Have you ever wished you had like-minded friends who love Tolkien’s books as much as you do to discuss them with? A place exists right here on TORn where that’s possible. Over the 17 years TORn has been around, we’ve discussed The Lord of the Rings from beginning to end a total of 6 1/2 times, including the current discussion which is on Book VI Ch 1, The Tower of Cirith Ungol.
The way it works is that volunteers take a chapter and do a number of posts over the course of a week presenting their thoughts and posing questions about the chapter content. How, you might ask, can we possibly find new things to talk about the 5th, 6th and 7th time through? It’s surprisingly easy! New people joining the discussions bring new perspectives and new ideas for their chapter presentations. People use quotes, pictures, historical background from other works by Tolkien, even current events, and combine them to raise interesting, fun, and often challenging questions. Of course, leading a chapter discussion isn’t required. You can simply follow along with each chapter, reading people’s replies, or even better, reply with your own thoughts.
“But, I’m not a Tolkien scholar, I just love reading his books” you might say. No worries! While there are some pretty knowledgeable folks who participate, the discussions are friendly and informal. Having participated in a number of the discussions, I can vouch for how interesting it is to read other people’s perspectives of the same words you’ve read. Sometimes they can be surprisingly different. For example, I thought I knew exactly who killed the Witch King (Eowyn, of course), and was 100% sure Balrogs had wings. Needless to say, I was astounded at the number of people who interpreted the exact same passages of the story entirely differently than I did! To say those questions prompted some lively discussion is an understatement!
Over the years, in addition to discussing The Lord of the Rings, we’ve discussed The Hobbit and Unfinished Tales three times, The Silmarillion four times, and had a full ten discussions of Tolkien’s other works such as The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, and even Letters from Father Christmas!
If following along and/or participating in the current discussion is something that’s of interest, do give the Reading Room a look! You can find the current discussion schedule here (a few chapters are still open for volunteers). You don’t need to register for the forums if you just want to check it out or follow along. Just bookmark this link to the Reading Room. If, after you start reading some of the discussion, you can’t resist joining in, you can register for the boards here.
As we like to say in the Reading Room: pull up a comfy chair, relax, and enjoy!
The recent announcement of the “Middle-earth Limited Collectors Edition Blu-ray Box Set” has stirred up quite a hornets’ nest not only in our message boards, but elsewhere, be it the comment fields of retail sites, or the blogs of people interested in Tolkien, or the home releases of cinematic material in general.
Many are concerned that the reported and rumored price of US$800 for the limited edition is too high, given there is no new cinematic or ‘behind-the-scenes’ material. Some compare the release unfavorably to Warner Brothers’ Harry Potter Wizard’s Collection, which provided a bonus disk. Some point out that you could purchase the Blu-rays, a player and a small HDTV for the price of this set. Others point out that one could fly from North America to New Zealand for that amount.
So yes, one feeling is that ‘this is way too much money for nothing new but packaging.’ But for some, there’s more than just a sense of consumer rejection – there’s a sense of disappointment, outrage, frustration, and even sadness. Why? What drives that?
a) Some fans have been hoping for an ‘ultimate edition’ with bloopers, extra bonus material, and whatnot. This release is not that.
b) Some feel that “The Hobbit”, has not been handled properly from the beginning (too many films, or some other complaint). These fans feel this is yet another example of the studio “blowing it with the material, and with the fans.”
c) Some feel that they are being treated as fools. With no new cinematic material, how is it possible that the studio could think that a shelf, nice boxes, some small posters, a notebook, etc. come with such a high markup? Is the shelving made of wood from the white tree at the heart of Minas Tirith? After all, with the US$800 for this release, I could get the extended edition Blu-ray edition of all six films, hardcover copies of the books, along with The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, and the History of Middle Earth, a copy of Jens Hansen’s One Ring, a version of Arwen’s Evenstar pendant, Gandalf and Saruman salt and pepper shakers, and more, and still wonder what I will do with the rest of the money I have saved.
The list of possible causes of frustration goes ever on and on… we Tolkien fans are known to get easily excited!
But let’s take a collective deep breath and do two things.
First, let’s challenge ourselves – should we be so angry? Consider: in the non-Tolkien collecting world, similarly high-priced ‘collectibles’ exist. I can go to a local store and pay about $14 for the a copy of Scrabble, or I can go to a specialty retail store and pay $225 for ‘Premiere Edition Scrabble’. It’s the same game. There are no extra tiles, no new letters in the alphabet, no new special rules for the well-heeled logophile. It’s still good old Scrabble, just packaged a different way. Perhaps those premiere edition Scrabble game purchasers are fools – or maybe they just really like Scrabble and want a really cool looking set as a focal point of their family room to reflect their interest in the game. Similarly, the well-heeled and price-unconscious Tolkien fan can indeed decide to spend $800 on this set – and that doesn’t harm those who choose not to do the same. So perhaps anger over the high sticker price needs to be reduced.
Second, let’s see if there’s something deeper going on here. Perhaps the frustration we are expressing is really just a mask covering a deeper emotion. Let’s face it. Almost all of us sense that, at a global level, the heady cinematic, culture-impacting days of Middle-Earth are really, truly, over. We are sad. At the turn of the century, our dear Middle-earth was shown to the world, and they loved it. We felt everyone got ‘it’, and because of it, got us. Now things our different. Our favorite franchise, books that matter so much to us, seem to no longer matter to the world, or even to their film studio, as much as they did just a few short years ago.
But we knew this would happen one day – popular culture cannot stay focused on one thing for any length of time, or it won’t have room to take on anything new.
We’re sad because, instead of things ending with a bang and applause, like Bilbo’s Long-Expected Party, with the last film loved most of all, and a glorious home release acknowledging a track record of success, we just get a repackaging. No new material. The Middle-earth cinematic saga, the wide cultural exposure to all things Tolkien ends not with a bang, but a whimper.
We are sad – even angry – because we simply didn’t think it would end this way.
But perhaps we are wrong to feel that way. Perhaps it’s important to remember someone’s wise words, and paraphrase them to fit our current situation: “End? No the impact of Middle-earth doesn’t end here. The eventual loss of wide cultural exposure is just another path; one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of decades of niche-interest will roll back, and once again, Middle-earth will be on the silver screen. And then you’ll see it. White searchlights; and beyond, a premiere of a new generation of films, screening at night after a swift sunset.”
This is not the end – this is just the simple pause after a cycle of cultural interest, the end of one long inhalation and exhalation. One day, the world will breathe again. Tolkien fandom has been here before: at the end of a heady time in the 1960s and early 1970s, it went quiet for 25 years, until exploding open in 2001.
Therefore, I believe and hope that twenty years, fifty years, a century from now, our children, their children, and beyond, will continue to find hope and meaning in Middle-earth, and produce new interpretations of it for others to enjoy. On the screen, in plays, in forms and delivery mechanisms not imagined by us now, our offspring will be stirred by Theoden’s re-awakening, by Gandalf’s wisdom, by Sam’s loyalty, and by Frodo’s courage. These new interpretations will be worse than Peter Jackson’s vision in some ways, but also much better in others. For that is the way of such things. But whatever successes and flaws these new versions will have, a few things are certain: they will be amazing and inspiring. They will ignite in a new generation a sense of a nobler purpose in life, a joy of simpler living, and an appreciation of works of wonder, because behind all possible interpretations, supporting them, letting them breathe, will be the timeless, unchanging words of the good Professor.
Our job now, as lovers of Middle-earth, is to carry the hope and deeper messages of Tolkien’s work forward and ensure it is not lost and forgotten, so that one day, perhaps a day that I or you might not see, the world can re-experience the joy we have felt these past fifteen years.
While Tolkien was a British writer, his readership and influence extend far beyond the English language. Middle-earth transcends both time and culture as we have seen again and again when having the pleasure to meet fellow fans from around the globe through both TheOneRing and Happy Hobbit. That said, sometimes it takes a little longer for Tolkien events and/or specials in other languages and countries to reach our ears. Fortunately for you, dear reader, famed Tolkien artist and scholar John Howe sent a message our way via thrush to let us know about a delightful Franco-English documentary he narrated in 2015 about the source material for Tolkien’s The Hobbit titled A la Recherche du Hobbit (Looking for the Hobbit).
You can watch the first episode of five in English below:
If you’re confident enough to navigate the French website (all you have to do is click on the shopping cart icon!) you can purchase a region-free English version here, and the series is available in French on DVD and streaming here (along with a preview). You can also peruse several delightful behind the scenes photos on their Facebook page.
John Howe at Hobbiton in Matamata, NZ.
What’s more, John Howe has taken the time to provide us with his thoughts on why, even after all this time, he was excited to contribute to yet another exploration of Tolkien.
The 2016 edition of Middle-earth Madness officially starts today! We’ve split our field of 64 characters and objects into four divisions: Brains, Beauties, Brawn and Baddies.
This is another new format for the competition this year – a la a certain reality show – Survivor if you don’t watch it; and what better show to emulate for our annual March Madness competition! This year, a few past winners are missing -notably Sam and Thranduil. But, as you can imagine, with hundreds of wonderful Tolkien characters to choose from, every character can’t make it into the competition every year.
A note on how the bracket combatants were determined. TheOneRing.net created a document containing all combatants, sub divided into divisions. We asked staff to cast sixteen votes per division, with the votes having a weight of 1-4. Each staffer cast four 4 votes, four 3 votes, four 2 votes and four 1 votes in each division. We then totaled all the votes from each division to determine their rank, and ultimately placed those into our bracket for seeding.
As you can imagine, our staff is diverse and the results were very interesting! Not only are there some great match-ups in this first round, the final four will be an amazing round to see with the top brain, beauty, brawn and baddie going up against each other.
Voting in Round 1 will remain open until March 21st at 10pm ET. At that point, we’ll calculate the winners and post the next round on March 22nd. Follow after the break for a complete bracket image (download it), and to vote on all of our Round 1 match-ups! [Round 1 Bracket]
Learn how to make a treat that is fit for a king in this latest delicious episode!
THORIN’S TOFFEE BARS
¾ cup butter, room temperature (or melted per Happy Hobbit style!)
¾ cup light brown sugar
1½ cups flour
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 Tbsp butter
2 cups milk or semi sweet chocolate chips
1½ cups Toffee Bits (store bought or homemade — scroll all the way down for the homemade recipe we used!)
1.Preheat oven to 350°
2. Line a 9×13 pan with foil and spray lightly with nonstick spray.
3. To make the Shortbread Crust, beat butter and sugar together until it is combined.
4. Mix in flour, it will be a bit dry.
5. Press into prepared pan. Bake for 15 minutes (or start at 10 just to be safe) or until lightly golden.
6. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
7. To make the filling; in a small saucepan heat sweetened condensed milk and butter together until the mixture is smooth.
8. Pour over shortbread crust. Bake 12-15 minutes until filling is bubbly and browned. (It will start to look browned and slightly caramelized)
9. To make the topping, immediately sprinkle milk chips on top of filling when it comes out of the oven. Place back in oven for around 2ish minutes or until the chips have begun to melt.
10. Carefully spread the chips over the filling.
11. Sprinkle with toffee bits and press them evenly into the chocolate.
12. Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares. Let them rest up to overnight, or cool in the fridge…that way you can eat them sooner!
13…EAT THEM ALL!
Homemade Toffee Bits Recipe:
½ cup butter
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
pinch of salt
1. Place all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a boil (around 5 minutes)
2. Continue cooking until the mixture is 300 degrees and starts to turn brown.This could be up to 8 minutes of cooking, but in my experience, it is much shorter then that (depending on your stove!) So just be sure to keep an eye on it, or two eyes as Gandalf would do!
3. When it reaches 300 or starts to really thicken and brown, pour it out onto a pan lined with baking parchment.
4. Let it cool completely.
5. Put it into a zip-lock bag and bash it up into bits!
Have you ever wondered what the honey from Beorn’s hives gifted to Gandalf and Thorin’s Company on their Quest tasted like? Now you can find out! For the first time ever, Beorn’s treat is available worldwide from Middle-earth Honey, a New Zealand based company striving both to bring the tastes of Arda to the world and to also save the precious bees that produce it.
Their first product is called Anduin Vale Honey and its inspiration was taken directly from the text of The Hobbit: “This is what he promised to do for them. He would provide ponies for each of them, and a horse for Gandalf, for their journey to the forest, and he would lade them with food to last them for weeks with care, and packed so as to be as easy as possible to carry—nuts, flour, sealed jars of dried fruits, and red earthenware pots of honey, and twice-baked cakes that would keep good a long time, and on a little of which they could march far. The making of these was one of his secrets; but honey was in them, as in most of his foods, and they were good to eat, though they made one thirsty.” – The Hobbit, “Queer Lodgings”
You can meander through the Vale at the Middle-earth Honey website here, and likewise may keep up to date with new products and recipes by following their Facebook page here.
Like Beorn, the nature-loving guardian of the Vale, Middle-earth Honey holds its bees in high regard and gives them the best possible treatment. Their honey is 100% natural and is based just ten minutes from Hobbiton in Matamata, NZ.
Anduin Vale Honey is but the first of many Middle-earth products, including candies, chocolates, and even some meads (honey wine) to be released later this year.
Even better, Middle-earth Honey is helping to support the endangered honey bee by maintaining healthy hives on the Pacific Island nation of Niue where the bee population has been untouched by disease or decline.
You can find out more about these special island bees in the video below:
It’s been almost a year since The One Last Party, but we haven’t forgotten it, and we didn’t want Peter Jackson to think we’d forgotten about him either. As you may remember, one of the promises we made on the Indiegogo campaign was that we would send Peter a “thank you” card. To be exact, we said, “Your name will go on an EPIC ‘thank you’ card we will present or send to Peter Jackson, from fans everywhere, to express our appreciation for the immense effort he and his cast and crew have put into the epic journey of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films.”
After the campaign ended, the TORn staff began brainstorming how to get all the names on one card – there were a lot of them! We decided to create a keepsake ‘Red Book’ for Peter. TORn staffer and designer, Mithril (Nancy Steinman), found a gorgeous leather journal and then designed and illustrated the interior pages and bound them into the book. Out of the 194 pages of the journal, 180 of them were the list of names!
Peter now has his journal, but we thought all of you deserved something to remember that fantastic night, too (besides your gift bags), so Mithril reached out with some questions to one of the party planners who was absolutely instrumental in making the party happen. Following is the interview with TORn Senior Staffer greendragon, and scroll down to see some photos of the journal and the party.
Autumn had finally arrived in northern California when I boarded a plane to head into spring on the other side of the planet in New Zealand. To say I wasn’t frightened would be a lie. I felt very much like Frodo heading out into the wide world, for I was about to be away from my family and my continent for longer than I ever had. The weather in Wellington had been pleasant until I arrived, or so I’m told, and as more and more cold rainstorms blew into the bay off the Pacific, my co-workers at Weta Workshop teased that I had brought winter with me to their beautiful island nation.
The flight from Auckland to Wellington, NZ
Like most fans of the TheLord of the Rings films, I had long dreamed of visiting New Zealand and seeing as much of its Middle-earth landscape as I could. However, also like most fans, the cost of such an adventure always held me back. As such, if someone had told me that I would have gone to Aotearoa twice in 2015, I would’ve thought they were as full of tall tales as old mad Baggins! But step out my front door I did, each time with a little nudge.
Don’t miss HobbitShop’s Cyber Monday sale today! They’re offering savings of up to 70% on panoramic posters, jewelry, phone cases, and more, in addition to their Buy One, Get One 50% off Shirts offer. Check out their deals here: http://www.hobbitshop.com/!
The long-awaited second installment of the article about Tolkien’s special hidden realms has arrived! In Part One, which you can read here, C.E High explored the hidden realms of the First Age. In Part Two, he continues on to consider hidden realms of the Second and Third Ages. Enjoy!
In the second and third ages the devices that Tolkien uses with his realms blossom into more complex symbolism with a diversity of outcomes. As men grow and diversify, this creates new problems for the other races of Middle-earth leading to a variety of realms that grow out of need and out of want. There is also that pesky Sauron, Morgoth’s second in command in the elder days, and in the absence of his master he arguably surpasses him in malice and evil deeds in the land of Mordor.
No longer do we have three hidden elven kingdoms of a similar making, we now have a variety. Eregion and Lothlorien are, at first, settlements of the displaced Noldor, which quickly become refuges against the evil now located in the east of Middle-earth. Rivendell, and the Woodland Realm to the north of Eregion and Lothlorien, round out the retreats of elves from battles with Sauron. Last, but not least, we have the newest and most intriguing hidden realm of them all: The Shire, a realm founded in the third age.
Those of you lucky enough to live in the L.A. area can catch an appearance by Sir Ian McKellen at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica on Tuesday, November 17th at 7:30 p.m. He will be appearing before a special showing of Mr Holmes, in which he portrays an aging Sherlock Holmes struggling to put closure on his last case from thirty years earlier. As we all know, our favorite wizard from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies is always entertaining and gracious to his fans, and may even discuss or take questions on his role as Gandalf, so get thee to the Aero on November 17th if you can! Tickets can be purchased here.
This site is maintained and updated by fans of The Lord of the Rings and the name and mark ONE RING is used under license from The Saul Zaentz Company, which hold the title thereto. We in no way claim rights in the artwork displayed herein. Copyrights and trademarks for the books, films, articles, merchandise and other promotional materials are held by their respective owners and our limited use of these materials is done by permission or is allowed under the fair use clause of the Copyright Act.