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 Ed 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 Ed Pierce’s responses:
1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
When I was around six or seven years old a group who did dramatic readings of literature visited my elementary school and put on a performance. One of their readings was of the “Riddles in the Dark” chapter from The Hobbit. Shortly after that I discovered The Hobbit book in the public library and read it. I may have also had a vague recollection of the Rankin/Bass Return of the King TV movie which came out around this time (I was born in 1973, and the movie came out in 1980) although I don’t recall actually watching it before I read The Hobbit (perhaps this was a good thing). After reading The Hobbit, I promptly went out and bought The Lord of the Rings and read it as well. This was followed a few years later by Unfinished Tales, The Silmarillion, and then eventually the HOME series. A new volume of the latter would come out around October or November almost every year from 1983 until 1996, and starting with volume III, I’d usually get the latest volume for Christmas every year (it was always my favorite present each year!).
2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
It’s hard to decide. Perhaps how deeply it touches upon the themes of loss, of friendship, and of doing what is right in the face of adversity.
3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
Nothing probably beats the experience of reading The Lord of the Rings (not just the first time, but the increased appreciation and enjoyment with each re-reading), but I also have especially fond memories of my first time reading the Turin story (as it appeared it Unfinished Tales—I read this before I read the chapter on Turin in The Silmarillion), as well as the magical experience of reading Smith of Wootton Major for the first time.
4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
Not really, except that obviously I can appreciate some of the adult themes now more than I did when I was younger.
5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
Definitely (with some reservations). I have learned that many people don’t have the patience to read through The Silmarillion or similar works (it takes a certain amount of concentration, and—as Tom Shippey has pointed out—if you don’t make a concerted effort to keep track of everyone and learn their familial relation to one another, a lot of the richness will get lost on you early on), but I think that there are many people who would enjoy The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, or some of Tolkien’s lighter and/or shorter works (like Farmer Giles or Leaf by Niggle) if they give it a try. However, I’ve also learned that trying to foist something on someone often leads nowhere, so I rarely try to recommend Tolkien unless someone shows interest first in that direction.
For more from Ed, you can find him on Facebook!