This year I had the lovely opportunity to attend the Oxonmoot, the annual conference presented by the Tolkien Society. The event is held in Oxford, England, where Tolkien was a professor for most of his academic career. The event is held near Bilbo and Frodo's birthday, September 22nd. This year it was conveniently held at St. Anthony's College.
It was a wonderful experience. For the first time I had a chance to hang out with lots of other Tolkienites. When I showed them a picture of the mural that proudly hangs in my living room, the one I've owned since high school, the one my parents drove out to Tucson for me, my new friends knew immediately: Oh, yes, that artwork comes from the Barbara Remington covers from the 1960s. Remington hadn't read the texts because Houghton Mifflin was in such a hurry for the covers, but I've always liked them anyway. They're happy and optimistic--which is how I've always seen The Hobbit as well as The Lord of the Rings.
For the next several days I enjoyed the myriad of activities: the pub quiz (those people REALLY know stuff!), the entertainments, the talks by Tolkien artists and scholars. I even got to speak about Bilbo's motivations. Obviously, he didn't really want to go off on a long adventure--or did he?
Over the weekend I had delightful conversations with Tolkien lovers from 17 other countries. (After the UK, the biggest number of attendees came from the US and the Netherlands; they also came from India, Canada, and other European countries.) We went to the Bird and Baby and the White Horse, pubs that Tolkien and C.S. Lewis frequented. We talked about passages of Tolkien's texts that we especially loved. With Joel's help, I performed an imagined dialogue between Bilbo and his creator. Since the author was procrastinating, Bilbo had to demand to be written!
Finally, on Sunday, we visited the cemetery where J.R.R.T and his wife are buried. The leader read from Chapter 1 of The Hobbit. One member wore his elven cloak; another sang in elvish. It was a beautiful pilgrimage.
It was also a beautiful weekend. I can't wait for the next Oxonmoot! And many thanks to the Tolkien Society members for all their hard work to put on the conference and all the friendly and sincere participants. If only the weather had been warmer, we might have been in Rivendell! Now the question remains, if I were to set one of my murder mysteries in Oxford.....