Middle Earth meets Marquette: Tolkien historian lectures on campus
By Jaena Wenninghoff
Middle Earth came to Raynor Library Thursday with a lecture on J.R.R. Tolkien by Tolkein historian John D. Rateliff.
The Marquette alumnus's two-volume book, "The History of the Hobbit: Mr. Baggins and the Return to Bag End," was published last month. He said his work was aided by many of the original Tolkien manuscripts housed in the library.
"We are living in the golden age of Tolkien studies," Rateliff said, citing the vast number of books and magazines dedicated to the author's work.
Tolkien's popularity, Rateliff said, comes from his ability to engage readers.
"The style in which he chose to write … is deliberately done to spark reader participation," he said.
According to Rateliff, this participation is the result of Tolkien's ability to incorporate detail. The amount of detail he included was enough to set the foundation of the story but left much to the imagination of the reader. Rateliff said "too much detail limits applicability" and that Tolkien used the right amount.
Another thing that impacted the popularity of Tolkien's works was his ability to write as a memory as opposed to a series of events as they took place, Rateliff said. He said Tolkien wrote about "several sharp vivid scenes" just like memories to which the reader can relate.
While Tolkien's first published book, "The Hobbit," was created for his own enjoyment, according to Rateliff, Tolkien wrote "The Lord of the Rings" at his publisher's request.
"When 'The Hobbit' was published, they immediately asked him what else he had," Rateliff said.
"The Hobbit" was written 17 years prior to "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Rateliff said Tolkien originally wrote "The Hobbit" as a stand-alone story but said it was later revised to better accommodate the sequels.
Rateliff concluded his lecture saying, "What we carry away from a book Tolkien wrote is the delight in the world he created."
Attendees of the lecture said they were intrigued by the in-depth look into Tolkien literature.
"I thought the lecture was interesting," said Logan Berens, a sophomore in the College of Engineering. "He had a lot of solid details he was able to explain thoroughly."
Sarah McElroy, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences agreed.
"He discussed several things I never knew about Tolkien," she said. "I just wish he would have said something in Elvish."