True-Hearted Easterling writes: I have just returned from the superb Lord of the Rings conference held at Marquette University in Milwaukee this past Friday and Saturday. The conference commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The Lord of the Rings and paid tribute to Dr. Richard E. Blackwelder, who donated his large private Tolkien collection to Marquette in 1982.

The biggest names in Lord of the Rings academic research were among the 21 presenters, including Tom Shippey, who sang his old school song for a group of us Saturday night while we were sharing drinks and conversation; John Garth, who signed his book Tolkien and the Great War for me and was presented with a Mythopoeic Society Award at Saturday night’s banquet sponsored by Beyond Bree; and Michael Foster, who expressed a sentiment I share when he noted in his presentation that, despite the faults and virtues of The Lord of the Rings movie, it has brought a lot of new readers to the books.

S. Gary Hunnewell, an independent Tolkien scholar and collector, stayed on the same hotel floor that I did and had a sign on his room door written in Elvish that, according to him, read “Speak Beer and Enter.” Although he was not a presenter but just a “regular” attendee, Ted Nasmith graciously signed copies of the beautiful new Silmarillion containing his artwork at every break throughout the two days.

This conference was about the smoothest I’ve ever attended. I honestly can not find one thing to complain about. The facilities were good, there were plenty of refreshments, the presentations were outstanding and kept to schedule, and the total attendance was small enough (250 paid registrations) that it was very easy to have a conversation with any of the presenters that you wanted.

The conference proceedings are scheduled to be published in 2005, and I would recommend that every fan of Tolkien read them when they are available. I also recommend that anyone who can get to Marquette’s Haggerty Museum of Art to see “The Invented Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien: Drawings and Original Manuscripts from the Marquette University Collection,” which will be on exhibit until January 30, 2005. The original handwritten text and artwork from Mr. Bliss alone is worth the trip.