International Medieval Congress

IMC 2021: Climate

28th annual International Medieval Congress

Medieval climates, cosmologies, & ecosystems in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien II

9 July 2021 15:30 utc — view in local time

Tolkien spent most of his lifetime inventing an extended mythology which displays an impressive array of secondary world infrastructures (Mark Wolf, Building Imaginary Worlds, Routledge, 2012). The richness of his world-building allows scholars to directly address the overall theme of this conference with papers exploring broad aspects of climate and its relationship and impact on the heavens, waters, landscapes, patterns of weather and peoples in Tolkien’s world-building as expressed through his narratives, language invention, and his own exploration and scholarship.


№ 1: The myth of mother: Retracing the roots of motherhood in Tolkien’s decaying Middle-earth

Helen Lawson, PhD student, Durham University

This paper will examine how the gradual decline in mother goddess’ figures from Tolkien’s Middle-earth legendarium directly impacts its ecosystem by forcing Middle-earth into a state of decay. Examining the symbiotic relationship between Melian and Menegroth, Galadriel and Lothlórien, and the Entwives and the Brown Lands, I note a recurring theme where these women’s stable-fertile-ecosystems are threatened by the disruptive forces of men. In this light, the Age of Men promised at the conclusion of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is achieved only at the cost of excluding all mothers from the narrative — which thus ensures global infertility.

№ 2: Situating Middle-earth: Reconsidering Tolkien’s relationship with the landscape

Sara Brown, Chair of Faculty, Signum University

In creating the world of Middle-earth, J.R.R. Tolkien did not merely confine himself to construction of a narrative; he described the landscape in meticulous detail, including comprehensive descriptions of the flora, fauna, climate, and physical geography. The significant interweaving of landscape and narrative have led some critics to position Tolkien as an ecocentric author, claiming his writing as an environmentalist warning to humanity. This paper explores Tolkien’s landscape as a fundamental element of the legendarium, offering the hypothesis that the narrative and environment of Tolkien’s legendarium are intrinsically linked and essentially inseparable.

№ 3: Language invention, climate, and landscape in Tolkien’s Gnomish Lexicon

Andrew Higgins, independent scholar

In the entire corpus of J.R.R. Tolkien’s multilayered and complex language invention, one of the most complete glossaries exists within Tolkien’s 1917 i Lam na Ngoldoathon. The Grammar and Lexicon of the Gnomish Lexicon, which Tolkien invented as the language of the exiled Noldoli, to explore how language changes over historical time and wandering. Included in this lexicon of over 300 invented words are names for landscape and climate that Tolkien used to build his emerging story-world of Arda in which the earliest lost tales of the Elves took place. In this paper I will dig deeply into the Gnomish Lexicon to explore some of the key invented words for landscape and climate, their origins in roots from the older Qenya language and how some of these words persist in later versions of the Tolkien’s mythology and world-building.

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date recorded 📅2021-07-26
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