#36—“Helm’s Deep”

#36—“Helm’s Deep”

One epic battle scene for the Two Towers film, but just another day at the office for the Tolkien Heads. We look at the Battle of the Hornburg from every angle, including the topography of Helm’s Deep and the surrounding area. Host Nathan even attempts to teach us what a coomb is.

Among other topics, we explore this chapter’s bizarre preoccupation with sea imagery. Our lectio section examines the exact moment when the tide of battle turns.

The image referred to in the episode, from Karen Wynn Fonstad’s Atlas of Middle-earth:

RANDOM-ASS THEME: Nose hairs

#35—“The King of the Golden Hall”

#35—“The King of the Golden Hall”

This chapter is so full of references to the Old English language and Anglo-Saxon culture that we feel we have stepped out of Middle-Earth and into medieval England as it was in the days before the Norman Conquest. Hrothgar, the king in the Beowulf epic, would feel right at home in Théoden’s court, and Aragorn recites a few lines of poetry that seem to be taken straight from The Wanderer, a well-known Old English elegy.

That said, the remaining members of the Fellowship have not escaped a chain of events that is very Middle-Earth indeed. We analyze the character of Théoden before and after his “enlightenment.” What is going on with him? What kind of spell was he even under?

RANDOM-ASS THEME: Netflix and chill

#34—“The White Rider”

#34—“The White Rider”

This fascinating chapter kicks off a comparison of two apparently different Gandalfs (Gendelf?), the old and the new, the Grey and the White. What exactly has happened to our beloved Pilgrim? Imagery of light and dark pervades this episode as we contemplate Gandalf’s journey and transformation.

The lectio section asks the question: how can you trust people or situations that could pose a threat to you? How can you come to feel comfortable, even at home, among forces that could spell your destruction?

RANDOM-ASS THEME: Helicopter parents

#33—“Treebeard” (Part II)

#33—“Treebeard” (Part II)

We discuss the sad history of the Ents and Entwives. But there are also silver linings in this half-chapter, like the notion of having a network of friends in one’s old age. Nathan analyzes the hell out of the name “Quickbeam.”

Courage has been deemed the theme of this chapter. We examine the motives of the Ents in their sudden—hasty?—departure for Isengard.

RANDOM-ASS THEME: Wifi outages

#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