Thursday, September 21, 2017

"The Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power" by Jane Chance

There are several different places in this book where I wrote "mind = blown" because the nuances Jane Chance teased out of Tolkien's storytelling were so amazing.

I'm serious.  She brought up things I never, ever thought of, and I'm on my seventh reading of The Lord of the Rings.

I'm trying to find words to explain all the wonderful things I learned from this book, and I'm falling so short.  I'm going to have to re-read it again and again to really internalize and remember a lot of what I learned, but I'll share a couple of the things I found most interesting.

How about the fact that Denethor and Theoden's names are basically mirror images of each other?  Den-e-thor.  The-o-den.  And that their "leadership styles" are also mirrors -- one is a kind and loving leader who "commands through respect and love," and the other is a "tyrant [who] commands his followers by edict, rule, law" (p. 90).  HOW did I never notice this?

Or how about the fact that, while Gollum calls the Ring his "birthday present," it literally is Frodo's birthday present because Bilbo left it to him (along with Bag-End) on their shared birthday?  I mean, dude.  So amazing.  And again, now that I see it, that's so totally obvious, but it's not anything I ever thought of.

My favorite chapter was probably the one at the end, "Heroic Narrative and the Power of Structure."  I love studying the structure of myths and epics, also called the "hero's quest," and how they get used over and over in new and interesting ways.  I'd previously identified a lot of things in LOTR that draw from the classic myth structure, but I had never before noticed that "[i]n each of the three volumes, Tolkien matches the heroic structure of the initial book to that of the second book" (P. 19).  Which means for instance, that in book 1, everyone's at a great gathering at the beginning, Bilbo's party.  At the beginning of book 2, they're at the Council of Elrond.  In book 1, Frodo and friends go down into the valleys and encounter an ancient being who consumes some of them, Old Man Willow.  In book 2, they go down into Moria and encounter an ancient being who drags Gandalf away, the Balrog.  And on and on it goes.

Just fascinating stuff that I not only never noticed myself, but that I, as a writer, would never have come up with!  My appreciation for Tolkien as a writer and storyteller have grown so much while reading this book.

But this book is probably not for everyone.  If you don't enjoy analyzing texts, looking for deeper meanings, and somewhat scholarly pursuits like that, you probably wouldn't enjoy this book.  Certainly you can understand The Lord of the Rings without it.  But if you're like me and have read the trilogy quite a few times and enjoy peeling away layers to see the wordcraft and deeper meanings below a book's surface, I definitely recommend you try this book.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for some discussions of things like violence.  No bad language or anything like that.



I wrote this review as part of this year's Tolkien Blog Party.  If you haven't yet, check out the blog tag and giveaway and other posts for the party!



This is my eighth book read and reviewed for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2017.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Middle-earth Movie Songs Quiz

Here's the second party game I've come up with for this year's party!  I usually try to gear one toward people who are more familiar with the books, and one toward those who are more familiar with the movies, so here's one that involves the movies.  (And if you're familiar with both, then you are probably going to be good at both!)  These are the lyrics used in the movies, so although some of them might be in the books as well, I'm looking specifically for the lyrics sung in the movies.

Here are ten lines from songs used in Peter Jackson's six Middle-earth movies.  You have to supply the missing lyrics.  I'll post the answers and your scores on Saturday.

No fair looking them up online!  Leave your guesses in the comments.


1.  Now I see fire, inside the mountain.  I see fire burning the ___________.  ("I See Fire")

2.  May it be an _______ _______ shines down on you.  (2 words) ("May it Be")

3.  The tears we cry Are falling rain For all the _____ you told us.  ("Gollum's Song")

4.  Blunt the knives, bend the forks, Smash the ______ and burn the corks.  ("Blunt the Knives")

5.  You can drink your fancy ______, You can drink 'em by the flagon.  ("The Song of the Green Dragon")

6.  The _________ were roaring on the heights.  The winds were moaning in the night.  ("Misty Mountains")

7.  What can you see on the ____________?  Why do the white gulls call?  ("Into the West")

8.  Home is behind, the world ahead, and there are many _______ to tread.  ("Pippin's Song")

9.  But in dreams I still hear your _________.  And in dreams, we will meet again.  ("In Dreams")

10.  Many places I have been.  Many ____________ I have seen.  ("The Last Goodbye")

Randomly, I found this nice little piano version of "The Last Goodbye" on YouTube and thought I'd share.  Contains no lyrics, so listening to it here is not cheating!



Hope you've been enjoying this year's party so far!  This is the last game, but I've got another book review coming up yet.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

How Well Do You Know the Shire?

Time for our first party game!  The rules are simple:  put your guesses in a comment.  I've enabled comment moderation, and I won't publish people's guesses until after I've revealed the answers on Saturday.




1. The Brandywine River separates the Shire from ____________.

a. Buckland
b. Breeland
c. Mirkwood
d. Rohan


2.  The Shire is divided into four ______________.

a. Districts
b. Farthings
c. Quartos
d. Counties


3.  Bilbo Baggins (and later his cousin Frodo) lives in a hobbit hole called _______________.

a. Bagshot Row
b. Buckleberry Hole
c. Bottomless Barrow
d. Bag End


4.  In The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo Baggins sells his home and moves to a house called _______________.

a. Applethwait
b. Baggerlee
c. Crickhollow
d. Delft


5.  Bilbo Baggins lives in the village of ______________.

a. Hobbiton
b. Bree
c. Michel Delving
d. Bywater


6.  The hobbits have a museum called a "mathom house" in the town of _________________.

a. Hobbiton
b. Bree
c. Michel Delving
d. Bywater


7. The only brew for the brave and true comes from the ________________.

a. Sleeping Owl 
b. Green Dragon 
c. Prancing Pony
d. Ivy Bush


8. Peace in the Shire was traditionally kept by a voluntary group known as the _______________.

a. Shirriffs
b. Archers
c. Crows
d. Bandylegs


9.  The two main crossing points of the Brandywine River are the Brandywine Bridge and _____________.

a. Withywindle Ford
b. Longbottom Crossing
c. Bucklebury Ferry
d. Oldbrook Bridge


10.  Which of these is NOT a place in the Shire?

a. Willowbottom
b. Undertowers
c. Cobas Haven
d. Little Delving


Good luck!  



Monday, September 18, 2017

"Finding God in the Lord of the Rings" by Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware

This is a fantastic little book.  It goes through the whole trilogy in chronological order, pulling out events and examining them in the light of Christianity to see what they contain.  Faith, hope, love, sacrifice, redemption, grace, desire, fear, death, weakness, danger -- there are so many wonderful topics packed into this book!

While it's set up so you could use it as a devotional, reading one section a day, I didn't read it that way -- I gobbled it up as fast as I could, underlining and scribbling madly in the margins.  I'm teaching my niece high school lit again this year, and we're reading The Lord of the Rings together as our first project.  Delightful!  I'm drawing on this book for a lot of the themes we're discussing.

Particularly Good Bits:

Tolkien understood that our lives are part of a grand drama that both transcends and explains our experiences.  The drama's narrative infuses meaning into scenes and events that would otherwise seem arbitrary and meaningless.  Tolkien saw the adventure of our lives, like the adventure of his hobbits, as part of a story that began "once upon a time" and is moving toward its eventual "ever after" (p. xi).

C. S. Lewis believed that our desire for something better is a gift, a way of reminding us of what it is we lost and what it is we hope to regain (p. 2).

Tolkien saw our world as neither completely right nor completely wrong, but rather as a good that has been violated, a beauty marred.  He realized that the only way we can understand that which occurs within time is to view it within the context of that which occurred before and beyond time (p. 4).

The true forces of evil in our world are rarely haphazard or indiscriminate.  The occasional mad gunman notwithstanding, the history of mankind shows that the most destructive wickedness is devious and determined.  Violent insanity is far less trouble than diabolical brilliance (p. 18).

It is only when we humble ourselves by acknowledging that we don't know everything that we are able to learn from others (p. 22).

Middle-earth, in other words, is a hauntingly luminous mirror image of our world.  For we know that the world in which we live is a perilous place, a place where good and bad, light and dark, innocence and horror, glory and depravity march side by side and sleep back-to-back.  We forget this at times, of course.  In the course of our dull daily routines we often grow numbly accustomed to it all.  But there are those moments when we wake suddenly in the middle of the night and remember that we are, after all, surrounded by terrors (p. 33).

It is our human destiny to participate with God in the ongoing work of creation (p. 112).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  Absolutely clean and God-pleasing.



I wrote this review specifically for this year's Tolkien Blog Party.  If you haven't yet, check out the blog tag and enter the giveaway.  There will be more posts coming this week, including games and another Tolkien-related book review.



This is also my 7th book read and reviewed for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2017.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

A Tolkien Blog Party -- 2017

Can you believe this is our FIFTH Tolkien Blog Party?  I had no idea when I first came up with the idea back in 2013 that it would become an annual thing, but I'm so happy it has :-)



The Tolkien Tag 2017

As usual, it's time for you to copy these questions onto your own blog and answer them, add your post to the linky thingie here, and then raise your beverage of choice in a toast to Bilbo and Frodo -- their birthday is on Friday! Some of these are repeat questions from past parties, and some are new -- if you want to repeat some answers from a previous year, you may.

1. How long have you been a Tolkien fan?
2. Has your love of Middle-earth affected your life?
3. If you had to take the One Ring to Mordor, which character would you choose for your sole companion?
4. Which is scarier, Shelob or the Balrog?
5. Which two towers do you think Tolkien was referring to in the title The Two Towers?  (i.e. Orthanc, Barad-dûr, Cirith Ungol, Minas Morgul, or Minas Tirith)
6. Whose wardrobe would you like to have?
7. What do you think an Ent Draught would taste like?
8. Where in Middle-earth would you like to live?
9. Do you have any Tolkien-related opinions that surprise other people?
10. List up to ten of your favorite lines/quotations from the books or movies.

Here is the linky thing:



Once you've filled out the tag and added the link to your post, check out other people's posts and make some new friends.  And don't forget to enter the giveaway right here!  And check back all week for more fun -- I've got some Tolkien-related games and book reviews coming up.

Giveaway for the 2017 Tolkien Blog Party

Hobbits give presents to their guests on their birthdays instead of receiving them, so maybe I should be a hobbit after all -- I do love giving things away!  I've got some very cool prizes this year, if I do say so myself.  Here they are!  Because this is my FIFTH Tolkien Blog Party, I got rather celebratory and so... there are quite a few this year.


TWO sets of four postcards each featuring Middle-Earth locations
Erebor, Edoras, Rivendell, and Minas Tirith
(I will draw two winners, each will receive one set of 4 postcards)
ONE set of three stickers with cool Tolkien quotations

ONE set of three Gandalf stickers

ONE set of three hobbit hole stickers

ONE set of three Bard the Bowman stickers
A USED copy of the BBC's full-cast dramatization of The Hobbit on four CDs.
I bought this used from my library -- I have not listened to all the discs,
but disc one plays just fine in my CD player.

A USED copy of Tolkien Trivia -- in excellent condition!

Four necklaces made by me!  I will draw FOUR winners for these and give
ONE necklace to each of those winners.  They are themed as follows:
1. Hobbits -- mallorn leaf, green stone, "hope" pendant
2. Rohirrim -- "freedom" pendant, earth-colored stone, horse
3. Aragorn -- "Not all those who wander are lost" pendant, green stone
4. Lonely Mountain -- key, Arkenstone-like stone, dragon

This giveaway is open WORLDWIDE.  I'm mailing these all myself, and most of them are small, so no matter where you live in this wide world, you are welcome to enter.


The main way to gain entries is to participate in the party, in other words, to copy the questions I posted (here) and answer them on your own blog, then add your post's link to the Mister Linky widget at the bottom of that official party kick-off post. But that isn't required! You can also earn entries by telling me your prize choices and by commenting elsewhere on my blog.  I do my best to match winners with their choice of prizes, but that doesn't always work out -- that's why I ask for your top three choices.


This giveaway runs through the end of Friday, September 22. I will draw the winners on Saturday, September 23 and post the names of the winners that day, as well a notify them by email.

PLEASE make sure your information for the giveaway widget includes your current email address so that if you win a prize, you'll get the email informing you that you won! If you don't reply to my email by Saturday, September 30, I will choose another winner and award your prize to them instead.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

"The Case of the Missing Marquess" by Nancy Springer

Eva from Coffee, Classics, and Craziness recommended this series to me because she knows I love Sherlock Holmes and good middle-grade fiction.  Thanks, Eva!  This was a fun, fast read.

Enola Holmes is the much, much, much younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes.  While they're off pursuing their adult lives in London, she's growing up footloose and free in the country.  Or she was.  Their mother disappears on Enola's fourteenth birthday, and none of the Holmes siblings can figure out where she's gone.

Sherlock and Mycroft are appalled at the non-ladylike behavior of their little sister and determine to send her to boarding school so she can have a proper upbringing.  Enola has been taught to fear things like corsets and male authority by her proto-feminist mother, and she runs away, determined to find her missing parent.  Instead, she gets tangled up in the mystery of a runaway aristocrat and succeeds where her famous brothers fail.

The idea of Sherlock Holmes having a younger sister amused me greatly, and I really liked Enola as a character.  I didn't enjoy the almost militant feminist overtones quite so much, and the book as a whole fell just a little into the trap of "let's make our detective look smarter by making everyone else kind of dim" that a lot of Holmes pastiches get snared in.  However, I'm pretty sure I'll try another book in the series to see if I like it better.

Particularly Good Bits:

Lead-coloured clouds hung low while the setting sun oozed molten light between them; the Gothic towers of the city stood festive yet foreboding against that glowering sky, like candles on the Devil's birthday cake (p. 141).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for repeated mentions of ladies-of-the-evening and fairly delicate allusions to how they make their living.  That's why I'd call this "middle-grade fiction" and not "junior fiction."  No bad language or other objectionable material, though.