Thursday, May 2, 2013

Silmarillion Reading Group

So I have plans for the summer to get a bunch of my friends to read The Silmarillion. It is, admittedly, a rough book to get through in some ways, at least in terms of it being wholly unlike The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

What strategies did you use as you read The Silmarillion (especially if this was your first time)? What might I recommend my friends do as we read? I've heard of keeping running character lists to refer back to, but of course this is supposed to be fun summer reading so I don't want it to see homeworky. 

Any tips, thoughts, or suggestions?

Also, I would like to at least start reading the History of Middle-earth series. I probably won't get through all 12 volumes over the summer, but I've been known to be hubristic, so. Does anyone want to join me in a Reading Group for this series? We might meet up occasionally and continue our awesome conversations (possibly with beer, the only thing I can think would make them better).  

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Posting Your Creative Works

As is painfully obvious with the stuff I talk about, I am a big supporter of fan activity and fan works, and I believe they are meant to be shared. We are special in that we are both junior scholars as well as fans of Tolkien's works, and therefore there is even more important that we share our creations with other Tolkien fans on the internet.

Before posting on any of the following sites, you will need to create an account, which is of course free. If you need help registering or posting to any of these forums, please let me know. Also, link it here when (NOT IF) you do post it, so I can reblog/favorite/kudo/bookmark/etc.

For art:

For written fanworks (fanfiction):
Archive of Our Own
(again) Tumblr, where plenty of people post fanfic as well as fan art

It's practically a crime to keep these locked away, you guys. Keep in mind this quote from Tolkien:

"I would draw some of the great tales in fullness, and leave many only placed in the scheme, and sketched. The cycles should be linked to a majestic whole, and yet leave scope for other minds and hands, wielding paint and music and drama." (Letter 131).

Also, any comments about Tolkien's statement here?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Reader Presentation

In reflecting back over the semester, I truly feel that I gained the most insight into Tolkien's character through the presentation I gave on his Welsh influences.  In this lecture/essay, I glimpsed, however briefly, Tolkien's great love for languages and the passion he brought to the study of languages.  In addition, I began to understand the incredible breadth of his knowledge in so many different subjects.  Tolkien was a genius:  I knew this fact before the semester started, but this course - and especially my reading presentation - reaffirmed Tolkien's brilliance in my mind.

What stood out to you most about your reading presentation?  What was your main takeaway from your assigned piece?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hope and Despair

All semester we have talked about the twinned themes of hope and despair in Tolkien's works. If pressed, I might even argue that Tolkien's construction of Middle-earth is founded primarily in these two themes. But, I might also argue that one of these themes is more important in his works than the other. Of course, I'm not really interested in what I think; I'm much more interested in what you think after this semester's study of Tolkien's less popular works.

Do you think the themes of hope and despair are central to Tolkien's works? Why or why not?

Does one of these themes seem more important than the other to Tolkien? What evidence do you find to support this?

"Leaf by Niggle" freewrites

Feel free to post your freewrites from class today here, whether you read them aloud in class or not.

Favorite Works from the Class

If you had to pick one work from our syllabus this term as your favorite, what would it be and why did you pick that one? What does it mean to you? In keeping with our discussion in class today how will you carry it with you beyond this course?

In a different vein, what text did you find the most thought-provoking and enlightening about our topic, whether or not it was your favorite? Why this text?

Conversely, which text did you find least helpful or interesting in thinking about Tolkien's work? What forms the basis for your reaction to this text? Personal analysis or bias, lack of time spent on it in class or in your own study, difficulty of text?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Innocence vs. Wisdom

In class we talked a bit about how Smith of Wootton Major emphasized the importance of innocence and child-like belief rather than wisdom and maturity (portraying the oldest character, Nokes, as somewhat mean and foolish).

However, when Tolkien wrote this, he was much older and closer to the end of his writing career. Why do you think Tolkien valued youth and innocence more as he grew older? Does this seem backwards, or does it make sense to you?

Personally, I'm a bit surprised. I would have thought this learned older man would think himself superior to others who have had less life experience! It seems to be the opposite. Thoughts?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Favorite Tolkien Short Story

Now that we've gotten through so many of Tolkien's short stories, which one is your favorite and why? I'm mostly thinking of the stories in Tales of the Perilous Realm, but any others can count, too.  I really liked the "Smith of Wootton Major" we just read since it talked about Faery and I like seeing that connection to his other work. I'm also going to say I really liked "Roverandom," but that's mostly because I did my research paper on it and I feel attached. Anyway, feel free to gush about Tolkien's stories here. Is there something about them that connects to his other works that you like? What is it about his short stories that are appealing? Share your thoughts.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Favorite Tolkien Art

Now that we're done with the Hammond and Scull readings, what were your guys' favorite pieces?  And, of course, why do you like them?  I think my favorite would have to be Bilbo Comes to the Huts of the Raft-elves (p 131 in H&S).  I think it's one of the rare pieces that Tolkien used saturated, cool colors: blues and greens.  I think the trees are particularly interesting because they're stylized, which seems unusual for Tolkien.  
Like we mentioned in class, it has the motif of the path/river winding your eye beyond the bounds of the picture.  I also think it's a very iconic image for The Hobbit.  

Húrin and Morwen

This is a bit late in coming, but I finally finished writing a poem. It's a little different from the passage in Children of Húrin that I based it off of, but I thought I'd throw it up here on the blog anyways. I really loved the alliterative style that Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is written in, so I tried for that sort of thing. The poem turned out more melodramatic than I wanted, but, as it turns out, even the remotest kind of alliterative style is hard to write, even when you're not making any of it rhyme! But, of course, Tolkien was able to translate Sir Gawain from Middle English, make it alliterative, and rhyme the last four lines (a-b-a-b) of every stanza.

Now Húrin, heavy from Morgoth's hardship
And torment, took the road to Túrin's last stand -
To where the black sword spoke and slaughtered him there.
There Morwen sat in mourning, a mother childless
Against the grave of son and daughter, grey hair
And stare of sorrow in a sunken face.
Húrin took her tenderly in his arms until
Night fell, and nodding there he knew
That with the morning, Morwen to Man's fate would go.
The sun rose and she slipped from world's circle,
But her face, now free of family's grief,
Rested, released in the rays of the East.
"In her death she was not defeated," Húrin declared,
And carefully caressed her face, closed her eyes.