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Call for Papers: Tolkien Society Autumn Seminar – “Translating and Illustrating Tolkien”

We are now calling for papers for the Tolkien Society Autumn Seminar, on the theme of Translating and Illustrating Tolkien, which will be held online on Saturday 6th November 2021. The deadline is Friday 3rd September.

The translation of The Lord of the Rings will prove a formidable task, and I do not see how it can be performed satisfactorily without the assistance of the author. That assistance I am prepared to give, promptly, if I am consulted.” – J.R.R. Tolkien in Letter 188 to Allen & Unwin

If a story says ‘he climbed a hill and saw a river in the valley below,’ the illustrator may catch, or nearly catch, his own vision of such a scene; but every hearer of the words will have his own picture, and it will be made out of all the hills and rivers and dales he has ever seen” – J.R.R. Tolkien in ‘On Fairy-stories’

Tolkien’s appeal has led to his fiction and non-fiction being translated into over fifty languages. The art of translation is immensely complex and when discussing the Dutch translation of The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien himself saw the task as “formidable”, offering his own supportive intervention to achieve a satisfactory result. The author’s invented names and languages prompt the question of how the translator should approach Tolkien’s immense mythology. Recent scholarship has emphasised the need for a wider range of Tolkien’s work to be translated in order for readers to gain a fuller understanding of Arda and the author’s development. But with a wealth of translated texts existing already, this seminar hopes to spark new interpretations about old texts and for unacknowledged translations to be brought to light and examined.

An illustrator of his own work, Tolkien had a keen eye for the visual representation of a text. He admired the work of illustrators such as Pauline Baynes, Cor Blok and Ingahild Grathmer (the Queen of Denmark) and others who illustrated the original English and translated versions of his texts. The manner in which illustrators have engaged with Tolkien’s stories varies dramatically and can often be influenced by culturally specific ideas. This seminar hopes to re-examine renowned illustrations of Tolkien’s work while calling for new or overshadowed illustrations to be discussed.

Papers may consider, but are not limited to the following:

  • Translations/illustrations of Tolkien’s fiction/non-fiction
  • The role of the translator/illustrator
  • Translations/illustrations and their context
  • Translations’/illustrations’ reception

The Tolkien Society invites abstract submissions of no more than 300 words, for a 20-minute paper with 5 minutes of questions. The call for papers’ deadline is the end of the day. Submissions can be made here. The deadline for the call for papers is end of day, Friday 3rd September.

About the Seminar

The Tolkien Society Seminar is a short conference of both researcher-led and non-academic presentations on a specific theme pertaining to Tolkien scholarship. The Society has so far held two seminars in 2021 (Twenty-first Century Receptions of Tolkien, and Tolkien and Diversity) and their online setting has seen increased interest with over 700 attendees from 52 countries at ‘Tolkien and Diversity’. We are delighted to be running 2021’s third and final seminar which will be held online and will be free for all.

About the Author: Will Sherwood
Will is the Education Secretary for the Tolkien Society. A secondary school teacher of English and Music in Kent, Will is passionate about building relationships between the Society and educational institutes across the globe. He welcomes communications from schools and educational charities that are looking to engage with Tolkien's life and works and can be contacted at education@tolkiensociety.org