This is one in a series of posts where the content is provided by a guest who has graciously answered five questions about their experience as a Tolkien fan.
To see the idea behind this project, or if you are interested in sharing your own, visit the project homepage. If you enjoy this series, please consider helping us fund the project using the support page.
I want to thank Donato Giancola for allowing me to use his artwork for this project. Prints are available on his website!
Now, on to Tobias Wilcke’s responses:
1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?
I was first introduced to Tolkien’s work through the films. I don’t remember the first time I watched it, but it was my dad that introduced me to them. I was a fantasy fan since I was little, fascinated in mythology and everything that was set between the times of ancient Greece to the ages of knights. So, it was natural that I would like these films too. Though my dad was made aware of them via a friend who just loves films and he recommended The Lord of the Rings to him because of Peter Jackson. I still remember loving The Two Towers the best, as The Fellowship was very slow for my young age and I hated the Shelob scene! But nothing beats the Charge of the Rohirrim!
From there I found the computer games and learned about the lore behind it, though at the time I didn’t know anything of the books or the lore behind it. Leading me to believe that Tom Bombadil in the game Battle for Middle-earth was just a silly man that talked funny. I thought that it was just a developer having fun.
Only when I was fifteen or so I learned of the books. At the time I was an exchange student in England, as my English skills were horrible, so being interested in learning more about The Lord of the Ring I got all three of the books for a fiver in a secondhand store. I read them and it blew my mind and killed the joy of the movies for a while, but not too long, don’t worry.
When I came back home my parents gifted me The Hobbit in German. I started reading it, but I couldn’t finish it, I never picked it up again and just listened to an audio book for it. I still blame the translation to kill it for me. From that on it was just a stop and go looking up different details of the lore when I stumbled across it or was interested in the word taters.
Now all this is a long way to say that the real introduction to Tolkien’s work I would say started in 2020 at the start of the pandemic. I live on my own and if you spend most of your time on your own, in your flat, in home office, you really want to hear some voices. So, I looked into podcasts and soon stumbled upon The Prancing Pony Podcast and I would say these two good gentlemen have really introduced me to the wonderful world we love so much
2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?
If you would have asked the young me, I would have blurted out Legolas or Gimli without a doubt. I still use those and other names of The Fellowship to call my computers, phones and other electronic equipment (E.g. my headphones are called Sam, as they never leave my side, wherever I go).
But right now, I would say that I am fascinated by the world creation. I would love to dig deeper in how Tolkien created this world. The reason behind it is I am running a DnD Campaign and created a world and am filling it with lore and populating it with many different characters. This experience made me appreciate what Tolkien has created even more.
If I had to pick a special part of the world building, I would say I love his contextual ruins. Like Weathertop or Galadriel’s gift to Gimli. Each of them has a deeper meaning and an explanation in the lore, but not all of them have. I love to use them in my world building too, though my players always want to learn more on them, leading them on a self-proclaimed mission, which sidetracks them for way too long.
3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?
I am not sure I have a fondest experience of Tolkien’s work. I spent so many joyful hours with it. It made me laugh and cry at various times. It and The Prancing Pony Podcast did help me through the though times of 2020, though at the cost of my friends’ sanity. I guess you could call it the fondest memory.
4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?
I guess the answer to this question is clear by now.
Yes, it did change over time. At first, I was focused on the heroism of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli. Then it shifted to the friendship between Legolas and Gimli and so on. It slowly shifted from single things to a grander picture of the whole as I slowly discovered more and more layers of the lore. I guess I fear the day when there is no more lore to discover, but I hope by the time that happens an old man with a long grey beard and a pointy grey hat comes by and I greet him: “Good morning.”, and I mean it.
5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?
It depends. This is how I always start questions like this. As I don’t go out there telling people to read Tolkien. If I think they would like it, if they are into fantasy or that they were put off Tolkien because it is hard to read. I would recommend it to them in a heartbeat. On the other hand, I have quite a lot of friends that are not that much into fantasy and the like, so I do not recommend it to them.
I really enjoy Tolkien! I would love to share that love with anyone, though I also learned not to force it. Last year I might have been talking a bit too much about that good looking bloke that made a ring to Rule them all.