The End…

And that’s it! Lynn‘s wonderful back cover art above closes the 25th Anniversary issue of Miruvor. We had some truly wonderful submissions, which successfully made the issue truly a memorable one.

Now, to look forward! I’ll continue blog-posting now and again; I have a few bits that didn’t quite make it into the issue for reasons of space. However our main task must be to look forward to the next print issue! I’m now officially accepting submissions for the Hilary 2016 issue, which I hope can be printed over the Christmas vacation to reach you at the start of term. Remember that you don’t necessarily have to be a member of the Society to contribute, and your subject need only be tangentially related to Tolkien. So get writing!

Your Editor,

Amrit Sidhu-Brar

(more of Lynn’s artwork is at http://ailinie.deviantart.com/)

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Terry Pratchett – Obituary

Claire Wilkinson, previous Editor of Miruvor, closes off the Anniversary issue with a heartfelt remembrance of the master of fantasy of our lifetimes, Sir Terry Pratchett. At times, our Society can seem like the Oxford Tolkien and Pratchett Society, and with good reason, so it is appropriate that he be remembered in Miruvor. Our thanks to Claire.

There have been any number of obituaries and articles in memory of Terry Pratchett in the week since his death, and by the time this is printed I’m sure there will be many more. This is going to be one article among many, because there are so many people whom he and his writing have touched over the years, and I know I’m far from alone in finding him one of the most influential people in my life, despite the fact that I never met him.

I first discovered Discworld just before my first reading of the Lord of the Rings (my mother appears to have thought ‘comic fantasy’ meant ‘more suitable for children than LotR’, a notion I think she was disabused of around the point I asked her what ‘bugger’ meant), and both Pratchett and Tolkien were authors I latched onto hard and fast, their books taking on more or less the quality of religious texts. But where Tolkien gave me my mythology, Pratchett gave me my philosophy.

He wrote satire that cut straight to the truth of things as he understood them, humorous fantasy that homed in on serious ideas and dragged them out into the light. His stories were funny and engaging, and deeply, deeply moral without being moralistic. There are so many layers to every Pratchett novel – a story that’s easy to read, a swift fun (and funny) rollercoaster of a story, but they aren’t simple stories. Every time you come back to them there’s something new – a pun you didn’t catch, a reference you didn’t get last time. And the unexpected, sudden truths, ideas, the things that hit you with a sudden serious “Oh. Yes. That.”, the things that make you think about something in a way you’d never seen before, the moments of startling and unexpected clarity.

Pratchett is eminently quotable, both because he says things that are funny, and because he says things that are devastatingly, concisely, right – he had an amazing gift for cutting straight to the heart of an issue and dragging it out (still warm and beating) in a few well-chosen sentences.

Neil Gaiman wrote an excellent piece on Terry Pratchett’s anger and his sense of fairness, and how they fuelled his writing. Those come through clearly in his stories, and especially in those moments of sharp and devastating insight – look, for instance, at Sam Vimes and his ‘Boots’ Theory of Socioeconomic Unfairness, or Granny Weatherwax’s diatribe to Mightily Oats on treating people as things. That latter, though, is also a prime demonstration of the other major facet of Pratchett’s philosophy, as it shone through in his work: caring. People are always people, always worth considering, always individuals. Sometimes that’s something that’s discussed directly by the characters, as by Granny there, or by Death in Reaper Man, for whom every strand of corn in the harvest is worthy of individual attention (because what can the harvest hope for, if not for the care of the reaper man?). Sometimes it’s in the way his stories will often focus on neglected character archetypes, flesh out what might otherwise be dismissed as figures in the background.

Pratchett always cared – about people, but not only about people, about everything. He wrote about, he referenced, he sent up everything under the sun: history, current affairs, classics, society, genre fiction, literature, folklore, religion – he writes like someone fascinated by everything. It’s why his books are such treasure-troves, why it’s possible to come back to them over and over again and find something new every time, grow up with them and have them feel as if they’re growing with you, because so many references, so many jokes, so many obscure tidbits, are packed in there. Very little was sacred to him, but everything seemed to be worth his time and attention.

He was angry, he was wise, he was witty and he was profoundly compassionate. And those things combined so, so powerfully well, so that he wrote about worlds where life was hard and unjust and people were cruel and stupid and wrong, but also where people were honest and loyal and brave, and tried their damnedest to do what was right and what was necessary (and those people were often the same people as the first lot), where things might be unfair and hard and messy and even perhaps ultimately meaningless, but there was always also beauty and hope and possibility there too. If not the possibility to fix things, to make things right, the possibility to go on afterwards.

And there was a good side to everything – we’re talking about a man managed to make Death one of his most beloved characters. And not by trivializing death, by downplaying it or by divorcing the anthropomorphic personification from the concept he personified, but by integrating them. Through the character of Death, as well as through the portrayal of death (with a small ‘d’) in his books, there is an understanding and acceptance of death as a part of the world – something that has taken on a great significance in relation to Terry Pratchett himself in the last few years, with his diagnosis and his activism around Alzheimer’s and assisted dying.

The first thing I did when I heard Pratchett had died (okay, the second thing, the first thing was to sit down at the kitchen table and cry) was to go out and buy a new copy of Reaper Man to reread. It felt like the natural thing to do, and the only way I could think of to wrap my head around what had just happened, to make it make sense.

Because that is the essence of what Terry Pratchett did for me, and not only for me. He gave me – and many other people – the words and the stories to understand the world, and to face the world. He knew the power stories have, the truths and the lies we tell ourselves and each other, and he wielded that power as a master.

Hymn to Manwë

Anahita Hoose, Treasurer 2013-14 & 2015-present, Miruvor Editor 2011-12, and Society Hero, praises the highest of the Valar.

Lord of Arda, lord of light,
Manwë sits on Everwhite
Till unforgiving darkness fall
Where the brightest shine of all
The silver-lucent fire-flowers
Sown in ancient dawning hours,
When youth was in his shining face,
Greatest, eldest of his race.
Lord of Arda, lord of light,
Manwë sits on Everwhite.

The Society Quotes Book

Your Editor contributes a selection of quotes from the Society’s last couple of years for your amusement.

Taruithorn is something of a stewing pot for utterances of the hilarious, whimsical or just plain odd kinds. In Michaelmas 2013, having become vaguely aware of the selection of amusing quotes from years gone by in our archived website and disappointed in the lack of any such repository for the current epoch of the Society, I instituted a Society Quotes Book. Recently I discovered while digging in the Archive that a similar item existed at some point in the Society’s history – although I was unable to track down the book itself. The present Quotes Book currently standing at eleven used pages, I include a selection of its more ridiculous offerings below:

  • Joe: “Is that Silmaril in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?”
  • Eleanor: “Odysseus – just bad at reading maps?”
  • Caretaker [coming to lock up Community Centre after 2014 Banquet]: “I just saw a taxi leaving with a dragon in the back.”
  • Eleanor [during a particularly competitive game of Lord of the Rings Risk]: “Elen síla lúmenn’ omentielvo, bitches.”
  • Agata: “Elves make very good projectile weapons.”
  • Claire: “No! The Valar don’t give a sh*t if we believe in mammoths.”
  • Hebe: “The Quotes Book contains Amrit saying ‘That’s a very attractive orc.’ ”
  • Amrit: “I wasn’t talking about you!”
  • Amrit: “ ‘An Unexpected Journey’ does somewhat redeem itself by showing us dwarven underwear.”
  • Joe: “Sexy, sexy Maedhros”
  • Eleanor: “I never said that. Also, I was drunk when I said that.”
  • Amrit: “Those Orcs are very attractive.”
  • Katherine: “You just don’t like Legolas.”
  • Eleanor: “No, I just don’t like Legolas’s eyebrows.”
  • Eleanor: “The Battle of Four Armies and One Small But Strategically Placed Air Force”
  • Claire: “Children are not pieces of wood.”
  • Martha: “Amrit, you’re clearly a very camp Legolas.”
  • Eleanor: “You know when Morgoth was going around doing the BOOM DA BOOM DA BOOM thing in the Music of the Ainur.”
  • Joe: “I never pictured Boromir raising his eyebrows at me suggestively”
  • Joe: “The Sun is basically a replacement of a replacement of an illumination solution.”
  • Amrit: “Yes, whenever we have a serious speaker meeting a few of [the C.S. Lewis Society] usually turn up.”
  • Edmund Weiner (speaker): “Well, I’m glad to hear I’m not a serious speaker!”
  • Trial of Denethor, 5th Week Michaelmas 2013
  • Judge: “While it is abuse, it may not be child abuse.”
  • Éowyn: “And why not, in a country where people routinely live over a hundred years?.”
  • Pippin: “I was forced to sing while men died around me”
  • Prosecutor: “Very traumatic indeed”
  • Judge: “Especially for the dying men”
  • Prosecutor: “So how dind Denethor appear at the time?”
  • Judge: “Warm, perhaps?.”
  • Prosecutor:Before he was set on fire.”
  • Filming “Looking for the Hobbit”, -1st Week Hilary 2014
  • Director: “So now, Joseph, Hitler!”
  • Producer: “C’est toujours Amrit!”
  • Sound engineer: “Anahita, you battery is running down.”
  • Director: “Joseph, I like the way you turn your spoon.”
  • Waiter: “No dairy?… are you vegetarian as well… and you’re vegan? I’ll go get you Rick.”
  • Rick: “Where’s the vegan?”
  • Trial for the Scouring of the Shire, 4th Week Michaelmas 2014
  • “We sentence the Rangers to be placed on a small bit of Middle-Earth with Lobelia Sackville-Baggins and moved beyond the circles of the world for all eternity.”
  • “A fate worse than death.”

What has Taruithorn ever done for us?

Alex Norrish, President 1998-99 and Miruvor Editor 1997-8, as well as Society Maia, muses on our Society’s spirit.

My introduction to Tolkien came at the tender age of seven, when my parents were confronted with the horror of an 18 hour flight, and a Heathrow bookshop that had no children’s section. Fortunately for all concerned, a frantic hunt of the shelves unearthed a copy of The Hobbit. And that was that. When we landed in Brunei, while my parents were concerned with minor issues like starting a new life in South East Asia, my one and only question was where we could find an bookshop that would sell The Lord of the Rings.

For many years, however, reading Tolkien was a largely solitary pleasure. Middle Earth was my lifeline through seven unenjoyable years at boarding school; however grim an English boarding house might be in February, you could always take your mind away to Lórien, or Ithilien, or Rivendell. And even Shelob was better company than my violin teacher. But while I knew a few other people who had read Tolkien, I didn’t know anyone else who could recite The Ballad of Beren and Lúthien in its entirety, or was on their second set of the paperbacks because the first set had fallen apart through over-reading, or who got through the worst moments of Oxford entrance by thinking that in the end the Shadow was but a small and passing thing; there was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach.

The only person I knew of who shared my love of Tolkien was Anna Bowles – in the year above me, and therefore entirely out of bounds in the strict hierarchies of a girl’s boarding school. But both being Oxbridge candidates in English gave a tiny amount of latitude, so I think we managed to have about three conversations over the course of two years; and I knew that, when Anna duly went up to St John’s to read English a year ahead of me, she had become editor of the mysterious publication Miruvor.

And so in due course I pitched up at Freshers’ Fair in 1995, utterly terrified, holding on to Anna’s welcome-to-Oxford note and the knowledge that somehow, somewhere in this crowd of people there must be some kindred spirits.  But Taruithorn was in the last room of the whole Fair, and by that point I was starting to feel hunted: there are only so many student societies touting for your custom you can take. And then I came into the last hall, and amidst the whole terrifying confusion of OUSU, and OU, and OUDS, and the Oxford Tiddlywinks Society, I saw that someone had hung the banner of the Tree and the Stars.

And that was it. I met Anke and Ian and Matthew that day; and a few days later, a whole cluster of new members and Olden Folks who would become my closest friends at Oxford. Taruithorn went far beyond a mere literary society: it was a glorious group of people who taught me an enormous amount about how to have fun for the sake of it; how to put time and effort and creativity and delight into something which was completely mad and frivolous, but wonderful at the same time. Whether it was writing and recording superb parodies like The Song of the White Tree, or solemnly thinking up Dwarvish dishes for a five-course banquet, or spending hours on creating a fabulous Smaug costume just because you could – Taruithorn was the home of so much talent, and glorious eccentricity.

And it wasn’t just creativity. Along with the tolerance of other people’s eccentricities went an enormous amount of warmth and kindness. I will never forget Sunday evenings at 18 Howard Street, Anke and Ian’s place, where Anke had dressed the vacuum cleaner in a Vorlon costume and we spent months watching our way through Babylon 5, eating a different chocolate dessert between each episode. Or the stress-filled hours before various banquets, where the committee took it in turns to support each other through nervous breakdowns as the meringues refused to whisk; and then washing up afterwards in a haze of exhaustion and goodwill. Or Anna’s suggestion that we post a guard over the Fireworks Night bonfire to prevent people from widdling on the potatoes, which became an instant catchphrase: Sarah Mackie’s performance of Don’t Widdle On The Potatoes, to the tune of Don’t Cry For Me Argentina, made it onto the Taruithorn CD and remains a classic of the genre.

Most of the other people I knew thought that Taruithorn was mad. Actually, now that I am an Olden Folk and spend my days with the kinds of people who focused their time at Oxford on becoming President of the Union, I would say that Taruithornians as a whole were outstandingly sane. So it is fantastic to see the society still going strong – congratulations to everyone who has kept the spirit of Taruithorn alive! Mae govannen!

Five-minute “fic recs”

Eleanor Simmons, Society Lembas Rep (as well as Secretary 2009-10 and Publicity Officer 2013-15, and Society Hero), gives us her evaluations of a collection of Tolkien fanfics.

I’ve recently been on a bit of a nostalgia trip, re-reading the Tolkien fanfic I immersed myself in through my teens. Some of it was even as good as I remembered. Below, a small round-up of some of the best. Or silliest.

 

The Last Elf Standing, by Suzene Campos

Link: http://tinyurl.com/lastelf

Category: Third Age, Humour; 2767 words

The increasingly vitriolic correspondence of Thranduil and Elrond through the Third Age. It is sad when two elves of noble standing and ancient lineage are reduced to desperately trying to troll one another – but it is also extremely funny.

 

King of Mirkwood,

          Though I had to scrub my eyeballs with lye to get rid of the images you planted in my brain, I want you to know that I bear you no ill will. To prove how high I hold you in my esteem, I have sent your son off on a very important mission.
To Mount Doom. With a Dwarf.

          Sleep well.

          Yours truly,

          Lord Elrond of Imladris

 

In Brethil’s Shade, by Philosopher at Large

                   Linkhttp://tinyurl.com/brethil

                   Category: Silmarillion/ Drama; 10857 words

The forging of the House of Haleth, and her infamous message to Thingol from the perspective of the one elf who runs through the Silmarillion doing his best to understand all the peoples he comes across. A lovely, nuanced look at cross-cultural negotiations – what I particularly like about this is the  depiction of a “primitive” culture from the perspective of a “civilised” one that manages to be both respectful and insightful. To say nothing of the gorgeous characterisation and character-voices of Haleth and Finrod Felagund.

“Behind and around her primitive high seat stand boys with axes, in armor of leather pieces stitched together – No, he corrects himself, only one is a boy, and he her kin: the rest young women, hair cropped as short as their chieftain’s, faces masklike and mysterious in the fire-circle’s cast light. Yet even after all these meetings and the report of her scattered folk throughout his dominion – and of his own sense – he still finds it strange to think of this girl-guard, though they do not seem to think it so. Their language is not fully clear to him yet, and he is not sure if they simply do not make the distinction, or if the usage is deliberate, but he believes they call her ‘sir’ and whether it be as strange to their ways as to his own, it is not done in irony.

 

 

A Game of Chess, by Altariel

Link: http://tinyurl.com/faramir-eowyn-chess

Category: Fourth Age, Romance/Angst; 77000 words

A really excellent ‘what happened next’. This is essentially a romance novel, following Eowyn and Faramir’s developing relationship after their marriage, as they deal with  past trauma, culture shock and misunderstandings, and learn to live with each other as partners. It’s told in alternating first-person chapters, which remain believable and consistent of voice

Light and frothy, it ain’t – Eowyn and Faramir have serious, almost relationship-ending disagreements and personal struggles to work through, and they spend much of the ‘novel’ doing their best but completely unable to understand the other’s point of view. They  work hard to earn their eventual happy ending – and the story is all the more rewarding for it.

For, despite all the time he had spent in Edoras, and for all his otherwise great gift with speech, he still failed to speak my language like one born to it. […]  For he spoke it like the scholar that he was. His diction was more perfect even than my brother the king’s. But it was not a language to learn through books; it was a language to be lived and spoken and sung. And although he had improved greatly, he would always, I deemed, sound to anyone in the Mark like a man of Gondor speaking a little too precisely a tongue that was very much not his own. And this irked him greatly, partly on my account, and partly because it was the only language he had ever studied in which he had not achieved mastery; and, most modest of men he might be, I think this did offend his pride a little.

 

The Care and Feeding of Hobbits, by Baylor

Link: http://tinyurl.com/careofhobbits

Category: Third Age, Humour/Friendship; 20000 words

This one is simply very sweet – while the Fellowship are first travelling together and beginning to become friends, Boromir attempts  to understand the ways of Hobbits. This fic is essentially an excuse to see the Fellowship interacting with each other a lot, with lots of hobbit banter and people looking after one another and generally being cute. Boromir works particularly well as a point-of-view character, and it is very heartwarming to see his relationship with the hobbits develop.

 

“So Frodo is a Baggins from Balbo?” Gimli asks, and Merry gives him a look that borders on exasperation.
“Frodo is a Baggins from his father, Drogo, one of Balbo’s great-great-grandsons, but more importantly, he is a Brandybuck from his mother, Primula, one of Gorbadoc’s daughters and sister to Old Rory, my paternal grandfather,” he says in a rather affronted voice. “But heredity being as it is, you are right, Legolas, that Frodo ended up looking like a Took.”
“What is this?” Frodo demands, swinging down from one of the tree’s lower branches. “Are you slandering my family tree again, Merry?”
“I am doing nothing but raising you in the esteem of our companions by pointing out to them your Brandybuck line,” Merry answers, “and it is not my fault you came out looking and behaving like a Took instead of a proper Brandybuck, who would never be caught running along tree branches like a squirrel. And at your age, too.”

Evidence, by Camwyn.

Link: http://tinyurl.com/vimes-evidence

Category: Silmarillion/Discworld crossover, drama/humour,

6000 words.

When you have a notorious criminal on your hands – and specifically, a god of evil attempting to destroy the world – who better to call in than a very good policeman? Particularly, when there remains some dispute about the gemstones that set off the whole mess… Normally I’m not fond of crossovers blend such different writing styles, but here the mental image of Vimes trying to get to grips with Noldor logic is just too good to resist.

Vimes shrugged his shoulders. “Asked what the hell was going on, of course, but you lot are worse than Nobby Nobbs when it comes to explanations. All I knew for sure was, there was a war over and one man to be called on the carpet for it. Nobody told me he was a god, thank you very much.”