Biography on The Burrahobbits
By Jan C. Long, February 1996
On September 12, 1984, a class started on J.R.R. Tolkien and other fantasy authors as part of Marquette University’s Continuing Education Program. After this class finished for the semester, a few students and one of its teachers continued to chat over tea and coffee at an IHOP a couple of blocks up the street from Marquette. John Rateliff was the teacher; Jim Pietrusz, Jeff Long, Jan Noble and Dave Hoose were the students.
These five people decided to meet on a monthly basis at Jeff’s home. At first they discussed Tolkien, but later on discussed other fantasy authors and their books. The group eventually picked a “book of the month” for its main topic of conversation. Like any group, however, anything was discussed! They met on the third Wednesday of the month.
On May 13, 1987, David Lenander of the Mythopoeic Society officially acknowledged this book discussion group, now named The Burrahobbits, as a chartered group under the Society’s auspices. The five original members signed the charter.
People dropped in and out of the group over the years. Relationships formed: Jan Noble eventually became Jan Long. Jim Pietrusz left the group circa 1989, but the other four original members continued on Janice Coulter, Pat Bowne, Greg Rihn, Georgie Schnobrich and Sue Blom joined The Burrahobbits within a couple of years of Jim leaving the group. Janice and John married; Greg and Georgie were already married when they joined.
The Burrahobbits celebrated their 1Oth year anniversary in 1994 by reading various works of J.R.R. Tolkien. They topped the celebration off with a trip to the Marquette University Archives in September to view the Tolkien manuscripts. Jan Long dubbed Janice Coulter as an “Honorary Original Member of the Burrahobbits” with an old sword stowed in the Archives.
John, Jeff, Dave, Jan, Janice, Pat, Greg, Georgie and Sue still are meeting on a monthly basis in 1996-although they usually gather at Jeff’s and Jan’s home on the third Tuesday of the month. They still pick a book each month, but Tolkien is still the honored topic.
We each have gone through several changes in our lives, but the one constant for us an has been The Burrahobbits. We enjoy our discussions immensely. For me, they are a breath of fresh air in an otherwise air-conditioned and stale world. Each of us brings a new light on a particular topic, and, at times, we agree to disagree. Never are we bored with our evening or each other. I can say I love The Burrahobbits: not the group but its members and what it stands for-freedom of speech and friendship.