MiddleMoot 2019 (last month in Waterloo, Iowa), like most conferences, consists of multiples sessions competing for the same time slots. Like all good stories, plays and, in this case, moots, there is a beginning, a middle and an end where we all gather together. In between, decisions must be made.
Since I wanted to support my fellow Withywindle Smial presenters, Sessions 2 and 4 were already decided. Thus I need to decide between female grief as foresight or interruptions and musing for the first session. I went with the former for various reasons, but mostly because I’m not a writer of fiction (just a reader), my life is one long interruption and I was intrigue by the concept of female grief as foresight and subcreation, especially after reading about Aragorn’s mother, Gilraen. I created an audio recording of the session on my iPad, but Jude Bleile was so soft-spoken, even with a microphone, that I won’t share that recording here to avoid listener frustration.
The Q&A session after Jude’s talk was lively, including questions from Dr. Joshua Langseth speculating on the second age connections between Míriel and Tar-Míriel. Several others in the audience asked why didn’t you include a certain female character, including myself, where I asked about Gilraen and referenced her first slide. She commented she was glad someone made the connection between that epitaph and Gilraen. My notes for the Q&A are sparse (because I was making an audio recording) but someone in the audience to note that Gandalf was a student of Nienna. There was more than twenty minutes of Q&A, which I loved.
The second session by Nicole Evens on fanfiction I covered in a separate post. Afterwards, we gathered together for lunch in the lobby, serenaded by the Nitpickers, featuring our keynote speaking among the musicians. Then we returned to the auditorium for the keynote by Ted Nasmith with Q&A moderated by Corey Olsen.
For my third session, I had a choice between learning about film adaptations or the orc problem as seen through Tolkien’s Father Christmas letters. I fly like a moth to the flame whenever there’s a question of evil up for debate, so I naturally gravitated towards the dark side.
Dr. Joshua Langseth, professor of Classical Studies at the University of Iowa, began his presentation with a question: What does an orc look like? His research determined that the only illustration of an orc is found in Tolkien’s Father Christmas letters to his children (from 1920 to 1943). Dr. Langseth referenced several letters (1954 to Peter Hasting and 1958 Letter 210) as well as essays in Morgoth’s Ring. Inevitably, we pondered the question: Are orcs redeemable? Dr. Langseth also presented many examples of the evolution of the goblins/orcs from the illustrations contained in the Father Christmas letters.
For the final session of the day, I enjoyed the interactive nature of the presentation by Robbie Park, the President of the Tolkien Society of Kansas City, on creating your very own Tolkien group, including lessons learned and encouragement.
Below is a link to the audio from that session. I suggest skipping ahead about a minute to get to the start of Robbie’s presentation.
We adjourned to the lobby to listen to Shawn O’Laughlin perform “Into the West” after which we ventured out in a stiff north wind to the Cedar Valley Arboretum and a trek through the gardens to the Hobbit Hole.
The sessions I decided not to attend included:
- Session 1 ~ Caleb Konopka: “Tolkien and the Mus: Why Authors Should Learn to Embrace Interruptions”
- Session 2 ~ Casey Knue: “The Wasteland and Ash: A Study of Eliot through Miyazaki’s Dark Souls III”
- Session 3 ~ Brandon Lovesee: “From Page to Screen: What We Learn from Film Adaptations”
- Session 4 ~ Jake Bates: “Using the Hobbit in the Talented and Gifted Classroom”
My apologies to Brandon, who is also a member of the Tolkien Society of Kansas City for not choosing to attend his session on film adaptations.
This was my second moot and I had an amazing time. I am looking forward to next year’s MiddleMoot, which we will host again in Kansas City.