We may only be able to go to J. R. R. Tolkien’s Shire in our imagination with the help of his books and Peter Jackson’s movies, but at the UNM Honors College Forum, club members meet to do the second best thing: dive as deep as possible into Tolkien’s world.
The club is called UNM Hobbit Society and is run by Tessa Snyder, the club’s president, and Sarah Collins, the vice president.
“We try to bring in all different kinds of literature and popular culture and talk about how maybe it was influenced by Tolkien and his work,” Collins said. “He was considered by a lot of people to be the first of his kind, and everything kind of stems from that. So not only do we talk about the movies and the books and his life and everything, but we also to bring in a lot of different topics.”
Collins said that the club brings in guest speakers and presenters, like the Order of the Wolf, a fellow UNM club.
“We were having a discussion about weaponry in Tolkien,” Collins said. “(The guest speakers) brought in their own perspective about actually using stuff like swords, and although they didn’t necessarily connect it to Tolkien directly, it was very interesting.”
The club offers opportunities for students to present as well. They have an upcoming event called “Intellectual Hooliganism Colloquium” on April 19.
”We have students prepare a presentation about something that has to do with basically anything, whether it’s sci-fi, fantasy or anything, and they connect that to something they’re interested in and present on it,” Collins said.
Additionally, Collins said that the event usually features a local author who comes to talk about what they do and how to get into writing.
Presentations like these and other guest speakers are beneficial for students because they allow them to make a lot of connections, Collins said.
For example, in February, four speakers from the Southwest Popular Culture Convention in Albuquerque visited the Hobbit Society and held a discussion panel.
“It was really interesting because these are people that do Tolkien analysis as their actual jobs,” Collins said. “They came and spoke with us about what they do, how you get into it and things of that nature, so it was pretty interesting.”
The club also provides some funds to help students go to the Mythopoeia Convention, which is based on Tolkien and includes all types of mythology and literature, Collins said.
When they aren’t going to conventions or listening to guest speakers, members of the Hobbit Society hold discussions on various topics.
“We usually have a topic lined up that we want to discuss, so we usually sit around in a circle and someone brings up a topic. Then someone else says what they feel about that and then we each go off of each other,” Collins said.
Collins said the monthly meetings are open to all, and that students should feel free to check them out. They are held in the Honors College Forum and everything is free, aside from their $10 T-shirts.
The shirts feature a Zia sign and a ring of text in the elf language invented by Tolkien called “Tengwar,” seen on the One Ring, that translates to “My heart lies in Middle Earth.”
Though many of the members are Tolkien fans, Collins said that the club is not exclusive to Tolkien.
“I suppose if someone didn’t like fantasy or that type of thing they might feel out of their depth because people are mentioning episodes of Doctor Who. If you’ve never seen that, you might feel a little out of place,” Collins said. “But then again, there’s something to be said about having that perspective of not knowing everything. That can also bring in something new.”
Collins said the club’s environment is very open-minded.
“You can bring in whatever opinions. It’s just about good discussion and good people,” Collins said.
The next meeting will be the Intellectual Hooliganism Colloquium event on April 19 at 6:30 p.m. in the Honors College Forum.
Ariel Lutnesky is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Ariellutnesky.