Why Did Aragorn Let Grima Wormtongue Go?

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme selected by the Tolkien Society is Love and Friendship. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting several days of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts!


Today I answer a somewhat common question that has been Googled about The Lord of the Rings:

Why does Aragorn spare Wormtongue’s life after he is exposed as an agent of Saruman and cast out from Edoras?

In the Book

The first thing to note here is that Aragorn only saves Grima’s life in the movie adaptation. In the book, it is Theoden who spares Wormtongue, at Gandalf’s advice:

“See, Theoden, here is a snake! With safety you cannot take it with you, nor can you leave it behind. To slay it would be just. But it was not always as it now is. Once it was a man, and did you service in its fashion. Give him a horse and left him go at once, wherever he chooses. By his choice you shall judge him.”

“Do you hear this, Wormtongue?” said Theoden. “This is your choice: to ride with me to war, and let us see in battle whether you are true; or to go now, whither you will. But then, if ever we meet again, I shall not be merciful.”

The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien

The theme of mercy runs throughout The Lord of the Rings, even as John pointed out in his guest post that capital punishment is still the norm in Gondor (and likely Rohan, too, since Eomer threatened in the past to kill Grima, and Gandalf suggests taking his life wouldn’t be entirely out of line).

Yet Gandalf’s general teaching is that lives should not be taken lightly. Early in the story, he defends Gollum and tells Frodo:

“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.”

The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien

He implies it is not the prerogative of humans (or Elves, Hobbits, Wizards, etc.) to take someone’s life because they “deserve” it, but rather that this is the job of a higher power (Ilúvatar).

There is also the running theme that offering such mercy pays off unexpectedly later. Readers see that sparing Gollum’s life is the reason the Ring is finally destroyed. And sparing Grima’s life is the reason Gandalf and company acquire the palantír that had been in Orthanc. Grima also ultimately rids Middle-earth of Saruman.

In the Movie

So why is it Aragorn who saves Grima’s life in Peter Jackson’s movie adaptation?

In the film, King Theoden advances ominously on Wormtongue after he is thrown down the stairs of Edoras, raising his sword to smite Rima where he lies. Aragorn leaps from off-screen and catches Theoden’s sword with his own, saying, “No! No, my lord! Let him go. Enough blood has been spilt on his account.”

Watch the scene here.

In general, I would say the themes here are the same. Aragorn believes in mercy (very likely a quality he himself learned from Gandalf in the past, though Gandalf does not comment in this scene), and he makes a vague statement about how enough violence has been done, and Theoden shouldn’t perpetuate the cycle. There’s no discussion of how Grima might redeem himself if he chooses, as there is in the book, however. Grima simply spits on Aragorn’s offered hand and runs away.

My guess is that the writers were trying to incorporate the theme of mercy but also wanted to make this scene more “dramatic” somehow. Theoden and Aragorn’s crossing of swords certainly is more exciting than Gandalf’s and Theoden’s mild discussion of what might be done with Grima. The scene also really emphasizes the idea that Theoden was weak and under Grima’s spell and hasn’t quite recovered yet; his walk down the stairs towards Grima looks a bit crazed, as if some of the spell has yet to wear off. The scene basically highlights Aragorn’s nobility at the expense of Theoden’s.

There is also the awkwardness that the scene shows Aragorn disagreeing with Theoden’s judgement in his own kingdom, which the film attempts to compensate for by having Aragorn immediately cry, “Hail Theoden King!” and initiating everyone else’s kneeling to Theoden. One could argue it doesn’t entirely work as, later in the film, Theoden feels the need to explicitly tell Aragorn that Aragorn is not the king of Rohan and should keep some of his opinions to himself.

Conclusion

The fact that Grima’s life is spared is consistent with Tolkien’s theme of mercy and not dealing death in judgement that runs throughout his work. The choice to have Aragorn specifically save Wormtongue in the movie seems done for drama and to emphasize that Aragorn in particular is wise and merciful.

Briana

The Rohirrim Name Generator

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme selected by the Tolkien Society is Love and Friendship. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting several days of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts!


Discover what your name would be in Rohan by following the directions below!

Format: [Name] of [Place]

What is the first letter of your first name?

A: Eorl
B: Morwen
C: Thengel
D: Théodwyn
E: Mildwyn
F: Guthlaf
G: Grimbold
H: Hama
I: Gamling
J: Erkenbrand
K: Ceorl
L: Eothain
M: Dunhere
N: Estmund
O: Merefled
P: Eowyn
Q: Cenric
R: Helm
S: Darwise
T: Eomer
U: Adgith
V: Theoden
W: Elflhem
X: Grima
Y: Wilrun
Z: Theodred

What is your favorite color?

(Of those listed. I know I can’t include every possible option!)

Red: Aldburg
Orange: Westemnet
Yellow: Edoras
Green: Eastfold
Blue: Fenmarch
Purple: Westfold
Pink: Eastemnet
Black: the Folde
Brown: the Wolde
White: West-March
Other: the White Mountains

Tell us your name in the comments!

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OTHER LORD OF THE RINGS/TOLKIEN QUIZZES

An Inside Look at an Amateur Tolkien Collection (Guest Post by Nicole @ Thoughts Stained with Ink)

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme selected by the Tolkien Society is Love and Friendship. 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 a number of guest posts!


Tolkien Collection

I am so excited to guest post today at Pages Unbound! Thank you so much for having me, Briana and Krysta!

For those who might not know me, my name is Nicole and I blog at Thoughts Stained With Ink. I’m a queer SFF writer, blogger, reader and editor who owes my lifelong love of the fantastic, in great part, due to the contributions Tolkien made in my childhood. I grew up with the films as they were released, which caused me to fall in love with the books. It created an obsession that I still love to this day, as you can see with what I’m going to share with you all: my amateur Tolkien collection.

One quick caveat: you do not need to own a lot of collectibles to consider yourself a fan, no matter the fandom. It is also okay to collect things, while also recognizing that not everyone has the means to (and, most of my own collection has been gifts given by my family for over a decade). So, please be kind.

For my collection, it’s split into a couple of different areas: books, art and figurines, memorabilia and other miscellaneous artwork.

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Books

As an arguably life-long fan of Tolkien’s work, it might not surprise you that I own a lot of books written by him. But, thanks to the worldwide fame that Tolkien’s work gathered, there is also plenty of other works: whether it’s books diving into his world and writing process, scholarship or the History of Middle-earth series, continued by his son, the late Christopher Tolkien; well, there’s plenty to choose from. Hence, the entire bookcase’s worth of books.

Some of the favorites that I own include:

  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy, illustrated by Alan Lee
  • Four book set I got while visiting Oxford, where Tolkien was a professor
  • An omnibus edition of LOTR that a friend gave me in college

Art

So, I may rip away my status as a Tolkien fan as soon as I’ve declared it, but I love the films more than the books. (I said what I said.) So, when Weta started making memorabilia for the films, these became very coveted items in my mind, many which I couldn’t afford (and still can’t). To the Christmas list they went and my parents (i.e., my Mom) very kindly try to get me one thing a year. Some of the most affordable things were the art prints, which I am so thankful for. They are gorgeous and some of my

favorite things I’ve ever owned. They feature artwork from both the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit trilogies.

My favorite has to be my Smaug and Balrog prints.

Collectibles

As you can see, I also have a smattering of random collectibles! Some are precious beyond gold, like the two different cross stitches two different friends made me—one of a hobbit hole and one of the sigil of Gondor. Not to mention the homemade hobbit door my sister made me!! Others are more common, like Funko Pops (I didn’t think I’d like Funko Pops at first, but I’m into them!), the One Ring replicas or really cool random artwork from small creators I’ve collected from places like the Renaissance Festival or Etsy. No matter their rarity, however, they all mean the world.

But my favorites, once again, are from Weta Workshop (and courtesy of my Mom). I saved up a lot of money to get a display cabinet for the most “collector-y” of the bunch, but it brings me nothing but absolute joy every time I’m in my office.

In Sum

I hope you enjoyed this very brief glance into some of the things that make me an absolute nerd, while also highlighting my love for Tolkien. He’s by no means an unproblematic author. His racism and his lack of female or queer characters stain his legacy and his character. Yet, his stories and their messages of hope are foundational to me and will always hold a place in my heart, helping me fall in love with stories and choose to (attempt) to break into an industry where we work to create more inclusive stories than the father of fantasy himself ever did.

Thank you so much for reading and thank you, Briana and Krysta, for hosting me once more. Namárië!

Where to Find Information about the Upcoming Rings of Power Tolkien Adaptation from Amazon

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme selected by the Tolkien Society is Love and Friendship. 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 a number of guest posts!

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Interested in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (Sept. 2, 2022) on Amazon Prime but want more news and analysis of what to expect? Check out some of the links below:

  1. Teaser Trailer
  2. Vanity Fair’s First Look at the Series
  3. 10 Burning Questions about The Rings of Power (Vanity Fair)
  4. Lord of the Rings: Debunking the Backlash against Non-white Actors in Amazon’s New Adaptation (co-written by two Tolkien scholars, Dimitra Fimi and Mariana Rios Maldonado)
  5. Fellowship of Fans (Twitter account and Youtube channel sharing breaking news)
  6. The Tolkien Professor (Twitter account and videos with scholarly takes on Tolkien)
  7. Luke Shelton (Twitter account: Tolkien scholar and editor of Mallorn)
  8. Timeline of the Second Age
  9. Twitter thread of First and Second Age facts mentioned in LotR, from the Digital Tolkien Project
Briana

Capital Punishment and the Shadow of Númenor (Guest Post by John @ Tales from Absurdia)

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme selected by the Tolkien Society is Love and Friendship. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting several days of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts!


Capital Punishment and the Shadow of Númeno

At the time of the War of the Ring in the Third Age, the Free Peoples of Middle-earth are in a bad way.

The Dwarves are beset by the forces of Angmar in the North, whilst the power of the Elves is waning. Meanwhile, the Hobbits have their own domestic feuds to resolve – not helped by the appearance of Sharkey (né Saruman).

The race of men is in a general disarray with Theoden of Rohan under the thrall of Saruman. Meanwhile, Gondor faces its own issues, with the forces of Mordor crossing the river Anduin. And barring a handful of southern provinces such as Belfalas where Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth resides, Minas Tirith is arguably the last great city of men – its piercing white walls facing outwardly proud in defiance against the shadow of Mordor.

And yet, from within the great walls of Minas Tirith (and Gondor at large), there lurks a dark, deep, brooding menace.

The death penalty.

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Gondor’s Use of the Death Penalty

Gondor’s death penalty is alluded to in both the novel and movie adaptation of The Two Towers, though in a somewhat non-committal manner.

In the novel, Faramir says the following:

‘I should now take you back to Minas Tirith to answer there to Denethor, and my life will justly be forfeit, if I now choose a course that proves ill for my city. So I will not decide in haste what is to be done.’

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

His life, we’re told, is ‘forfeit’ if he allows Frodo and Sam to part from his company. Because of the vague use of language, these lines pass by largely unaddressed. Even in the movie, Mardil – one of Faramir’s men – proclaims the following:

Madril: You know the laws of our country, the laws of your father. If you let them go,
your life will be forfeit.


Faramir: Then it is forfeit’

Peter Jackson, Phillipa Boyens, Fran Walsh, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

This line is delivered in a languid, almost throwaway manner – as if it’s an unfortunate but inevitable consequence of Faramir’s own irresponsible actions.

But let’s strip away the metaphor, obfuscation, and trivial language. Faramir’s life being ‘forfeit’ means only one thing – the Kingdom of Gondor is willing to slay its own in accordance with pre-ordained laws, written up and ratified by the Steward Denethor (Faramir’s father no less!).

This is pretty dark, especially for Tolkien.

But why exactly is Faramir’s life ‘forfeit’? What laws could he have possibly broken to be threatened with such a grizzly punishment? Especially in a time where his presence is essential in order to stem the tide of Sauron’s forces.

Are there laws surrounding the finding of Isildur’s Bane (the ring)? This is unlikely. Save a very small handful of loremasters, nobody in Middle-earth knew of the ring after it passed out of history.

Could his death sentence be a result of allowing Frodo and Sam to depart without prior approval of Denethor? This is potentially more likely. After all, Pippin was not allowed to leave Gandalf’s side until he had the blessing of the Steward Denethor.

But even so, allowing a couple of travellers to continue on their journey seems hardly a court martial offence – even if Gondor is at war.

To properly understand the existence of capital punishment in Tolkien’s work, it’s worth delving into the history of the Númenorians; the ancient race of Men.

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A Brief(-ish) History of Númenor

Númenor was a Kingdom of Men based upon an island in the western seas of Middle-Earth, between the mainland of Middle-Earth and the haven of Valinor (also known as the Undying Lands).

As is alluded to throughout The Lord of the Rings, the Númenorians were wise, battle-hardy, and brilliant craftsmen. Some such as Tar-Palantir even possessed supernatural-like abilities such as the ‘farsight’, allowing them brief glimpses into the future. Incidentally, Denethor appeared to have retained some of this farsightedness, even without his use of the Palantir seeing stone.

After Tar-Palantir died, his brutish nephew – a man named Ar-Pharazon – forced Tar-Palantir’s daughter, Muriel (rightful Queen of Númenor) into marriage, thus usurping the throne.

Ar-Pharazon was ambitious and a leader of a populist group called the King’s Men who, as the power and riches of Men grew, wanted more. Coveting Elven immortality and the storied beauty of Valinor, The King’s Men resented both Elves and Valar, blaming them for deliberately obstructing the growth of men, and by extension, Númenor.

As part of his burgeoning ambition, Ar-Pharazon first turned his gaze towards the Middle-Earth – and Sauron, his enemy:

‘Ar-Pharazon the Golden was the proudest and most powerful of all the Kings, and no less than the kingship of the world was his desire.

He resolved to challenge Sauron the Great for supremacy of Middle-earth, and at length he himself set sail with a great navy, and he landed at Umbar.’

Appendix A, The Lord of the Rings

Sauron’s forces fled at the oncoming of the Númenoreans, so he turned to his next best trick – deception. As a shapeshifter, Sauron had the ability to make himself appear fair and beautiful before the Númenoreans, humbling himself and begging forgiveness. He then sought to manipulate the civil strife between the King’s Men and a group called ‘The Faithful’ (later known in The Lord of the Rings as the Dunedain).

‘It was not long before he had bewitched the King and was master of his counsel; and soon he had turned the hearts of all the Numenoreans, except the remnant of the Faithful, back towards the darkness.

And Sauron lied to the King, declaring that everlasting life would be his who possessed the Undying Lands, and that the Ban* was imposed only to prevent the Kings of Men from surpassing the Valar. ‘But great Kings take what is their right,’ he said.

At length, Ar-Pharazon listened to this counsel, for he felt the waning of his days and was besotted by the fear of Death.’

Appendix A, The Lord of the Rings

In short, the King’s Men, encouraged by Sauron, began to hunt down the Faithful who fled to Middle-Earth (Isildur amongst them), and embrace the death-cult of Morgoth. Worshipping Morgoth, and spurning the Valar, temples were erected in the name of Sauron’s dark master, corrupting a once great line of men.

The end of Númenor was brought about by Sauron, convincing an elderly Ar-Pharazon to make war upon Valinor. This was the last act of Númenor, with their forces drowned in the sea, and the island itself destroyed by Eru (literally God).

Many of the King’s Men, those now loyal to Sauron came to be known as The Black Númenorians. Many of those who survived the sundering of their home, departed with Sauron to the mainlands of Middle-Earth, where they took up residence in the Southern parts of Gondor, and aided Sauron in the War of the Ring.

Incidentally, the Mouth of Sauron – Sauron’s Lieutenant and right-hand man who confronts Gandalf and Aragorn prior to the Battle of the Black Gate in Return of the King – is a fallen Númenorian.

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So, Where Does Gondor Come Into This?

The history of Gondor is bound up irrevocably with the history of Númenor.

Elendil and his son Isildur, later to become leaders of Gondor, were never part of Sauron’s death-cult. Nor did they follow the King’s Men. However, Númenor has a long history of grievances over the roles of the Valar, and their wider impact on the lives of Men in Middle-Earth.

Drenched in the darkness of both their violent past – and the more immediate terror of Sauron – it’s possible to understand why Men’s hearts might become hard and cruel. And in desperate moments, with their backs to the wall, governments can be capable of terrible things.

Enter the death penalty.

This creates a schism between the idealised vision of the forces of good and the reality. Gondor is presented as the last bastion of ‘civilised’ men, set against the Easterlings, Wildmen, Orcs, and Uruks. The battle between the Free Peoples of Middle-Earth and the forces of darkness is presented largely as a binary choice between freedom vs death, good vs evil, east vs west, and purity vs savagery**.

But at no point is the legally-enforced policy of capital punishment explored in any great detail. This complicates the moral landscape of good vs evil – this argument of course hinging on the assumption that the reader finds capital punishment to be an immoral act. If not, this essay might be lost on you. If Captain Faramir, the son of the Steward, is to be put to death for merely allowing Sam and Frodo to leave his custody, how is this capital punishment policy enacted in peacetime Gondor for regular citizens? We’ll never know this of course, but it does raise interesting moral questions.

*The Ban is an order issued by the Valar, ordering that no-one shall enter the lands of Valinor uninvited. Prior to the sundering of Numenor, it was possible (though very difficult) to travel to the Undying Lands.

**On this last point, there is no doubt an essay to be written on the orientalism of The Lord of the Rings, but this essay is not that.

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Conclusion

Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Morality in The Lord of the Rings is generally straightforward – in its essence, it’s a story of good triumphing over evil. Sure, good people do bad things, but they’re generally punished for them, upholding the moral order of things and Tolkien’s Catholic worldview.

Boromir tries to take the ring from Frodo, and subsequently falls in battle. Isildur refuses to destroy the ring in lieu of claiming it for himself, and is slain by orcs when the ring eventually abandons him. And Saruman, who betrays Gandalf and the free peoples of Middle-Earth, is in turn betrayed by Wormtongue.

The wrongs committed by good people are mostly put right, and the villains of Tolkien get their comeuppance when all is said and done.

But it’s interesting that capital punishment goes ignored.

A simple conclusion that could be drawn is that The Lord of the Rings was published in a different time, where capital punishment was possibly more socially amenable. After all, the death penalty wasn’t abolished in the UK until as late as 1964.

However, what’s interesting is that the institutions of capital punishment that exist in Middle-Earth are spoken about in such vague language, as if characters are consciously ashamed of the practice and unable to properly name it. Faramir’s life is stated as being ‘forfeit,’ rather than the explicit fact that he’s condemned to be hanged (or however Gondor enforces the death penalty).

In my view, Gondor’s death penalty is an indirect result of Sauron’s influence upon the Númenoreans; nursing malice from within the darkened halls of Men and corrupting from afar.

I’m not arguing that there’s no difference between the free peoples of Middle-Earth and the forces of Sauron because of the mere existence of the death penalty – clearly there’s a massive gulf in ethics, morals, and virtues between the Orcs of Mordor and the Elves of Rivendell. However, the mere existence of capital punishment, whether it’s in Gondor, Rohan, or in the ancient world presented in The Silmarillion, complicates notions of fixed morality and ethics in Tolkien’s works, reconfiguring the moral landscape in a war between so-called purity and depravity.


About the Author

Visit John’s blog at Tales from Absurdia.

The Real J.R.R. Tolkien: The Man Who Created Middle-earth by Jesse Xander (Guest Review by Rosie Amber)

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme selected by the Tolkien Society is Love and Friendship. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting several days of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts!


Real JRR Tolkien Book Cover

Official Summary

The Real JRR Tolkien: The Man Who Created Middle Earth is a comprehensive biography of the linguist and writer; taking the reader from his formative years of home-schooling, through the spires of Oxford, to his romance with his wife-to-be on the brink of war, and onwards into his phenomenal academic success and his creation of the seminal high fantasy world of Middle Earth. “The Real JRR Tolkien” delves into his influences, places, friendships, triumphs and tragedies, with particular emphasis on how his remarkable life and loves forged the worlds of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Using contemporary sources and comprehensive research, “The Real JRR Tolkien” offers a unique insight into the life and times of one of Britain’s greatest authors, from cradle to grave to legacy. 

Review

Jesse Xander believes that much of the success of Tolkien’s writing is because of its believability, which Xander suggests is due to the way Tolkien immersed himself totally in the worlds he created. Xander shows the author’s complexities, his beliefs and ideologies, giving his audience insight into the man behind the books. Secondly, Xander goes on to consider the inspirations for Middle-earth.

Tolkien said: “One writes such a story not out of the leaves of trees still to be observed, nor by means of botany and soil-science, but it grows like a seed in the dark out of the leaf-mould of the mind.”

Xander has a passion for the world of Middle-earth, understanding how the communities, histories and languages of the inhabitants were considered on an anthropological scale. Once Xander saw the whole picture it was easier to fully appreciate Tolkien’s work.

The book begins with Tolkien’s early years: his birth in South Africa and the history behind the name John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. Xander suggests that the recurring theme of multiple names for Tolkien’s characters may have stemmed from the many different names that family and friends knew him by over the years. Xander discovered that Tolkien’s relatives, many of whom were lovers of storytelling, may have influenced his need to create fiction.

In 1896, Tolkien’s mother moved her family to the village of Sarehole; at an impressionable age, Tolkien is said to have found himself in the “heart of the English countryside.”

Jumping ahead to the summer before Tolkien went to Oxford University, his aunt took him and his younger brother on a trip to Europe, part of which involved trekking in Switzerland through mountains and valleys and a visit to the Aletsch Glacier. Some of the locations from this trip were some of the real places that inspired his work. There is also the suggestion that the all-male world of Oxford University may have been reflected in Tolkien’s works; as Xander said,  “Many of the women in Middle-earth are noted by their absence.”  A side discussion considers the following:

“Hobbit women appear either as deceased rebels, redeemable crones or love interests with barely anything documented about them.”

I was very interested in Tolkien’s background knowledge of ancient languages and dialects and how this evolved through his time in academia. While at Oxford, he was encouraged by one of his professors to study the Celtic languages; he began with ancient Welsh, and his love of languages became a part of his writing, for example the Elven script. I also liked how the author linked events and experiences with such detail from Tolkien’s writing, giving a clear picture of his influences.

There are a few black and white photographs to break up the writing, which were just enough to leave me with some images in my mind of the author. There is, however, much more in this book as it follows Tolkien’s life, family, friendships and his written works. I found the book interesting as previously I knew only the author’s name and very little else, while Xander offers some fascinating discussion topics which fans of Tolkien might like to consider.

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I was brought up in the beautiful Hampshire countryside. I started blogging to combine a love of reading with a desire to embrace social technology; since then it’s developed into a passion to introduce avid readers to new writers, and offer a platform for little-known talent. Visit Rosie Amber’s blog here.

Wanted: Guest Posts for Our Annual Tolkien Reading Event (March 2022)

During March 2022, Pages Unbound will be running our eighth 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.

Official Tolkien Society Theme: LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP

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: to be announced by the Tolkien Society
  • any aspect of The Silmarillion
  • the art of Middle-Earth
  • a tour of your Tolkien collection (books or merchandise)
  • Tolkien’s villains
  • 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 21, and so would like to receive guest posts by March 14.  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!

Title: Please tell us what you would like the title of the post to be when you send us the draft! Otherwise, you will be subject to our whims. 😉

Post Length: There is no required post length; however long you feel you need to address the topic is fine.

Photos/Graphics: Feel free to include photos or graphics if you would like, but only include images you own the rights to post.  (Basically, no copyright infringement, please!)

Poems: Excerpts of poems are fine, but please do not include entire poems still under copyright.

Twitter Hashtag: #TolkienReadingEvent22

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN GUEST POSTING, PLEASE FILL OUT THE GOOGLE FORM BELOW.

*LOTR clip art by Nesca at CuteGraphicSupply.

CLICK TO FILL OUT GOOGLE FORM

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Tolkien Reading Day – A Shelf Tour by Between Pages (Guest Post by Rucha)

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme selected by the Tolkien Society is Hope and Courage. 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 a number of guest posts! Check out the full schedule of events by clicking here.


Tolkien Collection Shelf Tour Guest Post

Hi, I am Rucha and I blog at Between Pages. Although I have always been an avid reader, my blogging journey began only about six months ago, largely thanks to the lockdown. In the past six months, I have blogged a couple of times about Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings – each time feeling a little intimidated by the sheer scope of his works.

I am somewhat of a late comer to the world of Tolkien and Middle Earth having read the books only about 6 years ago. That was a different world, when I would spend about 2 hours travelling to and back from work, and it was a perfect time to finally pick up The Lord of the Rings. I fell in love almost instantly – and hopelessly – with Middle-earth, and till date if anyone asks me a fantasy world where I’d like to live, my answer’s always been Middle-earth. 🙂

So naturally the first on my Tolkien Shelf Tour are my very first beloved copies of the trilogy that I’d bought second hand. I nearly sold them off as my book collection started growing, and also since I recently acquired a more coveted LoTR box set, however, fortunately, I changed my mind and decided these are far too precious to let go off. I really love their worn-out spines and beautiful yellowing pages and I think someday I’d like to hand these down to my children and grandchildren.

The new collection I own is the 60th anniversary edition by Harper Collins. I bought it recently, largely out of vanity I should admit. These are hard backs with a slip case and the dust jackets feature Tolkien’s own original (and unused) designs.

I especially love the fold-outs in these books. Each of the three books have maps, and The Fellowship has a bonus foldout of the runes from the Book of Mazarbul.

This box set also comes with a Readers Companion, which is a perfect resource especially for those who wish to delve deeper into the marvelous world of Middle-earth.

And finally, almost perfectly timed for Tolkien Reading Day, this is my diary, with a stunning gold foil illustration of Frodo, Sam and Gollum at the foot of Mount Doom dated 24 March 3019. It is a special edition Moleskin that truly commemorates the epic tale of The Fellowship. 

I especially loved the accompanying (fold-out) timeline of Frodo and Sam’s journey and a guide to the Cirth Alphabet.

As book lovers, we cannot help buying beautiful books the moment we see it; however, building my Tolkien collection over the years has taught me the importance of not only mindful book collection but also cherishing and preserving old books.

Once again, I’d like to thank the lovely folks at Pages Unbound for letting me guest blog and geek out about my love for The Lord of the Rings, Middle-earth and Tolkien. It truly forms a very important part of my life and more often than not I have found myself leaning on its themes of hope, friendship and comradery whenever I’ve needed to bring some perspective in my life.

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Hi! I’m Rucha, an avid reader who loves to find inspiration between the pages of the books she reads. I created my blog Between Pages mainly to share book reviews but it has now grown into a dedicated space to share my immense love of books and book inspired experiences.

Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J.R.R. Tolkien ed. by Janet Brennan Croft and Leslie A. Donovan

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme selected by the Tolkien Society is Hope and Courage. 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 a number of guest posts! Check out the full schedule of events by clicking here.


Perilous and Fair book photo

Information

Goodreads: Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J.R.R. Tolkien
Series: None
Source: Purchased
Published: 2015

Official Summary

Since the earliest scholarship on The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, critics have discussed how the works of J. R. R. Tolkien seem either to ignore women or to place them on unattainable pedestals. To remedy such claims that Tolkien’s fiction has nothing useful or modern to say about women, Perilous and Fair focuses critical attention on views that interpret women in Tolkien’s works and life as enacting essential, rather than merely supportive roles.

Perilous and Fair includes seven classic articles as well as seven new examinations of women in Tolkien’s works and life. These fourteen articles bring together perspectives not only on Tolkien’s most commonly discussed female characters—Éowyn, Galadriel, and Lúthien—but also on less studied figures such as Nienna, Yavanna, Shelob, and Arwen. Among others, the collection features such diverse critical approaches and methods as literary source study, historical context, feminist theory, biographical investigation, close-reading textual analysis, Jungian archetypes, and fanfiction reader-response.

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Review

Overall, this collection is essential reading for anyone who loves Tolkien, and it will provide some eye-opening arguments for anyone who thinks Tolkien’s women are flat or his portrayals are sexist. The authors consistently offer evidence that while, of course, Tolkien would not have held the views of a 21st-century feminist, the women in his books are nuanced and powerful and generally subvert gender expectations rather than fulfill them. Tolkien was also a champion of women academics in his personal life, and we have no evidence to suggest he didn’t like or respect women.

Here are some brief thoughts on the individual essays:

“The History of Scholarship on Female Characters in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Legendarium: A Feminist Bibliographic Essay” by Robin Anne Reid

This essay lists feminist articles about Tolkien’s work, beginning in the 1970s (when there were only two) and continuing to 2013, right before Perilous and Fair was published. Reid summarizes the articles and gives readers an idea of what feminist Tolkien scholarship has looked like and where it might go, but I admit I’d probably find this bibliography much more useful if I were planning to do some research myself. For pure reading value, this is mildly interesting, but I think it can be skipped unless you actually want to go read some of the articles listed.

“The Missing Women: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lifelong Support for Women’s Higher Education” by John D. Rateliff

I understand what this essay is doing. The idea that Tolkien was mired in a nearly all-male world (and that he preferred it that way) in ingrained in many people’s understanding of Tolkien and his life. Rateliff even quotes parts of Humphrey Carpenter’s biography that argue explicitly this point- and this may be why so many people believe it, since Carpenter’s biography is generally considered the definitive one. However, it’s still a bit funny that, in order to correct this misconception and demonstrate that Tolkien knew women and was even a staunch supporter of them academically when others weren’t (coughLewiscough), Rateliff found it necessary to comb letters, archives, and people’s personal memories in order to make a list of every time Tolkien ever interacted with a woman.

“She-who-must-not-be-ignored: Gender and Genre in The Lord of the Rings and the Victorian Boys’ Book” by Sharin Schroeder

An interesting comparison between Tolkien’s work and the “boys’ book” genre that early critics dismissively accused The Lord of the Rings belonging to. It seems weird today that anyone would accuse LotR of being a children’s book and I don’t 100% see the need any longer for people to “defend” Tolkien’s work. However, Schroeder does go beyond that to explain how gender in LotR compares to that in popular Victorian boys’ books and touches briefly on some books Tolkien might have been familiar with or read in his own youth. It focuses heavily on She: A History of Adventure by H. Rider Haggard (as it’s one of the few books Tolkien explicitly mentioned in an interview), which frankly didn’t mean much to me as I’d never heard of the book before.

“The Feminine Principle in Tolkien” by Melanie A. Rawls

An excellent look at masculine and feminine characteristics and Tolkien and the important point that both men and women need to embody both characteristics. (This essay is quoted in a few of the other essays, so definitely an influential piece to pay attention to.)

“Tolkien’s Females and the Defining of Power” by Nancy Enright

Enright explores the power that Tolkien’s women have. She has an interestingly extensive discussion of Arwen, considering many readers write her off as barely even being in The Lord of the Rings.

“Power in Arda: Sources, Uses, and Misuses by Edith L. Crowe

Crowe argues that Tolkien’s works can fit in with some definitions of feminism and also points out the importance of female power and involvement in creation in The Silmarillion. She also makes the intriguing point about how important renunciation of power in Tolkien is and how not killing plays such as important role, rare in modern fantasies.

“The Fall and Repentance of Galadriel” by Romuald I. Lakowski

This is one of those essays that really highlights how much Tolkien revised his writing and how much was never fully resolved. There are different versions of Galadriel’s story, but the only things we can say for certain about her are in The Lord of the Rings because otherwise Tolkien was constantly revising his material concerning her. However, this is an insightful look at what we do know and what different information would mean for readers’ interpretations of her character and her power.

Cami D. Agan, “Lúthien Tinúviel and Bodily Desire in the Lay of Leithian”

This essay reads into silences in the text and asks, “How then might it affect the text to assume that Lúthien and Beren consummate their love in the forest?” (172). This is not my favorite approach to literary criticism (How would it affect the text to assume something happens that readers have no direct evidence actually happens?), but Agan still manages to make interesting arguments about Lúthien’s power and how it’s tied up with her body. Personally, I haven’t read Lúthien’s story recently, and I would like to be more familiar with it to have any stronger opinions on this essay.

“The Power of Pity and Tears: The Evolution of Nienna in the Legendarium” by Kristine Larsen

Nienna is another figure I’m not 100% familiar with, but this look at the value of pity and tears is convincing, and of course one can see the importance of pity in The Lord of the Rings, as well. Larsen also discusses whether pity is considered a particularly feminine trait and what that might mean.

If this topic interests you, you can check out one of our previous guest posts, “She Who Weeps:” The Value of Sorrow in Tolkien.

“At Home and Abroad: Éowyn’s Two-fold Figuring as War Bride in The Lord of the Rings” by Melissa A. Smith

I dislike assertions that Tolkien’s writing was “influenced” by his wartime experience (though, of course, one’s life experience must imbue one’s creative works in some way), but the argument that Eowyn can be read as a war bride is persuasive and explains things like how quickly she and Faramir develop a romantic relationship. Smith points out that Tolkien seems to acutely understand something of women’s psychology here, what it means to be left behind in war, what it means to fall in love with someone you recently met, etc.

“The Valkyrie Reflex in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: Galadriel, Shelob, Éowyn, and Arwen” by Leslie A. Donovan

This piece stands out in the collection for bringing in Arwen and Shelob, along with Galadriel and Eowyn. I do think the lists of “and this is how Character X has valkyrie characteristics!” went on a bit long for my tastes. (Apparently luminous eyes are notable, and all these characters have descriptions of their eyes?) But the look at how Tolkien might have been influenced by depictions of valkyries is intriguing.

“Speech and Silence in The Lord of the Rings: Medieval Romance and the Transitions of Éowyn” by Phoebe C. Linton

A very good essay looking at Eowyn, as well as what her apparent silences in the book indicate. I think, however, it raises similar points as other essays in the book do, as Eowyn is an obvious subject for a look at “women in Tolkien,” and I probably would have enjoyed this more if I’d read it on its own or if I’d read it first rather than practically last. I can only read the same quotes about Eowyn and what they mean so many times, no matter how interesting I think they are.

“Hidden in Plain View: Strategizing Unconventionality in Shakespeare’s and Tolkien’s Portraits of Women” by Maureen Thum

I’m always on the fence about comparative essays. Thum makes insightful points about the subverting of gender expectations in Twelfth Night and The Lord of the Rings, but I think she could have written two entirely separate essays; the points about Shakespeare don’t really illuminate Tolkien. Additionally, her arguments about Eowyn and Galadriel are convincing but don’t strike me as overly different arguments from other essays in this collection. It’s a fine essay but certainly not my favorite in this book.

“Finding Ourselves in the (Un)Mapped Lands: Women’s Reparative Readings of The Lord of the Rings” by Una McCormack

A good look at Tolkien fan fiction and the way women authors have chosen to write themselves into the story of LotR where they feel they have been excluded. This is interesting from an academic viewpoint, but I can’t say it made me particularly curious about reading the fan fiction itself, as McCormack herself admits some of it can be Mary Sue-ish as authors work out how to insert female characters– as female knights, as original side characters, as lovers of existing female characters, etc.

Briana
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Tolkien Opinions and Habits Survey Results!

Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme selected by the Tolkien Society is Hope and Courage. 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 a number of guest posts! Check out the full schedule of events by clicking here.


Tolkien Survey Results

Introduction

Usually for our annual Tolkien Reading Event, I crowdsource one or two questions like “What is the most impactful scene from Tolkien’s works?” and compile the results, but this year I decided to mix things up by making a survey and asking a bunch of random but fun questions about Tolkien and his works. Thanks to the magic of Twitter and everyone who helped spread the word about the survey, 108 people responded! (All questions were optional, so there are a few questions that not everyone answered.)

Check out the questions below and let us know if you agree with responses or if any of them surprise you!

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Survey Results

This skews young, but it’s fun to see some readers came to Tolkien when they were older, as well!

Everyone who said no…check out our posts on why you should read The Silmarillion!

It would have been a bit funny if someone said no to both the book and the movies because…why are they taking a survey about Tolkien then? But I guess one could have read only The Hobbit or only Tolkien’s other works somehow!

A nice mix of answers here, though I am not surprised Sam is a favorite.

I was sort of hoping this number would be higher because I think it would be fun if all of us were writing about Tolkien in school, but 12% is a pretty good showing!

I added an “other” option for the Tom Bombadil besides yes/no/no strong opinion, and for some reason a lot of people used it to write out why they were essentially voting no or no opinion, lol.

Predictably a lot of votes for Eowyn, but at least the others got votes, too! I imagine Luthien didn’t have as much of a chance, since fewer people have read The Silmarillion.

I was worried this was going to be 99% people saying Lothlorien, and it was early on in the survey responses, so I am glad to see some votes for other forests!

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What is an unpopular opinion you have about Tolkien or his works?

*Don’t murder each other in the comments. 😉 (Someone has a point about throwing Isildur into Mount Doom though….)

  1. Not sure if this counts as unpopular, but the female characters are mostly underrepesented in the books.
  2. His poetry sucks.
  3. The world is a little too black and white, evil and good.
  4. Frodo was not the best person to look after the ring. He was unreliable. Also Gandalf helped a minimum amount. He could have helped them so much more in LOTR. In the hobbit I get his lack of investment but LOTR it was much more important to support and help the hobbit more than he did.
  5. The Movies (LotR, NOT the Hobbit!) are better movies than the books are novels (seen in isolation, not talking about all world building, history of ME etc.)
  6. He can be a little convoluted.
  7. Could happily go without the songs.
  8. Elves are better than humans at literally everything; they are too good at everything – and that’s no fun at all.
  9. Sam shouldn’t have gone into the West
  10. I wish this family would give more creators access to make movies, tv shows and other media with the lord of the rings, and this gatekeeping only serves to keep it out of the publics attention. i am not saying we need 20 plus movies but an animated show done by people who care would bring it to new audiences
  11. The Hobbit shouldn’t have been split into 3 movies – the original animated movie was better.
  12. Fanfic is as valid an exploration of Tolkien’s world as academic analysis.
  13. I feel like his stories are wonderful but his writing is a bit over-descriptive.
  14. I don’t need 3 pages of adjectives for the rocks around Mordor
  15. Other than Tom Bombadil being cut from Fellowship, the film is a better version of that story. I could do with less walking.
  16. I do not know if this counts, but in my opinion, the Silmarillion is not an overly difficult book to read/understand like many people say it is.
  17. If you read them after a ton of other fiction, it feels oddly dated.
  18. Most people read the books in the wrong order. The Silmarillion should be read first to get a base for the rest of the books.
  19. Fucking spiders – just unnecessary
  20. Boromir should have lived.
  21. The Silmarillion should have been left unpublished.
  22. The Ring is not sentient.
  23. LOTR could do with being more concise.
  24. Not a complaint per say, but a difference of stylistic opinion. I generally prefer novels that emphasise narrative over world-building. From that perspective, I feel that Tolkien’s emphasis on world-building can occasionally result in a clunky narrative, detracting somewhat from the story. Even then, however, fantasy as a genre is heavily defined by the world it seeks to create, rendering this point effectively moot. It’s an unpopular opinion for sure, but in the context of Tolkien – and fantasy more broadly – it scarcely detracts from my enjoyment of his work.
  25. That the entire saga wasn’t meant for the big screen, I feel as though Tolkien wanted our imagination to imagine these magical places.
  26. The movies have way better pacing than the books do. Two Towers is too long and too slow!
  27. Tom Bombadil rules.
  28. Tolkien was a man of his time and we should examine his works that way. We should also be allowed to take some liberties with the canon for adaptations and other creative works. For example, the new Amazon tv series. I’m ok with small changes being made to better serve a story for the screen.
  29. Tolkien was not the greatest fantasy writer. He was a very good fantasy writer with the advantage of being the first.
  30. Gandalf was a con man,
  31. Jackson films are garbage.
  32. They are always walking.
  33. Elrond should have pushed Isildur in the volcano.
  34. Too much poetry!
  35. You can be racist, even without meaning to.
  36. He wasn’t good at depicting women and routinely made them one-sided caricatures instead of actual developed characters.
  37. The books were better than the movies.
  38. The man died too soon to bring another layer of depth to his story, which would probably put him up on the pedestal along with Homer or Virgil.
  39. The Silmarillion is so much better than The Lord of the Rings.
  40. Frodo had no personality.
  41. Not all of his poetry is that good.
  42. The stories are great, but once his focus went to creating a history (The Silmarillion) it turned to a snooze fest.
  43. It is a bit over written.
  44. The Lord of the Rings is plodding and unmemorable. The Hobbit is much better.
  45. The only non-white people you come across are ‘bad guys’ (the Haradrim and the Corsairs) which isn’t a good look these days.
  46. LOTR is far too padded (don’t know if this is unpopular though!)
  47. Turin was THE WORST. Giving yourself eighty-five names doesn’t erase all the terrible choices you’ve made. Morwen was the only redeemable character of that family, though she was pretty amazing.
  48. Tolkien doesn’t *need* more female characters any more than Little Women *needs* more male characters. Tolkien was writing about his world, and the female characters he did write about were ones that left a legacy. As a kid, I was still able to find myself in his world and enjoy his dense mythos even though I’m female. It always felt like there was room.
  49. They are unevenly written.
  50. All my opinions are popular.
  51. I like the songs in the Lord of the Rings books.
  52. Reads a little stale in the beginning, specially the Hobbit. Takes a while for it to pull your attention.
Briana