The Making of Middle-earth: Tolkien and the First Age


J.R.R Tolkien is one of the best-known writers of the modern age through the popularity of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Yet for much of his life, Tolkien wrote tales of an earlier time, working and re-working these stories over decades his creative vision changing and developing. These tales were never completed, and were only published after his death. 

The stories of the First Age of Middle-earth are epics of great love and sacrifice, of evil and betrayal, and of beauty and horror. This course will look at these extraordinary tales, at the myths and legends that inspired them, and the rich themes that run through them. We will also consider how the art, culture and history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries influenced Tolkien’s creative imagination. 

This course is suitable for a range of students, from those familiar with Tolkien’s works and want to explore and discuss his lesser-known stories in more depth, to those who are looking for an introduction to the history of Middle-earth. 

This course is part of the Inspiring Oxford summer school.

Programme details

Seminars meet each weekday morning, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study, or exploring the many places of interest in and around the city.

We will discuss how the personal and artistic influences in Tolkien’s early life, and his experiences in the Great War, may be seen in the creation of his first complete work, The Book of Lost Tales.  

“A fair elusive beauty”: we will look at the First Age of Middle Earth, from its creation in the Music of the Ainur. We will look at the metaphysics, morality and aesthetics of these stories, discussing the sources and influences, and how their conception changed over time. 

“Fall, Mortality, and the Machine”: we will continue looking at the stories of Middle-earth 

Great Tales of the First Age 1: Beren and Luthien, and Turin Turambar 

Great Tales of the First Age 2: The Fall of Gondolin, and Eärendel 

Field Trip

Destination: Wolvercote Cemetary, burial Place of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Excursion Rating: Easy - up to an hour’s walk on even ground or less than half an hour’s walk on uneven/unpaved ground. 


Description Costs
Fee option 1 (single en suite accom and meals per person) £2290.00
Fee option 2 (single standard accom and meals per person) £1960.00
Fee option 3 (twin en suite accom and meals per person) £2140.00
Fee option 4 (no accom; incl lunch and dinner per person) £1605.00


Please note there are no sources of funding (scholarships, bursaries, etc) available for applicants.


All fees are charged on a per week, per person basis.

Please be aware that all payments made via non-UK credit/debit cards and bank accounts are subject to the exchange rate on the day they are processed.

Payment terms

If enrolling online: full payment by credit/debit card at the time of booking.

If submitting an enrolment form: full payment online by credit/debit card or via bank transfer within 30 days of invoice date.

Extended stay fee

Participants staying multiple, consecutive weeks will be charged an additional bed and breakfast fee for the cost of the Saturday night between courses.

Cancellations and refunds

1. Cancellation by you

Participants who wish to cancel must inform the Programme Administrator in writing: by email to, or by post to Inspiring Oxford, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, OXFORD, OX1 2JA, UK.

The following cancellation and refund policy applies in all cases:

  • Cancellation within 14 days of online enrolment / payment of fees – full refund of all fees paid. 

  • Cancellations received up to and including 30 April 2024 – OUDCE will retain an administration fee of £100 per week booked; all other fees paid will be refunded.
  • Cancellations received between 1-31 May 2024 – OUDCE will retain 60% of the fees paid; the remaining 40% of fees paid will be refunded.
  • Cancellations received on and after 1 June 2024 - no refunds will be made under any circumstances.

Where course fees have been paid in currencies other than pounds sterling, refunds will be subject to the exchange rate on the day they are processed.

2. Cancellation by us

Where there is good reason, OUDCE reserves the right to cancel a course by giving you notice in writing at any time before the course is due to start. In these cases, we will endeavour to offer a transfer to another available course if practical and acceptable to you, subject to payment or refund of any difference in course fees. Alternatively, we will refund the course fees that you have already paid. If we cancel a course, our liability is limited to the fees that we have received from you; this means that we will not compensate you for any pre-booked travel costs or any other expenses incurred. The status of this course will be reviewed on 1 May 2024. If it is likely that the course may be cancelled, anyone affected will be notified by email within 7 days; if you have not heard from OUDCE by 8 May 2024, you should assume that your course will be running. You may wish to delay finalising your travel arrangements until after this date.

OUDCE reserves the right to cancel a course at short notice in exceptional circumstances that would prevent the course from being delivered e.g. tutor illness. In these rare instances, and if we are unable to find a replacement tutor, we will notify you as soon as possible and arrange a transfer to another available Inspiring Oxford course. If we cancel a course, our liability is limited to the fees that we have received from you; this means that we will not compensate you for any pre-booked travel costs or any other expenses incurred.

Where course fees have been paid in currencies other than pounds sterling, refunds will be subject to the exchange rate on the day they are processed.

3. Travel insurance

All participants must purchase travel insurance to cover the programme fee, travel costs, and any other expenses incurred. OUDCE cannot be held responsible for any costs you may incur in relation to travel or accommodation bookings as a result of a course cancellation, or if you are unable to attend the course for any other reason. 


Mr Darren Ormandy


Darren Ormandy has run several courses at Oxford on Shakespeare, Tolkien, and Lewis Carroll. He has tutored on the Oxford Experience, the Oxford University Summer School for Adults, and the Undergraduate Certificate in Literature. He is a former professional actor. His performances on screen include working with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the English Shakespeare Company. 

Darren is the Programme Director for Inspiring Oxford. 

Teaching methods

Participants will be taught in seminar groups of up to 16 people, teaching methods used during this course may include:

  • Short lectures/Presentations
  • Physical handouts
  • Seminars/group discussions
  • Student presentations
  • Video recordings
  • Audio recordings
  • Field trip
  • Other: Writing in Elvish and Dwarvish 

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Registration closes on 29 May 2024. Courses can fill up fast so early registration is recommended.

Single accommodation may be booked online by clicking on the “Book now” button in the “Course details” box at the top right-hand side of the course page. 

If you would like a twin en suite room, please send us a completed enrolment form that names the other course participant you will be sharing with. Please note these rooms have limited availability.

If you experience any difficulties enrolling online please contact the Programme Administrator at

Level and demands

Inspiring Oxford is aimed at non-specialists: no prior knowledge is required, and classes are pitched at an introductory level. The courses are designed for an international audience aged 18 and over.


During your course you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Brasenose College, in the heart of the city in buildings overlooked by the iconic Radcliffe Camera. Please note that bedrooms are modestly-furnished and do not have air-conditioning. 

You can find out more about Brasenose by visiting their website.

The following types of accommodation are available:

  • Single en suite
  • Twin en suite: shared between participants that apply to the programme together
  • Standard single: bathrooms are shared between, on average, four participants
  • a non-residential basis whereby participants can take classes and have lunch and dinner at Brasenose, having arranged their own accommodation elsewhere.

    Non-residential participants are encouraged to attend all aspects of the academic and social programme, and they have equal access to Brasenose as residential participants.

En suite rooms include private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet).