EXPERIENCING THE SACRED. THE HOBBIT AND THE HOLY BOOK

Jyrki Korpua & Maria Ruotsalainen

University of Oulu & University of Jyväskylä

Is fandom a form of religion? While the claims insisting that Fandom can be seen as a form of religion have been met with numerous counter-arguments, insisting that Fandom by no means fills the criteria of organized or institutionalized forms of religion and that is in many ways their opposite – as the scientific based world view and critical thinking are central to it, there are those who argue that the line between religion, religious, fandom, and fantasy is not at all that clear, but they both, to some extent, occupy the plane of beyond the everyday.

In this vein, if we stretch our understanding of religion and religious to include atheistic religions (such as Buddhism and even contemporary Scientology) and even anti-theistic and deformed religions (such as Satanism), we find a lot of common instruments in religion and fandom. Intersections of religion and fandom has been widely researched in the recent years. Studies have often compared fandom to a form of secularized religion, suggesting similar excessive and irrational involvement (Crome 2015). Moreover, if we examine the religious and especially the scared at the level of experience instead of focusing only to structure of religious organisation and movements, more conjectures start emerging between the pair religious-fantasy. Themes like beyond the everyday and the sublime become markers for both religious and fantasy and it can be thus asked can they as such be part of fandom alike.

Against this backdrop, in our presentation we examine what could be called the religious and sacred elements in the reception of The Hobbit movies. We utilize 1614 answers from Finnish audience who participated to an international survey inquiring their opinions about the Hobbit movies. We pay special attention to two tendencies which have emerged from the open-ended answers: the idea of Tolkien’s original The Hobbit book as “sacred” text and watching The Hobbit as sublime or beyond the everyday experience. Through this inquiry, we also speculate the relationship between the sacred and the religion, and the fandom and the fantasy alike.

References:

Crome, Andrew 2015: “Religion and the Pathologization of Fandom: Religion, Reason, and Controversy in My Little Pony Fandom”. Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, Volume 27, Number 2, Summer 2015. P. 130-147.

Duffett, Mark 2003: “False Faith or False Comparison? A Critique of the Religious Interpretation of Elvis Fan Culture”. Popular Music and Society, 26: 4, p. 513-522.

Jindra, Michael 1994: “Star Trek Fandom as a Religious Phenomenon”. Sociology and Religion (1994), 55 (1), p. 27-51.

Korpua, Jyrki 2015: Constructive Mythopoetics in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium. Doctoral Dissertation. Oulu: University of Oulu.

Miéville, China 2009: “There and Back Again: Five Reasons Why Tolkien Rocks”.

Porter, Jennifer 2009: “Implicit Religion in Popular Culture: The Religious Dimensions of Fan Communities”. Implicit Religion, Nov2009, Vol 12 Issue 3, p. 271-280.