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Pippin Skywalker writes:
Dear Middle Earth Inhabitants,
I am herein endeavoring to give a faithful account of the spectacles and debacles that made up the wonderful Oxonmoot 2006. This year the event was held at Somerville college, a serenely beautiful 19th century college with beautiful gardens and shire like flowers growing everywhere. It was a very mild september weekend and wonderful for the events which were held in a tent set up in the main college quad. This tent known affectionately as the Marquis, served as one of the main locations of the lectures and festivities.
On Saturday there were a number of lectures given from different speakers from all over the world throughout the day. Jessica Yates, a lady who read English at Oxford University read us her paper on the Palantir. Some of things she mentioned and discussed were the changes Peter Jackson made from the book in omitting any adaptation of the scenes of Denethor’s palantir that are present in Tolkien’s story; this was apparently done to avoid repetition since Saruman had already haughtily flaunted his palantir thus ousting poor Denny from more dramatic screentime (alas!).
Another illustrious speaker at the event was a gentleman from Brittany, France–Jean Chausse. He is a part of the quiet yet ever present French Tolkien Society and gave an interesting talk on redemption as depicted in Tolkien’s work. Some of the discussions that went on concerned the characters who underwent a change and were redeemed and other such as Boromir who exhibited a more pagan sense of honor by covering his wrongs with his death (I do not fully agree with this, but I am merely reporting others thoughts here, so I will carry on. 🙂 ). Someone in the audience pointed out that Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, the crotchety relative of Frodo and Bilbo actually underwent a redemption process at the end of Return of the King. The suffering that she experianced under Saruman’s short lived tyranny transformed her into a much kinder and therefore much respected and love hobbit dame.
Overall,the discussion was a very interesting illumination on many of Tolkien’s characters and their changes of character and perspective. The portrayel of despair in LOTR was also a major theme that caused many interesting thoughts and questions to flower at the end of Chausse’s lecture–the different outcomes of despair in Denethor, Theoden, and Eowyn (the the latter mentioned by yours truly) were examined at some length. One of the great strengths of Oxonmoot is the delight of the speakers and attendees in picking good topics and questions and really appreciating the vast richness and depth of Tolkien’s themes and characters. I have rarely been disappointed in any of the lectures I have heard at these events and I highly reccomend them to any future attendees.
One thing I can definitively say about the members of the U.K. Tolkien Society is they certainly know how to have fun and do so in such a way that is both entertaining and intellectually stimulating. They are wonderful group of interesting, smart, and merry hobbits who love Tolkien and his works, and like hobbits are fond of good company and good fun. I will never forget the joy of dancing in Merry and Pippin’s Dance Workshop where 20 jolly souls waltzed around an Oxford quad with the alacrity and joy that Tolkien would have admired in hobbit dancing. Much merriment was also to be had at the annual Tolkien art slide show which is assured to make even the most mundanely morose Sackville-Baggins fall out of a chair laughing. I know I personally have not guffawed so heartily at the weird concoctions of some artists’ interpretations of Middle Earth and its citizens. It would make a humorous streaming video one day if the Tolkien Society would soften a little to minor media presence–eh Mr. Morgan? 😉
I attended the international Tolkien Society meeting where all the societies from around the world meet together to discuss major happenings with Tolkien’s estate, copyright issues, and the opening and closings of Tolkien societies. Countries present included Greece (ony 2 years old!), Israel, Germany, Norway, and New York (unofficially represented by myself–no worries Anthony and Jessica. 🙂 ). I hade never been to a meeting quite like this. I can only imagine what Tolkien would think of his fans coming together and discussing issues on societies devoted to his works with all the seriousness of the Parliament in Britain. 🙂 It was a very informative meeting however, and I learned much about the woes of international societies and the issues great and small that concern them. Saturday night was the main celebratory event devoted to singing, drama, and the most lively Middle Earth fashion show you could imagine! There elf maidens, an elf warrior, the ladies of WEST–ernesse (girls dressed in cowgirl outfits portraying people of Westerness far in the future!). There was even a female balrog–terrible to behold!
Sunday morning dawned and awakened many sleepy hobbits from their beds to go on a Tolkien walking tour. This was a lovely and serene experiance–the combination of history and the soft, quiet light of the early morning were a fair combination. After this everyone hopped on buses to attend the beautiful memorial service known as Enyalie at Wolvercote Cemetery. The sun was shining blithe and bright, everyone gathered near the Professors grave in song and a sweet rememberance. Many very poignent and moving stories were told of Tolkien’s life were told the most moving of which was the story of the death of Tolkien’s best friends in the war. Mr. Smith, one the last surviving member of Tolkien’s society of childhood friends from the TCBS was quoted before his death in the war as telling Tolkien how he would carry on the legacy of the other members after they had all died. Smith said to Tolkien he would continue to speak for the voices of all his fallen friends and would carry on the great tradition they had had together. Not long after the this last, beautiful letter, Mr. Smith was died of injuries from a shell that exploded near a sidewalk he passed. Tolkien, who contracted trench fever was spared an early death by his removal from the Somme to England. He awoke to clean sheets and a familiar setting much like Frodo awakened after his trials and terrors in the peace and beauty of Rivendell. After Tolkien recovered he would indeed continue the legacy of his friends and it was through their sacrifice, love, honor, and heroism that some of the greatest works of the 20th century were born. The blood of these great men of valor was not in vain–their strength and courage is remembered for all eternity by heaven and the beautiful characters and stories that Tolkien created in their honor. I firmly believe that is was not intellectual cleverness, nor knowledge, nor mere delight in imagination that made Tolkien’s works great–it was love, courage, and wisdom born out of suffering that made these stories immortal–the suffering of Tolkien’s friends and Tolkien himself. His works are a memorial not only to his dear friends but to the many men and women of honor who have died in the name of freedom and goodness. To quote Samwise Gamgee,they are an everlasting tribute to all that is good and worth fighting for in the world.
I hope you have enjoyed this report my dear hobbitlings. I write to you as one inspired and gladdened by the memories of wonderful people and wondeful weekend. I hope in the future some of my readers will perchance enjoy a lovely summer experiance at an Oxonmoot in the future. Cheers friends. 🙂
P.S. I would like to thank the following people for their time,kindness, and good company–Jean Chausse, P.T. Morgan, Tal Katz. It was a wonderful meeting all of you. 🙂