May 13, 2017

First Age Week: Heavy Metal

To finish out First Age week, got another special album – Nightfall in Middle Earth by Blind Guardian! Surprisingly (or maybe unsurprisingly I’m not sure) there’s quite a bit of Tolkien-inspired heavy metal out there. To be fair, I haven’t listened to much of it, but from what I hear this album is one of the most well-known of the genre. This albums brings you on an intense hour-long journey through the Silmarillion… with lots more guitar solos than the book.

Enjoy ~Tom

May 11, 2017

First Age Week: music

Got a great album for you today: “Beyond The Western Seas” by The Lonely Mountain Band. LMB is a great band (self-described as Celtic Rock) who have several albums with Tolkien-inspired music. The album for today has tracks inspired by lots of stuff from the First Age – I particularly like the atmospheric track ‘Cuiviénen’ (i.e. the place where Elves first awoke). You can stream the whole thing from Bandcamp, or purchase it to support the band. Enjoy! ~Tom

April 25, 2017

Some instrumental music

Today I’ve just got a few instrumental pieces of music to share:

“Gandalf” from Johan de Meij’s Symphony No. 1. This 1988 symphony is thematically based on LOTR, and it is one of the most well-known pieces of music based on the book. Over the course of LOTRRA, I’ll link to all five movements of the symphony, today’s is the first movement which is a nice exciting piece entitled Gandalf (The Wizard). Definitely give it a listen, even if you don’t usually like classical music!

– If you like jazz better, I have another piece by John Sangster Orchestra, called “Longbottom Leaf.” Chose this one for today not only in honor of the recent 4/20, but also for the part of the prologue we read about pipeweed.


Notes: Have a great day! Relax, listen to a bit of music, and just chill like Frodo’s doing right now. ~Tom

April 14, 2017 (April 13, 3018)

The Shadow of the Past

Shire Reckoning: Astron 13, 1419

Pages To Read:
-FR.Shadow “next morning after a late breakfast” (~p.5) – (end)

Christopher Lee reading the ring lore poem. Highly recommended to play as you read the section, makes it pretty dramatic.

– Gandalf and Frodo discuss the origin of the rings of power, of which the ring passed to Frodo by Bilbo is the greatest. (illustration by Donato Giancola)
– By throwing the Ring in the fire, Gandalf reveals the secret inscription which confirms it as the One Ring. (drawing of the Elvish lettering)
– Gandalf gives Frodo an extended account the history of the Ring, focusing on its time in Gollum’s care.
– After a long day of talk, Gandalf concludes by saying the Ring must be destroyed by throwing it back into the Cracks of Doom in Mordor (illustration by erzsebet-beast)
– Frodo bravely volunteers to leave the Shire with the Ring to keep it safe, surprising both Gandalf and himself.
– Finally, Gandalf catches Sam Gamgee eavesdropping and tells him that he will accompany Frodo, to which Sam responds ‘Hooray!’ … and bursts into tears. (Hilarious illustration by Robert Chronister)

“‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo. ‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'”
“‘He deserves death.’ ‘Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.'”
– Finally, my favorite awesome quote from this quote-heavy chapter, especially because it’s the payoff for that incredible moment in the Hobbit:
“‘My heart tells me that [Gollum] has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many – yours not least.'”

– We learn a lot of interesting details about rings of power today – why they make their users invisible (eventually permanently), what happened to all the rings described in the poem, why the One Ring cannot be hidden, etc. Very interesting is that Bilbo was able to survive the influence of the Ring for so long because he took it from Gollum in a nonviolent manner.
– There is quite a bit of detail given about Gollum here, it is no mystery to Frodo who Gollum is and why he is after the Ring. Also I kinda want to know more about Gollum’s cool grandmother.
– The fact that Sam bursts into tears when he learns he’s going to see elves is just adorable.

Notes: Lots of famous quotes and important information today. Won’t be a reading for a while, just some art and such. That leaves plenty of time to catch up if you are behind. Just be done with Chapter 2 by May 1st and you’ll be good 🙂 ~Tom

April 1, 2017

Hobbit family trees!

Pages To Look at:
RK.AppendixC (start)-(end)
Note: RK=Return Of The King. Many of these early updates will hop back and forth between FR and RK so just be sure to check.

Links to Other Content:
– Got a nice jazz track to listen in the background while you peruse the Hobbit family trees in Appendix C: Bilbo’s Birthday Party, by the John Sangster Orchestra

Notes: Not much to say about today… a bunch of Hobbit names! There’s some fun details hid in there, and it’s interesting to see how the main characters are all related one way or another. Also, you can find all the guests at the party by finding the underlined names, if you want to try to find all 144. Fair warning: there are some minor spoilers considering that the trees include births and marriages that take place after the events of LOTR. ~Tom

March 30, 2017

A Long-Expected Party

Pages To Read:
FR.Party “The next day more carts” (~p.6) – “those that had inadvertently remained behind” (~p.16)

– Today is also first day with a song! I will always send out a musical adaptation of songs in the text on the same day, and I *highly* recommend listening to the songs as you come to them in the text (not just afterward). With no further ado, here is The Tolkien Ensemble’s rendition of today’s verse. I would have it ready and start playing it as Bilbo drops the ring- then the words will come in right about as you get to them on the page.

– Preparations for the party intensify, leading to Bilbo putting up a sign on his door saying “No Admittance Except On Party Business”
– Finally the day arrives, the sky clears, and every hobbit in Hobbiton and the surrounding areas shows up to celebrate Bilbo’s one hundred and eleventh birthday.
– The party goes splendidly and Gandalf puts on a marvelous fireworks display, culminating in a dragon reminiscent of Smaug as the dinner call. (Gandalf’s Magic by Norloth)
– After the feast, Bilbo gives a lengthy speech which he ends by saying “GOOD-BYE”, putting on his Ring, and disappearing. (illustration by Inger Edelfeldt)
– Bilbo says a farewell to Gandalf in Bag End, but they fight briefly over the Ring, which Bilbo had promised to leave to Frodo. Bilbo finally relinquishes it and departs (Illustration by Joe Gilronan)
– Frodo discovers that Bilbo has already left and Gandalf tells Frodo to keep the Ring safe and secret, and to never use it.

Featured art:
Illustration of the party, by Joe Gilronan. I’ve already linked to his amazing art once, and many more will follow over the course of the story. His enchanting oil paintings really have a way of bringing out the whimsical mood of the first chapter. Top-notch depictions of the Shire, even if this particular one is severely lacking in pavilions.

Trivia, Quotes, and Details:
– Can’t overlook one of my favorite quotes from the book: “‘I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve!'”
– I think it’s important to note Frodo’s relatively serious mood throughout this section. It sets the tone for a very different character than the one portrayed in Peter Jackson’s movies, so just be mindful of that if Elijah Wood is your reference point.
– The description of the fireworks is really beautiful, as is the rest of this section. Even if you don’t read anything else from this chapter, make sure to read about the party!
– PJ did do a really wonderful job of adapting the dialogue and emotions in Bilbo’s farewell, so much so that I recommend watching it after you’ve read the section. I’ll include movie scenes from time to time, but I can really only justify it in cases such as this where the narrative and dialogue are followed very closely.


Note from coordinator:
Really splendid section today, I had a great time reading it. Make sure to listen to the song as you come to it, and check out the art once you’re done. As a side note, this is the first section which literally ends at the end of the ‘day’. This will be very typical once we get to the “real time” part of the book in 2 weeks: whenever you see “The next morning” it’s probably time to stop reading. But I still recommend going ahead and finding the end quote before you even start reading, that way you know exactly where to stop. ~Tom

March 16, 2017 (Hobbit Day 5)

Hobbit Appreciation Day 5 – Chapters 15-19

Events: Wouldn’t want to spoil the climax, but I think it suffices to say that, having gotten “There” to the mountain, Bilbo comes “Back Again” to the Shire

Quotes and Details:
– Famous quote by Thorin to Bilbo in one of the more touching scenes of the book: “‘If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
– In the penultimate paragraph of the book, Gandalf offers some advice to Bilbo that has some important implications for the idea of Fate in Middle Earth: “‘Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!'”
– It is also noteworthy that we finally learn what Gandalf was doing throughout the past several chapters: fighting the Necromancer and kicking it out of its lair in southern Mirkwood. Stay tuned for more details in the LOTR Appendices…

Art for these chapters: (Featured) from Gathering Of The Clouds: “Gold Sickness”, by s-u-w-i illustration of A Thief In The Night by ullakko The Battle Of Five Armies Series of intense depictions of the various armies in the Battle, by tulikoura

Art for the book in review: Amazing Japanese-style art, one for each chapter! Another charming chapter-by-chapter, by DWestmoore The Company!

Music: Under The Mountain Dark and Tall, by Joshua Burnell; from ‘Gathering Of The Clouds’, basically a dark and war-mongering remix of the original Song Of The Lonely Mountains reprise of the silly Elvish song in Rivendell, by Joshua Burnell Elvish Lullaby by Broceliande (really beautiful!) The final song (Roads Go Ever Ever On) by Adele McAllister who is amazing and perfect, and does gorgeous renditions of Tolkien’s songs!!

Notes: And so we have come to the end of The Hobbit. Thanks for following along, of course the main attraction is coming on Monday! There will be an email over the weekend in preparation, and the first page of the prologue as promised on Monday, March 20. ~Tom

March 11, 2017 (Hobbit Day 3)

Hobbit Appreciation Day 3 – Chapters 7-10

– ‘Queer Lodgings’ – The Dwarves, Bilbo, and Gandalf receive food, shelter, and a short rest in the house of Beorn.
– ‘Flies and Spiders’ – things go awry during the trek through Mirkwood
– ‘Barrels Out Of Bond’ – Bilbo saves the Dwarves from the Wood-elves
– ‘A Warm Welcome’ – the party makes it to Laketown and receive… a warm welcome

– “‘I’m always last and I don’t like it,’ said Bombur. … ‘You should not be so fat.'”
– “Somehow the killing of the giant spider, all alone by himself in the dark without the help of the wizard or the dwarves of of anyone else, made a great difference to Mr. Baggins.”

Links to Other Content:
– Art: Meeting Beorn
– Recipes: , Two different recipes for Beorn’s cakes! Haven’t tried these yet, but I will soon and report back
– Music: The Wind Was On The Withered Heath (song)
– Art: Mirkwood, by aegeri
– Featured Art: more abstract representation of the Mirkwood adventure (Norloth does amazing art; expect to see more)
– Art: really fun portrait of the Elven king by s-u-w-i
– Music: , songs from Barrels Out Of Bond and A Warm Welcome

Notes: Lots of links today to go along with the 4 chapters covered. Again, the pace for Lord Of The Rings will be much, MUCH slower. Classic adventures in Mirkwood today; enjoy the music and pretty pictures! ~Tom

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: one of the original Tolkien illustrations for The Hobbit, “The Mountain-path”, which is sometimes oddly used as a cover for The Silmarillion The scene where goblins attack the dwarves, by faQy A slightly campy but fun performance of “Down To Goblin Town” by Joshua Burnell (Featured) Gollum’s cave, by Miruna Lavinia “Fifteen Birds In Five Fir Tress”, song performed by Joshua Burnell 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