#60—“The Muster of Rohan”

#60—“The Muster of Rohan”

Our discussion in this chapter begins with a deeper analysis of the desires, limitations, and motivations of Éowyn, especially in relation to both Aragorn and her uncle, Théoden. After that, we dive into the topic that occupies most of this episode: the enigmatic Púkel-men.

We are accompanied by Sara, a PhD student in Art History, who puzzles through our lectio divina section on the Púkel-men and Merry’s reaction to them. What was the intended purpose of these humanoid stone monuments? What is the purpose of preserving our own names and stories into posterity?

RANDOM-ASS THEME: Millennials

#59—“The Passing of the Grey Company”

#59—“The Passing of the Grey Company”

After contemplating the ambiguous chapter title, we analyze Aragorn’s choice (if a true choice it is) to take the “paths of the Dead.”

Other themes are the tension between Éowyn and Aragorn (and the second-person pronouns they use), the oath-breaker’s “worship” of Sauron in days past that led to their curse, and the solemn ritual that the Dúnedain perform before departing on their mission.

RANDOM-ASS THEME: Speed-dating.

#58—“Minas Tirith”

#58—“Minas Tirith”

The Tolkien Heads are back in the swing of things as we follow Pippin on a tour of the breathtaking city of Minas Tirith. We break down the meeting between Gandalf and Denethor and discuss the similarities and differences between lordship and stewardship—and their etymologies, of course.

Special guest Charlotte, a PhD student in History, accompanies us as we look at Denethor’s relationship with his two sons, the problematic notions of blood purity in this chapter, and the history of the word book.

RANDOM-ASS THEME: The Apollonian and Dionysian drives

#57—Interview: Markus Davidsen, Fiction-Based Religions Researcher

#57—Interview: Markus Davidsen, Fiction-Based Religions Researcher

In this fascinating special episode we interview Markus Davidsen, whose PhD research is centered on religious traditions based in fictional works such as Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. We discuss what the practices and origins of Jedi- and Elf-identifying groups are, what aspects of them typically draw in new practitioners, and to what extent practitioners consider these religions or spiritual paths to be integral in their lives. Markus even shares with us his experience on a Skype-facilitated shamanic journey to the Blessed Realm.

Click here to go to Markus’s site where you can find more information on his latest works.

#56—Movie Review: The Two Towers

#56—Movie Review: The Two Towers

We watched Peter Jackson’s Two Towers (2002) … and we have some thoughts!

Our goal with this “review” is not to identify all the differences between the book and the film, which has been done plenty of times already by more diligent note-takers than ourselves. Rather, in this special episode we focus on some particular themes of the Two Towers book and film, including

  • Sam’s purported simplicity (as characterized by Tolkien himself), and whether this is fair;
  • Gríma and his super-creepy movie scene with Éowyn, and the interesting source of some of his poetic dialogue;
  • the age-disparate celebrity couple Ara-wen and the might-have-been celebrity couple Éo-gorn;
  • and Rich’s unshakable suspicion that Gandalf the Grey and Gandalf the White are two different people.

RANDOM-ASS THEME: Anti-vaxxers

#55—Interview: Luke Shelton, Tolkien researcher

#55—Interview: Luke Shelton, Tolkien researcher

Join us for a great conversation with Luke Shelton, an academic doing his doctoral research on the reception of J. R. R. Tolkien’s works—and also the films and video games they have inspired—among children and young adults. We interview Luke on his findings and he shares some fascinating insights with us.

Of course, we also run through our usual lectio divina method, focusing on a passage concerning some proverbial wisdom in The Lord of the Rings. (“Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.”) We also explore the question of the in-world intended audience for Frodo’s text.

You can catch up with Luke on his website (luke-shelton.com) or follow him on Twitter (@luke_baugher)!

#53—“The Choices of Master Samwise”

#53—“The Choices of Master Samwise”

This stunning conclusion to Book Four will reveal whether half-wise (the meaning of Old English Sām-wīs) is wise enough. When Sam recovers from the immediate shock of Frodo’s “death”—tumbling out of a grief-induced blackout—his world is transformed into a Frodo-less nightmare where he is now, for lack of a better phrase, the adult in the room.

As Sam contemplates leaving his companion in favor of the mission, he even thinks it prudent to don the Ring. But is he actually tempted by It at all?

RANDOM-ASS THEME: Boomerang kids

#52—“Shelob’s Lair”

#52—“Shelob’s Lair”

Parts of this chapter zoom out to what Chris calls the “epic sweep,” and we humble Hosts try to keep up. Frodo and Sam confront what we can only describe as a different, more primordial evil than what we have seen so far: where Orcs, Sauron, and even Melkor/Morgoth represent corruptions or perversions of an original Good, Shelob—unholy spawn of Ungoliant—represents an Evil in the negation, the absence, that is the Void.

The lectio section is somewhat more down-to-earth, and looks at Shelob’s ability to affect the memory and senses of our Hobbits. When all thought of Galadriel’s Phial has been purged from Frodo’s mind, Sam provides some timely inspiration.

RANDOM-ASS THEME: Buying new tires

#51—“The Stairs of Cirith Ungol”

#51—“The Stairs of Cirith Ungol”

“All the world’s a stage,” but is there any direction in the theater of life, or are we all free to do whatever we want? After the evil city issues forth an infernal army bound eastward and Frodo’s moment of temptation passes, the two Hobbits get a little meta in this chapter. When can we safely say that a tale is over and take pleasure or displeasure in the ending? Or are stories comic or tragic merely in the telling?

Lectio this week is the free-will-iest one yet. The dark forces bending Frodo’s will towards putting on the Ring are obviously some kind of magical influence—but what do they symbolize for readers in a non-magical world?

RANDOM-ASS THEME: Zits