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Middle-Earth Conference Revived After 40 Years

"Gollum" at "The Lord of the Rings" exhibition at the Movie Park of Potsdam-Babelsberg, Germany. (AP)
"Gollum" at "The Lord of the Rings" exhibition at the Movie Park of Potsdam-Babelsberg, Germany. (AP)

The first conference dedicated to J.R.R. Tolkien took place in 1969 in Urbana-Champaign, Ill. In 1971 it moved to Cleveland, Ohio. Then it disappeared — poof! — like Bilbo or Gollum after slipping on the precioussss gold ring.

But now fans and students of Tolkien will unite once again this weekend, because the Conference On Middle-earth (C.O.M.E) is back. After a 40-year hiatus, the unique gathering is being resurrected — right here in Massachusetts.

But how did this come to be? And why such a long, silent slumber? Did a powerful wizard break some enduring, evil spell?

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Actually, the reasons are decidedly more human than that.

“Life got in the way of my plans for a third conference,” admitted Jan Howard Finder (a.k.a Peregrin Took II). “Years passed. Then a chance meeting, as we say in Middle-earth, brought the idea of holding, finally, the Third Conference On Middle-earth. How could I resist?”

The celebration of all-things-Tolkien couldn’t have come at a more hallowed time. Director Peter Jackson started filming “The Hobbit” in March. At the conference, local author Ethan Gilsdorf will present a slideshow lecture about New Zealand as a middle-earth movie location. A debate about Jackson’s plan to turn the single book into two Hobbit movies is also planned.

Parties, panels and papers promise to be rich and abundant. Finder put out a call to his fellow middle-earthlings:

I call you here to speak of J.R.R. Tolkien, his works, works based on Tolkien, criticism, teaching Tolkien in the classroom, the impact of the books on yourself, friends, family, and/or the world, the films and the film industry, the art, the fan-ish side of this universe and its impact, and anything and lots more.

Other topics on the program include, “Blondes Have More Fun!: Images of Legolas Greenleaf,” and, “1965! When it, Middle-Earth, was Turned Upside Down!”

The weekend revelry kicks off Friday night, not far away from Boston, at the Westford Regency Inn and Conference Center. A welcoming banquet begins with the last light of Durin’s Day at 7:30 p.m.

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This program aired on March 25, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

Andrea Shea Twitter Arts Reporter
Andrea Shea is WBUR's arts reporter.

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