Well, I’m back

I don’t, as a rule, discuss personal or family matters here; that’s the role for The Mueller-Harder Family Journal. Nevertheless, I feel I should mention that I’m more-or-less “back” from an unexpected journey health-wise. Details — no doubt too many for some readers, and never enough for others — are at a specialized set of pages at PostHope.com. No more need be said here.

To celebrate, I gave a new paper last week at the Tolkien in Vermont conference at UVM, titled “Mapping Mordor: Normalizing Tolkien’s maps as the first step in examining his worldbuilding method of construction-by-revision; or, Yet further confirmation (as if we needed it) that Tolkien had no master plan, did not ‘first make a map and make the narrative agree,’ and, in fact, never did produce a map that exactly portrays what’s described in The Lord of the Rings.” This was not the longest title of the conference!

I’ll also be travelling to Kalamazoo in three weeks to give a paper at the pre-International Medieval Congress Tolkien Seminar in Kalamazoo, Michigan — rather more pithily titled “The Tolkien Art Index” — giving a tour (perhaps obviously) of the Tolkien Art Index. Dr. Anna Smol (whose page giving details of the Tolkien Seminar I linked to above) also has produced a very useful page detailing the Tolkien-related sessions and papers at the congress itself, which I’ll be staying for.

(Thanks to an unexpected travel grant), I plan in July also to attend the Tolkien Society Seminar 2018 immediately preceding the International Medieval Congress at Leeds University. Dr. Dimitra Fimi has provided a page listing Tolkien-related sessions and papers at that congress, which I’ll also be attending. Immediately thereafter, I’ll be able to go to Oxford to visit the Bodleian Library’s exhibition, “Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth,” and with luck I should also be able to verify the Tolkien Art Index entries for the Bodleian’s art holdings.

And finally, in October I plan also to attend the North American Cartographic Society annual meeting, this year in Norfolk, Virginia. I had a lovely time this last year in Montréal and learned quite a lot. Several people asked me whether I’d consider giving a paper on Tolkienian cartography this next year. This might just happen.

It’s good to be back. I’ve lost some time, but am looking forward to making some of it back up between the conferences.

Vermont Softworks creates site for Tolkien in Vermont conference


I am very pleased to announce that the annual “Tolkien at UVM” conference finally has a home on the web. Now known as “Tolkien in Vermont,” the conference can be found on-line at .

Vermont Softworks is responsible for its unabashedly spartan design, and is footing the bill for its hosting at Pair Networks.

Many thanks to Chris Vaccaro for putting this excellent conference together for so many years. Best wishes for the 11th annual conference (the 10th anniversary!) and for many decades to come.

Support for Tolkien in Vermont conference at UVM

The University of Vermont has financially supported an annual “Tolkien at UVM” conference for most of its ten-year history. My understanding is that this has not been a large sum, but has been sufficient to pay a speaker’s honorarium and travel fees, as well as to provide a simple breakfast and light refreshments through the day.

I was told UVM had found that the bequest which had been funding the event should not have been used for such a purpose (fair enough: these things happen), but that no effort was made by the university to find an alternative source of support or to provide any stop-gap funds even for the scheduled 2013 conference or its engaged keynote speaker.

Andy Peterson drafted the following letter to the editor of UVM’s student newspaper, The Cynic1, which our colleague Mark Kaminsky and I whole-heartedly signed.

1 2018-04-19: Link again updated — the fourth time(!) — to reflect latest URL.


Dear Editor,

We are writing to express our appreciation for both Chris Vaccaro, Senior Lecturer of English, and to The Tolkien Club at UVM for their outstanding work during the 10th annual Tolkien at UVM conference.

This year’s conference was organized in the face of financial adversity and administrative apathy.

With no funding from the college, the students of The Tolkien Club offered their time and money to make sure that those guests and lecturers in attendance were provided with coffee and donuts for breakfast and pizza for lunch. These students took it upon themselves to welcome the Tolkien academics who journeyed to Vermont for the conference. Their hospitality and generosity was much appreciated by all in attendance. We offer a tip of the hat to Anders Albertsson, Haley Markosian, Brenden Anderson, Braden Kaiser, Kerry Oster, and Corey Dawson for making us feel welcome. We look forward to seeing them again at next year’s conference.

Tolkien at UVM is the only conference of its type that is held annually on the East Coast. As such, it is an event that has been attended by such Tolkien luminaries as

and many other noted academics from other institutions including Middlebury, Rice, and Harvard.

These academics are a veritable “Who’s who” of Tolkien studies. They and many other independent scholars gather at this conference to share their thoughts and ideas about Tolkien’s legendarium. Of particular importance is the presentation of papers by students of Tolkien Studies under the scholarship of Chris Vaccaro. As Tolkien Studies is one of the only academic areas that allow for independent scholars to be actively involved in scholarship, this platform for their work should not only be encouraged but eagerly supported by the administration at UVM.

Chris Vaccaro should be congratulated for organizing the annual Tolkien at UVM conference for the past ten years. It is our hope that future conferences will be well-funded by the administration at the University of Vermont and that, once again, academics from all walks of life will gather to hear the thoughts of both the current and the next generation of Tolkien scholars.


  • Andrew C. Peterson, ALB candidate, Harvard ’14
  • Mark Kaminsky, MIT/Lincoln Laboratory; ALB cum laude, Harvard ’10
  • Erik Mueller-Harder, Vermont Softworks; ALB cum laude, Harvard ’99

En route to Tolkien at UVM conference

Mark, Ray, Andy, I, and Marc setting out

Mark, Ray, Andy, I, and Marc setting out

The topic of this year’s Tolkien at UVM conference (the 9th annual) was “Tolkien’s Bestiary”; again, it was hosted and organized by UVM professor Chris Vaccaro.

We hosted former “Tolkien As Translator” classmates Mark Kaminsky, Andrew Peterson, and Ray Saxon — as well as our professor, Dr. Marc Zender.

As you can see from the conference poster, Andy, Ray, and Marc all gave presentations:

9th annual Tolkien at UVM conference

2012 Tolkien in Vermont conference poster

  • Martha Monsson: “Forth Eorlingas: Horses and Ponies in The Lord of the Rings
  • Andrew Peterson: “The Many Faces of Trolls in Middle-earth”
  • Matt Dickerson: “From Goblins to the Valaraukar: Scourges of Fire and Demons of Terror”
  • roundtable: “What To Do with Tolkien’s Orcs”
  • Jonathan Evans: “Tolkien’s Non-Allegorical Bestiary”
  • Ray Saxon: “Manwë’s Messengers: The Role of the Eagles in Middle-earth”
  • Marc Zender: “Mammoths, Mûmakil, and ‘The Old Fireside Rhyme of Oliphaunt’: Tolkien’s Contributions to the Medieval Bestiary Tradition”
  • Kristine Larsen: “A Creature of an Older World”: Tolkien and the “Mythology of the Prehistoric”
  • Gerry Blair: “A Boy and His Dog”
  • Jamie Williamson: “Tolkien and the Codification of Non-Human Beings”