Inspiration

Anyone who’s read even the first few pages of The Lord of the Rings is familiar with the “found manuscript” concept at the heart of Tolkien’s mythology: the idea that the books of the Middle-earth legendarium were not inventions, but translations of the Red Book of Westmarch, penned by the Hobbits of the stories themselves.  It’s easy to see why this concept would be attractive to Tolkien. The claim, however tongue-in-cheek, that his stories were miraculously preserved firsthand accounts of prehistoric events — not just the flights of fancy of some bloke who taught Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College — lent his work a mysterious air of historicity like that of the most beloved real-world myths, from the Trojan War to the Arthurian cycle. In addition, setting his stories in the distant past of our primary world helped Tolkien in his effort to make “a Secondary World which your mind can enter,” (“On Fairy-Stories,” Tree and Leaf, p. 37) a story which the reader can remain inside as long as they choose to.

But it seems very likely that Tolkien believed his stories truly did come from somewhere beyond himself.  In several of his letters, Tolkien is careful to distinguish his artistic process from mere invention Continue reading

016 – Hit the Road, Jack…

In the first half of Chapter 9 of The Silmarillion, “Of the Flight of the Noldor”, Melkor and Ungoliant leave the dead Trees behind them and continue their crime spree in Formenos. Fëanor goes full-emo and rallies the Noldor to pursue his Black Foe back to Middle-earth, swearing a terrible oath in the process. We revisit Míriel in Mandos, and also discuss how a Silmaril is like a bite of ribeye.

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Recommended Reading:

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Silmarillion (Mariner Books, paperback) pp. 78-85, “Of the Flight of the Noldor”

Tolkien, J. R. R. (Christopher Tolkien, ed.) Morgoth’s Ring (The History of Middle-earth, Vol. 10) (HarperCollins, paperback)

015 – Along Came a Spider

Doom falls on Valinor in Chapter 8 of The Silmarillion. Manwë hosts a feast to reconcile the estranged sons of Finwë, but Melkor chooses that moment to get his revenge with a little help from the mother of all evil spiders (literally), Ungoliant. We bring back Tolkien Fun Facts with a young Professor’s trek through the Swiss Alps, and wonder about Valarin bug spray.

For an image of Der Berggeist by Josef Madlener, the painting that Tolkien deemed the “Origin of Gandalf,” visit this page for the artist’s hometown of Memmingen (German language site): https://www.memmingen.de/76.html

For an image of The Killing of the Trees by John Howe, visit the artist’s home page here: http://www.john-howe.com/portfolio/gallery/details.php?image_id=977

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. 73-77, “Of the Darkening of Valinor”

Carpenter, Humphrey. J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography (Houghton Mifflin, paperback) Book II, Chapter 4, “‘T.C., B.S., etc.'”)