Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Tolkien Companion
My amazing brother Ernie came across a copy of The Tolkien Companion in an old book store he was visiting.  He thought I already owned it, but I don't actually have this book.

He bought it for me anyway and surprised me with it today--for no reason!  There is nothing better than giving someone a book on a random day, especially a book as great as The Tolkien Companion.

This book was published shortly after The Silmarillion came out and includes a complete encyclopedia of names of peoples, places, and objects with all their definitions and relevant information in alphabetical order.

While not a book I will read from cover to cover (at least soon, but who knows?) it is perfect for looking up quick references and information especially when I read The Silmarillion.

To my delight it even included names and spellings for places and people in The Lost Tales which I'm sure will be particularly helpful.

Thank you so much Ernie for getting this for me!  It's perfect!
By the way, I remodeled the Catholicism and Book Nook pages and they look significantly better now, in my opinion.  I encourage you to head over and check them out.  The Catholicism page in particular is organized much better and commenting is a lot easier.  The Book Nook page now is easier for me to manage so you can expect more book reviews coming soon.  Enjoy!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

5 Things I Abhor in Books

Recently I did a post about 5 Things I Look for in a Good Book, and today I have 5 Things I Abhor in books.

"Chosen One" Trope

If there's one thing I can't stand in a story, it's having the main character end up being "the chosen one".  I wrote an entire article about why I dislike this trope which you can read here.

I haven't actually seen this in Star Wars yet (I've only finished the first movie so far) so I can't judge if it is truly
the annoying type of trope, or an acceptable version.  Don't spoil me!!

Wildly Vague Points of View

Authors sometimes try to be very mysterious and original by starting their book off with a ton of random descriptions of things.  I get the feeling that these authors are afraid of giving too much exposition, so they try and launch you right into the story.  What usually results is a really disorganized and confusing pile of word slop that does not make me interested in the story.

This is "best" done when there are multiple points of view.  This is an example of the beginning of a book that's going to attempt to use this strategy:

"Blood.  There was blood everywhere.  Sticky.  Red.  I felt it drip down my arm.  Everything was red.  
She'll never find me here.  I'm leaving and I won't return!
My heart beat quickly.  Thump.  Thump.  Thump.
Was I in the right place?  Would they see me?  Why was I shivering so much?"

I find this a lot in YA books.  I guess I'm supposed to be intrigued and keep reading to find out what the blood is about, why someone is running away, why their heart is beating quickly, why they're shivering, etc. but really it just makes me confused and therefore disinterested.

Who is the main character?  What can I expect from this book?  What point of view is this book told from?  The setting?  Beginnings like this do not make me excited to read.

Word throw up.

Short Sentences

Why, why, why?????  Why do so many new authors refuse to formulate logical sentences?  I absolutely can not stand when authors try and describe things with one word sentences.  For example:

"The bird was on the branch.  Free.  Light.  Beautiful."

I get that sometimes this is done to make the words sound poetic and particularly important, but why does grammar have to be disgraced in such a way?  What about:

"The bird was on the branch: free; light; beautiful."

Boring Adjectives

Describing something as "beautiful" does not let me know what it/he/she actually looks like.  Try "radiant", "pure", etc.

I feel like schools don't teach very much vocabulary anymore (okay actually I know that from personal experience), but the fact is that writers are supposed to have a good vocabulary so that they can clearly and concisely describe what readers cannot see with their eyes.


Desperate Dialogue/Voice

Authors trying to imitate some other writer's voice or writing style is the worst.  You can certainly take inspiration from writers, but in the end you need to write in a way that you can do successfully.  If there's anything I can not tolerate in a book, it's pretentious writing; when authors try and match a style they obviously know nothing about.

This happens a lot when authors try and sound "medieval" (e.g. if they're writing a prophecy or excerpt from a book within their story).  Sometimes I read things like this:

"Ye who findeth the sword shall be the rightful king of England."

First of all, this is the incorrect use of the word "ye".  This happens time and time again and it almost makes me physically uncomfortable.  If this were to be translated into current English keeping the word "ye", the sentence would read "you who findeth..."  

"You who"?  

The correct medieval word is "whosoever".  Do your research, authors!


Alright, those are my nit-picky problems with books which probably no one else cares about.  It's likely that no one else takes issue with any of these things XD
What bothers you in books?

Friday, July 29, 2016

Tolkien and Christianity

Something not everyone realizes is that Tolkien was a devout Christian, a Roman Catholic in fact.  I've commented on it before, but I rarely hear Christians people mention him.  I can't even count all the times I've heard references to C.S. Lewis in homilies or lectures, but rarely is Tolkien's wealth of knowledge drawn upon.

Well, I'm here to share a Tolkien quotes on Christianity that I found very deep and moving.

Tolkien writes:

"You [Michael Tolkien, Tolkien's son] speak of 'sagging faith', however.  That is quite another matter.  In the last resort faith is an act of will, inspired by love.  Our love may be chilled and our will eroded by the spectacle of the shortcomings, folly, and even sins of the Church and its ministers, but I do not think that one who has once had faith goes back over the line for these reasons (least of all anyone with any historical knowledge).  'Scandal' at most is an occasion of temptation--as indecency is to lust, which it does not make but arouses.  It is convenient because it tends to turn our eyes away from ourselves and our own faults to find a scape-goat.  But the act of will of faith is not a single moment of final decision: it is a permanent indefinitely repeated act > state which must go on-so we pray for 'final perseverance'.  The temptation to 'unbelief' (which really means rejection of Our Lord and His claims) is always there within us. Part of us longs to find an excuse for it outside us.  The stronger the inner temptation the more readily and severely shall we be 'scandalized' by others.  I think I am as sensitive as you (or any other Christian) to the 'scandals', both of clergy an laity.  I have suffered grievously in my life from stupid, tired, dimmed, and even pad priests; but I now know enough about myself to be aware that I should not leave the Church (which of me would mean leaving the allegiance of Our Lord) for any such reasons: I should leave because I did not believe, and should not believe any more, even if I had never met anyone in orders who was not both wise and saintly.  I should deny the Blessed Sacrament, that is: call Our Lord and fraud to His face.
"If He is a fraud and the Gospels fraudulent--=that is: garbled accounts of a demented megalomaniac (which is the only alternative), then of course the spectacle exhibited by the Church (in the sense of clergy) in history and today is simply evidence of a gigantic fraud.  If not, however, then this spectacle is alas! only what was to be expected: began before the first Easter, and it does not affect faith at all--except that we may band should be deeply grieved.  But we should grieve on our Lord's behalf and for Him, associating ourselves with the scandalizers not with the saints, not crying out that we cannot 'take Judas Iscariot, or even the absurd and cowardly Simon Peter, or the silly women like James' mother, trying to push her sons.
"It takes fantastic will to unbelief to suppose that Jesus never really 'happened', and more to suppose that he did not say the things recorded of him--so incapable of being 'invented' by anyone in the world at that time: such as 'before Abraham came to be I am' (John viii). 'He that hath seen me hath seen the Father' (John ix); or the promulgation of the Blessed Sacrament in John v: 'He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life'.  We must therefore either believe in Him and in what he said and take the consequences; or reject him and take the consequences.  I find it for myself difficult to believe that anyone who has ever been to Communion, even once, with at least right intention, can ever again reject Him without grave blame.  (However, He alone knows each unique soul and its circumstances.)
"The only cure for sagging of fainting faith is Communion.  Though always Itself, perfect and complete and inviolate, the Blessed Sacrament does not operate completely and once for all in any of us.  Like the act of Faith it must be continuous and grow by exercise.  Frequency is of the highest effect.  Seven times a week is more nourishing than seven times at intervals. Also I can recommend this as an exercise (alas! only too easy to find opportunity for): make your communion in circumstances that affront your taste.  Choose a snuffling or gabbling priest or a proud and vulgar friar; and a church full of the usual bourgeois crowd, ill-behaved children--from those who yell to those products of Catholic schools who the moment the tabernacle is opened sit back and yawn--open necked and dirty youths, women in trousers and often with hair both unkempt and uncovered.  Go to Communion with them (and pray for them).  It will be just the same (or better than that) as a mass said beautifully by a visibly holy man, and shared by a few devout and decorous people.  (It could not be worse than the mess of the feeding of the Five Thousand--after which [Our] Lord propounded the feeding that was to come).
"I myself am convinced by the Petrine claims, nor looking around the world does there seem much doubt which (if Christianity is true) is the True Church, the temple of the Spirit* dying but living, corrupt but holy, self-reforming and rearising.  But for me that Church of which the Pope is the acknowledged head on earth has as chief claim that it is the one that does (and still does) ever defend the Blessed Sacrament, and given it most honour, and put it (as Christ plainly intended) in the prime place.  'Feed my sheep' was His last charge to St. Peter; and since His words are always first to be understood literally, I suppose them to refer primarily to the Bread of Life.  It was against this that the W. European revolt (or Reformation) was launched--'the blasphemous fable of the Mass'--and faith/works a mere red herring.  I suppose the greatest reform of our time was that carried out by St. Pus X: surpassing anything, however needed, that the Council will achieve.  I wonder what state the Church would now be but for it.
"This is rather an alarming and rambling disquisition to write!  It is not meant to be a sermon!  I have no doubt that you know as much and more.  I am an ignorant man, but also a lonely one.  And I take the opportunity of a talk, which I am sure I should now never take by word of mouth.  But, of course, I live in anxiety concerning my children: who in this harder crueler and more mocking world into which I have survived must suffer more assaults than I have.  But I am one who came up out of Egypt, and pray God none of my seed shall return thither.  I witnessed (half-comprehending) the heroic sufferings and early death in extreme poverty of my mother who brought me into the Church; and received the astonishing charity of Francis Morgan.  But I fell in love with the Blessed Sacrament from the beginning--and by the mercy of God never have fallen out again: but alas! I indeed did not live up to it.  I brought you all up ill and talked to you too little.  Out of wickedness and sloth I almost ceased to practise my religion--especially at Leeds, and at 22 Northmoor Road.  Not for me the Hound of Heaven, but the never-ceasing silent appeal of Tabernacle, and the sense of starving hunger.  I regret those days bitterly (and suffer for them with such patience as I can be given); most of all because I failed as a father.  Now I pray for you all, unceasingly, that the Healer (the Hoelend as the Saviour was usually called in Old English) shall heal my defects, and that none of you shall ever cease to cry Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini
"*Not that one should forget the wise words of Charles Williams, that it is our duty to tend the accredited and established altar, though the Holy Spirit may send the fire down somewhere else.  God cannot be limited (even by his own Foundations)--of which St. Paul is the first & prime example--and may use any channel for His grace.  Even to love Our Lord, and certainly to call him Lord, and God, is a grace, and may bring more grace.  Nonetheless, speaking institutionally and not of individual souls the channel must eventually run back into the ordained course, or run into the sands and perish.  Besides the Sun there may be moonlight (even bright enough to read by); but if the Sun were removed there would be no Moon to see.  What would Christianity now be if the Roman Church has in fact been destroyed?"  (Letter #251 from The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

Doubts Answered 

 In this letter, Tolkien was consoling his son Michael who appeared to express having some "sagging faith", apparently because he was frustrated with people in the Catholic Church not doing things "right".  Tolkien remarks that theoretically this should not phase any Christian, particularly Christians who know their history.

It's so very true that Christians have not always behaved virtuously throughout the ages.  But you don't throw out the baby with the bathwater!  You wouldn't, for example. say that representative democracy is a terrible idea just because it's been misused or misapplied throughout the ages.  The same goes for Christianity.  Christians have done things (often in the name of Christianity) that are completely unacceptable.  But that doesn't mean that Christianity itself is wrong more immoral.

With, or Against?

 Tolkien also points out that if you're not with the Lord, you're against Him.  To leave the Church is to deny everything it teaches, and not just to disassociate with the people within it you find unpalatable.

I also like how Tolkien points out that denying the Bible is not just saying "you don't think it's true" it's also saying that it is a deliberate lie.  People today sometimes try and say "well I don't believe Jesus was God, but I think he's a good moral teacher."  This does not follow.  Jesus states multiple times that he is the Son of God.  He is either right, or he is making a horrible, blasphemous claim.

Not About the People

Wow, Tolkien's comments about going to mass with distracting people really hit home with me.  My church is one of those hideous renovated ones from the 70s made completely of drab stone with as little color and beauty as possible.  There are a lot of young people at my church who clearly don't care about being there, let their kids go to the bathroom in the middle of the consecration, etc.  I get very frustrated with the lack of respect during mass (as it appears Tolkien sympathizes with).  But what I need to remember (and what Tolkien lays out for me here) is that it's not the people around me who matter, but the consecration happening and the actual mass itself.  I'll work hard to keep that in mind from now on.

Sacrifice Shall not be in Vain

Tolkien finishes out by commenting on how much his mother sacrificed in order to raise her children Catholic.  By converting to Catholicism, she lost all connection with her family (they practically disowned her), her money, and her means of living.  Eventually she took ill very young and actually passed away (probably because of her meager living conditions), leaving Tolkien and his brother Hilary to live with Fr. Morgan as orphans.

Tolkien clearly remembers his mother's sacrifice and never wants it to be forgotten.  Calling oneself a Christian is not to be done lightly as many have sacrificed so much to be able to take on that title.


My point in spending my time typing up this (long!!) quote and then leaving some rambly commentary is to point out that Tolkien has a lot to say about Christianity that I find is very valuable.  I encourage any and all Christians to not stop with C.S. Lewis' work, but look into Tolkien's work as well.  Happy Friday, y'all!

(P.S. Maybe if a couple miracles are attributed to Tolkien's intercession we can get him canonized as a saint! ;)

Thursday, July 28, 2016


My sister Emily is forcing me to watch all the movies.  I relate to Boromir on an emotional level.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Guest Blog at Wisdom from The Lord of the Rings


I wrote a short guest blog for the blog "Wisdom from The Lord of the Rings" about Eowyn and it was published there just today.

You can head over and read that article as well as all of Stephen C. Winter's wonderful and insightful thoughts on The Lord of the Rings.

Have a cheery Wednesday!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Lord of the Rings Quotes

Just settling in to a nice cup of afternoon tea when I heard about the attack in Belgium.  The particular details about this one hit me in a real way...the elderly priest who could have retired but kept celebrating Mass because it gave him joy, the brutal way the killings happened, and maybe even saddest the fact the attackers were very young teens.

My thoughts are too jumbled and swollen to think right now.

Often times it is easy to think the worst of the world and despair of salvation.  But Sam knows that's not the right route.

Monday, July 25, 2016

5 Things I Look For in a Good Book


This is something I rarely find to my satisfaction in books.  I don't suppose it's important to as many folks as some of the other things on this list, but to me it makes all the difference.  Tolkien seems to share my opinion on this. 

 By consistency, I mean that things have to make sense within their own world.  I can't stand being asked to suspend my disbelief too much, and once I get into a fantasy world and have a good feel for the way it functions, I need it to stay consistent.

One way that Tolkien creates consistency that satisfies me is through the languages of Middle-earth.  All the names sound similar or at least like they are from the same language.  If you tell me someone is a dwarf, I automatically have a good idea of what that person acts and looks like because the definition of dwarves and their characteristics is consistent throughout the story.  I know what they wear, I have a good idea of how they speak, and I already have a firm foundation of what they look like even though they are fictional characters.

Imperfect Characters

Does anyone like to read a story about a "Mary Sue"?  Of course not.  Any good character is going to be well-rounded and relatable.  Think of Eowyn who is undoubtedly on the "good" side, but still struggles with her own vices and short-comings.  Think also of Gandalf who is undeniably a positive figure, but who also makes mistakes in judgement concerning Gollum and other matters. 

There are, however, mixed in with this imperfect characters, some characters who appear or seem unequivocally bad in The Lord of the Rings.  Leaving Sauron aside (since it was shown that he in the beginning was not wholly bad) I will only look at the Orcs.  The Orcs, like Sauron, were corrupted, though have no hope of redemption.  This is proven by the fact that after the Downfall of Sauron, the Orcs are killed unconditionally while the Easterlings and Southrons (Men) are offered a second chance.  This is because the Orcs are completely twisted and undeniably bad characters, while Men still have a chance of changing.

One might think that such an absolute form of Evil would be dull or impractical in a story.  While I may agree with this if it was the case throughout an entire work (though in The Lord of the Rings it is not, some Evil is not absolute) it does serve a literary function.  With the risk of sounding like I am applying allegorical themes, I want to suggest that "black and white" characters like the Orcs can sometimes "represent" different forces.  Now Orcs and Evil throughout The Lord of the Rings represent a wide variety of things and they are not allegorical, but in one reading Orcs could be seen as the disease which infects a body.  The disease must be completely eradicated; not toyed around with or partially dealt with, but completely and utterly destroyed.

This is a video from Bishop Barron explaining an Old Testament text about "putting the ban" on a society--a part of the Bible many people find troubling.  This video explains better than I can how Evil is sometimes represented and how it must be dealt with.  Just substitute the society being eradicated in the story Bishop Barron is speaking of with Orcs and you'll see what I mean.

A mix of perfect and imperfect characters makes a story more believable and relatable.

Narrative Purpose

Have you ever wondered how the author of Le Mort d'Arthur got all his information about King Arthur?  Perhaps he witnessed it first hand as a scribe and copied it down (in theory, regardless of whether the actual events happened)?  Indeed in an T.H. White's The Once and Future King, the reason for the tale existing is explained in itself: King Arthur asked one of his young scribes to copy down everything that befell so that England would not forget the tale.

Tolkien writes that he is just relaying history which has been passed down to him from the Elves, and therefore his reason for writing the stories he does and knowing the things he knows make sense in the story itself.

It bothers me to no end when a story just magically appears without any reason for its existence.  I think this is something that has developed ever since I read The Lord of the Rings and learned how satisfying it is when within the story is contained its reason for existence.


I am not a great fan of Mark Twain.  I do not find his writings style very appealing and indeed just to read it sounds like nails on a chalk board in my opinion.  I much prefer Chretien de Troyes' poetic style.  To me, having a great story or plot-line is not enough.  A story needs to be delivered in a beautiful and poetic way that is pleasing both to the ear and the mind.

Whether you write a story intended to sound like a legend, a diary, or a tale told around a campfire, it should sound and read smoothly.  I do acknowledge that the sharp dialogue Mark Twain uses is in service of providing atmosphere to his stories, and within that context it is successful, but imagine reading The Silmarillion written in that style.  It would automatically lose a large portion of it's fantastical element and legendary atmosphere.

"Unexplored Vistas"

Tolkien is a master of leaving random bits of intriguing information hanging in his works without fully explaining them.  A few examples include the references to Elbereth in The Lord of the Rings (at that time few even knew who she was because The Silmarillion was not published until nearly twenty years after the fact), the Cats of Queen Beruthiel (still to this day there is little to no information concerning this besides that provided in the appendix of The Lord of the Rings), Tom Bombadil (who toys with the imagination to no end), and the Two Blue Wizards.

These unexplained features not only make the world more believable (you can't understand everything in Middle-earth just as you can't understand everything in the real world) but also contribute to on-going discussion and speculation about a story.  This leads to readers creating their own ideas and thinking more and more about a story.  This is one of the things I find most fun to do when I read.

What things are important to you in a good book?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien: Half-way

I'm back!  I had a great time at the lake with my friend Anna but now it's time to get back to blogging.  I'm about half-way through The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien and figured I would do an update.  It's a fairly large book full of things I could comment on for hours so I wanted to stop half-way through and give my thoughts.

First off, I went into this book expecting to be mildly bored (reading someone's personal letters seemed a bit odd to me on the surface) but hoping to find a rare jewel of wisdom or insight scattered about.  I was completely wrong and I gobbled the book up, realizing it is really something special.

The letters are mainly either to his wife Edith (mostly early on when he was away in WWI), his son Christopher, his publishers Allen & Unwin, and C.S. Lewis.  The later ones look like they are mostly to fans who have questions about The Lord of the Rings.  Where I am in the book he has not yet published it (he is going to soon...I think at this point he's about a year away) so most of the correspondence is trying to convince his editors and publishers to take The Lord of the Rings.

A letter to Rayner Unwin, the son of Stanley Unwin, Tolkien's publisher.  This letter was writtin in 1955,
the same year Tolkien published The Return of the King.

Tolkien writes in such a witty and thoughtful way.  I particularly loved some of his letters to Christopher as he relayed what he, his daughter Priscilla and "Mummy" (Edith) were doing as Christopher was off in WWII.  It was interesting to see what the Tolkien family did.  In one of his letters to Christopher Tolkien attached a copy of a letter sent to him by a young American boy about the Hobbit which said:
Dear Mr Tolkien, I have just finished reading your book The Hobbit for the 11th time and I want to tell you what I think of it. I think it is the most wonderful book I have ever read. It is beyond description... Gee Whiz, I am surprised that it's not more popular...If you have written any other books, would you please send me their names? 
John Barrow, 12 yrs., West Town PA.
and Tolkien commented:
P.S. It's nice to find that little American boys do really say "Gee Whiz".
It's also really intriguing to read Tolkien trying to convince his editors to accept both The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings and talk about how he is writing them.

Many of Tolkien's more ideological letters were to C.S. Lewis including one where he defended the Church's teaching on divorce, and one I particularly liked addressed to his son Michael about how to foster a good relationship (Letter 43).

Michael Tolkien

I also gained a glimpse into academic life for Tolkien including one instance where a fellow don insulted him for Roman Catholics which I found particularly hurtful and could sense Tolkien's disdain for.  But Tolkien also comments his particular love for the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady which and you can really sense his deep faith throughout his letters.

He does, however, show a bit of dismissal of Americans, often in ways I did not find offensive as an American and it was sometimes even funny.  He seemed to expect very little of the American publishing company and American readers in general.  I don't take it to heart, and since these were originally his private letters and not intended to be blanket statements to everyone.

John Tolkien, the professor's son, became a Roman Catholic priest and was no doubt influenced
by J.R.R.'s steadfast faith.

There is also a fair amount of commentary regarding World War II and his great distaste for it.  He comments on the Russians, Berlin, the damage in England, his great hatred towards the atomic bomb and war machines in general.  He particularly comments vehemently about Adolf Hitler who he had great reason to dislike not only because of the atrocities he commissioned but also because Tolkien didn't like how Hitler was ruining the German name and the Northern spirit...making the Northern European culture seem hateful and racist.

Overall, I found this first part of the book to be very insightful and I really love reading Tolkien's articulate and witty.  Reading all these letters makes me wish that I lived in a time where people sent long letters to each other instead of short little texts.  Perhaps I'll start writing letters to my friends from now on!  So far I am loving this book and highly recommend it.  I'll keep you updated when I finish the entire book.

Tolkien was particularly outspoken about his dislike for Adolf Hitler and WWII.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Lord of the Rings Quotes

"For she is a fair maiden, fairest lady of a house of queens. And yet I know not how I should speak of her. When I first looked on her and perceived her unhappiness, it seemed to me that I saw a white flower standing straight and proud, shapely as a lily, and yet knew that it was hard, as if wrought by elf-wrights out of steel. Or was it, maybe, a frost that had turned its sap to ice, and so it stood, bitter-sweet, still fair to see, but stricken, soon to fall and die?"

nature, petals, plant

By the way, I will be at the lake tomorrow so I won't be able to post.  I'll be back Sunday, so never fear!  There will be both a LOTR post and a post in the Catholicism section then so make sure to check back.  Cheers!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Tolkien in Oxford

Where Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings:
A more recent photo from
A side view of the home from
The Eagle and Child Pub where Tolkien and his fellow Inkling friends met between 1930 and 1950.  Photo from Wikipedia

The Tolkien family (J.R.R., Edith, Michael, Priscilla, and John)  lived here from 1930-1952
Photo from
Tolkien's wife, Edith in Oxford.
Photo from
Shows a photograph of a bust of JRR Tolkien.
A bust of Tolkien on display at Oxford University.
Photo from
The exterior of the Eagle and Child pub, sometimes referred to as the Bird and Baby.  Photo from
Isn't it inspiring to see the places Tolkien lived and worked?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Palantir Podcast

Finally, the second episode of the Palantir Podcast!  Another fifteen minutes of my weird deep-scratchy-voice (why does it sound so weird when I record it?).

This time I was joined by my mom as a special guest as we discuss why and how The Lord of the Rings has remained popular for so many years.  This episode is a bit calmer and more mellow than the last one, haha.

Mobile viewers and those who receive these posts via email may not be able to play the podcast.  Visit the actual page on a PC for the best listening experience.

And remember to listen to the first episode if you have not already!


The Movie Marathon

The Gandalf Quote I couldn't remember:
“It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.”

Leave a comment if you want Emily and I to post our Les Miserables medley for violin and piano when we finish it :)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

What your Edition of Lord of the Rings Says About You

For this to work, pick the edition of The Lord of the Rings you own.  If you own multiple, pick your favorite. If you don't own your own edition, see the "none" category below.

First Edition
If you own a first edition set of The Lord of the Rings, you are either: a) someone who was around in 1955 (probably in Britain) when it first came out or b) a really successful collector.

If you are the former, you may be pleased to know that your edition could sell for $14,000+ in some cases.

If you are the latter, you are probably really dedicated to collecting rare things, especially Tolkien-related items.

Ballantine 1988 Paperback
If you have the above authorized paperback copies of The Lord of the Rings, you were probably a teen or college student in the 80s or know someone who was.  These books were really popular in the 80s  and are little thick paperbacks, you know, the type with yellow pages that in most cases smell kind of musty.

You may have discovered these books somewhere in a box in your basement where your dad left them after college.

"Now an Epic Motion Picture" Paperback
You or someone you know probably bought this book shortly before the original movies came out after hearing all the hype or bought it after seeing the films.

Black Paperback
If you own this book, you probably were given or bought this shortly before seeing the Hobbit movies or right afterwards.  You probably came to know The Lord of the Rings through the Hobbit movies.


If you don't own an edition of The Lord of the Rings, you are either a fan of libraries or are on the hunt for the perfect edition to spend your savings on.

Sorry if the edition you own didn't make it on the list.  Perhaps I'll do a part two if this receives a positive response.  I used the limited information about publishing dates and people I know who have the above editions to form my predictions, but in all honesty I was basically guessing.  So, did I guess something about you based on your copy?  Or was I way off?  Let me know in the comments :)  

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Place of Small People in The Lord of the Rings

From the Tolkien SocietyCarefully read the book you want to work from if you have not already done this. Note down and think about how children and young people shown in the story. Are they the same as small people? Do they all behave in the same way? If not, how do they behave differently? Are they treated differently? Is there any confusion? Is it nice to be a child or young person in the story you have chosen to read? Do they have adventures? Is it nice to be a small person? Do other people treat them differently?

For this essay I'm going to focus mainly on small people, particularly Hobbits.

Hobbit...isn't that a cute word?  I've heard, written, and said that word a billion times but I just hit me that it's a really cute word.  Hobbit.


Hobbits are often confused for small children and are sometimes treated as such.  Often characters speak down to Hobbits or expect them to be less mature.  In Gondor, for instance, Pippin is sent to go explore the city with Beregond, a teenager.

Why doesn't Pippin get to walk with an adult?  Pippin at that point had seen a lot of battle, death, and was probably more wizened and experienced than the majority of adults in Gondor and certainly more experienced than most of their children!  Beregond understands that though Pippin is small he is worthy of immense respect because of what he has been through.

And yet, Men often have a hard time distinguishing height from maturity.  Though Hobbits are small in stature, they are valiant.

Aragorn, for one, greatly respects Hobbits.  He finds their ways charming, but when it comes down to it he is willing to sacrifice his life for them.
“But I am the real Strider, fortunately. I am Aragorn son of Arathorn; and if by life or death I can save you, I will.”
Galadriel holds Frodo in high regard as well and even gives him one of her most precious gifts, the Phial:
“And you, Ring-bearer,’ she said, turning to Frodo. ‘I come to you last who are not last in my thoughts. For you I have prepared this.’ She held up a small crystal phial: it glittered as she moved it, and rays of white light sprang from her hand. ‘In this phial,’ she said, ‘is caught the light of EƤrendil’s star, set amid the waters of my fountain. It will shine still brighter when night is about you. May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out. Remember Galadriel and her Mirror!’
Frodo took the phial, and for a moment as it shone between them, he saw her again standing like a queen, great and beautiful.”
Faramir also has appreciation for the Hobbits:
“If you took this thing on yourself, unwilling, at others' asking, then you have pity and honour from me. And I marvel at you: to keep it hid and not to use it. You are a new people and a new world to me. Are all your kin of like sort? Your land must be a realm of peace and content, and there must gardners be in high hounour.”

Hobbits are often overlooked. It can be a bad thing, and it can be frustrating for them to be held in low esteem as shown by their indignation at being called Halflings, but it can also be a very good thing. The small size and humble appearance of Frodo and Sam no doubt made it easier for them to get into Mordor.
By the end of The Lord of the Rings, Hobbits were being treated very differently because of their major achievement in destroying the Ring.  They were held in high honor and the people of Gondor made lots of little songs for them.  Theoden speaks to Merry in a very kindly manner at the time of his death and holds the Hobbit in high regard.  The Elves of Rivendell all have a good ol' time with Bilbo in their company, though they find his poetry a bit tiresome and they tease him.
"'Well, Merry People!' said Bilbo looking out. 'What time by the moon is it? Your lullaby would waken a drunken goblin! Yet I thank you.'
'And your snores would waken a stone dragon - yet we thank you,' they answered with laughter."

All in all, small people are sometimes underestimated in The Lord of the Rings, but in the end, one of the major lessons is that small people can do big things.  The small people, the Hobbits, are then accepted and understood to be valiant despite their small size.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

LOTR Memes

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Tolkien Poem to be Republished

It was recently announced that a rare Tolkien poem called The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun along with other short works will be republished on November 3rd.  The poem has been out of print for 70+ years, since it was first published in 1945 in a journal called The Welsh Review.

It is a long poem (508 lines) in the medieval style.  It tells the story of Aotrou and Itroun, a couple with no children, who make a deal with a Korrigan, a fairy.  The Korrigan agrees to enchant them and they conceive twins.  However, the Korrigan requests that Aotrou marry her in payment.  Aotrou refuses and subsequently dies.  His wife Itroun dies from grief and the twins become orphans.

The idea of widows dying from sheer grief is found a lot in Tolkien in stories such as Huor and Rian, and Beren and Luthien.  The same idea is found in this poem.  The element of the twins being left out in the wild reminded me of Elured and Elurin, the twin sons of Dior and Nimloth, who were taken by the Sons of Feanor at a young age and left to die in the wild.

The idea of the danger surrounding making agreements with faeries, or in this case, a Korrigan, is a common idea throughout medieval literature.  Treacherous agreements concerning children and child-bearing is also not uncommon; it brings to mind the tale of Rumpelstiltskin who planned to trick a lady into giving him her first born.

This poem, along with the other works concerning the Korrigan Tolkien wrote, will add to the collection of Tolkien poems including the story of Kullervo, his translation of Beowulf, and The Fall of Arthur.

Pre-order in the U.K. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Lord of the Rings Quotes

“Why? Why do the fools fly?' said Denethor. 'Better to burn sooner than late, for burn we must. Go back to your bonfire! And I? I will go now to my pyre. To my pyre! No tomb for Denethor and Faramir. No tomb! No long slow sleep of death embalmed. We will burn like heathen kings before ever a ship sailed hither from the West. The West has failed. Go back and burn!”

fire, orange, emergency

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Songs I Recommend for Lord of the Rings Characters

Songs I recommend for some Lord of the Rings and Silmarillion characters.

Gollum - Who am I? from the Les Miserables soundtrack.

I'm not even ashamed to say this, but I've listened to the Les Miserables soundtrack (two hours long, mind you) three times directly in a row today.  That's a total of six hours.  To be fair, I was painting my shed so it's not like I was just sitting around for six hours, but nevertheless, all the songs are stuck in my head.

I recommend this song to Gollum because it showcases the same type of split-personality and inner-conflict.  Jean Valjean sings this song as he tries to decide whether he should turn himself in as a criminal to prevent an innocent man from going to jail, or if he should keep his secret and go on living his life.  Obviously he and Gollum have way different decisions to make, but they both have a hard time making them.

Eowyn - Hail Mary, Gentle Woman

This is one of my favorite songs.  All around me, I get the feeling that to be a strong person, you have to be loud and assertive; people are impressed by harshness and how well you resist feelings and emotions.  But this song reminds me that it is more admirable to be patient and gentle than to be fierce and loud.  My favorite lyric: Gentle woman, peaceful dove/ teach us wisdom, teach us love.

Eowyn early on seems to think that the only way she can be strong is by being the best warrior.  Perhaps if she gave this song a listen she would come to the conclusion that being gentle and kind is also important.

Aragorn - I Just Can't Wait to be King from The Lion King

This song will be perfect for getting Aragorn excited about his role as the new king!

Denethor - Don't Stop Believing

Come on Denethor, don't stop believing!  Don't let your despair get the best of you ;)
Let this song energize you for the Siege of Gondor to come.

Oh and the lyrics from this song at one point say: 

Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on, and on, and on

And that reminds me of the end of The Return of the King.

Arwen- A Thousand Years

This song actually fits really well with Arwen, in my opinion.  Just some of the lyrics particularly applicable:

But watching you stand alone,
All of my doubt suddenly goes away somehow.

It must have been so hard to see Aragorn go on alone and not be able to help him as much as she could have as his wife throughout the events leading up to his ascent of the throne.

One step closerThis comes up continuously through the song.  Each little victory and little step towards Aragorn's kingship brought him closer to finally being able to be with Arwen.

I have died every day waiting for you
Darling, don't be afraid I have loved you
For a thousand years
I'll love you for a thousand more

Like I said, every day apart from Aragorn must have been so difficult for Arwen.  But she has been patient and her love doesn't change throughout all that time because it's real.

Every breath
Every hour has come to this

And this for the final moments when Arwen and Aragorn meet again in Minas the feels!

And all along I believed I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me
I have loved you for a thousand years
I'll love you for a thousand more

Feanor - You're the Voice

Throughout The Silmarillion Feanor seems all to eager to resort to violence.  Perhaps he needs to remember, as this song puts it, we're all someone's daughter, we're all someone's son/ how long can we look at each other down the barrel of a gun?

At such a pivotal time for the Elves, Feanor would do well to remember that as a prince, he "is the voice" and should give the Noldor a good name, not a bad one.

Ar-Pharazon - Viva la Vida

Ar-Pharazon was the last of the Numenorian kings.  This song fits well, especially these lyrics:

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

Ar-Pharazon used to be in command of one of the most powerful kingdoms in Middle-earth.  He and other Numenorians even thought that they commanded the seas because they were so powerful (it was actually the Valar who were helping them).  Ar-Pharazon got completely knocked off his pedestal and trapped beneath the sea after being a traitor and leading an armada of ships to Valinor.

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

When Ar-Pharazon's entire kingdom was destroyed, he must have realized that he is not as powerful as he thought he was and his kingdom was at the mercy of the Valar.

My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can't explain
Once you'd gone there was never
Never an honest word
And that was when I ruled the world

Well once Amandil left to go plead for the Valar's mercy as a missionary and Numenor's faithful moved to the ships in the East of the island, Ar-Pharazon was pretty much surrounded by people who were on his side of pride and he never got any more good counsel after Amandil left.

It was a wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People couldn't believe what I'd become

People sure couldn't believe what a traitor and mad-man Ar-Pharazon had become by the end of his reign.

For some reason I can't explain
I know St. Peter won't call my name
Never an honest word
But that was when I ruled the world

Ar-Pharazon was trapped beneath the Earth with the rest of the rebellious until the Final Battle.  He reigned horribly and lied as a ruler, so he has a reason to suspect he won't be getting a call to Heaven anytime soon.

Do you have any characters and songs that match up? 

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Daily Quote Challenge III

The final day of the Daily Quote Challenge brings the promised LOTR quote:

“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.”

And the non-LOTR quote of the day:

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival. -C.S. Lewis

UPDATE- Wow, I forgot to tag people again because apparently I can't follow simple instructions...anyway, anyone who wants to do this challenge is certainly welcome!  Leave a link in the comments if you decide to do so :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Daily Quote Challenge II

Before I share today's quote, I just want to remind everyone who had previously signed up for the email subscription to re-sign up because after I switched emails it kind of got messed up.  Thanks again for your patience!

Alrighty, today's LOTR-related quote comes from The Hobbit:

“Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.”

And the non-LOTR related quote:

"If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever." -St. Thomas Aquinas

Today everyone gets a nomination, so go out and do it!

Green and White Wooden Boat on Body of Water