If you’re a Lord of the Rings fan and have three minutes to spare, please spare them to contribute to an oral history of Tolkien fandom! Building on Marquette University’s extensive J.R.R. Tolkien Collection, which includes original Tolkien documents and manuscripts, Marquette’s Department of Special Collections has created the J.R.R. Tolkien Fandom Oral History Collection. For the Collection, Raynor Memorial Libraries archivist William Fliss is collecting audio recordings of fans sharing their first experiences with Tolkien’s works, why they are a fan and what Tolkien has meant to them—answering Fliss’s questions in only three minutes.
Fliss’s goal is to reach six thousand audio interviews, one for each of the Riders of Rohan that Théoden mustered and led to the aid of Gondor in The Return of the King. (Impressive, when there were so many smaller relevant numbers Fliss could have picked: 19 testimonies, one for each Ring; 1601 testimonies, for the year the Shire was first settled by hobbits; 3 testimonies, for each hour in the first Hobbit movie.)
Currently, there are nearly five hundred interviews posted on the Oral History Collection site, where fans speak about their relationship to Tolkien’s books and the fan community. Tolkien’s work has helped fans through brain tumor surgery and depression (interview #216); lonely childhoods (interview #175); and questioning their faith (interview #76). Even in its partial form, the collection is an interesting survey of fandom, as well as the powerful function of literature, which so often grows nebulous when we try to sum it up in generalities. Plus, it’s nice for Tolkien appreciation to be documented and saved. Deeds may not be less valiant because they are unpraised . . . but it’s still nice to praise when we can.
If you’re a Ringer and inclined to submit, you can schedule a recording session (either at Marquette or via Zoom) through the Raynor Memorial Libraries website.