How Familiar Are You With Tolkien’s Work?

Along with CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien tends to receive high accolades in Christian and mainstream fantasy circles alike. So I thought it might be interesting to see how familiar avid readers and writers of Christian fantasy are with his works.

I encourage you to vote for all of his books that you’ve read, and also share in the comments about your favorites…especially among his lesser-known tales.

For me, of Tolkien’s more obscure works, Farmer Giles of Ham appealed for the sheer humor (some images remain indelibly printed on my mind, like Farmer Giles with his blunderbuss) and Smith of Wootton Major for its haunting loveliness (it captured the realm of faery in an intriguing way). I also enjoy picking up bits and pieces from The Lost Tales and The Unfinished Tales that enrich the reading experience of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings…but then, I’m the sort of person who also reads the prologues, appendices, author’s notes and so forth.

What about you?

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17 Responses to How Familiar Are You With Tolkien’s Work?

  1. I’m currently about the middle of The Fellowship of The Ring, and will not likely continue in the trilogy for a while after I finish. Other than this I’ve only read The Hobbit. I’ve loved both, but the world detail makes for a very rich while also very time consuming read. Maybe in a year or so I will pick up The Two Towers. I’ve also been curious about Tolkien’s interpretation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and will probably read it eventually. I read Simon Armitage’s version and really enjoyed it.

    • Sarah Sawyer says:

      I hope you do eventually finish the trilogy–it’s a masterpiece in every sense of the word. He did create an incredibly dense world, but it’s so familiar to me that the details and layers of Middle Earth seem natural, almost home-like. My dad read me the books when I was pretty young, so I can hardly remember a pre-Tolkien time.

      All that said, when I eventually came to The Silmarillion I still had to consult the guide in the back multiple times. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I read his version of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight some time ago, and I enjoyed it but it didn’t make a deep impression on me, not like some of his other works. Still I think you’ll likely enjoy it if you’ve enjoyed other versions of the tale.

  2. Hannah says:

    My favorite parts of Tolkien have to be: Anything on Tom Bombadil, the appendix of LOTR devoted to Aragorn and Arwen, and Leaf by Niggle. Oh, and the Gollum scene in The Hobbit is pure, unadulterated brilliance!

    Thanks for posting about the Master of Fantasy! It is a GREAT way to start my day!

    • Sarah Sawyer says:

      Oh, I loved reading the appendix about Aaragorn and Arwen. It made what I saw of their relationship in Lord of the Rings so much deeper and more beautiful. Tom Bombadil always fascinated me also. There’s just so much to enjoy!

  3. Kessie says:

    To my shame, I’ve only read the top three on the list. I’ve also read Sir Gwain and the Green Knight, but I’ve always wanted to read his other works.

    • Sarah Sawyer says:

      The beauty of some of his shorter tales is that they tend to be lighter reads. If you’re not in the mood for something epic, a tale like Farmer Giles of Ham might be just the thing to put a smile on your face. One of the better compilations I’ve seen of his shorter works is Tales from the Perilous Realm–it has Farmer Giles of Ham, Leaf by Niggle, Roverandum, Smith of Wootton Major, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and assorted poetry. Plus his famous essay “On Fairy Stories.” So if you’re looking to delve into some of his lesser-known works, I’d recommend checking it out.

  4. I cut my reading teeth on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and for many years I couldn’t stand C.S. Lewis because he wasn’t Tolkien. I had to smile at Hannah’s comment on Tom Bombadil, because he was absolutely my least favorite character. I used to skip over that part because he annoyed me and I thought he added nothing to the story. I agree with Leaf by Niggle, which I believe receives too little attention.

    • Sarah Sawyer says:

      Thanks for chiming in, Yvonne! How funny about Lewis. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I was exposed to Tolkien at an early age, but Lewis came first for me. For whatever reason, I never compared the two–I loved them both for their own beauties, and I love them both still, even after countless re-readings.

      Leaf by Niggle does receive too little attention, as do most of his works outside of Lord of the Rings. Yes, that’s his masterpiece, but his other tales are still worthy of reading (and even re-reading).

  5. Will says:

    Tolkein is by far my favorite author of all time. The Fellowship of the Ring will always hold a special place in my heart as it was the first of his works I read. The Fall of Gondolin from the Simarillion has always been one of my favorites to re-visit. There’s not much that’s better than the Battle of Pelennor Fields in RotK.

    • Sarah Sawyer says:

      Tolkien is on my list of top authors as well. I’ve read the books by him and Lewis more times than I have any other authors and gained something fresh on each reading. That makes them true classics, in my opinion.

      I agree on the Battle of Pelennor Fields. It was both grim and glorious and will forever live in my imagination as a demonstration of heroic, valiant deeds.

  6. I am definitely out of the Tolkien loop. I love Lord of the Rings and once loved the Hobbit. When I last re-read it, though, it seemed a bit pale in comparison to Frodo’s adventures.

    I think I stopped reading Tolkien more from ignorance of his other work than anything. Not reading The Simarillion was a choice, though. I didn’t want anything to spoil my esteem of the man, and I’d heard comments that made me think this wouldn’t keep pace with the others I’d read. Of course, now I heard much that calls that view into question, but it’s a matter of resources.

    Interesting poll, Sarah.

    Becky

    • Sarah Sawyer says:

      The Hobbit doesn’t quite match the splendor of Lord of the Rings, though I still appreciate it.

      The Silmarillion is a very different work from the Lord of the Rings, but it greatly enriches the reading of The Hobbit/The Lord of The Rings. Not to mention it has many powerful moments of its own. I’ve never regretted reading any of Tolkien’s works (though The Silmarillion was the most demanding read).

      Some of his shorter tales can be more easily squeezed in and they give a different perspective on Tolkien as an author. I’ve enjoyed them all. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Emily says:

    I must admit, I’ve read very little Tolkien (basically, the Hobbit and a very small part of The Fellowship of the Ring). While I love his books, I often find them hard to get into, and if I’m not reading them at the present moment, I can’t seem to want to read them. It’s odd, because I always love them when I’m actually reading them.

    That all sounded really confusing, didn’t it? Sorry about that… I’m running on very little sleep so my thoughts are a bit jumbled. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Sarah Sawyer says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Emily! Tolkien did write in a different, more dense style than writers use todayโ€ฆand The Fellowship of the Ring starts a little on the slow side (which I personally enjoyed, because it allowed re-acquaintance with Bilbo and the Shire). So I can understand why you might not have found it easy to get into. However, I think you’ll be glad if you pick it back up. It’s one of the most powerful works of fiction I’ve read!

      • Emily says:

        I can see how getting re-acquainted with Bilbo and the Shire serves a very good purpose (actually, I’m quite glad for it myself ๐Ÿ™‚ ), though it is always much harder for me to read a book when it starts out slow. I think that’s why I enjoyed Narnia so much. But back to Tolkien, I think I have indeed been inspired to pick it back up again… I’d been thinking about it a bit even before I read your post. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Oh yes, and I forgot to mention, I’ve also read his children’s book, Mr. Bliss.

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