Mythcon 46, Day 1: Violation by Any Other Name

The Rocky Mountains of Colorado Springs, CO

The Rocky Mountains of Colorado Springs, CO

For one thing, the Pikes Peak region of Colorado in summertime is Rocky-Mountain gorgeous.

For another, here in Colorado Springs for the 46th annual meeting of the Mythopoeic Society–dedicated to the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and other “Inkling” authors and the creation of mythic literature in general–we’re in a hotel and convention center. College campuses boast undeniable charm (last year’s Mythcon unfolded in the old-school East Coast environs of Wheaton College), but there’s something to be said for not having to make your own bed or to share a communal bathroom down the hall. This particular hotel feels rather dated and past its prime, with a maze-like layout that involves 2 elevator rides to get anywhere. But Mythcon isn’t about the facilities.

It’s about gathering with like-minded folks from across the country (and other countries) who share an admittedly geeky passion for fantasy literature on two distinct levels: the scholarly, and the playful fun of the fan. It’s one of the few places I’ve found where one can explore unabashedly mythic themes–in works of fiction that have become fantasy classics, in the pursuits of others, and in sharing one’s own writing–and find a receptive and constructively critical audience. That, and the fact that now that I’m on my third Mythcon there’s an aspect of a reunion with familiar friendly faces, keeps me coming back for more.

This first day only qualifies as a half day, what with arrivals in the morning. (Delightful to run into the always smart and dynamic comic-book and role-of-the-crone researcher Vicki Ronn again right as I walked in the door, and to meet Kris Swank, who shares my passion for the overlooked diversity of fantasy’s many human faces…more on both in the days to come.) Everybody plunged right into the afternoon’s presentations…

Megan Abrahamson and Lynn Darga offered a great way to start, treating The Silmarillion as a historical document and highlighting how acknowledging the bias of the particular historian’s perspective gives a more nuanced insight into the characters of Tolkien’s legendarium. In particular, rape and other violations of others’ will in the text are disguised or revealed, depending on the victor who tells the story. (And they “crunched the numbers” on word usage in the text to back themselves up!)

That same duo were later part of a panel with fellow Mythopoeic Society steward Lynn Maudlin and former steward Ellie Farrell discussing how the society can maximize its outreach in the digital age. (They’re working on updating the website…) Everyone grapples with this these days, of course; here are some of the ways you can get to know the Mythopoeic Society if you’re not here at Mythcon:

on Twitter
on Facebook

Janet B. Croft rounded out the afternoon with an examination of the devolution of villains’ names in The Lord of the Rings. The villains become progressively less powerful as their names become less identified with the object of their power. Intriguing parallels to our real world present themselves, a world where the names of places can convey ownership and dominion (e.g., disputed lands in the Middle East; mountains–Mt. Everest/Qomolungma/Sagarmatha–and other landmarks where native and Western claims conflict). Read her analysis for yourself here.

After a social hour of booze and cake (and more booze), the long day ended with Bardic Circle, a sort of exchange of song and storytelling around a conceptual campfire, strictly for those who choose to participate. We were treated to a clever original poem, excerpts from Sarah Avery’s droll Tales from a Rugosa Coven (read by the author herself), and any number of great songs (my rendition of “Blue Moon,” in honor of the one floating outside above us, definitely not among that greatness). Maybe because of the talk of rape earlier in the day, I chose to read the prelude and aftermath of Death’s rape from my own Songs of the Metamythos. Hopefully that was a bit more successful than my crooning.

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