“Oh, finally home/Free to roam/And come back home/Bill found a home/Forevermore with Samwise Gamgee.”

So sang Matthew Rice, a senior materials science and engineering major and de facto bard for the evening in his song “The Ballad of Bill the Pony” at the Hobbit Day Dinner Monday at Anne Arundel Hall.

Rice, outfitted with a ukulele and hobbit-foot slippers, joined dozens of other students to enjoy a Middle-Earth-themed potluck meal and celebrate the 60th anniversary of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, or LOTR, trilogy.

Mithril Turtle, founded last spring by professor Michelle Markey Butler of the Honors College and College of Information Studies, is a campus-wide collaboration between students, faculty, and other Tolkien experts, to commemorate the anniversary. The organization hosted the dinner and plans to sponsor more upcoming venues.

Spanning six weeks through September and October, the schedule of events ranges from lectures to a LOTR movie marathon.

Although some students said that the campus lacks LOTR fandom, they appreciated the camaraderie between dedicated fans.

“The people who are actually aware of [Mithril Turtle] are really enthusiastic,” said Michael Cohen, a freshman in the letters and sciences program.

I always liked reading stuff like [LOTR], and I wish I was [introduced to it earlier] because I would probably know way too much about it,” said Sam Johnson, a sophomore computer science major.

Johnson said she’s catching up on her Tolkien trivia while in Butler’s Honors class “Tolkien: Mythmaker for our Times.”

Classes like Butler’s, as well as English professor Christopher Crane’s 400-level “J.R.R. Tolkien: Middle Earth and Beyond,” are indicative of academia’s growing interest in the literary and cultural importance of Tolkien, Butler said.

“Without Tolkien, a whole section of the bookstore would be missing,” Butler said, because he invented a framework for the fantasy genre that we now take for granted.

Yet, academia’s growing esteem for Tolkien’s works has not dampened his popular appeal.

“[LOTR] really just connects with life in general,” Rice said. “We don’t face orcs, but the books focus on the interior struggles” of the hobbits in relatable ways, he said.

Some students harbor a sentimental attachment toward the trilogy.

My parents are huge nerds – they’re Trekkies and [are] into Star Wars and everything, so they brought me up with [LOTR],” sophomore linguistics and French major Joshua Weaver said.

English professor Christopher Crane poses with his handcrafted staff. (Jin Kim/Co-Managing Editor)
English professor Christopher Crane poses with his handcrafted staff. (Jin Kim/Co-Managing Editor)

Upcoming events include a lecture by Tolkien linguistics expert Carl Hostetter concerning Elvish on Oct. 10.

A program of Mithril Turtle’s future events through Oct. 11 can be found at mithrilturtle.umd.edu.

headshot04Vita Pierzchala is a junior English major and can be reached at vitapierzchala@gmail.com.

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