A great list of inspiring TED talks on literature, film and creativity by the Tolkienist

By TED inc.Vectorization: Totie - https://www.ted.com, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49146188
By TED inc.Vectorization: Totie - https://www.ted.com, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49146188

If you love literature and films  just like I do and take an interest how human creativity works you might want to have a look at some of the amazing talks you can find with TED.

If you don’t know it yet: “TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.” Have a look!

Dr. Verlyn Flieger is Professor Emerita in the English Department at the University of Maryland, specializing in comparative mythology and the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Having taught the latter for over 40 years, she invites her audience to explore Middle Earth as a reflection of the human condition, encouraging us all to recognize and embrace our inner Frodos and Gollums.

When it was first published, “Lord of the Rings” was described as a “a bolt of lightning from a clear sky”. It moved away from everything that had been published after the second wold war. Instead of the pessimistic views of George Orwell’s 1984 or T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, J.R.R. Tolkien created a fantasy tale filled with optimism, introducing themes decades before they came to the forefront of society (denouncing anthropocentric perspectives, industrial pollution, the exploitation of natural resources or the importance of diversity in societies). And millions loved it. So what can Tolkien offer us now that we are in the 21st century? Can we still draw lessons from his work? [Added Nov 2023]

Filmmaker Andrew Stanton (“Toy Story,” “WALL-E”) shares what he knows about storytelling — starting at the end and working back to the beginning. Contains graphic language …

Movies have the power to create a shared narrative experience and to shape memories and worldviews. British film director Beeban Kidron invokes iconic film scenes — from Miracle in Milan to Boyz n the Hood — as she shows how her group FILMCLUB shares great films with kids.

Childhood is surreal. Why shouldn’t children’s books be? In this whimsical talk, award-winning author Mac Barnett speaks about writing that escapes the page, art as a doorway to wonder — and what real kids say to a fictional whale.

Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses — and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person “being” a genius, all of us “have” a genius. It’s a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.

When Colin Stokes’ 3-year-old son caught a glimpse of “Star Wars,” he was instantly obsessed. But what messages did he absorb from the sci-fi classic? Stokes asks for more movies that send positive messages to boys: that cooperation is heroic, and respecting women is as manly as defeating the villain.

A pioneer in research on play, Dr. Stuart Brown says humor, games, roughhousing, flirtation and fantasy are more than just fun. Plenty of play in childhood makes for happy, smart adults — and keeping it up can make us smarter at any age.

Russell Foster is a circadian neuroscientist: He studies the sleep cycles of the brain. And he asks: What do we know about sleep? Not a lot, it turns out, for something we do with one-third of our lives. In this talk, Foster shares three popular theories about why we sleep, busts some myths about how much sleep we need at different ages — and hints at some bold new uses of sleep as a predictor of mental health.

TV executive Lauren Zalaznick thinks deeply about pop television. Sharing results of a bold study that tracks attitudes against TV ratings over five decades, she makes a case that television reflects who we truly are — in ways we might not have expected.

Since Emil Johansson was eleven years old he has been passionate about J.R.R. Tolkien’s works. Today this young creative is also a photographer and engineering student, but still he has found the time to read every book there is about Middle-earth; the world where The Lord of the Rings takes place. In January he published his website consisting of a giant family tree of all the characters living there. The site has received lots of media attention, internet fame and internationally labeled Emil a geek. The latter only encouraging him to expand his creative presence on the web.

And one talk I should add which isn’t from TED:

J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement from Harvard Magazine on Vimeo.

J.K. Rowling, author of the best-selling Harry Potter book series, delivers her Commencement Address, “The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination.”

P.S.: If you see TED from a critical perspective you should most definitely watch this talk.

Benjamin Bratton, Associate Professor of Visual Arts at UCSD and Director of The Center for Design and Geopoltics at CALIT2, asks: Why don’t the bright futures promised in TED talks come true? Professor Bratton attacks the intellectual viability of TED, calling it placebo politics, middlebrow megachurch infotainment, and the equivalent of right-wing media channels. Does TED falsely present problems as simply puzzles to be solved by rearranging the pieces?

Sources credit: All videos and texts are taken from TED.com except for the J.K. Rowling talk which is from Vimeo.com. All copyrights reserved. TEDx talks are usually published via YouTube.com

Update June 2023 Verlyn’s talk added because Verlyn.

Update November 2023 The US National Library of Medicine even asked Should Ted Talks teach us something?

Generally speaking the concept of TED has quite obviously has been made ‘redundant’ by other sites; also, I have come to consider TED as elitist in a way I cannot support. This does not have anything to do with the quality of some of the talks made publicly available but I am not feeling that comfortable with this phenomenon anymore. See criticisms.

As with other posts: I will keep this piece online as a relic of bygone times, a piece of contemporary history and for transparency reasons.

Marcel R. Bülles

Marcel R. Bülles is the author of thetolkienist.com, a specialist blog centering on worldwide Tolkien fandom, geekdom and research. He works as a freelance translator, journalist and writer and is the founder of the German Tolkien Society as well as a co-founder to RingCon, Europe's formerly biggest fantasy film convention. You can find him in cafés all over the world sipping an espresso blogging, writing, reading. At one point he was married to an extremely lovely French lady by the nickname of Sauron. Yes, that Sauron. He is also active with the International Tolkien Fellowship on Facebook and the Tolkien Folk on Instagram.