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Interwiev With Pieter Collier
Webmaster from www.tolkienlibrary.com



Can you describe us your "adventure" with Tolkien literature? How (and when) did it start, and in what way (if any) has it changed your life?

The adventure started very early on as a kid. I was lucky enough to have an elder brother who was interested into role-playing games and he introduced me to the world of Tolkien when I was still a kid. I don´t recall the exact year, but I still remember the first time I read the Hobbit (in Dutch). At age eleven I read the Lord of the Rings for the first time and I was hooked right away. It was much later that I discovered that I actually had been reading in a first edition of the Dutch translation and this set is still in my collection today. While lacking the dust jackets, it is one of my biggest treasures because it was the set where it all started. Reading the Lord of the Rings for the first time is something you can remember for the rest of your life. It was impossible to stop reading and I remember lying under the covers of my bed with a flashlight following the adventure chapter-by-chapter, unable to stop reading. Since then I must have re-read the books over 50 times and I still enjoy re-reading them today. From the first time I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings I wanted to own a copy, probably to be able to re-read the books whenever I wished to and somehow the collecting had started without I was aware of it. It must have been around that age that I also wanted to find out more about the man behind the books. Once I discovered Tolkien had written other works as well I also wanted to read them and in a short period of time I had collected the major works by Tolkien.

A turning point in my life was a Tolkien exhibition that I visited numerous times in 1992 when I was 14 years old. It was organized by Johan Vanhecke in Antwerp and there I learned again some more about Tolkien. For the first time I saw that there were other people interested in Tolkien just like me. I admired the numerous editions in the exhibition and was amazed by the fabulous Tolkien art on display. Some how while visiting the exhibition I decided that I as well wanted to own such fabulous books and from that day the collecting really started. Since then I started to look around in second hand bookstores and bought any Tolkien book I was able to afford. My collection has since then grown a lot, but one thing has remained since then, my mind has always been on Tolkien books ever since and there does not pass even one day I?m not thinking about Tolkien.

Of course the collecting itself has gone through many phases and it a story that probably any collector can tell. Collecting Tolkien books is like a never-ending story, there is always something more wonderful, special or valuable out there to obtain.


It would be great to hear something about your internet beginnings. Why did you decide to get the show on the road? What was your way of work, your attitude towards it and the internaut´s attitude towards you? How have all of them changed in the course of time?

After graduating as a restorer and conservator of art, I went to work as a restorer of furniture in Athens. Greece was a wonderful place to stay and I had the time of my life. Yet after some years I was hospitalized and had to find another way of living. The chemicals used in restoration had nearly killed me and after some long period of thinking I decided to go back to my home country, Belgium, and start a new life. Luck was on my side and I was allowed to work in a graphical advertisement agency where I started as a web designer. From childhood I had been interested in computers and web design was the only logic new road for me. My website tolkienlibrary.com started also from there. My life long passion was Tolkien and because I had to try and learn a lot about websites in a short time, I used my passion to test out all I was learning. Without realizing it the site tolkienlibrary.com started to grow and I found out that all over the world a lot of people were into Tolkien. It was a complete new world that opened up for me and has now taken over a lot of my free time. Every single moment I have I spent at working at my website and it is still evolving a lot. While in origin I had to idea to build a site about the Tolkien books in my collection it now has grown into a resource for Tolkien collectors.

Since you have started your web activity you had surely had lots of memorable experiences. Can you describe us the funniest and the most emotive one? And what was especially satisfying to you?

Having a website that talks about upcoming Tolkien books has brought many memorable experiences. I can recall the first contacts, or emails, with a lot of the very famous authors and artists. But one of the most memorable experiences must have been when I learned to know Johan Vanhecke. He used to be the man I was looking up to, an icon so to say. He was the person who had sparked the collectors´ flame inside of me by organizing the 1992 Tolkien exhibition and was the leading source on Tolkien over here in Belgium. To be contacted by him was very special and I´m glad to see him as a very good friend today. The same happened over and over again since then and I´m still amazed that I´m able to write emails with the biggest persons in the field of Tolkien scholarship and art; like for example Douglas Anderson, John Howe, Wayne Hammond, ... to name a few.

The most satisfying moment must have been the Children of Hurin Release Party. While sitting behind my computer following the keynote of Steve Jobs (of apple computers) the idea came to me to do a similar thing for The Children of Hurin. After some month of hard work, hours of planning and hundreds of emails, the Children of Hurin Release Party was a fact and together with thousands of Tolkien fans from all over the world we celebrated the release of the new Tolkien book on line. While for me it was a lot of stress before and during the event I was happy to see that the very first worldwide Tolkien celebration had been a huge success. My website had over 10.000 unique visitors daily during the Children of Hurin Releqse Party and a lot of the very famous Tolkien scholars and artists had taken some of there spare time to come and chat with the fans from all over the world. In the field of Tolkien on the Internet this event was sort of like what Woodstock was for music and I hope to be able to do similar events in the future and bring all the fans from across the globe together in one chat box once again in the future!


Does Tolkien - inspired web hosting changed somehow your attitude towards him and his literature?

Of course it did! Internet is a media where your visitors can come from everywhere. There is always a lot of interaction going on and every time I publish a new article there is for sure one or two who react by sending me an email. The questions I receive always make me go and look things up and during this process of answering other people questions I learned very much about Tolkien and look at the books from other perspectives. This has had a huge impact on my attitude towards Tolkien and his literature. While at first I was mainly fascinated by the tale itself, and it was Middle-earth that attracted me, I have now become much more interested in the man behind these tales, the publication history of his works, his resources, sources and influences. The interest field has changed and evolved a lot since I started my website.

What are the main advantages and disadvantages of running a popular tolkienistic webpage?

This is something I´m still trying to find out a lot. For sure there are advantages, since when I contact Tolkien scholars or artists, they know about my site and will respond to me much more easily. Also by putting up news on all new Tolkien related editions since 2002 I have become very close with several Tolkien publishing companies and sometimes they sent me news, information or cover images before the books hit the market. This is a big honor and I´m always very happy and proud to be able to get new stuff on line at my website before anyone else does.
The disadvantage is that running a site of mine (on your own; it is still a one-person job) also leads to a lot of stress. I´m working full-time and have a family with four kids and every single free moment I try to work on Tolkien related articles, find out about new editions and do some serious research in between. Most of the times I have hundreds of emails that need to be replied and I always have much more ideas then I can realize. I´m always very stressed if I know that I should be answering some hundred of emails but simply do not find the time to do so.


What is your opinion on assorted fandom activities in Internet? Which among other Tolkien - related webpages do you like the most? What for?

This is a tricky question. Internet is a big part of my life and it is also my profession to build websites. There are of course some websites that I like better then others. For example one of my frequently used resources is the site of Neil Holford, www.tolkienbooks.net. This site is just amazing and has been doing a lot of what in the past I was dreaming to do (but simply did not find time to do so). It lists all the UK editions ever published and Neil Holford does write articles on topics that interest all collectors. He spends a lot of his time on this for sure and the result is just amazing. Every Tolkien collector should bookmark this site.
There are of course many Tolkien boards and since 1996 I have been member of hundreds of Tolkien boards, the one better or more interesting then the other. It seems I´m unable to stick around for long times at a same board and wander around a lot. There is none really where something really ´different´ is going on and most of the times people on these boards are mainly talking about the same topic all over again. The ones I like best so far are www.lotrplaza.com, www.minastirith.com, www.middle-earth-journeys.com and forum.barrowdowns.com. There is one other board that is unique in all respects, and that I tend to visit daily, namely www.tolkienguide.com a place where all serious Tolkien collectors come together.


What do you think is so unusual in the works of Tolkien that makes them a source of joy, thoughts and inspiration for so many different people?

This is a question that I have been asking to many Tolkien scholars myself and is best answered in the books of Tom Shippey. To me it seems that Tolkien, while in origin trying to create a mythology for England, has succeeded to create a mythology for the complete world. It is a book that takes you on a journey and as Shippey explains, "Tolkien took fragments of ancient literature, expanded their intensely suggestive hints of further meaning, and made them into a coherent narrative. " He was drawing from "scattered evidence" to rethink the existence of so many imaginary creatures, believing that the world in which these beings lived must have existed "at least in the collective imagination."

Of course, Tolkien goes much further than just drawing from ancient narrative and language to create a story. He succeeds in linking the ancient and the modern worlds. Shippey writes of Smaug, the dragon, that he seems "to have a foot, or a claw, in two worlds at once... in this at least he is like Bilbo the hobbit." By intermingling language and artifacts from the ancient and modern worlds, Tolkien pulls the reader into Middle Earth, making the place seem strangely foreign but familiar. What better way to draw an audience in and make them enthusiastic about the place?


How is Tolkien fandom organized in your country? Have you attended some conventions or regular meetings of Tolkien fans? If yes, can you describe what they are like?

I´m a member of the Belgian Society Elanor, the Dutch Tolkien Society Unquendor but also from the UK Tolkien Society. While I´m very busy on the Internet I´m not such an active member of either Tolkien Society and did not attend many meetings or conventions. All meetings and conventions have been very pleasant and meeting other Tolkien fans is always a big pleasure. Still, I prefer to stay a bit in the back-ground since I don´t have much time to join in an become an active member. If you wish to learn more about how these organizations are organized it is best to ask one of their members, because I?m probably not the best person to answer this question.

What is the most common opinion about Jackson´s adaptation among the guests of your webpage? Are they enthusiastic towards it or rather critical?

My website does not have a board or chat box and I mainly receive mails about new Tolkien books and do a lot of price valuations. I don´t really have a view on how they feel about the movies.

And what is your opinion on this subject?

I am one of the people who were very critical towards the movies. I can recall the announcement of the Peter Jackson interpretation and from the beginning I was filled with fear towards it. Of course I was curious and there for went to the avant-premi?re of the movie. The Fellowship of the Rings took away a lot of my fears and I was happy to see that Peter Jackson´s interpretation was very close to my personal imagination. Yet the second and especially the third movie were very disappointing and I was sad, angry and very uncomfortable about it all. I felt that the movies were too far away of my own vision of the books and I felt that too many things had been changed, deleted or added.

Now I read the book The Frodo Franchise by Christine Thompson, a book everyone really should read, and I regained a lot of respect for the work of Peter Jackson. I now have much more understanding on how the movie was made and what difficulties Peter Jackson had to face to get it all done. The book also shows us all the hard labor and passion by the director to create the best movie possible.


Which book about Tolkien - his life, phenomenon or work - do you consider to be the best? Why?

This is a difficult question, because of many different reasons. On the one hand there are just too many good books and it would be difficult to pick just one. Secondly they are most of the time covering different aspects and thus cannot be compared. Of course there are some books every Tolkien lover should read. I´ll list some here:

1. Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter
2. The Road to Middle-earth by Tom Allan Shippey
3. Tolkien And The Great War by John Garth
4. JRR Tolkien: Artist And Illustrator by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull
5. JRR Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography by Wayne G. Hammond and Douglas A. Anderson
6. JRR Tolkien: Author Of The Century by Tom Allan Shippey
7. A Question of Time: J.R.R. Tolkien´s Road to Faerie by Verlyn Flieger
8. Tolkien´s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth by Verlyn Flieger and Carl F. Hostetter
9. The Atlas of Middle-earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad
10. The History of Middle-earth by Christopher Tolkien
11. History of the Hobbit by John D. Rateliff
12. JRR Tolkien Companion and Guide by Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond
13. The Company they keep by Diana Glyer
14. The Annotated Hobbit by Douglas Anderson

The list above is not arranged in any specific order, some are better then the other, but I´m not able to list them in order of importance. What I do know is that me personally use two of the books mentioned above on a daily basis. As a Tolkien book collector I cannot live without J.R.R. Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography and JRR Tolkien Companion and Guide. These two works are very much the standard works any Tolkien book collector should have. I don´t know what I would do without these two. While I very much love all books by Douglas Anderson, Verlyn Flieger and especially Tom Shippey, the two authors who I wish to thank most of all are Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond. John D. Rateliff and Diana Glyer are two authors I did discover most recently (while both have been busy in the field for a long time) and there books are simply amazing. If you did not by their books yet, you really should do so!


What do you think about Tolkien as a person?

Tolkien is a very interesting person and most of the time I´m unable to understand fully how one person succeeded to realize so much in one life. I believe the person Tolkien is as much interesting as the works he wrote. The story of his life might proof to be a perfect movie script, since all elements needed to make a perfect film are in there. Some decades have passed and still people write books about him and try to rewrite his history, which proofs Tolkien is being adored and admired by many people. It is my believe that it will take many more decades of study before we will (if ever) understand fully how great he actually was.

In which aspect of Tolkien and his works are you especially interested?

I´m not really a person who will study the contents of Tolkien´s books, while in origin it started to complete passion. We can call these people Ardologists, which I´m not! It is more the person behind the books that interests me most, as well as the publication history. If you wish to stick a name on this, I think I´d prefer to be called Tolkienist.

I´m mostly fascinated by the books themselves and I love to find out how the books came to be, read unpublished letters, find out anything about Tolkien´s opinions, see the evolution in his handwriting and signature, and so on...

My other passion is to follow up new publications and find out all about persons who are currently writing new material on the professor.


Do you read Tolkien listening to any music or surrounded by silence? If you read Tolkien listening to the music then what kind of music is this usually?

When I read Tolkien it does not really matter if it is silent or if there is any kind of music in the background, since when I start reading I don´t hear anything anymore and I´m completely inside what I´m reading. The music is inside the books, didn´t you know?

Other - than Tolkien - fantasy/sf worlds. Do you read any other fantasy/sf books? If "yes" then what are your favourites and why?

When I´m not reading Tolkien books, or Tolkien related books, I love to read fantasy and sf books. For example I just love the works by Orson Scott Card, William Gibson and H.P. Lovecraft. My favorite would be the Enders series by Orson Scott Card, but the reason why is still unclear to me. It is just very, very good.

Who are your favourite Tolkien illustrators?

Next to Tolkien´s own art, I love the illustrations of Pauline Baynes a lot. I also like very much the art of the three most famous artists John Howe, Alan Lee and Ted Nasmith, but also admire very much the art of Roger Garland, Jef Murray, James Dunning,... to name a few. Also Ruth Lacon´s illustrations are fabulous.

I´m very much an art lover, and having studied art myself I´m really enjoying illustrations a lot. I´m unable to say that one of them is better then the other, because I enjoy all kinds and types of illustration. For example there are some very nice Russian, Estonian and other translations of the Hobbit that are full of funny and wonderful illustrations. These are most of the time simply fantastic and a joy to look at. They are maybe less realistic, but nonetheless give the reader and me a lot of pleasure! And that is what illustration is all about. If it touches you, it is a good illustration.

Most of all I love sketches and preliminary drawings. Most of the times I love these even better then the finished work of art, maybe because in this state you can really see the creational process of the artist and it still leaves a lot of space for my own imagination.


What do you think of Elven languages, learning Elven languages and speaking them?

This is a field apart and while as a kid I was interested in the Elven languages I soon abandoned that specialized field. It was my honor to see some of the largest Tolkien linguist in action during the Omentielva Tatya, where I did a lecture on Tolkien signatures. It is amazing to see how some people are really studying and even speaking Elvish. Yet it is not something I intend to spend my time on. I admire the persons who really have found their passion there, but you really need to be a bright linguistic mind to be able to follow what they are doing.

Can you reveal us some of your plans for the future? What can we expect?

Since my website has been growing a bit too large to handle I´m currently building a complete new system, which will be database driven. Also the design will be improved, since I´m no longer happy of it today. The biggest improvement will be the structure. As for now the website is difficult in use and it is hard to find anything. So I have rearranged the complete website and will make it much more user-friendly. I hope to be able to correct a lot of mistakes and update most of the content during the process of converting the old site to the new system. For the rest I have some new article series that I´m writing which will be talking about ´70 years of collecting The Hobbit´, a large improvement in the article on Tolkien signatures and more news and interviews as usual.

Thank you for your time and attention

Interwiev for www.tolkien.cyberdusk.pl by X, Adam, Osse



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