Death and Immortality in Middle-earth: Proceedings of The Tolkien Society Seminar 2016 will be out on the 1st of December 2017 and is now available for pre-order.
J.R.R. Tolkien deplored allegory and rejected any suggestion that The Lord of the Rings has an inner meaning or message. In reading back the tale, however, he became aware of a dominant motif:
‘The real theme for me is […] Death and Immortality: the mystery of the love of the world in the hearts of a race “doomed” to leave and seemingly lose it; the anguish in the hearts of a race “doomed” not to leave it, until its whole evil-aroused story is complete’ (Letters, p. 246).
Despite the lucidity of this statement, the theme of death and immortality has been left relatively unexplored in Tolkien studies. In recognition of this, and to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, The Tolkien Society called for presentations on this important topic for its seminar in Leeds on 2 July 2016. Published under the auspices of the Society’s Peter Roe Memorial Fund, this book features a collection of twelve papers delivered on the day by aspiring and established Tolkien scholars alike.
Who was Peter Roe?
In 1979, a young and very talented person joined the Tolkien Society shortly after his sixteenth birthday. He had discovered Middle-earth some time earlier, and was so inspired by it that he even developed his own system of runes, similar to the Dwarvish Angerthas, but which utilised logical sound values, matching the logical shapes of the runes.
Peter was also an accomplished cartographer, and his bedroom was covered with multi-coloured maps of the journeys of the Fellowship, plans of Middle-earth, and other drawings. As if this was not enough, Peter was also a creative writer in both poetry and prose – the subject being incorporated into his own Dwarvish Chronicles.
He was so enthusiastic about having joined the Society that he had written a letter ordering all the available back issues, and was on his way to buy envelopes when he was hit by a speeding lorry outside his home and died instantly.
Some time later, Jonathan and Lester Simons (at that time Chairman and Membership Secretary respectively) visited Peter’s parents to see his room and to look at the work on which he had spent so much care and attention in such a tragically short life. It was obvious that Peter had produced, and would have continued to produce, material of such a high standard as to make a complete booklet, with poetry, calligraphy, stories and cartography. (Dwarvish Fragments, an unfinished tale by Peter, was published in Mallorn 15.)
With the consent of his parents, the then Committee set up a special account in honour of Peter which would be the source of finance for the Society’s special publications. This is a series of booklets published at irregular intervals by the Tolkien Society, funded by the Peter Roe Memorial Fund. They seek to forward Tolkien studies in all areas.