The terrain, landscapes, architecture, and atmosphere of Middle-earth locations mostly correspond to the events that take place there and tell us more about their inhabitants, including the antagonists. This paper investigates grim, austere, and dangerous places of Middle-earth, built or transformed by the forces of evil and governed by the lust for power. Relying on Tolkien’s descriptions and illustrations, the paper discusses the tunnels of Goblin-town and Moria, Orthanc and Isengard, Dol Guldur and Mirkwood, Cirith Ungol and Minas Morgul, Barad-dûr and Mordor. In addition to Tolkien’s vision, their artistic portrayal is considered, especially the art of Alan Lee and John Howe. Although they may possess a certain aesthetic appeal in visual media, dark places of Middle-earth are menacing and gloomy, usually depicted with sharp edges, Gothic, spiky forms, uncomfortable angles, grand but creepy and aggressive structures endowed with an aura of malice, cruelty, terror, and oppression.
Sultana Raza, independent scholar
This paper will examine how landscapes are alive, and play an essential role in Alan Lee’s illustrations. Forests reflect the atmosphere, or mood of the story at a particular moment. While retaining their natural shape, volume, and lines, caves or underground tunnels are re-worked and re-designed to become habitable, and represent the beings inhabiting them. Though Nature has encroached upon them, left-over ruins tell the story of an earlier age. Open vistas talk as much about the world, and culture of that place, as about the story unfolding at that time/era. Dramatic moments are captured in natural surroundings that reflect the mood of that moment. Nature is not just the backdrop in Alan Lee’s illustrations, but helps to provide the history of the place, tells the tale, moves the plot forward, and gives clues as to the potential outcome of the story.
Chris Trwoga, Director, The Somerset Natural Learning Academy
In the USA of the counter-culture generation, the Barbara Remington artwork for the Ballantine edition of LotR, together with the related poster art, arguably became the look of Tolkien for a generation.
In the UK the Pauline Baynes triptych became the celebrated artwork for the first omnibus paperback edition, published by Allen & Unwin in 1968.
The talk will explore the pleasures of collecting Tolkien paperbacks for their cover art, whilst celebrating the early designs for their novel and very different interpretations of the Middle-earth landscapes.
The talk will go on to deconstruct the contrasting artwork of Baynes and Remington. Both sets of cover art are triptychs, and imagine Tolkien’s world in a series of unforgettable vistas that arguably defined Tolkien for the counter-culture generation.
The talk will include a visual presentation of the related cover art and copies of the books and related ephemera will be on display in Oxford.
Sara Brown, Chair of Faculty, Signum University
In her work [email protected]_Millennium.FemaleMan©_Meets_OncoMouse™, Donna Haraway examines cultural representations of scientific discovery, taking the reader on a textual & visual journey through a technoscientific world. In the process, she criticises conventional scientific objectivity, which is grounded in an ideal of the scientist as neutral or value-free; an ‘invisible’ modest witness who merely reflects the results from scientific experimentation but is not reported upon themselves. Tolkien’s ‘modest witnesses’, who see, then report, so that others may know, also complicate the boundary between knower & knowing, as they are often actively aware of playing a part within a narrative. This paper uses Haraway’s theory of the modest witness to explore the ways in which Tolkien references songs, tales, & the oral tradition of storytelling to underline the importance of being not just a witness to events, but an active participant in their reframing as historical narrative.
The 2020s are seeing a resurgence of interest in the Second Age, in many ways because of the upcoming TV series. Join in for an informal discussion about the Second Age, where we’ll chat about everything from Aldarion to Amazon, sharing our thoughts about lore, interpretation, and adaptation. Do come with a willingness to share openly, listen respectfully, and engage in good faith with your fellow Tolkien fans!
Robert Viscusi, independent scholar
The High-elves of the First Age are purposefully modeled after the Tuatha Dé Dannan. The paper explores how & why this is so & what function it has with regards to Tolkien’s conception of kingship.
Gee Rennison, Postgraduate student, University of Glasgow
The existence of grief underpins many key chapters in The Silmarillion. This paper examines the multifaceted way Tolkien includes grief, from its part within the creation story of the Ainulindale and the role of Nienna, through the lens of the eucatastrophe — ‘the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy’, and the ‘long defeat’. Grief is found to be part of creation, a healer, and punishment within The Silmarillion. Most importantly it is almost wholly synonymous with beauty and strength. Through the interweaving of Tolkien’s fictional writing and his own neologism of the ‘eucatastrophe’ I examine the lessons of strength we can learn, especially during times of great upheaval such as now. To learn through Grief is to better yourself — as taught through Nienna. To not submit to it and to let beauty arise out of it is key, allowing us to combat the ‘long defeat’ in our daily lives. What can be learnt in grief and the eucatastrophe, we can translate to our own experience.