Tag Archives: JRR Tolkien

Tolkien and Lewis’ Movie Date

When I think of JRR Tolkien’s contemporaries, I usually think of CS Lewis and the rest of the Inklings. I rarely think about what was happening on the other side of the pond — even though that’s where I live.

As anyone familiar with Tolkien knows, he had strong opinions, and that went for his contemporaries. One of those — one I never thought of — is Walt Disney.

Back in the 1937, The Hobbit and Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves made their debuts in their respective countries. Since both have always been a part of my life, I never realized that they came out within months of one another and share a protagonist surrounded by a band of dwarves. It’s just fascinating to think about.

While I don’t know what Walt Disney thought of Tolkien’s work, Tolkien certainly wasn’t a fan of him. Neither was Lewis.

Unlike the past several generations, they grew up only knowing the original (and usually darker) versions of fairy tales. To see dwarves — the creatures of Norse mythology — playing jazz and being downright goofy just felt wrong.

I can understand it. When Frozen first came out, I was appalled by just how different the story is from Hans Christian Andersen’s original fairy tale. There are a handful of similar elements, but besides those things, the stories couldn’t be more different. Since then, I’ve warmed up to it (pun only sort of intended) and have come to like it as its own thing, but certainly not as adaptation. “Inspired by,” sure. “Adaptation”? Definitely not.

Needless to say, it was a fascinating read. If you want to check out the full article, it’s available here.

What are your thoughts on different adaptations of films? Have you ever found yourself in Tolkien and Lewis’ shoes?


Happy Birthday, Tolkien! #TolkienBirthdayToast

While most people are finished with holiday festivities by now, I like to drag it out. According to older European traditions, we’re only on the ninth day of Christmas (did you know that Christmas Day is only the first?) and leads up to Epiphany,  January 6th. We like to drag the Christmas season out until then since it’s such a wonderful time of year.

But whether you’re hanging onto Christmas until Epiphany or have already put everything away, tomorrow is one of my favorite celebrations of the year: Tolkien’s birthday. It feels so appropriate that the 400th post on this blog is dedicated to him, the author who’s greatly inspired my writing over the years.

While the events of the day always vary, there are three things I always have to do.

1. Wear something inspired by Tolkien’s works.

Tree of Gondor shirt, Hobbitish clothes, Elvish-inspired jewelry, Elvish braids… something.

2. Indulge in something by Tolkien.

Sometimes it’s just a few pages of The Lord of the Rings or a few minutes of one of the movies, but I have to get something in.

3. Join the 9pm (local time) toast to the Professor.

Ever since I discovered this on the Tolkien Society website, this has been a requirement in my house and at my parents’ house. (I’m a second generation Tolkien fan, after all.) Unlike in other years, though, they actually have a hashtag: #TolkienBirthdayToast.

At 9pm, local time, my husband and I have a drink of some sort and toast simply to “The Professor.” It’s a simple tradition, but it’s the most important of the three. It gives me a moment to think about one of my favorite authors and how he has inspired me as a writer.

This year, I’ll probably do my toast with some Darjeeling in a handmade, hand-painted tea for one my parents brought back from Poland.

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So here’s to the Professor.


The Silmarillion Recap: Quenta Silmarillion (Part VIII)

Since chapter 3 of “Quenta Silmarillion” (the third book in The Silmarillion), the focus has been primarily on goings on in Valinor. But that doesn’t mean that everything’s been quiet in Middle-earth. Now for what’s been happening on the other side of the pond…

Part I (Chapter 1)
Part II (Chapters 2-3)
Part III (Chapters 3-4)
Part IV (Chapters 5-6)
Part V (Chapter 7)
Part VI (Chapter 8)
Part VII (Chapter 9)

Quenta Silmarillion: Chapter 10

Back in chapter 3, the Elves first received their invitation to live in Valinor. Some weren’t so sure about the venture, but many of the others decided that they’d like to go meet this Valar who had fought so hard to protect them from the evil Melkor (now known as Morgoth, “the Black Foe of the World”).

Among the ones who planned on going to Valinor: Elwë, one of the leaders of the Teleri (the Sea Elves who have since been massacred by Fëanor). But before he leaves, he meets the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen: Melian, one of the Maia, the servants of the Valar. Before long, Elwë forgets all about Valinor and ends up staying in Middle-earth. Some of his people remain as well. The rest, however, follow Olwë — the other leader of the Teleri — to Valinor.

In Middle-earth, Elwë — who is now known as Thingol –is happily married to Melian, has a young daughter named Lúthien (who will be very important in a few chapters), and has befriended the Dwarves who have recently awoken. (I’m sure Aulë was thrilled!)

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Though life seems perfect, rumors begin to swirl that the Valar haven’t removed all of the evil that Melkor left in Middle-earth. Things have been brewing in the darkness, and there’s trouble further east, far over the mountains. So Thingol, Melian, and the Dwarves work together to create a fortress and weapons to protect themselves from the Orcs and other monsters that might threaten them.

The timing couldn’t have been better. Not long after, with Ungoliant’s (the giant spider) help, Melkor unleashes that awful attack on Valinor and flees back to Middle-earth. Once he’s at home in Angband, Melkor begins attacking the Elves who are settled all too near to his fortresses. This marks the beginning of a very long, difficult war called the Wars of Beleriand. (Beleriand is the name of that region, but don’t stress too much about that.)

To protect herself, Thingol, and their kingdom, Melian uses her power to create a border. All of lands inside this border — called the Girdle of Melian — are known as Doriath and are impenetrable. Only those that Thingol and Melian allow in the land can reach it, unless their power is stronger than Melian’s. Fortunately, as a Maiar, she’s quite powerful.

But that doesn’t mean that there’s no cause for concern. Morgoth’s servants roam freely in the lands that aren’t carefully guarded by the Elves and Melian. Worse than that, though, the connection that Melian had with Valinor has been severed. Now that the Trees are dead (thanks to Melkor and Ungoliant), no word passes between Middle-earth and Valinor. This sets Melian and the Elves even more on edge.

In case that isn’t bad enough, tensions are about to go through the roof. After all, Fëanor and his allies have just arrived in Middle-earth with the stolen Teleri ships. The stolen ships of Thingol’s slaughtered kin. Yes, things are about to get interesting…

Next week, the Valar shed some light on the situation. Literally. After all, the stars alone just aren’t bright enough.

Note: There is a bit more to this chapter. More Elves, more places, etc. But this is just a recap of major events. If you want the full story, definitely check out The Silmarillion itself.


The Silmarillion Recap: Quenta Silmarillion (Part IV)

Some of the Elves have taken up the Valar’s invitation to live in Valinor, but things won’t be as perfect as the Valar planned…

Quenta Silmarillion:
Part I (Chapter 1)
Part II (Chapters 2-3)
Part III (Chapters 3-4)

Quenta Silmarillion: Chapter 5 and 6

Finally, the Elves sit on the shore of Middle-earth, waiting to be taken to Valinor. It’s been a long journey (and one that must have driven poor Oromë crazy because, every time he left to tend to business, he returned to find them right where he left them instead of further down the road he told them to follow). But the Vanyar (the Fair Elves) and the Noldor (the Deep Elves) are all packed and ready to take an island dragged by Ulmo (member of the Valar and lord of the seas) to their new home.

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S.B. Roberts 2014

As Oromë counts heads, a large group is missing. The Teleri. In the last chapter, their leader, Elwë, was too wrapped up the girl he loved, Melian, to realize that his followers had begun to miss him and were waiting for him. Unfortunately, the whole group misses the boat (or, more accurately, island) to Valinor. Several years later, those that decide to continue on without Elwë arrive in Valinor in swan-powered ships, thanks to Ulmo and his servant (and the Teleri’s dear friend), Ossë. (There’s a great deal more to the story, but the point is to make The Silmarillion approachable, not to summarize every detail. : ) )

And there the Elves who chose to come to Valinor live happily, admiring the two Trees, hanging out with the Valar,  gaining new knowledge, building new cities, and growing their families.

One of the most notable new arrivals in Valinor is Fëanor, Finwë’s first son. Fëanor’s name, meaning Spirit of Fire, fit him all too well.

As a young man, he has a rough life. After a rough pregnancy, his mother falls sleep in the forest of Lórien and never awakes. (While the word “dead” isn’t used, that is essentially what she is.) Then his dad, Finwë, marries a new woman, Indis, and Fëanor doesn’t like her or his two half-brothers, Fingolfin and Finarfin. He avoids his step-mother and half-brothers by taking his wife, Nerdanel, with him to live far away from them, where he can spend most of his time crafting or working with gems.

It’s during this time that Melkor finally has a chance at parole. He puts on his best show, promises to help the Valar if they’ll just let him be the least in Valinor, and probably even conjured up a few tears. Most of the Valar are convinced that he’s turned from his evil ways and let him roam freely in Valinor. But Ulmo and Tulkas don’t buy his act. They go along with Manwë’s decision because “those who will defend authority against rebellion must not themselves rebel” (Tolkien 67), but they keep a close eye on Melkor and are ready to pounce if he makes one false move.

Melkor keeps up appearances, though, by befriending the Elves (whom he secretly abhors because they are responsible for his imprisonment in the first place). The one he ends up building a close relationship with: Fëanor. Fëanor loves all of Melkor’s knowledge of secret things, and Melkor sees him as the perfect pawn. But neither of them could guess what would come of the relationship in the end.

Next week, Fëanor crafts a new type of gem so unique that they named a book after it, and Melkor shows himself for the friend he really is.

The above quote is from the second edition of The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien, copyright 1999.


The Silmarillion Recap: Quenta Silmarillion (Part III)

Now that Melkor is captured, the Valar have a decision to make and its outcome will shape the future in ways they never would have foreseen.

Quenta Silmarillion:
Part I (Chapter 1)
Part II (Chapters 2-3)

Quenta Silmarillion: The second part of Chapter 3 and Chapter 4

Ever since the Valar first saw a vision of the Children of Ilúvatar (aka, Elves and Men), they’ve anxiously awaited their arrival. And once they received news that the Elves (also called the Firstborn) appeared in Middle-earth, they stretched their resources to protect them from Melkor and his evil servants: Orcs, Balrogs, and Sauron himself. With that war now finished, the Valar realize that they’re on one side of the sea and the Elves are still in Middle-earth, on the other side. So, after a meeting, they decide that it’s time to invite the Elves to live with them in Valinor, safe from the remaining servants of Melkor who are still roaming about.

The Elves, however, aren’t so sure about this invitation. And who could blame them? They met Oromë, and he was nice enough. But they had only seen the rest of the Valar while they were on their way to war with Melkor. That was more than enough for some of them, thank you very much.

This results in the first major split between the Elves. The ones that decide to stay behind (out of fear or just because they liked the starlight better than the description of Valinor) are called the Avari (or “the Unwilling”). The ones that decide to leave are called the Eldar (the name that Oromë originally gave the Elves upon their first meeting).

Among the Eldar, there are three groups:

  • The Vanyar (aka, the Fair Elves; a small group led by the most renowned Elven lord, Ingwë)
  • The Noldor (aka, the Deep Elves; led by the Elven lord Finwë and the jewel-loving friends of Aulë, craftsman among the Valar)
  • The Teleri (aka, the Sea Elves; led by Elwë and Olwë; water-lovers who dawdle along the way)

Speaking of the Teleri, Elwë isn’t one of their leaders for long. One day, while on his way to find Finwë (the Noldor’s leader), he happens across the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen: a girl. Not just any girl. She’s a Maia (one of the servants of the Valar) named Melian. They fall in love and he chooses to stay with her in Middle-earth. Elwë is later known as Thingol. This couple will be very important in just a few chapters.

With Elwë missing, Olwë takes over and leads most of the Teleri onward towards Valinor. Not that it helps them speed up, but that’s for Chapter 5.

Come back next week for new cities, more names that require a rudimentary understanding of linguistics, and swan-powered ships. (Yes, I’m serious about the last one.)


The Silmarillion Recap: Quenta Silmarillion (Part II)

Things are beginning to heat up in The Silmarillion. Middle-earth is finally about to get its first residents, some expected and some unexpected.

Want to catch up on the first part of the “Quenta Silmarillion” recap? Click here.

Quenta Silmarillion: Chapter 2 and the first part of Chapter 3

Among the Valar, there’s one who’s a little different than the others. He’s the entrepreneur of the group, always wanting to come up with new ideas that no one has ever thought of before and who enjoys working with his hands. So it’s no surprise that, if any of the Valar were to have a bit of a rebellious streak, it would be Aulë.

Since Middle-earth is still in darkness (thanks to Melkor), Aulë is able to privately create his own group of people: the Dwarves. From all indications, it sounds like he enjoys spending time with them, teaching them to speak the language he made up for them and surely teaching them about mining and forging, which are Aulë’s favorite things to do. And, probably best of all, they’re his secret.

But one day, while he is alone with his Dwarves, he realizes his creations aren’t a secret. Nothing ever seems to be a secret from Ilúvatar. Ilúvatar talks to Aulë about the Dwarves and their fate. You see, the trouble with creating creatures is that they’re a huge responsibility. (In some ways, this conversation makes me think of a father having a talk about adopting a puppy with his son.) Aulë is quick to realize that he doesn’t have what it takes to maintain these creatures on his own. He’s messed up. And, unlike Melkor, he’s repentant.

In fact, Aulë decides it’s time to destroy the Dwarves. They’re not supposed to exist so, even though it kills him inside, he prepares to destroy them. Ilúvatar stops him before he can, though. Honestly, in some ways, this situation feels like a test, and Aulë has passed it. Ilúvatar promises to take care of the Dwarves. They’ll sleep under their mountains until the time is right. Then, they’ll wake up and be a welcome part of Middle-earth. And Aulë will always have a special connection with them.

Aulë isn’t the only one thinking of creatures to inhabit the now empty Middle-earth. Yavanna finds out about the Dwarves and is worried that they love gems and forging over her plants, which clearly means that there will be strife between her beloved creations and the Dwarves and other Children to come. She immediately goes to Manwë to talk about the problem, and it turns out that there’s already a solution built into the symphony that created the vision for Arda: the Ents (referred to as “Shepherds of the Trees” in chapter 2) and the Eagles (yes, the enormous ones that play a bit of a dues ex machina role in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings). When the time is right, they’ll make their first appearance in Middle-earth, too, and they’ll stand up for Yavanna’s handiwork.

Speaking of Middle-earth, chapter 3 heralds the time for the first Children of Ilúvatar to show up. (Huzzah!)

Before the moment comes, there’s some prep that needs done. Varda uses Teleperion (one of the two trees in Valinor), which provides light in Valinor, to create bright stars to provide light for the Elves. It’s in this moment that the Elves first awake. And since the first thing they see is the stars, Varda (called Elbereth by the Elves) becomes their favorite Valar. (In The Lord of the Rings, the Elves often sing about Elbereth.)

Since the Elves don’t meet any other creatures that speak during those early days, they called themselves the Quendi (which basically means those that speak with voices). But that doesn’t last for long, because Oromë (the Valar that loves hunting and trees) finds them by accident while hunting, and he’s the first of the Valar to figure out that the Firstborn of Ilúvatar — the ones they’ve been waiting for all this time — have finally arrived.

Instead of being happy to see Oromë, though, the Elves are terrified. As it turns out, Melkor had been taking advantage of the situation, sending his forces to hunt down Elves that strayed too far from the others. And, since he had a feeling Oromë might be the first to find them, he’d used the form of a dark hunter in his attacks.

Melkor’s plan definitely works. Some of the terrified Elves flee, never to be heard from again. Some are ensnared by Melkor and end up becoming the Orcs. (Yes, Orcs have been around for a very long time.) But the brave ones realized that there is something different about Oromë. An unearthly light. He is definitely a friend.

Oromë then bounces back and forth between Valinor and Middle-earth: delivering the good news to the Valar, planning what they should do to save the Elves from Melkor, and protecting the Elves as they all wait for something to be done. In the meantime, the Valar come to the conclusion that it’s time to get Melkor once and for all.

Though the Elves know little about the war between the Valar and Melkor, it’s a long and hard one. But in the end, Tulkas (who’s been at the top of Melkor’s hit list) takes Melkor down, ties him up, and delivers him to Valinor to be judged. Of course, Melkor pleads “not guilty” and begs the Valar to forgive him, but they (wisely) don’t and lock him up. His major accomplice, Sauron, remains on the loose, but he seemingly lies low while his master is locked up. Smart move, Sauron.

Next week, the Elves are given a choice and there are more names that end in “-wë” than you can shake a stick at.


The Silmarillion Recap: Quenta Silmarillion (Part I)

It’s finally time for post 3 on The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien! I’m several chapters into the third “book,” “Quenta Silmarillion.” More on that in a moment.

Want to catch up on the first two “books”? The brief, accessible recaps are available: “Ainulindalë” and “Valaquenta.”

Quenta Silmarillion: Chapter 1

The first two books in The Silmarillion, called “Ainulindalë” and “Valaquenta,” introduce the creation of Eä (the world) and the important characters readers need to know. The next book, and the longest of the four, is “Quenta Silmarillion,” which contains the history of the Silmarils. More on that later, though.

The first chapter of the “Quenta Silmarillion” starts with a recap of what’s happened so far. Arda (the world) was created through a three movement symphony conducted by Ilúvatar and played by the Ainur, his servants and fellow spirits. During the symphony, it became clear that there was a rebel in their midst named Melkor, and while Melkor tried to control the music, Ilúvatar always regained control, using Melkor’s discordant notes against him in the end.

The result of the symphony? A vision of Arda, the world that would soon be created and a bit of its future. When some of the Ainur saw it, they decided to bring it into being. They left Ilúvatar and the rest of the Ainur behind and took on a new name, the Valar.

During the early days in Arda, there was a constant war between the Valar and Melkor (who, as always, tried to twist or destroy everything the rest of the Valar did). It was during this time that the original Valar gained a new member: Tulkas. This war-loving, laughing spirit gave the Valar the upper hand over Melkor, who fled and pouted in the darkness, where he put Tulkas at the top of his hit-list.

With Melkor out of the way, the Valar start serious work on Arda from their home on the Island of Almaren.

First off, Yavanna (the plant-lover) and Aulë (the craftsman) go to work. At this time, everything is dark, so they create two “lamps” to provide some light: Illuin to the north and Ormal to the south. These two lights are enough to light up Middle-earth and everything in it.

Then the seeds that Yavanna carefully planted take off, and animals began populating the world. This flourishing is known as the Spring of Arda. Everything is beautiful and wonderful, and the Valar relax to enjoy their work.

What they don’t know, though, is that Melkor has been plotting. In his secret fortress, known as Utumno, he’s been gathering forces and intel from his spies among the Valar. And, when the Valar least expect it, he strikes. He breaks the two lamps, riles up the ocean, messes up the land that’s been made, and then hides in Utumno before Tulkas can hunt him down.

Though the rest Valar would have gladly popped Melkor’s head off then, they were too busy trying to pick up the pieces. After saving what little they could, they find refuge in the westernmost land, Valinor (aka, Aman or “the West”), and fortify it. From there, Manwë (leader of the Valar) and Varda (his wife, in charge of the stars, aka Elbereth) could work together to keep an eye on everything happening in Arda (though that doesn’t mean that they could see what Melkor was up to).

As they try to regroup in Valinor, Yavanna sings the Two Trees of Valinor into existence. They’re known as Telperion and Laurelin, and they light Valinor and are involved in how the Valar keep track of time.

Speaking of time, the hour for the Children of Ilúvatar (aka, Elves and Men) to arrive is creeping closer. The Valar know that they’ll live in Middle-earth, which is now solidly under Melkor’s rule, and that they’ll need to fight for it. But they still feel defeated, even though some of them, like Yavanna, still wander to Middle-earth and try to repair the damage. They’ll have to gather all of their courage, strength, and wisdom to finish the job. After all, this is just chapter 1.

Next week, the first children of Middle-earth are created… and they’re not the ones Ilúvatar intended to be first.