Richard Rohlin’s Experience—Tolkien Experience Project (31)

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 Richard 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 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 Richard Rohlin’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings a couple of years before the Peter Jackson films came out. I actually found a couple of old yellowed Del Rey paperbacks (of The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring; I’ve always assumed they must have been left there by the previous owners) in the attic of the house we were living in at the time. I was nine or ten years old, and although I was a big Narnia fan at the time I’d never heard of these books. I took them downstairs to my mother, and she looked at them and said, “yeah, those are good.” Over the course of a summer family road trip from Texas to Tennessee, I read through both volumes. It was only when I came to the end of The Fellowship of the Ring that I realized there were at least two more volumes!

What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

I think Tolkien was vastly underappreciated as a poet, by which I mean specifically a versifier. I didn’t really get the poetry my first, second, or third time through, but that’s been one of the many ways I’ve “grown into” the books. And of course elves. I can’t get enough of elves.

What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

One of the great moments in my life came when I was twelve years old and learned of the existence of The Silmarillion. My mom took me to the library to find a copy, and I ended up coming up with a copy of Unfinished Tales as well. There are certain books you read that set your tastes for the rest of your life, books that cause your imagination to turn a corner. The Silmarillion is one of those books for me.

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

I am (thanks to Tolkien) a Germanic philologist, currently finishing my thesis on Eddic poetry and specifically an Eddic poem known as “The Waking of Angantýr.” My interest in philology began as an attempt to see Tolkien’s sub-creation through his eyes, and then discovering that I actually enjoyed this sort of work. I think there are lots of linguists and medievalists with similar stories. That experience, following in his academic footsteps as it were (or at least trying to – they’re rather large footprints), has certainly enriched my reading of his works. On the other hand, it’s freed me up to really read them again. There’s this phase that I think many Tolkien fans go through, usually right after they read The Silmarillion, where they are sure that they’ve got Middle-earth completely “figured out.” They know what categories and boxes to fit everyone into, they know what all of the allusions in The Lord of the Rings mean, etc. In that way the illusion that the Silmarillion creates is almost too effective. It’s only when you dig deeper into the complexity and the richness of Tolkien’s language creation, his mythmaking, his poetry, and the long and complicated textual history of the legendarium as it’s presented to us in The History of Middle-earth that you get a sense for how much there is. With that realization comes a certain freedom. I can relax. I can sit back and enjoy the story, the rich prose, the humor, the fullness that is there to be enjoyed. And I can know that I don’t have to get to the bottom of it all today. I probably never will. I don’t have to deconstruct it. I can set my mind free to rove “over hill and under tree.”

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

Tolkien’s books are among the most life-changing works I have ever encountered. They set the trajectory for what my life, work, study, and faith have become. That said, I’ve found that it doesn’t always pay to recommend them too strongly to your friends. The sheer amount of investment which Tolkien “superfans” put into Middle-earth can be off-putting, even intimidating, to people considering their first casual read. Tolkien’s prose, which I find rich and lovely, does intimidate some readers of the “Harry Potter” generation (my generation)—no slander to Harry Potter intended! Oddly, I have found that the Generation Z kids (many of whom did not grow up with the films) are often much more excited and receptive about reading Tolkien. I wonder if his works are undergoing a “rediscovery” in a small way? I hope so. To children or adults, I would say simply this: Read these books. They may not change your life. They may not be your favorite thing in the world. But at the very least, you will leave Middle-earth richer than when you arrived.


To see more of Richard Rohlin’s thoughts on Tolkien, head over to his blog: http://blogonthebarrowdowns.blogspot.com/

grys03’s Experience –Tolkien Experience Project (30)

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 grys03 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 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 grys03’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

This one was easy – 1971
I was a comic book collector & had made friends with a guy who ran a bookshop
He was an ex-literature/English teacher/private tutor in his 70’s
We had come to an arrangement whereby he would let me know when something interesting came in &
I would grade & value the comics
On one of these occasions I spotted a silly paperback in a box in the back room
It looked like fun & had even sillier name: Bored of the Rings by the Harvard Lampoon

About an hour later (I was a quick reader) I was hooked.

What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

I was always fond of books/stories that filled in details via background data (e.g. Dune)
So Tolkien’s appendixes, family trees was a fascination for me
& eventually The Silmarillion, in particular, almost became far more important than LoTR
providing a rich history
inconsistencies I ignored – stories grow over time & the details can change
even in a well researched/laid out world such as Middle-Earth

What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

Reading LotR to my kids 4 & 5 as bedtime a series of bedtime stories
I would paraphrase a section of a chapter
We would talk about unfamiliar concepts etc
This led to many games of HeroQuest, Talisman (board games) &
eventually Dungeon & Dragons when they had matured at ages 5 & 6

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

I always considered LoTR a grand adventure
It was the adventures of Hercules & Thor & other great tales all rolled into one
It was populated with heroes, ‘magicians’, evil demons, elves, dwarves, etc.
What more could you want

Except, as time went on I realized that the journey to Mordor, the reinstatement of Aragorn as king of Gondor
the travels through Middle-Earth, the destruction of the Ring etc were actually the back story

The real story was the ‘coming of age’ of the Hobbits – their growing confidence & their ability to decide their own future

Which is why, though I loved the movies, I was disappointed that the Homecoming was not handled properly
To me that was the most important chapter in the book

Not the most exciting or grandiose or epic but certainly most important

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

It took me several attempts to get past the first 33 pages
Once I did I read the next 70 odd pages in the next day
But the rest of the book simply flowed very quickly

So, depends on the person. LoTR is a great book but to me it always felt like a book that thought it was a movie
Descriptive passages were almost written as if Tolkien was one of the Fellowship & described what he saw
similarly, Tolkien wrote as if he was an eavesdropper

Not everyone is interested in reading that style of book

RossRN’s–Tolkien Experience Project (29)

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 RossRN 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 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 RossRN’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

My parents were not Tolkien fans, nor were any friends growing up. I first learned of The Hobbit by seeing the animated Hobbit on TV when I was in elementary school. In 6th grade, I got The Hobbit video game for my Commodore 64 and while I struggled with getting through the portcullis in the barrels, I was already falling in love with the world of Tolkien. It was then that I bought a copy of The Hobbit and a box set of The Lord of the Rings and read them for the first time.

What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

My favorite part of Tolkien’s work is what I’ve come to consider the depth of it. By that, I mean at each stage of my life as I’ve reread The Hobbit and LoTR, I’ve taken away more from it based on my own life experience. Even more depth was granted with the History of Middle Earth. Being able to see the development of the story, the different ideas and considerations that were made is something I find unique. Finally, the publication of his Letters, Essays, and Translations opens your thinking even further as to the influences and decisions he made in this writing. It is truly unique.

What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

Hands down reading The Hobbit and LoTR to my daughter when she was five years old. She had seen the first Harry Potter and wanted me to read that to her as her bedtime story. I told her we would do that once we read The Hobbit and LoTR. She agreed. Each night I read to her and each morning while walking to school we talked about it. I saw the stories in such a new light and it was fun to discuss influences of Tolkien on the world of Harry Potter when we read those.

The experience re-awakened my love of Tolkien and over the past 15 years I’ve greatly expanded my collection and reading of many more of his works.

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

To the comments made above, once I recognized the depth, I couldn’t get enough. I not only re-read works, but read all of HoME and many other works by and about him. In between, I’d reread The Hobbit and LoTR with a new appreciation and context. I think it is mostly my own experience in life opening my eyes a bit more as I get older, but each time I reread these books I find previously missed gems and concepts. I don’t look for them, I just notice them and more readily identify them. Each read gives me food for thought.

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

I respect Tolkien is not for everyone. I find it hard to recommend to an adult who hasn’t read it already as it seems many people have predetermined notions of the books based on the movies.

People who haven’t read his works are often shocked that I would have read the books to my daughter at such a young age, mostly because of the movies. Honestly, when I read it to her, she understood it based on her age and experience. To her it was a wonderful, fantastical journey of good vs. evil. It had very ‘basic’ messages of temptation, which as you get older you start to view as being much more complex, none-the-less, she enjoyed it and I think any child would. If you are reading it to your child and discussing it, you can choose what is right to discuss with them and how to do it in the right way for them.

Alan Sisto’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (28)

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 Alan 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 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 Alan Sisto’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

The answer to this question will, unfortunately, necessitate my admitting to being older than I’d prefer to acknowledge. In November of 1977, I was 9 years old and, apparently, watched the Rankin & Bass animated TV presentation of The Hobbit. Admittedly, I no longer remember that experience with any degree of specificity. What I do remember — and what I still have on my bookshelf — is the first Tolkien book I ever owned, a copy of The Hobbit that I received that Christmas: the book as illustrated with art from the film. I recall reading that story over and over and simply being enthralled.

Sadly, it would be another five years before I would even learn of the existence of The Lord of the Rings — the Rankin & Bass book didn’t include the usual list of “other books by the author”, and the internet was just a sparkle in Al Gore’s eye at the time. But as a freshman in high school, I distinctly remember coming across the set of paperbacks from Ballantine Books (the Silver Jubilee set, as it turns out, with art by Darrell Sweet). I spent nearly all my paper-route money on that set and began to read them; though ‘devour’ might be a more accurate word, as I read the set at least three times in my first year of high school

What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

I’m sure my answer won’t be the only one along these lines, but my favorite element of Tolkien’s work is how they feel grounded in reality, despite their fantastic nature. It wouldn’t be until much later — as an adult, studying his works — that I would realize the importance of ‘the inner consistency of reality’ and the resultant Secondary Belief in the sub-created world. Still, identifying and understanding these elements does not detract from the impact they have when I read Tolkien: no other author I’ve found seems as able to sub-create a world as utterly believable and internally-consistent as the world that Tolkien made

What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

To be honest, I’m not sure I can narrow it down to just one. I’ve had an incredibly wonderful time (so far!) in walking through the legendarium for The Prancing Pony Podcast — I’ve learned so much, and it’s brought me closer connections to the Tolkien community than I ever would have imagined. And then there was the four or five year ‘drought’ where I didn’t read Tolkien (out of lack of time, not lack of interest), and the first time reading the books after that was like a desert wanderer stumbling upon the sweetest water.

But if I have to pick just one ‘fondest experience’, it would have been in the summer of 2001 — a few months before Peter Jackson’s film adaptations would come to theaters around the world. My wife had never read The Lord of the Rings but had shown some interest in the movie trailers and previews that we’d seen. I suggested she read the books before the films released so that she could experience them properly; her response was for us to read them together. So I bought a second set of paperbacks (my Ballantine set was nearing 20 years old, and was held together by tape and a very inadequate spell of binding) and we read together. Not just ‘together’ in the sense that we would each read a chapter every couple of days and stay mostly on track, no… by ‘together’, I mean we would find time and I would read aloud from the books while she followed along in her copy. Not only was it the first time I’d read the entirety of The Lord of the Rings aloud (an experience I highly recommend to anyone!), but I got to experience the story as a first-time reader vicariously through my wife. That first-time experience is something that, by definition, we can only experience once… but watching someone else have that first-time experience comes close, and is definitely my fondest experience of Tolkien’s work.

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

Without a doubt. Like most young people, the richness of Tolkien’s world was something that I enjoyed without being able to properly identify it. So my approach was merely to enjoy the story — I say ‘merely’, but there’s nothing wrong with this approach at all and, I suspect, Professor Tolkien would approve of those who approach his works exclusively in this manner.

Over time, though, I began to develop a deeper appreciation for the craft of the story… for the recurring themes… for the worldview that (I believe) Tolkien espoused. And these interests made me dig deeper — into biographical material, the Letters, essays, studies, and more.

Now, of course, I approach Tolkien’s work with even more attention to detail than ever before. As the co-host of The Prancing Pony Podcast, I have to approach Tolkien’s work with several thousand listeners in mind! This means being more thorough in my research, more complete in my comprehension, more open in discussion with my co-host, and more careful in leaping to conclusions. It’s been an extraordinarily rewarding experience, and I’m thrilled we have so much more material to cover.

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

At first, this seems like an odd question. Why would anyone who is willing to take the time to answer these questions not be willing to recommend Tolkien’s work? But as I considered it, I realized that there are some people to whom I wouldn’t bother recommending Tolkien — they are already set in their (orcish, perhaps) ways, sadly content in their myopia, pleased to focus on only the Primary World and not even the truths about that Primary World that they might learn from Tolkien’s secondary one.

But aside from those few, sad people, the answer is an unconditional ‘yes’, I would whole-heartedly recommend Tolkien’s work! As for why, the answers may be found in On Fairy-Stories, the seminal essay on fantasy written by Tolkien and printed in Tree and Leaf, among other volumes. The reasons are threefold: recovery, escape, and consolation. Each provides an important (in my view, perhaps essential) element in enjoying our brief span on this earth, but to understand and experience all three is a wonderful gift. Tolkien’s works provide each in unavoidable quantity and rich quality; reading his works can only improve one’s life correspondingly.


You can hear more of Alan’s thoughts on all things Tolkien in the wonderful podcast that he co-hosts: The Prancing Pony Podcast!

Shawn E. Marchese’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (27)

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 Shawn 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 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 Shawn E. Marchese’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

My first awareness of Tolkien’s work was as a child in the 1980s, when I saw a commercial on TV for Rankin and Bass’ The Hobbit on VHS. It must have included a clip of Bilbo in the cave with Gollum, because I got the idea that all of Middle-earth was underground: i.e., in the “middle” of the “earth.” I never cared much for the subterranean, so I didn’t give it a second thought. As I got older, I discovered Dungeons & Dragons, and before long I had a bookshelf full of middling fantasy paperbacks. I would occasionally hear about The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as I roamed this literary wilderness, but the titles just hovered on the edge of my awareness for many years.

I didn’t actually make up my mind to read Tolkien until I was fifteen. I was reading a book about a well-known rock group that originated in London in the 1960s, and on page 11 the author inserted an alluring story about how, decades earlier, a distracted college professor had written the words “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit” on an empty page of a student’s examination. That little act of creative rebellion greatly impressed me as a teenager, so I made up my mind to find out what this “hobbit” was, and what kind of mind it came from. On my next trip to the local Waldenbooks, I bought a box set of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in paperback and read them right away.

What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

I’m quite fond of the myth of Eärendil, as anyone who’s heard me talk about The Silmarillion for more than about seven minutes probably knows. Maybe it’s because Eärendil’s name was the start of it all for Tolkien, when he read that famous line of Old English poetry: “Eala earendel engla beorhtast.” Maybe it’s because of Eärendil’s central position in the legendarium, a nexus point between the Elder Days and the later stories. Maybe I just think flying star-boats are cool (who doesn’t?). But I think the real reason is because the myth of Eärendil allows me to connect the stories in the legendarium to my own life. Every time I see the evening star in the sky (I rarely wake up early enough to see it when it appears in the east as the morning star), I feel hope and wonder, as I imagine the people in Middle-earth did when they first saw the Star of High Hope rise in the sky. I feel a part of the story, and I sense my own birthright to the lessons it offers us.

And there’s so much there to learn: The importance of language and story, and their effect on how we view the world. The appreciation of nature. The need for enchantment and Faërie in our lives. The strength, hope, wisdom — and sometimes defiance — of Tolkien’s characters. And that’s what really keeps me coming back, more than the languages and history. It’s the strength of Éowyn, the wisdom of Faramir, the warmth of Gandalf, the insight of Samwise; the valor of Tuor, the loyalty of Beleg, the love of Beren and Lúthien, that makes me want to read it all again and again.

What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

My son was a cranky newborn, and nothing would get him to sleep at night except the sound of my voice or my wife’s voice. We’d spend an hour or two singing to him every night until he fell asleep, usually to find him awake again twenty minutes later! Hour after hour we’d go through this, night after night, for months.

Well, there’s only so many times you can sing the same songs over and over again before you get tired of singing. For me, that happened when he was three months old. As I looked down at the screaming baby in my arms, I realized it would be much easier for me to keep my voice going for hours on end if I was reading instead of singing. So, I picked up The Hobbit and started reading from the beginning. It was the first time I had ever read Tolkien’s work aloud, and I was struck by how much it changed my experience of the story. I could hear the music inherent in the words. I could feel the alliteration, the rhythm, the power of it all. I could keep this up all night if I had to! And the boy slept quite well.

I finished The Hobbit before he grew out of this phase, so I continued on to The Lord of the Rings. Then when my daughter was born a year or so later, I started reading The Hobbit to her at three months (she was a much better sleeper, but I wanted an excuse to read it aloud again), and continued the tradition with The Lord of the Rings after that. I’m proud to say both of my children technically were introduced to Tolkien before they were a year old, though they don’t remember it. I even read The Silmarillion aloud at bedtime to each of them when they were closer to two. I skipped some parts of “Of Túrin Turambar,” of course.

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

Absolutely. As a teenager reading it for the first time, I approached it with curiosity and wonder. Despite having read many fantasy novels, I noticed immediately that Tolkien’s work was unlike anything I’d read before. By my mid-20s (right around when Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring came out), the mainstreaming of geek culture in general and the availability of movie tie-in memorabilia led me to a sense of Tolkien “fandom” as a personal identity. Now that I’m older, such labels don’t matter much to me anymore, and I just appreciate Tolkien’s work for what it is: a literary work like no other in the world, an entire mythology from the mind of one man. It’s so rich and deep that I can discover something new in it every time I go back to it, and that’s very exciting. I suppose that brings me back to an approach similar to when I read it for the first time, when everything was new; but now I have the good fortune to co-host a podcast exploring Tolkien’s work, and I get to share what I’ve found with others while participating in a conversation about these stories and this world with other Tolkien readers all over the world. That’s a fantastic feeling!

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

Yes. I do it all the time. There’s something there for everyone. One reason why I spend so much time talking about Tolkien, and also why I wanted to podcast about Tolkien, is to share my love and knowledge of Tolkien with others who haven’t fully explored Middle-earth, or who think it’s all just too intimidating. There is a lot there, I realize; and I don’t expect everyone to muddle through every word of The History of Middle-earth. I even understand if someone says they can’t make it through The Silmarillion (though I’ll do what I can to help them make sense of it). But I recommend The Hobbit to everyone. Everyone should read The Hobbit at least once, and I think everyone should at least try to read The Lord of the Rings as well.


You can hear more of Shawn’s thoughts on all things Tolkien in the wonderful podcast that he co-hosts: The Prancing Pony Podcast!

Always1957’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (26)

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 Always1957 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 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 Always1957’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

Apparently, my father had heard of the books through Princeton University and got them in his study. I was not supposed to read them, but I did, between the ages of 10-16, perhaps.

What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

Certain chapters stand out: the Council of Elrond, the Mines of Moria, the Pellenor Fields, the Grey Havens.

What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

The movies were good, but I persist in liking the reading of the books, and I reread them all the time.

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

Yes, indeed! By now, I’ve read most of the History of Middle Earth plus other things that Christopher has printed. We know a lot more of how Tolkien’s mind worked, and how he thought of things.

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

Yes. I might, however, warn the potential reader of some politically incorrect or dubious things in Tolkien beforehand.

Timothy “Timdalf” Fisher’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (25)

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 Tim 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 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 Timothy “Timdalf” Fisher’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

I was 19 or 20 and someone knew of my interests and recommended it, But I did not initially take it up. However at a summer job at a beach restaurant that year I guess I happened upon the pb books and began reading…

What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

That is a hard one to answer. As the decades have passed and I have read more and more often, I find that each work enhances the others. Obviously, LotR is the best realized and most suggestive work. And it stands out. But within it there are those high intensity moments which I could never choose one over another, but the low intensity descriptions of nature are also essential to the sense of reality he build up.

What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

Simply rediscovering it with each re-reading. And the visuals and score of the films sent me back to the book. And recently coming upon a dramatic reading that combines all that is my latest happy discovery.

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

Yes. My initial read, coming soon after discovering Wagner’s Ring Cycle, left me unimpressed. I found the style flat compared with the intensity of the music dramas. I could not have been more wrong. Each reading increases my appreciation and admiration for what Tolkien achieved in LotR in particular. But the interplay between the Wagner music dramas (not just his Ring) and Tolkien has become a major focus for me.

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

Absolutely! The vividness of the LotR characterizations and the interplay between the characters and their situations is inspiring. I find “The Silmarillion” still quite problematic especially for being unfinished. Given Tolkien’s penchant for drastic revisions I find the various versions interesting, but also frustrating…

Tanya P’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (24)

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 Tanya 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 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 Tanya P’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

By chance, if chance you call it. When I was 14, a few months after my family and I came to US, I went with my mother and sister to the local library to pick out a book to read together, for the purposes of learning English. We were really at a loss what book to pick. So we wandered to a random shelf. There my mother pointed to some books and said “Look, there’s Tolkien.” My sister and I never heard the name before and were puzzled, so my mother, who like us never read Tolkien either, said that she heard that “this Tolkien was sought after” by more enthusiastic book lovers in Russia. That was good enough for us. So we plucked a random book by this Tolkien from the shelf and check it out. It was called The Hobbit. We began reading it together, but my mom and sister got bored very quickly and quit. I devoured the book and been reading and enjoying Tolkien’s works ever since.

What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

My favorite Tolkien’s book is The Silmarillion, but I’m having trouble pinpointing a single favorite passage or chapter in it. On the other hand, in The Lord of the Rings, I have several favorite passages. I like them for different reasons. But the one describing Gandalf’s flash of real light in Moria stands out even among them. Moria is one of my favorite locations in Middle-earth. Its perpetual darkness conceals secrets that I long to uncover. And I love the moment when Gandalf lifts this veil of mystery and gives his companions, and readers, a tiny glimpse of what they are missing.

What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

Being part of the Tolkien community and being able to share the love for the works of my most favorite author with like-minded people through discussion, speculation and humor. I was a solitary and lonely fan for twenty years. When I joined the Tolkien Society Facebook group, I was overjoyed to finally find someone to talk to about all things Tolkien.

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

Yes and no. It was really natural progression over time, fueled by age and exposure to the Tolkien’s fandom. This is how it went: This is such a great story, can’t wait to find out what happens next. —> Arda is such a rich world, must know every detail. —> These books are great works of literature, must think of all the different themes that the author included and tried to explore in his works. —> There are so many influences, references and allusions to external sources both literary and historical, must find all these hidden gems and thoroughly analyze them. But my greatest interest always was and still remains Arda itself – it’s history, metaphysical structure and internal workings.

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

Yes I would if I ever get a chance because I think that a person of almost any age will find something interesting in Tolkien’s books. But unlike many other fans, I generally like to talk Tolkien only to the people whom I already know to be fans. And though I recommended the “next Tolkien book” many times, I almost never get an opportunity to recommend it to someone who never read Tolkien before.


 

Ina’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (23)

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 Ina 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 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 Ina’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

I was introduced by my German/philosophy teacher at the German grammar school I was attending at the time. I was 17.
He gave me the three-volume German edition of The Lord of the Rings, published by Klett-Cotta. When I handed it back to him, he asked me if I had liked it, and I told him I hadn’t.
I also didn’t understand what the hype was all about. At the time, I didn’t understand why I hadn’t liked it.
Several years later, my English had improved, so I decided to read the original version (since I had been lucky enough to find an affordable one-volume edition with the appendices; English books used to be very expensive in Germany before the advent of Amazon).
I devoured the book within a few days and loved it!
I also realised why I hadn’t liked the German translation:

a) All the songs and poems were translated with rhyme and meter, which is commendable; however, the meaning/content went out the window, so I hadn’t understood the backstory of the ring and the history of Middle-Earth.

b) The prose of the German translation is by no means on a par with Tolkien’s use of language. Also, the translator had changed a number of the names to what he probably thought was easier for German readers. I only found it confusing.
I‘ve read it several times since then and love it more each time.

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

My favourite work by Tolkien is still The Lord oft he Rings, although I have also read The Hobbit and The Silmarillion.

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

My fondest experiences are:

a) Reading such a magical, beautiful book in the original language.

b) Watching The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (the extended version). One thing I like about the films in particular is that the female characters are portrayed more strongly – and as stronger.

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

Well, I’m 50 now and have a somewhat more mature approach (I hope). As a young adult, I read novels mostly for entertainment. Then I went to university to study English and learned much about literature, so I came to appreciate it more. Nowadays, I also want to know about the author’s and the story’s backgrounds.

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

I definitely recommend Tolkien’s work to others – if at all possible, in English. The Lord of the Rings is a milestone of unprecedented genius. You can read it on many levels, starting from reading it simply for pleasure all the way to writing your thesis on it. It’s a marvel of world-building, which makes the reader see something new every time they read it. For me, it’s the best book of the 20th century.

 

Beth H’s Experience–Tolkien Experience Project (22)

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 Beth 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 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 Beth H’s responses:


How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

I was first introduced to Tolkien’s work in late junior high or freshman year of high school when my sister brought home a library copy of The Hobbit. I may be remembering this wrong—what year of my life it happened. It had to have been before freshman year of high school. Then I think the Rankin Bass cartoon of The Hobbit was shown on TV and I liked it, so I read the book, and liked the parts about yearning for cupboard comforts the best, the Gollum scene second best, and the troll scene next best.

What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

My favorite part of Tolkien’s work is The Lord of the Rings—and my favorite part of that is the hobbitry. Really the mixture of country bumpkins yearning for adventure, loving the comfortable life, but wanting to see more interesting things. It was the story of my life growing up in a small farm town before the Internet, feeling that there must be SO MUCH MORE out there. At first read through the Black Rider scare and intrigue hooked me so that I could not put the book down, and I fell in love with Glorfindel—as small a part as that was. He seemed to me to most clearly evoke what was beautiful—promisingly possible about elves. Makes you want to learn more about what life in his world would be like—but we never really get it, do we? We are always left wanting more.

What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

When I first read the LOTR I was all about the Englishness of it and cared the most about the hobbit story lines. I studied in England for a year in college and I blame the LOTR for planting a romantic idea in my head about what England would be. This was before I read The Wind in the Willows. Same kind of love, though. Love of nature and simple pleasures and yearning for adventure.

My experience changed most after finally being able to digest The Silmarillion—ONLY possible with the help of Corey Olsen and The Silmarillion Seminar podcasts. It was like being given the LOTR all over again, and this time the parts that I had previously found to be tedious (long descriptions of landscapes and chapters having to do with Gondor and Rohan) became the more interesting parts.

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

Post Silmarillion Tolkien has become an extension of my spiritual life—in the sense that it provides another “in” to a sense of gratitude for beauty, the importance of sorrow and pity. As a writer I am always amazed by Tolkien’s skill. He is much loved but underrated, and many who try to copy him suggest that they miss most of what is great in his writing. By that I mean that the charm has less to do with the variety of creatures/sentient beings. Writing a story that has dragons and elves does not give you Tolkien, so the value lies elsewhere.

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

I always try to get people to read Tolkien and try to keep Little Free Libraries near me always stocked, hoping to give that experience to another person. The first biggest value is in an appreciation of beauty in a biblical sense—“…and God saw that it was good,” and so do we.