This website contains archives of the Tolkien Discussion Group from 2009 to early 2013.

The discussion group continues to meet
in Second Life in Alqualonde the Swanhaven. Contact AelKennyr Rhiano in Second Life.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

9th Annual Tolkien at UVM Conference

April 13-15, 2012
University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont

Lihan reports on her wonderful, geeky weekend.

Friday, April 13
Open-Mic Fireside Reading
where we all reminded ourselves why we love Tolkien

something that I never noticed in 40 years of reading Lord of the Rings:
In Galadriel's Lament ("I sang of leaves, of leaves of gold"), Galadriel speaks of a golden tree in Tirion.
"... And by the strand of Ilmarin there grew a golden Tree.
Beneath the stars of Ever-eve in Eldamar it shone,
In Eldamar beside the walls of Elven Tirion.
There long the golden leaves have grown upon the branching years ..."
Fellowship of the Ring, "Farewell to Lórien"
But the only tree we hear about associated with Tirion was not gold.
"In Tirion upon Túna the Vanyar and the Noldor dwelt long in fellowship. And since of all things in Valinor they loved most the White Tree, Yavanna made for them a tree like to a lesser image of Telperion {the Silver Tree}, save that it did not give light of its own being. ... This tree was planted in the courts beneath the Mindon there it flourished, and its seedlings were many in Eldamar."
{That tree became the ancestor of the White Tree of Númenor and the White Tree of Gondor.}
Silmarillion, "Of Eldamar"
I suppose Galadriel might be homesick for a different tree than the famous White Tree.

Saturday, April 14
"Good morning" becomes a running joke for the weekend.

Session I — Student Voices (term papers from the UVM Tolkien course)
Similarities between Lord of the Rings and Dr. Who
Imagery of Light and Darkness
History of Language Families of Middle Earth

Session II
Forth Eorlingas: Horses and Ponies in The Lord of the Rings — Martha Monsson
"Pony" is a term that was not used until well after the Middle Ages. It originally refered to a horse from Scotland.
Hobbits, and their ponies, are small, sturdy, hardworking, and "plain" rather than showy.
These are contrasted to the horses of Rohan, which are in the heroic style, where size, speed, and appearance are valued.
The bad guys all ride black horses. The good guys' horses are white (symbolizing "honor" in medieval lore) or grey (symbolizing "good fortune"), or else the color is not mentioned.
Why is it that Gandalf rode Shadowfax without saddle or bridle, but Glorfindel used a bridle (with bells on it)? Tolkien at one time answered that question by saying Glorfindel's horse was actually wearing a decorative headstall, not a bridle with a bit.

The Many Faces of Trolls in Middle-Earth — Andrew C. Peterson
Trolls are portrayed inconsistently. The trolls in Lord of the Rings are quite different being from the three trolls Bilbo meets. Showing trolls in Moria carrying the slabs of rock for the balrog to cross the chasm does demonstrate that trolls are a valid part of the Lord of the Rings-style Middle-earth.
The Troll Song is meant to go to the tune of The Fox Went Out on a Winter's Night (

From Goblins to Valaraukar: Scourges of Fire and Demons of Terror — Matt Dickerson
Only one Balrog is ever named – Gothmog.
The "Flame of Anor" which Gandalf invokes might refer to Anar, the Sun, meaning Arien the uncontaminated fire spirit. It might also refer to the "Imperishable Flame", associated with Eru Iluvatar, and which Tolkien sometimes equated with the Holy Spirit.

Session III — "What to Do with Tolkien's Orcs" — Round Table Discussion
Many of the old philosophical questions about orcs were discussed. If orcs are twisted elves, does that mean orcs do not die of old age? (Not that an orc would have an opportunity to die of old age!) Do the souls of dead orcs go to Mandos? Do orcs have souls? Later in his life, Tolkien said that, while elves thought orcs were twisted elves, it is possible they were really twisted humans. If Melkor/Sauron/Saruman has forced the orcs into evil, are the orcs morally responsible? Or are they victims themselves? Does it make any sense that "evil" could be come part of the genetics of a race? How does this fit with the importance Tolkien places on individual moral choices?

Keynote Speaker — Jonathan Evans — Tolkien's Non-Allegorical Bestiary
(I think this is where the comment about dragons fits.) Fafnir is the only sentient, speaking dragon in northern European mythology. But he provides a strong prototype.

Session IV
Manwë's Messengers: The Role of Eagles in Middle-Earth — Ray Saxon
Eagles appear as helpers, as warnings, and as messengers. Tolkien deliberately used "rescue by Eagles" sparingly, because it tends too much toward deus ex machina. Eagles are important warriors in the War of Wrath and the Battle of Five Armies.

An early note on a typescript suggests that Thorondor (and perhaps all the Eagles of Manwë) were Maiar. The Eagles of the Third Age were "ordinary" creatures, and Tolkien said that they had no fëar. The Eagles of the Third Age could still be distant descendants ofMaia Eagles.

The Eagles are probably influenced by Zeus's eagles and Odin's ravens.

Mammoths, Mûmakil, and 'The Old Fireside Rhyme of Oliphaunt': Tolkien's Contributions to the Medieval Bestiary Tradition — Mark Zender
The "Oliphaunt" poem is very much influenced by medieval bestiaries.

Session V
A Creature of an Older World: Tolkien and the Mythology of the Prehistoric — Kristine Larsen
Paleontology was in the news a lot while Tolkien was a child. A live coelacanth (a species believed extinct since the time of the dinosaurs) was captured in 1950. These might have influenced Tolkien's mammoth-like mûmakil and pterodactyl-like mounts of the Nazgul. The descriptions of the Pukel-Men resemble pictures of "Piltdown Man".

A Boy and His Dog — Gerry Blair

Tolkien and the Codification of Non-Human Beings — Jamie Williamson
Tolkien took his world-building seriously, where a lot of earlier stories didn't.

Sunday, April 15
Springle-Ring — Hobbit Festival

Cake and scones and tea for "elevenses".

 Do hobbits have Morris dancers?  They should.