Good News: How I Was Introduced to Tolkien

This past week was Tolkien Week. You may not even be aware that something like this existed. This week included Hobbit Day, which I blogged about here.

Good News

My Mom and 2 of My Hobbits

How is this Good News?

It all goes back to how I first got interested in Tolkien. While I did watch the original Hobbit movie, my real introduction came when my mother gave me Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings for Christmas many years ago. I read the whole trilogy during that Christmas break.

That was typical of my mom. She often bought me books, including ones by H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle and others. My love for books, including ones by Tolkien, are all due to my mom.

There is something special about Tolkien’s writing and read everything I can get my hands on. But even more, it brings back memories of mom and the legacy she left for me. This is my Good News.

Why do I blog about Good News?


What We Can Learn From Hobbits

HobbitsI am writing this on September 22, which is Hobbit Day. That is because September 22 is the birthday of both Bilbo and Frodo. These two are the most well known of the hobbits, a race that exist in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth.

Tolkien created some extremely powerful beings for his world, everything from dragons to wizards, balrogs to elves. Even the humans are mighty warriors.

But it is the Hobbits that are main characters of Tolkien’s most popular books, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Is it a coincidence that Tolkien’s others stories without hobbits, as amazing as they are, are not near as popular. Is there something about hobbits that we connect with on a deeper level?

At first glance, they seem to be a bit of a joke. They are barefoot and fat. They prefer to eat and drink rather than to seek adventure.

Yet Tolkien saw something very important within the hobbits. He claimed to be a hobbit himself, in all but size. In the Hobbit, Bilbo fights to gain the respect of the dwarves and overtime gets it. In the Lord of the Rings, the fate of all of Middle-earth is placed in the hands of two hobbits, Frodo and Sam. Even Gollum, who plays a role in the destruction of the ring, is a former hobbit-like creature,

The message of hobbits in Tolkien’s world is that value is not dependent on size, reputation or personal strength. There is something deeper, a strength of character within the hobbits that make them special.

One of the things that bothered me about Tolkien’s Silmarillion, is that the origins of the different races including elves, dwarves, humans, dragons, ents and balrogs are provided. we even see the trolls and orcs as corruptions of the ents and elves. But nothing is said about the origins of hobbits. They just suddenly appear.

I wonder if this is just an omission by Tolkien or something deliberate? Perhaps Tolkien wants us to see that we don’t need impressive origins to make a difference in this world.


The Maker of the Maker of Middle-earth

Who was J. R. R. Tolkien? Nearly everyone knows him as the author of two of the most beloved books of the 20th century: The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Many also know him as a member of the Inklings and a close friend of fellow writer and scholar C. S. Lewis. Fewer know Tolkien’s work as a literary critic, a world-class academic in medieval literature, a linguist, an inventor of languages, and a visual artist or realize that he was also a devoted husband and father.

Much of this is captured this year in a nearly comprehensive exhibit at Oxford University’s Bodleian Libraries on Tolkien’s life and legacy. “Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth” has been billed as the exhibit of a generation, and it is indeed that. But there’s a glaring omission: any mention of the author’s devout, lifelong Christian faith. Without that piece, we cannot have a true picture of Tolkien.

Read the full article by Holly Ordway at Christianity Today here.


The Merry World of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit

Jo Walton has written an article on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and his impressions of it.

The unusual thing about The Hobbit for me was that Bilbo Baggins was a hobbit and a grown up. He had his own charming and unusual house and he indulged in grown up pleasures like smoking and drinking. He didn’t have to evade his parents to go off on an adventure. He lived in a world where there were not only dwarves and elves and wizards but signs that said “Expert treasure hunter wants a good job, plenty of excitement and reasonable reward.” He lived a life a child could see as independent, with people coming to tea unexpectedly and with dishes to be done afterwards (this happened in our house all the time), but without any of the complicated adult disadvantages of jobs and romance. Bilbo didn’t want an adventure, but an adventure came and took him anyway. And it is “There and Back Again,” at the end he returns home with treasure and the gift of poetry.

You can find the full article here.


Thoughts on Unfinished Tales

Unfinished TalesWhen most people think about J.R.R. Tolkien, they think of the Hobbit and the Lord of Rings. While those are his most popular books, there are others, even others set in the same Middle-earth. The next one I would recommend is the Silmarillion. But after that, I would recommend Unfinished Tales.

Tolkien’s son, Christopher Tolkien has done a lot of work to edit and publish material written by his father. Tolkien started and stopped many different projects, much of it only hinted at in his other writings. One of the compilations is that of Unfinished Tales.

This book covers a large span of the history of Tolkien’s world, including the ancient history of the elves and the days when Sauron was only the lieutenant to Morgoth, the real bad guy.

One of my favourite chapters is on the wizards. Wizards for Tolkien were not humans who learned magic, but rather spirits that were incarnated into human bodies. The wizards were really of the same kind as the gods/angels/demons such as Sauron and the balrogs. The difference is that they were in human bodies. There were five wizards that were sent from the west to Middle-earth. There was a white, a grey, a brown and two blue wizards. It is pretty interesting stuff.

If you are interested in the world of Middle-earth, I highly recommend you get a copy of Unfinished Tales.


What Were Tolkien’s Inspirations for the Hobbit?

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit was published eighty years ago. It is a great time to be thinking about this book and the world that grew out of it. The Hobbit is so much more than the introduction to what would take place in Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit would be amazing even if it had been the only book Tolkien published.

But where did the Hobbit come from? What were Tolkien’s inspirations?

Joe Sommerlad recently wrote an article on this for the Independent.

The academic drew on his extensive knowledge of European pagan and pre-Christian folklore, myths and fairy tales for inspiration. As Oxford’s Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon between 1925 and 1945, Tolkien amused himself by writing narrative poems on fantastical themes and inventing Elvish runic languages from scratch.

The Hobbit’s character and place names are derived from Icelandic linguistic traditions and echo those given in Old Norse sagas such as the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda. The cunning dragon Smaug has been compared to that in the Old English legend of Beowulf (by way of William Morris), a text Tolkien lectured on during his tenure at Pembroke College, while Thorin Okenshield’s battalion of dwarves have been likened to those described by the Brothers Grimm.

You can read the full article here.


The Etymology of the Word ‘Hobbit’

Hobbits are well known to us, if not from Tolkien’s books, than at least from Peter Jackson’s movies. But it was not always so. There was a time when no one had heard of the word ‘Hobbit.’

If you are interested in Tolkien and Hobbits, you might appreciate this article over at the Oxford Dictionary blog. You will learn everything you wanted to know about Hobbits and more.


Beren and Luthien – Review

Beren and LuthienIt is amazing that so many decades after J.R.R. Tolkien’s death that he still has “new” books being released. Thankfully, his son Christopher Tolkien has gone through manuscripts and has released material. Christopher expects Beren and Luthien to be his final book.

The story of Luthien and Beren is one of my favourite stories by Tolkien. I’m familiar with it from the Silmarillion. The story takes place long before the events of the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings. In fact, it takes place at a time when Sauron was not the top bad guy, but was a lieutenant of Morgoth.

The story that I’m familiar with is the love story between Luthien, whose father is an elf and mother is one of the gods, and Beren, who is a human. There are a number of similarities between their love and that of Aragorn and Arwen in Lord of the Rings. Luthien’s father, being against his daughter’s love for a human, gives Beren a quest that is intended to lead to either his refusal or death. He is to retrieve a silmaril from the crown of Morgoth.

It is a great story but I wasn’t sure how it would be made into a full length book. It ended up that Beren and Luthien was not what I expected. Instead of just extending the story, it is a compilation of different versions of the story, demonstrating how the tale evolved in Tolkien’s mind.

In the original version, Beren is not a human but is an elf. He is actually a Noldor, which Tolkien originally called gnomes. Don’t think of a garden gnome, Beren was always meant to be a fearsome warrior. Also, the character that would eventually become Sauron, was originally an evil cat that ruled other evil cats.

In addition to this and the traditional version, the story is also given in verse. Tolkien never finished that version of it but it is neat to read what he did complete.

As a Tolkien fan, I really enjoyed Beren and Luthien. It is worth it for anyone who appreciates Tolkien’s mythology.


If He Hadn’t Seen Combat, J.R.R. Tolkien May Have Never Written A Word

I find the connection between J.R.R. Tolkien’s military service and his writing to be very interesting. Elliot Ackerman has written an interesting article for Task & Purpose.

Perhaps it’s not all that surprising that Tolkien would emerge from the horrors of the First World War and create such a comprehensive new world after intimately witnessing the destruction of an old one. That conflict features prominently throughout his books. Famously Tolkien based the hobbits of Middle-Earth, who burrow their homes into the shire and are known for their pure hearts and steady reliability in pursuit of a quest, on the working class British Tommies among whom he served in the trenches. “I have always been impressed,” he explained in later years, “that we are here, surviving, because of the indomitable courage of quite small people against impossible odds.” In a book of his correspondence, Tolkien noted how the Dead Marshes, which lead up to Mordor, with their pools of muck and floating corpses, “owe something to Northern France after the Battle of the Somme.”

You can read the full article here.


A Footnote to the Cross in The Lord of the Rings

Although the Lord of the Rings is a popular fantasy story, many do not realize that the entire story is grounded in a Christian world view. Tolkien was a devout Christian who was instrumental in C.S. Lewis coming to faith.

Scott Masson, a professor at Tyndale (where I also teach), has written an interesting article on how the Lord of the Rings informs our understanding of the cross.

For all its unforgettable portrait of evil and the corrosive power of temptation, it is the compelling sense of providential good accompanying the tale that drives the plot.

This providence is alluded to at various points. When Frodo first discovers that the ring his Uncle Bilbo once chanced upon was actually the One Ring of power, he senses his doom. Sauron seeking it with all his might, and the treacherous ring is also seeking to return to its maker.

You can read the full article here.


How C.S. Lewis Encouraged J.R.R. Tolkien

Two of my favourite authors are C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Not only were they friends, Tolkien was instrumental in Lewis becoming a Christian. What not as many people know is that Lewis helped encourage Tolkien to complete The Lord of the Rings. Alicia Kort has written an interesting article on their relationship for Newsweek.

A year after Tolkien began teaching at Merton College at Oxford University, he met fellow professor Lewis at a faculty meeting in 1926. But it wasn’t necessarily friendship-at-first-sight. In his diary, Lewis describes Tolkien as “a smooth, pale fluent little chap—no harm in him: only needs a smack or so.” But the pair soon bonded over a shared interest in Norse mythology, from which Tolkien would draw heavily for The Lord of the Rings.

You can find the full article here.



How J.R.R. Tolkien Redefined Fantasy Stories

I have enjoyed the fantasy genre since my teen years. There is both good and bad fantasy. Much of the best fantasy has been inspired by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. James Ellis has written an interesting article on this for Newsweek.

Scholars, academics and casual enthusiasts have spilled tons of ink (both of the real and virtual varieties) about the exact definition of fantasy (does an epic poem such as Beowulf count?) and the genre’s origins (do Greek myths qualify? Romantic poems from the Middle Ages?). But the overwhelming influence of J.R.R. Tolkien on the genre remains a fundamental certainty. The British author didn’t invent fantasy, but he defined it in the minds of millions with his seminal works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

You can read the full article here.


A Hobbit, a Wardrobe and a Great War – Review

Hobbit Wardrobe Great WarIf you were to look at my interests, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and military history would be near the top of my list. Therefore, I was quite pleased to come across A Hobbit, a Wardrobe and a Great War by Joseph Loconte.

Many people know that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien have some things in common. Both taught at Oxford, both were Christians, both were part of a literary group called the Inklings and both are known for writing fantasy literature, loved by children and adults alike. What many people do not know is that they both fought in the First World War.

What impact did that conflict have on Lewis and Tolkien? There are definitely nods to Tolkien’s experience in the trenches in his descriptions of Mordor. But there is so much more. Living a century after the events, many do not realize the intellectual shift that took place with this war. Before the war, there was great optimism that human skill and ingenuity could create a heaven on earth. World War One demonstrated that the same knowledge and technology could also create a hell on earth. People, especially in Europe, were confronted unprecedented slaughter.

In this very readable book, Loconte places the war in its cultural and intellectual context. He describes Lewis and Tolkien’s experience in the war but also how a world war shaped their thought world. Lewis and Tolkien reacted to what they had experienced but also what the world had experienced.

A Hobbit, a Wardrobe and a Great War should be required reading for anyone interested in Lewis and Tolkien. This is one of the most interesting books that I have read so far this year.


Lewis, Tolkien, and the Shadow of War

Both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis served in the First World War. Chris Gehrz has written on this:

Tolkien, older than his future friend by nearly seven years, entered military service first, arriving in France in June 1916 — not quite three months after getting married and mere weeks before the beginning of the Battle of the Somme. “Junior officers were being killed, a dozen a minute,” he remembered. “Parting from my wife then… it was like death.” And while he suffered a severe case of the lice-born ailment known as “trench fever,” Tolkien survived the war. All but one of his best friends, he later recalled, did not.

You can read the full article here.


Tolkien, Lord of the Rings and the Horror of the Trenches

If there is one historical event that gives some insight into J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings, it would be the trench warfare of the Forst World War. Nan Spowart has written a good article on this topic.

The horrors of the trenches were depicted in fiction in JRR Tolkien’s epic The Lord of the Rings, his grandson has revealed.

Speaking to mark the 125th anniversary of the author’s birth this month, Simon Tolkien said the hell of the Great War had informed much of the saga’s “grand conception”.

His grandfather fought in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 but rarely spoke of his ordeal. However, his experience of the senseless waste of life and the destruction of the environment later found an outlet in Tolkien’s bleak description of evil in Middle Earth.

You can read the full article here.



Did Tolkien Waste His Life?

How seriously should we take J.R.R. Tolkien? After all, he basically spent his time writing fairy tales (even if they were amazing epic fairy tales). Was that a waste of his genius? Jon Bloom has written an interesting article on Tolkien’s literary activity.

There were imaginative flickers of Middle-earth in the precocious child, Ronald Tolkien. Enchanting English landscapes, a language invented with a young cousin for kicks, an awakening love of mythology, especially of the northern and Germanic variety, and a local doctor named Gamgee were all future literary fodder.

But it was in the fierce furnace of World War I, where Tolkien (a signals officer) saw unspeakable horrors and evils which took the lives of all but one of his closest friends, that the mythology and epic tales that later gave birth to his books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) were forged. He spent the rest of his life working on this fantasy (or as he preferred, “faërie”) world. When John Ronald Reuel Tolkien died on September 2, 1973, it fell to his son, Christopher, to work through boxes of writings to piece together and publish the mythic history of Middle-earth.

Tolkien never envisioned those tales of Middle-earth would become the global phenomenon it has. And what a phenomenon! An estimated 250 million copies of The Hobbit and LOTR books have been sold worldwide, and the revenue from Peter Jackson’s motion picture adaptations are $5 billion and growing.

You can read the rest of the article here.


J.R.R. Tolkien and the Creating of Fantasy Languages

J.R.R. TolkienWe may enjoy the characters and plot of Tolkien’s stories, but his passion was really in creating languages. Philip Seargeant has written an interesting article on this topic.

J.R.R. Tolkien began writing The Fall of Gondolin while on medical leave from World War I, 100 years ago this month. It is the first story in what would become his legendarium—the mythology that underpins The Lord of the Rings. But behind the fiction was his interest in another epic act of creation: the construction of imaginary languages.

You can read the full article here.


J.R.R. Tolkien’s Sorrowful Vision of Joy

TolkienI have seen numerous Christians put J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings on lists of books that Christians should NOT read. Perhaps this is out of concern for the use of wizards in his fiction. This may because of three things they do not know:

  1. Tolkien was instrumental in C.S. Lewis becoming a Christian.
  2. Wizards in Tolkien’s works are not humans whoo are sorcerers but the equivalent of angels incarnated into human bodies.
  3. The Lord of the Rings reflects a solidly Christian worldview.

Ralph C. Wood has written an interesting article on a Christian reading of Tolkien.

If Tolkien had enjoyed several more lives beyond his allotted 81, he might have extended his mythological project to include the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection – perhaps even providing a foretaste of life in the world to come.

You can read the full article here.


Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit – Review

One of my favourite books is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Too many people see The Hobbit as simply the prequel to The Lord of the Rings, a source for some interesting background information. We need to remember that The Lord of the Rings was the sequel and that it was written only because of the popularity of The Hobbit. The Hobbit is an amazing book and would still be even if The Lord of the Rings had never been written.

HobbitIf you really want to appreciate The Hobbit, I highly recommend Corey Olsen’s Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Olsen, also known as the Tolkien Professor, is a fantastic resource for all things Tolkien (see this post). He has written a very helpful introduction to The Hobbit.

One of the things that I appreciate about this book is that he does not try to interpret The Hobbit through the lens of The Lord of the Rings or other Tolkien writings. He does mention them when there are interesting connections but he looks at this book with the information that the first readers would have had.

I also appreciated observations he makes about various versions of The Hobbit. Many people do not realize that what we read today is not exactly the same as the first edition. Tolkien rewrote some of the sections, especially concerning Gollum, to bring it more into line with where The Lord of the Rings took the story.

Olsen has a very good understanding of Tolkien and he is able to highlight themes that are easy for the average reader to understand. Reading this book will help you to appreciate The Hobbit more than ever.


The Fellowship of the Ring Movie Revisited

Fellowship of the RingIt is hard to believe that The Fellowship of the Ring movie came out way back in 2001. I can still remember the excitement of finally being able to see a live action version of my favourite story. I have seen the movies many times since then, but just recently watched The Fellowship of the Ring after not having seen it in a number of years.

I have some mixed feelings about the Peter Jackson films. As a huge Tolkien fan, it was difficult to see him change the source material for his movies. Having said that, the first movie probably follows the book more than any of his other movies. One of the changes he made was to have Arwen take the role of Glorfindel in getting Frodo to Rivendell. But that is not really a big deal.

I will say that Jackson did a fantastic job of casting the movies (even if the actor who played Gimili the dwarf was the tallest actor). When I read the books now, I see the actors from these movies in my mind. Gandalf and Saruman were perfect! The sets were also very well done. Hobbiton looked like a place I would love to visit. Moria was everything that I imagined it would be. I also really liked how they did the orcs. In fact, I like the orcs from these movies far more than the CGI orcs from Jackson’s Hobbit movies.

Watching the movie again, over fifteen years after it came out, I would say that it stands up very well. I will re-watch The Two Towers next. Unfortunately, there is one part there that was difficult to forgive Jackson for. But that is for another post.



A Tale of Two Tolkiens

The hero in Simon Tolkien’s new novel bears some resemblance to the author’s grandfather, J.R.R. Tolkien. Both were orphaned, won scholarships to the University of Oxford, fell in love before leaving Britain to fight in World War I and bore witness to the horrors of the Battle of the Somme.
“No Man’s Land” marks the first time Mr. Tolkien has acknowledged the creator of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” in his fiction. J.R.R. Tolkien’s presence has hovered over his grandson’s life, delaying his belief in himself as a writer but helping promote what he produced.

You can read the full story by Ellen Gamerman here.


Exploring Middle-Earth: Orcs


I Was an Atheist Until I Read Lord of the Rings

J.R.R. Tolkien is known for helping C.S. Lewis leave atheism but Lewis is not the only person that Tolkien has helped spiritually. Fredric Heidemann shares his story of reading Lord of the Rings changed his life.

I grew up in a loving, comfortable atheist household of professional scientists. My dad was a lapsed Catholic, and my mom was a lapsed Lutheran. From the time that I could think rationally on the subject, I did not believe in God. God was an imaginary being for which there was no proof. At best, God was a fantasy for half-witted people to compensate their ignorance and make themselves feel better about their own mortality. At worst, God was a perverse delusion responsible for most of the atrocities committed by the human race.
What broke the ice? What made me consider God’s existence a real possibility? The Lord of the Rings. I was a young teenager when I first read the Tolkien tomes, and it immediately captivated me. The fantasy world of Middle-Earth oozes life and profundity. The cultures of the various peoples are organic, rooted in tradition while maintaining a fresh, living energy. Mountains and forests have personalities, and the relationship between people and earth is marked by stewardship and intimacy. Creation knowing creation. Tolkien describes these things with beautiful prose that reads like its half poetry and half medieval history. Everything seems “deep” in The Lord of the Rings. The combination of character archetypes and assertive “lifeness” in the novel touches on an element of fundamental humanity. Every Lord of the Rings fan knows exactly what I’m talking about.

You can read the rest of the post here.


Tolkien’s Lost “Noel”

I found this on the Footnotes blog by Jason G. Duesing. You can find the original post here. You can find other posts by Jason on Tolkien here.
Grim was the world and grey last night:
The moon and stars were fled,
The hall was dark without song or light,
The fires were fallen dead.
The wind in the trees was like to the sea,
And over the mountains’ teeth
It whistled bitter-cold and free,
As a sword leapt from its sheath.
The lord of snows upreared his head;
His mantle long and pale
Upon the bitter blast was spread
And hung o’er hill and dale.
The world was blind, the boughs were bent,
All ways and paths were wild:
Then the veil of cloud apart was rent,
And here was born a Child.
The ancient dome of heaven sheer
Was pricked with distant light;
A star came shining white and clear
Alone above the night.
In the dale of dark in that hour of birth
One voice on a sudden sang:
Then all the bells in Heaven and Earth
Together at midnight rang.
Mary sang in this world below:
They heard her song arise
O’er mist and over mountain snow
To the walls of Paradise,
And the tongue of many bells was stirred
in Heaven’s towers to ring
When the voice of mortal maid was heard,
That was mother of Heaven’s King.
Glad is the world and fair this night
With stars about its head,
And the hall is filled with laughter and light,
And fires are burning red.
The bells of Paradise now ring
With bells of Christendom,
And Gloria, Gloria we will sing
That God on earth is come.
Originally published in the 1936 Annual of Our Lady’s School, Abingdon, Tolkien’s “Noel” was unknown and unrecorded until scholars Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull discovered it while searching for another poem in June 2013. In May 2015, Our Lady’s School, Abingdon discovered their copy of the Annual and in Feb 2016, news of the discovery was widely reported.
Undiscovered Tolkien Poems Found,” Independent Schools Magazine (March 2016): 10.



Exploring Middle-Earth: Elves


How J.R.R. Tolkien Led C.S. Lewis to Christianity

“I’ve always been so impressed with how J.R.R. Tolkien led his atheist friend C.S. Lewis toward faith in Christianity,” begins Tim Keller in the video clip below. He says Tolkien explained to Lewis that the fulfillment of human longings (eternal love, triumph over evil, heroic sacrifice, life out of death) that we find in beautiful stories—the stories Lewis loved so much—can be found in reality.

You can find the rest of the article here.


Does The Lord of the Rings Favour Friendship over Familial Love?

The following is from a blog post by Trish Lambert on the A Pilgrim in Narnia blog.

I was asked this question not long ago. It is a good question; there is a noticeable lack of family relationships in the story. Frodo is not really Bilbo’s nephew, but a cousin (and somewhat distant at that). The members of the Fellowship are all bachelors, and only two of them, Sam and Aragorn, have loved ones to unite with if their quest succeeds. Boromir, Faramir, Théodred, and Éomer—all of royal blood either in direct line to rule or one step away from direct line—are all childless bachelors in spite of being well into adulthood.
In view of all this, my simple answer is yes, I think The Lord of the Rings favors friendship, but I would not say that it is presented as “better” than familial love. I believe that Tolkien had explicit reasons for the lack of family ties that in fact ran counter to his initial inclinations.


You can read the rest of the post here.


The Power of Conversation: A Lesson from C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien

A major part of C.S. Lewis’s conversion came from a conversation he had with J.R.R. Tolkien. Brett and Kate McKay have written an interesting article on this event and the example it gives for the power of conversation.

It is the evening of September 19, 1931.

Three men stroll down Addison’s Walk, a picturesque footpath that runs along the River Cherwell on the grounds of Oxford’s Magdalen College. Two of the men — C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien — are particularly engaged with one another, deep inside an animated discussion on the nature of metaphor and myth.

While both men are 30-something war veterans, teach and lecture at Oxford colleges, and share a love of old literature, the two friends are in many ways a study in contrasts. Lewis has a ruddy complexion and thickly set build. His clothes are loose and shabby. His voice booms as he speaks. Tolkien is slender, dresses nattily, and speaks elusively. Lewis is more brash; Tolkien more reserved.

Besides differences in personality, the men are divided by something more fundamental: Tolkien has been a faithful Catholic since childhood, while Lewis has been a committed atheist since the age of 15.

You can read the full article here.

C.S. Lewis J.R.R. Tolkien



Top 10 Facts: J.R.R. Tolkien


Lewis and Tolkien: An Epic Friendship

There were many things that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien had in common, including a love of literature, brilliant minds, gifted writing and Christian faith. One of the other things that they had in common is that they both served in World War One.

Paul Glader interviews Joseph Loconte, author of A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War: How J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis Rediscovered Faith, Friendship, and Heroism in the Cataclysm of 1914-1918, for American Legion magazine. You can find the article here.


How J.R.R. Tolkien Found Mordor on the Western Front

It is not a coincidence that some aspects of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth reflect experiences from World War One. Joseph Laconte wrote an interesting article for the New York Times on this.

In the summer of 1916, a young Oxford academic embarked for France as a second lieutenant in the British Expeditionary Force. The Great War, as World War I was known, was only half-done, but already its industrial carnage had no parallel in European history.
“Junior officers were being killed off, a dozen a minute,” recalled J. R. R. Tolkien. “Parting from my wife,” he wrote, doubting that he would survive the trenches, “was like a death.”
The 24-year-old Tolkien arrived in time to take part in the Battle of the Somme, a campaign intended to break the stalemate between the Allies and Central Powers. It did not.

You can find the rest of the article here.


Exploring Middle-Earth: Morgoth

If you think that Sauron is biggest bad guy in Middle-Earth, you are wrong. Sauron was only a lieutenant of ultimate evil: Morgoth.


Exploring Middle-Earth: Sauron


The Silmarillion in Three Minutes

One of my favourite books by J.R.R. Tolkien is the Silmarillion. But if you don’t want to take the time to read the entire book…


How Serious Are You About Studying Tolkien and Lewis?

Signum University

Are you a diehard fan of Tolkien and Lewis? Do you wish that you could do some serious study of them and related topics? It is possible.

There is a school called Signum University that offers an online MA in Language & Literature. This school was founded by Corey Olsen, popularly known as the Tolkien Professor. They offer some amazing courses that any Tolkien or Lewis fan would love. They also have courses in Latin, Harry Potter and Science Fiction. How fun is that?

I do need to say that this degree is not currently accredited. I can’t promise that an MA from this school will make you an English professor at a university. But when you factor in that it is online and quite affordable, it is definitely worth it as a learning opportunity.

Even if you are not prepared to do graduate studies, if you go to their website, you will find all sorts of resources that you will love. It is definitely worth checking out.


C.S. Lewis and Friends

My two favourite authors, without a question, are C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. They are both very different and yet their writings move me in a way that no others do. Lewis and Tolkien also happened to be friends. I have also found that when I read books by some of their influences, such as George MacDonald and G.K. Chesterton, I get the same kind of enjoyment.

As a result, I have decided to start a new blog called C.S. Lewis & Friends. It is dedicated to Lewis, his friends and his influences. Much of the content will not be original material from me but rather my gathering of interesting content that is already out there.

If you are a fan of Lewis and Tolkien, I’m sure that you will enjoy what you find there. So go and check out C.S. Lewis & Friends today.



Tolkien Reads The One Ring Poem

If you are Tolkien fan, you will want to listen Tolkien read The One Ring poem.


The Hobbit – The Animated Movie

Many years ago, I was flipping through the channels and came across a strange animated movie. I was about to pass it on by but something made me give it a chance. I was soon hooked.

That movie was the 1977 animated Hobbit movie. You can find the movie here. Very different from the Peter Jackson movie.


Game of Thrones vs Lord of the Rings

Game of Thrones vs Lord of the Rings

Although Game of Thrones follows the genre pioneered by Tolkien in the Lord of the Rings, there are some essential differences. Jerry Bowyer and Jack Lewis Bowyer reflect on the philosophical differences between Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings.

If you read a lot of fantasy, are in touch with pop culture, or have simply been watching Game of Thrones, you may have noticed that the fantasy genre in these last few decades has been moving progressively away from its founding themes. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, essentially the founding documents of epic-fantasy, are quite often considered by many modern critics to have a simplistic, black and white view of morality. Detractors of Tolkien and his imitators often say that the moral issues in Middle-Earth are not at all historically realistic. They go as far to say that Tolkien, like most writers of his time, just didn’t understand the nuances of morality, and instead opted for a simple, fairytale view of the world.

You can find the article here.


My Thoughts on the Hobbit Movie Trilogy

I finally got around to seeing the third movie in the Hobbit movie trilogy. Since it is way too late to give my review of that movie, I thought I would give my thoughts on the entire Hobbit movie trilogy.

Hobbit Movie

Where to begin?

I guess I should start with the way people should (but don’t) judge the movie, as movies by themselves disconnected from any other context.

The three movies (what were their names again?) were fun movies. There were lots of action scenes. They had some terrific actors as the dwarves. Martin Freeman was great as Bilbo (although a little too similar to John Watson) and how did Benedict Cumberbatch get both Smaug and Sauron? Speaking of Smaug, I loved the way they did this dragon. This was one place where the CGI shone. I can’t believe I’m saying this but my main complaint about the movies is that the battle scenes were too long. What I mean by that were the one-on-one battle scenes rather than the pitched army battles. They got a bit boring. I would have liked to have seen them shortened and some more time of Beorn ripping apart orcs and trolls (just my opinion).

How do the movies do in the context of being the prequels of the Lord of the Rings movies? The Hobbit movies were filmed as if it was just as epic of a story as the Lord of the Rings but it is not the same kind of story. It felt like Peter Jackson tried to force the Hobbit into being the Lord of the Rings. Another criticism that may seem small, but really bugged me, was the way the orcs were portrayed. I really liked the small but mean orcs of the Lord of the Rings movies. They were created with makeup rather than CGI. The orcs of the Hobbit did not look like the Lord of the Rings orcs because of the overemphasis of CGI. Not only did I not like the look of them, they were too big. At times it was hard to know who was an orc and who was a troll. One of the problems with this is that in the Lord of the Rings, it was a major event that Saruman did something big by breeding a man-sized orc, as they had always been small before. If the orcs were already the size they were in the Hobbit, Saruman would not have to do anything.

How did the Hobbit movie do in the context of the Hobbit book? I enjoyed the movies as movies by themselves rather than as film versions of the book. The movies had none of the charm of the book. I would have preferred one movie that really attempted to adapt the book rather than try to force it into the Lord of the RIngs movie mould. This trilogy should be described as “Inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s the Hobbit.” This does not mean that the Hobbit trilogy were bad movies, it just means that we are still waiting for a film version of the Hobbit book.

None of this is meant as condemnation of the movies. My hope is that people who see the movies will be motivated to read the book. This was the same hope that I had for the Lord of the Rings movies.


Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun

I am a huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien. If I saw a cookbook with his name on it, I would buy it. When I saw the Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, there was no hesitation in picking it up.

Legend of Sigurd and GudrunIf you are looking for more of Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit, you will not find it in this book. The book is basically Tolkien’s translation of Norse poems regarding Sigurd and Gudrun. It is by no means a feel-good love story. It is a story of betrayal and murder with no good endings for the characters. It is still fascinating if you can keep track of the story in verse.

If it was just the story, the book would be very short. The rest of the book is an introduction and commentary by Tolkien’s son Christopher. This is one of Christopher’s ongoing projects to put together and publish some of Tolkien’s less known works.

This will be of some interest to fans of Lord of the Rings. You will find where some of the names came from and there is a similar atmosphere. Tolkien was deeply influenced by Norse literature and they naturally make their way into his fiction.

I definitely enjoyed the book even though (or because?) it was a different experience for me. If you are a Tolkien fan, I recommend picking up the Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun.


Tales From the Perilous Realm

I still remember when my mother gave me Lord of the Rings for Christmas when I was in my late teens. I thought it looked kind of silly but decided to give it a try anyway. I read all three volumes within the week. I have since read Lord of the Rings about ten times, the Hobbit about a half dozen times and the Silmarillion not much less that. I am hooked on J.R.R. Tolkien.

One of the books that I just recently had the chance to read was Tolkien’s Tales From the Perilous Realm. This is not a novel but a collection of stories (plus one essay). What ties them together is that they are all fairy tales.

The first story is Roverandom. This is a very strange tale about a dog named Rover. He has to change his name to Roverandom because the other two dogs he meets in the story are also called Rover. His adventure includes being turned into a toy by a wizard, travelling to the moon where he meets a dragon and visiting an undersea city to convince the wizard to change him back.

My favourite story is Farmer Giles of Ham. Farmer Giles is just a normal guy (except a bit grouchier) who accidentally scares off a giant. His people decided that victory qualifies him to take care of their new dragon problem. Farmer Giles does a fine job of fitting into his new role despite his initial misgivings. I loved this story!

Those familiar with Lord of the Rings may be interested the Adventures of Tom Bombadil. They are all songs in the style of what you find him singing in Lord of the Rings. Not all of them feature Tom but those that do have a number of connections with what we know of from Middle Earth including hobbits, a troll and even a barrow wight.

Smith of Wootton Major is perhaps the most classic fairy tale. The story is about what happens when humans cross over into faerie. It is a quite enjoyable story.

Leaf by Niggle is a story about a painter who is obsessed about painting a tree with each leaf in extreme detail. That does not sound very interesting but I found this to be the most thought provoking story in the collection. The story challenges us on how we plan to live our life. It had a bit of a C.S. Lewis feel to it. It is one that I definitely want to go back to.

The book concludes with an essay by Tolkien called On Fairy Stories. Here he discusses what makes a fairy story a fairy story. He examines the genre of fantasy and provides an apologetic for escapism. One of the interesting aspects of this essay is that Tolkien examines the connection between fairy tales and the Gospel of Jesus. Very interesting stuff.

So if you enjoy Tolkien and have not yet read Tales From the Perilous Realm, I highly recommend it.


Insights into Evil from the Lord of the Rings

Philosopher Peter Kreeft is a great fan of Tolkien and in this lecture, looks at the insights from the Lord of the Rings concerning the nature of evil.  I am not sure what Tolkien would think of this almost allegorical interpretation of his work, but I think Kreeft does make some helpful points that people will find interesting.