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…

Una McCormack’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (81)

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 Una McCormack 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 Una McCormack’s responses:


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

My first encounter with Tolkien’s work was with the cover of the single volume of The Lord of the Rings, illustrated by Pauline Baynes. It has a bright yellow spine – very distinctive – wild and wonderful landscapes, and strange and marvellous creatures. I can still remember looking at these images, not knowing anything about the book, wondering what the story might be, and making up my own stories about them.

I had The Hobbit read to me when I was small, and also it was a very memorable Jackanory in 1979 (when I was 7). I suspect I had it read to me about the same time. Then, in 1981, when I was 9, the BBC radio adaptation of The Lord of the Rings was transmitted. My dad, my siblings, and I would sit in front of the radio and listen to each part – it took twenty-six weeks! One of my siblings taped some of them (not all; tapes weren’t cheap!), and I had those tapes for years. I read The Lord of the Rings soon after, although I didn’t follow all of it. I read The Silmarillion for the first time when I was around 11 years old: again, I didn’t follow much, but I followed enough.

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

The earliest moments that imprinted on me remain the ones that come to mind first. Éowyn’s courageous stand against the Witch-king. Merry’s farewell to Théoden. Galadriel’s rejection of the Ring. A little later, I adored Unfinished Tales, particularly the Narn I Hin Hurin, the Quest for Erebor, and the minutiae of information about Istari and palantiri. In my thirties, I became greatly absorbed in the story of Denethor, Faramir, Boromir, and Finduilas, who seem to be the closest to ‘modern’ characters as we might know them; i.e. there is more emphasis on their psychology.

What has remained constant is that sense of coming home when I open The Lord of the Rings. I breathe the September air of the book, and I am back in Middle-earth, with the rain and the green smell.

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

So many to choose. Sharing this delight with my dad (who died when I was 12). Consoling myself through my adolescence (Tolkien understood childhood bereavement). After the first Peter Jackson movie was released, I started to write fanfiction (quite a lot of it), and became very involved in online fanfiction groups: I set up a mailing list, and was involved in the creation of a fanfiction archive. This has given me some very happy memories, of writing with and for friends, and meeting people who love Tolkien as much as I do.

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

Of course, it is more than forty years since I first encountered it, and I have changed hugely in that time! But I always come back to Tolkien.

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

These days, not really. Surely everyone knows by now whether or not Tolkien is their thing?! If you like it, I’ll find out; if you don’t, I’m unlikely to persuade you!

I am, however, looking forward to my young daughter discovering The Lord of the Rings. I hope she likes it too.


You can follow Una McCormack on Twitter for more great Tolkien and other fantasy content!

An Open Letter to Christopher Tolkien on His 95th Birthday

An open letter to Christopher Tolkien:

Dear sir,

I wanted to share something with you on this day of special magnificence, your ninety-fifth birthday. For more than a year, I have asked for fans of your father’s work to send me their story for a series I call the Tolkien Experience Project. I ask a few questions for each participant to answer, and, in doing so, they share how they learned about J.R.R. Tolkien, what they love about his writing, how his writing has influenced their life, and how their approach to his texts has changed over time.

I wanted to make you aware of this project today especially. If you have the chance to read through some of the entries, you will find that many of the participants express gratitude for your father’s work and for your own. Your seemingly tireless dedication to editing and publishing texts and notes has influenced the lives of thousands. I know that this small sample does not do justice to the breadth and depth of Tolkien readers (both your father’s and your own), but maybe, just maybe, reading one or two will bring you a small bit of happiness on this, your birthday.

To see the project, you can go to: https://luke-shelton.com/tolkien-experience-project/

I would like to say happy birthday and sincerely thank you for all you have done to shape our understanding of your father’s work, of fantasy writing, of the creative process, and of Old English texts.

 

Sincerely,

Luke Shelton

Ed Strietelmeier’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (80)

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 Strietelmeier 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 Strietelmeier’s responses:


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

I was first introduced to Tolkien when my father read The Hobbit to me as a bedtime story while I was in elementary school in the 1980s. Along with The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit became absolutely foundational in my psyche and worldview. It was as if I was both “walk[ing] in legends [and] on the green earth in the daylight” to paraphrase the Rider of Rohan as he speaks to Aragorn in The Two Towers.

I was also introduced to the Rankin Bass Hobbit and Lord of the Rings cartoons as well as the Ralph Bakshi Lord of the Rings while I was a kid. Looking back I cringe at so many aspects of those films, but at the time they really captured my imagination and made me love the stories even more. In a way they were like the silly figure of the Fairy Queen that Nokes put on the Great Cake in Smith of Wootton Major. To paraphrase the Fairy Queen, “Better a little [movie], maybe, than no memory of Faery at all. For some only a glimpse. For some an awakening…”

It was not until junior high that I read the Lord of the Rings myself, using my father’s old Ballantine paperback copies, which have since simply fallen apart! It was a long read for me at that age, but completely worth it.

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

There are so many to choose from! If forced to pick, I’d say the sequence in The Return of the King that begins with Chapter IV, “The Siege of Gondor” and ends with Chapter VI “The Battle of the Pelennor Fields.” These chapters have just about anything you could want.

All of the important parts connect to create a truly remarkable experience: The sense of impending doom that hangs over Minas Tirith jumps off the page and makes the moment when the cock crows and the horns of the Rohirrim call out so amazing. Reading about the Ride of the Rohirrim makes you feel like you are going along with them, on the way to Mundburg. The moment when Theoden sees the city under siege, slumps, but then gathers himself with the change of wind and the sound of the gate collapsing is Tolkien’s blending of providence and free will in microcosm. Eowyn and the Witch King.

Ultimately the moment when Eomer defies the Black Ships only to see the flag of Gondor and the arrival of Aragorn is the culmination of the entire experience. This moment is so powerful it’s hard to describe. But, even with all of that excitement and glory, you still are reminded of all those who fell and the loss that went into this miraculous victory. Simply amazing.

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

My fondest experience has been reading The Hobbit to my oldest daughter (age 8 at the time). I watched her laugh out loud during the unexpected party, get scared at Gollum’s chapter, and wish she could live in Beorn’s house with his animals. She even drew her own version of Thror’s map and gave it to me.

At the end of the book we had a really thoughtful conversation about the “dragon sickness” and who really deserved the treasure in the Lonely Mountain. She could see how both the dwarves and the Lake Men had a claim but didn’t really see how the Elf King fit into the equation (which is a fair point!). In the end, she was just glad they found a way to work together. It has been one of my happiest experiences as a parent to date.

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

Yes. I have been a Tolkien fan since childhood, but my interest rose to a whole new level in 2013 when I began listening to the Tolkien Professor Podcast. Corey Olsen’s lectures opened up a wider and deeper understanding in Tolkien’s works for me. His “Silmarillion Seminar” helped me to finally read The Silmarillion and understand it for the masterpiece that it is. Now I am able to see the wisdom, depth, and significance in Tolkien’s words in a new way.

I had read Tolkien’s various works sporadically over the years, but since listening to the Tolkien Professor as well as the Prancing Pony Podcast I’ve been reading the “Legendarium” annually. I’m a Lutheran pastor and my annual reading connects with the liturgical, or church, calendar. I read The Hobbit during the Christmas Season (12 days), The Silmarillion during the Season of Epiphany (January 6th to whenever Ash Wednesday arrives), and then The Lord of the Rings during Lent (40 days, plus Sundays). I’ve done this for the past 5 years: it’s been challenging but overwhelmingly rewarding.

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

Would I?!?!? I’ve been handing used copies of Lord of the Rings to friends for a few years now! As a pastor and preacher, Tolkien quotes and themes find their way into my sermons regularly (although I try to no “over-do” it). His themes of escape, recovery, and the consolation of the happy-ending (eucatastrophy!) have crept into my way of seeing the world. Tolkien’s works have helped me recover a sense of wonder in our own world, which I have attempted to share with my two daughters. I hope they can carry that forward into their own lives.

I find that Tolkien’s works get at some of the central aspects of life and faith: providence, grace, the importance of mercy, the humbling of the strong and the rise of the weak, the sense of loss and sadness that so many people experience, bravery in the face of impossible challenges, and so much more. Tolkien’s works have helped so many people deal with their sadness and the losses they have suffered, I feel like his books can provide comfort and hope for people facing “the Shadow.”

Anne-Laure J.’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (79)

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 Anne-Laure J. 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 Anne-Laure J.’s responses:


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

I was given The Lords of the Rings when I was about 11 and got hooked

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

My favorite book is The Silmarillion and within it my favorite part is the fall of Gondolin. When I read the book that was recently published which details the evolution of the story, it strengthened my preference for this part. It embodies the whole of Tolkien’s universe : love, treason, death, grief, valor, high deeds.

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

I spent one week with the most knowledgeable Tolkien specialists of France (and Adam Tolkien came too !) in a castle in Normandy in 2012. While I am usually isolated in my « geekness », it was great to meet fans and experts and delve into the specifics of Tolkien’s work.

I also spent one month in 2010 in New-Zealand to visit all the locations where the filming took place : Hobbiton (Matamata), Edoras (Mount Sunday), Dimholt Road (Putangirua Pinnacles), Mt Doom (MT Ngauruhoe), etc. It was breathtaking. One may agree or disagree with the way the movies were made but one thing is for sure : New Zealand is what Middle-earth would have looked like.

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

No, I don’t think so. I still feel the same pleasure I felt when I first discovered The Lord of The Rings. Every time I reread one of the books, I discover something new.

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

I can not recommend it enough. Sadly none of my friends/family are into it.

It has brought so much joy to me to discover this world that I want everybody to be able to benefit from it.


For more from Trotter, you can find her on Twitter!

Trotter’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (78)

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 Trotter 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 Trotter’s responses:


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

My teacher in 1973, read The Hobbit, one chapter per week, to my class, I was six years old at the time and loved the book. I spent my Christmas gift money in 1978 on a paperback copy of the UK Lord of the Rings, and a paperback copy of the UK Silmarillion, which had been first released in Hardback the year before. A couple of years later I noticed that my paperback Lord of the Rings was not as useful as the Hardback editions, the maps were not good and only one Appendix was included.

That started me down the route of collecting Tolkien’s books.

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

UK Hobbits

I have to go for The Hobbit, I own the first 40 UK hardback impressions of this book, plus quite a few more copies, and this is my favourite book by my favourite author. I love the whole book, but Riddles in the Dark is my favourite chapter.

 

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

For me, it is Tolkien saying that “I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence.” And then reading Leaf by Niggle, which is a wonderful allegory about the Professor. Leaf by Niggle is very underrated, and I urge everyone who is interested in Tolkien to read this wonderful short story.

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

Yes, as a Tolkien book collector I have collected items, that non collectors may not have read or seen. I love having items that Tolkien was personally involved with, my precious is a 1968 1st UK paperback one volume edition of The Lord of the Rings, that he signed.

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

Have to say that I am struggling with this question, would anyone not recommend Tolkien’s work?
Absolutely I would recommend Tolkien’s work. He is still the number one fantasy writer, and it would be very difficult for anyone to claim his crown.
I’d love to be able to reread The Lord of the Rings again for the first time, like I did in 1978, that would be fantastic.


For more from Trotter, you can find him on Twitter or on Tolkienguide.com where he uses the same screen name!

Christian S. Trenk’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (77)

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 Christian 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 Christian S. Trenk’s responses:


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

I first got to know Tolkien, as so many of my age did, through Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring. One of my friends – I was in primary school at the time – told me he had won tickets to see a movie, would I like to come. Naturally I agreed and it turned out we went to see the first LotR movie – in a drive-in cinema of all places. The completely alien venue, combined with the otherworldy quality of the film meant: I was enchanted straight away.

For my next birthday, multiple friends – who at that time definitely arranged their birthday presents via our parents conferring – had decided to give me a copy of The Hobbit, so I actually ended up with two copies. And I remember very clearly reading Der Herr der Ringe, the German translation of LotR in a bright-green paperback edition during the next summer holiday while my brother darted off to watch Germany play in the 2002 World Cup finals before then going to see the other movies as they were released.

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

My favourite piece of fiction by Tolkien is undeniably Leaf by Niggle. It’s such a curious short story full of a certain gravitas that has always captivated me – long before I actually began to recognize any possible meanings behind it. Especially Tolkien’s description of Niggle as “kindhearted, in a way. You know the sort of kind heart: it made him uncomfortable more often than it made him do anything; and even when he did anything, it did not prevent him from grumbling, losing his temper and swearing (mostly to himself).” That has just always struck a chord with me and the Second Voice’s judgement hast always comforted me a little.

My favourite part of The Lord of the Rings would actually be Book V in which Tolkien masterfully threads together most of the narrative strings he has pulled apart over the course of the previous volume, weaving them together with very clever markers interspersed in the text. It beautifully sets up the hearkening back and eventual finish of Book VI as well. It’s just a masterful piece of pulling together multiple storylines.

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

Apart from seeing Richard Medrington’s Puppet State Theatre Company Leaf by Niggle stage production for the first time at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe and many times since and always shedding a few tears for the beauty of it?

I was spending a year abroad at a South African school in 2008 and had a long afternoon to myself at a shopping centre there. Naturally, I ended up in the bookshop before long. And perusing the shelves, I happened upon a beautifully white paperback edition of Return of the King which I decided to buy and another book by Tolkien next to it. It was The Treason of Isengard, I think – possibly the volume before or after it – and I bought it as well without understanding what it was I had found. That was the moment when Tolkien’s works acquired a whole new taste for me and the ridiculous chance behind it all is what to this day makes me smile: Something told me to just grab this book,

look at it and buy it even though (or because) there was something weird about it. Bookshops really are a Perilous Realm.

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

As mentioned above, I was introduced to Tolkien via the first Jackson movie but read the other LotR volumes before the other films came out. Of course I was enraged at various discrepancies but over time and as I mainly busied myself with the tabletop figurines that came out alongside the films, I lost all sense of the finer distinctions between books and films. I did read The Silmarillion and a few other works connected to the Legendarium but my interest kicked into full gear again when discovering the History of Middle-earth and beginning to glimpse the depth and breadth of Tolkien’s works. A continued interest at university, a few thought-provoking books and a few offhand comments by professors then kicked a more academic interest in Tolkien into gear, so I guess that counts as change?!

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

Would I ever NOT recommend it? Well, maybe if someone is looking for some short-lived tension or fast-paced action (Ben Aaronovitch, John Grisham, Robert Harris or Timothy Zahn for that).

Apart from that, Tolkien’s works offer such a variety of tone, style, setting and subject that I honestly think anyone can find something in it. If one approaches, expecting a book version of the films, they will be disappointed of course. If one doesn’t like reading at all, they will be disappointed of course (but also ‘shame!’ For they are missing out on so much). He has written charming little children’s stories like Roverandom and silly jokes like the Father Christmas letters and he has written the near-biblical epoch that we know as The Silmarillion. Whosoever is searching for something beyond those boundaries might be disappointed by Tolkien, but I’m not sure they’ll find it anywhere else either.

Peter Berg’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (76)

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 Peter 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 Peter Berg’s responses:


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

A former teacher handed me The Hobbit and said “I think you might like this” I was 12 going on 13 and was having some issues. I was starting to go do down a dark road. I always loved to read and maybe that’s why he handed it to me. I really wasn’t and still really am not a fan of the Fantasy genre.

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

The depth, with all the history and backstory. The realism this could have happened and Tolkien writes it in that way as if he’s telling a story that actually happened. The depth of culture and descriptions of the landscapes.

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

Probably the first time reading Books 1 and 2 otherwise known as The Fellowship of the Ring. I was introduced to a world that has been a place of solace and comfort ever since. It changed my life I would say it saved me in some ways.

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

Perhaps I take my time while reading Tolkien’s works now. I read with no particular agenda not needing to get to the end but just enjoy what’s there in the moment.

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

I have on many occasions. Just for the depth alone, showing what writing can be like, that all the background is what sets Tolkien apart from any other fantasy author. Then again I don’t read a whole lot of fantasy. Being an educator I couldn’t get away with not reading the Harry Potter series and some Game of Thrones, but I don’t know much else about fantasy authors. Taking these two examples Tolkien’s work is in a different universe. Rowling’s writing though enjoyable and creative is surface level and I believe tried to take a lot of concepts from Tolkien. When I saw Mugworts I thought hmmm where I have seen that name before. Martin’s work is the same to me it may have a little more depth than Rowling’s but much of it is gratuitous and an attempt at shock value. He’s been praised because his characters are “complex” which really means they lack moral conviction. Tolkien’s characters are complex even more complex than Martin’s. Tolkien just didn’t have the need to be so overt.


You can find more from Peter Berg on Instagram!