January 3rd marked the birthday of English writer JRR. Tolkien (January 3, 1892 – Sept 2, 1973), author of The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. Here at the Medical Library we took this opportunity to assemble an exhibit of a few of Tolkien’s works and medically related resources.
Combat has an important place in many of the adventures of Bilbo, Frodo and their companions. Whether with Trolls, Orcs, Goblins, or spiders, the main characters have had to fight their way out of many perilous situations. Tolkien’s own experiences in the British Army during WWI are credited with influencing his characterization of combat and the treatment of soldiers. From this time period is a book from our Special Collections, The Manual of Splints and Appliances for the Medical Department of the United States Army, 1917 and an image of the cover of the Military Edition of the Manual of Prehospital Trauma Life Support, from Trauma, 2013.
Also on display is a page from The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey; focusing on the psych of Gollum and the war between his dual personalities. Two books from our collection, Medical Illness and Schizophrenia and Deconstructing Psychosis might be helpful when determining a diagnosis for Gollum. You may also wish to take a look at the 2013 “Christmas Crackers” article in the Medical Journal of Australia which explores Gollum’s environment and health for evidence to support the hypothesis that a deficiency in vitamin D may account for the triumph of good over evil in fantasy literature!
A quick examination of Tolkien’s works provided us with a bit of insight in to Elfin herbal medicine. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Herbs and The Herbal: or General History of Plants describe plants used for treatments of conditions and injuries acquired by characters in the novels. Two case studies describe healing sword cuts with athelas and drinking Miruvor, a drink of rejuvenation. Additional books from our collection, Popular Medicine in Thirteenth-Century England and Medieval Medicus, discuss medical treatments and theories that Tolkien may have researched to incorporate in his writings.
Tolkien, an Oxford professor of English Language and Literature and an editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, invented complex languages used by his characters in Middle Earth. Test your knowledge with the Tolkien or Medicine? Quiz. You can find your copy on the exhibit display case. Or, if you are interested in reenactments, check out the description of Hands of the Healer supplement for Middle-earth Role Playing (MERP) games.
Several 3D printed, Tolkien inspired, props accessorize this exhibit. These include a castle, dragons, castle bracelet and two copies of Thorin’s Key to Erebor. All of these items were downloaded from Thingiverse, a 3D file sharing site, and printed on a FlashForge dual extruder 3D printer using ABS filament.