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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.”