Birmingham bookworms are getting into good hobbits – after choosing Bilbo Baggins to open the city’s new £188 million library.
Readers have chosen J R R Tolkien’s classic fantasy tale The Hobbit as the first book to grace the showpiece Centenary Square building.
Builders hand the library over the city council on Monday, and an army of workers is set to begin the mammoth task of putting more than 400,000 books on the shelves,ready for the doors opening to the public on September 3.
Library chiefs asked readers to choose which book should have the honour of being first, putting out an appeal on social networking site twitter.
Last weekend, the Hall of Fire crew delved into the Two Towers chapter Treebeard. Belatedly, for those who couldn’t attend, here’s a log. It’s a bit choppy to start but bear with it — my fault for still being half asleep when we kicked off.
Also, TORn regular Puma linked this excellent Youtube video of JRR Tolkien reading from the chapter when the Ents come from Entmoot to march on Isengard. (more…)
The quest for Middle-earth canon. In some ways it always feels a bit of a Sisyphean endeavour.
You know the story of the mythological Greek king, Sisyphus, right?
For those who don’t recall, Sisyphus was just too crafty for his own good. So the Greek gods, never tolerant of being made to look foolish, designed for him the most frustrating of punishments: Sisyphus was compelled to roll a huge boulder up a steep hill. Just before he could reach the top, it would roll back down, forcing him to begin all over again. (more…)
Note:A photo gallery follows the text and videos, click for larger versions.
The mill at Hobbiton Movie Set
NEW ZEALAND — During the world premiere of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” New Zealand wisely took the opportunity to show journalists from around the world (and Australia) a lot of the amazing things its island nation has to offer. TheOneRing.net was part of one of the tours and rather than regurgitate all the footage, photos and writing we gathered at once, exactly when all the other journalism outlets of the world did, we thought it would be great to disperse it and share it over the course of 2013 in the lead up to “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.”
After all, Tourism New Zealand’s motto is “New Zealand is Middle-earth” and this is true in so many ways and for much longer than just the weeks after the debut of the film. For example, above is the video made for TORn by fellow filmmaker Dan McBride who shot and edited the video tour you probably have already watched. We, and a gaggle of other media, toured the Hobbiton Movie Set and witnessed Prime Minister John Key open the new Green Dragon building accompanied by a bunch of actors who reminded us a whole lot of a company of Dwarves. (Incidentally, we had just talked to him the day before so when he showed up again, we wondered why we were being followed and what we had done wrong.)
The video speaks for itself but this remarkable property is, as far as I know, unique in all the world for its ability to transport visitors inside a book, or a movie for that matter. Being there doesn’t feel like walking on a set, rather it feels like immersion. It looks, smells, sounds and feels like one imagines Hobbiton would if you could take a magic wardrobe to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth. The Hobbit holes scattered about are, more or less, as they were for filming of “The Hobbit,” movies. It seems safe to assume we will see more of The Shire in subsequent movies and in the Extended Edition on home video before the end of the year.
At the Green Dragon
Meanwhile, not far from Auckland, sits this unique and amazing tourism experience. The still functioning sheep and cattle farm where the now-permanent movie set is placed, is owned by the Alexander family, as it was when discovered for “The Lord of the Rings,” films. Their television rugby match interrupted by strangers led to parts of the family farm being among the most beloved locations in fantasy film and literature. Now visitors take tours daily, either by booking directly through the farm or through travel agents, tours or cruise ships. There are several options available, including overnight farm stays, private tours and lunch options. Matamata, as authentic a small New Zealand town as you will find, serves as a gateway to the farm, offering transportation daily and had just opened a visitor’s center when we visited.
Hamilton is also near with more accommodations and an airport. Not far from Auckland, 160 kilometers in fact, visitors can easily manage the two hour car ride. It goes without saying that driving through the countryside is spectacular as well. My dream would be to meet with TheOneRing.net staff and friends in The Green Dragon, which can be reserved for private functions. They serve food and drink and I just bet you can guess what size the ale comes in. Weddings have and will happen here. The atmosphere and the finish on the place are just as good as you hope they are. In truth, for movies fans and Tolkien fans, the entire movie set experience is simply magic.
Waitomo Caves Black Water Rafting
Some tourists will hop off the cruise ship or land in Auckland and make the farm their only stop in the region and in my opinion if you made it all the way to New Zealand and don’t see more of the region you are doing it all wrong. The tour also provided us the opportunity to visit the world famous Waitomo caves. They contain the exceptionally cool glow worms and there are different ways to experience it all, including the black water rafting experience that I couldn’t resist. Hamilton serves as a good gateway to both spots and neither is to be missed. In the gallery below I will drop in a few Waitomo photos but it is an entirely different story to be told and if there is any need to explain the importance of caves to Middle-earth, you might be at the wrong website.
The region is full of food and drink, excellent accommodations and plenty more worth-while excursions. We will tackle them all in a future story. But add the farm visit and Waitomo Caves to your bucket lists. They really are wold-class destinations not to be missed but especially not by Tolkienites.
While you are here, please enjoy other videos from the premiere. First, actors talking about rings:
And Red Carpet highlights.
A map of the New Zealand region with Auckland and Matamata.
A detailed map of where The Hobbit Move Set is located near Matamata.
The door of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.
Seems like a good place for a party
An average human male (Dan McBride) stands in front of a small Hobbit door.
The mill at Hobbiton Movie Set
Water at Hobbiton Movie set
They may not like boats but Hobbits have docks.
The visitor’s center in Matamata, New Zealand.
Flower at Hobbiton Movie Set
Actors look on at the opening ceremony of the Green Dragon
Still water, a view of Hobbiton Movie Set
For scale, an average sized adult (MrCere) at a Hobbit door.
A Hobbit window at Hobbiton Movie Set
Flowers and door at Hobbiton Movie Set
The interior of the Green Dragon
At the Green Dragon
By the lake and the mill sits the Green Dragon
The exterior of the Green Dragon
The bar at The Green Dragon
Detail of the carved green dragon in the Green Dragon
Floor plan on the wall of the Green Dragon of the Green Dragon.
Inside the Green Dragon
Door and menu at the Green Dragon
At the Green Dragon
Interior of the Green Dragon
Waitomo Caves black water rafting with glow worms.
Several strongholds of elves and men are besieged while Frodo and Sam are trudging laboriously through Mordor to Mount Doom. In particular, Lothlórien repels three such assaults before Galadriel and Celeborn finally lead a counter-offensive against Dol Guldur.
“…the assaults were driven back; and when the Shadow passed, Celeborn came forth and led the host of Lórien over Anduin in many boats. They took Dol Guldur, and Galadriel threw down its walls and laid bare its pits, and the forest was cleansed.” Appendix B, Lord of the Rings.
That last sentence has often puzzled; people wonder exactly how Galadriel might have accomplished such a task. More, why is she doing now what ought to have been accomplished when the White Council drove Sauron from Dol Guldur years before? (more…)
A little earlier, Hall of Fire regulars and guests concluded a lively discussion about the enigma of Idril and Tuor. For those who missed it, here’s a log to peruse. Next weekend, we’ll be returning to The Two Towers and chatting about the chapter “Treebeard”. (more…)
Welcome to our collection of TORn’s hottest topics for the past week. If you’ve fallen behind on what’s happening on the Message Boards, here’s a great way to catch the highlights. Or if you’re new to TORn and want to enjoy some great conversations, just follow the links to some of our most popular discussions. Watch this space as every weekend we will spotlight the most popular buzz on TORn’s Message Boards. Everyone is welcome, so come on in and join in the fun!
There’s a passage near the beginning of “The Fellowship of the Ring” (the book, not the movie) that, on the surface, seems peculiarly innocuous – so innocuous that I’m not sure why J.R.R. Tolkien bothered to include it.
Frodo, Sam and Pippin had just woken up after the first night of their journey, the journey that would take the Ring from Bag End all the way to Mordor. Still in the Shire, they had slept under a tree. After Frodo got up, he…
“…stripped the blankets from Pippin and rolled him over, and then walked off to the edge of the wood. Away eastward the sun was rising red out of the mists that lay thick on the world. Touched with gold and red the autumn trees seemed to be sailing rootless in a shadowy sea. A little below him to the left the road ran down steeply into a hollow and disappeared.
When he returned Sam and Pippin had got a good fire going. ‘Water!’ shouted Pippin. ‘Where’s the water?’
‘I don’t keep water in my pockets,’ said Frodo.
‘We thought you had gone to find some,’ said Pippin, busy setting out the food, and cups. ‘You had better go now.’”
I’ve never really understood the significance of that scene. Frodo wakes up, walks off, observes the sun, the trees and the road and walks back to the campsite. When questioned, he doesn’t explain his actions – but we know he wasn’t getting water.
So what, exactly, was he doing?
A few possibilities come to mind, though none seem definitive.
Perhaps Frodo was scouting the road for enemies?
Not likely. As far as the hobbits knew at that time, they had nothing to worry about: “even Frodo feared no danger yet, for they were still in the heart of the Shire.”
OK. So maybe Frodo was just admiring the view?
That’s possible, but what’s the narrative function of Frodo admiring the view? What does that tell us, the readers? Was the author giving us the lay of the land?
Maybe. There’s a load of geographical description in “The Lord of the Rings.”
There’s another possibility, however, one that strikes me when I attempt to read between the lines of that passage. It’s an interpretation based on my own camping experiences. Why, first thing in the morning, would I walk away from the campsite without a word of explanation?
To relieve myself.
In the thousand-plus pages of “The Lord of the Rings,” in the midst of all the walking, running, riding, boating and sleeping out of doors done by the characters, never once, as far as I can tell, does Tolkien deal directly with that inescapable fact of biology: Human beings (and presumably hobbits, Elves and Dwarves) urinate and defecate.
In fact, in all of Tolkien’s voluminous writings about his invented world, the only specific mention of the topic I can find is at the beginning of “The Hobbit”, when he lists “bathrooms” among the rooms in Bilbo’s home.
In “The Lord of the Rings”, the closest we get to a character “using the bathroom”, so to speak, is the passage above, when Frodo walks off for no apparent reason. And even that, I admit, requires a leap of the imagination.
Let’s look for clues in another passage, this one from “The Two Towers”. Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, the Three Hunters, are running through Rohan, chasing the Orcs that had captured Merry and Pippin.
“As nightshade was closing about them Aragorn halted. Only twice in the day’s march had they rested for a brief while, and twelve leagues now lay between them and the eastern wall where they had stood at dawn … He cast himself on the ground and fell at once into sleep … Before dawn was in the sky he woke and rose. Gimli was still deep in slumber, but Legolas was standing, gazing northwards into the darkness, thoughtful and silent as a young tree in a windless night … So the third day of their pursuit began. During all its long hours of cloud and fitful sun they hardly paused, now striding, now running, as if no weariness could quench the fire that burned them … At dusk they halted again. Now twice twelve leagues they had passed over the plains of Rohan and the wall of the Emyn Muil was lost in the shadows of the East … As before Legolas was first afoot, if indeed he had ever slept … The others sprang up, and almost at once they set off again.”
According to Karen Wynn Fonstad’s “The Atlas of Middle-earth,” the trio averaged 36 miles a day for three straight days – on foot. No wonder Eomer named Aragorn “Wingfoot.”
Even more impressive? They didn’t relieve themselves once.
Now, I could argue that when the Three Hunters “rested for a brief while”, it was implied that they took a pee break – but what I really need to do is address the question you’re probably asking yourself (if you’re still bothering to read this) right about now: Who cares?
Good point. Why do we need to know about the bathroom habits of Middle-earth? Can’t we just (quietly) assume the characters go whenever they get the chance? Discussing such a topic is unnecessary, not to mention gross.
I certainly won’t deny that it’s gross. But unnecessary?
Tolkien understood why his readers might be curious about even the most mundane details of his invented world: “It is, I suppose, a tribute to the curious effect that (a) story has, when based on very elaborate and detailed workings of geography, chronology, and language, that so many should clamour for sheer ‘information’, or ‘lore’,” he wrote in 1955.
I’m not sure if any of his readers asked him how hobbit bathrooms worked, or what the Elves used for toilet paper, but are those inquiries less legitimate than questions about Gondor’s economy or Sindarin nomenclature? Lore is lore, right?
Another thing: Tolkien went to great pains to portray the many discomforts of travel in a pre-technological age. His characters typically journeyed by foot, pony, horse or boat (or, occasionally, giant eagle). They were often hungry, thirsty and exhausted. He didn’t shy away from describing those miseries – but he did shy away from describing one particular misery.
So, why was Tolkien so silent on the matter? Given the dearth of information in his writings, there’s no easy way to find a satisfactory answer, but I can think of a possibility: Prudishness. This trait of Tolkien’s was perhaps best illustrated by his biographer, Humphrey Carpenter, when commenting on the following passage from Tolkien’s “The Fall of Arthur”:
“His bed was barren; there black phantoms
Of desire unsated and savage fury
In his brain had brooded till bleak morning”
According to Carpenter, that passage is “one of the few pieces of writing in which Tolkien deals explicitly with sexual passion, describing Mordred’s unsated lust for Guinever.”
“Sexual passion” is a major part of the human experience, and in all his published writings, Tolkien barely touches on it. Of the (relatively few) romantic relationships in “The Lord of the Rings,” that of Aragorn and Arwen is barely referred to (unless you’re willing to wade through the appendices), and that of Faramir and Eowyn so courtly and dignified that any talk of sex would seem completely inappropriate. But we know people procreate in Tolkien’s imaginary world. Sam Gamgee and his wife Rose, for example, have lots of kids.
(Some of you might be thinking of the episode of incest in “The Children of Hurin” and wondering: How can somebody who wrote about that be considered a prude? Well, Tolkien makes it quite clear that the incest was a mistake and an abomination brought about by an evil curse. And it’s not like he described the sex.)
Whatever his reasons, Tolkien clearly decided that certain matters – like sex, urination and defecation – were best left to the imagination. Ultimately, I’m in no position to argue with him. It was his world, not mine. I’m just grateful he shared it with the rest of us.
But I can’t help thinking about the bathroom situation for the Elves of Lorien, which must have been tricky. Many of them lived on wooden platforms – the Elves called them flets, or talans – in the boughs of trees. Probably the biggest platform belonged to Celeborn and Galadriel, the Lord and Lady of Lorien.
“Upon the south side of the lawn there stood the mightiest of all the trees; its great smooth bole gleamed like grey silk, and up it towered, until its first branches, far above, opened their huge limbs under shadowy clouds of leaves. Beside it a broad white ladder stood, and at its foot three Elves were seated,” according to “The Fellowship of the Ring.”
“As he climbed slowly up Frodo passed many flets: some on one side, some on another, and some set about the bole of the tree, so that the ladder passed through them. At a great height above the ground he came to a wide talan, like the deck of a great ship. On it was built a house, so large that almost it would have served for a hall of Men upon the earth.”
That’s a fantastic image, but (to me) it begs the question: Where, exactly, were the privies in that house up in a tree? How did they work?
It’s possible the Elves did their business on the ground, but that seems like an awful lot of climbing. Maybe they cut a hole in the floor of the flet and let it drop?
That doesn’t seem very Elf-like. You never know if Lord Celeborn is taking a stroll at the bottom of the tree.
Yet the waste had to be taken care of, somehow. I’m afraid all we’re left with is the image of some poor Elf hauling chamber pots down that long white ladder.
But at least the chamber pots were well-made, right? There’s no reason to think the Elves of Lorien weren’t as skilled in the area of privy paraphernalia as they were in everything else they did. Indeed, judging by the quality of their rope (slender but “strong, silken to the touch”), their boats (“light-built … crafty … will not sink, lade them as you will”) and their cloaks (“light to wear, and warm enough or cool enough at need … a great aid in keeping out of the sight of unfriendly eyes”), Elven toilet paper must have been marvelous.
Maedhros is a guest writer and his views do not necessarily reflect those of TheOneRing.net. Maedhros lives in Grand Rapids, MI. He’s been hooked on Tolkien since he was 11, when he opened the first page of “The Two Towers” and read about Aragorn tracking a hobbit; and Boromir’s death scene, of course.
There is a buzz in Tolkiendom right now about a gold ring dating from Roman times, which may have given Tolkien a seed of an idea for his own ’One Ring’. The ancient ring, found in 1785 in a field which was a Roman archaeological site in Silchester, Hampshire, UK, was associated with a ‘curse tablet’, cursing the man whom the original owner accused of stealing the gold trinket. Archeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler, investigating the wording of the curse, consulted with Tolkien about the ring in 1929; and that conversation may have been part of Tolkien’s inspiration to create his own magic ring.
The Roman artifact is now being shown in a new display at National Trust property The Vyne, also in Hampshire. The display includes a first edition of The Hobbit, and was arranged with the help of the Tolkien Trust. You can read more about this fascinating item, including an excellent explanation of the associated curse, in this article from the Guardian newspaper, here. Further articles can be found here and here.
Thanks to all who wrote in to tell us about this one ring!
Whether it was the photoshopped image of JRR Tolkien signing a document, many years after his passing, or the last line of this release, this was one of our 2013….
Global leader in high-quality family entertainment agrees to acquire world-renowned Middle-earth Enterprises, including THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE HOBBIT franchises.
Acquisition continues Disney’s strategic focus on creating and monetizing the world’s best branded content, innovative technology and global growth to drive long-term shareholder value.
Middle-earth Enterprises to join company’s global portfolio of world class brands including Disney, ESPN, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and ABC.
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN TO MIDDLE-EARTH feature animated film targeted for release in 2016.
Burbank, CA and Berkeley, CA, April 1, 2013 – Continuing its strategy of delivering exceptional creative content to audiences around the world, The Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS) has agreed to acquire Middle-earth Enterprises in a stock and cash transaction. Middle-earth Enterprises, formerly known as Tolkien Enterprises, is a division of The Saul Zaentz Company, headquartered in Berkeley, California.
Under the terms of the agreement, the transaction value is $10 billion (US). The final consideration will be subject to customary post-closing balance sheet adjustments.
“Middle-earth Enterprises reflects the extraordinary passion, vision, and storytelling of JRR Tolkien, the greatest author of the 20th century,” said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company. “This transaction combines a world-class portfolio of content, with Disney’s unique and unparalleled creativity across multiple platforms, businesses, and markets to generate sustained growth and drive significant long-term value.”
Today fans of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and the works of J.R.R. Tolkien will join together in a worldwide celebration of the late author’s works for Tolkien Reading Day. The theme for this year’s event is Tolkien’s landscapes in honour of the fabulous scenery currently on offer in Sir Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy. (more…)
The review copy of Hobbitus Ille by Mark Walker is a beautifully presented hardcover edition with art and interior maps in the style of early English copies and is provided by Harper Collins.
Walker has taken up a very brave challenge in providing us with the first Latin translation of Tolkien’s The Hobbit. His intent was to provide as direct a translation of Tolkien’s own words as possible and the end result is a complete and unabridged volume where even the poetry is in Latin. This direct translation is not the hallmark of the best translations, nor is it the Classical Latin of Caesar and Cicero. (more…)
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