The Reading Room on the TORn messageboards has in the last couple of days kicked-off their second TORn Amateur Symposium (affectionately known as TAS).
The first TORn Amateur Symposium earlier this year published 13 essays on a variety of topics, and the second edition of TAS features nine more of which four have been published thus far, with the remainder to debut over the coming week or so.
These essays may be philosophic opinions, scientific theories, or analytical approaches to understanding or highlighting some facet of Tolkien’s writings and world. These pieces are written with the goal of amateur scholarship at their core — thus inspiring our Symposium title. Authors may choose to include citations or footnotes, but they are by no means required. Keeping in mind the dual spirit of enjoyment and inquiry that we believe in (as much as we value cheer and song), and which is of paramount important to both the TAS team and our authors, we fully encourage discussion of the essays presented.
We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoy posting it. The TAS is open for discussion, and any comments, questions or thought you wish to share about this essay can be posted in this response to this thread.
Music & Race in Howard Shore’s score for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
In this essay, I aim to find out how Howard Shore approached the task of writing music for the different races in Middle-earth. In order to do this, I have analysed the music used in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey relating to the races of Elves, Men, Dwarves and Hobbits. I have done so from a musicological perspective, looking at (amongst other things) pitch; tempo; use of instruments; and what this says about the cultures and the associations they evoke in the listener. The essay will also focus briefly on what we might expect to hear in the upcoming The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
The Physics of The Hobbit: Barrels out of Bond
This essay presents an analysis of one of the most iconic scenes in The Hobbit, the escape from the dungeons of the Woodland Realm. Bilbo Baggins, using his magic ring, is able to steal the keys to the dungeon cells and free the Dwarves. The company then escape by being packed into wooden wine casks and floating down the river toward Laketown.
In Tolkien’s book, Bilbo packs each Dwarf into a wine barrel and seals the barrel with a lid. In The Desolation of Smaug, however, we know from previews that the barrels will be without lids, allowing us to see each of our characters as they negotiate the river and the rapids. This will undoubtedly produce a more visually exciting sequence than in the novel, but is it physically possible? Several members of TORn have criticized this scene on the basis of the physics. If the barrels have no lids, they argue, won’t they fill with water, causing them to sink and thus possibly drowning most of our main characters?
In Part One and Part Two of The Physics of The Hobbit I explained the basic physics of free fall, with and without air resistance. In this essay I will explain the basic physics of floating in water, including what happens to hollow objects when they fill with water. The concepts will then be applied to Barrels Out Of Bond.
The Often Maligned God of Arda: How Eru is the Ultimate Hero of Middle-earth
In this paper I will explore the complex topic of Eru’s providence and sovereignty in Arda. I have often run into Tolkien fans who either misunderstand Eru or some who even suggest that he is a terrible God. I believe they think this way because they are frustrated not with Eru but with God in the real world. This of course is a testament to how Tolkien’s work is so excellently crafted that it naturally connects to our world. The misconceptions of fans stem from a failing to realize that how Tolkien conceived of God (from a Christian and Catholic perspective) greatly impacts how he portrays Eru. Any analysis of Eru must start with this reality.
This paper is not about rehashing the same tired arguments about Christianity and Tolkien, rather, this paper will look specifically at the providence of Eru in light of Tolkien’s views and how, ultimately, Eru is the true hero of Middle-earth. Without Eru, evil would have never been defeated and we would have been robbed of the immense joy of reading the many chapters of Middle-earth history. I will examine several instances, starting with the creation account, showing that Eru is not detached but is working out his perfect plan as found in the Great Music of the Ainulindale.
Galadriel: political animal of Middle-earth
Elves of Middle-earth in the Third Age are commonly held to be beings of magic and mystery, above human concerns and “petty” politicking. Especially so for Galadriel, regarded as some feminine aspect of the divine. However, evidence indicates that she accumulated, and wielded, political power in a most practical and pragmatic fashion.
TAS2 has quite a full schedule of essays — essays will posted every other day, followed by a catch-up day every three essays. The schedule can be found here. I’d encourage you to follow the links, have a read and join the discussion!