The Fellowship of the Ring
Starting in July 2012, Mythgard Academy presented a three-week seminar series on the The Fellowship of the Ring, the first volume in The Lord of the Rings written by the father of modern fantasy, J.R.R. Tolkien.
Fellowship begins the well-known story of Frodo and his band of hobbits on the beginning of their journey through Middle-earth to destroy an ancient and evil relic: the One Ring. Prodded by the wizard Gandalf, the hobbits first head to Rivendell and the Last Homely House of Elrond, where the fate of the Ring is to be determined. There, the Fellowship of Nine forms to guide, guard and protect Frodo on his way, eventually breaking up when dissension and adversaries overcome the band, splintering it.
In this class, students read carefully through The Fellowship of the Ring and discussed Tolkien’s elaborate framing of the story while looking at the growth and development of the story from its first chapter through the increased seriousness and darkness of the story that follows. Dr. Olsen looks at the characters and peoples whose stories Tolkien tells along the way, such as Aragorn, Gandalf, the fading of the High Elves, and the fall of the dwarves of Moria. Throughout our discussion, carefully attention is given the development of the Ring itself and Frodo’s own changing relationship with it, culminating in his moment of crisis on Amon Hen.
The One Class That Started It All
Originally offered in over a three-week period from July 9 – July 25, 2012, with two sessions per week, this Fellowship of the Rings class was the inaugural course of the Mythgard Academy (then known as the Mythgard Summer Academy). It was launched as a parallel to the Master of Arts classes being offered at the time in an effort to bring intensive, non-credit-bearing literature courses to students of all ages (at least, anyone old enough to read the book). Students had the option of enrolling in one of two tiers: either as an auditor or as part of a writing tutorial program that focused on helping students engage with the material at a deeper level by working through their ideas on paper.
When the Mythgard Academy grew into a free program that is supported and guided by generous donors, the decision was made to make the lectures of this early summer camp available to all, and then start the newer incarnation of the Academy with the second volume of The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers. Therefore, those who are only familiar with the current format of Mythgard Academy classes might find some of the references in this early paid class inscrutable. While the audience may have been smaller, though, the content of the lectures is similar to that of the free discussions.
Another thing that may shock and confuse those who have participated in later Mythgard Academy seminars is the length – or rather, the lack of it. How can the Tolkien Professor spend only six sessions on this book? is the inevitable question those who are familiar with Dr. Olsen’s loquaciousness must ask. The explanation, of course, is that the length of this paid course was set ahead of time, and the good professor did not have the option of expanding it to suit the course of the discussion as he did with later seminars. For those who find this brevity disconcerting and who wish to join a much more in-depth discussion about both Fellowship and the other volumes of The Lord of the Rings, have no fear: Check out Mythgard Institute’s Exploring the Lord of the Rings program, a weekly discussion that does exactly that.
Schedule for The Fellowship of the Ring
The Fellowship of the Ring seminar originally took place over a three-week period from July 10 – July 25, 2012, with two sessions per week.
Week 1: Hobbit Values
Read: Book I, Chapters I – III
Date: July 10, 2012
Week 2: Beyond Boundaries
Read: Book I, Chapters IV – VIII
Date: July 12, 2012
Week 3: Light and Shadow
Read: Book I, Chapters IX – XII
Date: July 17, 2012
Week 4: Enchantment
Read: Book II, Chapters I – III
Date: July 19, 2012
Week 5: Over Hill and Under
Read: Book II, Chapters IV – VI
Date: July 24, 2012
Week 6: The Dreamflower
Read: Book II, Chapters VII – X
Date: July 25, 2012
Artwork for The Fellowship of the Ring
Artwork for The Fellowship of the Ring seminar has been adapted from “Green Hill Morning” by Ted Nasmith. Used with permission.