Tolkien Course at Audible

Lecture 1: Tolkien and Middle-earth: Medieval and Modern

Tolkien’s authorised biography by Humphrey Carpenter, as well as his edition of Tolkien’s letters remain absolutely key sources:

A brief biography of J.R.R. Tolkien can be found on the Tolkien Estate website:

The History of Middle-earth: Exploring Tolkien’s entire ‘legendarium’, by Dimitra Fimi

  • A handy blog post that takes you through the contents of the 12 History of Middle-earth volumes and Unfinished Tales

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Christmas letters to his children bring echoes of Middle-earth to the North Pole, by Dimitra Fimi

  • A brief article on the parallel Christmas mythology Tolkien created for his children

Review of Dome Karukoski Tolkien biopic (2019), by Dimitra Fimi

Lecture 2: A ‘Mythology for England’?

Two articles on the concept of Tolkien’s “mythology for England” in the Proceedings of the J.R.R. Tolkien Centenary Conference, 1992:

  • A Mythology for England, by C.F. Hostetter and A.R. Smith

  • A Mythology? For England?, by A. Stenström

The Past as an Imaginary World: The Case of Medievalism (Chatterton, Tolkien, Eco), by Dimitra Fimi

  • This article examines the writings of Thomas Chatterton, J.R.R. Tolkien and Umberto Eco, considering how they each write the Middle Ages as an act of worldbuilding. Chatterton and Tolkien are also discussed in the context of Romantic Nationalism, alongside other relevant figures.

Lecture 3: An ‘Elf-centered’ Mythology

My book, Tolkien, Race, and Cultural History, includes an extensive survey of the fairies and Elves in Tolkien’s mythology

Victorian Fairies and the Early Work of J.R.R. Tolkien, by Dimitra Fimi

  • This article expands on the early fairy creatures in Tolkien’s poetry, invented languages, and in The Book of Lost Tales

Light-elves, Dark-elves, and Others: Tolkien’s Elvish Problem, by Tom Shippey

  • Further Old Norse connections for Tolkien’s Elves and their sub-divisions

“Mad” Elves and “Elusive Beauty”: Some Celtic Strands of Tolkien’s Mythology, by Dimitra Fimi

  • More on Tolkien’s Noldor and the Irish Tuatha Dé Danann

Lecture 4: Reshaping Tradition: Setting Up a Mythology

Riddles, Heroes, and Folktales Come True: Folklore in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, by Dimitra Fimi

  • A very brief introduction to folklore in The Lord of the Rings

Demiurgic Beings: A Platonic word in Tolkien, by Dimitra Fimi

  • More on Tolkien’s combination of One God and many gods via Platonic ideas

Tolkien’s “‘Celtic’ type of legends”: Merging Traditions, by Dimitra Fimi

  • More Celtic sources for Tolkien’s legendarium

‘“Wildman of the Woods”: Inscribing Tragedy on the Landscape of Middle-earth in The Children of Húrin’, in Conrad-O’Brien, H. and Hynes, G. (eds.), Tolkien: The Forest and the City. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2013, pp. 43-56.

Review of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Story of Kullervo (edited by Verlyn Flieger), by Dimitra Fimi

Hobbit Songs and Rhymes: Tolkien and the Folklore of Middle-earth, by Dimitra Fimi

Tolkien, Folklore and Foxes, by Dimitra Fimi

  • My Tolkien 2019 Keynote, which centered around the figure of the fox and a particular folksong Tolkien knew well and used multiple times as a tune for his own verses

Lecture 5: Dragons and Hobbits: Merging Old and New

Tom Shippey’s The Road to Middle-earth and Stuart Lee and Elizabeth Solopova’s The Keys to Middle-earth expand on many of the themes of this lecture:

Norses for sources, by Alaric Hall

  • A part of an extended lecture by Alaric Hall, with more on the connections between The Hobbit and the Völuspá

West Richard C. (1975) ‘The Interlace Structure of The Lord of the Rings‘ in Jared Lobdell, A Tolkien Compass (1975), pp. 77-94.

Le Guin, U.K. (2004) The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination. Boston: Shambhala.

Mendlesohn, F. (2008) Rhetorics of Fantasy. Hanover, N.H.: Wesleyan University Press.

Lecture 6: Theological Roots: Fall and ‘Eucatastrophe’

Tolkien’s seminal essay “On Fairy-Stories” is now a key source for fantasy literature criticism. It’s definitely worth tracing the extended edition by Douglas A. Anderson and Verlyn Flieger.

Joyful sorrow in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, by Dimitra Fimi

  • A talk in which I expand on “eucatastrophe” and the mix of joy and sorrow at key moments in The Lord of the Rings. This talk was also published as an essay in Death and Immortality in Middle-earth, ed. by Daniel Helen.

The Flame Imperishable: Tolkien, St. Thomas, and the Metaphysics of Faerie, by Jonathan S. McIntosh

Lecture 7: Inventing Languages: ‘A Secret Vice’

Tolkien’s ideas on language invention are explored in his important essay “A Secret Vice”, now in a new extended edition by me and Dr Andrew Higgins, with a substantial introduction, notes, and new, hitherto unpublished material:

How to invent a Tolkien-style language, by Dimitra Fimi

  • A brief article on Tolkien’s language invention principles

Language as Communication vs. Language as Art: J.R.R. Tolkien and early 20th-century radical linguistic experimentation, by Dimitra Fimi

  • A long read! In this essay I explore how Tolkien’s language invention fits within the history of constructed languages, as well as within contemporary literary trends of avant-garde linguistic experimentaiton (by authors such as James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, as well as movements such as Dadaism and the Russian zaum poets).

From the Tolkien Estate audio collection:

  • Scroll to the bottom of the page to listen to Tolkien singing Galadriel’s farewell lament (in Quenya) and “A Elbereth Gilthoniel” (in Sindarin)

The Tolkien Estate website also includes two brief essays on Tolkien’s invented languages and scripts. The former features the “Tree of Tongues” Tolkien created for his legendarium, as mentioned in my lecture.

Lecture 8: Evil, War, and Trauma in Middle-earth

John Garth’s Tolkien and the Great War is an extended biography of Tolkien from childhood to the end of WWI and a key source on this theme.

Four important articles on Tolkien’s WWI and WWII experiences and their impact on his legendarium:

  • The Shell-shock The Shell-shocked Hobbit: The First World War and Tolkien’s Trauma of the Ring, by Michael Livingston

  • The Great War and Tolkien’s Memory: An Examination of World War I Themes in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, by Janet Brennan Croft

  • “The young perish and the old linger, withering”: J.R.R. Tolkien on World War II, by Janet Brennan Croft

  • Frodo’s Batman, by Mark T. Hooker

Sailing to the West: The Fall of Arthur, Beowulf, and Tol Eressea, by Dimitra Fimi

  • In this Keynote Lecture for Oxonmoot 2017, I examine the strong reccurent motif of sailing to a paradise in the West in Tolkien’s writings, which links his mythology with the Arthurian legend and Beowulf

Lecture 9: Gender and Race in Middle-earth

Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales at 40: Traffics and Discoveries, Actions and Reactions, Limits and Renewals, by Dimitra Fimi

  • This talk includes a section on the tale of Aldarion and Erendis as well as a discussion of how Tolkien revised Galadriel post-Lord of the Rings

Revisiting Race in Tolkien’s Legendarium: Constructing Cultures and Ideologies in an Imaginary World, by Dimitra Fimi

Was Tolkien really racist?, by Dimitra Fimi

  • An article for The Conversation on a question that keeps on coming back in public debates.

Lecture 10: Receptions and Legacies

Tolkien journals which are available online via Open Access

  • Journal of Tolkien Research

  • Mallorn: The Journal of the Tolkien Society

  • Mythlore: A Journal of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature

Tolkien in Oxford, BBC (1986)

  • The entire film of this really important documentary is available here–jrr-tolkien/znd36v4

Filming Folklore: Adapting Fantasy for the Big Screen through Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, by Dimitra Fimi

  • An article on how the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings adaptations re-shape and expand the folklore of Middle-earth

Tolkien’s Hobbits, a Black Rider, and a Tree Root: chasing a visual chain, by Dimitra Fimi

  • A fascinating chain of visual references, from the early 20th century and a book Tolkien knew, to the Peter Jackson adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring

Other Tolkien articles and videos you may like

The Raw and the Cooked: William Morris’s Dwarf in The Wood Beyond the World, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Gollum, by Dimitra Fimi

George MacDonald and one of Tolkien’s most quotable lines, by Dimitra Fimi

A little Elvish love story in The Lord of the Rings, by Dimitra Fimi

Tolkien’s Glittering Caves of Aglarond and Cheddar Gorge and Caves in Somerset, by Dimitra Fimi

Constructions of Childhood in Tolkien’s Legendarium, by Dimitra Fimi

Tolkien and the Art of Book Reviewing: A Circuitous Road to Middle-earth, by Dimitra Fimi (the text of this lecture can be found here)