling Thorin and company longed to return to, the feeling Sam comes back to when all is said and done—the feeling of home.

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

The following years would be filled with more (real) friends and many more books as well, but no story (or, arguably, person) would ever find their way into my heart the way Tolkien did. Of course, those years were filled with much more Tolkien, too. Unbeknownst to me, just as I was first falling in love with these books, on the other side of the world, an overgrown bespectacled hobbit and his Lúthien were stepping out of the door and onto the road of their own Tolkien adventure. I remember how nervous I was before that first film came out; so very concerned they would not do my precious novels justice. What they ended up doing was melting my heart like a ring in a volcano. I still feel these are the greatest films ever made (a hill I will die on with a song in my heart) but it was more than that. It was a chance to share this epic, beautiful, emotional, captivating, heart-melting story with people I loved—people who loved me too, but not enough to suffer the perceived torture of reading a book. My friends binged junk food and gushed over how hot Orlando Bloom was, (fact check: still true) and went back with me to see whichever one was in theatres even when they’d already seen it; later, my family let me play the extended DVDs even if the game was on. Yes, they fell asleep, but hey, they watched it. And sure, they thought my learning Elvish was a cause for concern, but they knew what Elvish was, so I took the W.

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

One of my favorite memories to date is of going with my mom to see the first two extended films shown in the theatre before the midnight release of RotK. They let us bring pillows and blankets, and order outside food—which, to a preteen skipping school to go to the movies, with her mom, was about the coolest thing I’d ever done. We spent about twenty two hours at that theatre, in plastic chairs with a room full of strangers in costumes, watching movies we already owned, and it was the absolute best. Looking back, I know how dreadfully painful this must have been for Mom, but she did it, with a smile, for me. I didn’t have the slightest inkling that she was anything but thrilled to be there. That year for Christmas, she handmade a decorated wooden chest to store my Tolkien books and all my Lord of the Rings merchandise that had begun accumulating around the house like the treasures of a hoarder. I still get choked up whenever I see it, thinking of all the hours she put into it just for me. Years later, after I moved out of the house and was living in another country, my mom would flip the channel to any LotR movie that was playing on TV, simply because she missed me. (I know, right? Could you die?) By the time I’d moved back to the US, she was obsessed. Nowadays she quotes the films constantly, cries like a baby whenever we watch them, and gives me a run for my money in the LotR movie version of Trivial Pursuit. Lately she has been dying to dress in cosplay and go to Comic-Con together—I’ve created a monster! However, in all seriousness, and as trite as it might sound, I do love having this to share with her and I’ll treasure these memories for the rest of my life.

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

Wherever I go in the world, Tolkien seems to follow. A few years ago I used his newly published translation to study Beowulf. When I taught English abroad, I used his excerpts in my lessons. I have the Russian version of The Hobbit that I use in my own language learning. I bought The Silmarillion in high school but I couldn’t really get into it. In the last year or two I went back and revisited it to find that it’s possibly my favorite of all his work. I read it slowly and re-read it, I highlighted and annotated it and cross-referenced with his letters and other writings. I’ve learned from this experience how much I’ve changed as a reader—in my tastes, but also in my methods. I’ve also found my love for Tolkien’s work has grown and deepened with time; after having studied literature at a collegiate level, or as I come to appreciate the subtleties of it, or go back and read things I never discovered before. I myself have been considering writing as a career path, and all of this Tolkien deep-diving has helped me get inside the head of an author. I’m forever grateful that he spent so much time writing about writing and documenting his process and his self-critiques. No author could ever hope to come close to achieving what J.R.R. Tolkien has done, but hopefully I have taken something from all the time I’ve spent in his world and it will inform my writing in the future. I can only hope. If nothing else, I’ve learned the sheer power of a good story; it can entertain and inform and inspire and fulfill you, yes, but it can also bring people together; teach us empathy for experiences outside our own, and form bonds of friendship that last far beyond the end of the tale. When you look at the cultural impact of The Lord of the Rings in the 60s, for example—the music of Led Zeppelin, the “Frodo Lives” buttons, and so on—it is evident how it altered the collective consciousness. Again I run the risk of sounding trite, but a good story can change the world.

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

I would not hesitate to recommend Tolkien to any reader, because there’s something in his work for everyone. You can escape to a world of magical beings; a world where the lines of good and evil are firmly drawn in the sand, and the right path is clearly laid before your beloved heroes. Perhaps you’d rather lose yourself in a novel that explores fundamental truths about the human experience, celebrates the triumph of the human spirit, and teaches the value of love, loyalty, friendship, sacrifice and perseverance. You might not be a fan of novels and you prefer poetry. Maybe you’re a history buff and you’re intrigued by a dense supposed European mythology. It’s possible you’re looking for a book filled with action and suspense, or a funny book filled with cute anecdotes and whimsical songs, or maybe you just want something comforting and familiar to curl up with and wrap around you like a warm blanket. Whatever your preference, I could recommend the very same author. There is a whole world waiting for you; a very tangible one that you can see, hear, smell, feel and taste, and one you won’t want to leave. There is so much excitement waiting for you, and joy; suspense, laughs, tears, thrills and adventures. All you have to do is peel the cover back and begin. I’ll even let you borrow mine.


You can follow Dana Marie on Twitter!

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TEP #1-Dimitra Fimi

Our first guest on the Tolkien Experience Podcast is a longtime mentor, colleague, and friend to our hosts: Dr. Dimitra Fimi.

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Dr. Fimi is known around the world as a preeminent scholar in Tolkien studies and an influential scholar in wider fields. She is perhaps best known for her book Tolkien, Race and Cultural History, which won the 2010 Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inklings Studies. She also co-edited a critical edition of Tolkien’s A Secret Vice with Andrew Higgins. This volume won the 2017 Tolkien Society Award for Best Book! We are delighted that she agreed to be our first guest for the podcast, and we hope you enjoy the interview!

Subscribe to the podcast via:

Comments or questions:

  • Visit us at Facebook or Twitter
  • Comment on this blog post
  • Send us an e-mail from the contact page
  • Email TolkienExperience (at) gmail (dot) com

If you want to see Dr. Fimi’s presentation on “Tolkien, Folklore, and Foxes” from the Tolkien2019 conference, it is available on YouTube.

Below are links to Dr. Fimi’s books (if you purchase a book using our link, you help to support the podcast!):

Maria Helena Barrera-Agarwal’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (86)

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


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

I was around nineteen years old, a law student in Quito, Ecuador. I had been a voracious reader since childhood. There were nice bookstores in the city, but none better than Librería Cima, at the time close to the La Alameda park. I had a good friend working there, Ecuadorian bibliophile and author Edgar Freire. I was visiting one day and, as usual, he allowed me to check the basement where they kept some of the books in stock. There I found the three-volume soft cover edition of Lord of the Rings, edited in Spanish by Minotauro, kept together with an elastic band. I had not heard of the author before but was immediately interested. I got the books upstairs and showed them to Edgar. He told me he had been keeping them for himself, but was happy to allow me to buy them. I did not have all the cash at that time – they were expensive – so I came back later in the week and purchased the books.

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

I think I never got over the first pages of The Fellowship of the Ring. I was about to reach the irresponsible tweens that are referred to in the very first page and had a rather nebulous wish to explore and to travel. The book spoke so clearly to my intentions. I still consider it a turning point in my life.

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

My fondest experience was purchasing The Lord of the Rings for my nine-year-old son. I had spoken about Tolkien so much that he wanted to read his books. I was cautious – he was so young – but relented after some time. He read them and Tolkien became his favorite author.

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

I reread The Lord of the Rings in my late thirties, in New York, after acquiring English as my fourth language. It was a rediscovery. I loved the translation into Spanish, made by Doménech, but reading the original later in life was a rather different experience. My early interest for change and travel had been fulfilled, and I could perceive, beyond the adventures, the undertones of Tolkien’s spiritual and philosophical ideas. I was also more attuned with the historical background of the books and the complexity of their linguistic content.

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

Very few books can compare to Tolkien’s. I have recommended his works and will continue to do so, for I do believe it is a privilege and a joy to be able to inhabit these pages as a reader. It is an experience that enriches you in so many, unexpected ways.


You can follow Marie Bretagnolle on Facebook!

Marie Bretagnolle’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (85)

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 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 Marie Bretagnolle’s responses:


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

I discovered Tolkien thanks to Peter Jackson’s movie adaptations. I was too young to see the first two in the cinema, but my grand-parents took me to see The Return of the King, which felt like a quest of my own. I didn’t dive into the books right away. Instead, I found myself in a bookshop one day, and at the bottom of some shelves I spotted Alan Lee’s Sketchbook for The Lord of the Rings. To this day it is probably the book I’ve read and loved the most. Even more than the movies, I think it was Alan Lee who opened the door to Middle-earth for me.

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

What I love about Tolkien is the depth of his creation. There is always information to be found somewhere about an obscure reference made in passing in one of the stories.

I also love how he inspires other creatives, artists of all kinds, in endlessly different styles.

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

Since I can’t remember reading The Lord of the Rings in French for the first time, I cling to the memory of reading it for the first time in English while on a language stay in England. While my friend frolicked in the (cold) waves after class, I stayed safely dry on the beach and read about the fellowship’s journey.

As for The Silmarillion, I remember my first experience (in French too) though I cannot date it. It mesmerized for three whole days, making me forget about meal-times, and baffling me with endless lists of characters. I was completely lost and couldn’t remember who was whom long enough to understand what was going on, but the story enthralled me and when it ended I closed the book as one wakes from a deep sleep.

More recently, attending my first Oxonmoot in 2018 and being given the opportunity to present my research at Tolkien2019 in Birmingham have been experiences which will stay with me for a long time.

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

Definitely. I’ve been reading his works for pleasure for years, but at university I discovered they were a perfectly acceptable subject of research. I did a Master’s degree in contemporary Art for which I studied Alan Lee’s illustrations for the Centenary edition of The Lord of the Rings. In these two years, I only scratched the surface of a deep field of study, so I am now in the third year of my PhD, writing a thesis on interior illustrations for British and American editions of Tolkien’s Middle-earth narratives. I’m happy to report it has not diminished my reading pleasure!

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

I would recommend Tolkien’s works, but maybe not for everyone, and I wouldn’t recommend the same stories for everyone. For people with an interest in fantasy, depending on their preferences or age I’d recommend to start either with The Hobbit or The Children of Húrin. For people not used to reading fantasy, I’d recommend Leaf by Niggle. It is one of my favourite piece of writing by him.


You can follow Marie Bretagnolle’s PhD work on her blog, or you can follow her on Twitter!

Casey Hilsee’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (84)

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 Casey 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 Casey Hilsee‘s responses:


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

I am one of those folk, perhaps more common these days, who grew up with the movies and not the books. When I was maybe 7 or 8 I was captivated by Jackson’s adaptation of Fellowship and spent my childhood watching the films regularly. I did give The Lord of the Rings book a shot but didn’t make it past the first chapter. When I got to college I began reading a lot of C.S. Lewis and began learning a bit about his life, with a particular focus on the Inklings. I knew he and Tolkien were friends, and since I loved the films, I decided to give Tolkien a go, reading The Hobbit aloud to my now-wife. We absolutely loved it. I promptly spent Christmas break reading The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and Carpenter’s biography. It has turned into a full-on obsession and I haven’t looked back.

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

My favorite part of his work is the way he’s able to weave what he believed and saw as ideal into his works and characters without it diminishing the quality and vastness of what he was doing. It’s a truly inspirational book, one that encourages me to strive to be a more noble man, a better husband and father, a more faithful Christian. He paints a beautiful portrait of what is good, true, and beautiful.

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

It’s definitely reading The Hobbit out loud to my wife when we were engaged. It was a wonderful shared experience, one we still recall to this day. We still share many conversations about Middle-earth and Tolkien’s mythology.

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

It absolutely has. I initially read it as just another fantasy novel, the grandfather of modern fantasy for sure, but not much more. After reading it and discovering The Silmarillion my view changed. I also discovered the academic side of Tolkien fandom, as well as the breadth of Tolkien’s work, such as his translation of Beowulf and “On Faerie Stories,” which has led me to analyze the texts in such a different way than I do any other novel I’ve read. Thank you especially to Shawn and Alan at the Prancing Pony Podcast for introducing me to the vast world of Tolkien fandom out here!

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

Absolutely! I definitely think his works are worth at least trying out. He’s still hovering over every single conversation about the greatest books in the English language and over every discussion of fantasy novels. His influence is inescapable. I would definitely recommend different things to different people based on where they’re at and what they like, but I do recommend him every chance I get. If you know me in person and I haven’t recommended a Tolkien book to you yet, we just haven’t spent enough time together!


You can talk to Casey about all things Tolkien on Twitter or Reddit!

Roman’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (83)

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 Roman 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 Roman’s responses:


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

I’m from Russia, and Tolkien’s universe has been with me since I was a really little child. I remember when we lived with my parents in their old apartments, before I was 4 years old. And already at that time I was a fan! I had watched all of Peter Jackson’s trilogy! I don’t remember any moments of my life, in which I didn’t know about Middle-earth.

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

You remember Lurtz? The big orc who killed Boromir? He was the symbol of “Fellowship of the Ring” to me. When I wanted to watch the movie in childhood, I would just call my mom and say: “mom, I wanna watch “Lord of the Rings! With orcius!” (yea, I called him orcius.) The symbol of the second film was definitely Lorien’s elves. You remember their movements, when they entered Helm’s Deep? Yes, I liked to repeat them. It amused the parents very much! And the third film hasn’t a symbol, because my disk was very bad and the DVD-player wouldn’t play it, so I had to watch that film later.

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

I was read a books when I was… Maybe 9-10 years old. We read it with my dad. It was very interesting to compare the film and books, and now I can accurately say what they do and do not do better. On one hand, Tom Bombadil was cut from films, on the other Peter Jackson’s films remain masterpieces for all times. So I guess I really like both 🙂

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

You know, Luke, I’m telling you very personal thoughts. When I feel bad, I’m literally transported THERE. I imagine I’m a hobbit, and I walk down Hobbiton to my hole, with the garden in front of it. Watching the sunset, Smoking “Old Toby,” and it’s just an amazing feeling. Tolkien was able to create a world that helps me every moment of my life. Movies that have been with me since I was a child, the books came a little later, but anyway, “Two Towers” is my favorite book of all time. The desire to be transported from this world somewhere there, far away from here.

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

M.L. Corbier’s Experience–Tolkien Experience (82)

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 M.L. Corbier 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 M.L. Corbier’s responses:


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

My introduction to Tolkien’s work was twofold actually, as there was an introduction and a re-introduction. The first was when a classmate of mine mentioned a book called In de Ban van de Ring, the Dutch translation of The Lord of the Rings. It translates along the lines of enthralled by the ring and I thought that sounded utterly stupid and ignored it completely as I wasn’t into jewellery at all. A couple of years later, my best friend asked whether I wanted to go to the Peter Jackson and company’s film adaptation of something called The Lord of the Rings and I agreed as the trailer looked rather neat and exciting, and he was my best friend after all. The film amused us but my friend was slightly disappointed as lots of things from the book weren’t in it. At this time I didn’t really read anything besides football magazines, but I agreed to give it a try nonetheless. I was blown away by the richness, so I quickly moved on to my friend’s copies of The Two Towers and The Return of the King. I didn’t really get why there were appendices in a novel but was intrigued enough to pick up The Silmarillion. That turned out to be a grave mistake. It is an incredibly rich and stunning story, but I don’t think a teenage, non-native speaker of English is the perfect audience for it. At the same time I was in my final year of high school and back then to graduate you had to read an impressive pile of books. First fifteen books in Dutch which was fine until my teacher complained that I read too many humour books and should move on to more serious literature – so the fun vanished immediately. I also had to read twelve English books but was forced to read Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe which is an interesting, important and valuable read but certainly not when you’re a teenager. To add insult to injury there were also eight books in German on the list to read… In the end, I was so put off by reading that I didn’t touch a book for five or six years. After those dark years, I went to study English Language and Culture and one of the texts we had to study was “Ancrene Wisse” and on the list of secondary sources I found an essay by a certain Tolkien, J.R.R. That name rang a bell and it came back when I was introduced to “Sir Gawayn and þe Grene Knyȝt” and again when an unreadable poem titled “Beowulf” showed up. It was then that my interest was rekindled and I have read Tolkien continuously and extensively from that point onwards.

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

I have two favourites these days but after long and careful deliberation, I will say “Sellic Spell.” What Tolkien did perhaps even better than writing fantasy is reconstructing things to show how they might have been. Due to an illegible word, one of the most problematic parts in the Anglo-Saxon epic “Beowulf” is a thief stealing a golden cup from a dragon. So it’s hardly a surprise when you find out Bilbo nicks a cup from Smaug’s heap in The Hobbit. Tolkien argued that before this epic poem there must have been a folktale that would have explained certain things that don’t make much sense at first glance. Tolkien explains the character by the name of Handshoe in the story and its introduction for example. I love this in Tolkien’s works as it combines the two reasons I have for enjoying them. The first is pure entertainment but the second is from a more academic point of view: thinking about “Beowulf” in a particular way interests me.

I have to mention my second favourite now of course but will do so shortly. It is The Father Christmas Letters. I believe every parent reading those letters is thinking about doing the same thing for her or his offspring (even when they know they can’t really pull it off).

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

My master thesis was on Tolkien and linguistic relativity. In short, linguistic relativity means that a language affects the world view of the speakers of that language. I wasn’t all that impressed with my own research to be honest and need to do it again properly now that I know better what I should be doing, but locking myself in a room to surround myself with huge piles of books by and on Tolkien is indeed a fond memory. Also my professor deemed the research interesting enough to give me my Master’s degree which is a fond experience as well!

I do hope to replace this experience with a new one when my daughter is old enough to be read The Hobbit though…

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

Definitely. I first read the Ring trilogy because of Peter Jackson and company’s film adaptations. That was nothing but entertainment. But then I went to university and focussed more and more on literary masters such as Geoffrey Chaucer (anyone excited for Tolkien’s Lost Chaucer) and Sir Thomas Malory. That meant, of course, that I started to enjoy reading the professor’s commentary on “Beowulf,” his translations of “Pearl,” “Sir Orfeo” and others, and his reworking of the “Völsungasaga” and the Arthurian legends. I’m reading Tolkien’s works in a different way now than before. That is in its own really rewarding though I wish of course I could go back to the day when I discovered the works for the first time and could dive in it without any idea what will be around the next corner.

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

I take it a step further than recommending it actually. As a high school teacher of English I have to write a curriculum for my pupils and I can alter it as I see fit. I always include a little Tolkien in the curriculum – even the fiercely hated “Goblin Feet” has been part of it at a certain point!

However, I would never force a student to read a certain book as long as they can come up with a good alternative. As I recalled above, my high school teacher forced his pupils to read stuff they didn’t give a rat’s arse about and for me it meant I wouldn’t touch a book with a ten-foot pole for a long while afterwards. I’m a way more lenient teacher and believe there is a tremendous power in discovering your own reading taste. If I make a pupil read The Silmarillion and the result is that  she never wants to read Tolkien or any book for that matter again, I have failed as a teacher. If she wants to read Fifty Shades of Grey and enjoys it partly because I have encouraged her to keep on reading, and then she keeps on reading other works (and hopefully moving on to something less shady) I did a good job. I would only recommend Tolkien’s works to people who I think would enjoy it. There are many great books in the world and many different tastes after all! Though some tastes are greater than others of course…