049 – The First Age Strikes Back: The Silmarillion Retrospective

A long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away, Alan and Shawn started discussing The Silmarillion. Now, witness the power of this fully armed and operational retrospective episode! First, we open Barliman’s Bag and stay on target to answer as many questions about the First and Second Ages as we can. Then we search our feelings for our favorite recurring themes in The Silmarillion and discuss Morgoth’s playbook for evil, the greatness of Finrod, the enduring importance of hope in Tolkien’s works, and more. And we make use of our Star Wars referencing skills for the first time in a long time… a long time.

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Recommended Reading:

Tolkien, J. R. R. (Christopher Tolkien, ed.) The Silmarillion (Mariner Books, paperback)

Tolkien, J. R. R. (Christopher Tolkien, ed.) Morgoth’s Ring (The History of Middle-earth, Vol. 10) (HarperCollins, paperback)

Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (Mariner Books, paperback)

The Heir of Eärendil

As observed by Verlyn Flieger in the first chapter of her book Splintered Light,1 the contrast between opposites is a key feature of Tolkien’s work that defines his fantasy world. Many characters and concepts in the legendarium can be better understood by reference to their opposites. The darkness of Ungoliant, for example, is described as an “Unlight” with a physical presence as palpable as the light of the Trees that she consumed. (The Silmarillion, p. 76) The mortality of Men is best understood as not the immortality of Elves: their release from the Circles of the World spares them from the sorrow the Quendi experience with the slow fading of “serial longevity”. On the topic of how good and evil define one another, Olga Polomoshnova has done an excellent study of this recently on her blog Middle-earth Reflections in the essay “Melkor and Manwë: like night and day”, and my co-host Alan touched on the subject in his most recent Prancing Pony Pondering on “The Sins of Melkor… and that one guy” by pointing out how Tolkien’s heroes embody the reverse of Melkor’s worst attributes.

The point of all this is clear: if we want to understand a concept or character in Tolkien’s work, a better understanding of its opposite is critical. Continue reading

Guest spot on DSRA Podcast!

After welcoming a few guests to the Prancing Pony Podcast over the past 18 months, we’re pleased to announce that for the first time ever, we’ve had the chance to guest on somebody else’s great podcast!

A few days ago, we sat down with the team from the DSRA Podcast (Dragons, Sexy Robots, & Adventures) to talk about Beren and Lúthien. They’re big fans of Tolkien’s work, and we had a great time talking to them about the new publication. They even let us read some of our favorite passages!

Go check out the episode here, and then visit their website and feed for further explorations of all things nerd at Dragons, Sexy Robots, & Adventures Podcast