Sci-Fi Month

Sci-Fi Month 2016: Blogger Panel #2

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This post is part of Sci-Fi Month 2016, a month long event to celebrate science fiction hosted by myself and Over the Effing Rainbow. You can view the schedule here, follow the event on Twitter via the official @SciFiMonth Twitter account, or with the hashtag #RRSciFiMonth.

It’s time for the second blogger panel, where I pose a science fiction related question to a selection of book bloggers! If you want to answer the question as well, let us know your response in the comment section below. 🙂 The question for this panel was:

If you had a time machine, where/when would you go, and why?

Anna @ There’s Always Room For One More

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Anna (@imyril) has been reading for nearly as long as she’s been walking, and arguably with greater success – or at least fewer bruises. She has a lot of very heavy books about archaeology and/or King Arthur on her shelves, most of which she has read, along with a glorious amount of more portable speculative fiction that she can read on the Tube. Favourite things beyond books include movies, cats, whisky and getting lost. Her musings can be found on her blog and on Twitter.

If I had a time machine…

As Rinn knew when she posed it, this is one of the most difficult questions you can pose an archaeologist. Even a recovered archaeologist (who am I kidding? You never recover). I studied archaeology because of all the things we don’t know, and I am fascinated by the gaps. The chance to examine one – just one – historical or mythical moment is a choice that makes my heart explode. My blood pressure has gone up just considering it.

But in some ways, it’s easy. I can get agitated and rattle off so many places and times (Justinian’s Constantinople; Troy VI; Crete after the eruption of Thera; Akhenaten’s Egypt), but I specialised in Dark Age economics (an academically acceptable option for an undergrad fascinated by Arthurian lore) so there can only ever really be one outcome. We know more than we ever have done about Anglo-Saxon ’invaders’ and the enduring links between post-Roman Britain and the Mediterranean, etched in broken amphorae and plague-carrying ship rats, but we still don’t know what to believe about Arthur.

If I set my time machine for Camelot, I have to assume it would draw a blank. The myth is just that – a beautifully illustrated body of stories concocted across Europe over centuries. But if there’s one thing the Doctor has taught me about having access to a time machine, it’s that you get to cheat a little. The transformation of post-Roman Europe is fascinating in its own right: I’d like to take a journey through the 5th through 8th centuries looking for the truth behind the myths and the realities of life in the ‘Dark Ages’. And maybe – just maybe – find a war leader who united the British and led them to victory against their enemies… even if it’s Vortigern, not Arthur.

There’s still a bit of me that’s shouting GO TO THE FUTURE. But at the moment, I’m not sure whether spoilers would really make me feel any better, so I’ll stick with my ancient past.

Jorie @ Jorie Loves A Story

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Jorie is a book blogger and passionate reader at Jorie Loves A Story. She says that her blog was ‘inspired into creation due to a reader’s love and passion for the written word’.

She can be reached either through her blog or via Twitter (@JorieStory).

Such a curious question to be asked as this is something I have personally contemplated for such a long time – especially moreso now that I’ve become a book blogger and have regularly sought out stories which either travel through time or bend time within the narrative arc where the journey of the character has an equal foothold in both the present and the past; sometimes even within the future or an alternative variant of said future. Through my readings, I have garnished a healthy appetite of questioning my own opinion on the matter – would I travel through time if the opportunity presented itself? Or would I yield to understanding it’s best to live our lives forward rather than disappear back inside the past?

It’s a multi-layered question – as if you go by popular commentary found in fiction, television and motion pictures – you’ll find the discourse is not only actively commentated about but it’s a working thesis that has a variety of avenues to explore. One particular TV series comes to mind – it wasn’t inherently about ‘time travel’ but you knew going in something was ‘amiss’ on the time spectrum if the facts within the newspaper were meant to be found by one particular person who could impart his perception of those facts and events by making the best possible choice regarding what to do with the information. The series was called Early Edition and on a similar vein of Dr Beckett travelling through the quantum leap of time itself – both men strived to right wrongs and put people’s lives back on track. They did this from a genuine belief that they were given an ability to do good and it was their personal mission to fulfill that purpose.

When you approach it from a singular point-of-view, of personally travelling through time you have to re-consider the affect this is going to have on the continuum of time itself and how one individual person could effectively alter something that was originally non-existent in their timeline – either lived or unknown from their ancestral past as expertly explored in the new TV series Timeless, which embarks on exploring how individuals who are propelling themselves backwards through time’s arrow for a distinct purpose of stopping someone from aggressively altering history itself. Yet, as foreseen early into the series, each ‘step back’ leads to a ‘new tomorrow’ for their own timelines and histories – wells, technically in the beginning it only affected one character’s life, but evenso! It begged the question – are we meant to travel back or are we meant to continue to learn from the past without personally travelling there ourselves?

During Sci Fi Month 2014, I read A Stitch in Time by Amanda James wherein I revealed this:

A theory on time, the traveller who knits it back together, and the reality of time travel:

James reveals the basis of her running theory on the full dimension of being a time traveller and one who intends to not only travel along the meridians of time but on fusing time as a broken structure of record back together again; with a propensity of precision generally relegated to knitters or sewers. I, personally, loved what the time traveller’s mentor and guide is called inside the story (as a Time Needle sounds ever so posh) as ‘needling with time’ simply made a heap of sense to me! Time travellers by definition can either muck up an alignment of the continuum itself OR they can create positive contributions by causing a deviant of order as they re-distribute a level of calm within the chaos. I even liked how she parlayed her theory within the title of the novel itself, by using a Stitch in such a clever execution of a person’s job rather than rely solely on prior knowledge the reader may or may not have had as far as vetting information on the subject for themselves.

And, this is exactly my point. If a time traveller can effectively cause a positive outcome from their meddlings in time, then I think there is validity to time travel. However, it begs the question – how many who’d travel in time honestly consider the consequence of leaving a light footprint and not interfering when it’s unnecessary to do so? How many would have that kind of self-restraint?

Since 2014, I have also consumed the duology of Eruption and Reclamation by Adrienne Quintana, The Memory Painter by Gwendolyn Womack and an alternative timeline of history in Kate Johnson’s The Untied Kingdom. In each of the stories, you are given valid arguments where time travel is a valid method of resolving something that has been left unresolved. Even in Doctor Who we are constantly reminded of the consequences of ‘spoilers’ a la River Song and of the key reasons why travelling in time is so very dangerous to one’s soul (i.e. the main reason the Doctor is older rather than younger is due to personal anguish for what he couldn’t change nor resolve the memories of those he had lost); yet where does that leave any of us to understand our own personal desire to re-visit the past?!

For me, I used to think having conversations with historical persons I had admired was the best way to chart a course into the past – my admirations for these women and gentlemen have never diminished, however, as I have started to journey into my own ancestral past as an Ancestry Sleuth inside my own family, I must lament there is a strong curiosity to re-visit my own ancestral roots through walking alongside my own ancestors at moments where they made key life decisions or lived moments of their ordinary hours where they were simply themselves caught up in the moment of living their lives.

To re-step through their footsteps – as I am only two or three generations away from the patriarchs of my family who immigrated to America, to see how they braved the ocean and conquered their fears to re-settle so far from their homes whilst uncertain of what they’d find once they were here is quite compelling. Even to go back to the late 1800s and walk through the hours with my great-grandmother of whom was my first best friend and watch as she took in the dawning of the 20th Century and how it shaped her thoughts and experiences from a Victorian upbringing would be incredible. To even go back further, to when the Fortune sailed from England to Plymouth and how my ancestors had to work off seven years of debt in order to stay in New England as the Fortune came without supplies would be incredible.

The only concern I still have – as a time traveller of stories and of an ancestral sleuth of memories – it is hard to turn-off the knowledge I have gained about how even one breath spent in the past can affect the future of tomorrow. Is it right to have the curiosity lead us into uncharted territories where our conjoined living histories could be altered like they are becoming in “Timeless” or is there a way to broker a foothold into the past without erasing the moments which already were lived yet give us a gain of entrance to observe? Perhaps the truer answer is meant to be left unknown. As how would any of us know exactly how we’d react if the choice was presented to us tomorrow? Would we lean on our foreknowledge or would we impulsively act on the hope of what we’d dare to find as seen in the film Midnight in Paris?

Tammy @ Books, Bones and Buffy

I think most people would probably choose a time from the past to visit, but me? I would most certainly want to visit the future. Even though things are looking pretty bleak on Earth, I think I’m enough of an optimist to envision a future filled with marvelous technology, alien visitors (the nice kind, of course) and a better quality of living for all. I’d like to think that scientists would have figured out the global warming problem and Earth would still be habitable in the next several hundred years or so.

I’m also very curious to see what my future ancestors (wait, is that a thing?) would be like, will my kids grow up to have kids of their own? And will they grow up to have kids? I’d love to visit my future relatives and see where everyone ends up. And wouldn’t it be cool to jump ahead in time and be able to see your present life as the past? What cool technology do we have today that will most certainly become obsolete in the future?

Plus, I really really want to visit some of the science fiction worlds I’ve read about in books, and who’s to say those worlds won’t become reality someday? Of course, I could jump ahead to the far future and wind up in a swirling mass of volcanic fire, but like I said, I’m an optimist…

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Tammy Sparks blogs at Books, Bones & Buffy, and tries to read and review as much speculative fiction as she possibly can, while working full time, raising two teens, and volunteering for her kids’ various school activities. You can also find her on Twitter: @tammy_sparks.

Claire @ Bitches With Books

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Claire blogs at Bitches with Books. She can be reached via her blog or Twitter (@BWithBooks).

Ok, so my magical time machine is even better than that, it can move back between worlds (fictional or real) and throughout time!

So on first instinct, I think I’d go to The Shire and visit Hobbiton or even Lothlórien at its founding, before the Ring of Power was made. It just seems like a peaceful time in the stories and I’m imagining such lush, beautiful nature and good food. I’d basically just hit up a bunch of pubs or sort of convince hobbits, men and elves that I’m an awesome guest and that we should all have a massive feast! Is it bad that all I want to do is eat a good meal like I was at Bilbo Baggins’ birthday party? On second instinct, I’m not sure that’s a terribly good idea because I imagine that my appearance and dress and loud manner would be quite shocking and unappealing for some?

My third instinct is to go to the world of magic (like in Harry Potter) and visit Hogwarts when it was first founded by the great four, to travel to my home country in the Caribbean and see the magic that happened there with the melting pot of cultures, to go throughout Asia, the Middle East and Africa to see how magic was explored and transformed with culture and time. I think that would be the best, to see that kind of awesome magic!

Let me know your own response to the panel question in the comments below! 🙂

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Misc.

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

March Into Middle-earth

Part Four of the fangirl session – but not the last, because apparently Claire and I have a LOT to say about Tolkien’s works! If you missed the previous posts, you can find Part One here, Part Two here and Part Three 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: 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: That art is so beautiful! I’ve never seen such work like that! And to grow up with it, you’re so lucky. A pivotal moment to me? I don’t think, for me, that Lord of the Rings has a lot of those grand gesture moments but is filled with a number of small moments, small points where the way story unfolded could have changed drastically if someone hadn’t stood up at that point, or made up their mind. I think that’s why I like the stories so much because it is so indicative of real life. There are very few moments when one large point changes everything but our lives are built up of small decisions that the determine the course of everything.

A few moments that stand out:

  1. When Sam gets caught by Gandalf: Sam could have kept quiet. Gandalf could have pretended to ignore Sam but 100% believe that Frodo would have stopped or died or gotten kidnapped or given up or just gotten tired if Sam hadn’t allowed himself to (1) get caught, and I think he did because Hobbits are uncommonly quiet and (2) went along with the darn plan.
  2. Boromir realising his mistake: Besides being utterly heartbreaking, he manages to save his friends, repent and in a huge way, proves to Aragorn that the race of men are capable of atoning for past wrongs.
  3. Eowyn going into battle: She was immensely stubborn and to not go into battle wouldn’t have seemed her, but she could have just gone home. And who would have killed the Witch King?
  4. Smeagol giving into Gollum: he had many moments to resist but the lure of the ring and Gollum’s strength proved too much to bear. Though bad in a sense, the final ending of the story wouldn’t have turned out the way it did if Gollum hadn’t made that final sacrifice. Even if it wasn’t really sacrifice but a clumsy moment of bliss.

I think this quote might sum it up nicely:

“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 to us.

gandalf gif

So those four moments stand out to me as crucial but small, glorious moments when a decision changed the lives of many. Before I ask my question I actually want you to name one or two large or small moments that you thought were crucial to the plot and characters as well.

My question has to do with gender: There aren’t tons of women in the Lord of the Rings series but the women that are there all have some part to play, be it warrior or the guiding hope of another. How do you feel about Tolkien’s portrayal of women?

Rinn: Okay, I never thought about the fact that Sam might have been caught on purpose, that’s a really good point – and I just read that bit today. Although I bet Gandalf has super good hearing too!

  1. The first moment for me is during the Council of Elrond. I think this is probably pretty pivotal for everybody, because it starts the whole quest proper. Everyone is arguing about what to do with the Ring – the Elves, the Dwarves, the Men and Gandalf, and Frodo is just quietly sat there. That is, until he stands up and offers to take the Ring to Mordor himself. He has no idea what this will entail, and this decision shapes the entire story. What if a Man had taken it? Would he have been overcome by its power, like Isildur, like Boromir? Even Gandalf is reluctant to touch the Ring, and Galadriel shows a darker side when offered the Ring by Frodo. Clearly, he was the only choice – but no-one would have ever thought of him, he had to offer to do it.
  2. The second is the ‘death’ of Gandalf, and his subsequent revival as Gandalf the White. The rest of the Fellowship had to learn how to deal without their resident Wizard, and it ended up dividing them. Whilst this might sound like a bad thing, it wasn’t at all. Would Rohan have given Gondor aid if Aragorn hadn’t given Theoden that push? Would Isengard still exist if it wasn’t for Merry and Pippin persuading the Ents to march on it? And the rest of the Fellowship been that eager to have Gollum as a guide to Mount Doom? Not only does Gandalf’s resurrection represent hope, but also helped the Fellowship to grow, whilst also taking their own paths.

And in terms of gender: I would of course appreciate more female roles, but I don’t really have a problem with the way Tolkien represents women. Arwen is a lesser role than most people realise, as much of what she does in the film was actually performed by Glorfindel, a male Elf, in the book – for example, saving Frodo from the Nazgul after he is stabbed with a Morgul blade. I’m glad that her role was bumped up in the film. Her main purpose seems to be a reason to motivate Aragorn. Eowyn, on the other hand, has a more active role. The women of Rohan are trained in the use of weapons, because as Eowyn so aptly puts it:

“‘The women of this country learned long ago, those without swords can still die upon them.’”

But whilst Rohan clearly has a lot of badass ladies trained in the art of combat, they are still forbidden from actually going to war or putting themselves into danger in any way, as shown by Eowyn disguising herself as a man named Dernhelm in order to fight. And in one of the most absolute BADASS FEMALE EMPOWERING moments of all fantasy fiction:

‘“Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!”

A cold voice answered: ‘Come not between the Nazgûl and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye.”

A sword rang as it was drawn. “Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may.”

“Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!”

Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. “But no living man am I!”’

And with that she kills the Witch King. Like i said: BADASS.

eowyn gif

What’s interesting is that all female characters of note are in positions of power. Arwen is the daughter of Elrond, Lord of Rivendell, Eowyn the niece of King Theoden of Rohan, and Galadriel the Golden Lady of Lothlorien, and appears to hold more power than her husband Celeborn. Rosie Cotton might be the exception here, but she is barely more than a mention until the very end. Testosterone definitely wins, but I’ve kind of gotten used to that in fantasy fiction. And that’s really quite sad. The lack of female characters is probably my main grumble with The Lord of the Rings, but I absolutely have no problem with which they are represented.

So we’ve discussed LotR video games, and you’ve said you haven’t played any – but what would be your ideal Middle-earth video game experience?

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

Buddy Read

March into Middle-earth: The Fellowship of the Ring Buddy Read, Part Four

March Into Middle-earth

Alas, it is time for the fourth and final part of my reread/buddy read of The Fellowship of the Ring! If you’ve missed the previous discussions, you can find Chapters I – V here, Chapters VI – XI here and Chapters XII – XVI here. The buddy read is also taking place on my Goodreads book group, Dragons & Jetpacks if you’re interested in joining over there.

This discussion will cover Chapters XVII– XXII of The Fellowship of the Ring, and will contain spoilers for the book.

  • Only now can I link the Ori in The Hobbit with the Ori who kept histories in Moria. I think the films have helped me to remember more of the dwarves names.
  • It is stated that Oin was killed by the Watcher. Poor Oin. And Ori is that dusty old skeleton in Balin’s tomb, clutching the huge book that Gandalf picks up…
  • ori gif

  • GANDALF’S LAMENT NO NO NO. Even though I know he doesn’t die, I know he is reborn as Gandalf the White, the reaction of the Fellowship to his death is heartbreaking. And then the elves mourn Mithrandir – which was beautifully done in the film I must say, every time I hear that song I want to cry.
  • THE DWARF BREATHED SO LOUD WE COULD HAVE SHOT HIM IN THE DARK. Okay, it’s not written in quite the same way, but I liked how the film used a similar line and altered it into one that everyone remembers.
  • haldir gif

  • There is a seriously awkward moment where Gimli basically hits on Galadriel in front of Celeborn, and then there is a long silence:
  • “[Gimli] rose clumsily and bowed in dwarf fashion, saying: ‘Yet more fair is the living land of Lorien, and the Lady Galadriel is above all the jewels that lie beneath the earth!’

    There was a silence.”

  • Gimli again proves himself to be prime comic relief material by gobbling down an entire lembas bread in one go – which is pretty much three days worth of meals. How the boat didn’t sink after that, I don’t know.
  • Boromir. Oh Boromir. You break my heart. The moment when he realises what he has done after trying to take the Ring from Frodo just absolutely tears at my heart strings, even though I know it’s coming.

Thank you to everyone who took part in this read-along, or followed and commented on these posts!

lotr gif

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 🙂

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…

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Or, you know, this every day scenario…

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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.

Buddy Read

March into Middle-earth: The Fellowship of the Ring Buddy Read, Part Two

March Into Middle-earth

Welcome to the second part of my re-read/buddy read of The Fellowship of the Ring! I discussed Chapters I – V last week. The buddy read is also taking place on my Goodreads book group, Dragons & Jetpacks if you’re interested in joining over there.

This discussion will cover Chapters VI – XI of The Fellowship of the Ring, and will contain spoilers for the book.

  • OH GOD NOT THE OLD FOREST. It brings back horrible memories of trying to navigate that place on Lord of the Rings Online. It’s a horrible, horrible maze that you get lost it and can never leave.
  • That eternal question – who is Tom Bombadil, really? He knows EVERYTHING, he says he was there long before the elves, the Ring has absolutely no effect on him when worn and he does not seem to be tempted by it. I know there is a theory that he is one of the gods of Middle-earth, and the Lord of the Rings Wiki has other theories too, but whatever he is, he’s certainly interesting. If he is a god, I’m glad he doesn’t interfere with the quest any further than making sure the Hobbits manage to get past the Old Forest and Barrow Downs. It’s interesting to note that his Sindarin name was Iarwain Ben-adar, which means ‘Oldest and Fatherless’.
  • I was actually considering the fact that there is something odd about Tom Bombadil, and not necessarily a good kind of odd. Then I found this theory that says he could in fact be the most evil force in Middle-earth. What do you think?
  • The Barrow Downs would have been pretty wonderful to see in the films, and ever so creepy, but they would have required the character of Tom Bombadil to be included. I think the reason he was left out is because no-one knows who he truly is, and those who just watched the films and had not read the books might not have understood this, and thought it was something to exclude those who had skipped reading the books. In addition to some of those scenes perhaps not being entirely necessary, and the need to cut down a large book into a 2 1/2 hour film.
  • prancing pony gif

  • It takes the Hobbits around three chapters, or fifty pages, to reach Bree from the Shire. This feels slow when you consider how much the film condensed this time down. But it also makes a lot of sense, because the journey needed to feel urgent and perilous. The book gives us more time to ‘explore’ Middle-earth through the hobbits’ eyes, and hear some of their travelling songs. I love it, but I understand why it was reduced.
  • Oh, Barliman Butterbur. You lovable idiot.
  • We don’t even meet Strider/Aragorn until Chapter IX. And of course, the rest of the Fellowship later on.
  • ‘No, I don’t think any harm of old Butterbur. Only he does not altogether like mysterious vagabonds of my sort.’ Frodo gave him a puzzled look. ‘Well, I have a rather rascally look, have I not?’ said Strider with a curl of his lip and a queer gleam in his eye.

  • Look at the quote above, AKA Aragorn knowing that he rocks the scruffy look. What a man.
  • Alright, no need to get cocky.
    Alright, no need to get cocky.
  • All the geography of Middle-earth is so familiar from playing Lord of the Rings Online. All of these areas that are mentioned perhaps once in the books, are ones that you can actually visit in the game. It’s so wonderful reading about them and being able to picture them in my head.

How are you enjoying the book so far? Are there any parts within these chapters that you really loved?

Misc.

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

March Into Middle-earth

I’m so, so excited to host a wonderful guest on the blog today… my lovely friend Claire from Bitches with Books! The two of us pretty much clicked instantly when we discovered we were both museum geeks, and we’ve met up several times in real life, and plan another meeting soon. I decided Claire would be the perfect person to geek out over Tolkien with, so over the course of March, I’ll be sharing posts of the two of us discussing Tolkien and all things Middle-earth.

Rinn: Claire, thank you so much for joining me for this! I’m so excited to discuss Tolkien with a good friend and fellow lover of all things Middle-earth. So my first question is… what initially drew you to Tolkien’s works?

Claire: Well hallllooooo there Rinn, this is so exciting! Y’all wouldn’t believe the squeal I let out when Rinn asked me to do this, but to answer your first question- what did draw me to Tolkien’s works? I’d have to say my mother actually. I’ve always been very bookish and when my mother noticed I loved reading she bought me a set of classics, which I unfortunately couldn’t stand (I really tried to like them but just couldn’t!). When I was a teen I was haunting the fantasy section at the Barnes and Nobles during a holiday (after developing a solid addiction to fantasy because of Harry Potter and Eragon), and my mother came by and saw me looking at Lord of the Rings and she made a very sour face. Of all the classics, she didn’t like Tolkien’s works. So what does a teenager do? I went and bought the series and fell in love. I’ve not had a proper reread of it and I’m just doing so now- it’s so good to read them again! It feels like coming home. Oh, I will also admit that after I read the books and the films came out, I was extra-addicted. The adaptations might not be faithful, but they are good.

What I want to know is, how did you get into Tolkien, Rinn, and do you think his works have had an impact on your life? Beyond the literary as well I wonder.
If you say you 'don't need to read the book because you've seen the film', this WILL happen.
If you say you ‘don’t need to read the book because you’ve seen the film’, this WILL happen.

Rinn: Well as you know, I’ve always been a huuuge fan of fantasy fiction. I remember my mum buying me a graphic novel version of The Hobbit when I was perhaps 8 or 9, and I really liked it. Then a few years later I heard that they were turning The Lord of the Rings into a film, so I took it upon myself to read the books first – I was 10, and that’s pretty much when my Tolkien obsession began. I devoured the books, loved the films so much, bought ALL the merchandise I could find (I even had one of those massive cardboard cutouts they have in cinemas of The Two Towers on display in my bedroom). And then I was known all throughout secondary school for being obsessed with The Lord of the Rings. I’ve always been a big reader (duh) but LotR made me feel something I’d never felt before. It got me through those awkward teenage years, something familiar to come back to, it helped me through depression and not being able to cope with various changes to my life. I have previously written a post on why it is ‘my precious’ which I think explains it pretty well. I’ve now read it (almost) every year since I was 10, apart from the past two years – hence why I’m doing my re-read and making a big deal out of it this month! So, to summarise: MAJOR HUGE IMPORTANT LIFE CHANGING EVENT when I first picked up LotR. Such a massive impact on my teenage years and who I was as a person, as well as my reading/film etc tastes.

Also I’d just like to add that I WALKED PAST TOLKIEN’S OLD HOUSE TODAY. Bonus of living in Oxford. I may have freaked out a little bit when I noticed, but had to restrain myself because I was with a colleague. I’ll go back on my own one day…

So now my next question for you… is there a character from Tolkien’s works that you really love, or who you could compare yourself to?

Claire: When I first went to The Eagle and Child – the pub he’d converse with his fellow Inklings with, I freaked out. I felt like it was such a pilgrimage and such a beautiful thing, I almost got a bit weepy! If anyone is ever in Oxford you have to go to The Eagle and Child, you have to!

To answer your question, I don’t think that there is a character that I can compare myself to (it’s not one of those novels for me for some reason). I do like the race of Hobbits, I like their lifestyle- I am overly fond of food, sort and a tad hairy myself so I think I’d fit right in. I love forests and gardens as well. I also see a bit of Gimli in me, the sheer stubbornness of it all but to dwell in the dark and dry of a deep mountain, I could never do that. I will say that when it comes to loving a character, I have a strong fondness for Samwise Gamgee, I think he’s the real Original Gangster of the entire Lord of the Rings series. Why?

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  1. He did so much and hardly ever-in fact never- asked for anything in return. He got told to go on this journey and out of sheer loyalty went along with it. If Gandalf told me to go with Frodo I’d have laughed and sprinted right back out that door. Nope and nope and nope.
  2. He was uncommonly brave. He doesn’t have “bravado” or “machismo” but he never ran from a fight, he stayed his ground even though he was terrified, he never left Mr. Frodo’s side.
  3. He was also plenty darn smart. Again, not the loud or obvious kind, he was never GREAT at anything but good at so much and he had so much common sense. #TeamSamwiseGamgee

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Funny enough, I’m not a big fan of Tolkien’s elves, they are a tad cruel in my opinion and removed from everything in Middle Earth which I know is part of the point but that pisses me off. Why live in a place if you don’t involve yourself (as in 100% fully commit and I know not all elves were like that, just some)? Meh.

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

The next question will be answered in our next post, where our conversation and fangirling will continue! Let us know your answers to any of these questions in the comments 🙂