In the second half of “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age,” Isildur refuses to destroy the One Ring when he has the chance, keeping it as his prize from the vanquished Sauron. But he is stripped of the Ring, and his life, when he’s ambushed by Orcs on his way home. It’s only a question of time before the Ring is found centuries later by one of the fisher-folk living near the river, and eventually comes to the hand of some creature called a Hobbit from some place called the Shire. Think you’ve heard this one before? Not so fast! We go back to Tolkien’s Unfinished Tales to learn more about Isildur’s death at the Gladden Fields and the origin of the Istari or Wizards. We also dig up some blasphemous rumours about the origins of Orcs to answer a listener question.
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Tolkien, J. R. R. The Silmarillion (Mariner Books, paperback) pp. 285-294, “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age”
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)
Tolkien, J. R. R. Tree and Leaf: Including “Mythopoeia” (HarperCollins, paperback)
Carpenter, Humphrey, ed. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (Mariner Books, paperback)
Olsen, Corey. Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit (Mariner Books, paperback)
If you’ve listened to the podcast enough, you’ve probably heard Alan and I make the bold claim that J. R. R. Tolkien never, ever made an accidental word choice in his writing. Every single word was chosen quite deliberately, we like to believe, and so there’s no shame in delving deep into every single word choice to determine exactly what was in the Professor’s head at the moment of writing. Of course, while we can’t know for sure, this is likely an exaggeration — surely even Tolkien occasionally chose words “just because” — but we’ll never know for sure, and we’ll keep on saying it. One thing that we do know for sure is that Tolkien understood words, and the history of words, well enough to know which one was right for his intended purpose; and that if he wanted to, he could use their histories and multiple shades of meaning to great effect.
One of our favorite words to delve into is doom. Continue reading
In my previous essay for the Prancing Pony Ponderings series, I wrote of Frodo’s meeting with the Elves of Gildor Inglorion’s company in the Woody End in Book I of The Lord of the Rings as an initiation into the mythic world, and found in that topic an excuse to count pages and words. This time around, I turn to another transition point later in the story; and not to be outdone by myself, I am not only counting pages, but I have also prepared a line graph. (In my next Prancing Pony Pondering, I intend to use integral calculus to prove that Tom Bombadil is Eru Ilúvatar.¹)
There are approximately 1145 pages in the standard paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings – including appendices, indices and forewords – making the midpoint of the text the chapter encompassing pp. 562-573: Book III, Chapter X, “The Voice of Saruman.” Continue reading
In this Prancing Pony Pondering, I want to take a look at just one example of how deep and rich Tolkien’s backstories often were. As he pointed out in On Fairy-Stories, when an author can do this well,
[T]he story maker proves a successful ‘sub-creator’. He makes a Secondary World which your mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is ‘true’: it accords with the laws of that world.
In Chapter 8 of Book Two of The Lord of the Rings, “Farewell to Lórien,” the Fellowship are finally (and reluctantly) getting ready to depart Lothlórien after their time of renewal and mourning — and they have just drunk the cup of parting with Galadriel and Celeborn. Galadriel then commences her generous gift-giving, beginning with a beautiful sheath that she gives to Aragorn for Andúril. Continue reading