Student Presents ‘Lord of the Rings’ Paper at UCLA

Skyler King never imagined he would end as a presenter at a conference at UCLA when he wrote a paper this spring on divine intervention in “The Lord of the Rings” for a class at Southern Virginia University taught by best-selling author Orson Scott Card.

King will present his paper this weekend at Mythcon, the fortieth annual conference of the Mythopoeic Society, a non-profit organization that seeks to promote and study fantasy and mythic literature. Of the three students presenting papers at the conference, King is the only undergraduate student.

“I am so honored to be at this conference of scholars,” said King, a senior from Tivoli, New York. “I feel a part of an exciting literary society.”

Twenty people will present papers at Mythcon 40. The organization shows keen interest in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of “The Lord of the Rings” series; C.S. Lewis, the author of “The Chronicles of Narnia;” and Charles Williams, who along with Tolkein and Lewis were members of the informal Oxford literary circle known as the Inklings.

Mythcon has been held throughout the United States and abroad at places like Keble College in Oxford, England — where Tolkien lived for many years.

“I’m a kid in a candy store this weekend,” King said. “I’ve loved these stories since I was sixteen. I can’t believe I get to present on a topic I love at UCLA.”

In the class Card taught on J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis at Southern Virginia, he encouraged his students to find all the dreams in “The Lord of the Rings” books. Doing so led King to realize just how much divine intervention there was throughout the book and he wrote his final paper for the class about it.

His paper entitled, “Divine Intervention in ‘The Lord of the Rings’” discusses four instances in the book — and omitted from the popular movies directed by Peter Jackson — in which the gods of Middle Earth intervene in the lives of the story’s characters.

The interventions come in various ways: in the form of divine utterances in unknown tongues, dreams of never-before-seen places and things, the healing powers within the waters of Middle Earth and the origin of an angel.

King researched Tolkien’s books along with biographies written about him. “These four manners of intervention can give us clues to how [Tolkein] felt and experienced God in his own life,” King said.

Like many others, King has fallen in love with the complex world Tolkien created, in which good prevails against evil against all odds. He enjoys the book’s themes of faith, friendship and death.

His paper briefly discusses the message of the power of friendship. When Frodo was too weak to complete the task alone, he turned to Sam who showed the power of true, honest, selfless friendship.

King said that although Tolkien was religious, he preferred a quiet, subtle presentation of his faith in his written works. King wanted to write a paper that showed gods existed in Middle Earth and he supported it with evidence that suggested a divine design for Frodo to carry the Ring and for the Fellowship to help and encourage him along the journey to overcome his fears of death and evil.

King has admired Card for many years and was thrilled to take a class from him.

“I presented a paper on Orson Scott Card and ‘Ender’s Game’ in 11th grade and hoped to meet him one day,” King said. “Not only have I met him, but I was taught by him and conversed with him and read and reworked stories with him.”

Although writing the paper involved months of research, reading and writing, King’s love of the books helped him push on.

“We all feel from time to time how weak and simple we really are as humans, and this book shows the weakest creatures becoming the page-turner in the history of their world supported by good, honest friends,” King said. “Among all the other things it does, it tugs at your heart.”