Academic journal article Mythlore

"Things That Were, and Things That Are, and Things That Yet May Be": The J.R.R. Tolkien Manuscript Collection at Marquette University

Academic journal article Mythlore

"Things That Were, and Things That Are, and Things That Yet May Be": The J.R.R. Tolkien Manuscript Collection at Marquette University

Article excerpt

GOOD EVENING. I FELL VERY PRIVILEGED to be a guest of honor speaker at Mythcon 48, as the Mythopoeic Society finishes celebrating its fiftieth anniversary. I want to thank the organizers for inviting me. I think it is wonderful that MythSoc has chosen archives and the gold to be discovered within them as a central theme for this anniversary celebration.

Marquette University is home to the renowned J.R.R. Tolkien manuscript collection, and it is no stranger to the Mythopoeic Society. Thirty years ago, Marquette hosted Mythcon 18 on its campus in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The guest of honor in 1987 was Christopher Tolkien, who spoke multiple times throughout the weekend and held a highly popular book signing in Marquette's student union. Several of you in this room were present for Mythcon 18. Most of us were not. Some of you have visited Marquette over the years, others have not; but I suspect everybody has heard of us. This evening I would like talk to you about the Tolkien manuscript collection at Marquette, to speak in the words of Galadriel of "things that were, and things that are, and things that yet may be" (The Lord of the Rings [LotR] II.7.362)

This is my first Mythcon, and some of you may still be looking at me and thinking, "Who is this guy?" I feel obliged to begin with a few words about myself if for no other reason than to establish my Tolkien bona fides. I have worked as an archivist at Marquette University for fourteen years now, although I have been curator of the Tolkien Collection for only five of those years. As chance would have it (a very Tolkienian phrase), I inherited the role when the previous curator, Matt Blessing, left unexpectedly to become the State Archivist of Wisconsin. That was Matt's dream job. Mine was now staring me in the face. I welcomed the opportunity, not least because I had been a fan of Tolkien's works since childhood. I first came to Tolkien through the 1977 Rankin Bass animated production of The Hobbit. I must admit that, dreadful as it is in some ways, the Rankin Bass Hobbit holds a special place in my heart to this day, evoking fond memories of childhood. It led me to read The Hobbit and then onward at the age of eleven to The Lord of the Rings. When I was twelve, I tried to read The Silmarillion, but like Caradhras, it defeated me--I could not push through the blizzard of names. I tried again when I was fourteen, while on a long automobile ride during a family vacation, and this time the genealogies and the relationships among the characters clicked, and the riveting saga drew me in and never let go.

In my teenaged years, I was very much taken with MERP--the Middle-earth Role Playing Game from Iron Crown Enterprises. Some of you will remember it. The game provided me with many hours of enjoyment. I remember poring over passages in The Silmarillion trying to puzzle out why the designers did what they did; why, for example, they made Fingon 120 th level with an Offensive Bonus of 495 and his cousin Maedhros only 105th level with an Offensive Bonus of 460? I did not go out on a lot of dates in high school.

I mention all of this to make the point that I had acquired a firm grounding in Tolkien's Legendarium before I became curator of Marquette's manuscript collection; but after assuming the role five years ago, I have had so much to learn. I find that the more I learn about J.R.R. Tolkien, the more I realize how much I do not know. I enjoy learning from others. My favorite part of the job has been speaking with researchers who visit Marquette and finding out what interests them and what questions drive them. Tolkien has inspired an amazing corpus of high quality scholarship produced by a diverse array of scholars, both academic and independent. I am in awe of the Tolkien scholarship that has been produced over the past fifty years, some of it by members of the Mythopoeic Society. To paraphrase Abbot Suger from the Church of Saint-Denis in the 12th century, if I can see anything it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.