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J.R.R. Tolkien: Love him or hate him?
Colleen Lindsay
Posted: Wednesday, March 2, 2011 2:17 AM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 356

This is always a bone of contention among fantasy readers. J.R.R. Tolkien is widely acknowledged as the first fantasist to take world building seriously, but many respected SF/F writers - among them Richard  K. Morgan and China Mieville - don't care for his work.

How do you feel about Tolkien? Do you love his work? Hate it? Why?

Posted: Thursday, March 3, 2011 10:44 PM
Joined: 3/3/2011
Posts: 15

I don't see how you could possibly read and enjoy the continuum of fantasy without having read LORD OF THE RINGS at some point. I read the trilogy as a teenager in the 1970's and was riveted. I think I would find rereading it tough now (heavy to struggle through) though I did love the movies, which I thought were true to the spirit--mostly--if not the substance. And, by the way, I feel pretty much exactly the same way about Georgette Heyer and romance if anyone wants to discuss that one in a rom
Colleen Lindsay
Posted: Thursday, March 3, 2011 10:55 PM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 356

Eliza - this is the second of your comments to be cut off. Can you let me know if this is a bug?
Posted: Thursday, March 3, 2011 11:34 PM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 15

I'm not actually a fan of JRR Tolkien, though I think it has more to do with how I perceive the length versus distaste. I love reading about his books and about Middle Earth, reading discussions and papers and analytical works. But when I sit down to read the books themselves I balk at the large amount of pages. Which is silly since I read other authors with equally long books (Brandon Sanderson), but I think because I began those books at the beginning instead of years later when they were
Posted: Friday, March 4, 2011 2:42 AM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 5

I love Tolkien: I'm a card carrying member of the Mythopoeic Society, and while I suppose loving Tolkien is not a requirement, it certainly helps! His essay On Fairy Stories very much applies to the way I feel about fantasy, and storytelling in general. There's a lot of excellent meat in that essay.
Danielle Poiesz
Posted: Friday, March 4, 2011 4:27 PM
I enjoy Tolkien very much too, though prefer THE HOBBIT to the LOTR trilogy. (and did NOT like THE SILMARILLION...I almost died trying to read that book.haha! I do struggle with the length issue as Lexie does, however, because his writing can at times feel very slow to me. I'm not a big fan of being reminded that something is taking me a lot of time haha
Mahesh Raj Mohan
Posted: Friday, March 4, 2011 7:40 PM
Joined: 2/28/2011
Posts: 60

I also enjoy Tolkien, but like Lexie, when I first sat down to read Fellowship, I was kind of put off (I think I was 18 or so). But I went back to it a couple of years later and then became riveted. I understand the arguments against him (Mieville's infamous 'wen on the arse of fantasy' article), but I dunno, I like it. I don't really have a dog in the race, though, because I don't write high fantasy and think enough folks like Lynch, Abercrombie, Marmell, etc. are challenging it. Oddly en
Posted: Saturday, March 5, 2011 6:02 AM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 15

I want to write Epic Fantasy (though not High--I don't much fall in for Elves and the like) and though I know reading material about a book isn't the same as reading the book, its as close as I've gotten. I may however challenge myself to read the books next year (after my courses are done in college) because a friend gave me a brand new set for Christmas and I hate wasting a perfectly good gift.
Posted: Saturday, March 5, 2011 9:26 PM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 15

Yasmine did you find that skipping the Prologue meant you missed something?
Posted: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 8:19 AM
Joined: 3/7/2011
Posts: 10

I think Tolkien suffers from being so imitated that it's easy to see it as a parody, particularly if you come across it after you've read other things. I grew up in the 60s and 70s and my dad was a Tolkien fan, so I got these stories very early and learned to appreciate them. I enjoyed them very much when I was ten or eleven. I'm not one of those people who goes back and re-reads them, and I'm no longer the fan I used to be. High fantasy doesn't really interest me as much as it once did, because
Michael R Underwood
Posted: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 4:48 PM
Joined: 3/3/2011
Posts: 74

I appreciate Tolkein's worldbuilding, especially his attention to language and use of mythological content and structure. His pacing is frequently lax (by current standards) and given the fact that he is said to have written Lord of the Rings mostly for himself, that's fine. Trying to ape Tolkein too closely can lead to a replication of his weaknesses along with his strengths, and a lazy or unimaginitive work in the Tolkeinesque school will fall victim to all of those weaknesses. I'm not quit
Posted: Thursday, March 10, 2011 8:23 PM
Joined: 3/10/2011
Posts: 7

I read Tolkein early on in my life (okay, I'm not that old, but it was earlier!) mostly because I read anything my best friend would lend me and she forced the Tolkein books on me. In a lot of ways, I'm glad I read Tolkein and other classics when I was younger. I might not want to curl up with them nowadays, but I still appreciate the story and the world I remember. They're just too long and slow moving for me to expend the time on them now.
Jason Myers
Posted: Friday, March 11, 2011 4:41 PM
Joined: 3/3/2011
Posts: 21

Not only did I read the three books, and The Hobbit, I read The Simarillion.

It was TOUGH. But I fought through it. There are a ton of tidbits in there that add so much to the entire story.

For instance: Gandalf wasn't a wizard, he was a demi-god, along the same lines as Sauron, and he was sent by his master to middle-earth JUST to defeat Sauron.

I put it this way, the LOTR books are on an inch of a story that's a yardstick long.
Vicki Ruhs
Posted: Sunday, March 13, 2011 1:27 AM
Joined: 3/11/2011
Posts: 1

I grew up reading and hearing the sagas so Tolkien felt very familiar to me. I am sure there are people who don't like his work for a number of reasons. It is long, he does wander, the style is "archaic." However, he knows how to do heroic and do it well. His characters are larger than life and yet real, there is an ongoing conflict we are made to care about, and there is resolution.
Posted: Monday, March 14, 2011 12:25 AM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245

I love Tolkien though I discovered him very reluctantly. The first of Peter Jackson's movies came out when I was a junior in high school. A bunch of my friends wanted to go. Knowing we'd be seeing the movie, I bought Fellowship. Slow start. The day we were going to see the movie I still had half of it to read. I managed to finish it. Imagine my surprise when the movie ended not where the book did.

But I loved the books when I read them. I read LOTR before Hobbit and as such I do like the former more than the latter. I never got to take the Tolkien class offered on occasion at my undergraduate alma mater, but wish I had.
Carla Luna Cullen
Posted: Monday, March 14, 2011 4:23 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 8

I read THE HOBBIT in 6th grade and it's among my favorite books, but when I tried to read the LOTR trilogy in high school, I couldn't finish it. I think if I went back now and re-read it, I'd probably have more patience and enjoy it a lot. I loved all of Peter Jackson's LOTR movies - they really brought the world to life for me.
Posted: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 9:03 PM
Joined: 3/15/2011
Posts: 15

Huge fan of him, despite the many arguments and naysayers. His books gave me an idea of how enormous a fantasy world could be. Of how so many cultures and histories could fit together, despite none of them being real. I've probably read the books ten times over, and they've been a huge inspiration in my writing--though I hardly think I'm going to copy his style or anything.
Posted: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 12:41 AM
Joined: 3/11/2011
Posts: 4

Loved the Hobbit, but the lack of female characters simply made it difficult to read back in my high school days.

There is a great deal to learn from Tolkien and a great deal to admire. Any negative carry over for me is simply due to his time of writing vs my time of reading. I don't find fault in that by any means, although I adored 21 Balloons nd the Jules Verne books growing up. Once I found L'Engle's "Wrinkle in Time" and Konisberg's "From the Mixed Up Files..." though, I was in hot pursuit of strong female protagonists, even back in middle school.
Robert C Roman
Posted: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 4:37 AM
Joined: 3/12/2011
Posts: 383

Responded earlier, got blocked due to port blockers at school, summarizing now.

I LOVED Tolkien on first reading (back in 5th grade, read all five core Middle Earth books). I love him less since I've been writing myself. Great worldbuilding, good story, some good characters and some really awful ones, but mainly the prose is just... Overblown. Once in a great while it's beautiful, but more often it's tedious.

I still love the stories, though, and reread bits and pieces now and then.
Dan Haring
Posted: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 6:54 AM
Joined: 3/14/2011
Posts: 2

I first read The Hobbit in 8th grade and loved it. I started to read LOTR after, but didn't get far. The summer before the The Fellowship of the Ring film came out, I read LOTR. I remember really enjoying it, but also remember it being rather tedious at times. If I recall correctly, he mentioned that the moon was westering quite often, and I know I skipped several of the songs and poems. But overall I love the story, love the world he created and the characters. I plan on going back and reading Hobbit and LOTR again sometime soon, time permitting.
Tori Schindler
Posted: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 6:38 PM
Joined: 3/12/2011
Posts: 41

I loved The Hobbit, I think I was in about 4th or 5th grade when someone gave me that. I didn't discover LOTR until a year or two later. I zipped right through The Fellowship, but just put down Two Towers and never finished it. Always meant to but I still never have. I always suspected it was the arrival of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that did it and started switching me from fantasy to sci-fi. Looking back, I think that might be something I should speak to a professional about. Hmmm.
Tori Schindler
Posted: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 6:41 PM
Joined: 3/12/2011
Posts: 41

Sorry. Didn't answer the question. Love him, despite the Two Towers incident. And he's back on the pile of books I'll get to shortly. I need to clear up unfinished childhood business. Thanks.
Robert Dean
Posted: Thursday, March 17, 2011 4:44 AM
Joined: 3/11/2011
Posts: 6

I hated Tolkien. My mom bought me the LOTR trilogy and I read like, 30 pages and was done. I've never looked back. I find him so infinitely boring it's unreal.
Alexander Hollins
Posted: Thursday, March 17, 2011 11:29 AM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 416

I'm a weird one. I read the hobbit when I was 9. Again at 12. LOVE that book. Tried to pick up lotr, and I just can't. the story, the writing, ect, were just painful to me. To the point where I haven't seen the movies. I have no interest. Now, when they make the Hobbit movie, I'm going to be camped out for opening night.
Posted: Thursday, March 17, 2011 2:10 PM
Joined: 3/14/2011
Posts: 51

I read The Hobbit in school when I was in 3rd grade. I hated it at the time. Found it horribly boring and overwritten. It completely turned me off to Tolkien and epic fantasy in general for years.

I read it again a couple years ago and had a different experience entirely. I enjoyed it, though I can still see why I hated it at age 8 or 9. It's an incredibly slow book, and the world-building, while brilliant in itself, is a bit too prominent for my taste. I felt like there were too many times when we'd suddenly spend a few pages looking at the scenery when there were so many more interesting things potentially going on.

One of these days I'm going to get around to reading LOTR, but it just hasn't been very high up on my to-read list.
Alexander Hollins
Posted: Thursday, March 17, 2011 4:25 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 416

Cameron, a good friend of mine agrees with you completely. His statement on the Hobbit is, "So, I was reading the book, and 4 pages in, I realized that we had just spent the last two pages talking about Hobbit Doors... "

As for myself, I loved that, and my own work shows that. I have a lot of sudden breaks to spend a page or so describing something in detail.
Posted: Thursday, March 17, 2011 9:20 PM
Joined: 3/14/2011
Posts: 8

I have read The Hobbit and LOTR, I usually read it every four or five years or so.

I respect J.R.R. Tolkein, I don't hate his work, but I'm not a die-hard fan either.
Posted: Thursday, March 17, 2011 10:28 PM
Joined: 3/17/2011
Posts: 18

While many have tried to duplicate LORT and Tolkien, there are very few that can match.

I think Stephen R Donaldson came the closest with his Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever, series. Like Tolkien, he painted a very interesting world. Unlike Tolkien, his main character is flawed, big time, and because of his flaw, many readers did not like the Covenant series. Still there are so many other interesting character in the series, that you can see aspects of Tolkien's influence throughout.

I agree that because of the glut of fantasy books with a faster pace and less complex world, readers tend to discount Tolkien's work as over the top.

Or so is my humble opinion...
Posted: Thursday, March 17, 2011 11:36 PM
Joined: 3/17/2011
Posts: 5

I love the idea of what Tolkien built, an amazing world full of amazing creatures and I heart the movies so much, but when it came to actually reading them I adored The Hobbit but the rest of the series I could never seriously invest in.
Danielle Bowers
Posted: Friday, March 18, 2011 12:09 AM
Joined: 3/16/2011
Posts: 280

I love Tolkien, I've read all of his books.


Aside from The Hobbit his works aren't easy to read. They are perfect if you have friends who also read his books so the lore can be discussed and debated. When I was in school there was a 'fun' class option that did nothing but read and discuss Tolkien. This was before Peter Jackson even dreamed the movie version and the class was packed every semester. I remember one day we spent over an hour debating one line. One. Bloody. Line.

These days with my schedule and the demands of my children I find myself reaching for easier reads. Tolkien is great if you have the time, patience and attention his work needs. If you read whenever you can grab five minutes, pick something else.
MB Mulhall
Posted: Wednesday, March 23, 2011 2:12 PM
Joined: 3/14/2011
Posts: 81

I am not a fan. I just could never get into it. Funny though, I LOVE Guy Gavriel Kay, who helped edit Tolkin's work after he passed away. I think Kay is the master of interesting world building that doesn't drag the plot down.
Posted: Thursday, March 24, 2011 7:10 PM
I think I read LOTR at least ten times since I was a teen. I scoured the family trees of the High Elves and rooted around to find the history of the various evil-doers.

I think you have to read it several times to absorb Tolkien's world. I loved retracing the voyages, imagining the landscapes and exploring lineages. Each time I read it, I got more out of it.

I read The Hobbit to my kids, which piqued their interest in Fantasy. When walking through forests, I imagined being a Hobbit on a journey.

My kids bought me Silmarillion and I have a copy of Unfinished Tales I haven't read yet. I also have a set of full colour maps and a few action figures lying around.

Gosh, I'm such a geek!
Posted: Thursday, March 31, 2011 5:40 PM
Joined: 3/29/2011
Posts: 25

Hmm I'm reading Return of the King now. I do like his books, but I find them hard to get through. There's just so much description and some of the descriptions are hard to picture, which makes it more difficult to read. The story and world building are fascinating, though.
Posted: Saturday, April 2, 2011 2:19 AM
Joined: 3/9/2011
Posts: 16

I probably should give the series another try. My first attempt was back in high school and I couldn't get past the first few pages of the hobbit. The movies were okay, though the first one took me a couple of times to watch the whole thing because I got a bit antsy. I saw the second one first and there were scenes in it that reminded me of different scenes in other novels I'd read. I am doing an epic fantasy novel of my own on the side, which was inspired a little by Dragonlance.

I did, however, write a paper my freshman year of college about how certain fantasy novels, Tolkien's in particular, influenced the genre.
Robert C Roman
Posted: Saturday, April 2, 2011 12:25 PM
Joined: 3/12/2011
Posts: 383

@Dawn - "scenes in it that reminded me of different scenes in other novels".

That was actually a running gag when the movies came out - that people who hadn't read the novels and didn't realize how old they were would say the movies were 'derivative'. Thing is, most of the things people find it reminds them of were actually derived from LotR. But then again, you knew that already.
Alexander Hollins
Posted: Sunday, April 3, 2011 10:46 AM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 416

I do have to say, part of me dislikes how popular the movies have become, because you used to be able to figure out who "our people" were in a crowd by making a "my precious" joke, and seeing who giggled. Sigh.
Sinnie Ellis
Posted: Sunday, April 3, 2011 7:11 PM
Joined: 4/3/2011
Posts: 67

I read his books and own all of them, I must say I have not picked them up since the first read through. He is so bleedin boring and convoluted style makes me feel like I am drowning in an elvin hell. The person that was able to adapt them for the big screen deserves a knighthood. I may someday dust them off and have another go at it but until then I will stick with the movies I can usually only watch once every three years.

Addie J King
Posted: Tuesday, April 5, 2011 9:21 PM
Joined: 4/3/2011
Posts: 16

I really liked the Hobbit.

And I liked the storyline of the LOTR books, I just didn't like having to wade through so much world-building to get to the story.

There was a lot of really cool detail, but I kept getting lost in the detail instead of the story. And I was afraid to skip the detail in case it was important to the story.
Posted: Sunday, April 10, 2011 8:55 PM
Joined: 3/31/2011
Posts: 11

I read The Hobbit in 7th grade and really liked it. Then in high school I read The Fellowship and mostly loved it, though the prose was so thick I couldn't stand to pick up The Two Towers right away, and shortly thereafter lost interest in the story altogether.

I loved the movies, I have The Silmarillion and have read a couple of chapters. I respect the man a great deal. I love his world, I love the creation story and the cultures he cultivated; but I can't get into his writing.

A few years ago I tried to go back and reread The Hobbit--I got about half way through before I had to put it down. I found myself comparing it to The Fellowship, and it wasn't measuring up in terms of story/scope/prose. Apparently in the time since I finished Fellowship the prose had grown on me, at least the flowery distorted version of it that vaguely exists in my memory.
Sara Camarata
Posted: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 3:11 PM
Joined: 4/25/2011
Posts: 1

I first read LotR in the summer between the 4th and 5th grade. When I finished I was sad becuase the adventure was over. It was the first time I felt that way about a book. So I read it again. Fast forward to the summer before my 9th grade year. I got cast as Bofur the Dwarf in a community play of The Hobbit, so I figured I'd better read the book. I loved it!
I have an annual tradition of reading The Hobbit and LoTR. I've read them aloud to my kids. Heck when pregnant w/ both boys I had a pair of headphones I'd put on my belly and I'd play the BBC dramatized versions for the kids in utero.

I've no desire to attempt prose like Tolkien, it's not my style or voice. I love what Tolkien did for me as a kid. Reading LoTR when I did opened my eyes to a new kind of book. After my 2nd read of LoTR my mom gave me the Sword of Shanara, and from there I kept branching out and out. I went on to study Tolkien in college, got a degree in English and here I am today.
TM Thomas
Posted: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 8:36 PM
Joined: 4/25/2011
Posts: 6

I read these in middle school/junior high, at the peak of my interest in epic/high fantasy. At the time, it was the coolest thing ever.

The attention to worldbuilding and the foundation that was laid for all future fantasy are things that I content will always be with us. However, if I had to read them today, looking at the length and a lot of what I found dry, even when I was into the books...I might feel differently.

So, yet again, I contradict myself and don't have a real answer. And here I was trying to wear my writer hat and not my lawyer one...
Taylor A Johnson
Posted: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 1:29 AM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 1

Hmm... I Loved the movies for sure. My friend who is a huge fan of the books told me to read them, they're much better. So I am now reading the hobbit!!!! I like it but, it hard for me because I HATE BILBO's character. Therefore, Its taking me a long time to conquer it. But, I love his writing style and the world he has created. I love the elves!!! I wouldn't be a true fan of fantasy fiction if i didnt read these books
Kristine Ondrus
Posted: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 6:30 PM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 8

I l.o.v.e him. I read all the LOTR books in middle school. I did find some of the character intros to be a bit verbose yet that is how he created such a rich and dynamic world. I am more of a jump right into it writer yet I completely respect him and love his writing.

I also really liked C.S Lewis when I was a kid and still like his writing even today.
Valerie Douglas
Posted: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 7:52 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 2

I was always a fan of epic fantasy but Tolkien was the gateway. He gave me the skies of Pern, the vampire St. Germain and dozens of other worlds and characters. I find I really miss true heroic fantasy but there were a few popular series that just seemed to go on and on.

So, I became an epic fantasy writer.... yes, some of mine have Elves, but you might be surprised... another has a Fairy Queen who is anything but frilly and sweet, while another has a slightly different twist on mummies...
Joe Selby
Posted: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 8:13 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 30

As a world builder Tolkien hit a grand slam with Middle Earth. Love it, love it, love it, love it. As a storyteller, The Lord of the Rings trilogy was incredibly difficult for me to read. While I read the Hobbit multiple times, it took me 11 years to get through Fellowship for the first time and I'll never be inclined to read it again.
Posted: Thursday, April 28, 2011 3:26 AM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 6

Like Sara (who posted above) I love Tolkien.

My father died in 1970 when I was 9 years old and we had just moved to a new town. My older siblings were reading The Hobbit and LOTR and someone suggested I read it. It transported me to a place that allowed me to escape the sorrow in my house and engage in an epic adventure. I read LOTR at least once a year until my kids were born. I read the Silmarillion and I read the books aloud to each of my two daughters and when we heard the movies were being made I even upgraded our internet connection so we could download the video files from the OneRing site. We saw each movie on the day they came out and we own every version of the movies released. And still I go often go back to the books and to my favorite passages.

I tried to read CS Lewis and I did read a couple of books to my kids, but nothing spoke to me like LOTR. For me, it illustrated the power of literature to take me out of one place and into another. It is always #1 on my favorite books list.
LeeAnna Holt
Posted: Sunday, May 1, 2011 4:26 PM
Joined: 4/30/2011
Posts: 662

All right, I tried to read LOTR twice and ended up stopping in the middle of Return of the King. I know, as a fantasy writer that is pure blasphemy, but what if I told you that I read it the second time for a class with a guy who looked like a very clean shaven Gandalf. We studied the inspirations for the books like Beowulf and Sir Gaiwain and the Green Knight (of which Tolkien did a translation of from its original language). Tolkien was a professor of Anglo Saxon at Oxford and was very much inspired by the history and language he was teaching. He was also quite dry. As much as I love his world building, I get bored and fall asleep. He was considered the "Father of Fantasy," but I tink people ignore things like Aesops Fables, fairytales, and books like Guliver's Travels or Candid in the creation of writing the fantastic.

I like Tolkien for the effort, but I am never going to read him again.
Alex Hollingshead
Posted: Monday, May 2, 2011 9:15 PM
Joined: 5/2/2011
Posts: 61

Tolkien made fantasy something to discuss, something we can admit to liking with at least a bit less ridicule. He codified the genre, and frankly made fantasy what it is to so many of us today. And though I think other authors, before and after, have done it better (notably Austin Tappan Wright), I won't deny that Tolkien was quite the worldbuilder.

But I, admittedly, was pretty neutral to his works. HIs prose is flowery, more flowery than I'd want to read, and unless it is a work such as the Silmarillion - which all but admits to being a history textbook - it can be hard to get through some of the more gratuitous descriptions of his elves or whatever it may be. He's not bad, not really. Just not something I'd read if it weren't for the significance.
Jack Whitsel
Posted: Friday, June 3, 2011 12:13 AM
Joined: 5/7/2011
Posts: 35

A few years ago, Damon Wayans was talking...I think it was a "roast". Anyhow, the subject of Richard Prior came up. I remember him saying, "Anyone who has not stolen from Richard Prior is probably not funny". The same can be said about Tolkien. Anyone who has read Tolkien, and has not been inspired, probably can't write fantasy.
Bill Gleason
Posted: Tuesday, June 14, 2011 11:05 PM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 18

In a way, Tolkien is like Pearl S. Buck in terms of narrative. Yes, The Good Earth is a heavy read, but it is so entrenched in the culture that the world matters as much as the transient characters do. Tolkien is even more heavy-handed, with the entire actual fate of Middle Earth hanging in the balance of a single moment. Also, The Hobbit is a crafty ploy to lure in unsuspecting readers. After having read that, how could you not want more? And Tolkien definitely gives you more. (As does Buck, incidentally, The Good Earth being part of a trilogy itself.)

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