#32—“Treebeard” (Part I)

#32—“Treebeard” (Part I)

What is it like to be an Ent? This episode—or half-episode, since we think “Treebeard” has got enough to work with for two full shows—gives us an anthropological overview of a new species, the Ent, just as we learned about Orcs in the previous chapter.

Of course, Ents are anything but new, and have a rich cultural heritage which we are made privy to in this chapter. We discuss the contemplative lens through which Ents see the world.

RANDOM-ASS THEME: Going viral

#31—“The Uruk-Hai”

#31—“The Uruk-Hai”

Are Orcs inherently evil? This chapter offers a rare insight into Orcish life. With (yet another) Matt as our special guest, we talk in particular about the essentialization of Middle-Earth species.

Much of this week’s discussion is devoted to answering the question: Could an Orc ever be good?

RANDOM-ASS THEME: Plastic bags

#30—“The Riders of Rohan”

#30—“The Riders of Rohan”

In this episode, in the spirit of Éomer’s exchange with Aragorn, we discuss how to make decisions in tough or novel political times. We also examine—carrying on the discussion from last chapter—what may be seen as the absurdity of Aragorn’s hope that Merry and Pippin may yet be alive.

We also see a huge amount of Anglo-Saxon—that is to say, Old English—influence in this chapter, in people- and place-names in the kingdom of Rohan. We will be on the lookout for more such encroachments from Tolkien’s day job as an Old English philologist in future chapters!

RANDOM-ASS THEME: Couches

#29—“The Departure of Boromir”

#29—“The Departure of Boromir”

The Tolkien Heads are back in action after our winter hiatus! In this episode we jump right into The Two Towers.

In a slightly reworked format for the chapter review, Nathan declares this chapter’s theme to be decisions, and indeed the chapter is packed with decisions, choices, and minor crises. We focus in particular on Aragorn’s decision-making process, and a few examples that lend themselves to analysis.

RANDOM-ASS THEME: Summer lounging

#28—Movie Review: The Fellowship of the Ring

#28—Movie Review: The Fellowship of the Ring

It finally happened: the Tolkien Heads sat down and watched the extended edition of Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring (2001).

In what we hope to be an exciting and engaging final episode before a brief winter hiatus, the Heads delve into every aspect of this transformation from book to big screen. We make some criticisms about the film adaptation, but also manage to deem some changes from the book as improvements.

Do you agree with our reactions? Let us know in the comments!

#27—Interview: Prof. Walter Judd

#27—Interview: Prof. Walter Judd

In this special episode we interview Dr. Walter Judd, professor emeritus of botany at the University of Florida and co-author of Flora of Middle-Earth: Plants of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium. While this book serves as centerpiece to our discussion (after we learn what exactly a flora is), we also talk about the phenomenon of plant blindness and work through our guest’s favorite passage from The Lord of the Rings. Finally, Prof. Judd gives some pointers for those interested in learning more about their own local flora.

You can learn more about the Flora of Middle-Earth at its OUP site.

#26—Interview: The Dwarrow Scholar

#26—Interview: The Dwarrow Scholar

This special episode features the Dwarrow Scholar, an expert on all things Dwarvish. We discuss Tolkien’s Dwarves—their culture, their history, and their language—as well as the similar creatures of Germanic myth upon which the Middle-Earth race is based.

The Dwarrow Scholar also walks us through some of the innovations and expansions he has made on Tolkien’s Dwarvish language, Khuzdûl. Information on Neo-Khuzdûl and many related matters can be found on his website, www.dwarrowscholar.com.

Further Dwarrow Reading

… on Germanic mythology in general:

  • Deutsche Mythologie (Teutonic Mythologie), Jakob Grimm, trans. Stallybrass—a treatise on Germanic mythology.
  • The Poetic Edda: The Mythological Poems, trans. Bellows—Völuspá compresses the whole of the Norse vision of the universe’s history and future into its 60-odd short stanzas. It is narrated by a seeress, or völva, who is requested by Odin to share her memories and prophecies with humankind, “Heimdall’s young.”
    It is generally thought to have been a minstrel poem that was passed down through the centuries by word of mouth. The catalog of the Dwarves that begins in the 10th stanza is an important source of names for the Dwarf characters in Tolkien’s works.
    The Dwarrow Scholar personally recommends the 1908 edition by Olive Bray, as it has extensive notes and a very detailed and valuable introduction (especially for people new to the Edda, well worth the read).
    It is worth noting, though, that the 1986 translation by Lee M. Hollander comes closer to conveying the full extent of the grandeur and nuance (both aesthetic and philosophical) of the Old Norse texts.
  • The Viking Spirit: An Introduction to Norse Mythology and Religion, Daniel McCoy—written to a scholarly audience, but in a simple, clear, and entertaining style.
  • Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, H. R. Ellis Davidson—she was one of the twentieth century’s foremost scholars of Norse mythology, yet most of her works were written for a general audience rather than her fellow academics. This is her most accessible work, and is ideal for beginners who want a scholarly take on Norse religion.

… on Tolkien’s Dwarves:

  • The Hobbit and Tolkien’s Mythology: Essays on Revisions and Influences, ed. Bradford Lee Eden
  • “Dwarfs in Germanic Literature: Deutsche Mythologie or Grimm’s Myths?” Paul Battles, in The Shadow Walkers: Jacob Grimm’s Mythology of the Monstrous, ed. Tom Shippey
  • “Explorations into the Psyche of Dwarves,” David Funk, in Proceedings from the J. R. R. Tolkien Centenary Conference
  • Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth, J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. Christopher Tolkien—“The Quest of Erebor” sheds a somewhat new Dwarvish perspective on The Hobbit that should not be missed.