An Introduction to Tolkien's Mythology


“How, given little over half a century of work, did one man become the creative equivalent of a people?” So a reviewer famously commented on The Silmarillion, the mythology underlying The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Join a leading expert to discover why Tolkien invented Middle-earth and to make sense of its foundational text – his most ambitious and challenging work. With guided tours to the Oxford colleges where the mythology took root.

Programme details

Seminars meet each weekday morning, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study, or exploring the many places of interest in and around the city.

An enchanted world:
We tune into the underlying themes of Tolkien’s myth of the Music of Creation and shed light on the symbolism of the Silmarils. We consider the use and abuse of creativity in Middle-earth, and we discover the difference between magic and enchantment there. We look at what Tolkien meant by mythopoeia, sub-creation, eucatastrophe and true myth.

Mortality and immortality: We size up the divine Valar and their attendant spirits, as well as the Ents and the Eagles. We explore the diverse natures and fates of Elves, Dwarves and Men. Straying beyond The Silmarillion, we look at Hobbits too; and we set out to discover who Tom Bombadil really is…

Myth to history: We survey the flat world as Tolkien originally devised it and take a close look at his myth of how it was made round – the Downfall of Númenor. We examine the curriculum vitae of the Dark Lord Sauron; round up the ideas behind the Rings of Power; and find out what this has to do with Tolkien’s well-known preference for applicability over allegory.

The tree and its soil: We look at how Middle-earth sprang out of Tolkien’s Oxford studies in English philology and the war that engulfed his generation. We explore his chief sources in real-world mythologies – Northern, Celtic, Classical and others. We ask why he thought an Elvish mythology could also be a mythology for England. In the afternoon we take a guided tour of Exeter College, Oxford, where Tolkien first devised his world.

Good and evil: We look at the importance of heroism and hope; love and fellowship; despair and disenchantment. We take the measure of Dragons, Orcs, Trolls and Balrogs; tangle with the Great Spiders; and ride out with the Ringwraiths. Finally we ask: who is the greatest hero of The Silmarillion?

Field trip
Destination: Exeter College, Oxford
Excursion rating: Easy - up to an hour's walk on even ground or less than half an hour's walk on rough ground.


Description Costs
Fee option 1 (single en suite accom and meals) £1640.00
Fee option 2 (single standard accom and meals) £1445.00
Fee option 3 (twin en suite accom and meals) £1542.50
Fee option 4 (double en suite accom and meals) £1542.50
Fee option 5 (twin set standard accom and meals) £1445.00
Fee option 6 (no accom; incl lunch and dinner) £1125.00


All fees are charged on a per week, per person basis.

Please be aware that all payments made via non-UK credit/debit cards and bank accounts are subject to the exchange rate on the day they are processed.

Payment terms

  • If enrolling online: full payment by credit/debit card at the time of booking.
  • If submitting an application form: full payment online by credit/debit card or via bank transfer within 30 days of invoice date.

Cancellations and refunds

1. Cancellation by you

Participants who wish to cancel must inform the Programme Administrator in writing: by email to, or by post to The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, OXFORD, OX1 2JA, UK.

The following cancellation and refund policy applies in all cases:

  • Cancellation within 14 days of online enrolment / payment of fees – full refund of all fees paid.

  • Cancellations received up to and including 30 April 2022 – OUDCE will retain an administration fee of £100 per week booked; all other fees paid will be refunded.
  • Cancellations received between 1-31 May 2022 – OUDCE will retain 60% of the fees paid; the remaining 40% of fees paid will be refunded.
  • Cancellations received on and after 1 June 2022 - no refunds will be made.

Where course fees have been paid in currencies other than pounds sterling, refunds will be subject to the exchange rate on the day they are processed.

2. Cancellation by us

OUDCE reserves the right to cancel a course where there is good reason, for example, if exceptionally low enrolment would make it educationally unviable. In these cases we will refund the course fees that you have already paid. If we cancel a course, our liability is limited to the fees that we have received from you; this means that we will not compensate you for any pre-booked travel costs or any other expenses incurred.

Where course fees have been paid in currencies other than pounds sterling, refunds will be subject to the exchange rate on the day they are processed.

The status of this course will be reviewed on 1 May 2022. If it is likely that the course may be cancelled, all those affected will be notified by email within 7 days; if you have not heard from OUDCE by 8 May 2022, you should assume that your course will be running. You may wish to delay finalising your travel arrangements until after this date.

3. Travel insurance

You need to purchase travel insurance to cover the programme fee, travel costs, and any other expenses incurred.


Mr John Garth

Author of Tolkien’s Worlds, the award-winning Tolkien and the Great War and the short study Tolkien at Exeter College, John Garth is also an editor and public speaker, and was a fellow of the Black Mountain Institute in 2015–16. He has taught undergraduates, graduates, and others, and co-taught an OUDCE summer school on Tolkien in 2014.

Teaching methods

Participants will be taught in seminar groups of up to 12 people. Elements of this teaching will normally include mini lectures and presentations by tutors and tutor-led class discussions.

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Registratioin closes on 1 May 2022.

Please note: most courses fill up fast so early registration is strongly recommended.

Single accommodation and non-residential places may be booked online by clicking on the “Book now” button in the “Course details” box at the top right-hand side of the course page.

If you experience any difficulties enrolling online please contact the Programme Administrator at

Those requiring twin or double accommodation should complete an application form as these rooms cannot be booked online. Completed forms should be sent:

Level and demands

The Oxford Experience is aimed at non-specialists: no prior knowledge is required, and classes are pitched at an introductory level. The courses are designed for an international audience aged 18 and over.


During your course, you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Christ Church in buildings which range from the 18th to the 20th century.

Participants should note that bedrooms are modestly-furnished, do not have air-conditioning and are arranged on a staircase of four or five floors.

The following types of accommodation are available:

  • Single en suite

  • Single standard

  • Twin en suite

  • Double en suite

  • Standard ‘twin set’.

En suite rooms include private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). Standard rooms have their own washbasin and shaver point but bathroom facilities are shared. ‘Twin sets’ comprise two single rooms opening off a sitting room.

Please note that only single accommodation may be booked online; those requiring twin or double accommodation should complete an application form. (See “Application”.)

Please indicate your accommodation preferences (either online or on your application form), together with a note of any mobility problems.

We regret that we are unable to offer you accommodation at Christ Church prior to or following your course. Additionally, family or friends who are not enrolled in the programme cannot be accommodated in college.

We also offer places on a non-residential basis whereby participants can take classes and have meals (lunch and dinner) at the college, having arranged their own accommodation elsewhere.