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Tolkien Society Seminar 2023 – The Mighty and Frail Númenor
2 July 2023
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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 held three seminars in 2021 (Twenty-first Century Receptions of Tolkien, Tolkien and Diversity, and Translating and Illustrating Tolkien) and their online setting has seen increased interest with over 700 attendees from 52 countries at ‘Tolkien and Diversity’. After the seminar, all paper recordings from the seminars are uploaded onto the Tolkien Society’s YouTube channel. We are delighted to run hybrid seminars where delegates can enjoy discussions on Tolkien in person and online.

The Mighty and Frail Númenor

 Sunday 2nd July (Hybrid event) The Hilton, Leeds (Free)

‘The Númenóreans attempted to take the Undying Land by force of a great armada in their lust for corporal immortality – which necessitated a catastrophic change in the shape of Earth.”

‘The “’Downfall of Númenor’ which lies immediately behind The Lord of the Rings, is based on my view: that Men are essentially mortal and must not try to become ‘immortal’ in the flesh.” – Letter 153, Peter Hastings

The seminar aims to examine the role that Númenor plays in Tolkien’s legendarium. Although the island was pivotal to the secondary world narrative of the Second Age, it also re-emerged consistently in Tolkien’s writing and thinking from The Lost Road (1936-37), through The Lord of the Rings (1954-55) and The Notion Club Papers (1945), to ‘Aldarion and Erendis: The Mariner’s Wife’ (1965) and other late essays. Númenor, then, is central to the growth of Tolkien’s legendarium and is a catalyst for seismic change in Arda.

Although Tolkien consistently refers to Númenor as the greatest human kingdom, its overwhelming military splendour and grand civilisation mask its frailty, which only grows over time. As is seen with the fractions of the King’s Men and the Faithful, Númenor’s fall may have been inevitable from its conception. However, its legacy in the Black Númenóeans and the kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor evince that its legacy is still somewhat alive after its downfall.

Papers may consider, but are not limited to:

  • Númenor’s historical significance
  • Species, race, and hierarchy
  • Gender
  • Hubris, hamartia, corruption, and manipulation
  • Political tension (internal and/or external to the island)
  • Death and the lust for corporeal immortality
  • Colonialism and post-colonialism
  • Adaptations of Númenor
  • Legacy and posterity in Middle-earth
  • The metaphysics of time and age

The Tolkien Society invites abstract submissions of no more than 300 words, for a 20-minute paper and 5 minutes of questions. The call for papers’ deadline is midnight Friday 13th January 2023.

Submit an abstract

To submit an abstract for the seminar, please click here. The seminar welcomes papers presented in person and online.