By Ringers Fiver and Niofiel

Day One

Tonight was the official kick-off for the Mythic Journeys conference in Atlanta, Georgia. On Wednesday night we attended a special reception at the Defoor Centre Gallery which is currently featuring a special exhibit entitled “Ancient Spirit, Modern Voice: The Mythic Journeys Art Exhibition.” The exhibit displays the work of artists from all over the world. These artists include Alan Lee, Virginia Lee, Brian and Wendy Froud, and Terri Windling.

The guests in attendance were given a special welcome by Michael Karlin, president of the conference. It was wonderful to be in the room with so many talented people that have had such an influence on our lives.

The conference which continues through Sunday will explore the influence of Joseph Campbell, and the importance of storytelling in our society. Over the next several days, there will be an exploration of this influence through readings, discussions, and music. Tomorrow we will be attending a workshop entitled “A Myth for the 20th Century” given by Dr. Verlyn Flieger, Alan Lee, and Dr. Ari Berk. We will be reporting on that seminar as well.

Day Two

After last night’s successful opening reception at the Defoor Centre gallery, Today was the start of the Mythic Journeys Pre-Conference. We had the wonderful opportunity to attend a workshop entitled “A Myth for the 20th Century”. The discussion was led by Dr. Verlyn Flieger, Alan Lee, and Dr. Ari Berk.

Dr. Flieger opened the session with a reading from the Lord of the Rings. The passage dealt with Frodo and Sam discussing how they were in a story. In particular, how sam felt that it was better to listen to a story than be in one.

The discussion brought up such topics and theories as: Frodo as the reluctant hero, the possibility of Gollum seeing himself as a hero, and how Sam can be seen as having feminine characteristics due to his role as a nuturer.

On a larger scale, many qualities of Tolkien’s works were discussed. One was his ability to make an epic story feel personal to us. Dr. flieger pointed out how “Middle Earth” extends beyond us and puts us in the center of whats going on. One audience member reminded us that LOTR does not allow us to externalize sacrifice by thinking that change must begin with the powerful sacrificing their power. Instead, the change and sacrifice must start within ourself.

All in all it was a very enlightening discussion that opened up many new facets of Tolkien’s work and mythology in general. Alan Lee pointed out how myth shows the whole world more clearly by letting us see history’s pattern of repetition. After discussing this, it seemed that acknowledging this pattern can help us take the responsibility to make those sacrifices ourselves.

Tommorrow Alan Lee, Brian and Wendy Froud, Terri Windling, and other artists will conduct an informal workshop called “Drawing Down the Myth”.

Day Three

Today was our third day at the Mythic Journeys conference. The conference doesn’t officially start until tonight at 7pm, but we’ve been enjoying pre-conference workshops. This morning we attended a workshop entitled “Drawing Down the Myth” led by 15 artists. These presenters included novelists, illustrators, puppeteers, sculptors, and basically creative people from all areas. It was a very informal setting consisting of about 40 people sitting in a circle on couches, chairs, or the floor. The setting encouraged open discussion and led to some very honest sharing by all the artists.

Discussions ranged over a variety of topics that primarily dealt with the artists early influences. In a way, the audience became like eavesdroppers as the artists communed with each other sharing their personal struggles and influences over the course of their career. However, the audience was also a part of the discussion. One particularly touching moment was when a young woman, through her tears, expressed her fears of sharing her work with the world and the hurdles of trying to be published. The artists leading the discussion immediately began encouraging her and offering advice and moral support. Alan Lee shared how he had his own struggles as a young artist and that he also had to overcome a lack of confidence in his abilities as a young man. Brian Froud added, “one has to honor one’s own work before anyone else can.”

Another big part of the discussion dealt with the influence of landscapes on an artist’s work. Brian Froud related a story of a time in Paris at a Dark Crystal screening many years ago when someone asked why Lord of the Rings (as illustrated by Alan Lee) and Froud’s art on The Dark Crystal shared a similar look. He came to the conclusion that since both he and Alan Lee live in the same town and share the same landscape they therefore share the same influence.

Overall the experience was very special. It was amazing to be able to sit in a room and listen to some of the greatest fantasy authors and artists of the last 20 or so years talk so openly and freely.

Tomorrow’s (day four) report will cover a workshop with Tolkien scholar Dr. Verlyn Flieger entitled “Why Tolkien, Why Now?”

Day Four

Part 1

Today we had the unique opportunity to take part in a TORnmoot gathering that was in celebration of Alan Lee’s art exhibit and Howard Shore’s symphony performance. This gathering was made possible by the hard work of Frodo-esque (Shalini). For the past several months she has been organizing this get-together with fellow TORn fans, and many people traveled from around the country to come for this moot (one came from Switzerland!). Alan Lee happened to be in town for the conference, so the PR team of Mythic Journeys saw this as an opportunity for him to meet some of his fans.

Mr. Lee graciously accepted the chance to meet some of his fans, and he was greeted by over 40 people from the TORnmoot. Many of the people were glad to have an opportunity to express how much his work means to them. Several of the guests were teachers who relayed how they wished they could inspire their students ashe has inspired them. Mr. Lee spent over an hour signing books and greeting fans before moving outside in the hot Georgia sun to pose for pictures. Everyone was given the chance to personally talk to him, and he took his time speaking with each one.

In addition to Mr. Lee, Dr Verlyn Flieger and Karen Wynn Fonstad were also present to talk to the group. Dr. Flieger is a professor of English at the University of Maryland. She has published many papers concerning Tolkien and his works. Ms. Fonstad is the author of The Atlas of Middle-earth, The Atlas of Pern, and many others. They were both available for questions, and many people were happy just to meet them.

Part 2

After an amazing morning at the art gallery with Alan Lee, we both split up to attend two different workshops. Niofiel attended a session given by Alan Lee and Charles Vess. I attended one with Peter S. Beagle giving a reading. ( I ran into Jincey from TORn while I was there!)

Mr. Beagle’s session was a reading of the first two chapters of his new book “Summerlong”. The characters in the story presented themselves with a lot of personality, and we were left hanging at the end wanting more. Mr. Beagle’s book will be available for purchase in the near future on his website at His website is currently getting a makeover, so you can join an e-mail list to be notified when it is up and running.

While Fiver was over listening to Peter S. Beagle’s reading, I attended a slide show presentation by Charles Vess and Alan Lee called “Part Scene, Part Imagined.” Mr. Vess presented for the first half of the program and Mr. Lee for the second half. Mr. Vess showed slides of his early work and also slides of artists that had influenced him. He said that many years ago he designed the cover for an issue of the comic book “Swamp Thing.” During that process he bought a book on runes planning on using them on the cover to give it a sense of history. Mr. Vess began laughing as he related that he ran out of time and his deadline was approaching. So two hours before it was due to the publisher, he grabbed Alan Lee’s illustrated version of Lord of the Rings and copied the runes on the cover of the book. Months later he received a letter from a fan of the comic asking him “What does ‘One Ring to Rule them All’ have to do with Swamp Thing?” Everyone enjoyed laughing along with Mr. Vess.

Alan Lee’s turn came and he also showed us slides of his early work. He described his ideal picture as one without characters but with “lots of mood.” He enjoys doing illustrations that have a sense of possibility and something “about to happen.” He also said that many of his pieces use a combination of styles. He enjoys doing pictures with pencil borders and watercolor interiors. Mr. Lee went on show us photographs and conceptual art from the Lord of the Rings films. He showed photos of production, for example: Peter Jackson directing, the backside of the Golden Hall, as well as himself doing a bit of gardening in Hobbiton. The photos were great. He also showed us conceptual work, some of which isn’t in the DVD features. It was he that designed the look of the place in Moria between Dwarrowdelf and Khazadum. He also said that early on they were going to show the Balrog at that point, but decided to hold off until the bridge.

It is fun and interesting to look at the conceptual work on the DVD, but it is infinitely better to be looking at it with the artist there providing commentary and having the ability to ask questions. Mr. Lee told us that he is working on a few more drawings for RotK EE and that last night he had a conference call (I’m assuming with Peter Jackson and others) that lasted over an hour and a half. He also said that is was he that drew the beautiful sketches that appear at the end of RotK. He told us that it was Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh’s idea to put them in the credits. Mr Lee said, “They wanted the final film to have a different feeling.”

The presentation ended and Mr. Lee stayed afterwards to sign many books. The attendees from the TORnmoot really enjoyed themselves and were so thankful to be invited to attend.

After our panels, we both had to race off to get ready for Howard Shore’s concert at 8pm with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Many of the TORnmoot folks were going to be attending that night’s performance, and some of our family members as well.

Part 3

Tonight was the Howard Shore Concert with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus at the Woodruff Performing Arts Center. We had the privilege of escorting Alan Lee to the concert. It was great timing that he was in town at the same time as the concert.

Upon arriving, Mr. Lee was recognized by several groups of people and warmly greeted those that approached him. He signed many programs and ticket stubs as well as ASO posters commemorating the concert.

The concert was beautiful and moving. It was incredible to hear the music we have loved for so long performed live. Howard Shore was greeted with a standing ovation before the symphony even began. Soloist Sissel performed both “Gollum’s Song” and “Into the West” and well as the other female solos. Her interpretation of the songs gave it a unique quality that set her apart from the original singers.

The symphony was presented in six movements, one for each book (remember each book is actually two) with an intermission between the first two movements and the remaining four. The video montage of Alan Lee and John Howe’s art work made the performance even more moving.

At the end, Howard Shore received another standing ovation which required him to return to the stage twice because the audience simply didn’t quit clapping. Upon his first return he brought Alan Lee out onto the stage with him and introduced him over the cheers. And yes, the applause got even louder.

After the show, Mr. Lee spent more time with his fans, signing autographs and talking about the show. We even heard that Howard Shore signed some autographs and even asked where the TORnmoot people were. We were able to get a picture of Mr. Lee with several of our friends. All in all it was a memorable night!