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J.R.R. Tolkien

This tag is associated with 21 posts

Trenches of the Black Land.

The descriptions of battle scenes in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ seem lifted from the grim memories of the trenches: the relentless artillery bombardment, the whiff of mustard gas, the bodies of dead soldiers discovered in craters of mud. In the Siege of Gondor, hateful orcs are ‘digging, digging lines of deep trenches in a huge ring,’ while others maneuver ‘great engines for the casting of missiles.'”

In the NYT, author and historian Joseph Loconte writes on the impact of the Battle of the Somme on young J.R.R. Tolkien. “When the Somme offensive was finally called off in November 1916, a total of about 1.5 million soldiers were dead or wounded.” (Among the deceased: my great-grandfather, Alfred Amory Sullivan.)

The Shadow from Ekkaia.

“Outerra…is a ‘3D planetary engine’ that purports to be able to render a world in full detail, from space all the way down to pebbles on the surface. Meanwhile, Steve Edwards and Carl Lingard created the ME-DEM (Middle-earth Digital Elevation Model) Project in 2006, with the ultimate goal of rendering the entirety of Middle-earth in open-source data. Last year, they exported their data into the Outerra engine.”

Also in world-building news from Wired, Middle Earth as seen from space. As another Wired writer aptly noted on Twitter, Mordor looks like it was probably an impact crater.

Counsel of the Council.

“If You Like It, Don’t Put a Ring on It.” By way of Hal at Blivet, a decently funny collection of Middle Earth PSA and propaganda posters.

Mithrandir Falls.

“Understand, Frodo, I would use this Ring from the desire to do good. But through me, it would wield a power too great and terrible to imagine.” Frodo wasn’t the only one who failed: Artist Benjamin Collison imagines a Gandalf the Black, in thrall to the One Ring. Rather than a simple wraith, I think he’d be more of his own unique evil, a la Fritz Lang’s Galadriel. But to each his own.

The Eyes of the White Tower.

“Consider the basic premise of Tolkien’s trilogy: a small group of dedicated subversives willing to sacrifice their lives slips in under the surveillance system of a great power, blends in with an alien population, and delivers a devastating blow to the heart of its empire, leaving its security forces in disarray and its populace terrified. Even a tower or two crumbles to dust.”

You know of what I speak, Snowden…a Great Eye, lidless, wreathed in flame. From the bookmarks, academics David Rosen and Aaron Santesso employ Tolkien to explain the modern surveillance state. “[I]n Sauron, Tolkien is able to imagine a figure of godlike power and seemingly infinite resources, but crippling interpretive fallibility.”

A bit overwrought, perhaps, but food for thought. And they neglected to mention another telling similarity: The hearts of Men are easily corrupted.

Shireland Security.

“A GCHQ historian, who would not give his name for security reasons, said: ‘JRR Tolkien is known the world over for his novels, but his involvement with the war effort may take a few people by surprise.’” By way of Ed Rants, it seems J.R.R. Tolkien was briefly trained in the art of code-breaking at the Government Codes and Cypher School (GCCS), and was even approached to partake in the Council of Turing in the fields of Bletchley, where presumably his linguistic skills would help in deciphering the Black Speech of the Enemy.

John, son of Arthur, however, took the hobbit’s route…this time. “While he didn’t sign up as was probably intended, he did complete three days’ training and was ‘keen’ to do more. Why he failed to join remains a mystery. There is no paperwork suggesting a motive, so we can only assume that he wanted to concentrate on his writing career.” Perhaps he feared the seductive power of the Palantir, or perhaps he simply had had enough of war.

That’s what Bilbo Baggins Hates.

“The Tolkien trustees do not file lawsuits lightly, and have tried unsuccessfully to resolve their claims out of court,” Steven Maier, an attorney for the Tolkien estate based in Britain, said in a statement. ‘New Line has not paid the plaintiffs even one penny of its contractual share of gross receipts despite the billions of dollars of gross revenue generated by these wildly successful motion pictures.’” Uh oh. The Tolkien estate sues New Line Cinema, putting the potential Hobbit films at risk. “The plaintiffs seek more than $150 million in compensatory damages, unspecified punitive damages and a court order giving the Tolkien estate the right to terminate any rights New Line may have to make films based on other works by the author, including ‘The Hobbit.’” Obviously, this thing has to go to trial, but in light of PJ’s earlier suit, one has to wonder: What the hell has New Line been up to?

The Monster and its Critic.

“Zemeckis took the oldest and most important text of our ur-language, and turned it into a 3-D Disneyland ride so cheesy he should have called it ‘Anglo-Saxons of the Caribbean.’…But the ‘Beowulf’ travesty is especially glaring, because of the obvious contrast with another work that mined the same ancient field: J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings.’” Taking issue with the “plastic entertainment‘ that is Zemeckis’ Beowulf much more than I did, Salon‘s Gary Kamiya movingly explains what Tolkien understood about the poem, and how it informed his own work. “Tolkien’s brilliant essay can be seen as a ringing defense not just of ‘Beowulf,’ but of the work he was soon to embark on, another great tower composed of ancient stones. And the themes of lateness, of heroic loss, being caught between one age and another (his world is not called ‘Middle-earth’ for nothing), are the deepest and most sublime parts of his own epic.

A Tale of the First Age.

As noted here last September, Christopher Tolkien has completed one of his father’s earliest works, The Children of Hurin, for publication — It comes out tomorrow. “Already told in fragmentary form in ‘The Silmarillion,’ which appeared in 1977, the new book is darker than ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ for which Tolkien is best known…The story is set long before ‘The Lord of the Rings’ in a part of Middle-earth that was drowned before Hobbits ever appeared, and tells the tragic tale of Turin and his sister Nienor who are cursed by Morgoth, the first Dark Lord.

Update: “I came away from ‘The Children of Hurin’ with a renewed appreciation for the fact that Tolkien’s overarching narrative is much more ambiguous in tone than is generally noticed…What sits in the foreground is that persistent Tolkienian sense that good and evil are locked in an unresolved Manichaean struggle with amorphous boundaries, and that the world is a place of sadness and loss, whose human inhabitants are most often the agents of their own destruction.Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir favorably reviews Tolkien’s dark new tome.

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