A Tolkienist is someone who studies the work of J. R. R. Tolkien: this usually refers to students of the Elvish languages and "Tolkienology". The term Ringer refers to a fan of The Lord of the Rings in general, and of Peter Jackson's live-action film trilogy in particular. Other terms describing Tolkien fans include Tolkienite or Tolkiendil.
Tolkien's The Hobbit, a children's book, was first published in 1937, and it proved popular. However, The Lord of the Rings, first published in 1954 through 1955, would give rise to the fandom as a cultural phenomenon from the early to mid 1960s.
The "hippie" following latched onto the book, giving its own spin to the work's interpretation, such as the Dark Lord Sauron representing the United States military draft during the Vietnam War, to the chagrin of the author who talked of a "deplorable cultus" and stated that ""Many young Americans are involved in the stories in a way that I'm not" but who nevertheless admitted that
This embracing of the work by American 1960s counter-culture made it an easy target for mockery, and resulted in The Lord of the Ring acquiring a reputation of a dubious work of popular culture rather than "real literature", post-poning the emergence of academic Tolkien studies by some twenty years, to the late 1980s.
The Lord of the Rings also from the mid 1960s acquired immense popularity in the emerging hacker culture, and the technological subcultures of scientists, engineers, and computer programmers, and flourishes there still. (Spangenfeld 2006) It also figured as one of the major inspirations of the nascent video game industry and the evolution of fantasy role-playing games (Burdge 2006).
Articles on The Lord of the Rings appeared regularly in the 1960s fanzine Niekas, edited by Ed Meskys. The first organized Tolkien fan group was "The Fellowship of the Ring", founded by Ted Johnstone at Pittcon, the 1960 Worldcon. They published four issues of the fanzine i-Palantír before the organization disbanded.
The Tolkien Society of America first met "in February, 1965, beside the statue of Alma Mater on the Columbia University campus," according to a 1967 New York Times interview with Richard Plotz, the Society's founder and first Thain. By 1967, Meskys had become Thain and the society boasted over 1,000 members, organized into local groups or smials, a pattern that would be followed by other Tolkien fan organizations. The society published a newsletter, Green Dragon, and The Tolkien Journal (edited by Plotz). In 1969, the society sponsored the first Tolkien Conference at Belknap College. The Tolkien Conference was not a "science fiction convention" but rather a scholarly event.
The University of Wisconsin Tolkien and Fantasy Society was founded in 1966, and is best known for its journal Orcrist (1966-1977), edited by Richard C. West.
Across the continent, Glen GoodKnight founded the Mythopoeic Society in California in 1967 for the study, discussion, and enjoyment of fantastic and mythic literature, especially the works of Tolkien and fellow-Inklings C. S. Lewis, and Charles Williams. The society held its first Mythcon conference in 1970, which featured readings, a costume competition, an art show, and other events typical of science fiction conventions of the day. The society's three current periodicals are Mythprint, a monthly bulletin; Mythlore, originally a fanzine and now a peer-reviewed journal that publishes scholarly articles on mythic and fantastic literature; and The Mythic Circle, a literary annual of original poetry and short stories (which replaced the Society's earlier publications Mythril and Mythellany).
Orcrist and The Tolkien Journal published three joint issues (1969-1971). The Tolkien Journal and Mythlore published several joint issues in the later 1970s and eventually merged.
The Tolkien Society (U.K.) was founded in the U.K. in 1969, and remains active as a registered charity. The society has two regular publications, a bi-monthly bulletin of news and information, Amon Hen, and an annual journal, Mallorn, featuring critical articles and essays on Tolkien's work. They host several annual events, including a conference held at Oxford, Oxonmoot.
Both the UK Tolkien Society and the Mythopoeic Society were and remain organized into "Special Interest Groups", focusing on one area such as languages, and into local or regional groups who continue to meet on a regular basis. The journal Parma Eldalamberon, founded in 1971, is a publication of one such special interest group of the Mythopoeic Society.
There is also a long tradition of organized Tolkien fandoms in Scandinavia. The Tolkien Society of Sweden was founded in Gothenburg in 1968 ("of Sweden" was added in 1969 to avoid confusion with the UK society) and The Tolkien Society Forodrim was founded in Sweden in 1972.
Some fans, known as Tolkien tourists, travel for the purpose of visiting Lord of the Rings and Tolkien related sites.
Interest in The Lord of the Rings led to several attempts to adapt it for the film medium, most of which were largely unsuccessful. Filmmaker Ralph Bakshi succeeded in securing the rights to produce an animated feature film version, part one of what was originally planned as a two-part adaptation of the story. Bakshi produced the film using, among other animation techniques, rotoscoping, shooting a majority of the film in live-action first before transferring the live footage to animation. While the film had, and continues to have, a mixed critical reaction, it was a financial success, costing USD 8 million to produce, and grossing over USD 30 million at the box office. Despite this fact, United Artists, the film's original distributor, refused to fund a sequel, leaving the project incomplete.
Translated into dozens of languages and spread across the globe, The Lord of the Rings has never been out of print since its publication. The existing fanbase in the mid-1990s consisted of devoted fans, completely unused to having truly new material or any sort of mass-media acknowledgement, who paid strict attention to detail and continuity within the legendarium.
Notable points of contention in online discussions surround the origin of orcs, whether elves have pointy ears, or whether balrogs have wings. Following the announcement of Jackson's movies (from 2001), online fandom became divided between "Revisionists" and "Purists", controversy surrounding the character of Arwen and the absence of Tom Bombadil in the movies.
Tolkien-related games, especially computer and video games have also increased in number and in popularity. Popular culture references to Middle-earth have also increased, as well as satires and parodies of it. One of the most prominent fansites of Jackson's movies is TheOneRing.net, which was very popular even with the cast and crew of the film. TORn, as it is called, was originally a small movie-news site that gained in prestige as movie-rumors became reality. The filmmakers put special effort into winning over the fans, not simply tolerating but actually actively supporting fansites. Of these, TheOneRing.net is the most well-known and is probably responsible for popularizing the term Ringers. Another prominent fansite is The One Ring - The Home of Tolkien Online, by contrast to TheOneRing.net focussing on the literary works rather than the movies.
A fan edit of the theatrical cut of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers exists, called The Two Towers: The Purist Edit. Most of the changes are incorporated into The Lord of the Rings - The Purist Edition, another fan edit which turns the entire trilogy into an eight-hour film without most of the changes.
"Tolkienology" may include:
There is no clear line dividing Tolkien fandom and scholarly Tolkien studies. Authors of academically published studies on Tolkien may still be motivated by private enthusiasm for his works, and various Tolkien societies combine scholarly study with fandom activities. Thus, the Oxonmoot organised by The Tolkien Society includes talks, slide shows and an evening party with a costume masquerade. Similarly, the Deutsche Tolkien Gesellschaft caters to Tolkien fandom in German-speaking Europe, and also co-organized seminars on Tolkien studies hosted at Jena University in 2005 and 2007.
Generic Tolkien fandom is separated from "serious" Tolkien studies by a sliding scale of awareness of Tolkien's lesser and posthumously published works. Many Tolkien fans will be aware of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and perhaps the Silmarillion. Awareness of Tolkien's short stories, his non-fiction publication, and the detailed editions of his unpublished notes since the 1980s is reserved for the more literary-minded demographic section of Tolkien fans.
The studies of Tolkien's artistic languages (notably Quenya and Sindarin) is a field where "fandom" and scholarly Tolkien studies overlap. The resulting friction between scholarly students of the languages focussing on their conceptual evolution and fandom-oriented students taking an "in-universe" view became visible notably in the "Elfconners" controversy of the late 1990s.
There is a "reconstructionist" camp, which pursues the reconstruction of unattested Elvish forms, and a "philological" or "purist" camp which focusses entirely on the conscientious edition of such fragments as can be found in Tolkien's unpublished papers. By its nature, reconstructionism aims for a "canon" of "correct" standard Elvish (Neo-Eldarin), while the philological study of the evolution of Tolkien's conceptions cannot assume that the languages had ever reached a complete or internally consistent final form.
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