J. R. R. Tolkien and Adaptations: A Commentary on the Tolkien Society Seminar No. I – 2021

On Saturday 13th, the first Tolkien Seminar of the year, organised by The Tolkien Societytook place. It was an online event, allowing the participation of Tolkienist all around the world, not only from Europe but the Americas, Africa, Oceania and Asia.

If you missed the seminar or could not attend but wanted to watch it, do not worry, you can find the recording here. And today, in this entry, I am sharing with you some conclusions about that wonderful event.

The main topic of discussion for this seminar was how J. R. R. Tolkien’s works had been adapted in different mediums. Having in mind the consideration of how the image of Tolkien’s works has been changing during the century. And how our reception and response has been towards his works. Additionally, there were papers on literary studies, translation and education.

Being my second Tolkien Seminar, I am so happy to say that it is an incredible experience, but I must highlight that this time, as in Oxonmoot 2020, this was a space for diversity and for every single Tolkienist in the world. It was a pleasure to hear voices not only from English speaker countries or from Europe, as was the case of Brazilian’s speakers as Erick Carvalho de Mello and Priscila Mateini. As someone who is not from Europe, it is amazing to be able to participate and share our passion, knowledge and love for Tolkien’s works. There are so many different topics, ideas and perspectives but a work of literature can join us all because it speaks to our hearts.

It was interesting to notice that despite the principal theme of the discussion is the adaptation of Tolkien’s works, the speakers focussed on diverse mediums: art, games and films. Some speakers focused on art, as Marie Bretagnolle, emphasising that some artists produced images of Tolkien’s works from different lenses. Others focused on games. Jelena Filipovic talked about video games like Shadow of Mordor and Shadow War. I believe it is relevant to highlight this insight as video games are popular nowadays and tend to be the first source from which younger generations might get introduced to Tolkien’s works. Board games were not left aside, David Means showed the necessity of considering how Tolkien’s works have been adapted to allow us to play with his created characters and worlds. Additionally to adaptation, there was also a paper on Peter Jackson’s iconic movies, presented by Elise McKenna. Now, interestingly, McKennan focussed on the fact that adaptations have to be moulded according to the generations to which they are oriented, an important perspective that can be especially perceived in Arwen’s role in the movies.

Aside from adaptations, there was a place for literary studies. This ambit was very interesting as it allows us to look at Tolkien’s works from different perspectives. Jordan Doyle focussed on Trauma Studies and the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Nick Groom’s analysis of the possible role darkness can play in the Nazguls’ description. Personally, I enjoyed Groom’s talk very much and found it very original as readers mostly tend to associate darkness with evil but it might not be necessarily understood that way.

Another important topic in the first Tolkien Seminar of the year is how readers respond to Tolkien’s works. Jem Bloomfield presented a clear paper on different responses society has towards J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, giving special attention to Post Pop Tolkien. Mina Lukic and Dejan Vukelic presented their studies on Tolkien and memory, focussing on his grave.

Additionally, the seminar focussed on Tolkien and Education. J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels have been read all over the world, but they are also very accurate for teaching English to young audiences as a second language, as Priscila Mateini presented. Unfortunatelly, her talk was cut because of connection problems, I was looking forward to her paper with eager interest. But Tolkien works also illustrate manners and politeness, as Kathryn Olsen and Lorienne Schwenk demonstrated with their paper on teaching hospitality through The Hobbit.

Finally, and not less important, there was room for translation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works. This time we learnt about Brazilian translation by hearing Erick Carvalho de Mello’s paper. Interestingly, the Brazilian editions of The Lord of the Rings and other Tolkien’s works differ from the Portugueses despite they are in the same language. I wish that Latin American Spanish speakers, like me, could have access to a special edition in their own language instead of depending on the Spanish from Spain editions. But as we could learn, it was not an easy process for Brazilians to have their own Tolkien’s editions.

To sum up, Tolkien Seminar No. I 2021 was a perfect event for Tolkienists all over the world. Well balanced with a wide variation of topics and speakers. Being online is a wonderful opportunity for Tolkien scholars and fans all over the world who would love to have an opportunity to discuss and analyse the beloved works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

The next seminar of the year will be on July 4 and 5, a two days seminar. I am looking forward to attending as well.

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