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A Journey through Fantastic Realms

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A Journey through Fantastic Realms

Elves, Dwarves, and Hobbits

Evening Course

Wednesday, October 16, 2024 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1J0399B
This online program is presented on Zoom.
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19th-century depiction of dwarfs illustrating the poem “Völuspá” by Lorenz Frølich, 1895

Over the past half century, dwarves, hobbits, elves, magic, dragons, runes, and other staples of fantastic realms have become firmly entrenched in popular culture and mainstream media, from The Lord of the Rings to the Harry Potter series. Are such strange phenomena merely the products of fertile imaginations, or are there substantive historical inspirations behind them? Historian Justin M. Jacobs discusses the evolving conceptions of fantastic elements in Eurasian history and lays bare the truth behind what he sees as four distorted myths of fantasy in popular culture surrounding magic; elves, dwarves, and hobbits; Norse runes; and medieval bestiaries.   

Jacobs, a professor of Chinese history at American University, is the author of several books, including Plunder? How Museums Got Their Treasures.

Session Information

Elves, Dwarves, and Hobbits

Ever since the publication of The Hobbit in 1937, furry little people who reside in unseen corners of the world have become a mainstay of the fantasy genre in both literature and film. But there is a much longer history behind popular images of “little people” that predates Tolkien’s hobbits by nearly 2,000 years. Jacobs explores ever-evolving conceptions of elves, dwarves, hobbits, and other diminutive folk, from Scandinavian mythology and medieval European depictions to Victorian racial interpretations and Tolkien’s radical recasting of little people in his world of Middle-Earth.

Additional Sessions of A Journey through Fantastic Realms Series

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