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.

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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)

Patreon Launch Announcement!

Alan and Shawn are pleased to announce the start of our upcoming Patreon campaign! The short video below tells you nearly everything you need to know for now. The rest of the details will come out between now and our official launch date of July 5.

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!

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.

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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

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Comments or questions for Barliman’s Bag:

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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)

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

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Comments or questions for Barliman’s Bag:

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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)

 

Pity and Fear: the Tragic Tale of Túrin

It’s been three weeks since Alan and I finished our trilogy of episodes on the story of Túrin Turambar in The Silmarillion, and no one is looking forward to Tuor showing up on the podcast more than I am. But before we say farewell to the son of Húrin, I still wish to explore the idea of Túrin as a tragic hero, as I promised to do at the end of our epic-length episode 039 – Exit the Warrior.

I have to say that Alan did such an excellent job with his last Prancing Pony Pondering examining Túrin’s free will and fate as defined in the philosophy of Boethius, that I think we have enough to close the book on Túrin’s case: his responsibility for his own misdeeds, and the verdict that Morgoth’s Curse — though real and powerful — does not overcome Túrin’s free will, has been well established by my co-host. But I’d like to add some additional insight to that discussion that satisfies my desire for a literary explanation of Túrin’s responsibility, in addition to the philosophical one; and I’d still like to investigate the question of just why Professor Tolkien saw fit to present such a tale of grief in the first place. Continue reading

040 – He’s Dead, Gem

In Chapter 22 of The Silmarillion, Húrin is released from Angband to finish his son’s work of destroying everything he touches, and his visit to Thingol starts a chain reaction leading to war between Doriath and the Dwarves of Nogrod. As Menegroth falls, the Silmaril comes through the hands of Beren and Lúthien to their son Dior, and is noticed by seven guys we haven’t heard from in a while. Plus, a look at Tolkien’s writings explaining the kinship of Celeborn and Nimloth tells us how to get to Sesame Street.

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Recommended Reading:

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Silmarillion (Mariner Books, paperback) pp. 227-237, “Of the Ruin of Doriath”

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Hobbit (Mariner Books, paperback)

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

Túrin: “Simple Twist of Fate”, or “Freewill”

Yes, I referenced both Bob Dylan and Rush in the title of this essay. Fair warning: that may very well be the essay’s high point. After all, philosophers have been debating—without a certain answer—the nature of free will for centuries, and I’m unlikely to solve it here. (Spoiler alert: I don’t really try.) But it’s such a fascinating subject in the context of Professor Tolkien’s legendarium—and, especially, in the life of Túrin Turambar—that I cannot help but offer my thoughts on the matter.1

If you’ve been listening to the podcasts, you know that Shawn and I have recently released our Túrin Turambar trilogy of episodes. In the course of preparing for those recordings, I wanted to explore the way that Tolkien addressed the apparent paradox between the way he presents ‘fate’ and the exercise of free will — both among Men in general, and in Túrin in particular. Continue reading

039 – Exit the Warrior

We conclude our trilogy of episodes on Chapter 21 of The Silmarillion, “Of Túrin Turambar.” After Glaurung sacks Nargothrond, Morwen pulls a Thingol and ignores Melian’s advice. She leaves Doriath, Nienor secretly follows, and the dragon ensnares another child of Húrin. We witness a fateful reunion of brother and sister, and the final showdown between hero and dragon. We close the sad tale with a discussion of fate, free will, pity and mean, mean pride in a marathon podcast that challenges popular opinions about Tolkien’s tragic hero… and the stamina of your hosts.

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Comments or questions for Barliman’s Bag:

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Recommended Reading:

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Silmarillion (Mariner Books, paperback) pp. 209-217, “Of Túrin Turambar”

Tolkien, J. R. R. (Christopher Tolkien, ed.) The Children of Húrin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, paperback)

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

038 – I Will Choose Free Will

We continue our trilogy of episodes on Chapter 21 of The Silmarillion and Tolkien’s tragic hero Túrin Turambar. Túrin comes to Nargothrond with Gwindor, then quickly surpasses his friend in the favor of the king and the love of the king’s daughter. Túrin’s military advice brings early victory, but his deeds soon draw the attention of Morgoth, who responds with a massive army led by the dragon Glaurung. We begin examining Túrin’s choices, tally up his many name changes, and earn the wrath of Hugo Weaving fans everywhere.

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. 209-217, “Of Túrin Turambar”

Tolkien, J. R. R. (Christopher Tolkien, ed.) The Children of Húrin (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, paperback)