The Silmarillion Recap: Death, Fear, and the Dark Lord (Or, Welcome Back, Sauron)

Want to catch up on The Silmarillion so far? Check out the Silmarillion Recaps page here.

Last week, the Dúnedain fell into discontent with the Valar and their Ban on sailing West. Enough so that they broke into two groups: the King’s Men and the Elendili. This week, the consequences of the discontent and the return of a familiar character.

Akallabêth part 5

Ever since Tar-Atanamir (the 13th King of Númenor), things haven’t been the same on Númenor. In the years that follow his reign, the people become more mighty, but their contentment is gone. Instead, most live in fear of the Valar (which means they still don’t dare to sail west) and their lives are filled with a strange combination of death and excess.

Death isn’t regarded as a gift anymore. Now, it’s something to fret about and obsess over. Tombs go from a place to keep the dead to the centerpieces of the towns, and most of the people are in search of a secret concoction to prolong their lives. Interestingly, the concoctions only better preserve the dead, which seems like quite an ironic twist. When the Dúnedain aren’t thinking abut death, they live it up, perhaps in an effort to forget their impending doom. It’s certainly not the lives that the Valar had hoped they would have when the Valar first brought them to the blessed island.

Sadly, the general populace also don’t consider their island so blessed anymore. It’s more like a stifling prison. So, since they can’t go west, many start setting up cities on the shores of Middle-earth. This isn’t so unusual since the Dúnedain used to visit the Men who had stayed behind and help them. Now, though, they don’t come as teachers and protectors but as tyrants wanting their own pieces of land.

Fortunately, not all of the Dúnedain are like that, though. The Elendili — the ones who stayed faithful to the Valar and the Elves — instead stay on the western side of Númenor, where the Elves from Valinor still visit them, or they sail to Middle-earth, where the Elven King Gil-galad lives.

However, Elves, Men, and the Dúnedain aren’t the only important inhabitants and visitors of Middle-earth. For a long time, a Shadow has been lurking. Now, it again has a name: Sauron. If he ever feigned being good, those days are over. He is wholeheartedly and unabashedly as evil as his former master, Morgoth/Melkor.

Sauron sets up his camp in Mordor and builds the infamous tower of Barad-dûr. From here, he plans to take complete control of all of Middle-earth so he can rule it like a god. However, the Dúnedain stand in his way. They’re strong, and their settlements along the coast are throwing off his world domination plans. While many of them have strayed far from the Valar like he has, he hasn’t forgotten who all of them used to be (and who some of them still are). They have been friends to the Valar and Elves, and they even helped the Elves fight against him when he made his One Ring and tried to take over the world. (More on that in the next part of The Silmarillion!) And he hates them for all of it.

Speaking of the incident with the One Ring, three of the Dúnedain are among the Nine Men he ensnares with the Nine Rings. Once those nine kings officially become his Ring-wraiths, he uses all of them against the Dúnedain. They attack settlements along the coast (which means their reign of terror starts long before Frodo is even born). Middle-earth looks like it’s on the brink of war yet again.

Next week, the kings of Númenor sink to a new low.


July Novel Update

It’s been a month since I started a new writing adventure: writing a “second” draft of a new, currently unnamed, fantasy/sci-fi/steam-punkish novel. So far, the adventure has been as crazy as I anticipated. I mean, how can it not be crazy with dwarves piloting rudimentary spaceships?

Yeah, I know how weird that sounds. Honestly, the characters and setting occasionally make me feel awkward because they’re so peculiar. I’ve spent my adult writing life avoiding elves, dwarves, and most other mythical creatures just because they feel so difficult to pull off well. Embarrassing childhood stories usually make me cringe at the thought of including them in my own work.

However, its peculiarity is alluring. I’ve read quite a bit of sci-fi and fantasy over the years but never anything quite like this. It makes me think of the tv show Firefly. Who ever would have thought a Western in space would work? But it does. And maybe this does too. It at least deserves a full draft to see if the idea is any good or if it needs substantial changes to work.

As for progress, there’s been a fair amount. Even though there is one very rough draft laying around, it’s done little more than lay a rough foundation. So that means that this month has been filled with writing, pausing to plan, and then writing some more, almost like this was the real first draft.

The good news, though, is that even with some long pauses to reflect and solidify the world and its rules, it’s gone from 2,707 words to 10,668. And now, I have solid plans for a fair amount of the rising action… which is more than I had this time last month. Will it be any good? I’m still not sure, but it’s still compelling enough to keep me writing.

How are your writing ventures going?


What Dreams Are Made of (A Short Story) Part I

April 2014, I had a series of very strange dreams after binge watching Dr. Who? (More about that here.) Ever since then, I’ve wondered if I could make a story out of it. And after a while of letting the idea brew, it’s time to see what happens.

3:42 am. Gaila should have been asleep, but instead she sat on the edge of the bed with a handmade quilt pulled tight around her shoulders. Since childhood, she’d had plenty of strange dreams, but tonight’s was unusually vivid, even for her.

Wasps disguised as hairs dug into her arms and legs. They even nestled in with the digit hair on her fingers. That’s how she had known something was wrong. Those incredibly long, dark hairs sticking out of her fingers. Upon closer inspection, she noticed tiny, translucent wings. And when she pulled on it, the pain was unbelievable. There was no doubt that it wasn’t a hair but some strange parasite.

And one unlike anything in real life. She tried to console herself with that. It was just a dream. Nothing to be afraid of. Yet she still couldn’t force her feet off of the carpeted floor. Every time she had a strange dream, she had to clear her mind. That’s how it’d always been. Until she could think about something else, she couldn’t go back to sleep or the dream would just return with a vengeance. Tonight, there was no hope of that since every thought somehow circled back to those hair-like wasps and the pain in her right index finger from the wasp she had plucked out before waking up.

She thought about waking her husband, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. The dream had seemed very real, but it was just a dream. There was no sense in waking him over imaginary wasps. It just sounded ridiculous.

3:51 am. Determined not to look silly, she laid the quilt on the bottom of the bed again and snuggled back up to her husband. His warmth should be enough to keep the imaginary wasps away. But underneath her silent bravado, she knew better. Nothing she could do would keep her from dreaming about them again, but she needed the sleep. Better to face imaginary wasps for a restless sleep than a classroom of third grades with only four hours of rest.


The Silmarillion Recap: Breeding Discontent in Numenor

Want to catch up on The Silmarillion so far? Check out the Silmarillion Recaps page here.

Last week, the Dúnedain were given several rules to live by. This week, that one (or two) people start pushing the envelope. It’s about to get messy.

Akallabêth part 4

It’s been about 2,000 years since the Dúnedain have made themselves comfortable on Númenor. So far, life has been good. They’ve made friends with the Men back in Middle-earth, bringing knowledge and a sense of security back to a land filled with shadows. They enjoy extremely long lives and friendship with the Elves and the Valar. Can’t complain, right?

Wrong. One of the ground rules of living in Númenor was that the Dúnedain weren’t allowed to sail West out of sight of the island. However, as the years have worn on and they’ve watched the Elves freely sail back and forth between Númenor and the just out of sight Valinor, they’ve started growing discontent with this rule. Why should the Elves be allowed to do this, to enjoy immortality, while they have to experience death and the Ban to keep them out of Valinor? It just isn’t fair.

Things reach a desperate point during the reign of Tar-Atanamir, the 13th King of Númenor. Thanks to the frequent visits by the Elves, the Valar hear about all of the discontent. The Valar are heartbroken that the Dúnedain are upset (just as they were upset when the Elves weren’t content in Valinor with them), so they quickly send messengers to smooth out the situation.

The conversation between Tar-Atanamir and the messengers boils down quite simply: The Dunedain can’t have it both ways. Death isn’t a punishment but a gift. When Men die, they leave, and not even the Valar know where they go. However, Men were never designed to be permanent residents of Aman (the world). They were meant for another home ultimately. Fear brought on by Morgoth has twisted this gift, making death something to fear instead of just another chapter in the adventure. They just have to trust Ilúvatar.

Unfortunately, Tar-Atanamir doesn’t buy it. More unfortunately, his actions split the people of Númenor into two distinct groups.

The first are the King’s Men. Many of the Dúnedain agree with the King and breed that discontent from murmurs to outright disdain for the Valar and the Elves.

The second, though, are the Elendili. While they’re still loyal to Elros’ line, they refuse to write off the Elves and the Valar. Instead, they maintain the friendship from before. However, they do have one serious fault that all of the Dúnedain now share: they are troubled by the idea of death.

Next week, a very familiar character returns… and his only goal is to follow in his evil master’s footsteps.


A Star Wars Debate: How to Introduce the Saga to New Viewers

December 18th can’t get here fast enough. Everyone around here is excited about the new Star Wars movies. Some friends love watching every piece of behind the scenes footage and reading all of the speculation. Others, including my husband, prefer to stay back so that they can experience the films without preconceived ideas. I’m not sure which camp I want to belong to, so I’ve limited myself to what my husband knows. I suppose it’s better that way so I don’t spill any spoilers.

The upcoming movies have also spawned some debate between us and our friends. One is introducing his daughter to Star Wars for the first time in preparation for the coming movie. The first question that came to everyone’s mind is an important one: in what order should someone be introduced to the Star Wars films?

I can see the argument for universe chronological order. After all, watching Episodes I-VI in that order seems like an easy answer. We do that with The Chronicles of Narnia (though when someone should be introduced to The Magician’s Nephew — the second to last book in publishing order but first book chronologically — deserves some serious consideration).

However, I lean towards release order. Even though it’s the most cliché line, I wouldn’t want to ruin that moment when Luke (and therefore the viewers) learns (*SPOILERS*) that Darth Vader is his father. Besides, I love Han Solo and Princess Leia. But especially Han Solo.

Fortunately, my husband and I are on the same side, which means that we’ll be unified in how we raise our future children.

I have heard that there are other ways of mixing the movies up as well, but I’m not very familiar with those.

As far as personal experience goes, my introduction to Star Wars was a little rough. My parents took us to a video rental store (you know, back when those things still existed), and my younger brother and I were terribly excited because it was shaping up to be a big movie night. However, the store only had Episodes VI. Someone already had Episode IV and V checked out. Undeterred, my brother and I insisted that we wanted to watch it that night, so we brought Episode VI home. Needless to say, neither of us could figure out who the green guy was or why he was dying, but we still loved it.

Soon after, we returned, but only Episode V was there. So we watched it next. Suddenly the green guy wasn’t a green guy anymore: he was Yoda, the coolest Jedi ever. And there had already been some spoiling about Darth Vader being Luke’s dad, but that was okay. It was still a big deal.

Last but not least, we watched Episode IV, and finally the whole story fell together. We were delighted and instantly transformed into unabashed Star Wars fans. Years of audio books and lightsaber duels in the backyard followed.

How were you introduced to Star Wars? Do you believe in chronological order or release order? Or have you found another way of watching the films?


The Silmarillion Recap: House Rules (Made by the Valar)

Want to catch up on The Silmarillion so far? Check out the Silmarillion Recaps page here.

Last time, we covered the lineage and importance of Elros, the first king of Númenor. This week, a little more about the island’s inhabitants and their one unbreakable rule.

Akallabêth part 4

The people of Númenor, called the Dúnedain, are undeniably impressive. They live on a special island protected by the Valar, are buddies with the Elves of Valinor, and enjoy incredibly long lives. They’re mighty, skilled, and peaceful. Not to mention that they’re incredible ship builders with a sense of adventure. It seems like they have everything.

But there is one unbreakable rule that the Dúnedain have to follow: they are not allowed to sail West. As long as they can see the coast of Númenor, they are fine, but that’s all the further west they can go. As for north, south, and east, they can sail as far as they like.

This rule is called the Ban of the Lords of the West. While it might seem harsh or pointless, the Valar actually have an excellent reason for imposing such a rule. Men have been given the gift of mortality. Even though the Valar can extend the lives of the Dúnedain, they still will die. It’s part of the beauty of humanity. However, spending time in Valinor, a land filled with immortality, could cause temptation, making the Dúnedain less grateful for their gift and more interested in extending their lives long past their original design. To protect them from such an overwhelming temptation, the Ban is put in place.

And the Dúnedain don’t understand, but they’re content (for now). After all, there’s so much to explore in every other direction.

One of the place the Dúnedain frequent is Middle-earth. It’s been a while since the Dúnedain left, and the Men who stayed behind are living in fear. Morgoth might be banished, but that doesn’t mean his evil minions aren’t still plaguing the land. Men have slipped back into something rather akin to the Dark Ages; they’ve forgotten many of the skills and knowledge that they used to know. However, the Dúnedain restore it with their visits. The Men in Middle-earth love the Dúnedain, whom they call the Sea-kings, and they anxiously look forward to their visits. However, the Dúnedain never stay for long. Their primary interest is always in the west, where their home lies.

Next week, 11 generations after Elros, the Ban of the Lords of the West comes into question, and Númenor will never be the same.


Trying Something New (Or, I Promise I’m Not Completely Obsessed with My Cat)

While this summer has been filled with administrative work for school and planning preliminary lesson plans for French I, I’ve managed to devote some time to other pursuits. (Writing, of course, being one of the predominant ones.) However, I also got the itch to try something new and found the perfect inspiration from some favorite YouTube channels.

Every so often, HISHI (How It Should Have Ended) posts videos of how artists create characters with digital drawing software. It’s hard not to watch with complete fascination at simple lines suddenly and seemingly effortlessly turning into Batman sitting at a café table with a mug of coffee. For years, my husband and I have looked at each other after watching such things (and never mind Bob Ross… how does he make everything look so easy?!) and mused how we would love to learn to do that.

A few days ago, we happened to watch a Simon’s Cat video on how to draw squirrels. Again, I thought to myself how much I’d like to try that.

Then I asked myself why not try it now?

So I did.

Recently, my old laptop went into retirement in favor of one of the new Windows Surfaces. And thanks to a special offer, I ended up with a stylus too. I was already impressed with the stylus’s precision in capturing my handwriting, so it was time to put it to the test.

The first drawings weren’t so good, but with the handy undo button just waiting to be utilized (instead of a physical eraser that leaves marks on the page), it was easy to play with a line until it was just right.

I know I still have a long way to go, but I’ve been having way too much fun drawing the kitten.

The original picture of the kitten on his tower...

The original picture of the kitten on his tower…

... and my version.

… and my version.

Amazing? No. But better than I ever thought I was capable of? Definitely.

Have you tried anything new lately?


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