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Tolkien Fan
Tolkien Fan

Tolkien fandom is an international, informal community of fans of the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, especially of the Middle-earth legendarium which includes The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. "Fandom" implies a subculture marked by youthful enthusiasm but comparatively little sophistication compared to scholarly literary criticism and thus marks the popular aspect of the general topic of the reception of J. R. R. Tolkien. "Tolkien fandom" in this sense sprang up in the USA in the 1960s, in the context of the hippie movement, to the dismay of the author (Tolkien died in 1973), who talked of "my deplorable cultus".


A Tolkienist is someone who studies the work of J. R. R. Tolkien: this usually refers to students of the Elvish languages and "Tolkienology". The term Ringer refers to a fan of The Lord of the Rings in general, and of Peter Jackson's live-action film trilogy in particular. Other terms describing Tolkien fans include Tolkienite or Tolkiendil.

Although there were active Tolkien enthusiasts within science fiction fandom from the mid-1950s, true organized Tolkien fandom only took off with the publication of the second hardcover edition and the paperbacks in the 1960s. Although there are numerous Tolkien societies in different countries today, it should be noted that they are not endorsed or even authorized by the Tolkien Estate.

Articles on The Lord of the Rings appeared regularly in the 1960s fanzine Niekas, edited by Ed Meskys. The first organized Tolkien fan group was "The Fellowship of the Ring", founded by Ted Johnstone at Pittcon, the 1960 Worldcon. They published four issues of
the fanzine
i-Palantír before the organization disbanded.

The Tolkien Society of America first met "in February, 1965, beside the statue of Alma Mater on the Columbia University campus," according to a 1967 New York Times interview with Richard Plotz, the Society's founder and first Thain. By 1967, Meskys had become Thain and the society boasted over 1,000 members, organized into local groups or smials, a pattern that would be followed by other Tolkien fan organizations. The society published a newsletter, Green Dragon, and The Tolkien Journal (edited by Plotz). In 1969, the society sponsored the first Tolkien Conference at Belknap College. The Tolkien Conference was not a "science fiction convention" but rather a scholarly event.

The University of Wisconsin Tolkien and Fantasy Society was founded in 1966, and is best known for its journal Orcrist(1966-1977), edited by Richard C. West.

Across the continent, Glen GoodKnight founded the Mythopoeic Society in California in 1967 for the study, discussion, and enjoyment of fantastic and mythic literature, especially the works of Tolkien and fellow-Inklings C. S. Lewis, and Charles Williams. The society held its first Mythcon conference in 1970, which featured readings, a costume competition, an art show, and other events typical of science fiction conventions of the day. The society's three current periodicals are Mythprint, a monthly bulletin; Mythlore, originally a fanzine and now a peer-reviewed journal that publishes scholarly articles on mythic and fantastic literature; and The Mythic Circle, a literary annual of original poetry and short stories (which replaced the Society's earlier publications Mythril and Mythellany).

Orcrist and The Tolkien Journal published three joint issues (1969-1971). The Tolkien Journal and Mythlore published several joint issues in the later 1970s and eventually merged.

The Tolkien Society (U.K.) was founded in the U.K. in 1969, and remains active as a registered charity. The society has two regular publications, a bi-monthly bulletin of news and information, Amon Hen, and an annual journal, Mallorn, featuring critical articles and essays on Tolkien's work. They host several annual events, including a conference held at Oxford, Oxonmoot.

Translated into dozens of languages and spread across the globe, The Lord of the Rings has never been out of print since its publication. The existing fanbase in the mid-1990s consisted of devoted fans, completely unused to having truly new
material or any sort of mass-media acknowledgement, who paid strict attention to detail and continuity within the legendarium.

Tolkien discussion took place in many newsgroups from the earliest days of Usenet. The Tolklang mailing list was started in 1990. The alt.fan.tolkien and rec.arts.books.tolkien newsgroups are active since 1992 and 1993, respectively.

Notable points of contention in online discussions surround the origin of orcs, whether elves have pointy ears, or whether balrogs have wings. Following the announcement of Jackson's movies (from 2001), online fandom became divided between "Revisionists" and "Purists" over controversy surrounding changes to the novel made for the movies, such as those made to the character of Arwen and the absence of Tom Bombadil.

Tolkienology is a term used by Tolkien fans to describe the study of the works of J. R. R. Tolkien treating Middle-earth as a real world, conducting research from an "in-universe" perspective. This differs from Tolkien studies in that it ignores the real-world history of composition by the author, and necessarily needs to assume an underlying internally consistent canon.

There is no clear line dividing Tolkien fandom and scholarly Tolkien studies. Authors of academically published studies on Tolkien may still be motivated by private enthusiasm for his works, and various Tolkien societies combine scholarly study with fandom activities. Thus, the Oxonmoot organised by The Tolkien Society includes talks, slide shows and an evening party with a costume masquerade. Similarly, the Deutsche Tolkien Gesellschaft caters to Tolkien fandom in German-speaking Europe, and also co-organized seminars on Tolkien studies hosted at Jena University in 2005 and 2007.

Generic Tolkien fandom is separated from "serious" Tolkien studies by a sliding scale of awareness of Tolkien's lesser and posthumously published works. Many Tolkien fans will be aware of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and perhaps the Silmarillion. Awareness of Tolkien's short stories, his non-fiction publication, and the detailed editions of his unpublished notes since the 1980s is reserved for the more literary-minded demographic section of Tolkien fans.

The studies of Tolkien's artistic languages (notably Quenya and Sindarin) is a field where "fandom" and scholarly Tolkien studies overlap. The resulting friction between scholarly students of the languages focussing on their conceptual evolution and fandom-oriented students taking an "in-universe" view became visible notably in the "Elfconners" controversy of the late 1990s.

As can be expected from a fandom, Tolkien Fans dress normally, albeit perhaps with LotR related slogans on their shirts, and perhaps the odd Tolkien related accesory. They listen to music from the Lord of the Rings films, and maybe Filk relating to the series, although this is more me speculating than anything else.

Info from wikipedia, image from Deviantart. Last paragpraph by me.

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