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Middle-earth Reflections

Essays on the works of J. R. R. Tolkien

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Middle-earth

Five accurate reviews of The Hobbit written 80 years ago.

When The Hobbit came out on September 21, 1937, it caused a great interest among readers and critics alike. Among all the reviews published in the time following the release of the book, there were favourable alongside a few unfavourable ones. Some reviewers simply described the story while others had a lot more to say about Mr Bilbo Baggins and his adventures. Let us have a look at the selection from the latter category. Continue reading “Five accurate reviews of The Hobbit written 80 years ago.”

Tolkien inspirations /// On autumn.

Autumn is the season which many deeply love. Good, dry autumn is, indeed, a magical time of year. The air is crisp, clear and the smells are rich, musky. Leaves change their colour so that the palette of red, yellow and golden is pleasing for the eye and senses. Autumn is yet another proof that nature is a gifted painter and that her choices of colour are always good. Continue reading “Tolkien inspirations /// On autumn.”

What makes The Hobbit special?

In September 2017 The Hobbit celebrates its 80th birthday. Since being released in 1937 the book has been enchanting readers all over the world – both children and grown-ups, and has joined the ranks of world classics. As it happens with many books that are in for a legendary fate, The Hobbit did not seem to be especially planned for writing or publication. The written-down story began on the spur of the moment as Tolkien was marking examination papers and, turning over one of them and finding a blank page there, he wrote: In the hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Upon many occasions later the Professor admitted that he did not know or remember clearly why he wrote this line, but these ten words began the life of what would later became one of the most favourite and best books in literature Continue reading “What makes The Hobbit special?”

Language notes /// On Fingon.

Among the characters in The Silmarillion one of the most renowned for his deeds of valour and nobility was Fingolfin’s eldest son Fingon. Named the Valiant, Fingon won great honour for his glorious feats and showed himself as a person of real courage.

Continue reading “Language notes /// On Fingon.”

“One who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters”.

One who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters.

(Two Towers, p. 203)

Aragorn’s words to Pippin on returning a Lórien brooch to the Hobbit reflect one of the fundamental concepts of the whole Tolkien Legendarium: it is dangerous to become unhealthily possessive of something as it can lead a character to either death, or moral downfall, or both. Fëanor grew proud and possessive of the Silmarils and turned into a rebel, who led himself and his people into dire perils and the wrath of the Valar. Morgoth became addicted to Arda in his desire to control it, and dissipated his powers only to be reduced to a pitiful, weakened state. The One Ring ensnared the wills of most of those taking it into their possession and changed them beyond recognition. Inability or, in some cases, unwillingness to disentangle from all these treasures when necessary caused the ruin of many characters. Continue reading ““One who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters”.”

Feline fall from favour: cats turn villains in Tolkien’s stories.

In the letter sent to Allen & Unwin in reply to a cat-breeder, who wished to use names from The Lord of the Rings to name her cats, Tolkien famously said: “I fear that to me Siamese cats belong to the fauna of Mordor….” (Letter 219).  It is hard to tell whether the Professor’s comment referred only to the cats of this particular breed, or expressed his general attitude towards felines, but cats in Tolkien’s literary works are presented mostly in a negative light.  Continue reading “Feline fall from favour: cats turn villains in Tolkien’s stories.”

Challenged with a song.

The significance of songs in Middle-earth has long been established. By including poetry and verse into his books, Tolkien assigned different roles to them: transmission of historical information, telling of tales, giving messages. There are a lot of songs that give a sense of continuity and connect the events in Middle-earth throughout the times, linking the Ages of Arda together and showing how interdependent they are. A special place is given to the songs of challenge. Continue reading “Challenged with a song.”

Enchanted by the stream.

There is one stream there, I know, black and strong which crosses the path. That you should neither drink of, nor bathe in; for I have heard that it carries enchantment and a great drowsiness and forgetfulness.

(Hobbit, p. 155)  Continue reading “Enchanted by the stream.”

Melkor and Manwë: like night and day.

Manwë and Melkor were brethren in the thought of Ilúvatar.

The mightiest of those Ainur who came into the World

was in his beginning Melkor; but Manwë

is dearest to Ilúvatar and understands most clearly his purposes.

(Silmarillion, p. 16) Continue reading “Melkor and Manwë: like night and day.”

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