055 – Pining for the Hoards

We wrap up Chapter 1 of The Hobbit, “An Unexpected Party”, where Bilbo’s Tookish side is awakened by the mysterious dwarf-song filling his home, but his Baggins side is less enthusiastic once Thorin and Gandalf lay out the details of the dwarves’ quest. Will Bilbo stay safely in his comfortable hole, or will he rise to the challenge like his great golfing ancestor Bullroarer Took? Also: more word-nerdery as we talk about Tolkien’s use of the plural form ‘dwarves’ in the first installment of another new show segment: Philology Faire.

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Recommended Reading:

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Hobbit (Mariner Books, paperback) pp. 14-26, “An Unexpected Party”

Tolkien, J.R.R. and Douglas A. Anderson, ed. The Annotated Hobbit (HarperCollins, hardcover)

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

054 – Nobody Expects the Dwarvish Inquisition

We begin our reading of The Hobbit with the famous first line and meet Bilbo Baggins, living a predictable life of luxury and ease until Gandalf comes by one Tuesday morning. Soon Bilbo’s world is turned upside down by an unexpected party of hungry dwarves, and his comfortable life is threatened. Along the way, we discuss the enduring courtesy of hobbits, the dangers of saying “Good morning” to wizards, and offer fashion tips for homeless dwarves. Plus, the first installment of our new segment: Today in Tolkien History.

For more on the recent genealogical research into the Tolkien family conducted by Ryszard Derdzinski, please see Mr. Derdzinski’s blog at http://tolkniety.blogspot.com/ (bilingual: Polish/English)

Listen to the episode here, on YouTube, or in the player below:

Subscribe to the podcast via:

Comments or questions for Barliman’s Bag:

  • Visit us at Facebook or Twitter
  • Comment on this blog post
  • Click the green button at right
  • Email barliman (at) theprancingponypodcast (dot) com

Recommended Reading:

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Hobbit (Mariner Books, paperback) pp. 3-14, “An Unexpected Party”

Tolkien, J.R.R. and Douglas A. Anderson, ed. The Annotated Hobbit (HarperCollins, hardcover)

048 – People Are People

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.

We’d love it if you would spend 30 seconds filling out this survey for our podcast host, Libsyn. No one will get your personalized data; only Alan and Shawn will get your email addresses, and if we get 250 responses, we will enter all email addresses into a drawing. Click here to complete the survey, and thank you!

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. 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)

 

Doom, doom, doom.

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

Turning Point

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

Elessar

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