Category Archive '“The Lord of the Rings”'
08 Mar 2018

If Michel Foucault, Noam Chomsky, and Frantz Fanon Had Been at Rivendell…

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07 Aug 2017

Criticizing Tolkien’s Map

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Alex Acks is a geologist who thinks J.R. Tolkien, where geology is concerned, is an excellent scholar of linguistics.

I’m good with the mountain ranges on the west coast of the map. I can pretend that Eriador is like the California of Middle-earth, and it’s a nice active margin—I will just ignore that my housemate, who unlike me has completed the Silmarillion slog, has disabused me of that notion. And I can buy the placement of the Misty Mountains, again as a continent-continent collision, perhaps, even if there should be a lot more shenanigans going on then, in terms of elevation. But when you throw in the near perpendicular north and south mountain ranges? Why are there corners? Mountains don’t do corners.

And Mordor? Oh, I don’t even want to talk about Mordor.

Tectonic plates don’t tend to collide at neat right angles, let alone in some configuration as to create a nearly perfect box of mountains in the middle of a continent. I’ve heard the reasoning before that suggests Sauron has made those mountains somehow, and I suppose right angles are a metaphor for the evil march of progress, but I don’t recall that being in the books I read. And ultimately, this feels a lot like defending the cake in the song MacArthur Park as a metaphor—okay fine, maybe it’s a metaphor…but it’s a silly metaphor that makes my geologist heart cry tears of hematite.

Mount Doom, I’m more likely to give a pass to, since it’s obviously a place of great magic. But geologically, it posits a mantle plume creating a hot spot under Mordor—since that’s the only way you’re going to get a volcano away from subduction or rifting zones, and I’ve already called shenanigans on Mordor being either of those. And the hallmark of hot spot volcanism is that you get chains of volcanoes, with the youngest being the active volcano and the older ones normally quiescent. This is caused by the tectonic plates moving over the hot spot; examples include the Juan Fernández Ridge, the Tasmantid Seamount Chain, and the Hawaiian Islands (more properly called the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain). You’ll notice most hot spots can be found in the oceans, because there’s more ocean on Earth than land, and also the crust is thinner there, so a hot spot causes volcanism much more readily. On continents, you’re more likely to get dike swarms (e.g.: the Mackenzie dike swarm in Nunavet, Canada) where magma filters into cracks and weak spots between formations and remains underground until unroofed by erosion—or chains of massive volcanic calderas like the ones you see ranging from Yellowstone to the Valles Caldera in the US.

Okay, so maybe Mount Doom is from a really young hot spot and there’s been no drift since it started. That’s the best I’ve got for you. It’s better than the nonsensical border mountains.

27 Jul 2017

Leftist Orc Reads Tolkien

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He finds a political subtext in LOTR And Damien Walter disapproves.

Tolkien’s myths are profoundly conservative. Both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings turn on the “return of the king” to his rightful throne. In both cases this “victory” means the reassertion of a feudal social structure which had been disrupted by “evil”. Both books are one-sided recollections made by the Baggins family, members of the landed gentry, in the Red Book of Westmarch – an unreliable historical source if ever there was one. A balanced telling might well have shown Smaug to be much more of a reforming force in the valley of Dale.

And of course Sauron doesn’t even get to appear on the page in The Lord of the Rings, at least not in any form more substantial than a huge burning eye, exactly the kind of treatment one would expect in a work of propaganda.

We’re left to take on trust from Gandalf, a manipulative spin doctor, and the Elves, immortal elitists who kill humans and hobbits for even entering their territory, when they say that the maker of the one ring is evil. Isn’t it more likely that the orcs, who live in dire poverty, actually support Sauron because he represents the liberal forces of science and industrialisation, in the face of a brutally oppressive conservative social order?

The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings aren’t fantasies because they feature dragons, elves and talking trees. They’re fantasies because they mythologise human history, ignoring the brutality and oppression that were part and parcel of a world ruled by men with swords. But we shouldn’t be surprised that the wish to return to a more conservative society, one where people knew their place, is so popular. It’s the same myth that conservative political parties such as Ukip have always played on: the myth of a better world that has been lost, but can be reclaimed by turning back the clock.


28 Mar 2017

George Washington, Hobbit

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Detail: Arnold Friberg, The Prayer at Valley Forge, 1976.

Jefferson Shupe sees a strong resemblance between George Washington and Frodo,

On an estate in Northern Virginia, there lived a hobbit.

He lived in the countryside and liked to keep to himself. He was slow to make speeches or draw attention. He loved things that grow and preferred quiet evenings at home to far-away adventures.

His name was George Washington.

No, he didn’t fit the visual hobbit stereotype. He was 6’2″, wore shoes, and we have no record of him visiting Middle Earth even once. But hobbits are curious things, and given his life and his choices, he may have been one all the same.

Read the whole thing.

17 May 2016

“It’s Over Gandalf. We Need to Unite Behind Saruman to Save Middle Earth from Sauron!”

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Greywolfe359, at Daily Kos, explains the necessity of uniting behind the only possible leader (even though that leader, too, might be evil) in order to avoid the rise to power of a leader we know to be evil. He obviously was addressing lefties supporting Hillary in order to stop Trump, but it works pretty nicely the other way, too, doesn’t it?

Gandalf failed. He got his ass locked up atop Saruman’s tower when he foolishly defied the head of the… council of wizards. And now that he’s locked up it’s not like some eagle is going to magically appear and rescue him. It’s over. And now Saruman is our only hope against Sauron.

We need to stop saying nasty things about Saruman or it will be difficult to rally the people of Middle Earth to his side. Here are some things we should no longer mention, or if we do, we should put a positive spin on them so people will still see Saruman is our only hope.

    Saruman’s Environmental Record: While it is true that Saruman has supported clear cutting huge ancient forests, and while an old hippie tree hugger like Treebeard might tell you lots of those trees were his friends, we ARE talking about trees here. And sure, Gandalf has a much better record on the environment but he’s done now. It’s time to focus on how much worse Sauron’s environmental record is. I mean, have you seen Mordor?

    Saruman’s Being in League With the Dark Lord: Okay, okay. It’s true. Saruman did [invite Sauron to his] wedding. But that was a LONG time ago when Sauron still had both eyes. And fake hair. It’s also true that Saruman may have promised to do the dark lord’s bidding and to find the ring of power and give it to Sauron. But c’mon! You know Saruman was just doing that because he plans to ultimately betray Sauron after he’s done betraying us!

    Saruman Actively Seeks Out the Ring of Power, and the Ring of Power Has Only One Master and Is Evil. Gandalf says that is evidence you have to refuse to have anything at all to do with the Super PrACious at all. His biggest criticism of Saruman is that Saruman plans to try and use the ring. But that’s just an artful smear on Gandalf’s part, implying that Saruman doesn’t have the integrity to be totally uninfluenced by the speaking fees one ring once he accepts it!

    Saruman Has Instigated Pre-Emptive War That Has Killed Thousands: Look, he only did that to prove his loyalty and toughness to Sauron so he could get some of that sweet, sweet ring of power. You know, the power we can totally trust him to use AGAINST Sauron later. Sometimes you have to burn a few villages in Rohan to save the world. Besides, it was all a misunderstanding. Saruman glimpsed in the palantir and thought he saw a spear of mass destruction being constructed at Helm’s Deep. Cause you can totally trust what Sauron chooses to show you in the palantir.

So now you all have your talking points. Let’s get out there and whip up support for Saruman! Saruman is the wisest and most powerful of the wizards and has the most experience! Saruman will not be influenced at all by the Super PrACious ring of power and will instead use its might to betray the one who made it. He totally is going to betray Sauron and not us.

Read the whole thing.

21 Mar 2015

A Different Viewpoint


12 Nov 2014

“I Will Take the Ring to Mordor!”



08 Mar 2014

Two Tolkien Fan Films

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Did you know that there was a fan-made 38 minute long Lord of the Rings prequel out there already seen by over ten million viewers? I had not.

The Hunt for Gollum 38:31


One thing leads to another and I soon found that there is also Born of Hope (2009) 71 minutes.

03 Feb 2014

Recipe for Lembas

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“Eat little at a time, and only at need. For these things are given to serve you when all else fails. The cakes will keep sweet for many many days, if they are unbroken and left in their leaf-wrappings, as we have brought them. One will keep a traveler on his feet for a day of long labour, even if he be one of the tall men of Minas Tirith.”
The Fellowship of the Ring, “Farewell to Lorien.”

You can find all sorts of things on the Internet including, as I discovered via Facebook yesterday, a French recipe blog, delightfully titled La cuisine de mes humeurs!, which includes an entire section on recipes for dishes allegedly originating in Middle Earth (Les Terres Du Milieu), including such tempting offerings as Tarte aux fruits rouges façon hobbit, Le gratin du Mordor, Les bouchées elfiques, La truite au four façon Gondor, and even Lembas, le pain de route elfique.

My translation of the Lemas recipe goes:

For 5 lembas, you need:

3 tablespoons crushed almonds

3 tablespoons crushed hazelnuts

3 tablespoons pine nuts

3 tablespoons unsalted sunflower seeds

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon crushed garlic

1 egg

1 tablespoon Forest Honey

1 section squeezed tangerine

1 teaspoon cardamom

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon table salt

30g unsalted butter

144g of whole wheat flour

NB : The whole wheat flour gives the bread a tan color, if you prefer, you may use white flour.

Grind the pine nuts and sunflower seeds with a pestle. Melt the butter and mix with the flour in a bowl. Add the egg, before attempting to break the egg, say the Elven prayer: “In May ninista” which means “I am well aware of that,” for indeed, the elves do not like having to take an animal’s life, even if it is only in the form of an egg! If you cannot pronounce the Sindarin, say “I see you.” I think that also works ;-)

Add forest honey and the juice of a section of tangerine (squeezed by hand). In another bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and mix with the dough, kneading well. Form a ball of dough and chill for 15 minutes in the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 180° C (310° F) Spread your dough 1 cm thick and cut into squares. Incise a diagonal cut on each square and then say: “Alamenë” which simply means “Go with my blessing.” This will help travelers who eat the bread on the road. I can not guarantee that this works but why not take the risk of trying it? :-)

Bake about 25 minutes, the bread is lightly brown but not risen. Take it out of the oven and allow it to cool. Meanwhile wash the leaves and dry them on a clean cloth. Finally, finish your lembas by folding the leaf around the loaf.

(The elves use large leaves from the mallorne, also called the golden tree, which is found today in Lothlórien. For a substitute, you must choose large solid and flexible leaves, which most importantly must be non-toxic. … I use the leaves of an old magnolia that grows near the woods where I played as a child. … Remember to rinse the leaves with clear water and dry them on a clean cloth.)

The Elven bread keeps for weeks and months and is incorruptible, a quality we hobbits, men, dwarves, and other creatures devoid of elven powers cannot reproduce. It is principally due to the mallorne leaves which protect the bread so that it does not become moldy. Your bread will, however, only remain edible and good for three days, if you protect it from damp and excessive heat.

27 Jan 2014

Sidewalk Evangelism

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22 Jan 2014

Stop Bullying in Middle Earth

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01 Dec 2013

Another Air New Zealand Middle Earth Commercial

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21 Nov 2013

Air New Zealand Safety Video

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Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.

03 Apr 2013

Cursed Roman Ring Which Inspired Tolkien Goes On Display

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A Roman ring, found in a farmer’s field (presumably part of what was once the Roman town Calleva Atrebatum) near Silchester, Hampshire in 1785 in some unknown manner wound up preserved in the library of The Vyne, a stately 16th century home belonging (until 1958, damn Socialism!) to the Chute family.

The ring bears an image of Venus and a Latin inscription. That inscription apparently connects the ring to a Latin curse tablet found by Sir Mortimer Wheeler in an excavation of a temple complex associate with the god Nodens at Lydney Park in Gloucestershire.

The lead curse tablet read:


For the god Nodens. Silvianus has lost a ring and has donated one-half [its worth] to Nodens. Among those named Senicianus permit no good-health until it is returned to the temple of Nodens.

Sir Mortimer Wheeler in 1929 apparently consulted with J.R.R. Tolkien at Oxford about the natural hypothesis that the Silchester ring, with the inscription “SENI???”, might be the very same ring Silvianus had lost.

Tolkien took an interest in the matter, visited the Gloucestershire temple complex several times, and made a point of looking into the etymology of the name of the god Nodens.

It is believed today that it was this real world story of a lost, and very improbably rediscovered, gold ring, bearing an inscription, and weighted with a curse that may very well have been the inspiration of the One Ring featured in The Hobbit which appeared in 1937.

In any event, the Silchester ring is now being put on display by the combined efforts of the Tolkien Society and the National Trust in a newly-established “Ring Room” in The Vyne.

BBC story

The Register

National Trust page

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