The Silmarillion Recap: Welcome to Middle-earth (or Isildur and Co. Finally Arrive)

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

Last week, Sauron gave out more Rings to some new friends. This week, a new threat arrives in Middle-earth

“Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age” part 4

Now we’re caught back up to the end of “Akallabêth.” After several years (known as the “Black Years”) of fighting with Gil-galad and his friends, Sauron leaves Middle-earth, causes the demise of Númenor, and then starts his trip back to Middle-earth.

Another group is on their way to Middle-earth, though: Elendil, his sons Isildur and Anárion, and their households. After boarding ships with all of their belongings, they find themselves in Middle-earth – a place the Dúnedain had been visiting for a while.

However, the three ships are separated in the chaos of Númenor’s destruction.

Elendil ends up more in the north, near Gil-galad’s territory. They become fast friends, and Elendil establishes the kingdom of Arnor. (Remember Amon Sûl from The Fellowship of the Ring? It’s part of this kingdom.)

Isildur and Anárion end up in the same place: south near Mordor. They establish the famous kingdom known as Gondor (and the major cities found in The Lord of the Rings). There are three major cities that anyone would need to know about. The first is Osgiliath, the chief city of Gondor. Basically, the two brothers rule from here. Next is Minas Ithil, the Tower of the Rising Moon. This city and its impressive tower were built with the sole purpose of intimidating Sauron in Mordor. The third is Minas Anor, the Tower of the Setting Sun. This was built as protection against the Men who lived in the area and threatened them. (After all, most of them are under Sauron’s influence to some degree.)

It’s also worth mentioning that one other renowned city and town was built in this era: Isengard, also known as Orthanc. The Dúnedain establish it as well, making their mark on the land that their forefathers left so long ago.

Next week, Sauron isn’t too happy about his defeat in Númenor, so he comes up with a new plan…


Remembering Columbia

While I wasn’t born before the Challenger disaster, I was in my teens when we lost Columbia. It’s hard to believe it’s been thirteen years since that fateful day.

Almost ever kid spends at least a little while dreaming of being an astronaut, and I was no exception. A relative worked for one of NASA’s subcontractors, so I spent my childhood collecting space shuttle mission patches, hearing about how the solid rocket boosters worked, and wanting to join in the adventure. Eileen Collins was the first woman to pilot and command a shuttle mission, and I wanted to be like her. I even have her autograph, addressed to me.

By 2003, my dream of becoming an astronaut had faded, but my love of space exploration hadn’t. I still kept up with each mission and watched very launch. I knew Columbia was headed home that day, but I never expected that she wouldn’t make it back to Cape Canaveral. Devastated, I watched what had become of her and her crew and followed the news in the weeks that followed.

The saddest moment, though, was when my relative invited me to see her remains. It was a private memorial, open to staff and their families. I’ll never forget walking through the storage room, filled with shreds of metal, broken tiles, helmets. Each piece was placed roughly where it belonged when she was whole. At the end, there was a giant roll of paper where we all signed our condolences to the families.

Like Columbia’s 30th anniversary, not many may remember today, but I do. I remember the brave astronauts who lost their lives as they lived out an incredible dream.


Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage Symphony

This year is Star Trek‘s 50th anniversary. While Star Trek has always been a part of my life (I distinctly remember my mom watching The Next Generation when I was a kid, as well as her favorite of the movies, The Wrath of Khan), it’s never been as much a part as it is now.

My husband is a serious Trekkie. His affinity for Star Trek is like mine for all things Tolkien: he comes by it honestly because he’s a second generation fan. Because of the constant stream of information and thanks to watching all of the shows (yes, even the Animated Series) at least once through, I’ve slowly gone from enjoying it to maybe being a Trekkie myself.

Needless to say, then, that when we found out that there was a symphony coming through to celebrate Star Trek‘s anniversary, we had to round up all of our geeky friends and family and go.

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If you like Star Trek even a little and enjoy music, this is definitely the event for you.

It’s spending the earlier part of the year east of the Mississippi and in Canada, then hopping to the West Coast, and finishing in the western interior.

Want to learn more? Check out the site here.

Live long and prosper, my friends.


Remembering Challenger

The Florida skies remember
the day a ordinary mission
turned into a tragedy.

The Florida skies watched
fire meet ice before
the placid sky became an inferno.

The Florida skies weep
as they remember
the brave seven who gave their lives that day.


The Silmarillion Recap: You Get a Ring, and You Get a Ring, and You Get a Ring! (Or Sauron’s Big Ring Giveaway)

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

Last week, Sauron tried really hard to subjugate the Elves, but they ended up seeing through his plan at the last minute. This week, he decides to give his Rings to less perceptive folk…

“Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age” part 3

Rings are serious business, especially magical ones. After all the work that he’s done to oversee their creation, Sauron determines to gather up as many of the Magic Rings he can and hand them out to new people. People who might be easier to control than the Elves. Once he has as many as he can get, he hands them back out (probably not mentioning that he’s already given them as gifts once).

This is where the renowned poem mentioned in The Lord of the Rings comes into play.

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.

The Elves already have the Three Rings and have kept them well-hidden.

Sauron proceeds to give seven to the Dwarves. Unfortunately for him, Dwarves are made of tougher stuff than they seem. Unlike the Elves, they don’t see through his tricks, but they are less malleable than he was expecting. Fortunately, though, the Rings make the Dwarven kings greedier, and it’s said that the Dwarves’ seven major treasure hoards all began with the Rings Sauron gave out. The one thing Sauron likely didn’t see coming was that dragons are terribly interested in treasure too, so years after giving the Rings out, all of them were lost either in the bellies of dragons or in fires. So much for dragons being his old allies.

Sauron also gives out nine Rings to the Kings of Men, and it turns out that they’re by far the easiest group to manipulate. Those who possess these Rings become the greatest kings, warriors, and sorcerers, and they also have unusually long lives. They also are given the ability to become invisible while wearing the Rings. While this does come in handy, they often see visions of Sauron, who can always watch them. Eventually, they not only become tired of life, but they also become permanently invisible. And now they are the infamous Nazgûl, who only cry out with “the voices of death” (Tolkien 346).

Next week, Sauron’s power spreads, but it won’t be that way forever…


Teaching Fairytales

During the last five years that I’ve been teaching middle school English, there have been occasional changes here and there to the books we read. One of the benefits of working at a private school is that I have a say in what we read, so when we’re doing something that the students and I just don’t like (or if something’s starting to get tired for me), I have the power to change it.

This year, one short novel was swapped out for Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales. When I decided to do this, I knew some of the fairytales but had no idea about most of them. And after selecting some — a few well-known ones and a few more obscure — it was time to create lesson plans. That turned out to be the tricky part.

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The cat loves curling up with a good book of fairytales.

Most of the content out there about fairytales is geared to small children. I can understand why, but fairytales can be studied more deeply as well. Yes, stories like the “Ugly Duckling” have a straightforward meaning, but there are things to talk about, like how Hans Christian Andersen wrote the stories. (They clearly are meant to be read aloud.) And some stories are clearly deeper and allow for some great conversations.

One that I’m looking forward to trying out on my 7th graders is “The Magic Galoshes.” In it, several different people end up wearing this one magical pair of galoshes (that are intended to bring happiness) and end up finding themselves in bizarre adventures instead.

In one, the galoshes give someone the ability to see into the hearts of the people around him. Everything that he sees is metaphorical: a sewing box filled with sharp needles, a room of broken and disfigured casts of people, a cathedral. It’ll be interesting to see what students think their hearts would look like if we were to see a similar representations.

So we’ll see how this new teaching adventure goes.


The Silmarillion Recap: If You Liked It Then You Should Have Put a Ring on It (or Sauron’s Remix)

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

Last week, Sauron deceived the Elves into trusting him (long before he deceived the Dúnedain in the last book). This week, he tries to seal the deal.

“Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age” part 2

After making friends with the Elves, Sauron convinces them to help him make Rings of Power. These Rings are magical and able to do all sorts of things, and the Elves rather fancy having such a crafty friend.

However, they have no idea that they are being duped.

While the Elves are busy making Rings, Sauron is making one too. A special one that can control all of the others. Yes, none other than the One Ring. He creates it in Orodruin (known then as the Mountain of Fire, but what’s later known as Mount Doom) and endues it with a special power none of the other Rings have. With it, he can perceive everything about the others who wear the Rings. He can tell how powerful they are, where they are, what they’re thinking, etc.

Once his Ring is finished, he can’t wait to try it out. He slips it on, enjoys the moment of ultimate power… and then is met with a terrible realization. The Elves are smarter than he thought they were, and they sense what’s going on. Immediately, they all take the special Rings off and decide to have nothing further to do with them.

Well, except for three of them. The Three, for those familiar with The Lord of the Rings. These three, forged by Celebrimbor, were the last to be made and were the only ones untouched by Sauron. (Which, of course, means that Sauron wants them.) In these three are the power to stop decay and slow the “weariness of the world” (345). The Three are Narya, the Ring of Fire; Nenya, the Ring of Water; and Vilya, the Ring of Air.

Sauron wants them (and dominion over the Elves) so badly that war becomes a constant between the two groups. The days grow dark and grim. Moria is shut off after years of friendship between Elves and Men. Imaldris (also known as Rivendell) becomes Elrond’s stronghold. The world has, indeed, changed.

Next time, Sauron decides to give out some more Rings.


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