Tolkien News

Who is the Tolkien Professor?

Source: Matt Mcclain/the Washington Post

Corey Olsen, dubbed the ‘Tolkien Professor’, has been getting a lot of press lately. And why shouldn’t he?  In 2007 the tenured English professor, with a PhD in medieval literature from Washington College, created a podcast on iTunes called “How to read Tolkien and Why” and it has since had over a million downloads. His unusual approach, reaching out publicly vs. publishing his own scholarly works, might be called unconventional by some, but it seems to be working. In an article written for The Washington Post, the author, Daniel De Vise calls Olsen “ of the most popular medievalists in America” In the same article, Olsen spoke about his unique public approach saying, “Instead of spending all my time doing scholarly publishing, which we’re told to do – which most people will never read – I basically decided to put myself out to the public.”

Olsen’s love for Tolkien began when he first read The Hobbit at age eight, and by seventh grade he professed himself to be an expert on The Lord of the Rings. After studying at Williams College in Massachusetts as an undergraduate, he went on to Columbia and received a doctorate in Medieval literature. From there, he went on to teach at Washington College in Chestertown, MD and in 2007 won their top teaching award. But it wasn’t until 2009, when he uploaded an introductory lecture onto iTunes that his website began to get noticed . It took only two months for his site to gain over 5,000 subscribers.With millions of fans eagerly seeking Olsen’s views on Tolkien and his books, the Professor is kept busy. During a live interview conducted by The Washington Post, Olsen was asked what he thought of The Lord of the Rings films. “I like [them] a lot.” he answered. “The film adaptations are, of course, adaptations — that means they are different stories, and we shouldn’t even expect them to be the same. … I’m very glad the films were made, and were done so well. … For me, the greatest triumph of the films is visual — the landscapes, costuming, and scenery are often simply perfect.” When asked which of Tolkien’s characters was his favorite, Olsen replied, “Sam Gamgee, hands down.  Sam is the real hero of the Lord of Rings (in my opinion) — the exemplar of all of the virtues that matter most in Tolkien’s books.  I’m a huge Sam fan.”

Olsen is currently working his way through The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien, and you can  download the lectures here. You may also find him online via Twitter, Facebook and

And now, Dunedain Radio have announced that the ‘Tolkien Professor’ will be joining them live on their Bird and Baby show, hosted by Mark aka Maerech, John from the Lonely Mountain Band and Candace from the Green Dragon Inn, so stay tuned for a set date!

Sources: The Washington Post,

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