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Posts from the ‘News and Notes’ Category

Here’s Minas Tirith, Made Out of Toothpicks

Again, another example of fandom at a whole new level. Lord of the Rings fans are incredible.

In the photo to the left, you see what Minas Tirith (the capital of Gondor) looked like in the Lord of the Rings films.


In the photo below you’ll see a replica of Minas Tirith, created entirely with toothpicks.

Toothpicks. Read more

A Game Of Thrones Can Suck It

Today’s post is a guest post from my friend and co-worker Brandon Brison. He’s a copyeditor on our content team, my local Lord of the Rings expert, and he studied medieval literature in a graduate degree program.

I’ve neither read A Game of Thrones nor watched the television show, but I’m interested in hearing what you guys think about Brandon’s take on the comparisons that are made between AGOT and LOTR.

If you’d like to read more from Brandon, you can’t—because he’s not on Facebook, Twitter, and doesn’t have a blog. But he is a real person, I promise.


A common criticism directed against Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings is that Tolkien didn’t (and/or couldn’t) write characters of any great complexity or depth.

Critics who focus solely on Aragorn’s apparent one-dimensionality or Frodo’s uninspired character arc are, in my opinion, missing the bigger picture. Those critics are applying modern tastes to something decidedly and purposefully un-modern.

The Lord of the Rings can properly be considered a mythopoeic, thoroughly medieval epic, in contrast to a modern novel with quasi-medieval elements like George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones.

The difference between a truly medieval story and a story with medieval elements is largely one of aesthetics. Modern novels, in a very broad sense, focus on character development and the relationships between characters.

But this concept would have been alien to the medieval reader. Back in ye olde day, people didn’t want to hear made-up stories about people you just invented—they wanted to hear about King Arthur and Sir Gawain and Beowulf.

The skill that was prized, and the skill Tolkien focused on in the book, was innovative and artistic manipulation of language, not character. How the story was told was far more important than how innovative the plot or characters were.

In fact, in his letters, Tolkien said The Lord of the Rings was “largely an essay in ‘linguistic aesthetic’” and his work, like Greek mythology, relies “far more on the marvelous aesthetic of its language [. . .] and less on its content than people realize.”

And just like the medieval bards and authors he spent his life studying, every word Tolkien used was metered and intentional. In a letter that Tolkien wrote to a reader who was critical of Tolkien’s archaic style in The Two Towers, he expands on a single phrase (“Thus shall I sleep better.”) and explains to the reader at length exactly why he chose to use those exact words and that exact syntax.

Ultimately, as he wrote, Tolkien spent far more time meditating on how to tell the story of Middle Earth beautifully than how to showcase Frodo’s character arc. For him, The Lord of the Rings was as much an exercise in the beauty of medieval storytelling as it was a fulfillment of his personal vision to create a national mythology for England.

However you choose to read The Lord of the Rings—as a distinguished scholar or merely a hobbit enthusiast—it’s helpful to understand that, aesthetically speaking, The Lord of the Rings has far more in common with Tristan and Isolde and Beowulf than it does with the A Song of Fire and Ice series.

And comparing the two (though it’s tempting because, like, they both have swords or whatever) is like comparing a beautifully polished apple with a spikey blood orange that kills off a main character every 15 pages—it’s just not accurate.

If you’re interested in reading what smarter people than I have to say about Tolkien’s work, check out books and lectures by Tom Shippey, Verlyn Fleiger and Jane Chance.

(Also, A Song of Fire and Ice is just okay. Also also, “random crap happening” is not the same as character development. Come at me, Martin-ettes.)

What say you, AGOT and LOTR fans? 

This Is The Coolest Pub Ever

Can you imagine sitting at a table next to C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as they chatted about literature? Or, even sitting next to them and listening as they discussed the weather, soccer, or gardening? Wouldn’t that be fascinating?

If you were lucky enough to visit the Eagle and Child Pub in Oxford from the late 1930s to the early 1960s, you might have had that opportunity. The pub is where Tolkien and Lewis regularly met as part of The Inklings, a group of writers and poets from Oxford who often met to drink beer while reading and critiquing each other’s work.

Among the works read included the first draft of The Lord of the Rings. Can you imagine? Read more

10 Facts You Don’t Know About The Lord of the Rings

Between Tolkien’s immense novel and Peter Jackson’s incredible adaptation, The Lord of the Rings has more interesting little tidbits than every novel I’ve read from the list combined.

I found this exhaustive list of “facts you never knew” on Empire Online, so I thought I’d share 10 of my favorites with you. Read more

Flannery O’ Connor: Ayn Rand’s Fiction Was Trash

Why do I find author-on-author insults so entertaining?

And why do I find them especially entertaining when the insulted author is Ayn Rand?

So to start your Monday, how about a heaping bowl of love from Flannery O’ Conner to Ayn Rand? Read more

“There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold…”

You know you’re a cool rock band when your lyrics quote The Lord of the Rings.

You know you’re an even cooler rock band when you quote The Lord of the Rings often. And that’s why Led Zeppelin might be the coolest rock band ever.

Just take a look at a few of these song lyrics.

One small sample verse from “Ramble On”: Read more

The 9 Best Lord of the Rings Memes

This is the most BuzzFeed-ish post I’ve ever done, maybe even more so than the one about dogs reading, so I want to apologize in advance for this.

But I can’t help myself. If ever a movie was designed for the meme, it’s The Lord of the Rings. And let’s be honest–there are quite a few pretty funny LOTR memes out there.

So for today’s post, I thought I’d pick 9 of my favorite LOTR memes and share them with you. Here we go!


Read more

The Lord Of The Rings Covers: A Brief History

If there’s any novel that’s just made to have a beautiful cover, it’s The Lord of the Rings.

I would think this novel would be a book designer’s dream come true. So much inspiration.

Every now and then, I’ll take a look back at some book covers over the years for specific novels. We’ve done it with The Great Gatsby, The Grapes of Wrath and The Sound and the Fury.

Now let’s take a look at some of the The Lord of the Rings covers over the years. Read more

Breaking Down A Common Core English Lesson

If you live in the U.S., you’ve probably heard a lot about the new Common Core standards recently implemented in our public schools.

If you live in England, some of the guidelines sound similar to what Michael Gove is doing in regards to cutting American literature.

Anyway, we’ve talked about the Common Core on here before, but I’ve never truly understood what it means in terms of books, literature and English. Most of what you see out there are some kooky math problems, but nothing about English requirements.

That is until the NPR released this fascinating piece about English requirements in Common Core. Read more

The British Government Axes American Novels

This sucks if you’re a book nerd who lives in the U.K.

According to USA Today, the list of books U.K. students read for national exams will begin to focus more on titles from British authors, meaning classics like The Crucible, Of Mice and Men, and To Kill A Mockingbird will no longer be required reading in British schools.

Education Secretary Michael Gove led the charge on this decision.

The Sunday Times put it this way: Read more


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