Wanted: Guest Posts for Tolkien Reading Event (March 2017)

Tolkien Reading Event 2017

During March 2017, Pages Unbound will be running our fourth Tolkien Reading Event.  Every year on March 25, the Tolkien Society celebrates Tolkien Reading Day, and we like to expand on the event by hosting several days’ worth of Tolkien-related content.  We have had some wonderful guest posts in the past and would like to invite you to submit a guest post this year.

Update: The Tolkien Society has announced that the 2017 theme will be Poetry and Songs in Tolkien’s Fiction.

Post Options

The Tolkien Reading Event is open to a wide variety of posts.  In previous events, we have featured everything from book reviews to quizzes to serious literary criticism.   Pitch us an idea for any type of post you would like!  You can also review books and movies that have been featured before; we love new perspectives! See a full list of past posts here.

If you need ideas, we are particularly open to posts about:

  • the official theme: poetry and songs in Tolkien’s fiction
  • any aspect of The Silmarillion
  • the art of Middle-Earth
  • a tour of your Tolkien collection (books or merchandise)
  • The Story of Kullervo (or Tolkien and the Kalevala)
  • Tolkien’s influence on other fantasy works
  • Tolkien’s villains
  • your personal journey reading Tolkien
  • reviews of books about (not by) Tolkien
  • reflections on Tolkien’s “minor” works (Farmer Giles of Ham, Smith of Wooton Major, Roverandom)

Details

If you are interested in participating, please fill out the Google form below.  We will begin the event on Monday, March 20, and so would like to receive guest posts by March 13.  We will contact everyone with final details around that time (such as what day your guest post will be scheduled).  Please feel free to spread the word to fellow Tolkien fans!

Update: We had a couple questions about post length. We have no specific target length, just however long you feel you need to address the topic.

*LOTR clip art by Nesca at CuteGraphicSupply.

Tolkien Talk: Stephanie from Chasm of Books

Tolkien Event 2016

As part of our Tolkien Reading Celebration, we’ll be interviewing different bloggers about their love for Tolkien and what makes his works so special for them.


Stephanie is the mind behind Chasm of Books and takes great pleasure in revisiting the works of Tolkien over and over again. She considers herself a great champion of Nicole Castroman’s debut novel, Blackhearts, and dabbles in photography while working towards obtaining an associates in Marketing. By day she is a QA Analyst; by night she is a blogger and a writer with many ambitions.

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Tell us about yourself! How did you come to love Tolkien and what do you enjoy reading about his works?

My first experience with Tolkien was The Hobbit. My older brother convinced me to read it, probably after I watched The Fellowship of the Ring movie. Shockingly, I actually didn’t enjoy it that much, but one chapter in particular caught my eye: “Riddles in the Dark.” From there, I decided to read The Fellowship of the Ring. Tolkien’s work is uniquely inspirational. The more I learn about his process, the more inspired I am. His writing is precise and striking. He could be writing about the most horrible thing one moment, but switch to describing the most beautiful scene in just a few words.

What’s one thing you learned from Tolkien you think everyone else should know?

Never give up. I began learning about the process Tolkien went through to create The Lord of the Rings and Middle Earth itself and I couldn’t be more impressed. If anyone can teach you to never give up, it would have to be him. The massive amount of changes he made to the first chapter itself are breathtaking. It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re working on a long project. Tolkien taught me to enjoy the journey and keep at it.

Tell us about one of your favorite passages or scenes.

There are quite a few passages I love; I could search The Lord of the Rings trilogy for quite some time trying to choose one. The wisdom and truth in those pages is amazing; but I’d have to say that “Riddles in the Dark” remains a firm favorite of mine. It was one of the first scenes I read growing up that creeped me out. Just thinking about Bilbo in the Mines of Moria exchanging riddles with Gollum in an attempt to live… that is chilling.

Do you have any Tolkien confessions?

It took me years to finish The Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time. It took me approximately a year to finish each book after I’d started it and I took long breaks between each book. I used to have to tell people that it wasn’t taking me that long because it wasn’t good (still do sometimes).

If you could visit any place in Middle Earth, where would you go?

Oh gosh. What a question. I’m caught between The Shire and Rivendell. Perhaps I’d have to say Rivendell. I just think it’d be such a peaceful and beautiful place to be. Although, if I could stay

Ten Reasons You Should Read The Silmarillion

Tolkien Event 2016

 

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Life, Death, and Immortality. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring guest posts and interviews!


Introduction

Tolkien’s Silmarillion has a reputation for being difficult to wade through, from accusations of being filled with characters possessing multiple names to criticism of its high style.  The Silmarillion, however, is a work full of beauty and wonder, and, with some perseverance, perhaps not so difficult to finish as some would have you believe.  Not sure what’s in store for you if you try it?  Below are some reasons to rethink what you think you know about Tolkien’s work.

First, what is The Silmarillion?

The Silmarillion is J. R. R. Tolkien’s early mythology of the world of Arda, which contains Middle-earth as well as other lands. It explains the creation of the world, the rise and fall of the first Dark Lord, the early history of the Elves and the Dwarves, and the supernatural beings who watch over Arda.

Why has it been criticized?

J. R. R. Tolkien never finished writing The Silmarillion.  His son Christopher edited his writings and published them in 1977 (after his father’s death).  Some Tolkien scholars have worried about how much Christopher intervened in the work to make it a cohesive narrative.  Christopher himself seems worried about this as his more recent publications of his father’s works are more unfinished–Christopher tends to present the writings as he finds them, even noting multiple variations or providing multiple drafts for the same writing.  The Silmarillion, however, is not presented as an archive of Tolkien’s writings but as a fantasy novel that precedes The Lord of the Rings.

Why should you read it?

  1. It provides the stories of numerous histories and characters mentioned in The Lord of the Rings.  Wondering who Beren was or about the rise and fall of Numenor?  What about Elendil or the origins of Gandalf? It’s all here.
  2. The women are epic.  Tolkien receives criticism for his lack of female characters, but when he writes them, he makes them incredibly cool.  Here you can find a young, rebellious Galadriel; a powerful Maia named Melian who defies the Dark Lord Morgoth; an Elven princess named Luthien who refuses to wait at home for her lover and faces Morgoth in his old stronghold, and more.
  3. Everything is ten times more epic than in The Lord of the Rings.  Sauron is merely the lieutenant of the first Dark Lord–a being so powerful that the inhabitants of Middle-earth needed supernatural intervention to defeat him.   The men and Elves of old are so epic that Beren leaping a great distance is a marvel.
  4. It contains the tale of Beren and Luthien, well-known as Tolkien’s most romantic love story.  A mortal Man falls in love with Elven princess, but can only marry her if he returns with a Silmaril, a legendary jewel, from Morgoth’s crown.  Notably, Tolkien compared himself and his wife to Beren and Luthien and their love that lasted beyond death.
  5. The Dwarves have a poignant origin story.  You can also learn more about life and death in Arda and the belief that each race goes to a separate afterlife–hence why Elrond is so distraught when Arwen chooses Aragorn.  He believes they will never meet again because he will go to the afterlife of the Elves and she will go to the afterlife of Men.
  6. It contains the story of the fall of Gondolin.  The light of Earendil appears in The Lord of the Rings.  Here you can find out what that light is and how Earendil became a star!
  7. The religious aspects underlying The Lord of the Rings become more clear because you can learn about the supernatural beings who guard and guide Middle-earth.
  8. There’s more detail about the Third Age if you really like learning about the history of the Rings of Power and other tidbits like that.
  9. Dragons!  Balrogs!  Ungoliant, the ancestor of Shelob, who literally eats everything and spews darkness.
  10. There’s something for everyone.  Tragedy, heartache, myth, romance…there are so many stories here that it’s hard not to please.

Tolkien Talk: Seraphina from Seraphina Reads

Tolkien Event 2016

As part of our Tolkien Reading Celebration, we’ll be interviewing different bloggers about their love for Tolkien and what makes his works so special for them.


Nevey (Seraphina) blogs at Seraphina Reads.

Tell us about yourself! How did you come to love Tolkien and what do you enjoy reading about his works?

I am Neveen (Pen name: Seraphina), a 28-year-old girl who is a math teacher by day and a Tolkienist for the rest of the day. I came to Tolkien not by the books –unfortunately- but by the films; I remember being 13 when I saw the poster for The Fellowship of the Ring. I was so excited to watch it. I was so excited to explore that fantasy because living in Egypt and not having a Tolkien fan or even a chance to learn about the man who inspired modern fantasy is like living inside a cage, but finally I learnt about him thanks to Peter Jackson and to the local newspapers that had full-sized pages with the film posters, which I kept on my wall. Unlike other teens, who had posters of bands, I had Lord of the Rings.

When I turned 17, I was finally allowed to explore the world on my own.  So I took upon myself to buy myself The Lord of the Rings, and that’s when I learnt it’ s not about the trilogy but more books and many volumes. Out of excitement my journey began. Reading the rings spell for the first time brought tears to me; I could not believe that I was holding a book with all of this grace. Tolkien’s words felt like they had been only written to me. So pure and profound; that’s my true beginning with Tolkien.

What’s one thing you learned from Tolkien you think everyone else should know?

It’s not something about the novel itself but about the world building and how it took him 12 years to finish The Lord of the Rings and the deep secret about why the Fellowship is 9 not more and not less.

Tell us about one of your favorite passages or scenes.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

“We have to decide what to do with the time that is given to us.”

It’s one of the deepest lines in literature.  It has always inspired me and always will. I never gave up on living because of this line. I always see hope and brightness because of Tolkien.

Do you have any Tolkien confessions?

My confession would be that I watched the movies first .  Also I used to turn guys down when I knew they were not Tolkien fans:  “Never trust a man who never knew Tolkien.” That was until my perfect man turned to be not a fan of Tolkien, but he has respect for all my madness.

If you could visit any place in Middle Earth, where would you go?

I would have a full tour but rest forever in Lothlórien.

PICTURE TIME! SHOW US YOUR TOLKIEN SHELF OR SOME TOLKIEN MERCHANDISE YOU’RE EXCITED ABOUT.

Seraphina

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: A Retrospective

Tolkien Event 2016

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is life, death, and immortality. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J. R. R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound is hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring guest posts and interviews!


It’s no secret that my love of medieval literature is partly derived from Tolkien. He introduced me not only to the feel of the Middle Ages and romantic literature through The Lord of the Rings, but also to fundamental texts like Beowulf and Pearl. So when I had to write an English literature research paper my senior year of high school, I turned to Tolkien’s translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (a very good translation that has earned a lot of scholarly respect, much to the surprise of people who still only think of Tolkien as a fantasy author and not also a highly respected medievalist). As I sit through grad school seminars now, re-looking at Sir Gawain once in a while, it’s striking to me how perceptive my high school self was about ideas like “anti-quests” and how much I still think the poem, ultimately, presents Gawain as a hero.

My paper opens:

“A challenge, a quest, and a touch of the supernatural embodied in a brilliant green knight–the opening scenes of the medieval alliterative poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight point to a traditional romance. Further reading, however, upends the impression. For Gawain embarks on an anti-quest, a mission not to find but to lose, to give himself up to death. It will not be the destination that matters, but the journey. Along the way, Gawain will discover, through failure, that he is more human than saint, but it is this very humanity that will make him the greatest knight of all.”

This remains my overarching interpretation of the open: Gawain is a good man, the greatest of Arthur’s knights, even though he has flaws. The incredible difference between Gawain and the rest of Arthur’s court is that he tries. He tries to defend Arthur’s honor, he tries to keep his promise to meet the Green Knight and seek his own death, and he tries to follow the ideals of chivalry even when it’s hard.

There are a number of opposing arguments to this interpretation, but so far none of them have swayed me. Last year. one of my professors astounded me (and the rest of the students) by commenting that the Green Knight never actually challenges Gawain to a Beheading Game. This is true, though generations of scholars have mislead readers by consistently referring to it as the “Beheading Game,” in capitals, as if it’s a serious and well-known tradition. Yet Tolkien’s translation of the Green Knight’s challenge reads:

“If any so hardy in this house here holds that he is,
if so bold be his blood or his brain be so wild,
that he stoutly dare strike one stroke for another,
then I will give him as my gift this guisarm costly,
this axe–’tis heavy enough–to handle as he pleases” (34).

One stroke for another, that’s it. No decapitation specified. My professor’s argument, then, is that Gawain is brash and a cheater. He finds a loophole: make the strike a fatal one, and he’ll never have to suffer one in return. He’ll get the axe, free of charge. But this is lowly. The “correct” way to meet the challenge is, apparently, to give the Green Knight a tiny nick, a scratch, and suffer something just as minor in return. Gawain’s failure to see this strategy is a black mark on his character.

I disagree. While Gawain’s jumping to “death” as an appropriate end for the challenger is needlessly violent, and there probably is some criticism there in the poem about cruelty in pursuit of honor, I still have to respect Gawain for being the only knight to do anything at all. Arthur himself has to attempt to accept the challenge before Gawain intercedes; everyone else was going to allow this unknown interloper to mock the cowardice of Arthur’s court. And when Gawain’s “loophole” doesn’t work out because the Green Knight keeps living with his head unattached, he accepts the consequences. He diligently goes to accept his payment stroke a year and a day later. Along the way, he also exhibits other knightly virtues, such as being a respectful guest to his host and rejecting the amorous but adulterous advances of a beautiful woman.

So if Gawain fails one more time by accepting a supposedly magical girdle in an attempt to “cheat” and save his life from the Green Knight’s payback beheading stroke, I find it hard to blame him. There are a lot of other sins tied up in taking the girdle–lying to his host, believing in magic rather than the grace of God, failing to face death bravely–but why do these have to negate his virtues? And why should I, or other readers, find these sins unforgivable if the Green Knight himself, the one whom Gawain most offended, absolves him? Gawain isn’t perfect, but he set out on a journey to test himself that no one else would even start. If he discovered that he has limitations, he didn’t “lose;” he learned something valuable about himself and how he can proceed in the future.

And so I conclude my paper with words I still believe:

“When Gawain returns to Camelot, the court laugh at his tale. Their perception of the green girdle and its significance are colored by their personal lack of experience. They, who never left Arthur’s halls, who never had the course to take the challenge and begin the journey, failed at the outset. In the end, they are lacking not only in glory, but also in understanding.

“As Gawain recounted his tale, he must have lingered over what they considered to be all the wrong parts. He must have told the tale as the poet did, focusing on morals and choices rather than fell monsters and intrepid deed. Thus, their laughter. The court choose to see the girdle at face value, what it would be if Gawain’s quest were what it initially appeared to be–another strange adventure in a land full of such adventures. To them, the girdle is a sign of bravery and not of shame, and so they adopt it as their own. Consequently, Gawain is left on an elevated plateau where he stands alone in faith, knowledge, and moral courage–the greatest knight of all.”

Works Cited:

Tolkien, J[ohn] R[onald] R[euel], trans. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo. New York: Ballantine, 1975.

J. R. R. Tolkien and the Inklings

Tolkien Event 2016

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Life, Death, and Immortality. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring guest posts and interviews!


Introduction

Katie from Doing Dewey reviewed  The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings by Philip Zaleski earlier today.  This book explores the literary community that helped form and sustain Tolkien’s imagination as he worked on his legerdarium.  The myth of the solitary artist persists, but books like this reveal the networks in which writers work.  And yet we don’t often talk about Tolkien and his friends–at least, I can’t imagine that many outside the world of Tolkien scholarship know much about the Inklings.  They represent, however, not only writers in community but also a certain philosophy of creativity worth discussing

Who or what are the Inklings?

Depending on the source you read, you’ll likely find different descriptions of this group and people will disagree on which individuals count as members. Broadly speaking, however, the Inklings were a group of intellectuals and writers, many associated with Oxford University, who met informally in the 1930s and 1940s to discuss literature.  The group was informal, so there were no dues, set meeting times, or membership lists.

The individuals most often associated with the group are J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams.  Hugo Dyson is often mentioned, as well, since he is credited, along with Tolkien, with converting Lewis to Christianity.  Tolkien’s son Christopher and Lewis’s brother Warren are associated with the group, too, as is Roger Lancelyn Greene.  Some add Dorothy L. Sayers, though the group seems to have been for men and she did not attend meetings–most likely her philosophy of writing causes her to be associated with the rest.

What are they known for?

Broadly speaking, the Inklings are associated with faith (mostly Christianity–though their personal beliefs varied) and literature.  Lewis in particular became known not only for his allegorical Chronicles of Narnia but also for his work as a Christian apologist.  Tolkien, of course, is known as a devout Catholic who inspired Lewis to leave atheism for Christianity, in particular by suggesting that myths could contain a larger truth; his works are built on his Christian beliefs and his concept of joy.  Owen Barfield, an anthroposophist, also steered Lewis towards theism. Charles Williams was a writer who set his fantasies in his own time; some of his works are  War in HeavenDescent Into Hell and The Place of the Lion.  Some believe that Williams’s work inspired C. S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy.

Where can you start to find out more?

  • “On Fairy Stories” by J. R. R. Tolkien: Explains Tolkien’s philosophy of writing.  It is often paired with his allegory on the purpose and nature of art, Leaf by Niggle.
  • “Christianity and Literature” by C. S. Lewis: This selection can be found in The Seeing Eye. It grapples with the ways in which Christianity and culture intersect, and the role of the Christian writer.
  • The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community by Diana Pavlac Glyer: This book traces the influences that of the Inklings on each other’s work.
  • Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen: A fun YA fantasy that features Tolkien, Lewis, and Charles Williams as heroes who must save a magical Archipelago from darkness.

 

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings by Philip Zaleski (Guest Review)

Tolkien Event 2016

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Life, Death, and Immortality. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring guest posts and interviews!


Katie blogs about about everything books, especially nonfiction and literary fiction, over at Doing Dewey. She loves hosting and joining in on fun bookish events like this one.

Doing Dewey

official Summary

C.S. Lewis is the twentieth century’s most widely read Christian writer and J.R.R. Tolkien its most beloved mythmaker. For three decades, they and their closest associates formed a literary club known as the Inklings, which met weekly in Lewis’s Oxford rooms and in nearby pubs. They discussed literature, religion, and ideas; read aloud from works in progress; took philosophical rambles in woods and fields; gave one another companionship and criticism; and, in the process, rewrote the cultural history of modern times.

In The Fellowship, Philip and Carol Zaleski offer the first complete rendering of the Inklings’ lives and works. C. S. Lewis accepts Jesus Christ while riding in the sidecar of his brother’s motorcycle, maps the medieval and Renaissance mind, becomes a world-famous evangelist and moral satirist, and creates new forms of religiously attuned fiction while wrestling with personal crises. J.R.R. Tolkien transmutes an invented mythology into gripping story in The Lord of the Rings, while conducting groundbreaking Old English scholarship and elucidating, for family and friends, the Catholic teachings at the heart of his vision. Owen Barfield, a philosopher for whom language is the key to all mysteries, becomes Lewis’s favorite sparring partner, and, for a time, Saul Bellow’s chosen guru. And Charles Williams, poet, author of “supernatural shockers,” and strange acolyte of romantic love, turns his everyday life into a mystical pageant.

Romantics who scorned rebellion, fantasists who prized reality, wartime writers who believed in hope, Christians with cosmic reach, the Inklings sought to revitalize literature and faith in the twentieth century’s darkest years–and did so in dazzling style.

katie’s Review

Literary Lives of the Inklines

I always get excited about books about authors and I love both Tolkien and Lewis, so I thought this event was the perfect excuse to pick up The Inklings and learn a little more about both these great authors. Unfortunately, the bottom line of this review is (spoiler alert!) that I found this book a bit too academic. The parts about the major events in the authors’ lives were fantastic, but every time the book digressed into the details of their philosophy, it completely lost me. The good news is that I can give all you fellow Tolkien fans a description of this book so you can decide if you want to dedicate time to this 500 page tome.

My first reaction to this book was to notice that was so long. I’m so used to picking out books online and I never think to check page length! In the intro, the author said that this was a book designed to appeal to both people who love Tolkien and Lewis and people who just want to know more about the movement the Inklings represent. I thought that seemed very promising – I do love Tolkien and Lewis and I love learning about interesting times in history – but it turned out that the author meant something far more detailed and academic than I hoped for. This meant that sometimes I was deeply engaged in this book and at other times, I just wanted to be finished with it!

The best parts were:

  • Fascinating life stories of the authors
  • Interesting analysis of their books (most interesting for the ones I’ve read)
  • World history, connecting the authors to global events

And the parts that made me just want to be done included:

  • Excessive philosophy
  • Use of Latin and French phrases without translations provided
  • The authors of this book inserting too much of their personal opinion on the books being discussed

Overall, I’d say that if philosophy and/or the study of literature interest you, you’re likely to enjoy this more wholeheartedly than I did. If you’re even more of a die-hard Tolkien fan, that might also help carry you through.

Add the book to Goodreads here.