Círdan’s note: We are thrilled that the essays written by our members have sparked a movement for others to share what being a nerd looks like. Today, it is Grey Havens YA’s tremendous pleasure to get to share with you the following essay from one of our social media friends. Isn’t the internet incredible? We’ll let Julian introduce himself to you; we hope you are inspired and we welcome you to share your own stories with us! What does being a nerd mean to you? How are you spreading nerdiness to those around you? Please send us an owl (comment below) or email us at email@example.com. #ThisIsWhatANerdLooksLike
Friendship, Inspiration, Creativity: A Little Nerd Manifesto by a German High School Teacher
My name is Julian Eilmann and I am a 35-year-old high school teacher (subjects: German, History, Filmmaking) at the Inda-Gymnasium in Aachen, Germany. I would like to introduce you to the Inda-Fellowship, which is the only school based Tolkien club for young people in our country. Our nice school is based at the green borders of our lovely home town Aachen, which is one of the most western cities in Germany next to the Dutch border.
Being a nerd seems to be the same in the USA and Germany these days. Although nerdism appears to be just another trend in mainstream culture for some years now and everyone who wants to be cool is wearing “nerd glasses,” this is not what nerdism is all about. Being a nerd is all about dedication, enthusiasm, and a true love for great stories and characters in all their manifestations (books, films, comics, games etc.). And this is what the Inda-Fellowship is all about too. So, are we, in this sense, nerds? Of course we are. Our Fellowship is the home for all lovers of fantasy at our school!
We are all dedicated to the works of the founder of the modern fantasy genre, J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. When I founded this club in 2010, I had been a Tolkien and fantasy fan since my own youth. Since I first listened to the great German audio play of The Lord of the Rings on the radio at the age of 12, a new and wonderful world was in my imagination. In the following years I read everything from Tolkien I could get my hands on and played the pen and paper role-playing games with my friends (does anyone remember MERP? – that was fun!). This was another fine way to become part of this world of endless adventures. In some ways, I have been under a spell ever since these days and have been constantly enchanted by Middle-earth, which is in fact an imaginary home for me where my thoughts travel at least once each day. Apart from enjoying Tolkien’s work just for my pleasure, I have been researching Tolkien’s work for a decade now and am right now writing my PhD study on “Tolkien: Romanticist and Poet.”
Tolkien’s Middle-earth novels and, even more so, my beloved Silmarillion do leave me breathless and still fill me with great joy. When in the end Frodo passed away into the West, there were some tears, but we learn from the wisdom of a famous grey Wizard that “not all tears are an evil.” These misty eyes do rather signify that you have made a great experience. One you will never forget. I can truthfully say that I got inspired by Tolkien and have been for my whole life now. And now it is my goal as a teacher to inspire children and teenagers at my school, because I am convinced that Tolkien has left us in fact a modern mythology that offers endless joy, excitement, and wisdom for each generation.
And it warms my heart that the Inda-Fellowship has been progressing so well over the years. At the moment, the group consist of 17 boys and girls of the age of 11-17 and four teachers, who love to immerse themselves in Middle-earth with these wonderful kids. As has been said, being a nerd for us means dedication to our hobby – or rather our passion. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that our group motto is “Friendship, Inspiration, and Creativity!” Our Fellowship is the place where one can meet likeminded people who share the same love for imagination and fantasy, especially in the works of Tolkien, but also apart from that. And, as friendship is a major topic in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, we are forming our own alliance to spend time together in our beloved Middle-earth. It is a delight for everyone involved – teachers as well! – to debate all things concerning Tolkien and beyond. Friendship means that everyone’s opinion is valued, and in a relaxed atmosphere one can feel free to share his ideas with other Tolkien nerds in the group. For example, we have two teenage boys in our group who started in our Fellowship when they were in 5th class. Now they attend 10th class, are in their home-stretch for the final exams in two years – but are still among us. In fact, they have spent their whole high school time in our group which proves that this group can be more than just another afternoon school club.
Furthermore, the Inda-Fellowship offers many ways for young people to get inspired. The last five years have shown how we all get constantly inspired by our joint exploration of Middle-earth. One source of inspiration was our journey to Tokien’s Oxford in the winter of 2011, where we had the chance to take a look at Tolkien’s manuscripts at the Bodleian Library and visited the picturesque Merton College, where the professor lived. To get so close to our beloved author and the place where he created his mythology was the chance of a lifetime for participants. Some of the kids said: “This was the best time of my life yet!” For me, it is a lasting experience too.
The third pillar of our group is creativity, which is a force that is essential for Tolkien’s work. We don’t want to be passive too. We rather want to get our bottoms up and find interesting ways to create something our own. Recently we have spent quite some time producing hilarious stop-motion films with Hobbit Lego sets. This has been a lot of fun for us and we received a lot of positive response from the audience. Right now, we are building Middle-earth models in the school’s workshop. If you can imagine 17 boys and girls and four teachers working with clay, wood and paint to build the Black Gate of Mordor, a Hobbit Mill or a Rohan house, this is exactly what we have been doing the last months.
We have lots of great ideas for the future, and we love to get in contact with other Tolkien fans around the world. Although Middle-earth will ever be the core of our group activities, we also like to chat about other fantastic universes. With this in mind, we greet the Grey Havens YA – you guys seem to have as much fun as we do and we wish you all the best for your future.
To learn more about Julian and the Inda-Fellowship, check out their website: https://indagefaehrten.wordpress.com/