Monday, February 29, 2016

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Importance of Birthdays?

I've often wondered why Professor Tolkien chose to have Bilbo and Frodo's birthday as the starting point for The Fellowship of the Ring.

Indeed, the first thing we hear about in the whole of The Lord of the Rings is that:

"When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton."

Why would the professor choose to start his masterpiece with such a seemingly unimportant statement?

Upon closer consideration, I thought maybe it was because it is an effective way of introducing the characters, primarily Bilbo and Frodo, but also their friends like Merry and Pippin.  For instance, this statement not only grabs the readers' attention (ooh, a party of special magnificence!) but also provides a good segue way into the next paragraph:

"Bilbo was very rich and very peculiar, and had been the wonder of the Shire for sixty years, ever since his remarkable disappearance and unexpected return. The riches he had brought back from his travels had now become a local legend, and it was popularly believed, whatever the old folk might say, that the Hill at Bag End was full of tunnels stuffed with treasure. And if that was not enough for fame, there was also his prolonged vigour to marvel at. Time wore on, but it seemed to have little effect on Mr. Baggins. At ninety he was much the same as at fifty. At ninety-nine they began to call him well-preserved ; but unchanged would have been nearer the mark. There were some that shook their heads and thought this was too much of a good thing; it seemed unfair that anyone should possess (apparently) perpetual youth as well as (reputedly) inexhaustible wealth."

At the party, we are able to learn some hobbit customs: their love for eating, the fact they give away presents on their birthdays instead of receiving them, their love for parties and (short) speeches.  We meet not only the birthday boys, but also their friends, Merry and Pippin, and other characters who become important later on, like the Sackville-Baggins, who play a part in the Scouring of the Shire later on in The Return of the King.
christmas, xmas, birthday

I think there is something else, something more important associated with birthdays in Middle-earth though.  Other mentions of birthdays include:

-Smeagol insists the Ring is his "birthday present"
-Bilbo's landing in Lake Town after the barrel ride in The Hobbit
-Frodo's departure from the Shire
-Frodo's stabbing on Weathertop

The first in the above list is what I found the most interesting.  Smeagol, the antithesis of Frodo, steals the Ring and murders his friend insisting the Ring is his.  This is a stark contrast between not only Bilbo, who willfully gives up the Ring on his birthday just before he leaves for Rivendell, but also because the hobbits of the Shire give away presents on their birthdays instead of murdering friends and taking them for their own.

When Bilbo arrives in Lake Town in The Hobbit, he has been through so much, managed to rescue the dwarves multiple time, and has officially become a seasoned adventurer, a sort of coming of age for him which is mirrored also in Frodo's coming of age at 33 at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring.

Frodo leaves the Shire for Rivendell after a sparse birthday supper in The Fellowship of the Ring, another sort of coming of age--one of acceptance of the task before him and an act of self-sacrifice which again contrasts Smeagol's murder.

Frodo is also stabbed by the witch king on his birthday which scars him for life (literally and figuratively) and it is another turning point for him--he has finally begun to understand what he is up against and he will never be the same.

So I think the general theme is that birthdays are turning points--will you do something self sacrificial like Frodo or Bilbo, or will you murder your best friend like Smeagol?  

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Oath Chapter III

It's been awhile since I posted the last chapter of The Oath.  This chapter focuses on Maedhros' increasingly hostile attitude and Adanel's attempts to calm him.  I am planning about three more chapters to finish up these stories, so if you have any ideas, please let me know.  Again, (kind) critiques are always welcome in the comments.

Also, quick news update for collectors: a Tolkien signature is going on auction later this week!  There are not many fan signatures available on the market since Tolkien generally disliked fans taking an interest in him instead of his work.  This one is expected to catch about $1,110-1,700 according to the administers of the auction. See the full article.

Spring came sooner than looked for in the north, though indeed to many it seemed the winter of Maedhros might last forever.  But indeed the green grass did grow again and the flowers bloomed more beautifully than before.  It was on the feast of  Nost-na-Lothion*, that Maedhros returned to his people.

Great was their joy indeed to see their lord arise from the sleep of despair that had hung over his shoulders since the days of the burning; but greater indeed was the happiness of Adanel, who long had waited on Maedhros and had long guessed the day of his return.

As was the custom in the time, the Noldor decorated the city with flowers and the fruits of spring, praising Yavanna for her good works and making merry.  At this time of the year it was that the elves looked their most glorious, for it was the spring of their youth as a people and spring of the year.  Most radiant of all in the city was Adanel, whose hair shone as the sunbeams on the lake in the north and whose face was a pure as a dew drop so that Maedhros took to calling her Tuilenda^.

The people of that time of peace took to taking walks in the woods of that northern land.  It was during one of these ventures that Maedhros spoke long with Adanel, who had grown in care for him.  Then it was that Maedhros came closest to making a queen of his land, or so the people of the city surmised by their long talks.  However, the merry years of the Siege of Angband passed by and no queen was made.

For it was said among the people that knew the lord of the land best that though Maedhros appeared pleasant on the outside, deep within he was yet tormented by the oath that clung to him as a boat is tied with an anchor.  

Adanel, however, did not perceive this at first and lived under the illusion Maedhros had indeed returned to the proud and valiant warrior he was when they first met.  Thus it came as a shock to her when one day Maedhros spoke to her, saying: "My lady, joyous have these years been in which my people have been free to roam where they will.  Even more joyous have been our walks here in the forest which to me has become most blessed." And even as he spoke, Adanel saw tears in his eyes which she did not understand at that time, "And yet," he continued, swallowing, "I cannot continue to embark on these ventures with you," and suddenly his face grew grim and Adanel took a step back as one who has been ambushed at unawares.  She remained silent.

"For it is not permissible for me to continue acting in this way.  I came here to Middle-earth to fulfill an oath, that you know well, my lady," he went forth, his voice growing cold, "And no longer may I ignore it, nor may I put it off as I have tried to do so these years.  Long grows the shadow of Angband, at least in my mind, and I would not permit it to reach you here.  To reach my people.  Therefore I must go on, my oath to fulfill no matter the cost, and I would not have you pay."  

To this, Adanel stood without moving and finally replied, "Yet already our dooms have become alike and together or not I will carry your burden, at least in part, though we may share it if you will.  For it is not in the likeness of the Eldar to forget one that they have loved."  And with those words the footsteps of doom had caught Maedhros and meshed him fully in the Doom of Mandos and he stood as one who has been struck.  And Adanel turned away from him and returned to the city.

Maedhros had become distraught and the winter set in again.  Evermore he forbade himself to speak with anyone save his closest counselors, and Adanel spoke little to him the winter that followed.  

The weight of the failure to protect the people of Fingolfin at the Gap of Maglor pushed him down so that he became increasingly fearful of the fear of his own cowardice and sought ever to prove his courage.  Therefore, he would not allow his armor to have a crease, or so he saw it, by allowing people to grow close to him.  He saw those who endeavored to care for him as dangerous and a blow to his own courage and his own will.

Thus it was in the days of that winter.

*A spring festival mentioned in The Book of Lost Tales II, which was for sure celebrated in the Noldorin city of Gondolin, but considering Maedhros was also Noldo, I thought maybe he and his people could have celebrated it too.
^spring-like; fresh, sprouting, green, according to Parf Edhellen

frozen, ice, window

Friday, February 26, 2016


This doesn't have much to do strictly with The Lord of the Rings, but I figured it is something many LOTR fans would enjoy.  For the past few months I have been scouring Netflix for good medieval-themes shows.  Game of Thrones is to graphic for me, World Without End I quickly abandoned because it was unrealistic and sort of boring, but on Monday I hit the gold.

I'm a big fan of medieval literature--if you couldn't tell--and my favorite medieval lit book is Le Mort d'Arthur, a compilation of the stories of King Arthur of Camelot.  So when I found a 2008 BBC show called Merlin, I was intrigued.  It has quickly become my new favorite show.

It doesn't follow strictly to the book-- Arthur never pulls the sword out of the stone, and was always the acknowledged heir, and due to it's PG nature I doubt Mordred will end up being Arthur's son/nephew (Morgana is not his sister in this series).  It's not very historically accurate (many people read, citrus fruit is found around the castle) and the effects are not very good, but somehow...I still love it!

When I first saw it, I was not impressed and I thought I would hate it, but...

I'm only eight episodes into the first season, but I already feel so attached to the characters, particularly Merlin, Arthur, Gwen, and Gais.  

I fully recommend this show to anyone who likes medieval themed things and awesome soundtracks.

Not quite sure why, but I felt the need to make a side by side comparison of Aragorn and Arthur.

The main character is a young Merlin who has to take care of Arthur and make sure he doesn't mess things up in Camelot without letting anyone in the court know he's a wizard--or he could face execution.

Merlin and Arthur make the perfect complementary pair and their inside jokes are hilarious.

You should give Merlin a try and let me know what you think about it!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Lord of the Rings Quotes

Remember that what is right is not always popular, and what is popular is not always right.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Q&A: How Did Aragorn end up a Ranger and Not a King?

This is a popular question among movie goers.  The concise answer is that the lines of Isildur and Anarion ended after the Last Alliance.  In reality, Isildur's line continued in the north, but they were dispossessed after the defeat of Sauron and the murder of Isildur.

The Rangers dedicated their lives to protecting the innocent citizens of the Shire.  The heir of Isildur was in almost all cases, temporarily fostered in Rivendell where the Dunedain (as the northerners were called) mantained their ancient ties with the elves.  

Eventually, Aragorn, the last Chieftain of the Dunedain, joined the Fellowship of the Eing and made his way back to Gondor where he became the king, thus uniting both the realm of Gondor and the northern realm (formerly ruled by Isildur) called Arnor.

If you have any questions you would like handled in a Q&A like my friend who submitted this question, leave a comment, please.  Thanks for reading!  

Above:  Aragorn as a ranger of Eriador travelled all over Middle-earth and formed friendships with Elrond, Thengel, and of course, Arwen.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Philosophy of Tolkien by Peter J. Kreeft

A Review

From the back of the book:

The popular and prolific philosopher and author Peter Kreeft presents what he calls a "second adventure of discovery".  While nothing can equal, or replace, the adventure in reading Tolkien's masterwork, The Lord of the Rings, Kreeft says that the journey into the underlying philosophy of Tolkien, or his "world-view", can be another exhilarating adventure.
Thus, Kreeft takes the reader on a voyage of discovery into the philosophical bones of Middle earth.  Like a good concordance, this book organizes the philosophical themes in The Lord of the Rings into 50 categories, accompanied by over 1,000 references to the text.
Since many of the great questions of philosophy are included in the 50-theme outline, this book can also be read as an engaging introduction to philosophy.  For each of the philosophical topics in The Lord of the Rings, Kreeft presents four tools by which they can be understood: an explanation of a key question; a key quotation showing Tolkien's answer; quotes from other writings of Tolkien to clarify the theme; and quotes from his close friend C.S. Lewis, which state the same philosophical points directly.

I got this book for Christmas and forced myself to put it off for awhile so I could reread LOTR...let me just say: the wait was worth it.

Below is an outline of the book and what philosophical themes are included:

  • Introduction
  • Metaphysics
    • How big is reality?
    • Is the supernatural real?
    • Are Platonic Ideas real?
  • Philosophical Theology
    • Does God exist?
    • Is life subject to divine providence?
    • Are we both fated and free?
    • Can we relate to God by "religion"?
  • Angelology
    • Are angels real?
    • Do we have guardian angels?
    • Could there be creatures between men and angels, such as Elves?
  • Cosmology
    • Is nature really beautiful?
    • Do things have personalities?
    • Is there real magic?
  • Anthropology
    • Is death good or bad?
    • Is romance more than thrilling sex?
    • Why do humans have identity crises?
    • What do we most deeply desire?
  • Epistemology
    • Is knowledge always good?
    • Is intuition a form of knowledge?
    • Is faith (trust) wisdom or ignorance?
    • What is truth?
  • Philosophy of History
    • Is history a story?
    • Is the past (tradition) a prison or a lighthouse?
    • Is history predictable?
    • Is there devolution as well as evolution?
    • Is human life a tragedy or a comedy?
  • Aesthetics
    • Why do we no longer love glory or splendor?
    • Is beauty always good?
  • Philosophy of Language
    • How can words be alive?
    • The metaphysics of words: Can words have real power?
    • Are there right and wrong words?
    • Is there an original, universal, natural language?
    • Why is music so powerful?
  • Political Philosophy
    • Is small beautiful?
    • Can war be noble?
  • Ethics: The War of Good and Evil
    • Is evil real?
    • How powerful is evil?
    • How weak is evil?
    • How does evil work?
  • Ethics: The "Hard Virtues"
    • Do principles or consequences make an act good?
    • Why must we be heroes?
    • Can one go on without hope?
    • Is authority oppressive and obedience demeaning?
    • Are promises sacred?
  • Ethics: The "Soft" Virtues
    • What is the power of friendship?
    • Is humility humiliating?
    • What should you give away?
    • Does mercy trump justice?
    • Is charity a waste?
  • Conclusion
    • Can any one man incarnate every truth and virtue?
  • Bibliography
  • Appendix: A Concordance
Peter Kreeft is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and one of the most well-known Catholic authors today.  He has more than 30 best selling books.

He starts off by acknowledging that Tolkien was not a philosopher.  He also points out--very illustratively that:  "This book is not like surfing, but like oceanography."  It's not meant to supplant The Lord of the Rings, but to examine it.  He takes a look at the relationship between literature and philosophy next: "Because human thought is binocular, abstract philosophy and concrete literature naturally reinforce each other's vision.  Philosophy makes literature clear, literature makes philosophy real.  Philosophy shows essences, literature shows existence.  Philosophy shows meaning, literature shows life."

He does a good job working his way through each of the above questions and citing sources.  I had to slow down a bit to read this book--I'm used to reading through things very quickly, but this book really requires a thoughtful and slow read through; it is very dense and packed with information and quotable moments.

One of those moments came right away in the forward and I love the connection he draws there:  "'I will take the Ring, though I do not know the way' (LOTR, pg. 264).  It was a Marian moment. St. Luke showed us the same thing at the Annunciation.  "Mary's mission was strikingly similar to Frodo's: 'Let it be to me according to your word.' (Lk. 1:38)"

That's just a glimpse of the amazing work of Peter Kreeft, and I would encourage you to check out this book for yourself.

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Guide to the Appendices

There is a huge wealth of information just waiting to be read in the Appendices of The Lord of the Rings.  There are six appendices labelled by letter (A, B, C, etc.).  Included in the appendices are:

  • Annals of the Kings and Rulers (Appendix A)
    • Numenorean Kings
      • Numenor
      • The Realms in Exile
        • The Northern Line (Heirs of Isildur)
        • The Southern Line (Heirs of Anarion)
      • Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur
        • The North-kingdom and the Dunedain
      • Gondor and the Heirs of Anarion
        • the Stewards
      • A Part of the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen
    • The House of Eorl
      • The Kings of the Mark
        • First Line
        • Second Line
        • Third Line
    • Durin's Folk 
  • The Tale of Years (Appendix B)
    • Chronology of the West Lands
      • The Second Age
      • The Third Age
  • Family Trees (Appendix C)
    • Baggins of Hobbiton
    • Took of Great Smials
    • Brandybuck of Buckland
    • The Longfather-Tree of Master Samwise
  • Shire Calendar (Appendix D)
  • Writing and Spelling (Appendix E)
    • Pronunciation of Words and Names
      • Consonants
      • Vowels
      • Stress
      • Note
    • Writing
      • The Tengwar
      • The Feanorian Letters
        • Note
      • The Cirith
        • The Angerthas
  • The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age (Appendix F)
    • General*
      • Of the Elves
      • Of Men
      • Of Hobbits
      • Of Other Races
    • On Translation
*No specific heading, although since there is a part two of this category (On Translation), for purposes of organization I inserted this title to make it clear the following sub points are not at the same level as the On Translation title.

Now already you may be shying away--I understand.  J.R.R. Tolkien's style (and his son's Christopher, for that matter) is kind of unique and very very detailed with lots of headings and sub headings and all kinds of notes in between.  That's why I feel like a lot of people finish the last chapter of The Return of the King, The Grey Havens, breath a sigh of relief because it's over, and then close the book without taking a look at the appendices.  After all, you just made it through a 1,000 page plus book--you deserve a break!

But I always say that you should go back and read those appendices.  There is a wealth of knowledge in there that brings so much more depth to the stories.  And no, regardless of what people might have been telling you, it's not unimportant.  Things like the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen are incredibly interesting.  The story would be much poorer without it.

One of the best things about the appendices is that it can offer that sense of history even for those among us who have not read The Silmarillion.

Okay, enough about why the appendices are great.  You've already decided to read them and you've made it this far into my post, so I'm guessing you're willing to try.  Good for you!

Let's start with the longest (and probably most interesting) appendix, the Annals of the Kings and Rulers.  In case you don't know what annals are, they are basically records that go by year, coming from the same Latin root that gives us the word "annual".  In this section, we get the play by play records of every king of the Numenorians and where they ruled.  

With the risk of indulging myself too much, I will give a short summary of Numenor.  First off, the reason this is included in The Lord of the Rings, is because Aragorn is descended from the kings of Numenor, and as you will see throughout this history I'm about to explain, it is a huge deal for him to "return" as king.  First off, Numenor is the name of an island.  It was given to the good men after the first age who helped out in defeating the First Dark Lord.  They got this fancy island and were happy for some time.  Eventually though, Sauron corrupted them and they ended up worshiping the Dark Lord (at least, most of them.)  So their island was destroyed and only those who had not worshiped the Dark Lord were spared.  

The first section of this collection of annals deals with the kings that were on the island of Numenor before it was destroyed.  

The second section outlines the rulers once the faithful Numenorians landed on the continent of Middle-earth.  The leader of these faithful Numenorians was Elendil*.  His two sons were Isildur* and Anarion*.  Isildur ruled in the north, in a kingdom called Arnor.  Anarion ruled in the south in a kingdom called Gondor.  Thus there are two separate lines of rulership (northern and southern, Isildur and Anarion).  

The third section talks about the boundaries of the northern realm.  All you need know there is that the northern realm goes from the Misty Mountains to the Grey Havens.  

The next section (a subsection of section three) is about the disposessed rulers.  The kingdom in the north was destroyed (by the Witch King of Angmar*) and the kings and their heirs became scattered and disgraced.  They were known as the Rangers, or the Dunedain, more properly.  Aragorn* was the last of these and reclaimed the throne.  This section describes each of these rulers and the three areas they took care of.

The fourth section details what was happening meanwhile in Gondor.  Eventually the line of Anarion came to an end (technically Aragorn is descended from both Anarion and Isildur but we don't need to know about that so ignore this sentence!) and the stewards took over.

The next section (actually a subsection of section number five) takes care of what the stewards did and who they were.  The last steward was Denethor II.

Deep breath now.  The best part of the appendices is the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen, the fifth section.  This is where we actually fall into a narrative with dialogue and main characters (huzzah!).  It describes how Aragorn and Arwen met and their relationship throughout the War of the Ring, and also how Aragorn and Arwen died after the end of ROTK.

Finally, chunk number two out of three for the first appendix: The House of Eorl*.  Basically this portion is just about the rulers of what would later become Rohan--how they came out of the north, allied themselves with Gondor and were given the land they call the Mark.  There are only three sections: the First Line, Second Line, and Third Line, which list the kings in order and their accomplishments.

The final part of Appendix A is Durin's Folk, information on the dwarves descended from Durin the Deathless.  There are a few family trees in here for reference as well.

Congratulations, you made it to Appendix B!  This is the chronology of the westlands, that is, what happened in the western part of Middle-earth.  This appendix is pretty basic: it goes through years of note, first the Second Age, then the Third which also splits into months.

Appendix C: Family Trees.  See the above list to see which family trees are where.

Appendix D is next.  This has information about the Shire calendar and how it works.

On a completely unrelated note, check out this bottle
of Diet Coke I got at the store!
Appendix E is the second most interesting, in my opinion.  This one discusses in great detail (it's Tolkien, of course) all about the pronunciation of names (consonants, vowels, and stress) and the writing (Feanorian letters, and the Cirith).

Finally, Appendix F, The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age, another really interesting one.  This one splits into the category of elves, men, hobbits, and other races (ents, orcs, trolls, and dwarves).  Then it splits into the translation of words in different languages and that concludes the appendix.

You made it!  Isn't all that new knowledge so fulfilling?  Don't you feel like you have a better understanding of the story?  You're practically an expert now.  I hope this helped you on your adventure through the appendices!

*There are a ton of names in this appendix and you certainly don't have to remember everyone.  I will put asterisks next to people you should probably know if you want a good handle on this story.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Tolkien Reminds Us What's Really Important

            Happy Sunday--a brief break from the 40 days of Lent and a day of rest.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Gifts to Make your LOTR Fan Friends Swoon

This is a list of gifts that are sure to make your LOTR-obsessed friends swoon.

1. The Evenstar
This is perfect for that special someone, but also works great for platonic friends.  Arwen's necklace from the movie is sure to convey your feelings of respect and love.  I bought one off of Amazon which a I reviewed briefly here.  

2. Book or Movie Set
Any fan would be happy to add to their collection--whether they're a movie fan or a die hard book addict, I'm sure they will always be delighted to receive a new set of either one.  Of course if they don't have The Silmarillion, The Children of Hurin or the other, more obscure books, those are a great option too.  Try and get a sneak peak of their book shelf to check before getting them a book.  Good indicators that they would like new book or new copies of books are if there are active bookmarks in their current copies (it proves they are still interested in reading!) and/or the covers or pages are ruined (er...I mean, well loved).

3. The Most Adorable Onesie in the History of Onesies

Is this not the cutest thing you have ever seen?  I wanted to get it for my pregnant sister in law, but my mom didn't want her grandson wearing a onesie that referenced the fictional symbol of evil.  My brother thought it was a good idea though--he said that obviously his son would be as precious to him as the Ring is to Gollum...I agree and now my sister is pregnant, I may have to get one.

[photo credit:]

4. Replicas and Posters
Clearly popular though they can be pricey.

5.  Pillows on the Cheap
For those crafty gift givers looking to get a gift on the cheap, these pillows are perfect.  I for one would just about collapse if I received one of these--they are so adorable!

[Photo credit:]

What is the best LOTR-gift you have ever received?

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Luthien and...Sam Gamgee?

It was just another regular day.  I was walking down the sidewalk trying to avoid the puddles of melted snow on my way to the library.  Of course I was listening intently to everything Tolkien Professor Cory Olsen and the rest of the "Silmarillionairs" had to say about The Sil.  The podcast of the day was Silmarillion Seminar 22, the third in a series about the chapter Of Beren and Luthien which involved discussion about the dangers of oath breaking in Middle-earth and a few mentions of the overall character of the Sons of Feanor which was riveting as usual.

But that all changed when Elizabeth, one of the wonderful participants in the audio interface which makes up each podcast, jumped in and began talking about Beren and Luthien and their connections with Frodo and Sam.  By the time she was done I had made up my mind that she was a genius and also that I needed to share with you how she connected them.

First off, I feel the need to insert the Elrond facepalm meme here because I totally should have noticed this earlier.  Sam Gamgee almost explicitly points out the connection in the Tower of Cirith Ungol (which I read today!).  He says to Frodo:

"Beren now, he never thought he was going to get that Silmaril from the Iron Crown in Thangorodrim, and yet he did, and that was a worse place and a blacker danger than ours. But that’s a long tale, of course, and goes on past the happiness and into grief and beyond it - and the Silmaril went on and came to EƤrendil. And why, sir, I never thought of that before! We’ve got - you’ve got some of the light of it in that star-glass that the Lady gave you! Why, to think of it, we’re in the same tale still! It’s going on. Don’t the great tales never end?"

Here Sam clearly connects Frodo and his journey with that of Beren and Luthien, remarking that they are part of the same tale.  But, the connections grow...

As Elizabeth outlines:

In both quests, the Silmarils are intrical
As I just pointed out above, the Silmarils are extremely important to both quests: Beren and Luthien are on a mission to recover a Silmaril and Frodo and Sam are using the Light of Earendil (which is, indirectly, the light of a Silmaril).

In both quests, there is a precious item
It is actually a trope in medieval literature to have the protagonists set off in pursuit of some object which is often very symbolic, such as The Quest for the Holy Grail.  Tolkien rethought this idea with his protagonists going off to destroy something in The Lord of the Rings, the One Ring.  But in Beren and Luthien's story, they set off to retrieve a pair goes off to find a treasure, another to destroy one.

Both involve someone refusing to be parted with their companion
Clearly there is nothing romantic about Sam and Frodo's relationship, but in similar ways, Sam refuses to part with Frodo at the Breaking of the Fellowship and insists on going along.  Luthien refuses to part with Beren when he tries to leave to go find the Silmaril.  Both of these characters want to press on out of love (albeit different kinds of love!) and eventually, they do.

Both involve towers and song-rescues
Frodo was trapped in Cirith Ungol on the very top of the tower.  Sam sang a song, "moved by what thought in his heart he could not tell" to which Frodo replied and Sam was able to rescue him.  Beren was kept beneath Minas Tirith (not the one in Gondor, the one in Beleriand) and Luthien sang a song which Beren responded to and Luthien was able to rescue him.

Both involve mutilation
Frodo the Nine Fingered bears a striking parallel to Beren One Hand.

Both harm Sauron
Luthien's song of power disbands Sauron from Minas Tirith (again, in Beleriand) and obviously Frodo and Sam ban Sauron's spirit from Middle-earth.

Both pairs are rescued by Eagles
Sam and Frodo are rescued by Gwahir and Co. after the eruption of Orodruin (Mt. Doom) and Beren and Luthien are rescued by Thorondor after the eruption of Thangorodrim.

Both involve exceptional fates
Just how Luthien was allowed to become a mortal (very exceptional) Frodo was allowed a significant favor (and Sam after him), going to Valinor.

Sam remarks after the journey:
'What a tale we have been in, Mr. Frodo, haven't we?' he said. 'I wish I could hear it told! Do you think they'll say: Now comes the story of Nine-fingered Frodo and the Ring of Doom? And then everyone will hush, like we did, when in Rivendell they told us the tale of Beren One-hand and the Great Jewel. I wish I could hear it! And I wonder how it will go on after our part.'

And Theoden asks in The Two Towers:
“Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?'
A man may do both,' said Aragorn. 'For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time. The green earth, say you? That is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day!”

Frodo and Sam had no idea they had a part in the great tales, tales like Beren and Luthien's until after the fact.  Maybe we are, just like Frodo and Sam, all part of one of the great tales that will pass into legends.

landscape, nature, grass

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

New Tolkien Poems Discovered!

Good news!  Two poems written by Tolkien have been discovered and released!  The poems were found inside a school magazine from Our Lady's School in Abingdon England by a Mr. Hammond, an American scholar who found a letter in which Tolkien referenced his publication in the magazine.  He contacted the school and lo and behold in their 1936 edition, there were two poems.  The first is called "The Shadow Man" and the second is a Christmas poem called "Noel".  "The Shadow Man" is an early draft of a poem which would later be published in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil.

"The Shadow Man"
By J.R.R. Tolkien
There was a man who dwelt alone
beneath the moon in shadow.
He sat as long as lasting stone,
and yet he had no shadow.
The owls, they perched upon his head
beneath the moon of summer:
They wiped their beaks and thought him dead,
who sat there dumb all summer.
There came a lady clad in grey
beneath the moon a-shining.
One moment did she stand and stay
her head with flowers entwining.
He woke, as had he sprung of stone,
beneath the moon in shadow,
And clasped her fast, both flesh and bone;
and they were clad in shadow.
And never more she walked in light,
or over moonlit mountain,
But dwelt within the hill, where night
is lit but with a fountain –
Save once a year when caverns yawn,
and hills are clad in shadow,
They dance together then till dawn
and cast a single shadow.

By J.R.R. Tolkien 
Grim was the world and grey last night:
The moon and stars were fled,
The hall was dark without song or light,
The fires were fallen dead.
The wind in the trees was like to the sea,
And over the mountains’ teeth
It whistled bitter-cold and free,
As a sword leapt from its sheath.
The lord of snows upreared his head ;
His mantle long and pale
Upon the bitter blast was spread
And hung o’er hill and dale.
The world was blind, the boughs were bent,
All ways and paths were wild :
Then the veil of cloud apart was rent,
And here was born a Child.
The ancient dome of heaven sheer
Was pricked with distant light ;
A star came shining white and clear
Alone above the night.
In the dale of dark in that hour of birth
One voice on a sudden sang :
Then all the bells in Heaven and Earth
Together at midnight rang. 
Mary sang in this world below :
They heard her song arise
O’er mist and over mountain snow
To the walls of Paradise,
And the tongue of many bells was stirred
In Heaven’s towers to ring
When the voice of mortal maid was heard,
That was mother of Heaven’s King.
Glad is the world and fair this night
With stars about its head,
And the hall is filled with laughter and light,
And fires are burning red.
The bells of Paradise now ring
With bells of Christendom,
And Gloria, Gloria we will sing
That God on earth is come.


Monday, February 15, 2016

12 Things You Should Never Say to a Lord of the Rings Fan

In honor of my friends who are guilty of saying pretty much all of these things (love you! :)

"The Lord of the Rings?  That's my favorite trilogy!"

"The Lord of the Rings is so racist."
Just click on the link if you have doubts.

"Frodo is like so hot." 
Way to grasp the concept of the story.

"The fellowship is so dumb.  Why didn't they just use the eagles to fly to Mordor?"
Again, link.

"The books are boring.  They're full of inconsequential details."

"So Frodo represents ____ and the Ring represents _____...."

"Frodo is such a baby!  He's always whining!"

"All they do is walk around.  It's basically a tourism commercial for New Zealand."
Yeah that whole thing with the balrog and the Witch King of Angmar never happened.  Heck, there was no storming of the Black Gate or Battle of Helm's Deep or the Pelennor Fields.  I don't know what movie you were watching.

Fact: You can't have action figures if there was no action in the movie.

"Tolkien must have had no life."
Yeah except for being a professor at Oxford, raising four children, fighting in World War I, and publishing four best sellers, Tolkien had no life.

"The ending is too long."
False guy - False. The ending is too short.

"There are books?"

"Why would you cry during this movie?"
Because it's sad, that's why!

Caution!  Be careful about saying these things because Lord of the Rings fans have cavalry.

(This was all meant in good fun, I mean no disrespect to people who have said these things)

Oh, by the way: does anyone have any thoughts on the new title?  I changed the header--do you like it with the book or without?  I can't really decide.  Thanks--have a great day!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

My Four Loves

So today is St. Valentine's Day, the feast day of three different saints who were all brutally killed because they were unwilling to stop preaching the faith.  It has often been associated with love because the people killed obviously had so much love they were willing to die for it.

C.S. Lewis wrote a book called The Four Loves all about the different ways love is present and how it expressed.  He describes the four different kinds of love:
  • storge (affection)
  • philia (friendship)
  • eros (erotic)
  • agape (charity)
So in honor of this day devoted to love and based off C.S. Lewis, I'm going to pick my favorite Lord of the Rings characters who fit into the above categories.

I think the relationship between Theoden and Merry is just so precious.  Merry's remarks after Theoden dies are what really brings the tears up...

"As a father you shall be to me."
It's no surprise Sam and Frodo are my favorite friends!  Does it really need explanation?
“His love for Frodo rose above all other thoughts, and forgetting his peril he cried aloud: 'I'm coming Mr. Frodo!”
“Then as he had kept watch Sam had noticed that at times a light seemed to be shining faintly within; but now the light was even clearer and stronger. Frodo's face was peaceful, the marks of fear and care had left it; but it looked old, old and beautiful, as if the chiseling of the shaping years was now revealed in many fine lines that had before been hidden, though the identity of the face was not changed. Not that Sam Gamgee put it that way to himself. He shook his head, as if finding words useless, and murmured: "I love him. He's like that, and sometimes it shines through, somehow. But I love him, whether or no.”
“Well, you have now, Sam, dear Sam,’ said Frodo, and he lay back in Sam’s gentle arms, closing his eyes, like a child at rest when night-fears are driven away by some loved voice or hand. Sam felt that he could sit like that in endless happiness...”
Aragorn and Arwen for the win, folks.  Sorry to be basic, but really they are the model couple!  Arwen waited decades for Aragorn and I just love that mention in The Return of the King when he sets guards around the clock on the walls of the city watching anxiously for Arwen to come to Minas Tirith.  I think I may like them even more than Beren and Luthien, though I can't quite figure out why.  I think it may be that their storyline was fleshed out a bit more and their characters seem a bit more multi-demensional.  I also love how they are able to look back on Beren and Luthien's story, such as when Aragorn calls out "Tinuviel!" in Rivendell and Arwen turns around and says, "Why do you call me by that name?"
“For I am the daughter of Elrond. I shall not go with him when he departs to the Havens: for mine is the choice of Luthien, and as she so have I chosen, both the sweet and the bitter.”
Oh no...Sam and Frodo?  I can't do them twice...but Sam is just the very emblem of self-sacrifice and charity towards everyone but specifically towards Frodo.
"I can't carry It but I can carry you!"

Honorary Mentions:
Elrond and Arwen (storge)
"Theirs was a parting beyond the ends of the world."
Turin and Nellas (eros)
"I was thinking of Beren the man..."
If you've ever read The Children of Hurin, you may remember Nellas, the elf of Doriath who keeps an eye on Turin.  That chapter where she testifies before Thingol is the saddest part of the entire book.  If Turin hadn't had "his heart and half his head elsewhere" as Beleg puts it, think of how history would have been changed.

Faramir and Eowyn (eros)
“And again she looked at Faramir. 'No longer do I desire to be a queen,' she said.  Then Faramir laughed merrily. 'That is well,' he said; 'for I am not a king. Yet I will wed with the White Lady of Rohan, if it be her will. And if she will, then let us cross the River and in happier days let us dwell in fair Ithilien and there make a garden. All things will grow with joy there, if the White Lady comes.”
Eowyn and Eomer (storge)

Sam and Rosie (eros)
"But I would dearly like to see Bywater again, and Rosie Cotton, and her brothers."