Marquette University Is Looking for Oral Histories From J.R.R. Tolkien Fans

J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings have been enormously influential for millions of fans around the world for decades. Marquette University, home to the J.R.R. Tolkien archives, is looking to build a catalog of oral histories about the late author’s influence from fans of his work.

Archivist William Fliss launched the J.R.R. Tolkien Fandom Oral History Collection (h/t to LitHub for spotting it), with the goal of collecting 6000 interviews (one for each of the Riders of Rohan) from fans about how they first encountered Tolkien’s works, and what his stories means to fans. The overall goal of the project is to document the state of Tolkien fandom, from casual fans to academics. And if you’re a Tolkien fan, you can contribute!

Fans who sign up for an interview appointment will be asked three questions, and will have three minutes to answer them:

  • When did you first encounter the works of J. R. R. Tolkien?
  • Why are you a Tolkien fan?
  • What has he meant to you?

Already, Fliss has collected nearly 500 interviews dating back to 2017, all of which you can listen to on the university’s site, and they make for some interesting listening: individual stories from folks of all ages and locations about how they encountered Tolkien’s stories, and what they meant to them.

The effort looks to be a fascinating and important initiative, one that will provide researchers, writers, and fans with some extremely detailed accounts of the participants’ fandom and passion for Middle-earth. Given the enduring popularity of Tolkien’s books, its associated adaptations, spinoffs, and influenced works, it’s a topic that will certainly merit study well down the road.


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