Sam surveys his beloved Shire
7/17/13 Mythcon 44 East Lansing, Michigan
This blog is written from the viewpoint of Sam Gamgee, Frodo’s trusted gardener/travel companion. The cover to the Mythcon program shows Sam with his shovel, surveying his beloved Shire. So, obviously that must mean that Sam was present with us at Mythcon, and was in the audience to hear the presentations from Krista, Kelly and Roger. What would Sam do? What would Sam think? Sam’s primary commitment was to assist Frodo, and so all his actions flowed from that original intent. Also, his dream was to see Elves. So Sam’s quest, no matter how difficult it was, was also a dream come true.
If Sam had been a student at Hogwarts, he would have been sorted into the house of Hufflepuff. Sam did the right thing, because it was the right thing. He always saw things through to the end. So Sam thoroughly enjoyed Krista’s presentation on the “Female Gothic” in the Harry Potter book, Chamber of Secrets. Due to circumstances beyond Krista’s control (various delays causing connections to not happen), she arrived at the Kellogg Center in East Lansing twenty minutes before her presentation, with little sleep. Such things would rattle a mere mortal, but not Krista. Sam watched Krista and marveled at her Nordic elegance, poise and grace and thought he was in the presence of an Elf. He rejoiced to hear how the Harry Potter girls, (Hermione, Ginny) who are trapped in their classic female gothic roles, manage to triumph in the face of the powers that are oppressing them. His heart went out to Moaning Myrtle who seemed to not be able to choose a meaningful afterlife, but is instead doomed to relive her teenage angst in the girls’ bathroom. Sam can be forgiven for wondering why Krista does not swoop in and rescue these girls herself. To Sam, she obviously was able to; she was a high elf, was she not?
Sam looked around at the audience, and saw that even though Krista’s presentation was the second in the conference program, and not all attendees had arrived at the conference yet, there were twenty people in attendance. Some of the other early presenters had six people in their sessions. Sam wishes that he could see pictures of these girls, Hermione, Ginny and Moaning Myrtle. He wonders if they have furry feet, or if they are more elf-like?
The next day, Sam listened to Kelly explain his own life philosophy back to him. Again, he was dumbstruck with the raven-haired beauty that spoke words of wisdom that he remembered being taught from his Hobbit grandmother. “Nothing is good or bad, except thinking makes it so”. Kelly said this was from the old Stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, but he had heard it all his life. Again, Sam could swear he was in the presence of an Elf again. There was much that Sam understood from this deep and philosophical presentation. Sam had long thought the beauty and radiance of the Shire was actually “glory reflected backwards”. His world’s “light” had to come from love, from something higher, more powerful, more intelligent than anything he knew. He didn’t know the source of this light/love/glory, but its presence was something that tied him to the moment, gave him hope and joy, and was his own source of strength when faced with difficult times in his quest with Frodo. Sam knew that this “glory reflected backwards” gave him the ability to see things as they are, and to have the moral courage to do the “next right thing”. Sam wished that Kelly would come to the Shire and explain all this to the young Hobbits. The Scouring of the Shire had been a demoralizing experience, and the young Hobbits needed to be shown how to rediscover love, hope & joy.
The room was filled with twenty-five souls who enjoyed the deep complexity of Kelly’s ideas.
Then at last, (but not finally!) Sam sat at the feet of a wise storyteller that seemed to be a very young version of Gandalf. Sam listened to Roger explain the colorful legends of the Skidi Pawnee and draw comparisons to stories Sam had heard (and lived through) in Middle Earth. The last time Sam had heard a storyteller of Roger’s caliber was when he had listened to the tales that Gandalf had told. The depth, breadth, height of Roger’s stories covered centuries of life – human, hobbit, elves and dwarves. Sam had always suspected that Song had to be a major force in the creation of the world. He was awestruck to discover that Roger’s ancestral Pawnee shared the same story/song as the hobbits, elves and dwarves. Sam was hypnotized by the measured tones of the master storyteller, Roger. He looked around the room, and saw every chair was taken, and there were people sitting on the floor in the back of the room, twenty-nine people in all.
Sam was delighted to hear that the colored smoke that Gandalf had used for entertainment and as a weapon also existed in the Pawnee Legendarium. Sam began to wonder – do all stories come from the same source? The Pawnee Gandalf painted a convincing picture of the shape shifting magic of the cauldron of story.
Notes from writer (Katy Flynn): I really enjoyed attending Mythcon 44, and next year it will be in Wheaton, Massachusetts. I really encourage everyone to go. Spending four days with intelligent, zany, eccentric academics (and others!) is fun and uplifting. The people that you meet can easily be friends for a lifetime, and the ideas you hear can set off more ideas of your own. You will begin to dream dreams that will take you where you have always wanted to go. Ordinary people (like Sam Gamgee) can have extraordinary experiences.