2021: St Anne’s College, Oxford, & on-line


4 September 2021 08:00 utc — view in local time


    № 1: More than just a red beard: Farmer Giles’s Neronian links

    Murray Smith

    Among the scholarly jokes made by J.R.R.Tolkien in Farmer Giles of Ham’, one has been overlooked. Among the eponymous hero’s Latin names is that of Ahenobarbus’, meaning red (or bronze) beard’. As well as an actual description of his beard, it is also the cognomen, or hereditary family nickname, of a branch of the Domitii, an aristocratic family of ancient Rome. One member is well known. Born in 37 AD, Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus would later become better known as Nero (r. 54 – 68 AD), the fifth Emperor of Rome, with a particular reputation for tyranny and depravity. 

    The talk explores the possibilities of why Tolkien particularly chose that name for Giles, building another layer below the obvious one in the story. One is that it is both a tongue in cheek and a serious contrast of Giles and Nero, particularly as monarchs. Second, I believe there to be a particular personal element to this, based on a friendship that began in school, a story, and a related poem and a parody of it.

    № 2: The anarchist roots of Tom Bombadil

    Luca Pappalardo

    Once the mysterious character par excellence”, Tom Bombadil has been so closedly analyzed by scholars and fans alike (as well as expunged from the more mainstream” imaginarium) that a talk about him is at risk of either sounding naïve or falling on deaf ears. Is there still something to be said about old Tom? By adopting a double-faced hermeneutical approach, i.e making use of Tolkien’s epistolary without surrendering to the dogma of authorial exhaustiveness, I will try to place the character in the context of LOTR’s contradictory approach to power: between Aragorn’s journey to the throne of Gondor, and the Ring’s allure, Tom Bombadil arises as an emissary of anarchy as well as a message of political hope amidst the unavoidable compromises that power requires. In an increasingly authoritarian political landscape, Tom Bombadil still offers us a chance to re-think our own relationship with authority, presenting us with the choice (and the cost) of getting out of society itself.

    № 3: Two boys at the seaside

    Ian Spittlehouse

    While investigating the references to Tolkien’s unpublished sketches of Trwyn Llanbedrog in North Wales I found that some of the archived sketches bore a striking resemblance to other features of the coastline near Llanbedrog. This paper outlines this investigation and goes on to present an argument for alternative locations for two published sketches. The two sketches in question appear in Hammond and Scull’s J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator and Chronology with the titles Ship at Anchor’ and Two Boys at the Seaside’.

    № 4: “These are not the Silmarilli you are looking for”: A source study of Tolkien’s Silmarilli

    Giovanni Carmine Costabile

    Tolkien’s precious stones made by Fëanor, and stolen by Melkor, are so important to the Legendarium they hardly could escape critical attention. Verlyn Flieger considers them as a reflection of the Two Trees of Valinor, but only Alexander Lewis and Elizabeth Currie tried to find a source for them, and identified it in the Holy Grail as a stone from Paradise, formerly set in the crown of Lucifer. Without necessarily contradicting either of them, I propose as a source for the Silmarilli another rare stone from Paradise which was instead given to Alexander the Great according to medieval legends Tolkien certainly knew.

    № 5: Doodles by Tolkien: Númenórean arts and crafts: An anthropological exploration of the Númenórean culture based on its remaining artifacts

    Denis Bridoux, independent scholar

    Much of Tolkien’s late art, post Lord of the Rings, 90% of which still remains unpublished, consists chiefly of doodles and doodle-based composite pieces of great diversity. He attributed their origin to the Númenóreans, an island-based civilisation which vanished in the late Second Age and was survived only by its colonies on Middle-earth. So, if we were to study these from an archaeological perspective, what could we learn about Númenor, its inhabitants and its culture by studying them and cross-referencing them with our own world’s equivalent? After exploring the subject of doodles and Tolkien’s favoured medium in the 1960s, our brief survey will attempt to answer these questions and, in so doing, uncover Tolkien’s grand scheme about his artistic corpus during the recapitulative period of his life and show how it fits with the intentions which he had first expressed in The Lord of the Rings.

    № 6: Invisible disability in Middle-earth

    Jennifer Brooker

    Indirectly this is a Cov19 interpretation of LotR the text, bearing in mind adaptations for other media. The focus is on: disability made invisible by conventions of genre and medium; invisible disability’, specifically mental distress; The Ring, enabler or disabler, with its power of invisibility; finally, models of healing of traumatic stress. Exploring an often-overlooked aspect of diversity offers another take on how Tolkien’s masterpiece resonates, and offers hope, in a time of pandemic.

    № 7: Global Tolkien: A panel

    Sultana Raza, independent scholar; Ali Ghaderi, independent scholar; Gözde Ersoy, Assistant Professor of English Literature, Muğla Sıtkı Koçman University; and María Fernanda Chávez Guiñez

    Why does Tolkien’s fiction have a global appeal? Why are people from all continents drawn to Tolkien’s stories? What does that tell us about common human values? Only works of depth and substance can garner such a massive following all over the world. Conversely, have the 6 Peter Jackson films, and various games drawn in fans who’re more interested in the action/​adventure or violence, and war aspects of the films and games than in the core values embedded in the stories? Should we encourage diverse readings of Tolkien from different geographical locations? Can this coming together of readers from different countries foster an international fellowship, as outlined in his books? Or conversely, should his fans be confined to people of just one race or ethnicity? If the view-points, readings, or ideas of POC readers are not acceptable by some fans, then should POC readers be allowed to consume these books/​films/​games? Should POC fans be limited to being consumers, but not commentators?

    № 8: Tar-Meneldur and the Sorontil Royal Observatory

    Kristine Larsen, Professor, Geological Sciences, Central Connecticut State University

    Tar-Meneldur, the fifth king of Númenor, is the best documented astronomer (Q. Meneldil) in the history of Middle-earth. He carefully watched the motions of heavens from his private observatory tower in the northern heights of the island until the duties of being king interfered. This presentation will compare Tar-Menedur to the lives of real-world astronomer-nobles; critique his observatory location and choice of architecture (hint: a far better choice than Orthanc, the other Middle-earth observatory tower); speculate on the instrumentation and observation routine most closely aligned with the talents of a far-sighted pre-telescopic astronomer (and the navigational needs of a seafaring nation on a flat planet); and finally suggest real world controversies surrounding observatories at Oxford, Greenwich, and Edinburgh that may have informed Tolkien’s inclusion of this character’s particular avocation.

    № 9: A letter to a friend: The King’s Letter’ as para-text in The Lord of the Rings

    Andrew Higgins, independent scholar

    The King’s Letter’ is a para-textual element composed by Tolkien as part of the original Epilogue to his The Lord of the Rings — sadly cut from the final book. In this letter, composed entirely in Tolkien’s invented Elvish language of Sindarin, King Elessar — in the 16th year of the Fourth Age of Middle-earth — sends greetings to his good friend and colleague Samwise Gamgee and his family. In the letter, King Elessar informs Sam that he will be travelling close to the borders of the Shire and would like to meet with him. The cut Epilogue with a version of the Kings Letter’ appeared in the ninth volume of The History of Middle-earth: Sauron Defeated with two other variations — as well as a specimen in the Elvish writing system of Tengwar — appearing in other sources. In this paper I will briefly explore the importance of the Kings Letter’ in Tolkien’s world-building from a lit and lang’ perspective.

    № 11: An evening with Dimitra Fimi

    Shaun Gunner, Chair, The Tolkien Society; and Dimitra Fimi, Senior Lecturer in Fantasy and Children’s Literature (English Literature), University of Glasgow

    Dr Dimitra Fimi is Senior Lecturer in Fantasy and Children’s Literature, and Co-Director of the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic at the University of Glasgow. She has published two award-winning monographs (Tolkien, Race, and Cultural History, 2008, and Celtic Myth in Contemporary Children’s Fantasy, 2017), and has co-edited original work by Tolkien in A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages (HaperCollins, 2016). She has taught courses on Tolkien and fantasy literature for 15 years, and has supervised numerous Masters dissertations and PhD theses on Tolkien. She sits on the editorial boards of the Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, and the Journal of Tolkien Research, and she regularly contributes to radio and TV programmes on Tolkien and fantasy literature. 

    Celebrating her receipt of the Outstanding Contribution award in the 2021 Tolkien Society Awards, we are delighted to welcome Dimitra for an hour of informal discussion and Q&A.

    № 12: Treasure, Balrogs, and environmental exploitation: Anti-Dwarf prejudice in the Third Age

    Kenton L. Sena, Instructor, Lewis Honors College

    Dwarves are the subject of significant prejudice in Middle-earth, particularly on the part of the Elves. In the Third Age, this prejudice is most apparent in the jailing of Thorin’s company by Thranduil, Celeborn’s attribution of the devastation of the Balrog to the Dwarves, and Legolas’s claim that the Dwarves would destroy Aglarond. Interestingly, this prejudice seems to be shared by many scholarly and popular interpretations of The Lord of the Rings: scholars consider the Dwarves basically greedy, interested in accumulating wealth and unconcerned with the natural world, and Peter Jackson’s interpretation of the Dwarves, represented by Gimli, participates in this narrative. However, these perspectives neglect to consider the Dwarves fairly, especially rejecting Dwarven perspectives of their own culture. This paper will explore three instances of anti-Dwarf prejudice in the Third Age, endeavoring to give the Dwarves a more fair reading.

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    date recorded 📅2021-09-05
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