Tolkien, Oxonmoot and Living the Change Without Fear

My first Oxonmoot was online, and it was one of the best experiences in my life.

JazzFeathers
Sep 26 · 6 min read
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I had never been to Oxonmoot before.

Despite being probably the most prominent event dedicated to Tolkien in the world, Oxonmoot happens close to Bilbo’s birthday in the last part of September. This is a busy time at my work, and I normally have zero chances to get any days off. Therefore, Oxonmoot has always been out of my list of things to do.

But last August, I discovered it was going to be held online due to the pandemic emergency. And suddenly, something that had always been out of my reach entered in the sphere of things I’m actually able to do.

Distances shrinks

And still, I nearly didn’t.

It was a commitment during a weekend that was already busy for me, so I was still hesitant to take the plunge.

Then, one of my friends, Daisey, told me she was considering joining. Being from the US, she thought this was probably the only opportunity to attend an Oxonmoot she had since last summer another Oxonmoot online seemed to be unlikely because this seemed something to be done only in this emergency.

The idea of ‘going’ with a friend immediately made the Oxonmoot something I wanted to do. I enrolled one day after Daisey, we printed the programme, we fired our WhatsApp, and on Friday 18th, we were ready for anything!

Oxonmoot is supposed to be held in Oxford. Daisey lives in the US. I live in Verona (Italy).
Still, I say to everyone that I went to Oxonmoot together with Daisey and I totally feel I did.

Oxonmoot is supposed to be held in Oxford. Daisey lives in the US. I live in Verona (Italy).Still, I say to everyone that I went to Oxonmoot together with Daisey and I totally feel I did.

I don’t know in your part of the world, but here in Italy, there is quite a fierce debate about whether working and studying remote is good or bad.
I did work from home from April to August, and now I’m back in the bookshop opposite the University of Verona, as I’ve been for the past fifteen years.
And there’s no one about.

This is why working (and studying) from home is such a hot matter. If people don’t need to leave their houses, all the businesses that rely on people going around their busy day languish. I work in a bookshop, but it’s the same for all the bars and restaurants, the public transports, and generally for any shop.
I understand this. But I think that the complaints end up obliterating what good this thing has to offer.

It was a full-scale experience, and I’m ready to admit I never imagined it could be so real and involving.

For me, Oxonmoot was the chance to experience it.

I know the best way is to go there. I adore Oxford. I would take any opportunity to go. And it would be fantastic to go with friends who are as nerdy as I am about Tolkien (like Daisey!). But life doesn’t always allow it, and up to a few months ago, that meant I would have missed the experience entirely.

Instead, I could ‘go’ to Oxonmoot.

I attended most of the conferences, exchanging thoughts and discoveries with Daisey all the time via Whatsapp.
“Will you be at the conference about Ungoliant and Shelob?”. “This one is so good!” “I never quite thought about it in that way.” “This sounds like that discussion we had on the group”.
It was like Daisey was next to me, sitting in front of the panellist, listening in on other conversations coming through the chat.
It was a full-scale experience, and I’m ready to admit I never imagined it could be so real and involving.

Embracing community, diversity and change

As for the Oxonmoot itself, I loved it!

I only attended the conferences. I know there was a bunch of other activities going on, and while I’m sorry I didn’t go to any of them, I think that as a first experience it was quite enough for me to handle.

I truly appreciate the clear effort the Tolkien Society is doing to address themes that are ‘traditionally against’ Tolkien, like femininity and race. The conferences about these subjects were my favourite.

I also appreciated that the panellists made an effort to distinguish what was Tolkien’s thoughts, what came from his time and society instead, and what is us, our sensibility and ideas of the 2000s. I appreciate it because so often I see readers trying to transform the work of their favourite classic authors into themselves. They want these authors to think as we think today, and seem to be very upset when the two outlooks don’t come together.

I think that diversity starts with acknowledging that we are not the same. That men and women who lived in different times were different from us because the world in which they lived was different. ‘Different’, not necessarily ‘better’ or ‘worse’.

Diversity is the opportunity to confront new ideas and feelings, embracing what we share, accepting what we cannot share but can still give us the opportunity to reflect.

Diversity is the opportunity to confront new ideas and feelings, embracing what we share, accepting what we cannot share but can still give us the opportunity to reflect.

The Oxonmoot clearly strived to do this. I loved the diverse programmes as well as the diverse crew of both stewards and panellists. It was a colourful, international rainbow of ideas, and accents, and expertise, and feelings. I was surprised and enthusiastic at the internationality of the conferences, and I wonder whether a regular Oxonmoot would have allowed this.

Because it was my first time, I lay low and seldom took part in the chats. I never asked questions. Still, I felt I was part of it because I was there. I could have taken part if I had decided to. I could have asked if I had felt like it.

There was the chance.

It was a huge door opening for me. And I was excited to hear people tell what I think. Some of the panellists said words I could have said myself. It gave me a sense of belonging that I seldom feel. Even if I didn’t ask or say anything, it still was as if I was in the right place and somehow connected with people who were saying what I think. Even if they were on the other side of the globe and didn’t speak my language.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget my first Oxonmoot.

I loved the conferences. I loved ‘going’ with a friend. I loved having the opportunity to listen to awesome scholars from around the world.
But especially I loved the feeling of belonging even from afar. The sense that there is a community that gathers around Professor Tolkien’s stories and idea and shares values that were important to him.

It’s from afar, but it’s still a community.

More than a conference

The world is definitely changing at a fast pace, maybe faster than we can comfortably handle. It was already changing, but the pandemic has increased the pace even more. We become ‘the other’ even before we realise it. I am doing things that my teenager self in the 1980s never imagined and might not have liked.

Changing times are hard to live, but they often offer us the unexpected. Something different and not necessarily better or worse.

But it doesn’t need to be scary. Changing times are hard to live, but they often offer us the unexpected. Something different and not necessarily better or worse.

It’s different. It’s an added opportunity.

To me, Oxonmoot online has proven that change can be marvellous even when is shocking. And there’s no reason not to embrace it.

Sarah Zama is a Tolkien nerd and proud of it. She read The Hobbit the first time as a teenager and was a Tolkien fan years before Peter Jackson’s trilogy ever hit the theatres. She’s always been involved with Tolkien groups, both online and in person. In 2004, she founded a Tolkien group in her city, Verona (Italy), which is still meeting and divulging the Professor’s work. In 2017, she started reading Tolkien’s work with a group of other nerdy readers, one chapter a day. They are still on the road together.

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JazzFeathers

Written by

Author of historical fantasy novels set in the 1920s | Dieselpunk | 1920s social history blogger | Hopeless Tolkien nerd https://theoldshelter.com/

Middle-earth Literary Gazette

Exploring Tolkien’s Middle-earth. The places and characters. The stories. Searching for their deeper meaning.

JazzFeathers

Written by

Author of historical fantasy novels set in the 1920s | Dieselpunk | 1920s social history blogger | Hopeless Tolkien nerd https://theoldshelter.com/

Middle-earth Literary Gazette

Exploring Tolkien’s Middle-earth. The places and characters. The stories. Searching for their deeper meaning.

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