“History often resembles ‘myth’, because they are both ultimately of the same stuff.” Tolkien, “On Fairy-Stories”
[Spoiler free for a change.]
This post is a bit different than my previous posts, but in honor of “The Hobbit” coming out next month, I thought that I’d share a delightful discovery that I made this summer. Last year, I wrote a fantasy novel for National Novel Writing Month. I’ve been trying to analyze how good stories are constructed to improve my second draft. I bought myself new copies of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy to mark up with my reflections.
While understanding the various critiques of Tolkien’s writings, I admire a great deal of what he did. The first time I read the books in my early twenties, I was riveted. And I still find them delightful. After I had been working on this project of mine for a couple of months, I discovered Dr. Corey Olsen, also known as the Tolkien Professor, on I-tunes. He has many different podcasts, and I’ve only listened to about ten of them so far. In some ways, I enjoyed the episodes on Tolkien’s essays the most since I haven’t read them yet.
There’s some fascinating material here that I had never been exposed to before like “On Fairy-Stories,” “Mythopoeia,” and “Leaf By Niggle.” Olsen discusses Tolkien’s view of the importance of art. As I have been reading “The Fellowship of the Ring” again, I can really see the elements that are discussed in these other essays and works.
From a sociological view, I love the fact that new technology is changing the landscape of learning. Listening to an English professor’s thoughts on Tolkien while commuting to work would have been a dream when I was in college. I’ve thought about doing a series of podcasts for my own online sociology students, and it is great to see that Professor Olsen is making this technology work for both his own students, as well as for people like me with a commute and an inquisitive mind. Listening to his podcasts has enriched my own study of “The Lord of the Rings,” and I hope that you’ll enjoy these podcasts as much as I did!