Thread: Ideas for an academic product from Exploring The Lord of the Rings

Tony Meade

Active Member
Hey all,

Per our discussion in class, I am creating this thread for people to propose ideas and solutions for an academic product to be created as a result of our discussions in Exploring The Lord of the Rings. Please feel free to comment and discuss below, and propose whatever you think would be a useful form for this product to take.

So far, possible proposed forms that this might take include:
  • Physical book
  • Electronic book
  • Wiki (electronic resource)
  • Essay collection
Let us know your ideas, including new ones or hybrids, and propositions to make those a reality.

Thanks in advance!


Well-Known Member
Thoughts on how to use Exploring TLOTR material

Hi Tony and all,

Here are some very preliminary thoughts on how the course material might be turned into other products.

The organization of these thoughts is:
  • What do we have? Assets and Issues;
  • What audiences might we address?
  • What structures might we think about? A particular look at mirroring Corey’s ‘Exploring the Hobbit’ structure.
  • Formats and Media
  • Process
This is intended to spark discussion and contributions.
  • What do we have? Assets:
Well, we have about 292 hours of recorded classes (and far more before we are done.) Tony’s summaries, Synchronous comments and questions scattered across several platforms, and non-synchronous comments, questions and discussions on several forums. That’s a lot of material, and it keeps growing.

Our most unique asset is our very detailed close reading perspective, coupled with a Corey led and guided, but multi participant input approach. As far as I know, this does not exist elsewhere.

We have certainly been covering a large number of recurring themes, we have tackled many interesting questions, both major and minor. We have come up with some interesting insights – probably some that would be novel to Tolkien students and fans. We have covered the poetry more extensively and more in depth than any other study I know. We have gone into incredible depth into the meaning (and possible impacts) of paragraphs, sentences, and even words. This actually is possibly the most unique feature of this class, but also the hardest to capture in some form of product. We have had many jokes and puns, some ‘insider’ and some more generally accessible. A sub-set of these have been hilarious.
  • What do we have? Issues:
Purpose: The first issue is that we have enough material for many different types of product. No derivative product can (or should) try to duplicate the classes. They exist on-line, and anyone who wants the class experience (although a-synchronously, which is not quite as good), can watch them. So, we will need to figure out what purposes we want to achieve through the use of class material.

Perspectives: In Corey’s first book, he stuck strictly to the perspective of the book as written (and read) before TLOTR was published. Our discussions have ranged across multiple perspectives on TLOTR, from the first-time reader, to total lore nerd. We have also never focused on the perspective of other commentators and critics of TLOTR. Our mixed perspectives would be difficult to disentangle, if we wanted to create product with a singular perspective. We would probably need to add the missing perspective of other commentary if we wanted to make any sort of ‘academic’ product.

Frame (or not): A question JRRT and CT thought about. The frame, in our case is the class and the discussions. We could create product featuring the frame, product set within the frame, or product which eliminates the frame.

Data Overload: We have a ton of material. And it keeps growing. Chasing themes, or the development of characters or issues through all this material is likely to be a monumental task.
  • Audiences:
Always good to have an idea of what audiences we are trying to produce product for. Possible audiences I can think of include: Fans, Academics, Students, New Readers. Fans can possibly be split into literary fans and lore fans. Our close reading, with our often first-time reader perspective, seems more suitable for creating product for literary fans rather than lore fans?

If we wanted to make product for academic audiences, we would need to add multiple references and footnotes, and probably add the perspective of other commentators, which we have not covered. The work involved would be considerable.

  • Structures:
There are many ways we could structure the material to create product or products. The first suggestion was to emulate Corey’s ‘Exploring The Hobbit’. Further suggestions might include: The Poems of TLOTR; Themes in TLOTR; New Insights on TLOTR; Questions while reading TLOTR; An annotated LOTR (wow would this be work. All the issues of references , footnotes, the perspectives of other commentators, etc.)

  • Structures: Emulating Corey’s ‘Exploring The Hobbit’
Just as a reminder, Corey structured that book to go chapter by chapter, and to focus on 6 recurring themes, 6 additional ‘characters’, 3 Locations, and 2 events. Not all of these were covered in each chapter, and, conveniently each was given a sub-chapter heading when it occurred within each chapter.

There are 19 Chapters. The 6 key themes are: Bilbo’s nature, which appears in 13 chapters; Luck, which appears in 8 chapters; The Desolation of the Dragon, which appears in 7 chapters; Burglar Bilbo, 5 chapters, Bilbo’s Choices, 5 chapters, The Writing of The Hobbit, 5 chapters.

The 6 additional characters are: Dwarves: 3 chapters; Elves, 3 chapters; Goblins, 2 chapters; Smaug, 1 chapter; Gollum, 1 chapter; Trolls, 1 chapter.

The 3 additional locations are: The Wild, 2 chapters; Mirkwood, 1 chapter; Laketown, 1 chapter;

The 2 events are: Homecoming, 2 chapters; Eucatastrophe, 1 chapter.

Corey obviously made a lot of choices when deciding what to focus on. Notable omissions include: Gandalf, Thorin, The Elven King, Elrond, Bag End, Rivendell.

So, if emulating ‘Exploring the Hobbit’, we would need to pick which themes, characters, locations, and events to highlight. Of course there are many more than in The Hobbit. There are also 62 chapters (not counting Appendices, Introduction and Prologue) rather than 19. There was a concept of producing an Exploring TLOTR product for each of the 6 Books. Many of the themes and characters, of course, span across all 6 books. How to write some of them in early books when we might come to new insights in later classes? Easy if we always adopt the first-time reader perspective, but then how do we dis-entangle all the other perspectives which are present in our material?
  • Formats
Format suggestions have included: Books; Essay collections; On-line; Interactive; Wikis, etc. Perhaps best to revisit when more thoughts on Audiences and Structures have been collected.
  • Process
There are many possible processes for creating product out of the material. Some sort of collaborative process would spread the workload. Tony has created the summaries, which focus on class conclusions, from which themes and characters and key locations can be derived, however, to fully mine the material, probably we should trawl back through the U-tubes to collect the questions, and also mine the various question and discussion forums.

Hope those preliminary thoughts have been enough to kick off some discussion and builds?


Well-Known Member
I just want to clarify something concerning a wiki or similar format. In class, I saw the objection that a wiki offers no clear starting point or progression, but I think this is a matter of implementation, not a limitation of the format. I've seen numerous wikis that have an opening page with links to suggested starting points (such as a video game's wiki having permanent links to pages for the game's story or walkthroughs), and wikis about episodic content (such as TV shows) often provide episode pages with links to the previous/next episodes. I know this may still not accommodate what everyone wants, but I at least want people to realize that wikis can be at least a little more versatile than they may think.

Jim Deutch

Well-Known Member
We have come up with some interesting insights – probably some that would be novel to Tolkien students and fans.
My favorite insight from all the classes so far is that you should put the emphasis on "shall" when Frodo says "I hope the thinning process does not go on indefinitely, or I shall become a wraith" before Weathertop. It implies so much about the discussions that never made it into the Red Book, but must have happened among the Hobbits and Strider.

Tony Meade

Active Member
I'm giving this thread a bump so that anyone who has suggestions for our project can see it and respond. :)
I think the idea of a Study Guide would be great. Step through chapter by chapter of event summaries, themes, and then things to ponder. Since many of the discussions we have aren’t often “resolved” (that is, where we come to a definitive conclusion), any of these topics could just be to get you thinking deeper. They could even be divided by beginner, intermediate, or advanced.

Anyway, just an idea.

Bruce N H

Hi all,

I was just listening to the episode from a couple of weeks ago where Corey starts with this discussion (I think I came in just at the tail end of this during the live class). I would suggest that whatever the ultimate outward-facing product, a wiki would be a great way to organize things collaboratively. We could create this as we go, and then when it was time to be turned into some other product (e.g. book) the notes would already be prepared. Or the wiki could just be turned loose into the world as its own product.

There could be a page for each episode, and the video could be embedded, the great episode summaries by Tony, and it's also easy to then include interlocking links to related themes in other episodes. There could also be pages on themes that keep coming up. E.g. every time Corey says "let's remember this when we get to __", or "let's watch for Tolkien's use of this word" etc, it would be a prompt to create a wiki page on that topic or word, which we can link to every time it comes up. We could create pages for different locations or characters and link to the episodes where they come up. Also, when Corey starts with a question raised in this forum, or something prompted by discussion in this forum, a link back to the forum thread would be easy to include.

Another thing that could be part of these wiki pages is the in-game exploration. I know Corey talked in the past about doing something about this, and someone (?) was cataloging which episodes visited which locations. This could also be included.

Still a third thing, and I know this is a different endeavor, but we could start creating pages for the Mythgard Academy classes on the HOME books volumes 6-9 classes. Yes, it's a different thing to talk about the book as a finished work (Exploring Lord of the Rings) vs the process of making it (Mythgard HOME classes), but often in Exploring Corey makes reference to things covered in Mythgard or vice versa, so being able to link to those classes would be great.

If people wanted to write stand-alone essays, or include papers presented at a moot, these could be linked in as part of a wiki easily and linked to the relevant classes. Oh, and links to videos of reenactments at moots :) .

One question I have is where such a wiki could reside and who could edit it. It would be very simple to start a wiki for free at Fandom. The only possible problem there is that anyone on earth could edit it, whether or not they were part of Exploring. Maybe if it were housed on the signum site and you had to at least be a member of this forum to edit it would be easier to control.


Lincoln Alpern

Active Member
Thank you Tony for getting this conversation started and for compiling all the episode summaries; and thank you Flammifer for laying out such a comprehensive breakdown of options available to us, including challenges and opportunities presented by the various formats; thank you, also, Bruce, for going into more depth about the possibilities offered by a wiki.

I'm afraid I have little to add to the discussion by way of ideas, beyond finding Bruce's arguments in favor of a wiki quite persuasive. Perhaps working on a wiki would also help illuminate what other products, if any, seem most indicated. Unfortunately, I doubt there's much I, personally, will be able to do to contribute to such a product.


New Member
I hope it is okay that I jump in here.

The academic gerne this project reminds me most of, is the bible commentaries. I am not sure if such an approach would be possible, but they can provide some ideas for structure of close readings. They usually have first the pericope (section of text) translated by the author with textual notes on veriations and choices of transaltion. Then they will typically have a section on the context of the pericope, on the structure, on what others have said about it before, a commentary on the verses andon particular words/themes, and on how the text can be understood/the meaning.

Now, quoting the text this way would propbably create copyright problems, but if many people are goign to contribute to the writing, it could be an idea to have a similar structure to the parts which go through the text/does the close reading. Like beginning with the structure of the part: word usage, what kinds of literary techinques are used (alitteration, active or passive voice etc), syntax etc. Then (if relevant) how it fits into the whole/ puting it in context (what information do we have at this time and what does the passage mean in light of that, and what does it mean when we go back after having learned more, why is this poem given in this situation, etc). A section with brings in commentaries from other academic work, and one with comments from the course would also be part.

Probably too much work to cover - bible commentaries takes years to write for a reason - but to have some common structure to the close readings could make it easier for a reader, and for mulitple writers to colaborate.

Jim Deutch

Well-Known Member
The academic gerne this project reminds me most of, is the bible commentaries.
That's a very interesting insight, and a rather alarming one to me. I have always had a conflicted opinion of such efforts. On the one hand, they can help keep a text alive and relevant by reinterpreting it in new contexts, but on the other hand I get frustrated with the whole enterprise and doubt it's worth the effort. I've certainly never read through an entire bible commentary, myself!

It's quite a good parallel with the Exploring series (which I love). And, frankly, I find that just a bit embarrassing.
"I used to be an agnostic, but now I'm not so sure."