Douglas Anderson didn’t know that his first reading of “The Lord of the Rings” when he was 13 years old would lead to his career as an expert on J.R.R. Tolkien.
“I was visiting my older sister, and she gave me the Tolkien books to read so I’d leave her alone,” he said. Little did I realize that I would spend the next 30 years studying those books, Tolkien’s life and his other writings.”
Anderson spoke about his experiences working with Tolkien’s literature, as well as some editing and authoring of his own, at Bradley on Tuesday.
Anderson is the award-winning author and editor of novels such as “The Annotated Hobbit,” “Tales Before Tolkien,” “Tales Before Narnia,” the reissue of “The Marvellous Land of Snergs” by E.A. Wyke-Smith, as well as many essays about Tolkien.
Anderson said the immense detail put into Tolkien’s invented world was what first drew him to the series. He said he liked that he was able to immerse himself in the detailed world Tolkien had created.
In high school, Anderson began to read literature that had inspired Tolkien, such as “Beowulf,” the “Eddas” and “The Icelandic Sagas” and romances by William Morris.
He even wrote a play based on “The Hobbit,” which he performed with a few of his friends, Anderson said.
“At college I studied more seriously the medieval literature in which Tolkien had specialized, and I even attended a summer program in Oxford, where Tolkien had lived and taught for much of his life,” he said. “After college, I pursued whatever interested me. This freedom in my studies led me down an unpredictable trail of the study in the realms of mythology, fairy stories and children’s literature, followed by textual studies, bibliography, methods of printing, book production and publishing history.”
In order to get published for the first time, Anderson called up a publisher he knew and pitched his idea for “The Annotated Hobbit,” which had still been unwritten at the time. The publisher loved his idea, and the rest is history.
“‘The Annotated Hobbit’ was originally published in 1988,” he said. “The revised version took me nine months to write, but I had to go through 14 years of work to redo it.”
Anderson laughed when asked about his opinion of Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of “The Lord of the Rings.”
“I’m not the person to ask about that kind of thing,” he said. “All the deviations from the novels just jump out at me. I think it’s good that the films were made, but I am just not able to sit back, watch the movies, and enjoy them because I see all of the inconstancies immediately.”