I had heard of the Mythopoeic Society but hadn’t read their publications or attended their conference before. I was drawn to the conference because of its scholarly nature and a chance to see Philipa Boyens interviewed. I arrived early Saturday and found that the members of the Society were very nice people. The conference had a friendly and intimate atmosphere, with papers being presented in college classrooms, and attendees mingling around the halls and lawns of the campus.
The first paper I saw presented was “Battling the Woman Warrior: Gender and Combat in Tolkien and Lewis”, by Sam McBride. It was very interesting, with examinations of the roles of Eowyn, Shelob, etc. in Tolkien’s work, and Queen Orual among others others in Lewis’. I met up with Sam at lunch, and we ended up talking about Tolkien for so long afterwards that we both missed the next paper. He was interested in the citations on women in combat that Kyriel and Idril contributed to the notebook on Lasselanta. A book which he co-wrote will be published soon.
The second paper I heard was “The Fey and the Fantastic: Rationalizing Fantastic Occurrences in Contemporary Life”, by Janice Bogstad. She discussed literature that portrayed different consensual realities interfacing with the mundane. Her anlysis was provocative, and I only wished I was more familiar with the works she used as examples, including those of Peter Beagle. Still, I was able to apply her ideas to the books of Gene Wolfe, my favorite author after Tolkien, especially his “Free Live Free” and “There Are Doors”.
I attended a panel discussion titled “Charles Williams, King Arthur, and Us”, with panelists David Dodds, Eric Rauscher and Alexei Kondratiev, and moderator Eleanor Farrel. I was especially interested in this topic because I think the Lord of the Rings deserves to become absorbed by our culture the way the stories of Arthur, Frankenstein and Star Wars have, and I hope the movies will help that process. I was impressed by the breadth of the panelists’ knowledge of the history of the Arthurian sagas. There was some especially interesting discussion of American appropriation of Arthuriana, referencing George Washington, JFK, and the Confederacy.
Of course, I also attended the Q&A session with Philipa Boyens. She was charming and enthusiastic and obviously a Tolkien fan. First she was interviewed by Paula DiSante, and then audience members asked her questions. I’ll have a transcript of this soon. A highlight of the Q&A was when she was asked what her favorite theme in the books was, and she replied with a verse in Sindarin that expressed the fading of the world.
I was also pleased when she referred to a certain change seen in the teaser (Arwen at the fords, presumably), and said that she “stood behind it completely”. After her interview, some scenes from Peter Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures” were shown, and then came the panel discussion “Reading the Tea Leaves: What Will Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings Films Be Like?”. Bill Weldon, Paula DiSante, Quickbeam, Tehanu and David Bratman were the panelists. Interestingly, Philipa Boyens sat in the audience, so she was there to hear both optimistic and pessimistic comments on the movies. The whole thing was also filmed for Peter Jackson, who wanted to see it, according to the camera operator.