A Novel Experiment is a new feature of mine where I try some experimental reading over the space of a month or so, and then report back at the end of the month. What is experimental reading, you may ask? My goal is to try different ways of reading, such as reading only ebooks, only one genre, only non-fiction etc, for a month, and then see whether it affects how much and how eagerly I read. Obviously this is not going to be something I repeat every month, but rather every couple of months or so.
For the month of May, I’ve decided to try sticking to a monthly TBR list, meaning I can only read pre-selected books. It’s a good way to get through review copies and new releases, and I was inspired by Amber when she started posting them. It will be interesting, especially since I’m quite a big mood reader.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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 🙂
As many of you probably know, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien is one of my absolute favourite books – I even wrote a post about how much I love it. I normally read it once a year, and have done since the age of 10, but have missed the past few years. I’ve been planning a buddy read of the books with my Goodreads book group, Dragons & Jetpacks, and thought I’d use the occasion to create an event on the blog.
Therefore, the month of March will be dedicated to celebrating Tolkien and his works set in Middle-earth!
I’m not planning on the event being quite as intense or huge as Sci-Fi Month, but I’d love for others to join in! Also unlike Sci-Fi Month, my blog won’t be filled with only content relating to this – I’ll still be posting other things. Right now the only post I know I will have for sure is my The Fellowship of the Ring read-along/discussion, but here are some ideas for posts (as much as for myself as for those who want to take part!):
Read-alongs of Tolkien’s work set in Middle-earth (or join in with my Buddy Read!)
Reviews of Tolkien’s works, or works of those who have listed him as an inspiration
Discussions of film adaptations
A look at the various video games based in Middle-earth
Discussions of Tolkien’s influence on the fantasy genre or other authors, or what he himself was influenced by
Discussions of the inhabitants of Middle-earth
If you’re interested in joining, please leave a comment on this post and add your name to the Linky below!
All through 2015, I seemed to tell myself I would soon re-read certain books and series, but I never got round to re-reading any of them. So I’m determined to make 2016 the year that I re-read these series – and why not host some readalongs/discussions so that others can join in on reading these with me?
I’d love to know if any of my readers would be interested in joining in with readalongs or discussions of these books, whether you’d be reading them for the first time, or re-reading. Let me know in the comments below! 🙂
Would you be interested in joining any of these re-reads/readalongs? Are there any books that you really want to re-read?
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.
This particular topic is going to become a sort of sub-feature of Prose & Pixels. It is based on a Tumblr account I ran a few years ago, which is now closed. I want to show just how detailed The Lord of the Rings Online is, by illustrating excerpts from the book with screenshots from the game. I’ve previously spoken about how much detail the developers have added, including so many tiny features that you wouldn’t notice unless you looked closely, or other things that may only be familiar to the biggest fans.
“The riches [Bilbo] had brought back from his travels had now become a local legend, and it was popularly believed, whatever the old folk might say, that the Hill at Bag End was full of tunnels stuffed with treasure.” — Chapter I: A Long Expected Party, The Fellowship of the Ring
Bag End is located at the top of the Hill, overlooking the Party Tree. Players are able to enter Bag End and look through several rooms – although many others are blocked off by piles of furniture. Who knows what lies down those tunnels?
The Ivy Bush Inn
“… The Ivy Bush, a small inn on the Bywater Road…” — Chapter I: A Long Expected Party, The Fellowship of the Ring
LOTRO has many inns and pubs for your character to visit, and several of which have unique ales and wines. You are able to ‘drink’ these, and the more you drink, the drunker your character becomes. You hear them start to sing and hiccup, and your screen becomes blurry and shaky for a short period. My hobbit Isolde sampled the Ivy Bush’s 1404 Vintage, which put her in a very jolly mood…
“… [Gaffer Gamgee] had tended the garden at Bag End for forty years, and had helped old Holman in the same job before that. Now he was himself growing old and stiff in the joints, the job was mainly carried on by his youngest son, Sam Gamgee. Both father and son were on very friendly terms with Bilbo and Frodo. They lived on the Hill itself, in Number 3 Bagshot Row, just below Bag End.” — Chapter I: A Long Expected Party, The Fellowship of the Ring
Just as described, Bagshot Row is located down the Hill from Bag End. You can even talk to Gaffer Gamgee, who sells tools and consumables for the Farming skill.
This is just a small preview of the detail included in the game – I will be sharing more and more throughout these posts, some things so tiny that you really wouldn’t notice them unless you were looking out for them specifically.
Have you ever played Lord of the Rings Online? Are there any particular locations you’d like me to find in the game?