Mythcon 47: Mythopoeia, Tolkien, and Propp

Our faculty have a busy summer: Prof JBH will be attending Mythcon 47 this summer to read a new paper on mythopoeia through the lens of Tolkien and Propp. The conference title and theme is “Faces of Mythology: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern.” As part of his Muggle disguise, Prof JBH has managed to infiltrate the Mythopoeic Society, the organizer for the Mythcon conference.

mythopoeia-at-the-mythopoeic-society

Here’s the title and a short blurb for his upcoming presentation:

Mythical Grammar according to J. R. R. Tolkien and Vladimir Propp: A Gesture Toward Conciliation Between Mythopoeia and Formalism

This paper sketches a framework for understanding how the radically different literary perspectives of Tolkien and the Russian folklorist Vladimir Propp can be constructively compared, and the value of doing so. I will briefly explain Propp’s approach in the Morphology of the Folktale and how it can be used to explain the aesthetic satisfaction many readers experience and report when a tale conforms to a particular structure. Propp consciously disregarded questions of literary meaning, thus guilty by Tolkien’s lights of “using the stories not as they were meant to be used, but as a quarry from which to dig evidence” (1947, 47). Tolkien has no truck with empirical and reductive methods like Propp’s. Propp is an analyst of form and syntax, Tolkien of content and meaning. Propp is an anatomist, Tolkien a psychologist (or poet). And yet their analyses of fairy tales converge on two noteworthy points. The first is the effect of a well-written tale on the reader. In previous research published on Propp, I have investigated his elliptical claim that his 31-function schema “is a measuring unit for individual tales” (1968, 64). It has been observed that the well-formed tale according to Propp’s scheme constitutes a cultural script marked by keen aesthetic satisfaction. The second point of convergence is on the question of origins, with both Tolkien and Propp, in their respective vocabularies, indicating the necessity of an Ur-story, a Protean form from which stories of an infinite variety of “amazing multi-formity, picturesqueness, and color” (1968, 21) have emerged under the sub-creative auspices of the “elvish craft.” Propp’s explanation is by design naturalized while Tolkien’s is metaphysical. Yet both reveal something essential to “incantation in Faërie,” a mythical grammar by which the storyteller may, if successful, wield an enchanter’s power.

Prof Hunter is drawing from the Manuscript B version of “On Fairy-Stories” published in Essays Presented to Charles Williams (1947/1966, out of print). He is particularly enthusiastic about this paper because it will be his first attempt to build on his already-published Proppian analysis of the Harry Potter saga, which appears in The Ravenclaw Reader. It is also the fruit borne from a discussion with the Hogwarts Professor at a pub in St Andrews, Scotland four years ago. Pubs in Scotland are, parenthetically, where most good ideas originate. st-andrews-university-hotbed-of-mythopoeia

When the conference program is finalized, we’ll provide a link.

Students may use their holiday Hogsmeade pass to attend. If you don’t have a pass signed by your parent or guardian, please register online at the Mythcon 47 website. If you’ve already used your pass to attend the Leviosa! conference, then alternative routes out of school grounds are known to exist, but you can be assured that Mr Filch and Mrs Norris will be guarding them vigilantly.

Ainulindalë: New Film Short

Prepare to be amazed at the artistry and creativity of the Tolkien community (again). Willow Productions has released a beautiful short film of Tolkien’s creation narrative, the Ainulindalë, which means “The Music of the Ainur.” Saith Ilúvatar, “Behold! Your music!”

Some observations:

  • The score by Far West Method Music is fitting and evocative, which is important since it is music that is the creative force of the universe.
  • Ilúvatar’s theme is not itself imagined as a melody or theme; instead, it is announced with a chime, or what sounds to me like a glass armonica.
  • The entirety of Tolkien’s Ainulindalë is not narrated; the spoken voiceover (which is well done) is a very abbreviated script of the original.
  • Back to the music: I liked the brief, but clever quote of Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini as a musical association with Melkor.
  • Thus, from Ainur to Valar. Tolkien’s framework of doom as established by the choice of free beings is brought out very effectively.

Verdict: a delightful rendering of this important narrative in the legendarium. h/t The Silmarillion / Children of Hurin / The Hobbit / The Lord of the Rings group.

Arda Maps: A New Tolkien Interactive Project

Prepare to be amazed. Graduate student Curtis Mosters has developed a wonderful new resource for Tolkien studies. Behold:

Arda Maps Project - Tolkien

Check out the maps of the three ages of Arda. Looks like he’s still developing the family trees, timelines and maps for the journeys and regions of Arda. We here at Hogwarts Prep hope that his team is able to raise the funds needed to complete the project.

New Tolkien Scholarship

The Tolkien faculty here at Hogwarts Prep are keen to let you know about two new and exciting forthcoming contributions to Tolkien scholarship.

First we have the news, care of The Tolkien Society, that a very early work, The Story of Kullervo, hits the bookshelves on August 27. Kullervo is a tragic figure from the Finnish Kalevala mythos and Tolkien scholars believe that Kullervo informs the eminent figure of Túrin Turambar.

turin-gurthang-john-howeSecond, we look forward to obtaining for the Hogwarts Prep shelves a new volume by Walking Tree Publications, a nonprofit and volunteer association: Representations of Nature in Middle-Earth. There are nine essays in the collection around the theme of the title. The publisher’s blurb should whet your appetite for this important contribution to scholarship on the theme that lies so close to the heart of Tolkien’s saga:representations-nature

[N]ature in Middle-earth plays a crucial role not only in the creation of atmospheres and settings that enhance the realism as well as the emotional appeal of the secondary world; it also acts as an active agent of change within the setting and the story.

If you can’t wait for the HPA Library to stock its copy, you can get your own copy from The Tolkien Shop or your favorite bookseller.

 

 

Amazing Interactive Map of Middle Earth

Kudos to the designers of this fantastic map of Middle Earth! Be prepared to spend at least an hour poking around. What would you add to it?

LOTR Project Interactive Map of Middle Earth

Happy Birthday, Christopher Lee

After viewing the LOTR films’ backstory materials on the extended version DVDs, it became clear to me that Sir Christopher Lee was one of the few actors in the cast who has an actual grasp on the heart of Tolkien’s work. So it is not surprising that he joined the Tolkien Ensemble to record “Treebeard’s Song.” His basso profondo captures the wisdom and aching of the Ents. Enjoy!

Ask the Professor (2)

An inquirer asks, “I have not read The Hobbit, LOTR, or Harry Potter. What am I missing?”

Once we lifted our lower jaw from the floor, we answered thusly:

A shared experience with fellow humans of your cultural time and place.
A vocabulary, an imaginative conceptual framework within which to see yourself and the world around you anew.