Smells Like Elf Spirit

In an early Prancing Pony Ponderings essay, I made brief mention of the following passage in The Hobbit …

‘Hmmm! it smells like elves!’ thought Bilbo, and he looked up at the stars. They were burning bright and blue.
     (The Hobbit, p. 45)

… and quickly skipped past the questionable implications of “elf-smell.” And they are indeed questionable, in a way I felt completely unprepared to address back in October, when the Prancing Pony Ponderings segment of our website was still so new. It seemed too absurd, too indulgent, to tackle the question all those months ago when I was a younger, less wise man.

Oh, how times have changed. Continue reading

People of the Stars

When considering the place of the stars in the Middle-earth legendarium, two things likely come to mind: the figure of Varda/Elbereth, the Queen of the Stars who looms large in the pantheon of the Valar; and the name by which the Elves refer to themselves: Eldar, literally the “People of the Stars,” a name related to the Quenya word for star (elen) and whose roots lie in the exclamation ele, the first word spoken by the Elves when they awoke at Cuiviénen (The Silmarillion, p. 358).

But the Elves are not the only people associated with the stars; in fact, the legendarium began with a completely different “person of the stars.” Tolkien’s first mythic sub-creation that would become part of the later legendarium was the poem “The Voyage of Earendel the Evening Star” in 1914. Though it later served to connect the myths of the Elder Days with those of the Second and Third Ages through the character of Eärendil the Mariner, the concept of the traveler to Faërie with a star on his brow would bookend Tolkien’s literary career, repeated in the last work Tolkien would see published in his lifetime, Smith of Wootton Major, in 1967. Continue reading

022 – Subdivisions

In Chapter 13 of The Silmarillion, Fëanor’s host arrives in Middle-earth shortly before Fingolfin’s, leading to an awkward family reunion that just gets more awkward when somebody calls Uncle Thingol. Fëanor’s dream of revenge goes up in flames, and we tally up his good-or-evil score including Tolkien’s own thoughts from his letters. We also read the inspiring story of Fingon and Maedhros, and have way too much fun with the new toy in Alan’s studio.

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Recommended Reading:

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Silmarillion (Mariner Books, paperback) pp. 106-113, “Of the Return of the Noldor”

Tolkien, J. R. R. (Christopher Tolkien, ed.) The Lost Road and Other Writings (The History of Middle-earth, Vol. 5) (HarperCollins, paperback)

 

021 – New World, Man

In Chapter 12 of The Silmarillion, the Second Children of Ilúvatar – the Atani, or Men – awake, and we quickly learn precisely what the Elves think of them.  We revisit the differences that Tolkien created between Elves and Men in both life and death, along with the ominous portent this new race holds for the Firstborn.  Plus, the monotony of Manwë’s wardrobe.

For photos of the Carfax Tower, the Martyr’s Memorial, and other sites likely passed by young Tolkien on his late-night bus ride, visit this page highlighting a number of tourist attractions in Oxford.

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Comments or questions for Barliman’s Bag:

  • Visit us at Facebook or Twitter
  • Comment on this blog post
  • Email theprancingponypodcast (at) gmail (dot) com.

Recommended Reading:

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Silmarillion (Mariner Books, paperback) pp. 103-105, “Of Men”

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)

014 – Trouble in Paradise

In Chapter 7 of The Silmarillion, Fëanor crafts the most renowned jewels in the history of Middle-earth – the Silmarils – and conflict is immediately kindled between the sons of Finwë while Melkor stokes the fire. Meanwhile, a listener question about the crafting of weapons leads Alan and Shawn down a nerdy pop culture reference path from which there is no turning back.

Listen to the episode here or on YouTube

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Comments or questions for Barliman’s Bag:

  • Visit us at Facebook or Twitter
  • Comment on this blog post
  • Email theprancingponypodcast (at) gmail (dot) com.

Recommended Reading:

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Silmarillion (Mariner Books, paperback) pp. 67-72, “Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor”

013 – The Blame Game

In Chapter 6 of The Silmarillion, Míriel chooses death over the labor of living, so Finwë remarries to the displeasure of his eldest son Fëanor (and half the Valar). Amid the strife in Finwë’s house, Melkor is granted parole and begins to gain influence in Valinor. But Fëanor is a spirit so fiery, not even Melkor can sway him. Cue the foreboding music.

For more information on the Sarati script developed by Rúmil, please visit the excellent Amanye Tenceli site by Måns Björkman at: http://at.mansbjorkman.net/sarati.htm

Listen to the episode here or on YouTube

Subscribe to the podcast via:

Comments or questions for Barliman’s Bag:

  • Visit us at Facebook or Twitter
  • Comment on this blog post
  • Email theprancingponypodcast (at) gmail (dot) com.

Recommended Reading:

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Silmarillion (Mariner Books, paperback) pp. 63-66, “Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor”

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

Tolkien, J. R. R. (Christopher Tolkien, ed.) The Peoples of Middle-earth (The History of Middle-earth, Vol. 12) (HarperCollins, paperback)

012 – All in the Family

In Chapters 4 and 5 of The Silmarillion, one Telerin lord settles down with a lady way out of his league while the rest of the Eldar migrate across the Great Sea to Aman. We see the founding of the great cities of Eldamar – Tirion upon Túna and Alqualondë – and meet the family of Finwë, King of the Noldor. And Ulmo actually does what the Valar tell him to, until he doesn’t.

Listen to the episode here or on YouTube

Subscribe to the podcast via:

Comments or questions for Barliman’s Bag:

  • Visit us at Facebook or Twitter
  • Comment on this blog post
  • Email theprancingponypodcast (at) gmail (dot) com.

Recommended Reading:

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Silmarillion (Mariner Books, paperback) pp. 55-62, “Of Thingol and Melian” and “Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalië”