It’s hard to believe that the Tolkien 2005 conference — The Ring Goes Ever On — was held ten years ago at Aston University in the UK. Looking over the list of participants in the mammoth proceedings published after the event, I see names of people I had met just a little while before; some that I had known or followed online for a few years; and others I had yet to meet in the coming years. (Do I sound like I’m looking into Galadriel’s mirror?). The event, co-sponsored by the Tolkien Society and the Mythopoeic Society, packed into five days an enormous number of presentations and activities.
It was difficult deciding which papers to go to, and sometimes the rooms were so full that people had to be turned away. I remember a few highlights: having Priscilla Tolkien herself open the event by wishing that “a star would shine upon our meeting.” Getting the opportunity to tell Alan Lee that I loved his design of Meduseld. Discovering some of my favorite fanfic authors and having the opportunity to talk to them. Going to a Q & A with Priscilla Tolkien. Listening to presentations by scholars such as Tom Shippey, John Garth, Ian Hunter (all of whom spoke to huge audiences; Ian’s talk on Lord of the Rings porn parodies was certainly an eye-opener!). Meeting up with some of my TORnsibs.
But I digress. The point of this post is to help the Tolkien Society announce that the proceedings of the conference are now on sale for 10 British pounds (approximately $20 Canadian and $15 US). So if you couldn’t be there, or if you were and would like a record of the event, this is your chance to get the enormous two-volume proceedings, with nearly 100 articles, at this discount price. Go to the Tolkien Society offer here for more details. A full list of contents is available at the Tolkien Gateway site.
My presentation, “Male Friendship in The Lord of the Rings: Medievalism, the First World War, and Contemporary Rewritings” is included in Volume 1. Here is a summary of what I discuss in that article:
My paper explores continuities in the institution of male friendship from the Middle
Ages to the First World War and then looks at contemporary explorations and understandings of the central male friendship in The Lord of the Rings, that of Frodo and Sam. I look at some examples of medieval forerunners before examining the nature of male friendship in World War One through the perspectives of critics such as Sarah Cole, Santanu Das, Joanna Bourke, and Allen Frantzen. I focus my discussion of
The Lord of the Rings on the Cirith Ungol scene, in which Frodo and Sam sleep together, and on the Mount Doom scene, in which Frodo asks Sam to hold his hands, a gesture that I argue mimics the medieval ritual of swearing fealty to a lord. I then examine the contemporary reception of the Frodo – Sam relationship in the Peter Jackson films and in reactions to them. I conclude by considering slash fan fiction and its version of male friendship.
In the next few days, I’ll post some of the illustrations that I used when I gave my talk, and I’ll write a little bit more about Tolkien’s adaptation of the medieval ritual of homage.
Of course, my article is only a small part of a very large collection that could keep you reading Tolkien essays for some time. Go to the Tolkien Society website to order!