Two Years of the Website – A Thank You

It has been two years since the start of this blog, and I wanted to just take a moment of your time with a short recap of what we have built together. One way to see the impact is in numbers.

Stats at the two-year mark:

  • 228 posts
  • 115 contributors
  • 588 post likes
  • Around 30,000 visitors
  • Around 50,000 views
  • 126,446 words

While I am humbled by these, I never imagined my site would generate this much attention, I am even more elated by the story of the blog. This little project has led to many great memories of working with other bloggers and podcasters. It was even nominated for an award from the Tolkien Society last year!

Over the last two years, I have had the opportunity to talk with some remarkable people and inspiring fans because of this website. I am so thankful to everyone who has seen value in sharing their Tolkien Experience and to the readers, both casual and avid, who have become members of the community we have started. You will never know how much it means to me when someone tells me that this work has been meaningful to them.

If you are reading this, I want to say thank you: Thank you for contributing to this community. Writing, reading, listening, sharing, and commenting all help to make this a better project and a better community.

This is not the way I had wanted to celebrate this day, with all of us so far apart and so isolated from one another. The site has always been a way to foster a sense of community and engagement among fans. Now, more than ever, I am dedicated to that goal. I recently put out a call for more entries into the Tolkien Experience Project because I was running low. Thanks to the large number of people who answered that call, the project will keep going strong! I am also doing my best to keep pace with the Tolkien Experience Podcast, which is really starting to take on a life of its own! I hope to share many more wonderful things with you on this site!

Tolkien Sessions at The International Medieval Conference at Kalamazoo 2020

The program preview for the 55th International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University has been up for a little while now, and I thought I would share the Tolkien-themed panels that are a part of the program!

The conference takes place May 7- 10

Thanks to Tales after Tolkien, Tolkien at Kalamazoo, The Fantasy Research Hub at the University of Glasgow, William Fliss, and Elizabeth A. Terry-Roisin for organizing the panels!


On Thursday, May 7:

10:00am–“Medieval World-Building: Tolkien, His Precursors and Legacies”

The papers will be:• Tolkien, Robin Hood, and the Matter of the Greenwood,
Perry Neil Harrison, Fort Hays State Univ.
• Valinor in America: Faerian Drama and the Disenchantment of Middle-earth, John D. Rateliff, Independent Scholar
• Tolkien’s Golden Trees and Silver Leaves: Do Writers Build the Same World for Every Reader, Luke Shelton, Univ. of Glasgow
• Infinity War of the Ring: Parallels between the Conflict within Sauron and Thanos, Jeremy Byrum, Independent Scholar


On Friday, May 8:

1:30pm–“Deadscapes: Wastelands, Necropoli, and Other Tolkien-Inspired Places of Death, Decay, and Corruption (A Panel Discussion)”

The papers will be:• Sites of Memory in Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings,
Geoffrey B. Elliott
• Death and Politics in the Fourth World: Apocalypse and Recovery in the Earthdawn Roleplaying Games, Karol Rybaltowski, FASA Games, Inc.
• “Beorhtnoth we bear, not Beowulf”: Descriptive Restraint in The Homecoming of Beorthnoth, Beorhthelm’s Son, Brian McFadden, Texas Tech Univ.
• “Filled with Echoes”: Norse and Celtic Elements of Tolkien’s Early Realms of the Dead, Amy M. Amendt Raduege, Whatcom College

6:00pm–Tales after Tolkien Society Business Meeting


Saturday, May 9

10:00am–“Tolkien and Se Wyrm”

The papers will be:• A Womb of One’s Own: The Power of Feminine Spaces over the Mythical Phallus, Annie Brust, Kent State Univ.
• Signum Draco Magno Scilicet, or, Earendel and the Dragons: Heavenly Warfare in Medieval European and Tolkienian Annals, Kristine Larsen, Central Connecticut State Univ.
• Of Serpents and Sin, Michael A. Wodzak, Viterbo Univ.

12:00pm–Tolkien at Kalamazoo Business Meeting
1:30pm–“Tolkien’s Paratexts, Appendices, Annals, and Marginalia (A Roundtable)”
The papers will be:
• Materiality in Tolkien’s Medievalism: The Production of Secondary Manuscript Traditions, Brad Eden, Independent Scholar
• A Letter To a Friend: The “King’s Letter” as Para-text in The Lord of the Rings, Andrew Higgins, Independent Scholar
• Finding and Organizing Tolkien’s Invented Languages,
Eileen Marie Moore, Cleveland State Univ.
Do Young Readers Care What Authors, Editors, or Publishers Think? Young Readers’ Engagement with Paratext and Epitexts of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Luke Shelton, East Tennessee State Univ.
• The Things He Left Behind: Signatures, Marginalia, and Ephemera in Tolkien’s Irish Library, Kristine A. Swank, Univ. of Glasgow.


3:30pm–“Tolkien’s Chaucer”

The papers will be:
• Romance and Sexuality in Tolkien’s Lost Chaucer, Yvette Kisor, Ramapo College
• Tolkien, Chaucer, and the History of Ideas, Sharin F. Schroeder, National Taipei Univ. of Technology
• Travel, Redemption, and Pilgrimage Redux, Victoria Wodzak, Viterbo Univ.


Sunday, May 10:

8:30am–“Tolkien and Manuscript Studies”

The papers will be:
• Cotton MS Vitellius A.XII and Tolkien’s “Asterisk” History of the Lord’s Prayer, John R. Holmes, Franciscan Univ. of Steubenville
• Tolkien, Manuscripts, and Dialect, Edward L. Risden, St. Norbert College
• God and the Artist: Francis Thompson (1859–1907) and Sub-Creation, Brad Eden, Independent Scholar

10:30am–“The End of Game of Thrones in History and Literature”

The papers will be:
• The End of Game of Thrones: Contra-Lewis and Tolkien, Knighthood, Kingship, and the Realm, Elizabeth A. Terry-Roisin
• George R. R. Martin’s Muscular Medievalism: Masculinity, Violence, and Fantasy, Steven Bruso, Endicott College
• Waking the Dragon: Daenerys’s Mad Turn and the Politics of Colonialism in Game of Thrones, Thomas Blake, Austin College


You can find the entire sneak preview of the program, if you like!

(Also, there will be a Tolkien symposium the day before the conference. I will post more details about that when I have them!)

Online Congress registration opens in February, I would love to see you there!

Tolkien 2019 Announcement

Hello friends, I wanted to share some exciting news with you.

I will be attending the Tolkien 2019 conference in Birmingham, England this August!Tolkien-2019-logo

I will be presenting a paper entitled “The Lord of the Rings, Young Readers, and Questions of Genre”. I would love for anyone interested in my research to attend!

I am very much looking forward to meeting up with friends and colleagues, as well as participating in the largest event ever hosted by the Tolkien Society!

If you would like more information, the event staff have posted a full schedule of events!

Happy Birthday to!

Hello everyone!

This website has just passed the one-year mark, and I just wanted to write a post to celebrate the past year..and what a year!

I have been absolutely blow away by the support and interaction with readers and contributors! I wanted to share a few of the milestones with you all, as I try to stay as transparent as possible:

In the first year, the website has seen:

  • 114 published posts (more than 66,000 words!)
  • 62 contributors
  • nearly 15,000 visitors
  • over 20,000 views
  • almost a comment per post on average
  • more than one ‘like’ per post on average
  • a nomination for the Tolkien Society Awards 2019

None of these things would have been possible without the support and contributions of readers and fans. I rely on readers and contributors much more than a typical blog because of the design and aim of the Tolkien Experience Project! So I thank each and every one of you for your support in making this website a success! Keep spreading the word and we can make the Tolkien Experience Project an excellent repository for fan experience!

I also wanted to share with you that the URL now forwards to my website! So feel free to share that with friends if it is easier to remember!

Tolkien Reading Day 2019!

The Tolkien Society has dubbed March 25th Tolkien Reading Day! This year, the Society has selected the topic ‘Tolkien and the Mysterious‘! In celebration of this topic, I thought I would make a what I am calling a Reading Day Roundup! I am pulling together bits and pieces of my First Impressions series and Tolkien Experience Project contributions that have to do with mystery! I hope you enjoy!


Tolkien Experience Contributions:

Only two contributes (to this point) have mentioned “mystery” in their responses: Tanya P. and Putri Prihatini. Interestingly, both of them mention mystery when they are describing their favorite parts of Tolkien!

Putri Prihatini says

I love the way Tolkien obscured many references when his characters mention history, characters, and stories from the past. He was supposedly the “know it all” in his world, but he restrained himself from revealing too much to the readers. This makes me feel the sense of mystery and wonder for the past, which results in some serious digging if I want to know more. When reading LOTR, for example, I only know as much as what the characters know, which makes me feel connected to them.

Tanya P. notes

Moria is one of my favorite locations in Middle-earth. Its perpetual darkness conceals secrets that I long to uncover. And I love the moment when Gandalf lifts this veil of mystery and gives his companions, and readers, a tiny glimpse of what they are missing.

It is interesting that one talks about preserving mystery while the other talks about unveiling or revealing mystery. Read more from Tanya P. and Putri Prihatini in their full Tolkien Experience Project contributions!


First Impressions series:

In my First Impressions series, I am reconstructing my first reading of The Lord of the Rings. I have mentioned mystery on three occasions over the course of the series so far. The first is when the hobbits meet Strider in Bree:

It is the artistry of Tolkien, however, to prolong the mystery and only unravel Aragorn’s true significance bit by bit.

I really enjoyed not knowing who this character really was and getting to know him slowly! I also mentioned mystery when I talked about The Watcher in the Water! I disliked the movie adaptation because Tolkien was very careful not to reveal too much about this  creature:

Despite how the movie interprets this event, Tolkien’s characterization of the action leaves more mystery surrounding the nature of the Watcher.

Finally, I mentioned mystery in my entry on the Mirror of Galadriel! I was speaking of elf magic and how the way that the elves perceive ‘magic’ convinced me of its reality in Middle-earth:

[Their] rational approach to magic was so verisimilitudinous with the way that people who understand a concept dispel the mystery of those who do not that I was completely sold on the existence of ‘magic’ in Tolkien’s world.

Wow, these very disparate observations all touch on mystery in interesting ways!

What are you reading to celebrate Tolkien and the mysterious on this Tolkien Reading Day?

The Tolkien Birthday Toast–A Reflection on Reflection

For a few years now, I have followed the tradition of the Tolkien Birthday Toast that I was first introduced to through the Tolkien Society.

You can visit the Tolkien Society’s page explaining the toast for more information or for the basic procedures.

Today I wanted to take a moment to laud the simple traditions that fandom inspires. It is easy to look at something like the Tolkien Birthday Toast from the outside and assume it is nothing more than an exercise performed by a group of over-enthusiastic nerds.

I think there is something a bit more, though.


At this point, the toast is a shared, communal tradition that lends itself to something that our everyday lives increasingly push out: reflection.

I call it a communal experience because, whether one celebrates it alone or in the company of others, there is an understanding that this act is something shared. Different fans and groups of fans across the world will do this same act, and participating in something that large gives a sense of unity and belonging.

It is more than that, though. This sense of community is nice, but what is the community about? Why does it matter?

Having the toast focus on the author rather than a specific text or event makes this activity a very special kind of reflection. It is a moment to pause and appreciate the achievements of an author and the life he lived. Tolkien was not a writer by trade, he was an academic. While many people were drawn to him because of his creative endeavors, those are only part of Tolkien’s influence. The toast allows people with varying degrees and experiences with Tolkien and his work to participate, and this is important!

This is the point that intersects the most with my interests as a researcher into the reception of Tolkien’s writings: The Toast invariably calls participants to reflect on the ways that Tolkien’s writings have produced meaning in their lives.

Often, participants will share stories of how they first read Tolkien or how Tolkien changed the way they saw the world. These stories are the kind of reflection that are increasingly pushed aside in a fast-paced culture.

A tradition that practices taking a moment and recalling these stories of connection and inspiration is well worth participating in! So tonight, at 9pm, consider raising a glass to The Professor!

Baymoot Approaches

As many of you already know, I have been responsible for organizing Baymoot for Signum University this year.

The event takes place at Mills College in Oakland, California on Saturday, August 18, 2018. The theme is “breaking boundaries and crossing borders.” It is a one-day literature symposium. It is $40 to attend, and a light breakfast and lunch are provided.

I am very excited about the schedule we have been able to pull together, including our plenary speaker: Corey Olsen, a.k.a The Tolkien Professor!

The Baymoot organizational team has already been an invaluable help in making sure the event runs smoothly!

I just wanted to post here that there is only one week left to register for the event, where you can meet me and the other excellent speakers and share your ideas with other Tolkien and speculative fiction fans!

For more information about the event, and to register, see the Signum page for the event!

Tolkien CFPs for Kalamazoo 2019

The CFP for the 54th International Congress of Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo has been published, so it is high time that I post about all eight (yes, you read that right, eight!) of the Tolkien sessions planned for the upcoming event!

I will start with the panels from the Tales After Tolkien Society (they get premier billing here because I am the VP!)

Tales After Tolkien Society Panels

The first session, a paper session titled The Legacy of Tolkien’s Medievalism in Contemporary Works, will examine the continuing italestitnfluence of J.R.R. Tolkien on conceptions of the Middle Ages and medieval prevalent in academic and popular cultures. As has been amply attested, Tolkien’s medievalist work in his Middle-earth corpus has exerted an outsized influence on subsequent fantasy and medievalist popular culture, and, following Paul B. Sturtevant’s assertions in The Middle Ages in Popular Imagination, it is largely or chiefly through popular cultural engagement with the materials that people—both the general public and those who become the students and scholars of the medieval—develop their early understandings of the Middle Ages. Decades on, Tolkien’s influence on popular culture—books, yes, but also movies, tabletop games, video games, television series, music, and other elements of popular understanding—continues to be felt, and continued examination of that influence is therefore warranted.

The second session, a paper session titled Afterlives of Medieval Religion in Contemporary Works, will look at how the post-Tolkien works that are the Society’s focus appropriate and misappropriate medieval religious constructions. That formal religion was a central element of the European medieval, broadly conceived, is a conventional wisdom that is reflected both in the typical programming of the Congress and in the pages of Speculum, among others—yet many medievalist works, particularly those in mainstream popular culture, neglect or shy away from overt religiosity, or else they invoke it partially and only to specific effects, and in ways that do not appear to align well to the functions of the medieval church. Untangling the uses, misues, and avoidances of a key element of medieval culture in works that purport to be medieval or medievalist in their intent bears examination, and papers in the proposed session would be directed to those ends.

(The panel descriptions I am posting here were previously posted on the society blog)

To submit to either of these panels, contact the President of the society, Geoffrey B. Elliott here.

The Tolkien at Kalamazoo group is sponsoring three panels.

  1. Tolkien and medieval constructions of race. Paper session.
  2. Tolkien and temporality: medieval constructions of time. Paper session.
  3. Misappropriation of Tolkien’s medievalism. Roundtable.

To submit to any of these panels, contact either Chris Vaccaro here or Yvette Kisor here

There are also a few individually sponsored Tolkien sessions planned:

The Medieval Roots of Tolkien’s The Fall of Gondolin, organized by Bill Fliss.

The upcoming publication of Tolkien’s The Fall of Gondolin (August 2018) makes available what Tolkien called “the first real story of this imagined world” (Letter 163), the story of the fall of a great hidden Elven kingdom that occupied Tolkien throughout his life. It forms the basis for much of his early legendarium of Middle-earth and incorporates many aspects of medieval themes and topics. This paper session invites considerations of the medieval roots of Tolkien’s tale.

(The preceding description was originally shared by Bill Fliss)

You can contact him about the session here.

Tolkien’s Legendarium and Medieval Cosmology, organized by Judy Ann Ford

You can contact her about the session here.

Medieval Song, Verse and Versification in Tolkien’s Works, organized by Annie Brust

You can contact her about the session here.

Kalamazoo Report (2018)

I have recently returned from the 54th International Congress on Medieval Studies, where I attended several wonderful paper presentations and had the opportunity to network and promote my PhD Research!


There were so many great papers and resources shared that I do not have enough time or space to recount them all, so here are a few that are easier to share quickly:

Tolkien fellowship at dinner

I was fortunate enough to have great company each evening at dinner. Here is a picture of one such gathering:

Pictured (left to right): Kris Swank, Diedre Dawson, me, John Rateliff, Andrew Higgins, Jane Chance, Yoko Hemmi, and my PhD chair Dimitra Fimi. Photo taken by Douglas Anderson.

Tolkien Art Index

Erik Mueller-Harder shared this phenomenal resource that he has been working diligently to compile. It is a standardized list of Tolkien’s images. The usefulness and descriptiveness of the index makes it practical and influential. It should become the standard reference for Tolkien’s images.

Find the index here:

Tales After Tolkien Society

I was elected a Vice-President of the society, an honor that I hope to live up to!

Many Meeting

I had several meaningful interactions and can’t wait to get to work on some of the ideas I brought home from the conference! The encouragement and insight of scholars whose work I admire is truly one of the greatest assets of a conference like this. I hope everyone made it home safe!





2018 Summer Activities, Presentations, and Workshops

May 9-13

Paper for the Tolkien Symposium: “Eomer Gets Poetic: Tolkien’s Alliterative Versecraft” and attending International Congress on Medieval Studies

June 21-24

Paper for MythMoot V: “Tolkien’s Young Readers”

July 20-23

Workshop for Mythcon: “Young Readers’ Receptions of Tolkien: An Interactive Session with Survey and Interview”

August 18

Organizing BayMoot, a one-day symposium on speculative fiction in Oakland, CA.