The last movie in the Hobbit trilogy was released in 2014, but for those who love author J.R.R. Tolkien, the magic doesn’t have to end just yet.
The event Tolkien Days, hosted by Ohio State, is a fusion of the pop-culture phenomenon that Tolkien’s narratives created with the rigor of academics in a two-day conference beginning Friday at 9 a.m.
Graeme Boone, the event coordinator and director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at OSU, calls the event “an academic conference combined with a carnival, like a medieval fair.”
Tolkien Days is the second event in a series sponsored by CMRS, called Pop Culture and the Deep Past. Last year’s focus was on the Game of Thrones, but Boone said this year’s Tolkien theme is bigger and thus has been turned into a two-day event.
“It’s just a scholarly conference on Friday,” Boone said. “On Saturday, that scholarly conference continues, but we kind of have the family-oriented and other activities on Saturday. So it’s bigger, but it’s not two full days of carnival. It’s one day of carnival, two days of conference.”
Boone said the carnival portion includes Hobbit Tea, a reception with “hobbit teas” and “elvish teas” over a showing of latest Hobbit film is set to take place Saturday at the Gateway Theater for $10, and many free events like a falconry presentation, chainmail creation demonstration and both online and tabletop games.
“There’s going to be a PowerPoint presentation in Hagerty 180,” Boone said. “This got a huge crowd last year and they just loved it.” He described it as “an absolute runaway smash.”
The majority of events will take place in the Ohio Union, including academic sessions, but Orton Hall will host a reception Friday evening, Boone said.
Academic sessions include speakers who are military historians, linguists who use Tolkien languages as a way of introducing language to undergraduate students, speakers on medieval fashion, music, illustration and maps, and even gaming.
“You can go to a session and if you don’t like it, you can go and come back or go somewhere else,” Boone said. “I think that’s for me a big plus that you aren’t roped in. People can try out the academics, they can try out different things, and I think that’s good.”
Boone said several vendors will be present at the reception Friday and the Hobbit Tea on Saturday, including Columbus restaurants Crest Gastropub and Dan the Baker.
The reception will feature Tolkien-themed foods and refreshments, such as a version of the orc drink Frodo is forced to drink in “Lord of the Rings” that Boone said is “a fiery, herbal drink.”
“We have lembas and we have hobbit cakes, and we have kind of meat that they would show,” Boone said. “Last time we had suckling pig and we might have that again. We have medieval English cheeses, and we have sort of medieval fruit tarts and we have various drinks … and this guy’s making various kinds of herbal teas — elvish teas, hobbit teas, stuff like that — and then we have a special hobbit ale that is being made by Barley’s Brewery.”
Tolkien days will kick off with opening comments by Boone and Mark Shanda, the divisional dean of Arts and Humanities.
And do not be surprised if you run into Legolas in the hallway. “This year I’m told we’re definitely having people come in costume,” Boone said.
Tolkien Days will feature several participants who’ve traveled significant lengths — Boone said there are people coming from New York and Canada, and even somebody from Australia giving a virtual presentation. “We have people coming from all over the place. It’s just really wonderful,” he said. “People care a lot and it’s amazing to see people come in and get together. So it’s a wonderful feeling of gathering that I’m looking forward to.”
Boone said he likes the connection between pop culture and academic culture to be explored and revealed and for people to encounter different ways of experiencing one thing.
“I’d like people on both sides of that divide to encounter the other and realize that it’s there and that it can be productive to have these different types of ways of experiencing something like Tolkien,” Boone said. “What else could I ask for? I just want people to have a good time. That’s really what it’s all about.”