J.R.R. Tolkien is the author who still continues to astound me. Before I loved Moorcock and Lovecraft and Wolfe, I was a reader of Tolkien. Middle Earth is still in many ways, for me, THE primal fantasy world. I recently finished the excellent biography of Tolkien by Humphrey Carpenter, and I've fallen into his works once again. This time, I find myself appreciating things that I never did when I was younger: his intensive control over language, the songs, and the total willingness to be himself in defiance of literary conventions of his time. In regard to The Hobbit, I find I'm realizing just how funny the book is.
When I was younger, after having read both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, I read The Silmarillion. The early chapters were daunting at first and after a time I put the book aside. This is a very common story that I hear over and over from many people who loved The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. They find themselves unable to find a way into The Silmarillion. There are no Hobbits here to ground us into the fiction. We are off flying deep into the secondary world and it is, perhaps, too much of a leap for some. I was very fortunate that I DID find a way into The Silmarillion. I happened to pick up the book one afternoon and for some reason I decided to skip to one of the later stories. What sounded interesting? The chapter I read was simple titled "Of Beren and Luthien" This tale, little did I know, is, along with the story of Turin Turambar, one of the key stories in all of the Professor's Legendarium. It's a tale of love and adventure and loss like no other. After that, I was hooked. I went back and read from the beginning and this time it was different bacause I'd already fallen in love with this world that he was showing me. I can't say it enough. If you enjoy Tolkien and you haven't read the Silmarillion--try to find your way in--you won't regret it.
Here's Tolkien reciting one of his poems in Elvish: