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!

Nick Polk’s Experince — Tolkien Experience Project (147)

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 Nick Polk’s responses:


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

I was introduced to Tolkien’s work through the Rankin/Bass animated adaptation of The Hobbit. I don’t have a lot of memory associated with watching it, but according to my parents, I watched The Hobbit frequently as a child under ten years old. In sixth grade, I was assigned The Hobbit for reading. From there I became aware of Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of The Rings. I quickly rented The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers from Blockbuster and watched them on repeat. Not long after, my family went to see The Return of the King at our local movie theater. From there, I only watched the movies on repeat. I actually didn’t seriously approach The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, or The Silmarillion until college. When I first read through those books, I became obsessed.

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

My favorite part of Tolkien’s work–particularly the legendarium–is the veiled religiosity throughout it. Tolkien was a Roman Catholic and I have experienced that influence in my own readings of the Legendarium, but I love that it is not explicit. Like many other aspects of Tolkien’s work, the religiosity and religious themes can be approached universally. One does not have to be a Roman Catholic, a Christian of any kind, or even a theist to appreciate Tolkien’s creativity. There is value in the Ainulindale whether or not someone is an atheist, Buddhist, or Methodist. I find spiritual fulfillment in Tolkien’s works even if I have a very different worldview than Tolkien’s.

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

I am currently in a Legendarium reading group. We made our goal for 2021 to begin and meet virtually during the pandemic, and meet in person when it is safe to do so. We have already started The Silmarillion, and I have already had a blast with our group message and brief discussions on it.

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

My initial approach to the Legendarium in college helped me reformulate and reinforce my faith. I come from a Wesleyan-Nazarene Christian background and I was struggling with whether or not I could consider myself a “Christian” at that point in my life. I have always been interested in theology and it is what I did my undergraduate degree in. Tolkien has not been spared my theological lenses. While that is still my primary interest in Tolkien (besides the love of the tales), I have really found a curiosity for those that engage Tolkien on a critical literary level. Approaching Tolkien literarily has help widen my scope of appreciation for Tolkien and the Legendarium. It has also helped me broaden my understanding of Tolkien and the important approaches to the Legendarium, rather than pigeon-holing my approach to a theological level.

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

I would recommend Tolkien’s work to anybody. Now, I would not suggest Tolkien’s work to others in the tone of a fanatic, but I believe there is something for everyone in Tolkien’s work if one is open to interacting with it. Tolkien radically changed my worldview, my extracurricular and academic interests, and even the direction of my life. If someone is able to develop some form of relationship with Tolkien’s work, I see that as a win.


You can read more from Nick Polk on Twitter or Instagram!

Manuel’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (146)

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 Manuel’s responses:


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

My first contact with Tolkien´s work was through the movies at age 7. I was visiting my Uncle (who later found out was a huge Tolkien fan) and he was watching The Fellowship of the Ring on TV. Sadly, I can´t exactly remember what it was that hooked me, but by next year I was watching The Two Towers in the cinema with my parents (they both fell asleep), and The Return of the King the year after that, this time with some of my closest friends.

After re-watching the movies several times, I decided, on my Uncle´s advice, to buy the books and start this never ending, but equally amazing journey, of discovering Middle-earth and Tolkien´s work.

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

My favorite part must be the depth of his work. As a curious individual at heart, once I´m interested in something, I try to delve deeper into whatever it is that has my attention, often to be disappointed as there just seems to be nothing more than what is presented in the surface. With Tolkien this is never a problem.

I quickly became amazed and fascinated at how almost every single place, every single character (be it a main one or not) has a background or a backstory and that this is covered deeply in his other works, how everything is so deeply interconnected and beautifully imagined and written that you almost feel Middle-earth is real and you can learn about it in your History class in school.

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

Probably sharing time with my friends. After watching the LoTR movies together many times, we decided to recreate the plot on a Dungeons & Dragons campaign.

The number of hours we spent recreating the maps, laughing, eating, not sleeping and playing are very close to my heart and something we will always remember.

Looking back, I was very fortunate to have such good friends to share this passion with.

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

It certainly has. At a young age, when my strongest approach to his work was the movie adaptations, I was more interested in action and dialogues than anything else. As I’ve “matured”, reading the descriptions of the landscapes, the cultures, history, etc. are what interest me the most and what keeps me always hooked and marveled.

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

Every time I get the chance! Whenever someone asks me who my favorite author is or what my favorite books are. Tolkien created a whole new genre of fantasy literature and world creation. Most of the people I know enjoy some sort of similar novels or movies / series, so I always recommend them to read the one who got it all started.


You can read more from Manuel on Twitter!

Leith Skilling’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (145)

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 Leith 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 Leith Skilling’s responses:


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

My father read The Lord Of The Rings aloud to me when I was probably about six, but I was much too young to truly grasp the story – that being said, I was entranced by the map of Middle-earth in the edition my family owned, and I would draw characters and scenes from the story on the book’s few blank pages. It’s safe to say Tolkien inspired my passion for art as well as for writing.

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

My favorite part is an overarching theme in The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit: the idea that simple people living simple lives can be heroic because of – rather than in spite of – their humility, their compassion, and their humanity.

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

Being able to interact with some of the wonderful people in the Tolkien Community has been a joy and an unexpected blessing, especially during these trying times. Reading Tolkien’s works aloud to my family during this quarantine has also been a special personal experience.

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

Until I read The Silmarillion, I had only acknowledged that Tolkien inspired in me a love of writing. But The Silmarillion opened my eyes to how deeply Tolkien’s works have changed the way I live my life. It’s a book that puts everything into perspective, I think, including the reader’s own experiences.

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

I would recommend Tolkien’s work to anyone: especially nowadays. More than ever, it’s crucial that we understand the importance of empathy, and the need to protect and preserve the earth itself before it’s too late – Tolkien’s works are valuable for teaching both of those things, and for instilling in readers a responsibility to be the stewards of this Middle-earth that we need to be.


You can read more from Leith Skilling on Twitter!

Jon B’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (144)

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 Jon 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 Jon B’s responses:


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

My parents had a copy of The Hobbit sitting on a bookshelf, and a thought I’d give it a try. Over 40 years later, I’m still obsessed.

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

I love Tolkien’s world-building. You really get a sense of each story taking place in a world that’s much larger than the individual story. I’ll also take the opportunity to plug my favorite somewhat obscure Tolkien story – “Athrabeth Finrod Ah Andreth,” from Morgoth’s Ring.

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

Seeing the film of The Fellowship of the Ring, and being amazed that somehow Peter Jackson had gotten into my head and produced the look and feel of Middle-earth perfectly.

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

I have begun in recent years to try to consider Tolkien’s actual philosophy and thinking rather than just reading the stories as stories.

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

Absolutely. I get such joy out of it – why wouldn’t I want to share that with others?


You can read more from Jon on Twitter!