#47—“Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit”

#47—“Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit”

This chapter offers many (too many?) kinds of plants, and Nathan leads an analysis of the role of heather in this landscape. We also spend some time analyzing the curious phrase “dishevelled dryad loveliness.”

We encounter the Southrons again, notably in the lectio divina segment. Sam has some insights upon seeing a fallen warrior that generate further discussion on the in-world races of Men and the problems that their representations can have for a 21st-century readership. Why are we only able to empathize with the Other after they have died?

RANDOM-ASS THEME: Suntan lotion

#46—“The Black Gate Is Closed”

#46—“The Black Gate Is Closed”

After Frodo, Sam, and Sméagol/Gollum arrive at the gates of Mordor only to find them shut, our lectio section—as though it were inevitable—ropes us back into our on-again, off-again debate on free will.

We also spend a good portion of this episode discussing the Southron men, who are described abundantly in this chapter and have “dark faces” and hail from the sunny South, where oliphaunts roam. We consider these people’s role and (lack of) representation in Tolkien’s world. Where do they and their homeland fall in the scheme of good and evil? Why do we know so little about them—except that they have decided to fight for Mordor—and what does that say about Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings?

RANDOM-ASS THEME: Napoleon

#45—“The Passage of the Marshes”

#45—“The Passage of the Marshes”

We explore the (un)dead landscape in this memento mori chapter. As the three (or four?) characters traverse this eerie and corrupted world, we find ourselves asking to what extent Sméagol/Gollum’s own system of morality has been corrupted by the Ring over the course of time.

The lectio passage asks what it means for a landscape to be irreversibly damaged and disfigured. What hope is there for full recovery, even after the powers of Mordor should fall?

RANDOM-ASS THEME: A.O.L. 1075 hours free

#44—“The Taming of Sméagol”

#44—“The Taming of Sméagol”

The Tolkien Heads make a dramatic return from their summer hiatus by turning what might seem an uneventful chapter into one of the most illuminating and challenging discussions yet! At its center is the question of Sméagol-vs.-Gollum, but we also find ourselves unsure of the difference between ‘lords’ and ‘masters’—and whether this is even important. Etymologies and symbolic analyses abound in this episode.

RANDOM-ASS THEME: Civil disobedience

#43—Interview: Caroline McAlister, John Ronald’s Dragons

#43—Interview: Caroline McAlister, John Ronald’s Dragons

In this special episode we talk to Caroline McAlister, professor of English at Guilford College and author of John Ronald’s Dragons: The Story of J. R. R. Tolkien, a children’s book that imagines a young Tolkien exploring his interests in trees, horses, strange-sounding words, “but most of all … dragons.” Caroline explains her thoughts on reading during childhood—both fiction and non-fiction—and her own reasons for writing about a young Tolkien.

Besides her book itself, we also talk discuss what it is like to teach a college-level English course, and how to incorporate Tolkien’s works into the curriculum.

You can learn more about Caroline McAlister and her books at her personal website, carolinemcalisterauthor.com.

#42—Interview: Bill Fliss, Tolkien archivist

#42—Interview: Bill Fliss, Tolkien archivist

It finally happened: The Tolkien Heads traveled all the way to Milwaukee to meet with Bill Fliss, the archivist at Marquette University’s Special Collections whose purview includes the J. R. R. Tolkien Collection, a veritable smial of Tolkien’s original manuscripts, sketches, and other fantastic mathoms.

In our interview, Bill told us all about what sort of things are held in the collection, what advancements are on the horizon for management of the archive, and what the public is able to see. Bill gave us some fascinating insights into the light that the collection sheds on the genesis and evolution of Tolkien’s ideas, and we learned a lot about what changes were made to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings before and after publication.

Of course, we also talked about Bill’s favorite Tolkien passages, and attempted to answer the question of whether an archive belongs high in a tower or deep in the earth.

#41—Book Three Recap Episode

#41—Book Three Recap Episode

We made it through Book Three! Join us as we recollect and reminisce on what has happened to some (but not all!) of the book’s main characters in the first half of The Two Towers.

We are joined today, though not for the first time, by The Dwarrow Scholar. After going through a quick summary of the chapters of Book Three, we go into a larger discussion of some themes and passages that the five of us have individually selected.

For resources on the Neo-Khuzdûl language or for anything Dwarvish, we enthusiastically refer you to http://www.dwarrowscholar.com.