063 – How Not to Be Seen

Concluding our trilogy of episodes on Chapter 5 of The Hobbit. Gollum begins to realize that Bilbo has his ring, and Bilbo begins to realize what it does. He uses its power of invisibility to escape from Gollum, but stops short of killing the wretched creature: an act of pity that will have great implications for Bilbo and for Middle-earth. We turn again to the first edition to see how Tolkien’s minor edits changed the ring from a magical trinket into an artifact of power with a will of its own, and your hosts thankfully retire their Gollum voices until The Lord of the Rings.

For the online article “Bag End – A Very English Place” referenced in our Tolkien Fun Fact about Jane Neave, please see the Tolkien Library website: http://www.tolkienlibrary.com/press/1065-Bag-End-A-Very-English-Place.php (hat tip to listener Trotter)

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

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Recommended Reading:

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Hobbit (Mariner Books, paperback) pp. 78-84, “Riddles in the Dark”

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Hobbit Facsimile First Edition (HarperCollins, hardcover)

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Fellowship of the Ring: Being the First Part of The Lord of the Rings (Mariner Books, paperback)

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

Rateliff, John D. The History of the Hobbit (HarperCollins, one-volume hardcover)

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)

062 – …Ere the Other Side He See

Our second episode on Chapter 5 of The Hobbit. Tension mounts as the riddle contest between Bilbo and Gollum continues, with Bilbo’s life at stake. His luck saves him in the final round, but when Gollum accuses him of not playing fair, he’s still very much in danger. We compare the current text to the first edition to see how Tolkien transformed Gollum from a hungry, but honest, monster into a “miserable wicked creature” corrupted by the One Ring. And we welcome a listener to the North Wing of the Prancing Pony in a new segment!

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. 71-78, “Riddles in the Dark”

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Hobbit Facsimile First Edition (HarperCollins, hardcover)

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

Rateliff, John D. The History of the Hobbit (HarperCollins, one-volume hardcover)

061 – Answer Me These Questions Five…

The first of three episodes on Chapter 5 of The Hobbit. Bilbo wakes up in the darkness below the mountains, and soon finds himself in a life-or-death riddle-game with one of Tolkien’s most infamous creations: Gollum. We begin to discuss the changes made to this chapter during the composition of The Lord of the Rings, as Tolkien’s understanding of Gollum and the ring changed. Also, we look to the Professor’s own words for context about the newly announced Amazon series in a new segment: The Tolkien Quote of the Day.

(EDIT: In this episode, we mentioned an illustration in a 1947 Swedish edition of The Hobbit depicting Gollum as four times the size of Bilbo. Our listener Trotter located an image of the illustration by artist Torbjön Zetterholm, which we’ve included below:

As well as this other unsettling depiction of Gollum by illustrator Tove Jansson from a 1950s edition of The Hobbit:

Our thanks to Trotter for these spectacular finds!)

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. 65-71, “Riddles in the Dark”

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Hobbit Facsimile First Edition (HarperCollins, hardcover)

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

Rateliff, John D. The History of the Hobbit (HarperCollins, one-volume hardcover)

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

Drout, Michael D. C., ed. J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: Scholarship and Critical Assessment (Routledge, paperback)

Hammond, Wayne G. and Christina Scull. The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, hardcover)

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

050 – You Have Kept Your Honor: The Lord of the Rings Film Trilogy

Put aside the books and join us at the movies! In this episode, Alan and Shawn discuss Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. We watch clips of our favorite (and not-so-favorite) changes and go back to Tolkien’s own words about film adaptation to understand why some worked and others didn’t. Blazing beacons, tragic deaths, Elves where Elves have no business being… they’re all here in this action-packed, star-studded, Oscar-winner-watching episode of the Prancing Pony Podcast! Video version available on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

For streaming audio and a transcript of the Tom Shippey lecture “Tolkien Book to Jackson Script: The Medium and the Message”, see the Swarthmore College website at http://www.swarthmore.edu/news-events/tolkien-book-to-jackson-script-medium-and-message. (Audio highly recommended!)

The essay “Another Road to Middle-earth: Jackson’s Movie Trilogy”, is published as Appendix C in the 2005 edition of Shippey’s The Road to Middle-earth, and is also available in other collections.

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:

The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy (The Fellowship of the Ring / The Two Towers / The Return of the King Extended Editions) [Blu-ray]

Shippey, Tom. The Road to Middle-Earth: How J.R.R. Tolkien Created a New Mythology (Mariner Books, paperback)

Shippey, Tom. J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century (Mariner Books, paperback)

047 – Never Let Me Down Again

Alan and Shawn rewind to the end of the War of Wrath to begin “Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age.” Sauron refuses to beg the Valar’s pardon for his misdeeds, and remains in Middle-earth to follow in Morgoth’s footsteps as the new Dark Lord. Men prove easy to sway with pleasure and a little treasure, but it’s the Elves that Sauron wants now, courting them with secret knowledge. He soon finds ready pupils in Celebrimbor and the Noldorin smiths of Eregion, who use their new knowledge to make the Rings of Power; but Sauron is really behind the wheel, and in secret he makes another ring to have and to hold in domination over the others: One Ring to… well, you know the rest.

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.) The War of the Jewels (The History of Middle-earth, Vol. 11) (HarperCollins, paperback)

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

The Summer of the Prancing Pony

Alan and Shawn went live on Facebook Friday to talk about all the exciting things we have coming up this summer! Watch the video below, and subscribe now to catch all the good stuff as soon as it comes out!

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get the latest news, and send us your questions or comments to theprancingponypodcast (at) gmail (dot) com!

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

Hope and Despair

By now, you’ve likely noticed that there are certain themes that Tolkien touches on frequently in the Legendarium that I’m quick to notice and talk about during the podcast — or even here in our Ponderings. Not surprisingly, then, this is another one of those moments, as I finally have a chance to write briefly on one of the most recognizable themes in Tolkien’s works: hope and despair, and the choice we have to embrace one or the other. We’ll even touch a little on the fulfillment of hope in the eucatastrophe. Admittedly, we we’ve been spending the last year or so discussing The Silmarillion in the podcast, and there are plenty of moments of hope and despair in this work. But today I want to focus on two characters from The Lord of the Rings — Denethor and Théoden. Continue reading

The Moment (or, What’s in a Blade?)

I like to think of myself as well rounded, and I try not to have a single “favorite” anything. I love most flavors of ice cream, I look forward equally to Halloween and Christmas, and depending on my mood I can listen to anything from classical to classic rock. But as much as I try to be above the concept of favorites, I have to admit that I have a favorite passage in The Lord of the Rings. I call it “the Moment.”

Every time I read The Lord of the Rings, I start counting pages to the Moment as soon as I pick up my well-worn paperback of The Return of the King. Each time the Rohirrim appear, my heart races faster because I know the Moment is getting closer. By the time the Riders reach the Pelennor Fields, my heart is pounding. I can’t put the book down. The Moment is coming. Continue reading