Saturday, January 30, 2016

What Inspired you to Read LOTR?

Hmm, an interesting question.

I've said before that I have been "exposed" to LOTR practically all my life--the movie was playing in the living room every other month.  But it wasn't until I actually sat down and watched the movies--and I mean really watched--that I became enamoured.  I kept having questions about what was going on, why a certain thing was such a big deal, etc. and these questions I asked my sister.  She answered them with even more confusing details and eventually I just decided I should straighten things out for myself.

But I quickly realized watching the movies is nothing like reading the books (there is really no experience anything like doing those two things at all) and I was discouraged and I quit.  I kind of lost touch with it for awhile until I saw the "Hobbit" movies.  

Seeing the books come alive again (despite my problems with "The Hobbit" movies) reinspired me, and I went back to work on the books.  Thankfully, that time it worked out.

^ I am introduced to The Lord of the Rings for the first time 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Lord of the Rings Quotes

"Legolas Greenleaf, long under tree, In joy thou hast lived. Beware of the Sea! If thou hearest the cry of the gull on the shore, Thy heart shall find rest in the forest no more."  
A picture of a picture I took on my vacation!  

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Tolkien and Spiders

It has been speculated over the years as to why Professor Tolkien included spiders such as Shelob and Ungoliant as one of his many forms of evil.
animal, silhouette, bokeh
Some have pointed to a childhood event in which he was bitten by a tarantula while living in South Africa.  However, Tolkien pointed out that he has no great fear of spiders and he would "remove them from the bath if I saw one" (Letters).

His son however, had an intense fear of the bugs and I think it is most likely that--since he was writing his stories for his children in the first place--he put them in there to frighten his children (good-naturedly, of course) and as his children grew, so did his stories.

There is another thing about spiders I find intriguing.  First off, they are subcreators.  They spin their webs thereby making their own craft.  One thing about most evil in Tolkien is that it often starts off with these subcreative desires but they want to make things for themselves so that they can rule over them.  Think of Feanor who was originally a good subcreator but who became overprideful and refused the sight of the Silmarils to anyone, or think about Morgoth who--while not exactly a subcreator--perverted the good into things he could rule over.  These spiders being naturally subcreators is very interesting.

Something to note about Ungoliant's passing is that she "spun her own web" so to speak.  She ended up consuming all the light around her to "belch forth darkness" and in consuming it all, was starved.  Eventually she consumed herself.  This just goes to show you that evil is naturally self-destructive.

Okay, another note.  I was able to post this before I embarked on my vacation travels, so this doesn't mean for sure I will be able to post this weekend.   We shall see.  Have a great day!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Concerning Hobbits and Their Origins

Little is known about the actual origins of the stunted beings.

The thing is, Professor Tolkien had been working on his stories (what is now in The Silmarillion) long before the idea of hobbits had even entered his head.  In fact, it wasn't until he was requested to write a sequel to The Hobbit (which became The Lord of the Rings) that he decided to connect it with his earlier works (which had, of course, not been published yet).  So in The Silmarillion (which Tolkien never finished) hobbits are not even mentioned except in Of The Rings of Power and the Third Age which was added later on as a way to ease into The Lord of the Rings.

The first thing I think we can probably say with reasonable certainty is that hobbits are most closely related to Men.  They are certainly not elves--what with their height and demeanor--and contrary to what their height might suggest, they are not dwarves.  The clearly have similar fates to Men, that is, leaving the world and going "we know not whither".

Not much is actually known about early Men, either, except that they came from the East fleeing from some evil, speculated by the elves to be the servants of Morgoth.  Upon re-reading The Silmarillion, one quote struck me in regards to this question of hobbit origins.

"And he [Amlach] went away north and entered the service of Maedhros.  But those of his people who of like mind with Bereg chose a new leader, and they went back over the mountains into Eriador and are forgotten." (pg. 145)

Basically, the Men who had come into the West got into a kind of fight and some of them crossed back into Eriador, where the Shire.  Are these the Men of Bree, or are these perhaps what would later become the hobbits?  The fact that they are "forgotten" makes it sound like they did not have interest in keeping their own history (for surely if they had they would have reported it to the elves who would have recorded it in The Silmarillion) and this is very similar to the attitudes of the hobbits.

Furthermore, this faction followed Bereg.  Bereg had argued that the whole battle against Morgoth in Beleriand was not Men's problem and that the elves should handle it.  He is one of the least motivated of the race of Men.  Again, this attitude is very similar to the hobbits.

It is possible that the hobbits, however, were descended from the people of the Rohirrim since many of their words (including "hobbit" which is likely a corruption of the Rohirric word "hobbytla") are Rohirric in origin.  Both the hobbits and the Rohirrim were said to be from the valley of the River Anduin which further connects them.

So the hobbits could have been any group of Men--descended from the Rohirrim, one of the followers of Amlach's defected people, or another group that never made it into Beleriand in the First Age--that ended up living in Eriador.  But why did they become stunted in growth?

Likely the answer has to do with their environment.  In that area there was probably not much violence--Morgoth was in the far north, away from Eriador and Sauron was dormant for a time--and so they had less need for battle.  Because of their habits of sitting idle or with relatively little motion, their bodies could have adapted to be smaller and more compact since not as much physical labor was required from them.

Whatever the answer is, hobbits are undoubtedly one of the most interesting and of course significant characters in Middle-earth.

Before I go, I want to let you know I am going on vacation for the next five days and I may or may not have access to Wi-Fi or a computer.  If I don't there will be a slight break in my posting schedule but I will try to make it up when I return.  Navaear!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Q&A: Movie Qualms?

My friend asked me earlier today if there was anyway the Lord of the Rings movies (not The Hobbit movies, mind you!) diverged from the books in a way I didn't like.

Well, first off, I would like to say that I saw the movies before I read the books.  In fact, my interest in the movies was what inspired me to read the books--so I am always indebted to those movies.  

Secondly, I am very happy with the movies.  I think that they did the best they could.  I can't think of any major things I would do differently if I were to translate them.  I suppose I may side with Christopher Tolkien and say that the movies are a bit too focused on the action than the substance of the stories, but I don't fault the movie makers for that--they needed to sell tickets, and often, action is what sells.

I would say there is one thing in the movies that bothers me.  Don't get me wrong when I say this--I love Aragorn and Arwen.  And I understand that Arwen had to have more screen time in order for her to be a memorable character...but I have a strong dislike for the part of the movie where she rescues Frodo and takes him to Rivendell.

First of all, I find this to be almost a contradiction to the books (it technically is, I suppose, but normally I would be okay with Arwen replacing Glorfindel).  But besides the fact that a part of the book was completely changed, it wasn't changed to anything realistic.  Hear me out.  Elrond's wife and Arwen's mother was just killed passing from Rivendell to Lothlorien.  But, according to movie logic, Elrond still allows his young daughter (the pride and joy of his life and the Evenstar of her people) to travel alone tracking Nazgul.  I just don't find this logical.

My second reason for disliking this part, is because it took a lot away from Frodo.  The Flight to the Ford was one of Frodo's strongest moments.  He stands up to the Nazgul, "By Elbereth and Luthien the fair you will have neither the Ring nor me!"  He says.  In the movie, Frodo just moans and emits nasty gunk out of his eyes (makes me gag every time!).

Thirdly, what a way to introduce Arwen.  The movie makers realized their mistake a bit later during filming for "The Two Towers".  They originally were planning on having Arwen fight alongside Aragorn in the Battle of Helm's Deep.  Thank the Valar they didn't!  Liv Tyler says, "We realized Arwen can be strong without putting a sword in her hand."  Thank you!  What is with every female character ever having to be some "break the stereotype warrior"?  There are other ways to be noble besides battle.  Plus, this would totally take away from Eowyn who is the prime example of successful female warrior character.  I just wish they would have realized this before they had Arwen take Glorfindel's part.

All in all, I truly love the movies and I re-watch them often.  But I am the first to admit that the movies are not perfect.  The Arwen-alteration is my biggest qualm of the original movies, but I love them nonetheless.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Deep Roots are not Reached by the Frost

nature, forest, treesPreservation and Memory in Tolkien

"All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost,
The old who is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring,
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king."
-J.R.R. Tolkien The Fellowship of the Ring

Trees are very symbolic in Tolkien.  Think of all the different references to trees--Treebeard and the Ents, the Old Forest, the Tree of Numenor, The Two Trees of Valinor, the Tree of Gondor, the Party Tree--the list goes on.  I would suggest that each of these trees have their own significance and thematic purpose.

The first trees we are acquainted with are the Two Trees of Valinor.  These trees are extremely important to history both in their connection to the Silmarils--which decide the fate of much of the First Age--but also because they mark the start of an era.  The Time of the Trees is the longest period of happiness and bliss in Valinor.  Later on in The Lord of the Rings, the Trees will be referenced to recall that past time.  So the Two Trees of Valinor are intimately combined with history.

Descended from one of the Trees of Valinor, Telperion, is the White Tree Nimloth which is kept on Tol Eressea by the elves.  Descended from Nimloth is the White Tree of Numenor.  This is the tree that Sauron wanted most adamantly to destroy once he came to Numenor.  Despite all his efforts--even his burning of the tree--it survived on in the seedling Isildur took.

From that seedling grew the White Tree of Gondor.  The Tree died when the Stewards took control of Gondor but was replanted by Aragorn when he became the king.

So what can we conclude from all of this?

I think that the Trees in Tolkien represent--among other things--history and memory.  These Trees have lasted all throughout history, their line never permanently failing.  The Trees have seen many historical events and they are a reminder to everyone to remember history and their past.

When Gandalf says of Aragorn that "deep roots are not reached by the frost" he means that Aragorn's line is long and goes back far...this evil will not be able to reach it.

When Aragorn goes back to Gondor and replants the seedling, he recalls the history of all of the White Trees that came before it.  He remembers this history (or the roots of the tree) but gets ready to continue forward (and grow upward, like an actual tree) as the new king.

A lot of the elves in Middle-earth are unable to let go of history.  They are mildly obsessed with preserving how things were in the Elder Days.  In fact, the three elven Rings' main purpose is preservation.  That is why the bearers of those Rings have the most beautiful elvish realms--Rivendell and Lothlorien (we find out later that Gandalf has the other Ring).  The elves are "fighting the long defeat".  They know that they will have to go into the West, that they can't live in Middle-earth forever, but they try unsuccessfully to preserve it forever.

What the elves don't understand is that you must remember history and remember the past, but go on, go forward and let things change.  The elves' attempts to resist change are futile and they all eventually pass into the West.

The planting of the Tree in Gondor reminds Aragorn and all the citizens to look to the West and remember where they came from and what made them the people they are, but to also look to the future and embrace change.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Green Sun

What makes a fantasy story more or less believable?

Professor Tolkien obviously tried very hard to make his stories believable.  He said that the more believable a story was, the better.

"Fantasy has also an essential drawback: it is difficult to achieve. . . . Anyone inheriting the fantastic device of human language can say the green sun. Many can then imagine or picture it. But that is not enough..."

What he is saying here, is that you can speak the words "green sun" and people will probably get a rough idea of what you mean.  But of course, you look outside and see indeed that the sun is yellow and the words spoken to you earlier were not real.  Tolkien makes it very clear that good fantasy can go past this--make you believe that a green sun is possible in a place far away.

Take for example a completely fantastical story such as the Wind in the Willows.  You are told that Toad and Rat are speaking to each other, but then you look outside and see that there is, of course, no way that a real toad and rat could speak to each other.  You see that the Wind in the Willows could never realistically happen.  But you still enjoy it because it is an interesting story and has good themes.

I think that Professor Tolkien was aiming higher in his fantasy.  Not only did he want you to enjoy the story, he wanted to make it seem like maybe in some world far, far away it actually could have happened.  Now what makes something so believable that you could tell someone there is a "green sun" and they would believe it?

1. Details
There are so many facts in this world.  No matter how smart you are, there is literally no way that you can know everything there is to know.  Similarly, in Tolkien, there are so many facts that you could never memorize everything.  I am often surprised to think that even Professor Tolkien could remember everything.  I think that it is certainly possible he didn't!  Maybe he worked on the hobbit family trees and set them aside without memorizing them.  It is certainly possible.  There are so many details that there is no way to remember everything which makes it just like the real world.

2. Relatability 
Professor Tolkien was so frustrated with people saying that his books were a metaphor for WWII.  He finally confronted the issue in his forward to The Fellowship.  He says that if WWII and The Lord of the Rings have similarities, it is because they have a common denominator: humanity.  They are similar because they both have the same themes, not because he just copied down the story of WWII and changed the names.  What they share is the themes that have run throughout humanity: the struggle for power, racism, corruption, violence.  By including so many themes that people are familiar with into his work, it seems so much more realistic.  So realistic that people began to think it was actually based on history.

3. Distance
Let's say you do a drawing.  It is an okay drawing.  From far away, a lot of the imperfections are insignificant and they don't detract from the full picture.  But, if you examine that picture under a microscope, you're going to find a lot of flaws--the pencil went out of the lines here, the ink was smudged there.  In order to keep the picture looking relatively flawless, you're going to need to look at it from far away.  Similarly, in Tolkien's books, he often leaves things vague and distant.  Also, if there are inconsistencies in the work we can blame it on the authors.  Not Tolkien, but the authors within the stories: Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, the elves, etc.  I did another post on this which explains how the stories we read were actually written by the characters themselves.  Therefore, one inconsistency does not eliminate the realism of the story but rather accentuates the character of the authors writing it down and retelling it.

4. Change
So many fantasy worlds are static.  Life inside those worlds never changes.  But it is very clear that things in Middle-earth change a lot and change dramatically.  One of the best examples of this is the language.  Tolkien was a philologist and the languages he created were one of the biggest aspects--in his opinion--of his work.  Instead of having "elvish" be the language, he took into account the history of the world.  Quenya was a branch of elvish spoken by all elves until their journey to Valinor.  Then some of them continued speaking it while others adapted their language and it became Sindarin.  This little detail makes it so much more real.  Not only are there different languages for different creatures and races (such as in the real world whales communicate one way and humans another), but there are differences among the creatures (there are many people who speak different languages...they are the same creature, but they use different words).  Another example is the sinking of Beleriand.  The continents of the real world are shifting all the time.  Beleriand is a bit different because it is all sunk in an instant, but it is still a huge change in the history of Middle-earth which parallels the change in the history of the real world, such as when the land split from Pangaea into the continents we know today.

5. Characters
Good characters are probably the most important thing to any story.  And Tolkien is the master of believable characters.  Just think of Eowyn.  The people of the world today can certainly understand her struggle to be taken seriously.  But she is not a saint.  Eowyn--just like any human--has her problems.  She despairs easily and often--all she wants is to die for a lot of The Return of the King.  She doesn't understand for the longest time that death and glory in war is one thing, but there is something noble about healing and nurturing.  Within her character arc she does learn this.  We can relate to some aspect of Eowyn--whether pre-change or post--and that is what makes her so believable.  Even Luthien, who I am guessing was one of Tolkien's favorite elves if not his favorite (he based her after his wife, after all) has her flaws.  She doesn't tell her father Thingol about her relationship with Beren.  She did owe it to her father to care enough about his feelings to tell him.  He may have reacted better to Beren if she had.  No characters are perfect, just like no real people are perfect, which adds realism.

Professor Tolkien was a master of realistic fantasy (and no, that's not an oxymoron).  His work is important to anyone interested in writing fantasy because it shows that just because a story is taking place beneath a "green sun" doesn't mean it can't be believable. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Tolkien Art

I follow this blog called  I wanted to share this beautiful painting of his that I especially love called Eowyn at the Houses of Healing.  I love how muted the colors are...very pastel.  I also think Eowyn's dress is just beautiful and its bright colors make it a strong focal point.  What is your favorite piece of Tolkien art?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Lord of the Rings Quotes

“I don’t like anything here at all.” said Frodo, “step or stone, breath or bone. Earth, air and water all seem accursed. But so our path is laid.”

“Yes, that’s so,” said Sam, “And we shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo, adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on, and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same; like old Mr Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into?”

“I wonder,” said Frodo, “But I don’t know. And that’s the way of a real tale. Take any one that you’re fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don’t know. And you don’t want them to.” 

Sorry about the short posts recently...I've been super busy.  Hopefully I'll be back doing longer posts soon.  Have a great day!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Inklings

You may have heard that J.R.R. Tolkien was a member of a group called the Inklings.  But what were the Inklings exactly?  Who was a member?

Photo Credit:
The Inklings were a group of English authors and scholars who got together to have a beer and a good time discussing literature.  Some of the most notable members were: (of course) J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, Roger Lancelyn Green (he wrote a compilation book of called King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table which I just finished yesterday), Owen Barfield, and Hugo Dyson among others.

The meetings were generally very informal.  Their primary purpose was to read over the various members' works and discuss and critique them.  The Lord of the Rings were discussed on several occasions and Tolkien would sometimes read snippets of things he was working on.  One of the most famous locations of these meetings was the Eagle and Child Pub, sometimes called the Bird and Baby.

The Inklings ended up breaking apart in 1933 after one of their members left Oxford University.  The influence of the famous group lives on in the imaginations and thoughts of fantasy lovers and literature nerds.

It is undeniable that the Inklings helped shape (to a certain extent) the works of Tolkien that we know today.  I don't know about you, but I would love to be a member of such a club!

Source: Inklings (literary and art magazine), Miami University.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Born of Hope and The Hunt for Gollum

These are the two most popular fan films made based around The Lord of the Rings.  I find it very inspiring--as an amateur film maker myself--to see such great work come out of fans.

The first one, "Born of Hope", is all about Arathorn and Gilraen, Aragorn's parents, and their struggles to survive along with the Dunedain--Sauron's more bitter adversary.

I really love how this story has conflict throughout.  It is really good at building character quickly, as well.  Some of the side characters actually had really well fleshed out personalities and I found myself really caring for each character.  Additionally, I think the quality of the film making was really spectacular.  They only had a limited budget and they still made it work.  It was a good call for them to base it around the Dunedain--who live in the wild and fairly primitive camps for a lot of the time--as opposed to say, the elves--who's sets would be much more elaborate and expensive.  The acting was really great, especially on Arathorn's part.

This second one is "The Hunt for Gollum".  I would have to say that "Born of Hope" is my favorite of the two, however.  Some of "The Hunt for Gollum" gets repetitive and dare I say tedious because there is a lot of just watching Aragorn walk around and I think a touch too many establishing shots.  Also, the CGI in some parts is not very realistic, but I didn't find it taking away too much from the film itself.  I think that it was a really original story line and it is pretty important to see what Gollum had been up to in the years between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.   One of the best parts was the score.

Both of these films are really fantastic and I am so happy that Lord of the Rings fans are willing to put their talents to such good use for all fans to enjoy.  Let me know what you think of each of these films in the comments below.  Abarad!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Lord of the Rings Quotes

“The leaves were long, the grass was green,
The hemlock-umbels tall and fair,
And in the glade a light was seen
Of stars in shadow shimmering.
Tinuviel was dancing there
To music of a pipe unseen,
And light of stars was in her hair,
And in her raiment glimmering.

There Beren came from mountains cold,
And lost he wandered under leaves,
And where the Elven-river rolled.
He walked along and sorrowing.
He peered between the hemlock-leaves
And saw in wonder flowers of gold
Upon her mantle and her sleeves,
And her hair like shadow following.

Enchantment healed his weary feet
That over hills were doomed to roam;
And forth he hastened, strong and fleet,
And grasped at moonbeams glistening.
Through woven woods in Elvenhome
She lightly fled on dancing feet,
And left him lonely still to roam
In the silent forest listening.

He heard there oft the flying sound
Of feet as light as linden-leaves,
Or music welling underground,
In hidden hollows quavering.
Now withered lay the hemlock-sheaves,
And one by one with sighing sound
Whispering fell the beechen leaves
In the wintry woodland wavering.

He sought her ever, wandering far
Where leaves of years were thickly strewn,
By light of moon and ray of star
In frosty heavens shivering.
Her mantle glinted in the moon,
As on a hill-top high and far
She danced, and at her feet was strewn
A mist of silver quivering.

When winter passed, she came again,
And her song released the sudden spring,
Like rising lark, and falling rain,
And melting water bubbling.
He saw the elven-flowers spring
About her feet, and healed again
He longed by her to dance and sing
Upon the grass untroubling.

Again she fled, but swift he came.
Tinuviel! Tinuviel!
He called her by her elvish name;
And there she halted listening.
One moment stood she, and a spell
His voice laid on her: Beren came,
And doom fell on Tinuviel
That in his arms lay glistening.

As Beren looked into her eyes
Within the shadows of her hair,
The trembling starlight of the skies
He saw there mirrored shimmering.
Tinuviel the elven-fair,
Immortal maiden elven-wise,
About him cast her shadowy hair
And arms like silver glimmering.

Long was the way that fate them bore,
O'er stony mountains cold and grey,
Through halls of iron and darkling door,
And woods of nightshade morrowless.
The Sundering Seas between them lay,
And yet at last they met once more,
And long ago they passed away
In the forest singing sorrowless.”
From the Lay of Leithien by J.R.R. Tolkien

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Q&A: Favorite Weapon?

Hmm...a good question from my friend.

From Glamdring to Belthronding, there are so many unique weapons in Middle-earth which I find fascinating.  I would say that my favorite weapon is...Anduril.

Anduril is Aragorn's sword reforged from the shards of Narsil.  It's blade actually cut the Ring from Sauron's finger in the Second Age.  It was taken to Rivendell and reforged.  It was renamed Anduril, which means "Flame of the West."

This is my favorite weapon because it is very symbolic.

Isildur originally owned Narsil and was able to cut the Ring from Sauron's finger.   But he was corrupted by the Ring's influence, and his sword was broken.  Aragorn, his heir, was able to "face the same evil and defeat it" and the sword was reforged for him.  The race of Men was redeemed through his actions and Anduril symbolizes that.

The sword was the spark that united the Men of Middle-earth and specifically Gondor.  The fact that it dealt Sauron his original "death" blow gave them hope that it could be done again.  Men were crying that "the sword reforged shall come to Minas Tirith!"  It was the spark that ignited the flame, so to speak.

Aragorn is also one of my favorite characters, so that could be another reason it is my favorite.

I've been reading a lot of stories of King Arthur and his knights, and in writing this article, I started thinking about the significance of kings and their swords.  King Arthur's sword Excalibur and Aragorn's Anduril are kind of similar.  Only the true king is able to wield the sword.  King Arthur was the only one who could draw the sword from the stone and Elrond refused to reforge Narsil until Aragorn came around.

You should check out this Man at Arms: Reforged video where these smiths recreate Anduril.

Remember that if you have any questions--whether it be about my personal opinion or a general question about Middle-earth--leave a comment.  Thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Road Trip!

Buckle up because we're taking a road trip to...Middle-earth!  Or New Zealand, rather.  It must be on every fan's bucket list to visit the beautiful locations The Lord of the Rings was shot at.

Stop #1: Marlborough
We'll start in The Hobbit.  Marlborough is home to the river used to shoot the scenes of the dwarves escaping the woodland king's halls in barrels.

Stop #2: Mount Cook 
Follow the dwarves all the way down the river and you will find yourself in Laketown!  Laketown scenes were shot in Mount Cook, and don't worry, unlike in Laketown, there are no dragons in those parts.

Stop #3: Matamata
Ah, end your trip through The Hobbit and rest up to get ready to embark on the Quest of the Ring right here in Hobbiton.  Matamata was worked on for a whole year before principal photography on The Fellowship, so it looks very realistic.

Stop #4: Wellington
Tired of running away from Ringwraiths?  Take a "short rest" here in Wellington where Rivendell scenes were shot.

Stop #5: Fernside Gardens
The enchanted wood of Lothlorien was filmed at the Fernside Gardens in New Zealand.  Stay close, young hobbits!  They say there is a great sorceress in these elf-witch of terrible power!

Friday, January 15, 2016


Alright, more scenes from frustrating lunch conversations with my friends.

(Hi, friends if you're reading this, you're the best :)

My friend Anna was reading the post I dedicated to her called "Magic in Tolkien" (I had to force her to actually read it since she didn't the first time.  Actually she didn't even finish this second time...) and she stumbled upon this quote from the post: "He says that magic is an art. I want to make it perfectly clear that it is not an art that you can study and learn, like the wizards in Harry Potter. You are born with it, and you practice and perfect it for the greater glory of the world around you and put it to use according to Eru's will."

"Harry Potter is way better than The Lord of the Rings!" she said suddenly.  At first I was confused because I had no idea what she was talking about.  When I realized she thought I was saying that the Lord of the Rings was better than Harry Potter, I understood why she was freaking out.  Now I've never read Harry Potter and she's never read The Lord of the Rings, so the whole argument was kind of moot.

Later on, my other friend suggested to Anna that she should start a blog about Harry Potter like I have for The Lord of the Rings.  I simply said: "I think you would run out of things to talk about."  I mean, I have never read Harry Potter, but I just can't imagine anything that is as detailed as The Lord of the Rings.  I just thought there might not be enough detail to actually keep a blog running.  Anna said that there was a lot of information in Harry Potter and that it was very realistic...more so than The Lord of the Rings.

"But does Harry Potter have whole family trees for each character which extend generations back?" I said.  I stated that I thought The Lord of the Rings has more details (there are twelve volumes of details in The History of Middle-earth anyway).  Both my friends then said that they thought the family trees were irrelevant to the story and that nobody cared about them.

"It gives them a sense of depth and can never know all there is to know just like in real life!"  I said.  Both of my friends said that they felt that, one, Harry Potter had better depth and two, it was better because it was easier to read.

"Since when does being easier to read make it a better book?"  I asked.  "Just why are The Lord of the Rings books written in such a weird way?  Just to be annoying?"  They contested.  Of course not!  This is the answer to their question: why are the books written in an archaic style?

There are three main reasons for this style choice.  The first is preference.  I think that Tolkien just liked this kind of style.  It's very medieval and it has a sort of regal quality to it.  Compare "Get thee gone and take thy due place!" to "Go away and remember your place!"  I think the first one definitively wins in terms of quality and drama.

Secondly, one of Tolkien's goals was to make his stories be so believable that they could very well have been myths passed down through the generations.  Myths and legends would often be told using older words and so it brings the believability that this all occurred long ago up a few notches.

Thirdly, Tolkien was a scholar of Anglo-Saxon.  I think that his rearranging of sentences reflects what a more literal translation of an Anglo-Saxon sentence would sound like.  Because Anglo-Saxon (also called Old English) is an inflected language, it doesn't matter where the nouns are in relation to the verbs.  What dictates where a noun or verb is in a sentence depends on the ending of the word.  So there is more freedom to move around words in a sentence to get the right kind of flow.  Take for instance "Many are the strange chances of the world," and compare it to "There are many strange chances of the world."  These two sentences have clear differences on emphasis.  The first emphasizes the fact there are "many" and the second doesn't have very much emphasis at all.

So the answer to my friends' question about the reason that the books are written in the sometimes confusing style that they are is because it's the way Tolkien liked to write, it makes the stories sound more like myths and legends, and it reflects language practices in olden days (which also helps with the second point).

I don't think that anyone should stop reading Tolkien just because the style is kind of tough like my friends have (hint hint friends, start reading it again!).  The style can be genuinely beautiful when the time is taken to understand it and it has become one of my favorite parts of the book and my favorite style of writing ever.

Thursday, January 14, 2016


There are a lot of hierarchies in Middle-earth; Gondor, Rohan, Numenor, and pretty much all elven realms display clear patriarchal monarchies.  There is generally little to know questioning of kings or their authority.  Now why is this?

All citizens of these various hierarchies have sincere respect for their kings.  The people of Rohan are notable for this because they are willing to follow their King Theoden into battle even though their odds at success are slim.  Gondor also shows this; everyone is anticipating the return of the king and rejoices when he finally comes.  The elven people also display a respect for their kings.  All of these people are humble and accept that their kings are above them and accept their rule.

That is not to say, however, that the people will bend to any whim of their king.  Ar-Pharazon, the king of Numenor rebelled against Eru Illuvatar and began worshiping Melkor.  The Akallabeth recounts this conversation.  "'Would you then betray the king?' said Elendil.  'For you know well the charge that they make against us, that we are traitors and spies, and until this day it has been false.' 'If I thought Manwe needed such a messenger,' said Amandil, 'I would betray the king.  For there is but one loyalty from which no man can be absolved in heart for any cause.'"

Even though Ar-Pharazon has been acting very erratically lately, Elendil still has his reservations and still asks if Amandil is sure he wants to betray the king.  This shows the extent that their respect for the king goes.  But Amandil makes it clear that his real king is Eru and any earthly king is second to him.

I think the general theme throughout all of Tolkien's works is that firstly, monarchies only work when you have good people both in charge and being ruled over.  You must have a king who respects the people and is a good leader.  In turn, the people must be willing to be humble and bend their knee to him in order for the system to function.

Secondly, monarchies on earth and kings on earth are not infallible and Eru is the true king and is the most important person to remain loyal to.

The comparison between Eru and God is fairly obvious, so this theme can be applied to our lives.  God is a good leader and we must be the good servants and be willing to bend our knees to him just as the good people of Middle-earth do to their various kings.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Why I Love Fantasy

People have always asked me what it is about Tolkien's books that I love so much.  Maybe it's the characters, the themes, the overall voice...honestly, I never really have a really comprehensive answer.  Sometimes when people find out about my love for all things Middle-earth I get the response, "so you like fantasy, huh?"  Maybe that's part of it, because, yes I do like fantasy.

But I also love medieval literature (authors like Sir Thomas Malory and Chr├ętien de Troyes).  Middle-earth kind of incorporates both of those elements seamlessly into the book we know and love.

In this article, I'm going to attempt to articulate why I love the fantasy aspect of Middle-earth so much.

I think I love fantasy for many of the same reasons as Tolkien, and since he was a much better writer than I am, I'm going to let him explain a bit.  He says on fantasy (from his essay On Faerie Stories):

"I use Fantasy for this purpose: in a sense, that is, which combines with its older and higher use as an equivalent of Imagination the derived notions of “unreality” (that is, of unlikeness to the Primary World), of freedom from the domination of observed “fact,” in short of the fantastic. I am thus not only aware but glad of the...images of things that are not only “not actually present,” but which are indeed not to be found in our primary world at all, or are generally believed not to be found there."

One of the reasons writing fantasy is so amazing is that you are not chained down by the facts of the real world.  I think for this reason it is easier to express things in a more artful way.  For example, in The Silmarillion, Luthien casts a spell through song which cleanses an entire island from the dirt of Sauron.  In a real life story this would be laughable and completely implausible.  But because Tolkien--to an extent--invents the rules for his world, he is able to conjure such beautiful imagery.  

"...the images are of things not in the primary world (if that indeed is possible) is a virtue, not a vice. Fantasy (in this sense) is, I think, not a lower but a higher form of Art, indeed the most nearly pure form, and so (when achieved) the most potent..."

Being able to think up things all on your own instead of borrowing from the real world really makes fantasy the most original and creative of all works.

"Fantasy, even of the simplest kind, hardly ever succeeds in Drama, when that is presented as it should be, visibly and audibly acted. Fantastic forms are not to be counterfeited. Men dressed up as talking animals may achieve buffoonery or mimicry, but they do not achieve Fantasy..."

This one is for my friend.  He's the one I talked about in previous posts who is always visualizing books in terms of a movie.   Here, Professor Tolkien clearly states that fantasy cannot be translated without losing a sense of realism.  (Yet another reason The Silmarillion should not be made into a movie...)  One of the most wonderful things about the written word and about fantasy specifically is that it allows you to lose yourself into it.  While you're inside that book, you buy into the rules of that world and accept that it exists (or could, if only in book form).  However, once it is translated onto the screen or stage it often loses that sense of realism.  

"Recovery (which includes return and renewal of health) is a re-gaining—regaining of a clear view. I do not say 'seeing things as they are' and involve myself with the philosophers, though I might venture to say 'seeing things as we are (or were) meant to see them'—as things apart from ourselves. We need, in any case, to clean our windows; so that the things seen clearly may be freed from the drab blur of triteness or familiarity—from possessiveness."

This is my favorite part about fantasy and something that never occurred to me until I read Tolkien's works.  When you enter a fantasy realm, you have nothing to go off of.  There is nothing preventing the "sun from being green" as is Tolkien's example elsewhere in this essay.  In short, you have to relearn things.  In that process of relearning, you are forced to look at things again that you otherwise wouldn't have given a second thought to.  You rediscover them within this fantasy world and look at them differently and begin to realize you have been taking them for granted.

 "...This triteness is really the penalty of “appropriation”: the things that are trite, or (in a bad sense) familiar, are the things that we have appropriated, legally or mentally. We say we know them. They have become like the things which once attracted us by their glitter, or their colour, or their shape, and we laid hands on them, and then locked them in our hoard, acquired them, and acquiring ceased to look at them...creative fantasy, because it is mainly trying to do something else (make something new), may open your hoard and let all the locked things fly away like cage-birds."

Tolkien goes further to say that once you begin to take things for granted, you see them as yours.  Once you begin to own them, you "cease to look at them".  Fantasy can force you to take another look at them and "open your hoard and let all the locked things fly away like cage-birds."

So I suppose that in short, the reason I love fantasy so much is firstly because of the release from the weight of fact.  Imagery is all the more beautiful removed from what we consider reality and it can soar to new heights of beauty and creativity.  Secondly, it is one of the purest forms of art because it is wholly imaginative and borrows little to nothing from the "real world".  And finally, and most importantly, fantasy allows us to rediscover things that have been lost to us or we have neglected.

Do you like fantasy?  If so, why?  Do you agree with Tolkien?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Lord of the Rings Quotes

“Roads Go Ever On

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

Roads go ever ever on,
Under cloud and under star.
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
Eyes that fire and sword have seen,
And horror in the halls of stone
Look at last on meadows green,
And trees and hills they long have known.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone.
Let others follow, if they can!
Let them a journey new begin.
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.”
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Lord of the Rings

Monday, January 11, 2016

Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert represents The Lord of the Rings on a nationwide level: he is famous for knowing all things LOTR and repeatedly shows off his knowledge on both his former show, The Colbert Report, and his new show The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.  Of course since he is representative of all of us Lord of the Rings fans, he is a very important man!  There are three major instances where Stephen Colbert shows off his knowledge: his two-time duel with another famous Tolkien-related star, James Franco, and when he rediculed scientists for naming a new species of spider "Smeagol" instead of "Gollum".  In addition, Viggo Mortensen appeared on his show and gave him a replica of the sword Anduril, and Stephen Colbert went to New Zealand and appeared in a cameo in "The Desolation of Smaug" (as "Laketown Spy").
Stephen Colbert receives Anduril on The Colbert Report

He has mentioned that he named his car "Vingilot" after Earendil's ship which he sailed into the heavens bearing the Silmaril on his brow.  Obviously this guy knows his stuff.

Now Stephen Colbert is sometimes hailed as being king of the super-nerds, and it's one of his most famous quirks.  He consistently jokes that if you are understanding his references, you probably did not have many friends as a teenager.

You know that sometimes I can be irrational and possessive over my precious--um, I mean, the Lord of the Rings--and so I am always on the look out for when it is mentioned in the popular culture sphere (a dark place I rarely go).  Anyway, here are some of Mr. Colbert's most famous LOTR moments.

I've heard that some actors can be fussy or just downright rude, but I'm willing to bet that Mr. Colbert has never encountered an interview guest of this caliber.  But, it's true: busy Mr. Smaug the Magnificent made time to pop into the set of The Colbert Report to make a few comments. (Caution for slight language towards the end!)

James Franco is infamous for throwing down with Mr. Colbert and getting beaten both times (see below), but I would love to have a Tolkien showdown with Stephen Colbert!  (Hint, hint, Stephen Colbert if you're reading this...)

This is Stephen Colbert comparing The Lord of the Rings to the debt crisis of the U.S.  

Stephen Colbert represents us Tolkien nerds, and does a good job at it too.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

My Quote Collection

I was going through my pictures, and I realized: I have saved a ton of Lord of the Rings quotes.  Here are all the quotes on my Camera Roll.  Hope they give you some inspiration!