I’m excited to be giving three more Tolkien-related talks this year: at Mythmoot in June, IMC Leeds in July, and Oxonmoot in September.

If you’re attending any of these, please come and say hi!

Mythmoot: Visualizing the Structure of HoMe

Christopher Tolkien’s twelve volumes on the History of Middle-earth (HoMe) give unparalleled insight into the development of J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium. They contain early drafts of familiar texts, alternative conceptualizations of well-known stories, and in some cases completely new material. But the books are complex reads. They intersperse transcriptions of different manuscripts with notes and commentary. Distinct versions of a story are spread throughout multiple volumes of the series with extensive cross-referencing.

This talk will explore the possibilities that a digital reading environment might afford to better explore and understand the structure of HoMe and the interrelationship between texts and paratexts. Imagine being able to show Christopher’s notes alongside the text, to read different versions of a text side-by-side with exact changes indicated, or to visualize how parts of one text relate to another. The presentation will demonstrate prototypes of all this being developed as part of the Digital Tolkien Project.

IMC Leeds: Untangling the Second Age Tale of Years

The Tale of Years in Appendix B of Lord of the Rings provides a brief annalistic chronology of the Second Age. It provides a backbone to various narratives in the Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, sometimes giving crucial dating information not made explicit in the other works. However, it is also a narrative in its own right, with a role to play in the context of Lord of the Rings and as the sole source of much Second Age information for over two decades before the publication of the Silmarillion. This paper will look at the relationship of the Second Age Tale of Years to the text of Lord of the Rings, the Silmarillion, and Unfinished Tales and examine the bias, context, and network of events provided for the overall narratives. It will also look at the composition history of the chronology and the inconsistencies it contains.

Oxonmoot: Linguistic Variation in Tolkien’s Writing Styles

The various Middle-earth works of J. R. R. Tolkien are recognizably different in style, from the conversational narrative of The Hobbit to the high archaic style of The Book of Lost Tales. While these differences have been acknowledged by scholars, they have not previously been studied quantitatively.

What linguistic features characterize the variation in narrative style between Tolkien’s Book of Lost Tales, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion? To what extent is that variation also seen in the direct speech of characters of different races? For example, is the elevated style of The Silmarillion unique to that work or is it also the way the Elves speak in The Lord of the Rings? How did Tolkien’s writing style change from The Book of Lost Tales to the Quenta Silmarillion?

This talk will present the results of a study using corpus linguistic techniques such as Multidimensional Register Analysis to shed light on the shifts in Tolkien’s style across works and time.