July 14, 2017 (July 11, 3018)

Tolkien illustrations: Orthanc

Shire Reckoning: July 11, 3018 (Overlithe 11, 1419)

We have two different Tolkien originals today, both of Orthanc. They are markedly different, and show a bit of how Tolkien evolved his conception of Middle Earth over the course of writing LOTR.
Orthanc (I), an earlier conception
Orthanc (II), best follows the book description of the tower

Notes: The section describing Isengard/Orthanc in the book is fairly short, and it’s an important location, so I thought it would be helpful to see what Tolkien’s vision was for Saruman’s stronghold. (If you want to see more Tolkien originals and the story behind all the different sketches, check out The Art Of The Lord Of The Rings by JRR Tolkien, Christina Scull, and Wayne G. Hammond – amazing book.) ~Tom

March 26, 2017

Map day – “A Part of the Shire”

Pages To Read:
(just the map of the Shire, which is typically found right after the prologue)

– J.R.R. Tolkien original art of The Hill, classic image! Shows how the creator himself pictured the Shire
path into Hobbiton, by Norloth
– (Featured) ‘A Part Of The Shire’ (map from the book) drawn by Christopher Tolkien

Just take a bit to visualize the Shire geography with the excellent original map. I don’t know about you all, but I absolutely love when books give you maps to follow along with the journey, and ‘A Part Of The Shire’ is one of the classics. You can find just about everything we’ve already read about, including Tuckborough, the Brandywine, Buckland, the Farthings, the bridge, etc, and many things that will be important in the story to come, such as Bucklebury Ferry, Woody End, Frogmorton, etc. Tomorrow starts Chapter 1, which takes place of course in Hobbiton, near The Hill – make sure you find it on the map!

– Nelly Mccausland reminded me of this really cool item: a fan-made replica of the Red Book of Westmarch! Super detailed, definitely check it out, as it relates back to the information from the prologue about the Red Book. I suppose you could consider this one of the copies that Master Samwise’s descendents produced in the Shire! (Note: could be some spoilers if you look closely.)

Final Note: I want the project to be friendly to first-time readers, so generally I will try to avoid sending out anything with spoilers and structuring the readings to avoid any. However it is hard completely avoid them, so I will mark anything that could give away plot elements prematurely. ~Tom

March 20, 2017

Prologue: Concerning Hobbits (Part 1)

Pages To Read:
FR.Prologue (start) – “counsels of the Wise and the Great” (~p.2)

– Tolkien introduces us to the Hobbits of the Shire: “in the days of their peace and prosperity they were a merry folk.”
– Background is given on the nature and habits of Hobbits, including their furry feet, 6 meals a day, short height, ability to move about unnoticed, and distant relations with “the Big Folk.”

Links to Other Content:
https://youtu.be/g3_2D_ErL_I?t=28s – Tolkien reading the Ring Poem, which is typically found before the table of contents. I’d recommend listening/reading to this before you begin the prologue.
http://bit.do/concerning-hobbits – Joe Gilronan’s ‘Concerning Hobbits.’ Features an enchanting look at the “well-ordered countryside” in which the Hobbits dwell, as well as a mysterious character in the foreground. Hint: he is one of the Wise whose counsels the Hobbits trouble.
http://bit.do/bagshot-row – (Featured) a beautiful collection of Hobbit-holes by norloth. The Hobbit-holes were introduced in The Hobbit, and Bagshot Row is yet to be mentioned, but with the information about hobbits, it is good to visualize how and where they live.

– The first character introduced is fittingly Bilbo, but the next characters mentioned are Bullroarer Took and his father Isumbras the Third, who are quite irrelevant to the main plot. This book is full of historical details such as this, which are integral to its concept and themes, so be ready.

Notes: The first two pages! A quick note about the page citation – today’s means to read from the start of the Prologue in Fellowship Of The Ring to the given quote. The page number after the quote refers to the approximate page number *of the chapter* so we don’t have to worry about different editions having different page numbers. More info about this can be found at the bottom of this page: https://lotrreadalong.wordpress.com/about/

Hope you all are as excited as I am to start reading! It’s a great little intro today, so enjoy.

March 9, 2017 (Hobbit Day 2)

Hobbit Appreciation Day 2: Chapters 4-6

– “Over Hill and Under Hill” – The party tries to take the pass through the Misty Mountains, but are captured by goblins. Gandalf helps them flee, but Bilbo is lost.
– “Riddles In The Dark” – Bilbo finds a ring and a creature named Gollum, and \ plays a riddle game with Gollum in order to escape. (note: must-read chapter!!)
– “Out Of The Frying Pan Into The Fire” – Bilbo, the dwarves, and Gandalf are attacked by Wargs and goblins but escape in the nick of time.

Music and Art:
http://tolkiengateway.net/w/images/9/93/J.R.R._Tolkien_-_The_Mountain-path_%28Colored_by_H.E._Riddett%29.png one of the original Tolkien illustrations for The Hobbit, “The Mountain-path”, which is sometimes oddly used as a cover for The Silmarillion
http://faqy.deviantart.com/art/goblins-and-dwarves-342815060 The scene where goblins attack the dwarves, by faQy
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3gg7n23njo A slightly campy but fun performance of “Down To Goblin Town” by Joshua Burnell
http://miruna-lavinia.deviantart.com/art/Gollum-s-Cave-in-the-Mountains-642132064 (Featured) Gollum’s cave, by Miruna Lavinia
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrmFZsbwiAA “Fifteen Birds In Five Fir Tress”, song performed by Joshua Burnell
http://miruna-lavinia.deviantart.com/art/Out-of-the-frying-pan-650867852 Out Of The Frying Pan, by Miruna Lavinia

Important/Interesting Quotes:
– “[Bilbo] wished again and again for his nice bright hobbit-hole. Not for the last time.”
– “It is not unlikely that [goblins] invented some of the machines that have since troubled the world, especially the ingenious devices for killing large numbers of people at once, … but in those days and those wild parts they had not advanced (as it is called) so far.”
– (*) “And a sudden understanding, a pity mixed with horror, welled up in Bilbo’s heart: a glimpse of endless unmarked days without light or hope of betterment, hard stone, cold fish, sneaking and whispering.”
– “[Gollum] had lost: lost his prey, and lost, too, the only thing he had ever cared for: his precious.”
– “‘Thief, thief, thief! Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it for ever!'”

Note about songs: I managed to find a really cool album by Joshua Burnell on YouTube, which contains performances of all the songs in the text. If you are reading along with The Hobbit (which of course you don’t have to! it won’t impede your enjoyment of LOTR at all if you don’t) I would highly highly recommend opening the songs first, then playing them as you get to them while reading. It’s really easy to just sort of skip over Tolkien’s songs, but they’re almost all well-written and enjoyable – listening to a musicalized version makes them easier to appreciate for me. (More to come about songs during Lord Of The Rings.)

General notes: Iconic chapters today, especially ‘Riddles In The Dark.’ Ranks in contention for best chapter Tolkien ever wrote. Even if you’re not reading the rest of the Hobbit, I would 100% say READ RIDDLES IN THE DARK. The events here are of critical importance to Lord Of The Rings. Especially note the quote I starred above about Bilbo’s pity for Gollum. That sentence could be the most important sentence in the whole book, in terms of impact on LOTR. Also interesting in chapter 4 are the various mentions to the Dwarf and goblin wars that Thorin’s people fought. These are covered in some detail in the LOTR appendices, so we’ll get to learn more about them eventually!

As a final note: I’m covering threeish chapters at a time of The Hobbit because these are just sort of practice for me, a way to get into the Middle Earth spirit, and an encouragement to read The Hobbit if you have never before. Just know that when we get to Lord of the Rings, we will NOT be covering 3 chapters a day (at least 99% of the time). There will be room for a lot more appreciation of small sections. As an example, March 20, the first day, will only cover the first page or so of the prologue.

~Tom, coordinator