Down the Hobbit Hole

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

It’s incredible how much ten short words can do, isn’t it? These were the first ten words I ever read by J.R.R. Tolkien, and they changed my life in several ways: by introducing me to my favorite author, by rekindling a dormant love for linguistics, and by starting me on a road that would eventually lead me (many years down the road) to a makeshift recording booth in my closet, where I have the pleasure of co-hosting a podcast that has brought me in touch with similarly minded Tolkien lovers all over the world.

I suspect many of you reading this had your first entry into Tolkien’s world through these ten words as well.  Continue reading

024 – Territories

It’s a small world, after all. Take a trip around the map with Alan and Shawn in Chapter 14 of The Silmarillion, Tolkien’s extensive description of the geography and realms of the Elves in Beleriand. Also, we receive a lesson in Dwarvish pronunciation from a listener and get up close and personal with a personal pronoun. And what’s that voice in the distance? Sounds like a very deep woodwind instrument.

For more information on the Khuzdul language and insights on all things Dwarvish, visit The Dwarrow Scholar (dwarrowscholar.com) by listener Roy.

For more insights on Tolkien’s work and his medieval literary and linguistic influences, visit the blog Alas, not me (alasnotme.blogspot.com) by listener Tom H.

Also in this episode, Shawn brings up a poem by Tolkien that cycles through the seasons, but whose title he can’t quite remember. The poem is “The Trees of Kortirion” (a.k.a.”Kortirion among the Trees”) from “The Cottage of Lost Play” in The Book of Lost Tales Part One.

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. 118-124, “Of Beleriand and its Realms”

Tolkien, J. R. R. (Christopher Tolkien, ed.) The Book of Lost Tales Part One (The History of Middle-earth, Vol. 1) (Del Rey, paperback)

Carpenter, Humphrey. J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography (Houghton Mifflin, paperback)

023 – Distant Early Warning

A great feast is held in the conclusion of Chapter 13 of The Silmarillion, but not all is well in Beleriand, and two Elf-princes receive important messages about taking action before it’s too late. The Noldor successfully place Angband under a siege that will last for centuries, but Morgoth has a new secret weapon in development. A question from Barliman’s Bag gives us a chance to revisit Fëanor – and Tolkien’s own thoughts about the character – one last time, and we stretch the limits of pop culture reference.

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. 113-117, “Of the Return of the Noldor”

Tolkien, J. R. R. (Christopher Tolkien, ed.) Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth (Mariner Books, paperback)

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

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.

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. 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.

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. 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)

020 – Tolkien’s Secret Vice: An Interview with Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins

Alan and Shawn welcome Dr. Dimitra Fimi and Dr. Andrew Higgins as the first guests to The Prancing Pony Podcast! They are the editors of the new critical edition of Tolkien’s A Secret Vice. We turn the word-nerdery up to 11 to talk about Tolkien’s approach to language invention and the lasting impact his work had on the Middle-earth legendarium and the fantasy genre itself. Our inner geeks get the vicarious thrill of handling manuscripts written in the Professor’s own hand.

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:

Fimi, Dimitra, and Andrew Higgins, eds. A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages (HarperCollins, hardcover)

019 – How to Get the Celestial Body You Want

In Chapter 11 of The Silmarillion, the Valar put forth their power to help the Trees bear one last fruit and flower, and then place them in the sky as celestial lights to illuminate all of Arda: the Sun and Moon. We also delve into some of Tolkien’s own concerns about his astronomical myth. Finally, the Valar go shopping for a home security system, but instead opt for a really, really big wall.

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. 98-102, “Of the Sun and Moon and the Hiding of Valinor”

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

Fimi, Dimitra, and Andrew Higgins, eds. A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages (HarperCollins, hardcover)

Flieger, Verlyn. Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s World (Kent State University Press, paperback)

018 – Menegroth: Love It or List It

Returning to Middle-earth from Aman, we cover thousands of years in a few pages with Chapter 10 of The Silmarillion, “Of the Sindar.” The remnant of the Teleri in Beleriand ruled by Thingol and Melian befriend the Dwarves and delve underground to build the fairest dwelling this side of the Sea. But soon Morgoth’s beasts and Orcs move in next door, and the neighborhood goes downhill quickly. Plus, Elvish beauty secrets and a surprise visit from an old friend.

For an excellent interactive map of Beleriand, along with a map of Third Age Middle-earth and a variety of other legendarium timelines, statistics and infographics, visit the LotrProject website (lotrproject.com), and please consider donating to help keep it available and ad-free.

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. 91-97, “Of the Sindar”

Fimi, Dimitra, and Andrew Higgins, eds. A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages (HarperCollins, hardcover)

 

017 – …Don’t You Come Back

In the second half of Chapter 9 of The Silmarillion, “Of the Flight of the Noldor”, the exiles continue down the road to certain doom, spurred on by Fëanor’s oath. We witness the terrible Kinslaying at Alqualondë, hear what Mandos has to say about that, and see the straw that broke Fingolfin’s back. Also, we date ourselves terribly with some appropriate music references.

For the essay “Fëanor and Melkor: so different, so alike,” referenced in our discussion of the burning of the ships at Losgar, please see the blog Middle-earth Reflections (middleearthreflections.wordpress.com) by listener Olga P.

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. 85-90, “Of the Flight of the Noldor”

Tolkien, J. R. R. (Christopher Tolkien, ed.) Sauron Defeated (The History of Middle-earth, Vol. 9) (HarperCollins, paperback)

016 – Hit the Road, Jack…

In the first half of Chapter 9 of The Silmarillion, “Of the Flight of the Noldor”, Melkor and Ungoliant leave the dead Trees behind them and continue their crime spree in Formenos. Fëanor goes full-emo and rallies the Noldor to pursue his Black Foe back to Middle-earth, swearing a terrible oath in the process. We revisit Míriel in Mandos, and also discuss how a Silmaril is like a bite of ribeye.

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. 78-85, “Of the Flight of the Noldor”

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