Prose & Pixels is a feature that combines two of my loves: books and video games. Here I’ll discuss all sorts of things to do with the two, whether it’s recommendations, influences or just a good old chat.
A few months ago, I discussed the idea of blogging about my journey through Middle-earth on Lord of the Rings Online. And, well, here we are!
I have been playing LOTRO for almost seven years now, on and off. I started playing again this February after a break, but decided to start all over again from scratch on a different server (and also so I could join my friend). I have the following characters:
Isolt, Hobbit Hunter
Innarrah, Hobbit Minstrel
Eilidh, Hobbit Burglar
Amildeth, Elf Lore-master
Lunathien, Elf Rune-keeper
Isibeal, Human Captain
However the ones I am really focused on at the moment are Isolt (who is at the cap level) and Innarrah (currently levelling), so most of my adventures will be told through them. And it’s a shame that Hobbits can’t be every class, or I’d have my own Hobbit army 😉
I’ve managed to build up quite a few screenshots since I decided to start blogging about this, so for now I will just share some particularly interesting places that might be of interest to LotR fans, rather than a focus on a specific area.
This is how the Paths of the Dead looks in the game. Spirits fly around you, and there’s definitely a creepy atmosphere.
Grond, Hammer of the Underworld! This is the battering ram that was used to break down the doors of Minas Tirith during the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
Whilst exploring Minas Tirith (that place is HUGE), I found this pub – ‘The Laughing Halfling’. Definitely wins an award for best name 😀
In another Minas Tirith pub (there are many), I found two NPCs taking shots at a Mumakil made of barrels, cloth and what looks like pumpkins as eyes…
Minas Tirith is basically a heaven for roleplayers. Amongst the many pubs, courtyards and gardens, there is also the Blue Theatre, a full size theatre that can be completely explored by players (even back stage, including the costume and prop rooms, and dressing rooms!)
Not a sight, but just something that demonstrates how much effort and detail is put into this game. When you reach level 111 (eleventy-one!), you get a deed that grants you the title ‘Well-preserved’, and lots of bread with a small amount of butter. A reference to Bilbo saying he feels like ‘butter scraped over too much bread’ to Gandalf. So clever and cute 🙂
Are there any particular areas of Middle-earth you’d like to see? Any particular book references you’d like me to hunt down?
Prose & Pixels is a feature that combines two of my loves: books and video games. Here I’ll discuss all sorts of things to do with the two, whether it’s recommendations, influences or just a good old chat.
I enjoyed this feature and how I was able to bring video games into the blog a bit more, and also write about Middle-earth. In February, I started playing again, and started all over on a new server. Instead of continuing what I was doing before – going through the books in order and comparing scenes with the game – I’d like to just share my progress, comment on the areas I visit as I play and any secrets I might find.
Now, what I want to know is this – is this something you would be interested in seeing on the blog?
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:
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 🙂
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…
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.
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!
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.
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:
And his version of Gollum is like a little duck, look!
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 🙂
This discussion will cover Chapters XII – XVI of The Fellowship of the Ring, and will contain spoilers for the book.
I don’t fault Peter Jackson’s decision to add more urgency and speed up time, for example during ‘Flight to the Ford’. What is about 17 days in the book seems like less than 1 in the film, and it adds more excitement and peril – there’s not that much sense of Frodo’s life being in any particular danger otherwise.
I never noticed this before, perhaps because it only appears once and in passing – but Tolkien mentions that there are werewolves in Middle-earth. Are they linked to Beornings, the men who can turn into bears?
I forgot that Gloin was at Rivendell! It’s fun finding all the links between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. There are others too, like mentions of Bard the Bowman and Beorn.
It’s also funny to imagine the father-son dynamic between Gloin and Gimli. Gimli as the teenage son who is dragged, reluctantly, onto this road trip… and comes out of it as one of the Fellowship, as well as with a beautiful friendship.
There’s also a mention of Bombur… and how he is now so fat that it takes six dwarves to lift him!
There was a bit of foreshadowing of what was yet to come in Moria, when it is mentioned that the dwarves do not know what has happened to Balin, Ori and Oin.
It was mentioned that Aragorn was not at the feast in Rivendell. My immediate thought was that he was… ‘catching up’ with Arwen, but it is later explained that he was in fact receiving news from Elladan and Elrohir, the sons of Elrond. Oh well.
There is a mention of Celebrimbor, one of the forgers of the One Ring, who is also a playable character in the video game Shadow of Mordor – one I’ve recently been playing. It’s quite fun to link the game into the book a bit more, rather than just the setting of Mordor and presence of orcs.
I remember skipping the chapter ‘The Council of Elrond’ on some read-throughs, and I now I remember why. It does drag quite a bit, and is packed full of exposition.
One of the bits that really made me laugh – the Council talk of how lucky it is that Gollum is safely locked away in Mirkwood, and then Legolas is like ‘Oh yeah by the way guys, he escaped! Whoops, lol’. Oh Legolas…
Once again, time goes super slow and the Fellowship actually spend TWO WHOLE MONTHS in Rivendell.
One bit that completely disappear from my memory – the Fellowship fighting Wargs just before entering Moria! I remember this happening in the film of The Hobbit, but can’t think if it’s in the book. Was it lifted over?
How are you enjoying the book so far? Are there any parts within these chapters that you really loved?
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.
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 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…
Or, you know, this every day scenario…
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.