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 🙂

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 #8: Fancy A Holiday?

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: fantasy holiday destinations.

No, not places that you’d love to go on holiday to, but fantasy locations and what they would be like if you visited them. I’m not sure some of them are perfect holiday material, however… I’ve just picked a couple this time, as this Fantasy Friday may reoccur more than once. So take a look at this brochure, and pick your destination!

Middle-earth, from the works of Tolkien

middleearth

  • Climate: ranging from temperate to very, very hot and lava filled, depending on where you choose to go. The northern lands of Forochel and its ice-bays are perhaps some of the coldest parts of Middle-earth. For more information on Middle-earth weather, please watch this video (thanks to Ana for the link!).
  • People: You’ll find the hobbits of the Shire to be very accommodating and fond of a party, whereas the elves of places such as Lothlorien may be a little more… hostile. Dwarves may be a little distrusting of slightly taller tourists, but can definitely hold their drink and show you a good inn or two.
  • Language: the common tongue (Westron), Sindarin, Quenya, Khuzdul, Entish, Black Speech and many more.
  • Notable landmarks/places to visit: The gorgeous little town of Hobbiton in the Shire is sure to give a friendly welcome, if you’re lucky you might catch some fireworks shows! The Golden Wood or Lothlorien is certainly a sight to see, but difficult to enter. You might be better off visiting Rivendell, which is known as the Last Homely House and is much more open to visitors. Those into horseriding may want to give Edoras a visit. And if you’re a bit of a thrill-seeker, why not go whitewater rafting down the Falls of Rauros, or visit Mount Doom?

Hogsmeade, from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

hogsmeade

  • Climate: temperate, but it never fails to snow each winter!
  • People: no Muggles allowed. If you’re a Muggle, then – OBLIVIATE! Good, that’s all the Muggles gone. Hogsmeade is the only all-wizarding village in all of Great Britain.
  • Language: mostly English.
  • Notable landmarks/places to visit: the village of Hogsmeade is located right next to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, a beautiful example of wizarding architecture: very confusing. Staircases never lead to the same place, rooms appear and disappear, and watch out for that Disappearing Cabinet! Within the village itself, there is Honeydukes, the infamous sweet shop; the Three Broomsticks, owned by the very lovely Madame Rosmerta; Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Shop, a cosy get-away for adoring couples and many other wonderful places. There are even rumours of a branch of Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes opening up soon!

Westeros, from the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin

westeros

  • Climate: variable, from the boiling hot desertlands of Dorne to the freezing North, and everything in between.
  • People: Westeros has many noble families with very delicate alliances, as well as lesser nobility. Much of the population is not quite as fortunate. And if you dare venture beyond the Wall, there are the terrifying Wildlings!
  • Language: Low Valyrian (common tongue), Asshai, Summer Tongue, very occasionally High Valyrian.
  • Notable landmarks/places to visit: King’s Landing is the capital of the Seven Kingdoms, and the Red Keep within is certainly a sight to see. For those unafraid of heights or after an adrenaline rush, the Eyrie is highly recommended. Far to the North lies Winterfell, home to the Stark family, and if you travel even further north you will come across the Wall, a formidable defense between the Seven Kingdoms and the Wildlings. And if you cross the Narrow Sea and leave the land of Westeros, you will come to Essos, home to the Dothroki horselords and many great and beautiful cities. And perhaps a few dragons.

Do you fancy visiting any of these places? Where would your ‘fantasy holiday’ take you?