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Tom Ue
James Munday

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2-5-2022 3:30 PM

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J. R. R. Tolkien has had a significant influence on American writer Ernest Cline. In Ready Player One (2011), the character Ogden Morrow invites Wade and his friends to his mansion, which is modelled after Rivendell from Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films (2001- 03). Cline goes further in his sequel Ready Player Two (2021) by staging a part of Wade’s virtual quest on Arda I, the First Age of Middle Earth. In this paper, we focus on this episode and, in so doing, argue for Cline’s insights into how we approach fantasy. First, we attend to the ways in which Cline, through Wade and Samantha, replicates Beren’s and Luthien’s quest for a Silmaril. This parallel enables Cline to acknowledge his debt to his predecessor, while mocking Jackson’s overlong The Hobbit trilogy (2012-14). Secondly, and more importantly, we reveal how Cline offers new and more radical ways for reading fantasy. Success in the quests on Arda I requires “an encyclopedic knowledge of Tolkien’s entire Legendarium,” not just “the published version of The Silmarillion. You need to memorize details of a bunch of different, conflicting, unpublished early drafts! And all thirteen volumes of The History of Middle-earth!” If familiarity with the sheer volume of materials separates the expert from the novice, then Cline reveals the inadequacies of book knowledge. This paper contributes to scholarship by illuminating Cline’s allusive practice, by arguing for the value of a more imaginative engagement with texts, and by contextualizing the influence of Tolkien’s posthumously published works.

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Tom Ue is Assistant Professor in Literature and Science at Dalhousie University. He has held the prestigious Frederick Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship, and he is an Honorary Research Associate at University College London. With James Munday, Ue is currently writing the first book-length study of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One (Routledge).

James Munday reads Mathematics and Physics at Dalhousie University. He has been a member of the Dalhousie Undergraduate Physics Society since 2019, and he is currently the society’s president. He has earned both the Faye Sobey Undergraduate Research Award and the A. S. MacKenzie Award. With Tom Ue, Munday is currently writing the first book-length study of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One (Routledge).

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Feb 5th, 3:30 PM

Tolkien, Cline, and the Quest for a Silmaril

J. R. R. Tolkien has had a significant influence on American writer Ernest Cline. In Ready Player One (2011), the character Ogden Morrow invites Wade and his friends to his mansion, which is modelled after Rivendell from Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings films (2001- 03). Cline goes further in his sequel Ready Player Two (2021) by staging a part of Wade’s virtual quest on Arda I, the First Age of Middle Earth. In this paper, we focus on this episode and, in so doing, argue for Cline’s insights into how we approach fantasy. First, we attend to the ways in which Cline, through Wade and Samantha, replicates Beren’s and Luthien’s quest for a Silmaril. This parallel enables Cline to acknowledge his debt to his predecessor, while mocking Jackson’s overlong The Hobbit trilogy (2012-14). Secondly, and more importantly, we reveal how Cline offers new and more radical ways for reading fantasy. Success in the quests on Arda I requires “an encyclopedic knowledge of Tolkien’s entire Legendarium,” not just “the published version of The Silmarillion. You need to memorize details of a bunch of different, conflicting, unpublished early drafts! And all thirteen volumes of The History of Middle-earth!” If familiarity with the sheer volume of materials separates the expert from the novice, then Cline reveals the inadequacies of book knowledge. This paper contributes to scholarship by illuminating Cline’s allusive practice, by arguing for the value of a more imaginative engagement with texts, and by contextualizing the influence of Tolkien’s posthumously published works.

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