Monday, March 7, 2011

After 40 years in hibernation, Tolkien Conference Returns


After 40 years in hibernation, Tolkien Conference Returns

After lying dormant like Mount Doom for 40 years, the Third Conference On Middle-earth (C.O.M.E.) returns on March 25-26, 2011.

The weekend devoted to J.R.R. Tolkien and his works such as "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" includes papers, panels, a party, banquet, and a film screening. C.O.M.E. takes place at the Westford Regency Inn & Conference Center in Westford, Massachusetts (USA), about 40 minutes northwest of Boston.

"It's too long since I chaired the First and Second Conferences on Middle-earth," said Peregrin Took II (aka Jan Howard Finder), who helped organize

the first two gatherings. The first conference took place in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois at the University of Illinois in 1969; the second, in 1971, was held in Cleveland, Ohio.

"Life got in the way of my plans for a third conference,” Finder added. “Years passed. Then a chance meeting, as we say in Middle-earth, brought the idea of holding, finally, the Third Conference On Middle-earth. How could I resist."

After four decades since the first C.O.M.E, passion for Tolkien has far from waned -- it's exploded. Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" movie adaptations have introduced millions to the work of Tolkien. With Jackson's filming of "The Hobbit" in New Zealand beginning the same week as this 3rd Conference On Middle Earth, the timing couldn't be more auspicious.

"I call you here to speak of J.R.R. Tolkien, his works, works based on Tolkien and his works, criticism, teaching Tolkien in the classroom, the impact of the books on yourself, friends, family, and/or the world, the films and the film industry, the music, the art, the fannish side of this universe and its impact, and anything and lots more," Finder said.

Presentations at the first two conferences covered topics such as "Tolkien and Revolution Faculty" and "The Psychological Journey of Bilbo Baggins"; events included a "Costume Party" with music by "the Audi-Badoo" and a "Medieval Tourney" run in cooperation with the Society for Creative Anachronism.

Now, 40 years later, the scholarship and fan communities will again join forces to celebrate all things Tolkien. Among the highlights are the panels "1965! When it, Middle-earth, was turned upside down!" about the impact of the bootleg edition of "Lord of the Rings" that hit college campuses; and "Two films to do The Hobbit is one too many!" which will debate Jackson's plan to turn the single book into two Hobbit movies. Talks will be given on subjects such as "Blondes Have More Fun!: Images of Legolas Greenleaf" and "Between Literature and Movies, Package Tours and the Imagination: A Slide-Lecture Adventure into New Zealand as Middle-earth." There will also be a merchants area selling Middle-earth-themed wares, such as cloaks and cloth works of Middle-earth, Lord of the Rings pewter goblets, Tolkien memorabilia and other items.

The Rev. Michael Frank spoke at the 1971 conference in Cleveland on the nature of loss in the C.S. Lewis “space trilogy” and in Tolkien; this year, Frank will return to deliver a paper on how Tolkien's faith helped shape his world of Middle-earth. “Like a good Hobbit,” Frank said, “I am looking forward to the food, as well as meeting new people.”

The weekend kicks off on Friday evening, March 25, with a "Downfall of Sauron Party” in the Green Dragon. On Saturday evening, the 26th, after the panels and papers, there will be a banquet, followed by a free screening of the film "RINGERS: Lord of the Fans!" a feature-length documentary that explores how 'The Lord of the Rings' has influenced Western popular culture over the past 50 years.

"This is a gathering where you can sit in the Green Dragon and discuss Elvish or Orcish table manners, if they have any," Finder joked. "This is a celebration of Middle-earth, and all that it implies. Welcome! Enjoy the celebration!"

The conference costs $65 and the banquet is $75. Tickets are limited, and may be sold out. The hotel, Westford Regency Inn & Conference Center, is located at 219 Littleton Road, Westford, Mass., Call for special conference rates: 978-692-8200 or 800-543-7801.

Additionally, Finder seeks kelp in tracking down participants from the original 1969 and 1971 events. Anyone who knows their whereabouts are urged to contact the conference (see and for a list of past participants and old programs).

For more information, visit or email


Thanks to author Ethan Gilsdof for this above info.
Ethan Gilsdorf author of "Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms" | NOW AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK! | |

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Friday, January 21, 2011

In which I argue against the Professor with great fear and trepidation.

So this is perhaps not the best essay that I have ever written, and it goes against the grain to disagree with Tolkien, given his great understanding of Anglo-Saxon England and its culture, as well as his knowledge which far exceeds mine. However, with that said, I deeply believe what I have written. Here follows a paper written for my Anglo-Saxon Lit. class. Perhaps not LOTR related, but definitely  Tolkien related. The translations are all my own

Ofermod or “Northern Courage”?
The Tragedy of the Heroic Germanic Code in Anglo-Saxon England

“Hyge sceal þy heardra, heorte þy cenre,
mod sceal þy mare þy ure mægen lytlaþ.”

“Mind shall be harder, heart be bolder,
spirit be greater though our strength sinks”
“The Battle of Maldon” (lines 312-13).

So spoke Byrhtwold, Byrhtnoth’s retainer, in what is perhaps the single most famous line of Anglo-Saxon poetry. Scholars had long considered both speech and “The Battle of Maldon” to be a celebration of “northern courage” until J.R.R. Tolkien argued that Byrhtnoth as a superior, and as the commander of a battle troop, had a moral obligation to his men under which “northern courage” had no place. In other words, he had no business letting the Vikings cross the river. Unlike earlier scholars, Tolkien saw the poem as a criticism of Byrhtnoth.
While I do think that Tolkien raised some very important points, and that there is a level to which Byrhtnoth’s’ ofermod drove his deeds too far, I also believe that there an extent to which this ofermod driven action might only seen as a bad thing because they lost. It is likely that had they won, this action would have made him a hero.  This same ofermod would have made the warriors famous and their deeds celebrated. Furthermore, I believe Byrhtnoth was caught in a double bind, and that the poem is a celebration of northern courage that recognises that the very system it loves is also fatally flawed.  
Tolkien argued that the doctrine of “Northern Courage” only “appears in this clarity, and (approximate) purity, precisely because it is put in the mouth of a subordinate” for whom “personal pride was … at its lowest, and love and loyalty at their highest” (Tolkien 144). Byrhtnoth, on the other hand, as the leader of these men ought to have made their lives his first priority and not let the Vikings come ashore unchallenged. However, I do not see “Maldon” as a criticism of Byrhtnoth in allowing the Vikings to cross the river, but rather a criticism that
Þa se eorl ongann for his ofermode
aliefan landes to fela laðre þeode.

“The ealdorman then undertook, for his excessive pride,
to allow too much land to the loathsome people” (89-90).

The issue does not seem to be that he allowed the Vikings to cross at all, but rather that he allowed them too much land” when they did cross. It is also highly doubtful that the Vikings would have been so intimately acquainted with Byrhtnoth himself that they could devise such a plan as they did:
“ongunnon lytigian þa laðe giestas,
bædon þæt hie upp-gangan agan mosten…”

“The abominable enemies undertook to use guile,
demanded that they be permitted passage to shore… ” (86-87).

Rather, it seems to imply that the Vikings knew that any Anglo-Saxon commander would become recklessly “honourable” when taunted thus, and therefore their request was calculated to be insulting enough to warrant such a response.  Such a reading would rely on “northern courage” as a thriving and widespread system of behaviour that encompassed kings and leaders as well as their thanes. While this view does not exonerate Byrhtnoth from sacrificing the lives of his men, it may perhaps explain why only two lines out of more than three hundred focus on Byrhtnoth’s choice to let the Vikings cross, and why the greater part of the poem details instead how bravely the men fought around the body of their fallen lord.
Tolkien, fresh from the horrors of World War I, argued that Byrhtnoth had no right to let the Vikings cross, unchecked, before engaging them in battle, “northern courage” or no. He said:
“ [T]his element of pride, in the form of the desire for honour and glory … tends to grow,
to become a chief motive, driving a man beyond the bleak heroic necessity to excess – to chivalry.
‘Excess’ certainly, even if it be approved by contemporary opinion, when it not
only goes beyond need and duty, but interferes with it” (Tolkien 144).

I do not see this choice as a fault of Byrhtnoth’s alone. Instead I see it as the tragedy of a culture built on a rigid heroic code, on “northern courage”. This is Byrhtnoth’s double bind. He cannot allow the Vikings to give up and sail away to another, worse defended, stretch of coast, he cannot retreat and let the Vikings ravage Essex, nor can he truly hope to win in a fair fight. With his original strategy, of one man defending the bridge at a time, the Vikings are still likely to out last them, or give up and sail away. If they had done the later, it could have gone well if the Vikings had not cast aspersions on their valour. By pointing out that the fight was unfair, and asking for better landing so that they might fight on level terms, the Vikings were not only stacking matters in their favour (but when have they not), they were also implying that Byrhtnoth and his men were not honourable. It is this last, I believe, that causes Byrhtnoth to act in his ofermod for it has been previously established that “her stent unforcuþ eorl mid his weorde,” or that “here stands an undisgraced ealdorman with his troop” (line 51).
Byrhtnoth can either refuse to let the Vikings pass and continue the fight as it was before, hoping that the Vikings will not sail away, or he can do what he does in the poem, let the Vikings cross and fight a “fair” fight. If he does the former and wins, he and his men will live in the knowledge that the fight was neither strictly “honorable” nor “fair”, even if the whole world praises them for turning aside the Viking threat. For, as Tolkien says, they expect everyone to behave honourably, “even if there [are] no witnesses” (Tolkien 144). Perhaps it is this idea that leads Byrhtnoth to jeopardize his “one object, the defence of the realm from an implacable foe” and leads to, as it turns out, “the ruin of his purpose and duty” (146).
It is easy to say that Byrhtnoth’s actions were “stupid” or “irresponcible” or any other negative term, but our society has so many different “norms” and places so much less emphasis on honour than did the Anglo-Saxons, that we cannot judge them on our terms. Perhaps even Tolkien, who probably could understand the Anglo-Saxon mind set better than anyone else in our time, was so – understandably – influenced by his times and his own experiences, that even he could not fully understand their society as it existed.
Perhaps Byrhtnoth was irresponsible and foolish to let the Vikings cross, and whether he was or not, he lost the battle. Perhaps the poem is a criticism of his actions, or of “northern courage”, or perhaps it is a poem that celebrates this “northern courage” even while seeing its flaws. A poem that can, like “Njal’s Saga”, offer a clear sighted critique on the culture it loves without passing judgement on those caught in the heroic tragedy of “northern courage”, for the poet dwells less on Byrhtnoth’s ofermod than he does on the fierce pride of Byrhtnoth’s retainers.

“Ic þæt gehate, þæt ic heonan nylle
fleon fotes trym, ac wille furðor gan,
wrecan on gewinne minne wine-dryhten.”

“I vow that I will not, from this place,
flee one foot’s tread, but will further go
to avenge in battle my ealdorman and friend”
(lines 246-8).

“… fram ic ne wille,
ac ic me be healfe minum hlaforde,
swa leofum menn licgan þence.”

“… I will not from hence,
for I desire to lie beside my lord,
to lie dead with the dearest of men”
(lines 371b-319).


 Tolkien, J. R. R. Tree and Leaf: Including the Poem Mythopoeia; The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth
Beorththelm’s Son. Paperback ed. London: HarperCollinsPublishers, 2001. Print.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Survival of the Tolkienist.

Firstly, Happy New Year all! Secondly, dear me! I have gotten frightfully quiet lately. I blame it on exams. They were cruel. 

However, this is all quite beside the point. I have four reaction papers to share.

October 27, 2010
Ask For No Quarter, and No Quarter Shall Be Given:
Rohan, Gondor and the Appendices
            If one really thinks about the Rohirrim, one realizes that they really aren’t always the most pleasant of peoples, and I think this is one of the many areas where Tolkien’s world building excels. He makes you genuinely love a culture, he sets up the Gondorians/Numenorians and the Rohirrim especially to be noble, heroic people and we love them as we have seen them in The Lord of the Rings. But dig into the appendices, and one finds that some of the Kings of Numenor, Gondor and of Rohan were downright unpleasant and unsavory. Helm and Fengel would not perhaps be the most charming people to hang around, and a few of the later kings of Gondor were unbearable arrogant and grasping (to say nothing of Ar-Pharazon of Akallabeth fame), not to mention remarkably shortsighted for a race of men usually so remarkably forsighted.
            Rohan recovers from these bad kings with a swiftness that lines up well with the exceptional vitality of their culture (I believe the slow recovery after Helm is not a recovery from his rather …violent ruling style, but from the war which wasn’t necessarily his fault. After all, Helm was not a particularly bad king as kings go, though I’m sure there were better ways of resolving quarrels then punching people’s brains out…). In Gondor, the collective failures of the kings led to their eventual extinction.
            These problems, especially in Rohan, did not necessarily lead to a lasting effect on the values of the two countries in question. In Rohan, it seems that their values were not at all affected, but in Gondor, the high values of the Numenorians did devolve into the more “Middle Men, of the Twilight” that Faramir describes in The Two Towers (IV, v, 663), but values such as justice, mercy, loyalty and valor are still very much important to both countries, one of the most important ones being mercy. In class, I recently made the clumsy argument that Tolkien’s characters did not always mercilessly slaughter evil men, that they often spared them. While the timing of the argument was bad, I believe that it is still a valid one. There are three instances in which the Rohirrim or Gondorians fight men in the armies of Sauron or Saruman. At Helm’s Deep, the Rohirrim extend mercy to all the Dunlendings who ask for it. At the battle at the gates of Mordor, Aragorn and the Lords of the West extend this same mercy to all the human soldiers of Sauron who surrender. Yes, on the Fields of the Pelennor, very few, if any men survive, however, Tolkien explicitly says that the Easterlings and Southrons “asked for no quarter” so they got none (RK, V, vi, 830). Perhaps Sauron forced or coerced them into fighting to begin with, as Sam speculates in The Two Towers (V, iv, 646), but at this point, they chose to fight to the death. Had they asked for quarter, I have very little doubt that the Rohirrim would have granted it to them. While I am not prepared at this time to tackle the question of whether or not Tolkien was racist in his depiction of Easterlings, Southrons, Dunlendings and the like in general – perhaps he was – I do not think his treatment of them in “The Battle of Pelennor Fields” specifically, deserves to be judged as such. This is a war on a huge scale after all. People are going to get killed. If they ask for mercy, it has been demonstrated before that they will probably receive it. Personally I stand by Tolkien’s statement that the book breathes mercy from beginning to end. It has other flaws, but it does not lack mercy. Besides, where would they put all those captured men? And more importantly, with their pathetic numbers, how on earth were they supposed to march on Mordor, defend Minas Tirith against the possibility of other attacks, and guard a recently defeated and probably rather bitter and sizable number of enemy prisoners? 

November 4th
Green Knight, Green Cloak, Precious Pearl and Pleasant Place:
Jumbled thoughts on Faramir, Sir Gawain, ‘Pearl’ and Lothlorien
            I am reasonably sure Tolkien did not intentionally make Faramir anything like Sir Gawain – especially since Tolkien was reportedly as surprised as the Hobbits when Faramir stepped out of Ithilien – and I’ll admit, the differences are as many as the similarities, but after reading SGGK it was their similarities that struck me (though it is mostly in their persons and not so much in their actions). They are both pious men in their own ways, after all, one of the only “religious” scenes of LOTR occurs in the company of Faramir, and their people love them. They both are outstandingly courteous and noble, even in the company of other remarkably courteous and noble men, and for the love of their lords, they dare seemingly impossible military feats that by rights should have left them both dead. Gawain may hold himself of less worth to others than does Faramir, but Faramir, having so long been willingly in Boromir’s shadow, also does not value himself at his full worth. They are both men of their word, if they vow to do something, then they will do it, however unpleasant the consequences may be for them personally. Added to this, they both meet with temptation and resist it determinedly, though Faramir does so with surprising ease, unlike Gawain. (There are, of course, other big differences, for example, Faramir tends to think things through very carefully and give his word knowing the consequences, where as Gawain dives in head first, and then bravely endures the consequences of his often reckless actions.)
            I found Tolkien’s essay on SGGK interesting and enlightening as I had not at first fully appreciated the importance of the third ‘fit’ and had been unsure how to view Gawain’s promise to keep the girdle a secret, among other things, given his previous high nobility and purity. I now fully agree with Tolkien that the Pearl poet knew what he was doing. Otherwise much of the third ‘fit’ does seem a little lacking.
            Speaking of Pearl, now that it has been mentioned in class, I must do the obligatory Lorien/Pearl discussion. While I do think that Lothlorien is possibly a very creepy and definitely a dangerous place, I also want to mention the heartbreaking beauty of it, and emphasize the theme of loss that permeates it and also Pearl. 
            I think that in some ways Lorien represents loss just as much as it represents beauty: the loss of Valinor, the loss of true perfection, the loss of the world as it once was, all of these are very near the heart of the Golden Wood. After all, Lothlorien is, in some respects, a copy of the garden of the Vala Lorien, but has lost the effortless perfection of the Blessed Realm. In Pearl, obviously the loss lies in that of the narrator, though I wonder if there are perhaps other levels of loss that I have yet to notice, and do not have room here to ponder.
            There are, of course, other parallels, especially in the beauty of Lorien and of Heaven. Both are light filled, and in both, everything is beautiful to the point of piercing the hearts of those who enter. In Pearl the beauty does not comfort the narrator or the reader. It is unattainable except through death, which does not appear to be an immediate option for said narrator, and the beauty all the more keen for being unobtainable. Similarly Lorien is otherworldly beautiful, but the Fellowship cannot linger there, and after they leave, Lorien will never again be the same. Even should they return, neither they nor the reader will ever see the same Lorien again. It is fading in a winter in which there is no spring. They and the narrator of Pearl must wake up and walk once more in the living world, forever longing for something that is out of reach this side of death or Valinor.

November 11, 2010

Daunting Eyes, Cursed Treasure, Doomed Wife:
The Legend of Sigurd, the Lay of Turin, and Beowulf
            Prior to this, I did know that Tolkien had gained a good deal of inspiration from the Norse sagas, but did not appreciate how much of The Silmarillion in general, and The Children of Hurin in particular, owed to them.  There is, in both The Children of Hurin and in Sigurd and Gudrun, that feel of fierce, dark, wild “northern-ness” (for lack of better terms) in both, with the discomfort or strangeness of kin slaying, incest, oaths, doom or fate and, of course, the cursed gold and the dragon. There are also such parallels such as vengeful dwarves and the daunting eyes. In The Children of Hurin, it is of course Gaurung who daunts Turin and Nianor with his eyes, ensnaring them with his malice. In Gudrun’s case, it is her mother, who, interestingly enough, is said to daunt people, especially Gudrun, with her eyes – perhaps a draconian trait for a draconian woman?
            However, in “Guðrunarkviða en Nyja” especially, there is a good deal in common with the peace weavers of Beowulf who get the worst of the deal regardless of the outcome when their husband’s family fights their birth family. Gudrun is married off, in this case completely against her will, and to one who is an enemy, in hopes of buying peace. In this case, Gudrun’s brothers flat out refuse to send the gold that is Gudrun’s dowery, to Atli and then begin a war in which, despite the fact that Gudrun is not particularly fond of either her brothers or her husband, could potentially leave her widowed (again) and brotherless (it does, in fact, do both). Like Freawaru and Hildeburg, she stands to loose everything she has left, though unlike them, she has more of a say in the events, and in the end, takes active part in the destruction of her life and in the lives of those around her.
            I very much look forward to discussing this at length, especially when we properly get to The Silmarillion stuff.

December 3, 2010

The Pride of the Children of Iluvatar:
They Want it All

“I want it all,
I want everything
Nothing less than this
Nothing less than eternity
Nothing less than bliss
I’ve had no success
in checking this ambition…
Simply knowing that it’s out there,
Simply knowing it exists…
I’ll be dying till I have it”
~ “I Want it All” by Stickman Jones

Having read The Silmarillion several times, and having a fairly good memory of it, I was struck by several new insights this time around. Firstly, the downfall of every major character, or very nearly every major character can be traced back to pride, whether directly through their deeds, or indirectly through their entanglement in the Doom of Mandos/The Curse of the Noldor and the Oath of Fëanor. Secondly, the elves really just want it all. They have immortality; they have beauty, great creativity, and many of them have had a blissful life in Aman, yet they create the elven rings because “they desired both to stay in Middle-earth, which indeed they loved, and yet to enjoy the bliss of those that had departed” (S, Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age, 287).
            In the beginning, Morgoth is the most powerful of the Ainur with Ilúvatar, yet he wants to be the greatest. He wants to “interweave matters of his own imaginings that [are] not in accord with the theme of Ilúvatar” (S, Ainulindalë, 16), and have “the dominion of Arda” (ibid 22).  After him, there is Aulë, who nearly falls into the same trap that Morgoth does, for he desires to create things, namely the dwarves, who are outside of the origional song. He only excapes downfall because he is more loyal to Ilúvatar than Morgoth, who is, “jealous of him, for Aulë was most like himself” and yet “both…desired to make things of their own that should be new and unthought of by others, and delighted in the praise of their skill” (Valaquenta, 27). Then, perhaps most importantly, there is Fëanor who creates objects of his own imagining, the Silmarils, which then drive nearly, if not all, of the following actions.  Fëanor, like Morgoth works mostly alone, and like Morgoth will not submit his works to the other Valar and ultimately to Ilúvatar. Beyond Fëanor, there are a host of others among the elves alone; from Turgon, who will not abandon Gondolin because he “had become proud and Gondolin as beautiful as a memory of Elven Tirion, and he trusted still in its secret and impregnable strength” (S, XXIII, 240), to Thingol, who “in his wrath and pride…gave no heed to his peril, but spoke to [the dwarves] in scorn” (S, XXII, 233), to the elves of Nargothrond who are unwilling to “cast the stones of [their] folly into the loud river” even if it means that evil will “find the gate” (S, XII, 212). Sauron will not sue for pardon from the Valar for this reason, or Túrin from Thingol, and the list goes on. Most notable of the non-elves/ higher powers, are the men of Númenor who attack Valinor itself in their pride, and their lust for immortality.
            To move on to the next point, the elves always desire more than they already have. I mean, seriously, the leave Aman, which only happens to be the land of bliss to go to Middle-earth, many of them for no other reason than did Galadriel: “She yearned to see the wide unguarded lands and to rule there a realm at her own will” (S, IX, 84), and once they get there and obtain these kingdoms, “refuse to return into the West,” desiring to “ever increase the skill and subtlety of their works” (S, IX, 287-8). They want to have the advantages of Aman and to “ward off the decays of time and postpone the weariness of the world” (which I might add was supposed to be part of their punishment for leaving Aman in the first place…) (288). Nearly every character wishes to have things “as they had been, in the days of [their] long fathers of old“ (or in the case of the Elves, as it was several thousand years ago, across an ocean) (RK), and they’ll go to great lengths to get it (I mean, consorting with Sauron to learn how to make shiny things? Didn’t anyone learn anything from the Númenor debacle or the whole Morgoth in Valinor business?).
            Really, in all honesty, the if everyone had been considerably less proud, and much more willing to listen to advice, so much of the bad stuff wouldn’t have happened. It is a remarkable fact that the downfall of every kingdom, and nearly every major character can be directly traced back to their pride, sometimes through oaths, curses or dooms, but mostly through their own ofermod, and their own desire for personal vengeance against those who have hurt their people and their pride.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Call for Papers: Neil Gaiman Collection Planned

As most readers may know Jessica and I were lucky enough to collaborate with The Mythopoeic Society and chair a Mythcon in 2008; even luckier we were to have worked with Tolkien Scholar and Astronomer Kristine Larsen of Central Connecticut State University on the same conference. From this collaboration the idea for our book The Mythological Dimensions of Doctor Who was born.

Many of you know this book was published by Kitsune Books in May (2010). From the success of The Mythological Dimensions of Doctor Who, our publisher has asked us to continue "The Mythologicial Dimensions..." series and we are happy to announce the Call for Papers for the second volume being planned:

The Mythological Dimensions of Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is an author of science fiction and fantasy short stories and novels, comic books and graphic novels, theatre and film. His notable works include the comic book series The Sandman and novels Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book. Gaiman's writing has won numerous awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker, as well as the 2009 Newbery Medal and 2010 Carnegie Medal in Literature. He is the first author to win both the Newbery and the Carnegie medals for the same work.
Fans of Neil Gaiman who saw the CBS interview heard from Gaiman that when he was growing up he wished to have written The Lord of the Rings. Gaiman is very much a fan of Tolkien and of fairy stories.  Fans of Doctor Who know by now Gaiman has written a story for the Doctor, set to be a part of the 2011 Series 32/6 of the Matt Smith Era.
Click here to Read Gaiman's Blog about the experience of the read through of his Doctor Who story, which will be the 3rd episode of the next series.

What follows is the Call for Papers for The Mythological Dimensions of Neil Gaiman

CALL FOR PAPERS: The Mythological Dimensions of Neil Gaiman

Submissions are sought for the forthcoming second volume of the critical essay series: The Mythological Dimensions to be published by Kitsune Books in 2012. This second volume will be on the subject of the Mythological Dimensions of Neil Gaiman with a mind toward the incredible opportunity for multidisciplinary discourse on his work.

The works of Neil Gaiman are as diverse as clouds in the sky. To say that Gaiman is just an author would be doing both him and his work a disservice. Although he is best known for his books, his expertise is in the realm of myth, rather than any one medium. Gaiman’s name has also been attached to film scripts, comic books, and graphic novels, even a much anticipated episode of Doctor Who. He’s influenced songwriters and artists of all stripes. He’s been at the forefront of the graphic novel movement and has fought for the rights of comic book artists, being a board member of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

The goal of this volume is to explore the worlds tapped into by Gaiman. While authors like Lewis, Le Guin, and Tolkien spent time creating a secondary world separate from our own, Gaiman amends our world. It can be said that Coraline’s space beyond the door, the Sandman’s realm of Dream, the land beyond the Wall, even the Gap between the subway stations are all Gaiman’s ‘secondary world’ creations—and they are—but they are also extensions of our own primary world.

Prior to submitting for this volume, each potential contributor should be familiar with the overall style and format of The Mythological Dimensions primary volume, The Mythological Dimensions of Doctor Who. The motto of this series is “written by fans for fans” and we will hold strict adherence to this rule. All essays will be expected to adhere to scholarly standards of analysis but at the same time be accessible to the interested fan who is not an academic by trade. Therefore successful abstracts will be judged as much on content as writing style.

Each contribution must demonstrate knowledge of Gaiman as an artist. We are looking predominantly for contributions that examine: how Gaiman transcends stereotypes, ideas, and symbols within his work; how Gaiman’s characters eradicate boundaries, or create new ones; how Gaiman views old myths through a fresh lens.

Essays can relate to, but should not be limited by, the following suggestion topics in relation to the mythical:

1. In “An Introduction” to his collection Smoke & Mirrors, Gaiman discusses the nature of story being like “mirrors. We use them to explain to ourselves how the world works or how it doesn’t work. Like mirrors, stories prepare us for the day to come. They distract us from the things in the darkness.”

2. The relationship of Gaiman and his characters to modern culture. Have Gaiman’s characters molded modern culture in any way? Are his characters a mirror of our culture—“A distorting mirror, to be sure, and a concealing mirror, set at forty-five degrees to reality….”

3. Gaiman readily admits that he wished he had written The Lord of the Rings. Throughout Gaiman’s work there are side-jokes and wonderful references to Tolkien’s work. Purposefully examine Tolkien and Gaiman, going beyond a mere comparison/contrast. Examine how intrinsic Tolkien’s work was/is to Gaiman. Could Gaiman have written a word without Middle-earth backing him up?

4. The influence of “real world myth” into Gaiman’s explored realms. Again, such an examination should endeavor to go beyond simply noting that Northern myths (like Sigfrid or Beowulf) inspired certain of Gaiman’s tales. More than a simple source study.

5. In “The Mapmaker,” Gaiman links the tale told to the map drawn. “One describes a tale best by telling the tale…The way one describes a story, to oneself or to the world, is by telling the story. It is a balancing act and it is a dream. The more accurate the map, the more it resembles the territory. The most accurate map possible would be the territory, and thus would be perfectly accurate and perfectly useless. The tale is the map which is the territory. You must remember this.” Examine Gaiman’s concepts of dreamland territories, mythological or mythopoeic maps, and worlds that exist beyond the edges of the drawn map, the known world, the experienced territory.

6. Gaiman’s penchant for ‘rewriting’ myth; how does this re-envisioning of mythic tales from Beowulf to Anansi to Oðinn to Snow White affect modern approaches to these myths? Critics of his vision of Beowulf cringe at the idea of Angelina Jolie as Grendel’s mother, but was Gaiman too far off when looking at the original tale? How does Gaiman preserve the integrity of a myth while refracting it in his “distorting mirror?” Is the integrity preserved at all?

We will give precedence to pieces which demonstrate a range of Gaiman’s work, or take a character, particular story, or single facet of Gaiman and explore it in regards to the work of another author/artist. The Editors would discourage a singular case study of any of Gaiman’s characters, and would like to dissuade any submissions from concentrating on any individual work of Gaiman’s to exclusion. We would also like to note that this collection will explore a large swath of Gaiman’s work and in order to accomplish the collection’s goals, we cannot accept multiple submissions on topics; so we encourage you to send your abstracts in a timely fashion.

All submitted abstracts and papers are to be sent to

Abstracts of 500-750 words should be submitted, along with complete contact information for and a biographical paragraph about the submitter, by email to the editors by February 15th, 2011.

If accepted, articles should be completed as Word documents with MLA formatting.

Complete submissions should be sent electronically to the editors by July 1st, 2011 to

All deadlines are firm.


Dr. Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State University

Jessica Burke, College of Staten Island

Anthony S Burdge, Northeast Tolkien Society Co-Chair/Independent Scholar

Friday, November 19, 2010

Of Wizards and Wookiees: A Panel Discussion on Gaming & Fandom



 "Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms"
by Ethan Gilsdorf

The Lyons Press 320 pp  US/Canada Hardcover: ISBN 978-1-59921-480-1
Retail  $24.95
US/Canada Paperback: ISBN 978-1-59921-994-3
Retail  $14.95
UK paperback: ISBN-13: 978-0762756759
Retail  £9.99
The UK Tolkien Society and NPR have called Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: ""Lord of the Rings meets Jack Kerouac’s On the Road."

Click here to Read the Synopsis

Now author Ethan Gilsdorf teams up with author, Tony Pacitti, MY BEST FRIEND IS A WOOKIEE: One Boy's Journey to Find His Place in the Galaxy (Adams Media), to bring us an evening:

Of Wizards and Wookiees: A Panel Discussion on Gaming & Fandom


*Attention gamers and geeks! Free Mountain Dew and Doritos!*

“Of Wizards and Wookiees: A Panel Discussion on Gaming & Fandom”

Word Books, Brooklyn, Mon Nov 22

Somerville --- Two local geek memoirists have teamed up to offer an evening of geekery at WORD Books Monday, November 22 at 7:30pm (22126 Franklin St., Brooklyn, NY)

Moderated by Rebecca Carroll, former editor at PAPER, their panel “Of Wizards and Wookiees: A Panel Discussion on Gaming & Fandom” will delve into the appeal of fantasy, science fiction, gaming and other geek subcultures.

Free Mountain Dew and Doritos will be served.

Ethan Gilsdorf, a Somerville, Massachusetts resident, wrote FANTASY FREAKS AND GAMING GEEKS (Lyons Press).

Tony Pacitti, of Providence, RI, is the author of MY BEST FRIEND IS A WOOKIEE " (Adams Media). The authors will discuss their books and the appeal of fantasy, science fiction and gaming, followed by a Q&A and book signing.

Both are heartbreaking works of staggering geekiness --- coming-of-age tales set against the backdrop of Star Wars and Dungeons & Dragons obsessions --- that are ultimately quests to make peace with their geeky pasts and accept their "inner geeks."

National Public Radio described “FANTASY FREAKS AND GAMING GEEKS: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms” as "Lord of the Rings meets Jack Kerouac’s On the Road." proclaimed, “For anyone who has ever spent time within imaginary realms, the book will speak volumes.” It was also named a "Must-Read" by the Massachusetts Book Awards.

Gilsdorf’s geek-out travel memoir investigates fantasy and gaming subcultures. In FANTASY FREAKS AND GAMING GEEKS, the author travels from Boston to England, France to New Zealand, Planet Earth to the realm of Aggramar, to ask gaming and fantasy geeks how they balance their escapist urges with the kingdom of adulthood. He hangs out with Harry Potter tribute bands, attends fan conventions and gaming tournaments, camps with 12,000 medieval reenactors, sews his own tunic, learns to sword fight, battles online goblins and trolls, and plays D&D again for the first time in 25 years. FANTASY FREAKS AND
GAMING GEEKS was recently released in paperback.

Author Ethan Gilsdorf

Gilsdorf publishes travel, arts, and pop culture stories regularly in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor and other magazines and newspapers worldwide. His blog
"Geek Pride" is seen regularly on and he has also been a guest on talk radio as a fantasy and escapism expert. He watches the extended edition of the Lord of the Rings trilogy at least once a year.

Follow Ethan’s adventures at

Pacitti’s "MY BEST FRIEND IS A WOOKIEE: A Memoir, One Boy’s Journey to Find His Place in the Galaxy" is a hilarious and heart-wrenching tale of a real-life certified geek and official Jedi Knight wannabe, framed around Lucas’ epic Star Wars, the movie that changed one little boy’s life. With the Force on his side, Pacitti survives countless hurdles of adolescence, temptations from the Dark Side, and ultimately lives
to see the day when he can be comfortable in his own skin.'s Techland says, "[My Best Friend Is A Wookiee] is an autobiographical coming of age tale with a bit of sci-fi thrown in for good measure that reminds us all of the good old days when we were being picked on and laughed at." Alec Sulkin, executive producer of Family Guy, calls the book “hilarious, tragic, touching, and most of all, honest. Tony Pacitti deserves a medal from Princess Leia and a hug from Chewbacca.”

Author Tony Pacitti and his best friend

 Tony Pacitti has written for as a features writer and video game reviewer and has had his short science fiction published at 365tomorrows. He has been the writer for the online comics RoboPlanet and The Silencer at Pandemonium Comics. Tony lives in Providence, Rhode Island and is probably watching The Empire Strikes Back on laserdisc at this very moment.

Click here for more info on Tony and Wookiees

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Looking for the King: An Inklings Novel

Editors Note:
We have been seeing alot of discussion of this book lately, most notably the brilliant review by Pieter Collier of The Tolkien Library. Below is the official press release, book trailer, and information on the author David C. Downing. Stay tuned for our own review of Looking for the King: An Inklings Novel

Click here to Visit the official website

SAN FRANCISCO, October 20, 2010 – A fascinating new book from
Ignatius Press, Looking for the King: An Inklings Novel, brings to life the beloved writers C.S. Lewis,

J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams, in the context of a mysterious adventure story.
The novel opens in 1940, and American Tom McCord, a 23-year-old aspiring doctoral candidate, is in England researching the historical evidence for the legendary King Arthur. There he meets perky and intuitive Laura Hartman, a fellow American staying with her aunt in Oxford, and the two of them team up for an even more ambitious and dangerous quest.

Aided by the Inklings—that illustrious circle of scholars and writers made famous by its two most prolific members, C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien—Tom and Laura begin to suspect that the fabled Spear of Destiny, the lance that pierced the side of Christ on the cross, is hidden somewhere in England.

Tom discovers that Laura has been having mysterious dreams, which seem to be related to the subject of his research, and, though doubtful of her visions, he hires her as an assistant. Heeding the insights and advice of the Inklings, while becoming aware of being shadowed by powerful and secretive foes who would claim the spear as their own, Tom and Laura end up on a treasure hunt that crisscrosses the English countryside and leads beyond a search for the elusive relics of Camelot into the depths of the
human heart and soul.

Weaving his narrative with actual quotes from the works of the Inklings, author David Downing offers a vivid portrait of Oxford and draws a welcome glimpse into the personalities and ideas of Lewis, Tolkien, and Williams, while never losing sight of his adventure story and its two very appealing main characters.

Looking for the King has piqued the interest of Inklings lovers everywhere, and has already earned advanced praise. Joseph Pearce, author of Tolkien: Man and Myth, says, “This superbly gripping novel about dreams coming true is itself a dream come true. Lewis and Tolkien come alive as real-life characters, playing their sagacious parts to realistic perfection as the protagonists follow their Arthurian quest pursued by deadly enemies. For lovers of Arthurian romance and for admirers of Tolkien and Lewis, this is indeed a dream come true!”

“The subtitle of this book is An Inklings Novel. That claim might seem presumptuous at first. But lo – it is an Inklings novel,” says Thomas Howard, author of Narnia and Beyond. He continues, “My own guess is that Lewis, Tolkien, and Williams would all be mightily pleased with it. All three of them, as it happens, figure as characters in the story, which is Arthurian, but set in the contemporary world--very much in the vein of That Hideous Strength and War in Heaven. The Inklings themselves are flawlessly depicted, as are the two protagonists, a very appealing young man and woman. All Inklings lovers will be
highly delighted.”

Peter J. Schakel, author of The Way into Narnia and Imagination and the Arts in C. S. Lewis,
commends Looking for the King, calling it “A highly engaging historical mystery adventure that brings

C. S. Lewis and his friends and ideas to life. Fans of Lewis and Tolkien will love it. I couldn't put it
Marjorie Lamp Mead, Associate Director of The Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College,
also praises Looking for the King, saying, “Steeped in Arthurian lore, the mystery of the grail legends,
and World War II intrigue, this engaging tale of a young man's search for a hidden relic ultimately
uncovers treasure of a far different kind. David Downing's homage to C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and
Charles Williams succeeds masterfully in bringing these historical figures to life in the midst of an
unfolding spiritual thriller. This is a beguiling and enjoyable read – laced throughout with romance, wry
humor and questions of eternal consequence.”



About the Author

David C. Downing, PhD, is the R. W. Schlosser Professor of English at Elizabethtown College in
Pennsylvania. He is the author of four award-winning books on C. S. Lewis: Planets in Peril, The Most
Reluctant Convert, Into the Region of Awe: Mysticism in C. S. Lewis and Into the Wardrobe: C. S. Lewis
and the Narnia Chronicles. Downing has also written short fiction for Christianity Today and other

To request a review copy or an interview with author David C. Downing, please contact:
Rose Trabbic, Publicist, Ignatius Press, (239)867-4180 or

Product Facts

An Inklings Novel

Author: David C. Downing
Release Date: October 2010
Length: 285 pages
Price: $19.95
ISBN: 978-1-58617-514-6 • 5.25 x 8" Sewn Hardcover
Order: 1-800-651-1531 •

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

10th Anniversary Calendar Now in Print! Order Now!

Commemorating the 10th Anniversary of The Northeast Tolkien Society we are happy to announce our 2011 Shire Calendar.
Once again Phil "Parmastahir" Goss and his wonderful daughter Megan are steadily at work just in time for the Fall Holidays to create another wonderful calendar for us. Many of you, hopefully all of you, know Phil from his incredible Tolkien Calendar Collection, and website dedicated to it:
The Compleat Gyde to Tolkien Calendars

In its 4th year, our Calendar has been blessed to have a special cover by the brilliant artist Jef Murray.  The reflective nature of Gandalf and Frodo as they look upon the Shire is perfection.  The Northeast Tolkien Society is very grateful to have had such a wonderful community and member support in the past 10 years, and looking ahead we hope to continue being the Tolkien community in the New York City area.
The Host of Nargothrond
by Anke Eißmann
For our Shire Calendar format we are fortunate to feature the work of Anke Eissman and Sue Wookey, and a special 10th Anniversary centerfold illustration by Catherine Sparsidis to accompany our 10th Anniversary narrative.
Tom Looks Through the Ring
by Sue Wookey

Postage in the United States has significantly increased.

Below we have three options for purchase of the calendar.

The Calendar costs $20 USD and the options below incorporate shipping for domestic US, Canada and UK.


TOTAL $26, $34, $36

Within the United States, including Hawaii, and Alaska, plus Canada

Click here to Visit our Online Store and purchase

If you live in areas beyond UK, let us know and we will calculate shipping for you.

Click here to contact us




Jessica Burke
110 Patten St.,
Staten Island, NY 10307