The 12th Annual Writing Carnival, featuring The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, was a welcomed return for LCU students, faculty, and staff, giving everyone a chance to participate in one of LCU’s most beloved community events of the year.
On Monday morning, the carnival began with its traditional chapel presentation by Dr. Kenneth Hawley and the kick-off of the 24-hour reading marathon, which takes place on the steps of the McDonald Moody auditorium. Dean Matt Bumstead opened the event with a fully-voiced, British-accented reading of the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring.
Tolkien’s world-renowned literary masterpiece is a prime focus for a Christian university, as Dr. Hawley explained.
“The Lord of the Rings is, at its heart, rooted in the fundamental ideas of Christianity, about good and evil; fellowship, companionship, and devotion; sacrifice, and how even though ultimately a great good is achieved, it is a painful journey, a difficult one,” he shared.
“The sacrifices, the losses that the characters suffer, it’s all in the service of this greater good. Ultimately, that force of good defeats what seems at the time to be the greatest evil—but it’s not the greatest, it’s not superlative—there is a greatest good that is greater than any evil. Those stories celebrate those truths, and that is why they resonate so strongly when we celebrate them on a Christian campus.”
Tolkien’s words echoed throughout the campus all Monday afternoon amidst recreations of Shelob’s Lair, Hobbit holes, and other Lord of the Rings decorations, and that evening carnival-goers enjoyed a screening of “The Return of the King” inside the Baker Conference Center. At midnight, President Scott McDowell read to an audience of students in lawn chairs and hammocks in front of the McDonald Moody Auditorium in the president’s traditional timeslot.
Immediately following Dr. Hawley’s second part of his chapel presentation Tuesday morning, the 24-hour reading marathon concluded, and the Writing Carnival itself began. Students, faculty, and staff flooded out of the Moody to enjoy the customary street tacos, grilled corn-on-the-cob, crispy churros, and other carnival treats provided by LCU’s dining services team. Attendees entered writing contests ranging from creating 6-word-stories to caption contests, Middle-Earth trivia, and much more, while music students performed arrangements of Howard Shore’s soundtrack from the Lord of the Rings film adaptations.
“One of the greatest things about the Writing Carnival through the years is how widely it affects our campus,” shared Dr. Hawley. “We try to do it early in the semester to welcome the students to campus with a community-wide event, and to celebrate reading and writing. But it’s also a testament to how nimble and capable our community really is. It’s not just the work of the English department—it’s MarCom, it’s Student Life, it’s our facilities crew, and it’s the volunteers from across campus, all working together to make this experience possible. It’s a time of fellowship for everyone to enjoy this place and to celebrate what we all share in common.”