A report on the Gathering, 2006

What more could I desire ... three full days of speakers taking us beyond the surface and delving into the works of two brilliant, world-renowned, and well-loved authors, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Speakers such as Michael Drout, John Bowen, Alison Baird, Jef Murray, Ted Nasmith, Mike Foster, Colin Duriez, Colin Havard (no specific site for Mr. Havard) stimulated our minds and energized our spirits. The lectures, session, and panels were phenomenal, and some very interesting and dynamic discussions ensued at The Gathering, 2006, held in Toronto, Ontario at the beginning of July.

Tolkien and Lewis were this convention's focus, and I sat greatly attentive through each session that we attended—taking copious notes—as these scholars and artists presented their material brilliantly, humorously, and with much skill. Many thanks to them for sharing their wonderful knowledge and time with us.

Some especial highlights for us were:
*John Bowen's lecture was 'The Spiritual Worldview of The Lord of the Rings', although he brought in some powerful aspects of The Silmarillion as well. Another hour+ listening to him speak would still have left me wanting more. He's so interesting, dynamic, has a great presence about him, and is obviously very familiar with his subject matter. A great session!

*Art presentations by both Jef Murray and Ted Nasmith: Ted focused on Tolkien and, believe it or not, antique cars, for which he has a special fondness; Jef focused on Tolkien and Lewis. Such talent and inspiration have been given to both men! It was also special getting to know them by sharing a few meals along the way, along with good friends from The White Tree Fund.

*Colin Duriez' talk on 'Myth, Fact, and Incarnation': Duriez' thoughts are insightful, and he's a very interesting and thorough writer. I've read a couple of his books, and it was a joy to meet him in person. If you have any interest at all in the Inklings, I urge you to read Tolkien and Lewis: the Gift of Friendship. I do hope there are other times in the future when our paths cross.

*Michael Drout's lecture on 'Tolkien's Art, Tolkien's Scholarship' was buzzing with an abundance of information and humour. And am I correct in saying that no one in the room seems to recall Michael looking at his notes hardly at all?? Did he even have any notes?! Phenomenal mind! Of course, a highlight is his entrance into the lecture room, boomingly reciting Beowulf in Anglo Saxon. I'm sure I sat there with my mouth mostly ajar, as I did in 2003, fascinated by the vibrancy and mind of this man. Yet another person I could have listened to much longer than that one hour!

*M. Colin Havard was a son of one of the Inklings, Dr. Havard, Lewis' and Tolkien's personal physician. Mike Foster interviewed him, and wonderfully drew out the memories Colin has of his dad, Lewis, and Tolkien. This was enthralling to listen to! And I must mention this: I had the great opportunity, after Colin Duriez' aforementioned paper, to stand around casually with Foster, Havard, and Duriez just chatting more about Lewis and Tolkien. I will never forget that. After mentioning that I would love to visit 'Addison's Walk' at Oxford someday (where Tolkien, Lewis, and Hugo Dyson—another Inkling—had their famous myth/Christianity talk late one night), Mike Foster strongly encouraged me to do so. 'You will do it, and you will love it', said he. The advantages of sitting in on these type of lectures is that they often aren't packed with people, so it's a very intimate setting.

*Mike Foster presented a paper on George Sayer: Sayer was a tutored pupil of Lewis', as well as becoming a friend. He wrote an excellent biography on Lewis simply called Jack, which I highly recommend. Mike was kind enough to give me a copy of his paper afterwards, because I came in partway from a marvelous panel discussion in another room on 'The Moral Worldview in Lewis' and Tolkien's writings'. It was really tough having to decide between two different—but equally interesting—sessions held simultaneously in different rooms, both of which I was itching to sit in on. This happened a few times, and I simply was only able to get in half of each.

A couple of panels we went to were:
*'Why Tolkien': a number of the guests shared their thoughts as to why Tolkien has 'hit the mark' with so many people

*The above-mentioned 'Moral Worldview in Lewis' and Tolkien's writings': This was definitely the best panel, in my mind. Michael Coren hosted it, and the guests were Jef Murray, Alison Baird, and Colin Duriez. John Bowen was unfortunately unable to attend. He would have been a great addition. The discussion was so invigorating, the questions/comments from the floor insightful, and atmosphere in the room seemed electric. Such great thoughts for the immoral/amoral day in which we live. The thoughts expressed in this panel were filled with such hope as to build our lives on.

As I re-read my notes, I continue to marvel at what these two brilliant minds—Lewis and Tolkien—gave to us to value and treasure through their writings. I've come to the conclusion that the depth and insights of their work was a divine gift bestowed upon them. These men are the subcreators (Tolkien's term), 'who may hope to reflect something of the eternal light of God'; instruments that Eru continues to use in a great way in our empty, fallen world.

"Man, Sub-creator, the refracted Light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.
Thougn all the crannies of the world we filled
With Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses our of dark and light,
and sowed the seed of dragons—'twas our right
(used or misused), That right has not decayed:
we make still by the law in which we're made."
From Tolkien's lecture on Fairy-Stories (delivered in 1939)

Jo-Anna/Jo/Johobbit :)


lara said...

Wow! Great report, Jo. Thanks for posting it up for us. :)

N.E. Brigand said...

Drout referred to his notes only twice, as I recall: once to quote from the opening of E.V. Gordon's dense An Introduction to Old Norse, and once to quote a passage from Sir Gawain, the four lines beginning "Somwhyle wyth worme3 he werre3", the same lines where, as Shippey notes in J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century, Tolkien could've taken the words woses and etten, though Drout observed that the names are all that Tolkin could have used: there is no explanation in the poem of what "wodwos" or "etayne3" are.

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