Real Myth and Mithril: Delving into Fantasy Literature, a symposium sponsored by the Grey Havens Group at Barbed Wire Books, Sunday, May 19, 2013, with Kris Swank (Scholar Guest of Honor) and Stant Litore (Author Guest of Honor).
“Good Plain Food: Diet and Virtue in the Fantasy Worlds of Tolkien and Lewis” by Kris Swank
This presentation will analyze the eating habits of “good” and “bad” characters in the Middle-earth fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien, and the fantasy novels of C.S. Lewis. Various theories are examined, including the idea that Tolkien’s Elves are vegetarian. Both Tolkien and Lewis preferred “good plain food,” by which they meant English fare. Neither man was a vegetarian. The paper proposes that the “good” diets of “good” characters in these works reflect the diets of ordinary British citizens at the time these works were written, as well as the personal dietary preferences of Tolkien and Lewis.
“A Look Inside The Zombie Bible” by Stant Litore
Novelist Stant Litore, author of the fiction series The Zombie Bible, will answer questions such as: Why are people still hungry for zombie stories? Why combine zombies with the Bible? And perhaps most importantly, how did our ancestors face the recurring threat of the ravenous dead?
“Stant rebuilds the zombie mythology from the ground up.” – Rob Kroese, author of Mercury Falls
“Harry Potter and the Gothic Female: Gothic Elements and Narrative Subversion in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” by Krista Ahlberg
The genre of Gothic literature, which includes such classics as Dracula, Frankenstein, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho, among others, is rife with such elements as old castles full of unsolved mysteries and dark corridors, disembodied voices in the walls, and charming young women getting into all sorts of trouble they must then be rescued from. Readers of the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling might find that many of these elements are familiar to them, and they are especially present in the second book in the series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Of particular interest in examining Rowling from this perspective is the idea of the Female Gothic, a subset of the Gothic genre that is greatly concerned with the role of women and often with the supernatural, as well as the interplay of the Female Gothic with the classic image of the Gothic female, the “heroine” oft-seen in Gothic novels, who is young, timid, and liable to faint at the least provocation, who is, above all, trapped in her circumstances and unable to break free. This presentation examines the way Rowling uses Gothic elements to build her narrative and characters, and specifically the way stereotypes of Gothic females are examined and ultimately subverted through the characters of Hermione, Ginny, and Moaning Myrtle.
“Ask Hogwarts Alumni Panel” by Dyhrddrdh Colby (Moderator)
Each of these graduates is among the best representatives of his or her Hogwarts House. Your moderator, a Gryffindor, spent the past months gathering them together so Muggles can ask them questions about what it means to be a Lion, a Badger, an Eagle or a Serpent.
“Things as They Are Meant to Be Seen: The Inklings and Aesthetic Theory” by Kelly Cowling
In his An Experiment in Criticism, C.S. Lewis maintained that the value of art has to do with the effect the work has on its audience but, in order to do a work justice, we must train ourselves to experience art in the proper way. The works of the Oxford Inklings provide us with both the theory and practice necessary for this training. If we study their works carefully, we can learn, not only to see the beauty in art, but to see beyond the mundane to recognize the beauty in our own day-to-day lives.
“Tolkien’s Visit to Vinland” by Roger Echo-Hawk
Questing into dim mists of forgotten history to craft a coherent mythology for England, J.R.R. Tolkien wove the tapestries of Middle-earth from frayed remnants of Northern European traditional literature and from his own imagination. But what if it could be shown that Tolkien also wove into his legendarium secret threads borrowed from the mythology of a far-off realm in fabled Vinland? And if we happened to glimpse Tolkien consulting an obscure collection of Skidi Pawnee traditions to weave significant moments of color and meaning into key scenes in The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings, what would this signify for the mythological meanings of Middle-earth?
“Nen” and “Plea” by Clay Bonnyman Evans
These short pieces of original fiction were published in issues 229 and 237 of Amon Hen respectively. Amon Hen is the bimonthly journal of the Tolkien Society. Clay Bonnyman Evans is the entertaining author of The Winter Witch and I See by Your Outfit: Becoming a Cowboy a Century Too Late.
“The Hero on His Head: Motifs of the Hero’s Journey in The Hobbit” by Bill Kelso
Tolkien set out to consciously create a new mythology for England. While some claim that he abandoned the attempt early on in his career, the truth is he succeeded in creating an enduring myth not just for England, but for all people of the modern age. In The Hobbit we see quite clearly the re-writing of the central myth form, The Hero’s Journey. Writing well before mythology scholars such as Joseph Campbell, who coined the phrase, “The Hero’s Journey”, Tolkien manages to include in The Hobbit virtually every element and motif of the traditional hero’s tale.
Although the plot and structure of The Hobbit are clearly traditional, the content of the story and what it suggests about the role of the hero in modern society are all brand new. In the character of Bilbo Baggins, Tolkien creates a hero for the modern age. The things that happen to Bilbo, and Bilbo’s reactions to those things, are in no sense traditional or expected. In truth, with Bilbo’s story, Tolkien sets the concept of the hero on its head. Tolkien’s unique approach and additions to the myth of the Hero’s Journey are the main reasons why his works resonate so strongly with readers today—and why they are so beloved.
“More Things in Heaven and Earth: Why We Need Myth, Fantasy and Speculative Fiction” by Grey Havens Group Members (Roundtable Discussion)
It is common knowledge that children often ask deep questions, questions not only about what or how but about why, questions about things that adults sometimes learn to stop noticing. Children are natural philosophers but where do they find an outlet for their philosophical leanings? Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Wittgenstein and Sartre operated with language beyond a child’s reach, beyond the reach of most adults for that matter. Where can the philosophical child turn for answers and, more importantly, for more questions? The secret, children soon learn, lies in stories. What kind of stories you love is the key to what kind of person you are—curious or dull, wild or tame, a philosopher or a dogmatist—the signs are all there in the stories. This discussion is for grown-ups who have never stopped loving stories and have never stopped asking deep questions.