Living ‘Lord of the Rings’

作者:Gui Qian
【导读】Beijing gathering shows the power of fandoms 粉丝二创,让流行文化生机勃勃

Cosplayer Yunqi (not her real name) creates various looks inspired by British writer J.R.R. Tolkien’s works. PROVIDED TO TEENS

Around 70 years ago, British writer J.R.R. Tolkien created the enchanting realm of Middle-earth in The Lord of the Rings, a world that has been attracting fans across the globe ever since.

Recently, more than 200 fans of Middle-earth gathered in Beijing to celebrate The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s  other works. Some dressed as characters from Middle-earth, while others showcased Tolkien-themed artwork and shared insights on the Elvish languages invented by Tolkien ‑ Quenya and Sindarin.

AndreaW (not her real name) participated as one of the  admirers. However, the 26-year-old from Guangdong doesn’t feel comfortable referring to herself as a “fan”.

“Nowadays, the term ‘fan’ carries some negative connotations on social media, and I feel that being identified as a fan might lead to specific obligations, such as contributing digital labor to boost popularity or controling commentary,” she said. “But the truth is, many admirers, including myself, focus more on our creative works rather than highly organized groups.”

It might be more appropriate to instead call AndreaW a “media fan”. Unlike those that follow stars and rising idols, media fans prefer staying on top of various media franchises, including books, games, comics, films, or TV shows.

Li Sixue, a 32-year-old from Jilin province, is one such fan of Tolkien’s works. Calling herself an “academic fan”, Li aspires to document the development of media fan groups in China and get rid of the stigma and misunderstandings surrounding them. “I want to get more people to know that most fans are wonderful young people,” she explained.

Li also finds a trait among media fans ‑  a strong wish for creation and a do-it-yourself attitude. Creators usually share their works through fan fiction, fan art, cosplays, and different fan-centric activities. 

These fans use online platforms to share their creations and show appreciation for others’ works. However, for fans who prefer to observe rather than create, participation in events like screening sessions, reading parties, and conventions allows them to engage with the wider fan community.


Passion projects and works by fans

Community contributions

As a fan of British writer J.R.R. Tolkien, AndreaW organized a special online fan event one month ago, inviting admirers of Tolkien’s books to create fan literary and art pieces in his memory. One after another, they posted their works online once every 15 to 30 minutes, building up a sequence from Aug 27 to Sept 2. About 250 people participated in the activity, creating more than 300 fan works, including fiction, poems, illustrations, and mashup videos. 

Fandom to career

Writing fan fiction is a common starting point for being a fan. The 19-year-old Mia Mao (not her real name) from Shenzhen penned her first X-Men fan fiction at the age of 13. Two years ago, she began crafting fan fiction related to Middle-earth, which, in turn, led her to delve into medieval European history.  She is now working on a full-length novel derived from Tolkien’s series, which will comprise 30 chapters.

Bringing characters alive

While other fan creators express themselves through writing and art, cosplayers dress up as their favorite fictional characters to bring them to life. Yunqi (not her real name), 30, from Guangdong, has created six different looks from Tolkien’s books. She once combined Middle-earth characters with hanfu to bring something new to the original works.  Homura Yan (not her real name), 26, from Beijing, has become a craftswoman through cosplaying.  She made the clothing and weapon of Sauron, a Dark Lord in The Lord of the Rings, all on her own.



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