049 – The First Age Strikes Back: The Silmarillion Retrospective

A long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away, Alan and Shawn started discussing The Silmarillion. Now, witness the power of this fully armed and operational retrospective episode! First, we open Barliman’s Bag and stay on target to answer as many questions about the First and Second Ages as we can. Then we search our feelings for our favorite recurring themes in The Silmarillion and discuss Morgoth’s playbook for evil, the greatness of Finrod, the enduring importance of hope in Tolkien’s works, and more. And we make use of our Star Wars referencing skills for the first time in a long time… a long time.

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!

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Comments or questions for Barliman’s Bag:

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Recommended Reading:

Tolkien, J. R. R. (Christopher Tolkien, ed.) The Silmarillion (Mariner Books, paperback)

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)

The Heir of Eärendil

As observed by Verlyn Flieger in the first chapter of her book Splintered Light,1 the contrast between opposites is a key feature of Tolkien’s work that defines his fantasy world. Many characters and concepts in the legendarium can be better understood by reference to their opposites. The darkness of Ungoliant, for example, is described as an “Unlight” with a physical presence as palpable as the light of the Trees that she consumed. (The Silmarillion, p. 76) The mortality of Men is best understood as not the immortality of Elves: their release from the Circles of the World spares them from the sorrow the Quendi experience with the slow fading of “serial longevity”. On the topic of how good and evil define one another, Olga Polomoshnova has done an excellent study of this recently on her blog Middle-earth Reflections in the essay “Melkor and Manwë: like night and day”, and my co-host Alan touched on the subject in his most recent Prancing Pony Pondering on “The Sins of Melkor… and that one guy” by pointing out how Tolkien’s heroes embody the reverse of Melkor’s worst attributes.

The point of all this is clear: if we want to understand a concept or character in Tolkien’s work, a better understanding of its opposite is critical. Continue reading

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:

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  • Comment on this blog post
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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)

 

The Sins of Melkor… and that one guy

When Shawn and I recorded our fifth episode of the podcast on the Ainulindalë, we couldn’t have predicted that we’d still be around over a year later — let alone that we’d have so many listeners enjoying our efforts.1 But there was something else we couldn’t predict then, either — that “The Sins of Melkor” that I talked about in that episode would end up being so universally applicable to other characters in the legendarium. It was only as we were preparing to put The Silmarillion on a boat in the Grey Havens and wave goodbye to it for our upcoming retrospective episode that I realized just how pervasive those errors are — not only for the genuinely evil characters, but also for the mostly-evil, the sometimes-a-jerk, and even the occasionally-foolish. Continue reading

046 – Master and Servant

The second of two episodes on the Akallabêth, Tolkien’s story of NúmenorAr-Pharazôn is offered no resistance by Sauron, and gets the bright idea to take him as a hostage. Soon, you-know-who has wormed his way into the King’s trust and turned the Númenóreans to the worship of Melkor. As Sauron’s cult gains power in the kingdom, the Faithful led by Amandil and Elendil are persecuted; the aging Ar-Pharazôn prepares his armada to sail to the Undying Lands to take immortality by force, and the Valar respond with a disaster of biblical proportions. Also, Alan and Shawn finally disagree about something: Genesis.

To listen to our recent interview with John Garth and discussion of the history of the Númenor myth, see Episode 044 – The Threshold of Middle-earth: An Interview with John Garth.

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. 270-282, Akallabêth

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

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

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays (HarperCollins, paperback)

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

045 – Just Can’t Get Enough

The first of two episodes on the Akallabêth, the story of NúmenorAt the outset of the Second Age, the Valar reward the Edain with wisdom, long life and their own private island in the Great Sea. The Númenóreans become legendary seafarers, sailing east to the edge of Arda and bringing knowledge back to Middle-earth. But the Valar forbid them to sail west in search of the Undying Lands, and soon the Númenóreans begin to yearn for the one thing they cannot have: immortality. We look into Tolkien’s essays and letters to see what happens to mortals who do come to Aman, and dabble in genealogy with questionable results.

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. 259-270, Akallabêth

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

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

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)

 

044 – The Threshold of Middle-earth: An Interview with John Garth

Alan and Shawn are honored to welcome John Garth, the award-winning author of Tolkien and the Great War and Tolkien at Exeter College, to The Prancing Pony Podcast! John’s work as a biographer and researcher offers a rare glimpse into the early life of J.R.R. Tolkien, and the experiences and ideas that helped shape the Middle-earth legendarium. We discuss war, friendship, sorrow, and tales of college tomfoolery that may surprise you.

For a list of John Garth’s writings about Tolkien, including the Telegraph online article “When J.R.R. Tolkien bet C.S. Lewis: the wager that gave birth to The Lord of the Rings,” see his website at http://www.johngarth.co.uk/php/tolkien_publications.php

You can also follow John Garth online at his website, http://www.johngarth.co.uk/, on Facebook (facebook.com/JohnGarthWriter) or on Twitter @JohnGarthWriter)

For speaking engagement inquiries, please see http://www.johngarth.co.uk/php/talks_and_presentations.php.

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:

Garth, John. Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth (Mariner Books, hardcover)

Garth, John. Tolkien at Exeter College (Exeter College, paperback)

043 – The Final Frontier

Join Alan and Shawn as they don red shirts for the final chapter of the Quenta Silmarillion, the voyages of the star-ship Vingilot. Its continuing mission: to bring Eärendil and Elwing into the West, to seek the pardon and aid of the Valar, and to become a beacon of hope for Elves and Men forever after. The ensuing War of Wrath leaves behind a strange new world, and each of the Silmarils boldly goes where no one has gone before… or ever will again.

For an image of Maglor Casts a Silmaril into the Sea by Ted Nasmith, visit the artist’s home page here: http://www.tednasmith.com/tolkien/maglor-casts-a-silmaril-into-the-sea/

For the article “Dragon scale” by John Garth, on the size of Ancalagon the Black, visit his blog here: https://johngarth.wordpress.com/2015/01/18/dragon-scale-why-its-impossible-to-size-up-tolkiens-middle-earth/

For the essay “From Terrible Beauty to Beacon of Hope — The Silmarils from Fëanor to Eärendil” by listener Tom Hillman, visit his blog here: http://alasnotme.blogspot.com/2017/04/from-terrible-beauty-to-beacon-of-hope.html

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. 246-255, “Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath”

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

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

Gilliver, Peter, Jeremy Marshall, Edmund Weiner. The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford University Press, hardcover)

Garth, John. Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-earth (Mariner Books, hardcover)

Garth, John. Tolkien at Exeter College (Exeter College, paperback)

042 – Resistance is Futile

We return to Chapter 23 of The Silmarillion with our second episode on Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin. Tuor’s star rises in the realm of Turgon, and soon he finds himself wedded to Idril Celebrindal, becoming the second Man ever to marry one of the Firstborn. But Maeglin is bitter at his cousin’s rejection, and soon Morgoth seizes on his discontent to fulfill some long-laid plans of his own. We trek with you through the flames, the fights, and the frights of the fall of the last Elven stronghold in Beleriand, and hint at the hope to come. Plus, don’t miss Alan’s impression of a beloved Hollywood icon.

For an image of Glorfindel and the Balrog by John Howe, visit the artist’s home page here: http://www.john-howe.com/portfolio/gallery/details.php?image_id=284

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. 238-239, “Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin”

Tolkien, J. R. R. (Christopher Tolkien, ed.) The Lays of Beleriand (The History of Middle-earth, Vol. 3) (Del Rey, 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!