Misc.

March into Middle-earth: The One Where Rinn and Claire Fangirl, Part Three

March Into Middle-earth

And we’re onto Part Three of the fangirl session! If you missed the previous posts, you can find Part One here and Part Two here. This is part of a series of posts of the two of us discussing Tolkien and all things Middle-earth. Although we are asking each other the questions, we’d love to know your answers to them too – leave your responses in the comments! I ended the last post with the following question for Claire:

Rinn: Now my next question for you: the musical score for the films, composed by Howard Shore, was such an important part of creating the right atmosphere. To me, it is perfect and completely sets the mood. Are there any other songs or pieces of music that remind you of Middle-earth or The Lord of the Rings?

Claire: I agree with you, in everything that you say (and you say it so eloquently as well!). I’d love the idea of that kind of magic, or that world as you say. The magic is in the earth and ground and how we read it and survive and live with it is key. Being from the Caribbean, an especially rocky, almost treeless place I can imagine our own version of this Middle-earth. We wouldn’t have forests or volcanoes or horse masters, but I can image island fiefdoms and oceans filled with magic. We’d have talking dolphin guides and yes- mermaids even!

But to get back on track, to answer your question: I loved the Lord of the Rings series soundtrack. I am a huge fan of movie soundtracks in general, I am planning to see Hans Zimmer in concert soon (April!) and would love to see something by Howard Shore as well. The soundtrack was a big influence for me in how much I loved the film series because it set that mood, it made that place so real and tangible to me. I have always been a fan for choirs, violins and dramatic drums and Shore totally uses them to his advantage here- especially in battle scenes!

This one always makes me cry. I get such goosebumps.

I’ve also been a lifelong Enya fan (I grew up with her music) and I thought she was the perfect choice for May It Be! Any Enya song will always remind me of this world- its potential and love of country. So whenever I hear a violin, piano or harp I have to imagine an Elf in a wood or Hobbits laughing in a country side. I don’t know a lot of songs like this but I’d love it if you shared any that inspired you or made you think of Lord of the Rings and Middle-earth!

Now, something I’d like to know (besides your LOTR music loves) is what you think of the art this series inspired. Artists have always been captivated by Tolkien’s world and I, myself, discovered many an artist through their LOTR pieces. There are some classically known artists like Alan Lee who illustrated the covers for an edition as well as doing the storyline art for the films and covers in the special extended editions. I AM A HUGE ALAN LEE FAN, but are there other artists or pieces inspired by Lord of the Rings that you like?

Rinn: First of all, SUPER jealous that you’re seeing Hans Zimmer! I’m a big fan of his, and film soundtracks in general, like you.

GANDALF FALLS NO NO NO. Now that I’m listening to it, I can perfectly picture that scene just after the Fellowship leave Moria, where it’s all in slow motion and we see Merry and Pippin sobbing, and Frodo turns slowly to the camera with a single tear rolling down his cheek. IT HURTS. Even though, obviously, we known Gandalf is fine. It was a beautifully acted, scored and shot scene.

My absolute favourite piece of music from the series is Concerning Hobbits, to me that is the ULTIMATE Lord of the Rings piece and just sums everything up. It’s gorgeous and peaceful and so wonderful. I also love any of the vocals, like when Pippin sings to Denethor, or others in the background – for example, the ‘Houses of Healing’ song is sung by Liv Tyler, who played Arwen, and of course Aragorn/Viggo Mortensen sings too. I like that the cast were involved in the music as well, it ties it all together nicely. And like you say, May It Be is gorgeous, as is Gollum’s Song and Into the West, the end title songs for The Two Towers and The Return of the King respectively. And if we’re venturing into other territory, all of The Hobbit end songs are awesome too – especially the final song of the trilogy, The Last Goodbye, which just makes me want to cry because it means it’s all over. Goodbye to various characters, goodbye to Middle-earth.

Frodo understands my feels.
Frodo understands my feels.

In terms of your question – I actually own a book entitled ‘The Art of Tolkien’ which shows just how much he has inspired artists all over the world. Some of my favourite pieces (apart from the great, great Alan Lee) include those by Dutch artist Cor Blok. The style is just so unique and all the characters look adorable. And on doing some more research, I have discovered that he actually lectured at my alma mater, the University of Leiden! I wish I’d known that when I was there. That just goes to show though, you can find links to Tolkien just about anywhere. Here is Blok’s illustration of the Mumakil:

Mumakil Cor Blok

And his version of Gollum is like a little duck, look!

image07

Aren’t they interesting and unusual? (Also Claire, this Gollum is less creepy 😉 ) But I have to say, Tolkien’s very own illustrations are just magnificent. That classic image of Smaug, that beautiful anniversary edition of The Hobbit – those are both his works. This means we get to see scenes exactly as Tolkien imagined them, which is not something you often get with epic fantasies. In fact the Bodleian Library sells postcards and posters with Tolkien’s illustrations on, and I really need to buy some…

My next question for you is: is there a moment in any of the books that feels completely pivotal to you? Perhaps it revealed a character’s true self, it changed the course of things, or was completely unexpected.

Claire will answer the next question in Part Four of our fangirling! If you want to answer any of the questions in this post, let us know your responses in the comments 🙂

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Misc.

March into Middle-earth: The One Where Rinn and Claire Fangirl, Part Two

March Into Middle-earth

Time for Part Two of Rinn and Claire’s Mega Tolkien Fangirl Session! If you missed Part One, you can check it out here. This is part of a series of posts of the two of us discussing Tolkien and all things Middle-earth. Although we are asking each other the questions, we’d love to know your answers to them too – leave your responses in the comments! Claire ended the last post with the following question for me:

Claire: Do you see yourself in a character or especially fond of one? Also, do you have a fave. magical “creature” in that series?

Rinn: I actually get a little sad whenever I go past The Eagle and Child… it’s now owned by a chain and it’s not the same! 😦 It still looks awesome inside and out though, there’s loads of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis inspired art, but it doesn’t have that cosy pub feel to it that it would have had for them. Not that you could get away with smoking a Gandalf-style pipe in there anyway…

Okay, so I heartily agree here with #TeamSamwiseGamgee. He was the unsung hero of the whole thing, and I love how The Return of the King closed with him. Sam is just adorable, a typical Hobbit and not at all the kind of person you would expect for such a mission.

But at the same time, even though people go on about him whining, Frodo Baggins was damn brave. He didn’t have to do anything. He volunteered to take the Ring to Mordor, not even knowing where Mordor was or what it meant. Despite the Ring warping him and turning him against his friends, he still completed his quest – although of course, not without his Sam. You really can’t have one without the other. Frodo started it off, began the quest to get to Mount Doom, and Sam finished it by carrying Frodo up the mountain.

I pretty much have a soft spot for every member of the Fellowship, for various reasons. The dynamic between Gimli and Legolas is just something wonderful, the Hobbits add fantastic comic relief and ‘ground’ the story a little more, Aragorn is so noble without even trying and Boromir… oh, Boromir. My heart absolutely breaks when, after trying to take the Ring from Frodo, he realises what he has done. Sean Bean caught that moment so beautifully – the crack in his voice, the look on his face – and the fact that he dies less than a chapter later hurts so much.

THIS SCENE KILLS ME EVERYTIME. But not as much as Boromir. Hahaha- *sobs uncontrollably*
THIS SCENE KILLS ME EVERYTIME. But not as much as Boromir. Hahaha- *sobs uncontrollably*

As for a magical creature… the Eagles kind of felt a bit like a deus ex machina, plus they’re like super snobby in the book. Can I say my favourite creature is Bill the Pony? He may not be magical, but he was loyal and helped out the Fellowship – until he probably became a snack for the Watcher after being released just in front of the Mines of Moria. *sobs again*

What about locations – is there a place you’d love to visit? Or even live?

Claire:TEAM BILL THE PONY! TEAM BILL! YES! I totally agree with that! I actually like Smaug in all of his haughty dragon-ness. Trolls are funny because they are complete… well they’re absolute idiots.

I luff you, Bill.
I luff you, Bill.

I agree with you about Frodo actually, he won’t come to mind immediately me for a hero because it is so obvious that he is one. He did so much and wasn’t asked to do it, he had no obligation to take the ring and he did it out of pure love for his people and the Shire. I think that is amazing as well, and like you said Samwise and Frodo are the dynamic duo. They needed each other- Samwise needed to be prodded I think, he is a bit of a settler and Frodo needed someone to remind him of the light of the world. They worked well.

And don’t start me with Boromir, he was absolutely brilliant. When I read his chapter in the book I cried and cried, of all the characters to do I wish it hadn’t been him! I guess that there is some purpose to it, that it means something deeper and metaphorical but Boromir was the epitome of human: terrified, pressured and remorseful. In the end he died brave and he died repenting for his “sins” but ugh, all the feels.

But to answer your question about living: Shire hands down. Always the Shire. It’s near a forest which would be nice to pop into every now and then, I’m totally obsessed with Tom Bombadil and his darn yellow creme, honey and fresh white bread. Dammit, every time I read that passage I get so hungry. I think maybe that instead of living in Hobbiton in the shire, I’d also like to live closer to the Brandywine, with the Tooks and Brandybucks. It sounded like fertile land but also beautiful and being near the water, there is always fish/swimming to be had. Yes.

I would never, ever, ever live in a mountain. I dislike stone and dark and not being able to see the sun quickly. It is for that same reason I’d want to avoid being in a forest as well, as so many of the Elves seem fond of. Trees can choke out light and I’d rather be by them and not in them. No Bree, no Gondor. Nope, nope! No city of men, Dwarf or Elf for me. I’d visit the cities of Elves but never stay long.

This is a bit of a philosophical question, but with The Lord of the Rings, it seems a bit of a mythic or origin style story for the UK, again it just seems it in my eyes, but say Middle Earth was real but that our current present and lifestyles were also real, how would magic survive in your opinion? Where would it show? Or would it fade completely? Would any Elves be left? Dwarves? Would there be the Wizards? Hobbits? Would anything of that magic and fantasy exist?

Rinn: #AlwaysTheShire too. I just read the first chapter of FotR last night and it makes me so happy. All those jolly Hobbits in their beautiful Shire, with their cosy lifestyles. Gimme! So you’d be one of those unusual Hobbits that swims, eh? 😉

Actually I’d pretty much give exactly the same answer as you. No no NO to a mountain or cave, no dark enclosed spaces, thank you. And I’d like to be by a forest, but not constantly inside it. Although Lothlorien’s flets are pretty awesome. HOWEVER my second choice of a place to live would be Rohan, because of that Viking-inspired architecture, and the whole society built around horsemanship. Edoras is gorgeous, rising up out of the flat plains with Meduseld at the very top. Love love love it.

As for your question – the thing is, the magic is Middle-earth is not always obvious. We don’t actually see that much of it. Sure, there’s the One Ring. But the only other obvious sources are Gandalf and Saruman, who we don’t actually see using it very much, and perhaps Galadriel. I guess it’s more about the magic within objects than people.

If it were in our world, I think we wouldn’t see it in built up areas and cities – just like the lack of obvious magic in somewhere like Bree or Rohan. Or maybe there’d be an underground following – a secret magical London or whatever. I could see it definitely surviving in the countryside. My home county is actually one of the ones that inspired Tolkien when creating the Shire, and to me it is a truly magical place. That’s why I could definitely see magic surviving in the countryside, where it could be hidden away, where all these beautiful places are just around the corner and you don’t even know.

As for all the different races, I love the idea of them all living in our world. I’m not sure all of them would cope but… imagine a business meeting with a variety of besuited Hobbits, Elves and Dwarves! Elves as park rangers, Dwarves as miners or caving instructors, Hobbits as chefs or pub owners… Or if the story took place in our world, something like this…

image01

Or, you know, this every day scenario…

lotr

Now my next question for you: the musical score for the films, composed by Howard Shore, was such an important part of creating the right atmosphere. To me, it is perfect and completely sets the mood. Are there any other songs or pieces of music that remind you of Middle-earth or The Lord of the Rings?

Claire will answer the next question and continue our chat in the next part of the post, same time next week! 🙂 Let us know your responses to any of the questions in the comments.

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #19: My Favourite Fantasy Characters

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: my favourite fantasy characters.

My Favourite Fantasy Characters

1. Tyrion Lannister (from George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire)

I pretty much loved Tyrion from the moment I first read about him in A Game of Thrones, and that grew with every chapter, every book of the series. It’s a series without any clear-cut good characters or bad characters; everyone is pretty much in the ‘grey area’ (with perhaps the exception of the Boltons…). You might think someone is evil, but you can guarantee that a later chapter will reveal WHY they acted as they did. Tyrion seems like the lesser evil of the Lannisters, despite his own family’s attempts to portray him otherwise. He may make some questionable choices later on in the series, but ultimately he’s just doing what he needs to in order to survive. His wit and intelligence are a shield blocking out the constant insults and prejudice he’s had to put up with for his entire life – and these are the sorts of characters I like. Ones that don’t have it easy, but they push on through and make the most of a situation.

2. Frodo Baggins (from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings)

I’ve previously discussed in this feature why I have so much love for The Lord of the Rings, but I never really went into much depth about the characters. I don’t like it when people say Frodo whined the whole time, and that he wasn’t the hero of the story. Samwise may have carried him up Mount Doom in the end, but Frodo volunteered to take the Ring to Mordor – he didn’t have to. He completely turned his life on its head, going from a comfortable life of leisure to one of perilous adventure. And then, after everything he went through to get to Rivendell, he was still prepared to carry the Ring further, even knowing that the path would be much more treacherous. A wimp? No, I don’t think so. More like a completely selfless hero.

3. Luna Lovegood (from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series)

There are a LOT of lovable characters in the Harry Potter series, but Luna has got to be my favourite. She’s adorable, funny and she really doesn’t care what other people think of her. She’s totally herself, even if that means a lot of her peers find her strange, and that is something I really admire. I wish I could be more like Luna, and just not care when I think people are judging me (I think that a lot…). She’s not only honest to herself, but also her friends, and one of the loyalest people you could ever hope to know.

4. Alistair Theirin (from Dragon Age: Origins)

Ahh sweet sweet Alistair… apart from being completely gorgeous and lovable, as well as complete klutz in social situations, Alistair is someone who isn’t afraid to accept their own destiny, even if it’s not what they really want. For the good of the people, Alistair will make so many sacrifices. But actually, the main reason he’s one of my favourites is because of the romance you can pursue with him on Dragon Age: Origins… it gives me the warm fuzzies. You sort of forget he’s a video game character, because so much thought has been put into how he reacts to everything your character does. Like Luna, he’s loyal to the extreme.

5. Morrigan (from Dragon Age: Origins)

Morrigan is a bit of a dark horse. She reluctantly joins your party near the beginning of Dragon Age: Origins, and responds to most of your questions with a dry wit. She’s not exactly easy to warm to and she certainly tries to distance herself, but like Alistair, she is prepared to make some big sacrifices if it means saving thousands of lives. She’s also an incredibly skilled mage (watch her in action in the Dragon Age: Origins cinematic trailer) and is just generally awesome in every way. Earning her respect is tough, but worth it.

Who are your favourite fantasy characters?

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday #12: Why The Lord Of The Rings Is ‘My Precious…’

Fantasy Friday

Fantasy Friday is my own feature, posted every other Friday. It’s pretty self-explanatory: I do a feature on something to do with the genre. Sometimes it will be a book recommendation, sometimes showcasing a book or series I’ve loved and other times it might be a discussion post. You’re more than welcome to join in with this feature, let me know if you make your own Fantasy Friday post!

Today I want to talk about: my love for The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

When I was ten years old, I picked up this huge fantasy book that I’d never read before. I was (and still am… obviously) an avid devourer of fantasy fiction, and here was one I hadn’t yet read! It was written by the same author who wrote The Hobbit – I’d read that a few years before and loved it. I’d also heard there was a film version of it coming out next year, and it’s always more fun to read the book first. That book was J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and it changed my life.

It wasn’t long before I’d finished all three books, and I was obsessed. It didn’t really help that the films were coming out soon, which meant there was merchandise EVERYWHERE. I bought countless movie guides, guides to Tolkien, books about Tolkien himself, art books, the video games, posters, trading cards, figures… I even had one of those huge cardboard promotional cutouts. Seriously. My local video shop sold off cutouts and posters so I ended up coming home with a Two Towers one, which took up the majority of my tiny bedroom at the time. Totally worth it. I did tons of fanart (a lot of which I still have), I learnt to write ‘like a hobbit’, I tried (and failed) to learn Sindarin, I ran several different Lord of the Rings websites and fanlistings. I didn’t hide my love for it either, everyone at school knew my obsession. Sometimes I felt that it alienated me from others and that they looked down on me for being so passionate, but eh.

Pretty much how I felt when being judged by my peers. (image source)

It’s difficult to give a toss about how people perceive you for liking something, when that something is so important to you. Reading, particularly the fantasy genre, has always been a HUGE part of my life. From a young age I was encouraged to read: to my parents, by myself, before bed, whenever I could. The Lord of the Rings only made me delve deeper into the fantasy genre, and I have so much to thank it for.

I know it doesn’t appeal to everyone. Tolkien’s language is old-fashioned, but that’s what I LOVE about it. I love the archaic words, the feeling that somehow this could have been our past in an alternate universe, the hobbits and their country bumpkin lifestyle – it sounds pretty idyllic. It’s a tale with unlikely heroes: within the Fellowship we’ve got an heir to the throne of Gondor, the Gondorian Steward’s son, an Elven prince, an Istari (or wizard), a Dwarven warrior (who is of the royal line, however distant) – and four hobbits. Two of which prove to be the strongest of them all, and we can’t forget what Merry and Pippin went through either.

Growing up is tough, guys. (image source)

Tolkien turned the traditional ‘epic quest’ tale on its head when he made his bumbling country folk – who’d normally rather spend the day fishing or farming, followed by an evening with a mug of ale – the true heroes. Despite the fact that Frodo and Sam’s journey to Mount Doom will most likely kill them and their chances of ever seeing the Shire again are slim, they carry on. That very thought of their beautiful home pushes them through. The message is clear: it’s not who you are that matters, it’s what you do. You don’t need to be the long lost heir to the throne, a rich prince or a grizzled warrior to have an impact. It’s essentially, when stripped to the bare bones, a story of good overcoming evil and how even the littlest person can change the future. To me, it also speaks of overcoming prejudices: it’s well known that elves and dwarves do not get along. But Legolas and Gimli end up forging a strong friendship, although they were distrusting of each other at first. There’s so much more within the books than a tale of nine people going on a long and arduous journey.

But you know what impresses me even more than the positive message Tolkien sends out through The Lord of the Rings? His sheer and utter dedication to thoroughly creating the world of Middle-earth. He invented entire languages, and not just the words and sentences he used in the books, but an entire new vocabulary and syntax. A whole history of Middle-earth was written, cultures and peoples that the reader barely catches a glimpse or even mention of were created. Inspired by myths and legends of other cultures, Tolkien sculpted this beautiful world that feels so real to me. I’m pretty heartbroken that I can’t just move to Middle-earth, to be honest.

To round it all up, The Lord of the Rings is a series that breaks my heart – in the very best way – yet simultaneously every time I read the books I feel like I’m at home. There just isn’t another like it.

(image source)

If you didn’t see it last month, I was also interviewed at Pages Unbound as part of Tolkien Week.

Guest Post, Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month: ‘Dragon Riding – Science or Fantasy?’ – a guest post by Katherine Roberts


Today, as part of Sci-Fi Month, I have a guest post written by the wonderful Katherine Roberts, author of The Echorium Sequence, The Seven Fabulous Wonders series, and most recently The Pendragon LegacyDon’t forget to check out the schedule for the rest of today’s posts. You can also Tweet about the event using the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

Dragon Riding – Science or Fantasy?

by Katherine Roberts

It was Anne McCaffrey who first introduced me to dragon riding. As a teenager, I devoured her Pern books, set on an alien planet colonised by humans who have bred dragons to help them fight off an alien spore called Thread, which falls from the Red Star. Although strictly science fiction, these books have a fantasy feel because the colonists have forgotten most of their early history, and no longer have space flight.

Anne McCaffrey’s dragons are amazing, beautiful creatures of different colours, from aristocratic golds, through bronzes and blues, to the lowly greens. They can fly ‘between’ space and time, and form an emotional bond with their riders upon hatching known as ‘impression’ – a bond so strong that the death of one partner often means the suicide of the other. My favourite books from the Pern series are “Dragonsinger” about a girl from a sea-hold who becomes a friend of dragons and a Harper, and “The White Dragon” about the son of a Lord Holder, who accidentally impresses the white runt of the hatching ground.

Many other authors have written about dragons and dragon riders, of course. J.R.R. Tolkien had his terrifying Black Riders, or Nazgul, who start off on horseback and progress to flying on what is surely dragonback during their hunt for Frodo and his friends in The Lord of the Rings:

“It was a winged creature: if bird, then greater than all other birds, and it was naked, and neither quill nor feather did it bear, and its vast pinions were as webs of hide between horned fingers; and it stank. A creature of an older world maybe it was…” (from The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien)

In this case, the dragons are villains rather than heroes, at one with their dark riders in their pursuit of the prey.

Tolkien’s Nazgul (fair use, copyright John Howe – image source)
Tolkien’s Nazgul (fair use, copyright John Howe – image source)

Friendly dragons are popular in books and films for children, including Cornelia Funke’s Dragon Rider and the TV series Merlin, where a dragon advises the young wizard. More recently, I came across dragons in Julia Golding’s Young Knights series, where they are the unwilling slaves of the Fey, kept chained in the dark until they have lost their bright colours.

On the non-fiction side, my publisher Templar produced Dragonology with its beautiful jewelled covers for students of dragon lore. And Peter Dickinson wrote a wonderful book Flight of Dragons, which takes a scientific approach to dragons, examining how it’s possible for them to breathe fire and fly.

Dragons were always going to feature in my Pendragon Legacy series, since Pendragon means ‘head dragon’. But I take a different approach to dragon riding, as my books are set in the Dark Ages after the Romans left Britain when dragons are thought to be extinct – killed off by heroic knights from the old stories rescuing damsels in distress.

Shadrake - artwork by Scott Altmann
Shadrake – artwork by Scott Altmann

King Arthur’s shield bears a red dragon design, scarred by battle. In the first book Sword of Light Merlin takes this shield from the dying king’s body and gives it to Arthur’s daughter, Rhianna, because he thinks she’s going to need it to defend herself against her evil cousin Mordred. The shield comes in useful when the first live dragon appears in the shape of an ice-breathing shadrake from the dark land of Annwn, which chases Rhianna and her friends when they leave the safety of Avalon.

The third book of my series takes Rhianna and her friends to Dragonland in search of Arthur’s crown, which was stolen by a dragon from the battlefield when the king fell and carried off to its lair. The Pendragon crown turns out to contain the ancient secret of dragon riding, hidden in one of the jewels as you might store data on a computer disk. When Rhianna wears the crown she can access its secrets, and her spirit escapes her body to fly with the nearest dragon. This is a useful skill, since it means she can see through the dragon’s eyes – but it also leaves her body chained in the dark at Mordred’s mercy.

My own theory of dragons is that they were dinosaurs, which somehow survived whatever disaster wiped out their species on Earth, and (being long-lived reptiles) lingered on into the middle ages to terrorise people. I can easily imagine hot-blooded young knights, in search of adventure or reward, riding out on dragon hunts to kill them. The poor creatures would probably have holed up in the high wild places, maybe breeding occasionally, but struggling to survive in Earth’s new climate and eventually dying out as humans took over. Did anybody actually ride them? I can’t say for sure, but there are just too many stories and legends to dismiss dragons as pure fantasy!

About the author

Katherine Roberts won the Branford Boase Award in 2000 and writes fantasy and historical fantasy for young readers. The final book in her Pendragon Legacy series Grail of Stars is published this month by Templar in hardcover, and the first three titles are now available in hardcover, paperback or ebook.

More details at www.katherineroberts.co.uk or Twitter @AuthorKatherine. I also interviewed Katherine back in August.