Shawn Marchese said it best in his debrief of Tolkien 2019: “here’s a word we use in our community a lot: fellowship. We often use it slightly tongue-in-cheek (like precious), but it really does characterize the Tolkien community in a very important way… All of us… are Tolkien fans, first and foremost, and that makes us fellows. … everyone is welcomed, and that the hierarchies that separate the “experts” from the “fans” in other fandoms and disciplines just don’t separate us all that much in the Tolkien community.” This was certainly true at New England Moot.
I always enjoy meeting fellow Tolkien and fantasy fans, and I certainly enjoy learning new things from these brilliant minds. Held in Jones Library in Amherst, our small group of scholars gathered together to talk about all things speculative in Children’s Literature. The presentations given were excellent, and were given by some of my favorite scholars, bloggers, writers, and all around fantasy fans. All were particularly intriguing, and I invite you all to check out their excellent work.
I audibly, and without shame, squealed with delight when Ashley Thomas of The Nerdy Blogger presented on “Gargoyles,” “Jonny Quest,” and the path to readership for students through those shows. Gargoyles was a strong connection to my passion for books, and a significant part of my teenage years. I revisit the show every so often to this day. Kate Neville wrote a fantastic paper connecting Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy Stories” to the benefit that fairy stories have for children, not just for adults. She cleverly supported her thoughts using interviews from fantastic writers such as Diana Wynne Jones, Susan Cooper, and others. I was so happy to see some dear friends and preceptors from previous classes, such as Kay ben-Avraham, Sparrow Alden, and James Tauber, and of course the Tolkien Professor himself. We howled with laughter as he took us through Tolkien’s lesser well known, and rather bizarre, children’s book Mr. Bliss. To say that the story got away from him would be an understatement. We also had a Tolkien Studies first- a quilt adventure analyzing Tolkien based scenes through different quilting techniques!
Soon enough, it was my turn to present… this was my first Moot presentation, and, other than education based presentations, I had not ever presented scholarly research in English Literature. To say I was nervous… well, you can imagine. But it turned out I did not need to be. I will certainly write a full post on the topic of my presentation itself, but for now I simply want to share the elation that I felt at being able to share my thoughts and research with my peers… and (at the risk of sounding immodest) to do it well. I received so many questions and statements of interest in my topic that I finally felt validated in the work I was doing. After being kicked down in job after job, it was wonderful to have a good, validating moment to keep in my pocket for later to remind me that I am doing good work, and I can keep working on what I love.
If you’re debating whether or not to attend a Signum Moot, a Tolkien based conference, or even an informal club meeting, I assure you that it is worth it. One of the greatest strengths I’ve had in the past few years working with Signum is the community that has supported me and encouraged me throughout self doubt, imposter syndrome, and writers block. It’s a valuable community that reassures you that yes, you do belong, and you are part of a fellowship. You may be an experienced Wizard or you may be a hobbit just entering the Wild, but you are a part of that community and no one is going to leave you to the wolves (or the wargs, in this analogy).
Stay tuned for a Teaching with Magic Double Feature this week! Another post will be up by Friday!
If you’re interested in learning more about some of the talks I heard this weekend, be sure to click on the links provided and ask questions in the comments!