André Santiago’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (157)

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 André Santiago’s responses:


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

My father is a big fan of Middle-earth so I’ve known the books since I was a child. He gave me The Hobbit when I was 9, though I didn’t manage to read through the first time. For LOTR, I knew the basic plot line and wanted to discover who destroyed the ring without reading the book (hated reading at that time), so one day I took the book, went to the last pages and spoiled myself (still hate me for that). One time at school, the teacher wanted us to bring a book to read before each class and I grabbed The Fellowship of the Ring as I was late, and was quickly drawn in (I was 13). For 2-3 years I only read and reread LOTR, The Hobbit and The Silmarillion.

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

I’d say my favourite part is the creation of the world, the first war against Melkor and the destruction of the Trees (even though I’m usually pretty bad at choosing favourites). These events give me a sense of awe so great that I’ve yet to encounter it elsewhere. An honourable mention is the encounter between the dwarves and Beorn. It is probably one of the most fun scenes I’ve read.

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

I love the connection that I have with my father over this world. I remember particularly playing “Battle for Middle-earth” with him a lot (losing most of the time), watching all of the movies that one time until I got an headache, and be able to make him get deeper in the world (I gave him Children of Hurin for Christmas)

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

Well, yes and no. It has definitely changed since the times when I exclusively read LOTR again and again. I took a break and haven’t read LOTR for 2 or 3 years now, as I’m more interested in the events prior to the main story (particularly the first age). Now the way I view the world hasn’t particularly changed, only got more deep as my knowledge of all that surrounds Middle-earth got deeper.

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

Definitely! The thing is that my friends either are already familiar with the books or don’t like to read. But most of them have at least watched (and enjoyed) the movies!

James Roberts’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (156)

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 James Roberts’s responses:


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

I was introduced to Lord of the Rings, the movies, as a child. The moment they were out of theaters, my parents brought home the DVDs, and little 4 or 5 year old me was hooked.

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

My favorite part of Tolkien’s work definitely has to be the books for Lord of the Rings and Hobbit. There has always been a copy of them in my home, even when I moved out on my own.

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

Playing the Lord of the Rings games. From the Two Towers game on the GameCube, to War in the North, to the Lego games, and to LOTR: Online. Being able to interact with the world just draws me in.

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

As I grew older, I’ve been able to experience more and more of Tolkien. When I was a very young kid, I just had the movies. Then the games, then the books. But now that I’m an adult, I’ve branched out past Middle-Earth. I’ve been able to get an appreciation for his writing, his world building, and the general feel of the man that he once was.

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

I’ll recommend Tolkien to my dying breath. No matter what form of media one wants to partake, Tolkien can be found. He has created stories that span generational gaps, and will go down in history as a modern master of his field.

Arthur H’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (155)

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 Arthur H’s responses:


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

When I was 8 or 9 in the mid 60’s I came across a paperback book that one of my brothers had left lying around. The cover was neat, with an exploding volcano and a bunch of dudes flying around on what looked like dragons (in retrospect the original Ballantine paperback edition of Return of the King). So I opened it up and leafed through it and thought “Hmmm…this sounds neat…”Mount Doom.” So that was my introduction to Tolkien (which many would say explains a lot). I have vague memories of reading “The Riders of Rohan” and Eomer saying “we’re not like the Black riders; we’re good guys.”

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

If by favorite part you mean favorite passage, I would have to say the ending of “Leaf by Niggle.” If by favorite part you mean my favorite thing I get out of it it would be the complexity of the world building.

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

The first time I read The Silmarillioin, which was published for the first time more than 10 years after I read LOTR for the first time. Gondolin? Orome the Great? The Valar? All those years we speculated and filled in the gaps (no one had invented the phrase “fanfic” yet) and suddenly to have all the backstory we had been yearning for was an incredible experience. I feel some sadness for those younger than me who never had the opportunity to say “OMG this is NEW TOLKIEN!!!!!”

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

Oh yes. I used to be very fact-based and serious which may surprise many who have come to know me. I have come to the point where I try to look for what’s fun, by which I mean look at it seriously and then say “an argument could be made that Goldberry is really Melkor” or “you know, if Arwen looks so much like Luthien why doesn’t she go to Mordor and say ‘hey bud, remember me? I don’t need the dog to take you down this time. Now scram!’ because that’s so much better than the Eagles dropping the ring into Orodruin at the end of Chapter 2 and wrapping up the book in record time.”

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

I always recommend his works for anyone who is looking for an interesting read (I do tell them to not sweat all the names) especially if I ask them if they are familiar with LOTR and they say “yes, I loved those movies.” I am not sure of any circumstances where I would not recommend this if someone asked me what would be a good thing to read (although I would caveat a lot to leave what they have heard or seen from Jackson movies or D&D because preconceptions can be a big problem). My frequent comment to people who tell me “Lord of the Rings? I mean to get around to watching that someday” is that “It’s not something you watch, it’s something you READ.”

Nate Gordon’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (154)

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 Nate Gordon’s responses:


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

I think it was 2nd or 3rd grade (late 70’s) when my parents turned the channel to the Rankin-Bass Hobbit movie’s TV airing. A few days later, I was in the school library, and a friend said he would check out the book version of it. My reaction was, “There’s a book?” it all followed from that.

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

The gradual elevation in the language throughout LOTR – from the informal Hobbit language in the opening chapters to the high speech of Gondor.

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

A long road trip when I listened to the audiobook FOTR – particularly the joy of hearing Rob Inglis sing the first lines of Tom Bombadil.

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

I look more now to the connections and the subtle aspects hidden behind the main story arcs. Little details, such as a recent realization that the “Lords of the West” who sent the messenger Eagle to Gondor was not a reference to Aragorn or Gandalf.

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

Why wouldn’t I? It would never occur to me not to.


You can see more from Nate Gordon on his Instagram!

Hannah’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (153)

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 Hannah’s responses:


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

My dad read The Hobbit to me as a bedtime story during my childhood

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

For sentimental reasons I love The Hobbit, but I think a lot of my favorite writing is in LotR. Everything there is so rich, multilayered, and well-considered. I like how he can deal with really dark and serious subjects but also have a jolly time without being blasè about the hard stuff.

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

I taught literature, for a season, in Northern Iraq. I was teaching a group of 9th graders LotR around the same time that ISIS was growing in power and heading toward the area I was teaching in. Almost all of my students were Muslim and struggling with how they should react to other Muslims doing things that were so horrible in the name of their shared beliefs.

We were reading through the section where Gandalf is talking with Saruman about what they should do in response to Sauron’s rise to power. Saruman argues that they, being good, should join Sauron in order to influence him away from doing great evil, thus “lessening” the evil that he is inevitably going to do. Gandalf argues that they should stand against Sauron because that is what True Good would do. We had a long and lively class discussion about this and how it related to what they were dealing with in their real lives. It was good for them to see Gandalf disagree and even go against what the wisest and most knowledgeable of his order thought they should do. They felt empowered to be guided by their own moral compass rather than by what strong outside forces suggested.

I loved that Tolkien wrote something so powerful without knowing how far-reaching its messages would go. He wrote it with love and care because he loved and cared about it, not because he wanted to change the world. And yet he did. His writings have changed the world. I’ve seen it.

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

Absolutley! I went from reading for fun, to reading to teach (i.e. doing lots of research into mythology, learning about Tolkien himself, actively seeking out themes) and now I am re-reading them, slowly, for the love of it.

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

I do, frequently, but not to everyone. I don’t recommend it to people who are not interested in fantasy or taking on a long reading project. I might suggest The Hobbit or one of his shorter retellings, but his style is not for everyone. And that’s okay!

Doug Hagler’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (152)

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 Doug Hagler’s responses:


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

There was a passage from The Hobbit in my reading textbook in Middle School (the book also introduced me to A Wizard of Earthsea). I went to the library looking for the book, and found The Two Towers by the same author. I took that home and read it loved it, but was confused because so many characters were introduced without any explanation. Then I realized it was the second book in a trilogy written after The Hobbit. But by then I was already hooked.

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

The depth. Just a brief example – learning that when Bilbo comes home to an auction of his possessions, it is because Tolkien was discussing with other scholars whether the Old English word that is the source of “auction” in English means something like an auction, or if it rather means ‘a mess.’ And so Tolkien ended his story with an auction that was also a mess. Or how the ents march because Tolkien was deeply disappointed with Shakespeare’s ‘march of the trees’, or the multiple layers of archaism in the Council of Elrond and how they are masterfully and intentionally used. Because of his scholarly background, Tolkien had a mastery of the English language, rather than the conventions of fiction, and it shows in so many hidden but extraordinary ways.

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

Hunkering down to read The Fellowship of the Ring on a Friday, not able to sleep because of the Weathertop scenes that night, then reading through the rest of Saturday and moving on to the full trilogy that weekend. My parents occasionally coming in to ask whether I’d like food.

Also, the experience of seeing The Fellowship of the Ring on opening night. Still by far the most powerful experience I’ve had in a movie theater.

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

Definitely. Every time I dig deeper, there is more there. It’s why I think he succeeded in his goal to create a new mythology.

I’ve also changed in my approach, in that I’ve come to understand the problems in his work and the worldview it sometimes represents. I now love it critically, where I used to love it uncritically, but I still love it.

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

Absolutely. I recommend Tolkien’s work to everyone, even though I know his work isn’t necessarily for everyone. But for someone who is interested in a modern mythology for northern Europe, as well as a masterpiece of idiosyncratic fiction that was the labor of love of a scholar’s lifetime, there isn’t even a close second to Tolkien. 


You can read more from Doug Hagler on Twitter or his blog!

Simone’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (151)

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 Simone’s responses:


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

My parents really liked the movies. But I was a rebellious child even before my teens and decided that if my parents liked it, I did not. However when being “forced” to watch it during family time, I fell in love. The next day I started reading The Hobbit!

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

The Pelennor Fields

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

I met my best friend through our shared love for Tolkien and I will be forever grateful.

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

Definitely, I read The Hobbit when I was 9 and while I loved it, I Definitely missed things as children do. (Also because I first read the books in Dutch)

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

Yes absolutely. Tolkien’s world is so vast and beautiful I want everyone to experience it. However I always tell people that its okay to not like his writing style/if they have to get used to it. I love it, but not everyone has to.

Fredrik’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (150)

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 Fredrik’s responses:


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

A friend introduced me to the Swedish tabletop roleplaying game “Drakar och Demoner” and since I enjoyed it he suggested that I should read The Hobbit and LOTR. I was about 9-10 at the time and really liked the books.

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

I must say LOTR. It is the work I enjoy the most.

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

All hours spent reading and loving the books. Also playing games related to Tolkien’s works, most of all Lord of the Rings Online where I made new friends who also liked Tolkien´s work.

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

Yes, growing older (I’m 48 now) and learning more about his life’s work have made me love it even more. I wrote a Bachelor thesis at University about Tolkien’s use of OE [Old English] words as names but for the last couple of years I have most listened to podcasts as a way to learn more. Especially podcasts like Exploring the Lord of Rings with Corey Olsen and The Prancing Pony Podcast with Alan and Shawn have been important for me in recent years.

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

Of course 🙂 It is so much more than LOTR, it is a wonderful world, mytholgy and a great community.

J.C.D.’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (149)

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 J.C.D.’s responses:


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

I was initially introduced to Tolkien through the Lord of the Rings movies in the early 2000s. When I got older, late college years, I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time. It brought me to a different world; a world a bit simpler yet not one of a utopian quality. I was sucked in from there.

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

There are two things in a broad sense that I truly love about Tolkien’s works. One is that they take me to a simpler time and place. The agrarian world of the Shire and of Rohan, the ancient grandeur of Gondor, the craft and lore of the elves all make me long for simpler times in our own world. In our world that, to me, seems more chaotic, more isolated, and more downcast as technology and man-made structures take more and more control of our everyday lives, these stories represent the antithesis to that. Secondly, the images of redemption that span the story are beautiful. The redemption of people and places throughout the tales never get old. I’ll add one more very tangible thing I love. My favorite part of any of his books is when Gandalf confronts the Lord of the Nazgul at the City Gate. Chills every time!

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

I think my fondest experience of his works is simply the resonance it leaves with me. The thoughts it produces, the people it introduces me to, the other books it leads me to, the imagining of what it would have been like to be part of the Fellowship or in Rivendell. It’s that continued experience and enjoyment in various forms that is really something I love.

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

My approach has certainly matured as I have. I think more about the peace and homeliness of the Shire than I once did. I think more about the destruction of the Shire than I once did. Also, my approach has led me deeper into Tolkien scholarship just for fun!

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

Of course I would! Jump right in! Don’t wait any longer!


You can read more from J.C.D. on Twitter!

Carissa Jones’s Experience –Tolkien Experience Project (148)

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 Carissa Jones’s responses:


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

My first introduction to Tolkien was seeing previews for the LOTR movies when I was in high school. I had never heard of LOTR previously, and the movies looked rather unappealing to me. Fast forward a few months, and a friend invited me over to watch movies. We had a standard agreement for our movie nights that we each got to pick one movie (back when renting them from the store was still a thing). She picked The Fellowship of the Ring, and I was a bit annoyed. Now, however, I am SO GLAD she did. I ended up loving the movie and bought myself the trilogy before I even watched the next two. 

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

This is a tough one. I have a hard time choosing favorites of anything, and there are so many great options for this! I’ll have to settle for my top three: 1) the character of Strider/Aragorn, 2) Tolkien’s definition and description of eucatastrophe, and 3) the way he draws out the extraordinary from the common.

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

Watching The Fellowship of the Ring with that friend in high school and entering the world of Middle-earth for the first time.

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

Yes. I am preparing to begin my dissertation and will be writing on the Inklings, so I currently approach Tolkien from a more scholarly perspective, but I still enjoy getting lost in the narratives when I can.

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

Absolutely! Tolkien is a very engaging writer and has a remarkable way of presenting timeless themes that allows the reader/viewer to learn from the characters while also recognizing his or her own capacity for greatness. As a Christian, I also appreciate his theological insight and ability to weave biblical themes into his work.


You can read more from Carissa Jones on her blog!