Eighth grade. Before then, I had read many books from the Dragon Lance series when someone clued me in that LOTR was The Original Fantasy story and that I should read it.
I have loved it and The Hobbit ever since.
Favorite Tolkien character:
Gandalf. He is extremely powerful yet humble enough and wise enough to see the value, courage and strength in lesser beings than himself. He has great insight into life because of his great age.
He is kind and full of humor and enjoys the good things in life but when he is called upon to do battle or fight evil he rises to the challenge and inspires hope and courage in all those around him. Even though he possesses great power he is never in a hurry to use it and he never uses it to abuse others.