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!

Deborah Sabo’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (75)

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 Deborah 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 Deborah Sabo’s responses:


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

My dad, who was a great reader, enjoyed science fiction among other things. From a young age I got reading material by rooting around in cardboard boxes of his old paperbacks. I liked any kind of adventure story, especially if it was science fiction or historical. I had found a book at the library called The Gammage Cup by Carol Kendall about a kind of little people called Minnipins who lived in a secret Land Between the Mountains. In one village a group of nonconformist Minnipins get banished and have to live on their own in the wilderness, but they end up saving their village from deadly invaders. It’s a simple story written for children, with lovable characters and valuable messages about friendship, courage, the worth of every individual, and the importance of truth. I read this story over and over and still enjoy it today. I was about 15 when my dad brought home 3 paperback books that he thought, from the cover blurbs, were about the same little people as that book I kept checking out of the library. But they weren’t Minnipins, they were Hobbits. He’d bought The Hobbit and 2 volumes of The Lord of the Rings. I read The Hobbit, was instantly captivated, realized what The Lord of the Rings was and that we needed the other volume because they had to be read in order. I also noticed that we had a mixture of Ace and Ballantine paperbacks, which simply would not do. I used my babysitting money to replace the “unauthorized” Ace volume with a proper Ballantine. My dad and I both read them. Eventually all my close friends and my 3 siblings read them as well.

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

Definitely The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The stories that are contained in The Silmarillion are majestic, but I do not re-read that book like I do the others. I re-read a couple of the essays frequently and I love Tolkien’s narrative poetry. The Lay of Leithian is one of my favorite Tolkien works. Some of Tolkien’s alliterative poetry is stunning.

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

Introducing Tolkien to my two young kids by reading The Hobbit aloud to them. My daughter was about 6 at the time, and being a learning reader, she wanted to participate, so her job was to read all the poems when we came to them. She was so proud to play this role. They loved the story and hung on every word. Both remain serious Tolkien fans as adults.

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

Yes, the biggest change was when I discovered that there was such a thing as Tolkien scholarship. This happened in the late 90s. I felt a mixture of elation and dismay. On the one hand a whole world of new reading and discovery opened up for me. I’m academic so I was determined to learn as much as I could, to attend conferences, and hopefully to contribute something, even just a small something, though I didn’t have background in any of the disciplines that I saw being brought to Tolkien studies. I took a number of courses online, which offered great opportunities to learn directly from some of the top people. I did manage to achieve some of what I’d hoped to do (I presented a few papers at the Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo and at Mythcon, and published an article in Mythlore), and the things I’ve learned have added so much richness and depth and layered meaning to my appreciation of the books. In addition I’ve met so many wonderful people, in person and online, fellow Tolkien lovers I count as friends who have really added a lot of enjoyment to my life. On the other hand, I felt and still feel a kind of regret, as if something had passed me by, because if I’d known earlier in my life that Tolkien scholarship was possible in this world, I think I would have done many things differently.

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

I don’t really recommend Tolkien directly, but I “insert” him into conversations or activities involving literature (and I have lots of those). If it’s Poetry Month for example, I share something written by Tolkien. I use quotes from Tolkien’s stories, letters, and essays in discussions about other topics. I compare other books that my friends are reading to something or other in Tolkien. Most everyone has heard of him nowadays, so I hope that this more “subversive” kind of recommendation might remind people to give Tolkien another look—remind them that he’s a serious 20th century thinker and writer. But I don’t feel it’s my job to convince people to read him. My friends do know about my interest, and they sometimes ask me things.


You can hear more from Deborah Sabo by friending her on Facebook!

HT’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (74)

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 HT 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 HT’s responses:


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

Saw it on bookstore shelves in the 80’s

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

Character development and exposition of culture variances

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

Reading LOTR (all three books) in the week before the first movie opened

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

A bit, since becoming more comfortable with fictional locations (versus London in England, Moscow in Russia, etc. – places I know of on maps)

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

Completely, without hesitation. Fantasy, good/bad events, characters, strong role models in his characters, extreme example of proper education and its potential outputs

Dimitrios Kolovos’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (73)

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 Dimitrios Kolovos 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 Dimitrios Kolovos’s responses:


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

My first true introduction to Tolkien’s work came through an uncommon channel, the music of the Blind Guardian metal band. It was Christmas. I was 10 years old. Family and friends were gathered. I wanted to listen to music, and I asked my cousin for his Mp3 player. There I found a song called “Lord of the Rings”. The damage was done. A few days later I saw him reading The Fellowship of the Ring. A while later it fell into my hands. Thus, it began.

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

I’m not sure I can choose one aspect of Tolkien’s work. The first that comes to mind is his invented languages. The second one would be the creation of the Tolkienian universe, which is vast, full of variety but the same time open to interpretations of our fantasy. There are a lot of things for the readers to imagine and create, many small gaps to fill.

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

My fondest experience of Tolkien’s work would be my participation in Tolkien2019. A 5-day event with academic presentations, workshops, art and a lot of fun with fellow Tolkien-lovers. I met a lot of great people, and it felt like a very friendly and inspired community. Secondly, I would mention my trip to the Forodrim celebration in 2017. Dressed in Tolkien-inspired clothing we had a great time singing, watching theatrical plays. Both events will never fade from memory.

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

It has. It differs when you read the books at the age of 10, 15, 20 and 25. I loved the way I used to perceive them when I was 10. It was a true journey, an amazing adventure. Innocent mind. Slowly the experience changed. I started looking for things, focusing on his languages, his approach on matters such as immortality, death, war, peace. Ι began reading about Tolkien’s background and how he was influenced by it. Nowadays, I’m trying to study different aspects of his work. It’s very enjoyable to try to read between the lines but at the same time I take effort to read it through the eyes of the 10-year-old boy I remember.

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

I would definitely recommend Tolkien’s work. It would be a great adventure for readers starting their journey into fantasy literature. It is a great way to experience a big adventurous journey. There is a lot in the background. There are two ways to address the matter. Try to understand Tolkien’s work as a whole. Read about his life, the experiences that shaped who he was, his languages or just sit back and enjoy reading his books.


If you would like to follow Dimitrios Kolovos for more thoughts on Tolkien, you can find him on Twitter or his blog!