VALPARAISO | Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien who need something to hold them over until the release of the second installment of "The Hobbit" movie can spend the weekend of March 1-3 in Middle Earth courtesy of Valparaiso University.
Brad Eden, VU dean of library services, is organizing a scholarly conference, "On Tolkien and His Works," with presentations, exhibits and musical performances as well as a dinner featuring dishes derived from the Tolkien books, such as mushrooms ala Gandalf, Mrs. Maggot's cottage pie and Mirkwood cookies.
"With so many significant Tolkien milestones, this is the most opportune time to bring together some of the most esteemed Tolkien scholars from across the world," Eden said.
In addition to the release of the first of "The Hobbit" movies, 2012 was the 75th anniversary of the release of the book, and it's the 25th anniversary of the first performance of Johan De Meij's Symphony No. 1 "The Lord of the Rings." The composer will be at the conference to conduct the VU Chamber Concert Band and the Windiana Concert Band in a performance of the symphony.
Eden said there are 50 to 100 Tolkien scholars in the world, many of whom have been meeting for the past 10 years at the International Medieval Congress at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. Eden is one of those scholars and is editor of "Middle Earth Minstrel: Essays on Music in Tolkien."
Douglas Anderson, of Chesterton, another Tolkien scholar, is the author of a book on annotating and illustrating "The Hobbit." He will be one of the speakers at the conference. Other sessions will look at "Same sex rescues in Middle Earth," "Bilbo's French Connection," "The Hobbit and Father Christmas" and "Beorn and Tom Bombadil: Mythology, Narrative and The Most (Non)Essential Characters in Middle Earth."
The conference is designed to attract the scholars while appealing to the Tolkien fan as well. In preparation for the conference, an exhibit of Tolkieniana is on display through March at the Brauer Museum at VU, featuring work by several artists and letters signed by Tolkien and members of his family.
The deadline to register for the conference is Feb. 26. Cost to attend the full three-day event is $200 per person. To attend just the Hobbit-themed dinner, tickets are $35, and tickets to the performance of de Meij's symphony are $15. To register, visit the conference website http://conference.valpo.edu/tolkien/registration.
For more information, contact Eden at firstname.lastname@example.org.