warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Into the Hive Mind: One Ring To Rule Them All, One Fandom To Find Them

Christine Bancroft |
December 18, 2012 | 10:04 p.m. PST


With "The Hobbit" blowing up in most worldwide box offices, we're going to make this a brief lesson on all things LOTR. While we'll get back to the introductory material next week, eventually we'll start looking at individual fandoms, so let this be a shade of things to come. 

Tolkein's novels started a phenomenon that made geekery more mainstream—and for this reason, it is considered one of the first fandoms.
Tolkein's novels started a phenomenon that made geekery more mainstream—and for this reason, it is considered one of the first fandoms.
Subject: "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, "The Hobbit", all things Tolkein and Middle Earth

The worldwide phenomena that is "The Lord of the Rings" started out as a simple children's story in the form of the incipient pages of "The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again", then just a fantasy tale that University of Oxford professor John Ronald Reuel Tolkein wrote for his children. At the time, the English philogist had never intended for his stories to become popular; when it was published, the popularity of the novel with both children and adults led to the sequels. 

The stories contain references to English poetry, religioln, old myths, especially Norse mythology, such as that featured in "Beowülf" or the "Volsunga" or "Hervarar" sagas or the Finnish epic "Kalevala"; Tolkein's extensive knowledge of literature and language played no small part in the creation of a complex and multi-faceted fantasy world. In fact, one of the main attractions to the stories is that the world Tolkein created is fascinatingly intricate. 

Members of the fandom have been known to be varying in age, sex and nationality; the stories themselves have been translated into over a hundred different languages and, if box office numbers are anything to go off of, their adaptations are wildly popular worldwide as well.

Fandom name: Ringers, Tolkeinite, Tolkeinists, Tolkeindil

One of the so-called "old fandoms" (often grouped with "Star Trek", "The Chronicles of Narnia", or the classic "Doctor Who" fandoms in terms of longevity and overall presence), the Ringers were among some of the first to gain widespread recognition. The scholarly criticism and analysis of the world lead to a plethora of material for the Ringers to enjoy, which also makes them one of the most scholarly. 

As early as the 1950s, Tolkein-inspired costumes and conventions began appearing; now, after several years of quiet activity, "The Hobbit's" release has lead to increased fandom activity, presence and awareness. Many people are now joining or re-joining after falling out following the film adaptation's 2003 release of "The Return of the King", the third and final "Lord of the Rings" film. 

However, many Ringers reject the idea that the fandom has been "asleep" for nearly a decade; according to Tumblr user (and my reference source) theladyoflothlorien, this "trivializes [the] fandom activity" that has been occurring in the past few years because of the lack of mainstream attention given to the fandom. 

Fandom activity: Conventions, marathons, occasional meet-ups, RP and headcanon investigation

Ringers are often present at nearly every multi-fandom meet-up (á la Comic-Con International), and are enthusiastic about inspired costumes and apparel. In addition, because the fandom is so widespread, theladyoflothlorien says that there are marathons organized online for fans to enjoy together in spite of hundreds to thousands of miles between them. 

Role play (or RP), is hugely popular in fandoms; fans assume the personalities of characters and interact with others by having conversations or writing stories (which can be lengthy—some roleplay stories have gone well past 50,000 words). Some choose to roleplay one character repeatedly; others switch characters occasionally or often in order for more variation. Many fans will go very in-depth into their characters and study speech patterns, canonical histories and relationships with others; headcanon development often goes alongside any sort of creative fanwork (fanfiction, fanvideo, roleplay), as it allows users to extend character analyses further than what may be given in the canonical text. 

What we see here is the prime example of "ascended fanboy". He truly is living the dream.
What we see here is the prime example of "ascended fanboy". He truly is living the dream.

Good people to know: J.R.R. Tolkein, Peter Jackson, casts of the films, Bret McKenzie, Stephen Colbert, major characters (of which there are far, far too many to list individually), peregrint, ladyofrohan, fool-ofatook

Peter Jackson, the director of the most recent live action adaptations, is perhaps one of the biggest Tolkeinites known worldwide. Lord help him, he has to—with such a devoted and hypercritical fanbase, each and every directorial decision he makes is bound to be dissected to the smallest detail. 

Be sure to keep a lookout for the rumored cameo in the upcoming "Hobbit" films by satirist and absolutely devoted Tolkein fan Stephen Colbert. The satirist possesses a slew of LOTR paraphenelia, has been documented as having a working knowledge of Elvish and makes references on "The Colbert Report", including asking Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) reprise his roles in 2007 while visiting the show.

And Bret McKenzie (better known as one-half of Flight of the Conchords, the self-proclaimed "almost award-winning fourth most popular folk rock duo in New Zealand")—however, in the first and third films of the trilogy, he portrayed the elf Figwit in a nonspeaking role that gained him some Internet fame. Since appearing in the films, his HBO show "Flight of the Conchords" achieved Emmy nods, the duo won Grammy Awards and he won an Academy Award for best original song for "Muppet or Man" from "The Muppets". Needless to say, Jackson cast him in "The Hobbit" films as Lindir, an elf of Rivendell. (Note: the name "Figwit" is fan-created and stands for "Frodo is great—who is that!??" It is possible that Lindir and Figwit are actually the same person.)

As for the Internet fans, Tumblr users peregrint, fool-ofatook and ladyofrohan are some of the more well-known Ringers according to theladyoflothlorien, but tracking and routinely checking the Lord of the Rings tag is the best way to get a quick intro to the fandom and find some of the most popular and well-known posts. 

Some wise words to know:Mellon-nin, Ringer, "The Silmarillion", the One Ring, Tolkeinology

Mellon: a word meaning "friend" in Elvish. Mellon-nín means "my friend"; the phrase is often tossed around in the fan community. 

Ringer: Usually denotes a fan of LOTR, although sometimes it includes fans of all of Tolkein's work

 the pits of Mount Doom.
the pits of Mount Doom.
The One Ring: Right what it says on the tin. One Ring to rule them all. Gollum/Smeagol's precious, gives invisibility powers, tends to make the wearer more power-hungry (some say "evil"; I say ambitious). Just your average accessory, looks great with potential insanity and a nice cloak.

Tolkeinology: the study of Tolkein's works, including languages, political structures of his world, character analyses and more. There are entire societies surrounding this part of academia, with theses, essays, and whole careers dedicated to the exploration of J.R.R. Tolkein's work.

Happy homes for the wayward fan: Check out theonering.net, lotrplaza, Council of Elrond and the LOTR Wikia for all your fandom needs. These are run by fans for fans, so you may never wander lost again.

A quick look at trivia and memes

Some interpretations contend that "The Lord of the Rings" are an allegory to the First World War, in which Tolkein fought. With this interpretation, the hobbits are the young British soldiers sent off to war. The eagles at the end of The Return of the King and "The Hobbit"? The Americans, who show up at the end of the First World War and assist the Allied Powers. The Dead Marshes are considered to have been inspired by the Battle of the Somme and the sight of men lying dead in the muddy trenches.

Elijah Wood (Frodo) is a member of a Lord of the Rings fanclub. 

"Do Balrogs have wings?" Following a spirited and contentious fan-debate, this phrase became a joke within fandom, sometimes poking fun at the occasionally heated discussions between Ringers.

Gandalf will not allow you to pass. Example: this guy, who longboards in the middle of the road dressed as Gandalf. Alternately, let this unicyclist/bagpiper from Portland, Ore. serenade you with "Over the Misty Mountains Cold". 

It's always just funny to make you laugh a bit but used enough to make you sick of it within minutes.
It's always just funny to make you laugh a bit but used enough to make you sick of it within minutes.
One does not simply (walk into Mordor): A picture of Sean Bean's Boromir, with a caption proclaiming that "one does not simply..." [enter phrase of your choice here]. Also, if you look up the directions from the Shire to Mordor on Google Maps, setting transportation type to walking, Google will very simply tell you that one does not simply walk into Mordor. Variations include "one does not simply leave laundry in the dryer", my personal favorite from my dorm's laundry room. A quick Google search will kill this joke within a few images, I'm sure.

The character of Figwit (see above) is a meme; the Flight of the Conchords' song "Frodo" is an acension of that meme set to music and that makes it awesome. (Be warned, its not safe for work; listener discretion is advised.

They're taking the hobbits to Isengard. For your listening pleasure. 

Legolas is a popular figure for memes, simply because of how fabulous he is how easy it is to make him funny. Hipster Legolas, Captain Obvious Legolas and Legolas, What Do Your Elf-Eyes See? are just some of the Legolas-related memes which have gained in popularity recently. There's also a running joke depicting Legolas acting as papa to other famous fictional archers, including Katniss Everdeen from "The Hunger Games" series, Hawkeye from the Marvel comics and "The Avengers", Merida from "Brave", Link from "Legend of Zelda" and others. Also, Legolas did not remember to feed his Neopets. 

Now, fly, you fools! And in the Lord of the Rings fandom or wherever your final fandom destination may be, always remember that Into the Hive Mind is your one-stop spot for all your fandom needs.

Next week, let's tackle shipping. If you like these specific fandom guides, never fear: these comprehensive fandom guides will return in the New Year.

Reach Columnist Christine Bancroft here. Special thanks to ladyoflothlorien for fandom know-how. That's just how we roll in the Shire.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.