Saturday, November 28, 2015

Tolkien: An Acquired Taste?

I had a conversation with a woman over break who stated that she owned all of the Lord of the Rings books and could just not get into them. Additionally, one of my professors spotted me reading The Silmarillion and told me he had read it, but could never read all the way through LOTR. This got me thinking about my own experience with Tolkien.
I am a life long Harry Potter fanatic and an avid reader of all things fantasy. I learned to read young and had a Harry Potter book in my hands in the first grade. Inevitably, this led me to Lord of the Rings. I read it for the first time when I was ten and I remember being underwhelmed. Therefore, I stuck with Harry Potter and if asked which I liked better it would be HP, no contest. But then, I read LOTR again my freshman year of college. I read The Hobbit for the first time, and then I read it again. Now I'm not so sure which is my favorite.
I have read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings three times now and I like it better every time. I feel like these books resonate with me more as I get older. I'm not sure if this is due to a greater appreciation for the finer things or the fact that I simply understand more of the words now. This leads me to ask: Is Tolkien an acquired taste? Is it like fine liquor and gets better with age? How do you feel Tolkien has changed for you over the years? Or if this is your first time reading it, do you think you will get more out of it after a second read? Are some of Tolkien's texts better or easier reads than others?

6 comments:

Aulë said...

It makes sense to think that Tolkien is an acquired taste, and in my own experience some Tolkien works just "click" better than others for some people. I read through The Hobbit several times as a kid and, when I was in the eighth grade, tore through The Silmarillion, but I struggled with LOTR. I think it was due to how flowery Tolkien gets during some sections, much more so than in The Hobbit.
The same connection goes for Tolkien's short stories, which I had never read before, but really enjoyed. "Leaf by Niggle" was probably my favorite, and I will probably be looking up more of Tolkien's short stories to read over Winter Break.

Ossë said...

I think Tolkien can definitely be an acquired taste. I think my first read-through of LOTR was similar to yours. I started reading Harry Potter first (to this day I can't decide if I love HP or LOTR more), and I wasn't really familiar with LOTR or Tolkien until my brother and I got The Hobbit video game for our computer. I loved the game, and my friend recommended The Hobbit to me, so I decided to give it a go. I really liked the story, and I was excited that I was able to read "grown up" books. I obviously didn't know it was technically a children's book. Towards the end of middle school I read Fellowship, and I finished the trilogy in high school. By the time I read TT and ROTK, I was in love with the series. I think I understood it more in high school than I did in middle school, so I got a lot more out of the story and the characters.

Uinen said...

I would say Tolkien is almost certainly an acquired taste. I remember my first read through of The Hobbit - I wanted to throw it down because it was too childish for my developing middle-schooler brain. I wanted something more difficult. It wasn't until I read Lord of the Rings that I actually decided to give The Hobbit another go. It took me reading something more difficult to realize The Hobbit isn't about the writing, necessarily, but about the story and the details put into it.

Sorry, I hate HP. Never read past the first page of book 1...

Estë said...

It is interesting to read about your experience with Tolkien. Personally, I got into the LOTR only within the last few years. My dad read the books to my brother and I when we were young and he was always a big fan so it was on my radar as I grew up, but I didnt read the books myself until a few years ago- and I read them all within several weeks. I just completely fell in love with Tolkien’s writing and the poignancy of the story. I am consistently surprised when I meet people who don’t like the books or the movies just because I love them so much. A friend of mine, for instance, says that he doesn’t like the LOTR because of the irredeemability of the evil characters, and that this is a distastefully Christian characteristic of the novel. I can understand this as an argument, but I think the work is more complex than that. The more I learn about Tolkien as a man, too, the more I respect and admire his work.

Yavanna said...

Yes. By far, Tolkien is an acquired taste. One that, I strongly believe, depends upon the age of the reader when first engaged in. Older readers, I often find, have a difficult time getting into the stories while most of the people who adore the books have been reading them since a young age.

I certainly believe that there are some interesting notes we could possibly draw from this, such as the possibility that Tolkien is a weird type of 'dense' that only appeals to a certain age group.

Tulkas said...

Tolkien is definitely an acquired taste. I began reading The Fellowship of the Ring in middle school. I gave up at The Council of Elrond. I picked it up again in high school, and managed to make it all the way through. By the end I was able to appreciate it for what it was, but it took some time. I wish I had read The Hobbit first. It's definitely on a lower reading level, and I think it would have made a nice introduction to Tolkien's writing for a middle schooler.