1.) When and how were you first introduced to Tolkien? What did you read first?
In my late teens, I decided the time had come for me to catch up on reading classics, and The Lord of the Rings was on my to-read list for several years. I knew it was a classic, but didn’t know anything about either the story or its author. It surprised me to learn that the novel was fantasy—I remember that, though I don’t remember what I originally thought it was about.
The Peter Jackson adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring came out in 2001, and after watching it, I finally read The Lord of the Rings. It would have been silly not to—my parents and sisters and I apparently all had the same idea for Christmas presents that year, and by the time we were done opening gifts, nearly everyone in the family had their own copy.
2.) What attracts you to Tolkien’s writing?
For the sake of honesty, I’ll have to say something you may not have been expecting when you invited me to be one of your blogger interviews: I have a bit of an uneven relationship with Tolkien’s work.
One of the things I hope to find in any novel I open is a relatable, emotional, human, feminine presence. There are no named female characters in The Hobbit, and of the handful in LotR, only Eowyn has ever come off relatable to me—and she annoys me, probably by being too prone to making my own mistakes!
That said, as objective and distant as Tolkien’s narration sometimes feels to me in consequence of the above, I absolutely love how he humanizes the gentle, small, powerless characters. Frodo and Sam—and to some extent Merry and Pippin as well—are nearly as real to me as my own friends. Frodo is quiet, weary, wounded, and determined; Sam is deeply loving and protective; and in both of them I find a beautiful ideal and a very thorough sympathy.
3.) What would you say to those who haven’t read any of Tolkien’s books yet?
If I were as well-read in the Professor’s works as I’d like to be, I’d probably say to start with “Leaf by Niggle” or “On Fairy Stories,” as they’re shorter and would probably serve as a good introduction to Tolkien’s work. Unfortunately, I haven’t read either of them myself. I’m still working on The Silmarillion.
I went about things the wrong way, according to the dictates of fandom, by watching one of the movies first—and lived to give the Professor his due anyway, so: Those of you who would undertake the adventure, begin as you must, but do begin!
4.) What is your favorite Tolkien book? What makes it special?
The Lord of the Rings; or, if we want to break that down by volume, Return of the King. There are so many scenes in that story that are simply brilliant—by which I mean both “a work of genius” and “full of light.”
5.) Can you share one of your favorite Tolkien quotes with us?
Probably not—but I can share two:
“I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun, and behold! The shadow has departed! I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren.”
“Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?”