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Profs and Pints DC presents: “Tolkien’s Untold Tales,” a look at hidden stories underlying The Lord of the Rings, with Peter Grybauskas, senior lecturer in English at the University of Maryland, teacher of courses on J.R.R. Tolkien, and author of A Sense of Tales Untold: Exploring the Edges of Tolkien’s Literary Canvas.
Today J.R.R. Tolkien is commonly remembered for kickstarting the modern fantasy genre and for being a great “world-builder” willing and able to describe in painstaking detail every nook and cranny of his invention, Middle Earth. Yet in 1945, about midway through the long labors that would finally produce The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien described confronting a surprising “fundamental literary dilemma” related to the undertaking. “A story must be told or there’ll be no story, yet it is the untold stories that are most moving,” he wrote in a letter to his son Christopher.
Come learn about Tolkien’s use of “untold tales”—stories that are simply implied or referenced—and their role in driving the plot of Lord of the Rings along like a brave hobbit hellbent on reaching Mordor’s Mount Doom. Tracking the adventures of a few beloved and infamous characters like Gandalf and Gollum, Professor Grybauskas will discuss the surprisingly important role played by “untold tales” in Tolkien’s fantasy masterpiece.
The talk will shed light on how Tolkien saw his literary dilemma of the untold story reflected in the medieval literature that he studied as a professor at Oxford University. You’ll gain an appreciation of how Tolkien showed great restraint in his writing—brilliantly choosing when not to wield his pen—and how his untold stories contribute mightily to the enduring appeal of his imaginary world.
Along with being the author of A Sense of Tales Untold and teaching courses on Tolkien at the University of Maryland and in the United Kingdom, Professor Grybauskas is the editor of a new volume of Tolkien’s scholarship and poetry, The Battle of Maldon. His talk will thrill fans of Tolkien and offer important lessons to writers looking to sharpen their narrative approach. (Advance tickets: $13.50 plus sales tax and processing fees. Doors: $17, or $15 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later.)
Image: Ring by Peter J. Yost (Wikimedia Commons). Map of Middle Earth from Pixabay.