Saturday, April 23, 2011

Lord of the Rings: what does it inspire in you - some strategies and politics of choosing?

The Etsy Beadweaver’s (EBW) May 2011 challenge is to bead something inspired by J.R. Tolkien’s "Lord of the Rings" Trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, Two Towers, & Return of the King. Your design should be based on, or created for a character, creature, prop, or location in the story and when listing your challenge submission in your Etsy shop you should specifically state your choice, and explain how your bead work represents your chosen aspect of Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings trilogy in your listing.

When I first heard about this month’s challenge I headed to my bookshelves to find my rather battered copy of Lord of the Rings. Flipping through its pages bought fond memories flooding back to me of long hours spent reading it over the summer holidays when I was totally immersed in its tales of middle earth, Hobbits, princes, wizards, dragons and of course the Dark Lord Sauren. Now I wonder at it's politics and where my pleasure would lie reading it now (more of that later!).

In the 1960s I had only images from my imagination to conjure up the worlds created by Tolkein. Now imagery abounds amongst the artwork, films, wallpaper and even video games that have been inspired by it. Just go to Google and search for images for Lord of the Rings and you can’t help but be overwhelmed by the drama and atmosphere of the colours, patterns and characters that are readily available to inspire beadwork. Take for instances, The Mines of Moria image (above) I found on Google images – the wonderful colours and shapes alone could be the theme for a monthly challenge.

In fact the plethora of places, characters, creatures or props that could inspire is part of the challenge of this challenge. How do you choose and why do you choose what you do? Here's six strategies that might help those feeling overwhelmed or those just not quite sure where to start:
  1. Take a quiz and see which Lord of the Rings ‘Race’ you are and then use what you find to bead something for that ‘Race’.
  2. Scroll through an alphabetical listing of the characters until you find one whose name and temperament you like. or
  3. Go to Google images and search for Lord of the Rings wallpaper – this search created the greatest diversity of images for me. Scroll through looking for shapes, colours and atmospheres that speak to you.
  4. Search online for Lord of the Rings jewelry – yes it exists! See the Ring of Aragorn (Also known as the Ring of Barahir) image (left) I have included in this blog. Here are some sites to get you going: or
  5. Play a free online Lord of the Rings computer game searching for that image that you can’t resist being inspired by - link here
  6. Be challenged to choose by taking a critical look at the gender, ‘race’ and class controversies underpinning the imagery of Lord of the Rings and see how this might take your beading to a different place. For instance, Kim (2004) wrote that ‘goodness correlates to whiteness, both racially and as color scheme, and is associated with Europe, particularly England and the Scandinavian countries, the West, and the North. Evil is invariably black, savage, Southern (or "Southron"), and Eastern. All racially "white" actors, whether from New Zealand (where the film was shot), Australia, the US, Ireland, or England, are assimilable as Middle-earth heroes (although they must adopt British accents), and the "good" display a heterogeneous mix of European (mostly British and Scandinavian) cultural references”. For a more detailed look at these issues see: A Reflection on Tolkien's World - Gender, Race & Interpreted Political, Economic, Social & Cultural Allegories by Michael Skeparnides -
Personally, it is the final strategy that offers the biggest challenge to me - to my pleasant memories of first reading Lord of the Rings in the 1960s it adds a new twist and tension and to my decision as a beader it brings me to decisions about how I can honor my own values of equity and justice in 2011 in what I choose to bead for the EBW May Challenge. A challenge indeed!

Best beading wishes in making your choices and as always I look forward to what our monthly EBW challenge inspires in each of us.


Kim, Sue, Beyond Black and White: Race and Postmodernism in The Lord of the Rings Films
MFS Modern Fiction Studies - Volume 50, Number 4, Winter 2004, pp. 875-907


  1. Very interesting study on the subject.

  2. Great post! Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. Really great article Glenda, lots of inspiraton here for people to find and use. I had my idea for my piece the moment the challenge was announced because I am a huge fan of Lord of the Rings Trilogy.