HPEF presents Infinitus 2010, a Harry Potter conference            TEXT  MENU

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July 15-18, 2010
Orlando, Florida

The Evolution of Elvenhood in Modern Fantasy: From Lord Dunsany to JK Rowling
Millie Gore &  Margaret Hammer

Although Elves were first described in Norse Mythology and have roots in many Germanic cultures, we will examine the evolution of Elves in modern fantasy over the last 75 years. First, by using a partially-completed Compare and Contrast matrix, we will compare and contrast Elves as characterized by Lord Dunsany, JRR Tolkien, Paol Anderson, and JK Rowling. Specifically, we will contrast physical morphology, supernatural abilities, kinship, and ethos. The ethos will include attitudes, habits, beliefs, and dwelling places. We will present information such as the following:
Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, the 18th Baron of Dunsany, employed the first modern use of Norse-style Elves in his 1924 novel, The King of Elfland's Daughter. Like the earlier elves, these beings were powerful, beautiful, supernatural beings of human stature. They had magical powers, and were either immortal or long lived.

JRR Tolkien (The Hobbit,(1932) initially conceptualized Elves as gnome and fairy-like, but changed his characterization thereafter. His Elves were an ancient, pre-human race, near-immortal, tall, beautiful supernatural beings with a variety of gifts; Tolkien's Elves reflected his Christian ethos. Tolkien's Elves broke from the Norse tradition in that they had pointed “leaf-shaped” ears; this reveals an influence from the conceptualization of elves from the Victorian era.
In addition to the Elves of Light (both forest and water-dwelling), Tolkien also made use of Dwarves, the Dark Elves of Norse Mythology who dwelt in caves.  However, whether or not Tolkien consider Dwarves as Dark Elves.

At approximately the same time that Tolkien published Lord of the Rings, Poul Anderson published The Broken Sword. Like Tolkien's Elves, Anderson's were an ancient race whose power was slowing eroding. Like Tolkien's, they were bards who memorialized people and events at a moment's notice. Unlike Tolkien's Elves, however, Anderson's Elves reflected the values of the pagan, rather than Christian tradition that was so central to Tolkien's work.

Finally, we will invite participants engage in group discussion to help complete the matrix by comparing and contrasting the traits of Elvishness in the works of JK Rowling.

Dr. Millie Gore is Hardin Distinguished Professor of Special Education at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. At Portus 2008, she presented Conceptualizations of Disability in the Wizarding Word: The Dark Lord, The Squibs, and the Mad Auror. She is Faculty Advisor and Faculty Founder of The Harry Potter Alliance at Midwestern State University. She has lectured at university and conferences on the work of JRR Tolkien and JK Rowling.

Dr. Margaret Hammer is an assistant professor of education at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. She received The Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching from President “Bill” Clinton, and with support from NASA and JPL helped develop the award-winning Website Ocean World (http://oceanworld@tamu.edu). Although she has presented many conference workshops on science and education, this will be her first opportunity to present on her personal passion: Fantasy Literature and its Characters.
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