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:
Tumblr
Deviantart

For written fanworks (fanfiction):
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.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A bit of Tolkien Humor

I saw some images on the internet I thought you guys would particularly appreciate!


Tolkien's humor, unlike these memes, was much more dry. Any examples of your favorite Tolkien humor in any of the works we have read for class? (I know I spoke a bit about this during my oral presentation on his Valedictory Address - Tolkien liked to subtly poke fun at his peers)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Writer's Paintings

In J.R.R. Tolkien Artist & Illustrator, Hammond and Scull comment that “no study of J.R.R. Tolkien's written work can be complete without also looking at his art.” What do you think of that? Is it always necessary for a reader to examine the other types of artwork that an author completed (i.e. paintings, musical scores, etc.) to appreciate that author’s literary pieces deeply? Have you learned anything surprising from seeing Tolkien’s illustrations?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Gil-galad

I'm still really intrigued by Gil-galad, but I haven't been able to find much more about him.  Apparently (I found this info on Tolkien Gateway, but it says it's referenced from The History of Middle Earth, vol. XII), Tolkien's final notes on Gil-galad's parentage reveal that he was actually the son of Orodreth, and Tolkien changed Orodreth from son of Finarfin to song of Angrod, and therefore grandson of Finarfin. Confusing, I know. It says Christopher Tolkien just kind of went with what made sense with the text of The Silmarillion which was Tolkien's previous idea of Gil-galad as the son of Fingon.

However, if Gil-galad was finalized as a child of Orodreth, then Finduilas would have been his sister.  What if Tolkien had included Gil-galad in The Children of Hurin??? Oh, the possibilities! I think I like Gil-galad as Fingon's son better, though. It makes him seem a little more connected rather than some obscure, great-grandson of Finarfin, an elf who didn't even leave Valinor.

Also, I looked up the part of The Fall of Gil-galad that Sam recites at Weathertop.  It's in The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Knife in the Dark."

Gil-galad was an Elven-king.
Of him the harpers sadly sing:
the last whose realm was fair and free
between the Mountains and the Sea.

His sword was long, his lance was keen,
his shining helm afar was seen;
the countless stars of heaven's field
were mirrored in his silver shield.

But long ago he rode away,
and where he dwelleth none can say;
for into darkness fell his star
in Mordor where the shadows are.

Later, Frodo reveals that Gil-galad means "Starlight" in Elvish (translated as "Star of Radiance" in The Silmarillion glossary).  I thought it was interesting that there's another Elvish star reference, in a way akin to Earendil.  What's up with all the stars?  Why are they so special? I think they're a beautiful analogy, but I want your thoughts!

Mandos = Valhalla?

In class, we discussed the idea of "the gift of death" which is granted to Men. I understand the problems which come with being immortal, but I find it problematic that the Elves are so unhappy with their everlasting life. Unless the halls of Mandos are similar to the realm of Hades in Greek mythology, it seems to be a decently happy place. On the other hand, if the halls of Mandos are similar to Valhalla in Norse myth, why don't we see more of a warrior culture, welcoming death in battle as a valiant end? This would release Elves from their "curse" of immortality since their bodies will never perish due to natural causes. Tolkien was obviously well versed in Norse myth, so I wonder if this was a conscious choice to move away from such a violent, death seeking culture. Thoughts?

Help

Guys, I need help. Ok, I'm convinced there's a part in The Silmarillion where one of the Elves battles either Morgoth or one of his servants through singing. But now I cannot find it ANYWHERE. I have literally been scouring every resource I can for the past hour. Help meeee. Am I making this up?  Am I just remembering Fingolfin's last stand wrong? I am so confused haha.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Ulmo bore up Elwing out of the waves,
he forbade her demise alone in sunken caves.
He gave her the likeness of a bird great and white,
and imparted on her the gift of flight.
Faith and longing stronger than ever,
in earnest hope that she may complete her endeavor.
And upon her breast there shone as a star the Simaril
As she flew over the water to seek Earendil.
Her beloved he had once been,
in his arms she hoped to be in again.
Alas over the horizon she saw,
his wonderful ship so far and so small.
Into his great arms she flew,
The sailors thought it a very strange view.
On her beak he laid a kiss,
A sight his men could not readily dismiss.
Thus the lovers were reunited, 
When he woke up Earendil was delighted.

The Arkenstone

We were talking last class about jewels, more specifically jewels that had a radiance to them.  That got me thinking what was the Arkenstone?  We know that it was unearthed by the dwarves under the Lonely Mountain during the third age, but was that where it began?  Due to the incredible radiance of the jem as well as the obvious corrupting effect that it had on Thorin I am almost inclined to believe that it is in fact a silmaril.  More specifically, this would be the one lost by Meadhros at the end of the first age when it was flung into a deep pit.  Would would be your thoughts on this matter?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Read Other's Research Papers

Remember those research papers you wrote? Well, do you also remember that they were to be posted on our PRV website? Check out any of the fine work by your classmates in those papers and come back here to post a comment in which you tell everyone what you learned!

Get Help on Long Projects

Most of you should be working on your Long Projects now. What parts of your work do you need help brainstorming about? What other help could your classmates give you now to help speed you along on this project? Now's the time and here is the place to ask!

Eärendil's Story

Eärendil's story is one Tolkien worked on in several formats and over a long time in his life. What aspects of this story seem to you to be most similar to aspects of Tolkien's other works? Are any aspects vastly different from themes in Tolkien's other works? What parts of this story seem most appealing to you? How about most puzzling?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Elvish Naming Customs

I found a handy-dandy explanation of the elves' multiple names thing that had us all (okay maybe just me) in a tizzy.

Basically, the (Noldor) elves have a "Sindarized" name which Tolkien mostly uses. Then they have father-names, mother-names, and a chosen name that happens when they're older.

So Maedhros is the Sindarized name, Nelyafinwe is his father-name, Maitmo is his mother-name, and Russandol is his chosen name.

Also, the twins (Amrod and Amras) have the same mother-name and just run around calling each other "Ambarussa." I think that's adorable.

Longing

"A swoon of longing smote me there." -Pearl, 167

I know we talked about this some in class on Thursday, but I wanted to return to the theme of longing. For me, the longing that Tolkien's stories make me feel is one of the most powerful things about reading his work. I'd love to hear which stories, descriptions, passages of Tolkien's make you feel this way, and why - and whether it's longing to go to Middle-earth, or something else.

For me, it's the song that Sam and Frodo sing near the very end of LOTR; it alludes to Frodo's desire for Valinor. This is one of my favorite things Tolkien has ever written. Simply put, it makes me want to go on a journey.

Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though I oft have passed them by,
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Jerusalem Bible

In today's class Richard mentioned that Tolkien contributed to the translation of a part of the "Jerusalem Bible." There was a little uncertainty on which book he translated so I decided to research the topic.
In 1943 Pope Pius XII wrote a letter encouraging Roman Catholics to translate scripture from the original Hebrew and Greek, rather than from Latin. This resulted in a group of Dominican and lay scholars meeting in Jerusalem and translating the scriptures into french. This french version was published in 1961 and prompted others to do make an English version. This new bible was translated directly from Greek and Hebrew, but in passages with more than one way of interpreting the French version was usually followed.
The translation used a literal approach of which Tolkien preferred. Tolkien contributed to multiple books, but his primary contributions were the translation of the Book of Jonah. This new bible was known as the Jerusalem Bible and was the first widely accepted Roman Catholic translation since the 17th century.
Tolkien got involved because Fr. Anthony Jones, was the lead man on the project, and was very impressed with the LOTR. Tolkien was chosen because of his skill in translating as well as his good English writing style. Fr. Jones wanted Tolkien to translate more of the older books of the bible, but Tolkien had to much other work to do.
I got my information from...

http://www.tolkienlibrary.com/press/888-Book_of_Jonah_Translated_by_Tolkien.php

Monday, April 1, 2013

Tolkien and the religious significance of water

We talked in class before about the special place of water in Tolkien's world. "And it is said by the Eldar that in water there lives yet the echo of the Music of the Ainur more than in any substance else that is in this Earth; and many of the Children of Ilúvatar hearken still unsated to the voices of the Sea, and yet know not for what they listen."

I was reminded of this during the Easter Vigil mass, in the prayer of blessing for the baptismal water: 

"O God, whose Spirit
in the first moments of the world's creation hovered over the waters,
so that the very substance of water
would even then take to itself the power to sanctify;

"O God, who by the outpouring of the flood
foreshadowed regeneration,
that from the mystery of one and the same element of water
would come an end to vice and a beginning of virtue..."

I was confused by the water stuff before, so this was helpful to me, especially the part about the flood, and flooding's connection with sanctification. We've got some flooding in Tolkien, after all. I thought of  Númenor, of course, and Isengard, and the river Bruinen with the Ringwraiths.

These are all washings away of evil. Are there others like them? Even more I'm interested in any places where water is not helpful for the good guys.The Watcher in the Water is maybe problematic. What is that thing about?