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Archive for May, 2006

Essay: Orthodoxy and Tolkien

Maureen writes: You will probably remember that Taran gave us his take on LOTR as seen in Ukraine in GreenBooks back in 2004. I thought all the TORnsibs would appreciate this translation of an article that appeared in a Russian Orthodox magazine. It’s a little rough, but the quote from Tolkien translated back to English should give people a chance to test their familiarity with “On Fairy Stories”. Can you recall it?

The Question of Tolkien and the Answers of Tolkienism
Father Yuri Kononenko

One could say that a man’s spiritual growth begins with a Question. Not with only one, though, but rather with a compilation of many: What is the meaning of life? Is there something valuable, beautiful, or genuine about it? If the surrounding world is bad, how can I change it? Questions like these, may they sound exactly like this or not, are in fact a single and very important Question.

Then man will begin to search. More often then not he will find lies and things look like the truth in place of answers. Occasionally he will find steps towards the truth. And, as the first, and the second originally intertwine, already the choice depends on everyone as to what they see in the inconsistent phenomenon: good or evil, the way up or the way down.

“Often I see people who are completely confident in that which is commonly said: the world is the way it is and belief in things like honor, faithfulness and mercy is youthful maximalism and, in essence, are only fairy tales. These people are either lying and don’t really think that at all, or they are deeply lost and are the most unhappy people on the planet and nothing would convince me otherwise. Because if there is no such thing as faithful friends, as eternal love, as loving-kindness, as chivalry, then why in the world did we write such things as fairy tales?”

The matter of which this person is speaking is of “living fairy tales”, of Tolkienism, and the above statement is taken from an article by an author-Tolkienist. From our point of view, this movement (or, if you will, this frame of mind), which had become so popular in the past 10-12 years, also has an atmosphere of a spiritual quest. True, this quest doesn’t always lead to the truth, although it often stops at its doorstep or it can go in a completely different direction, but the important thing is the tendency to a dissatisfaction with dull commonness and to a search for something more.

In the modern world, detached from God, good has degenerated into an abstract idea and has become intertwined with many-sided evils. Life has acquired a cold, grey color of inner despair, in spite of an outward appearance of colorfulness. It was amazing, when such a book as the ‘Lord of the Rings’ appeared, where good was beautiful and evil was unambiguously disgusting. For everyone had gotten used to the idea that Judas wasn’t guilty of anything and light without shadows doesn’t exist, when suddenly good and evil, returning to Christianity, were shown as polar opposites with all the strength of a brilliant work of art.

“The world of Tolkien is clean. It is clean, in spite of the rivers of blood in the ‘Silmarillion’ and the unusual story surrounding the Ring. His heroes, at least those who are developed, are pure and good. His villains aren’t developed at all, such as the person of Sauron.” This is what is seen and treasured by readers of the ‘Lord of the Rings’.

People rightly understand the world of Middle-earth as a symbol of our world. And what is the most important in our world? Is it not the fight in our hearts between God and the devil – a battle full of tragedy, but thanks to the Resurrection, is already guaranteed a victory? Or to put it differently, the main thing is the hope and courage (that are against all logic), the mercy (even this can be the doom of someone), and the victory, even when defeat seems inevitable. These are the greatest contents of the ‘Lord of the Rings’.
From the words of Tolkien himself, every eucatastrophe in art is “one moment that unfolds before us a higher answer: a distant, evangelical brightness, an echo of good news in the real world” (from his essay ‘On Fairy Stories’). Tolkien himself was a convicted Catholic Christian all of his life.

It is mainly these ‘echoes of good news’ that have given birth to this strong urge to gather the books to yourself and fill them with your very being. “These books provoke the world,” wrote one of the masters, that is, one of the masters of the ever popular Lord of the Rings role-playing games. But what can we understand from these kinds of games?

Right now we have, in the minds of modern philosophers and studiers of culture, a ‘postmodern condition’ and its main distinctive feature is its relativity to everyone and everything. This, a game becomes a disposition, a way of life. But there are many kinds of games. Can a ‘living game’ find the truth in earnest? If say, then which game and which truth? What kind of dangers can be found on this strange path? And they, as already was necessary to be convinced, exist, and furthermore seriously…

Consider that role-playing games are the most adequate assimilation of the surrounding world with this epoch. To too seriously and simply treat any given information doesn’t allow the post-modernist to use historical experience, for then everything is relative. That is why such things as games are so urgent and inevitable. At the same time, the loss of integrity of the human ‘self’ demands work above itself – something more intensive, but not so much through denial, in the form of self-excavation and digging in search of the ‘true self’, but through affirmation, in the form of the development of the guise, accepted by the ‘self’ and the reducing of these to a common denominator.

Role-playing games give rails to this kind of movement. Rails of reincarnation through social gaming activities, when new realities are interpenetrated and smelted together. Remember those words: the form of the development of the guise. The movement of the role-playing games came into being from Tolkien, but now it has a much broader horizon then just Tolkienism.

The most important thing in role-playing games (whether it be Tolkien or Walter Scott or a science fiction or a psychological drama) is the ability to become someone else for a time and believe in it. As a rule, there are not spectators in these games, for they only require participation in your own world. A person plays, first and foremost, for himself and the deeper he does this, the more the game reveals for him and for other participants. The mixing of worlds (“Say, Sergey, you goblin, don’t come near my elves at the hospital, or our swords will make you into a patient!”) only spoils it and isn’t welcome. The game is worthwhile, only when played seriously, if your role opens new discoveries in himself.

This whole thing can be a plus, and it can be a minus.

The plus is that a positive role can change the person himself for the better: actions of the game done at the game are considered to be responsible actions for real life. The role of Aragorn, for example, could change someone for the better (in principle, as long as he doesn’t become too proud of himself).

The minus is that if the roles of Aragorn or Frodo don’t change people for the better, than the roles of antagonistic characters, such as orcs or Nazgul, more actively enter into the spirits of the players. For example, it seems that being Gollum can also be fun, to be able to stay in the game and ‘get carried away’ in real life.

(So, what’s up, Gollum? Or is it Sauron or perhaps a Nazgul? It seems that our friend has successfully reincarnated as a Nazgul, and then told himself off, again and again. He still hasn’t decided yet…)

Gradually, the darker characters became more popular, for they hit closer to home for the modern man. Does this surprise you? Not really. Should we blame Tolkien? If so, then we should blame Dostoevsky too, for there are many who read his novels and prefer to draw closer to Raskolnikov, Ivan Karamazov and his other less than savory characters. The game isn’t so much the seduction as it is the displayer of that, which is hidden. For, as it has already been said, if a negative role is played game after game, seriously, then the person can become corrupted.

Little by little, Tolkien and his ‘echo of good news’ move away from the periphery of the gaming movement. Such things as historical reconstructions appeared and became just as popular, for they are easier and more accessible. For example, in ‘The Crusades’ crowds in real, manufactured armor, exterminate each other with textolite swords; already without any labor of existential problems.
Games have appeared based on videos games such as Warcraft and Quake, and there are even more primitive, at times even basic, such as paint-ball. Games have even appeared of witchcraft and paganism. The striving for maximum credibility has led to interest in the learning of magic rituals of different eras and cultures and to the performing of them.

“If you look long into the abyss, the abyss will begin to look at you.” And, believe it or not, during these role-playing games, appearances of real evil spirits are not uncommon. This is a very real, very serious danger. After all, demons are only there to invite…

Through his books, Tolkien has awaken the Question. Many Tolkienists have understood that the Answer lies beyond the spheres of these games, good and bad, and have turned to the Church. Also, many have accepted and accept the games as a romantic meeting with a cool way to pass the time.

Praise God, that He can use even evil to do great good. As in former days of counter-culture, Tolkienism has approached the main Question of what a man should be and whathis world should be and has clearly demonstrated the dangers of incorrect answers. Those who have ears, let them hear.

Posted in J.R.R. Tolkien, Old Special Reports, Tolkien

Portrait of a Special Effects Whiz

Allen Hemberger was safely ensconced at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., teaching his first semester in the engineering department when he got the call. It was from New Zealand. There was a giant ape in the woods, and they needed his help. Hemberger hung up the phone and considered the options: stay in the Midwest teaching about visual effects or hop on a plane to the other side of the planet to work with one of the world’s foremost directors, Peter Jackson, on his epic remake of the classic thriller King Kong. “It was too sweet of an opportunity for me to pass up,” Hemberger recalls, “so I took it.” [More]

Posted in Old Main News, Peter Jackson, PJ's Other Films

Hollywood Scriptwriter Talks ‘Sci-Fi Boys’

Paul Davids writes: The June issue of HOLLYWOOD SCRIPTWRITER has a major piece on THE SCI-FI BOYS on pp. 24, 25, 29 and 30. It also has an article on p. 38 about the Lifetime Achievement Award that was given to Ray Harryhausen at a special SCI-FI BOYS screening. (PDF File) [More]
Order ‘THE SCI-FI BOYS’ on today!

Posted in Old Main News, Peter Jackson, PJ's Other Films

TV Watch: Monaghan on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’

A repeat airing of Dominic Monaghan on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ airs tonight on ABC. This clip is a keeper with Dom in fine goofy form as he shows his ‘fun’ daily life in Hawaii. Mega-genius J.J. Abrams is the guest director and Dom has a little fun with him. If you haven’t seen it, its new to you! Catch it tonight on ABC or follow this link for the segment! [More]

Posted in Dominic Monaghan, Events, Lord of the Rings, LotR Cast News, LotR Movies, Old Main News, Television

SHOP: Boromir on Sale Now!

Click for Larger VersionClick for Larger Version
The exclusive edition of Sideshow Collectible’s Boromir 12-inch figure is pre-ordering right now at Sideshow revealed today that the exclusive edition of this figure comes with a severed Moria Orc Head, and a Lothlorien Cloak with Elven Broach. If you are a newsletter member, you get to place your orders now – if you are not, you will have to wait until 3pm ET to place a pre-order.

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Posted in Collectibles, Lord of the Rings, Merchandise, Old Main News, Sideshow Collectibles

Politics and Middle-earth

Folks from The Tolkien Society writes: The 2006 Tolkien Society Seminar will be held on Saturday 22nd July in the Pierce room at the Assembly House, Norwich, England.

Provisional Programme:

“Tolkien as a right-wing icon: The Strange case of Italy” Raffaella Benvenuto

“Join the Tolkien Party”. An exploration of how both Tolkien’s work and adaptations of his work relate to real life politics, left, right and centre. Lynn Whittaker

“Metaphysics, mythology, and the politics of the ‘fantastic’ in J R R Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring and Ben Okri’s The Famished Road” Rosetta Sirico-Codling

“The Purging of the Shire” An examination of the chapter “The Scouring of the Shire”. David Doughan

If you are interested in giving a paper please contact Trevor Reynolds, the seminar organiser (see below) as we still have room for one or two additional presentations.


The cost of places at the seminar are £18.00 for Tolkien Society members or £20.00 for non-members. Places can be paid for on-line (see above) or by use of booking forms circulated within the Society magazine Amon Hen, downloadable from the website, available by post from the seminar organiser, or you can simply send your payment together with your name, address and any dietary or access requirements to the seminar organiser:

Trevor Reynolds, 65 Wentworth Crescent, Ash Vale, Aldershot, GU12 5LF, UK

Lunch and refreshments are included in the registration fee. The venue is wheelchair accessible. The closing date for registration is 14th July 2006, however spaces are limited so to secure your place please book early.

More information about the venue can be found at Information about accommodation in Norwich can be obtained from the Tourist Information Centre: email,; telephone, 01603 727927 or

On Sunday, should enough people wish there will be an expedition to the wilds of the Norfolk Broads, to Berney Arms to look round the Windmill and visit the pub. More details will be sent when bookings are made, or see the website.

Posted in Events, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lectures & Education, Lord of the Rings, Old Special Reports, Tolkien

“One Morning Long Ago” Report and Pics!

“One Morning Long Ago”
A JRR Tolkien Inspired Art Exhibition
Friday 19th to Tuesday 23rd May 2006
The Redesdale Hall, High Street, Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire

'One Morning Long Ago' Report
Andrew writes: The exhibition opened at 7pm Friday 19th May 2006 for a private preview party by invite only. From the visitors book and replies 107 people attended in addition to the organisers, artists and performers. 1 large Eagle also attended. Complimentary drinks (soft drinks and alcoholic) and food was served throughout. A welcome speech was given by the organiser who introduced the programme of events, tour guide and the artists. Ted Nasmith formally opened the exhibition. Live music was performed, Piano pieces by Charlotte (Enting) Dom on the tin whistle and Tolkien inspired songs performed by Ted Nasmith, Madeline Anderson and Alex Lewis. The evening ended around midnight.

The Exhibition was open to the public from 9am until 5pm daily from Saturday 20th until Tuesday 23rd May 2006. In that time 1376 different visitors attended, including many Tolkien Society members, (some came back daily). In addition 1 senior school art group attended on Monday 22nd for a private guided tour (12 students) and 1 local junior school (30 students). Total Attendance 1525. (plus 1 dog and 1 large Eagle attended 3 times Friday, Saturday and Sunday). Overseas visitors came specifically from Germany, Belgium, many other overseas visitors in the UK added this event to their itinerary (USA, Australia, New Zealand).

15 new members joined The Tolkien Society (Malcolm Lindley has forms for 13 and the organiser has a further 2 applications).

25 people including organisers, helpers, artists, 1 member of the Tolkien Society Committee, and visitors staying in Moreton from overseas attended a special Hobbit meal (Stewed Rabbit) at The Bell Inn High Street Moreton in Marsh Saturday evening 7pm. Live music was performed into the night.

During the exhibition live music was performed, educational talks, drama and sketches, favourite readings from Tolkien passages. A number of visitors were moved to tears listening to Ted Nasmith. A quiz was held On Sunday at 3pm and the 1st prize (a limited edition framed Ted Nasmith Print) was won by Gary Emerton who donated this to The Tolkien society to be auctioned to help raise funds.

Also a cast was taken of Ted Nasmiths hand and a bronze mounted cast (holding a paint brush) will be produced and auctioned to raise money for Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

Approximately 1/3rd of all original art was sold and multiple orders received for Limited edition prints. Many Tolkien books were sold and Bob Blackham attended and signed copies of his new book “The Roots of Tolkien’s Middle earth”. 1 rare book was stolen.

Letters have been received from visitors and the organiser is aware that 3 children have been inspired to start painting and 4 visitors have purchased copies of The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings to read them for the first time.

The exhibition will be repeated with a Private party on Friday 22nd September 2006 (a notable date) and the exhibition will be open to the public from Saturday 23rd until Tuesday 26th September 2006. (The week after Oxonmoot as proposed by Malcolm Lindley).

Posted in Events, Exhibits, Lord of the Rings, Merchandise, Music, Old Special Reports, Posters Prints

Halo Movie in Limbo?

May 28, 2006 – According to TeamXbox, the Halo movie has been changed to a 2008 release: The directorless film adaptation of Microsoft’s popular video game will be executive produced by triple-Academy Award winners Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh via their WingNut Films banner. The Halo script was penned by Alex Garland (28 Days Later), who was paid $1 million by Microsoft to write a script that met Bungie’s approval. [More]

Posted in Old Main News, Peter Jackson, PJ's Other Films

TV Watch: Ian McKellen on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’

A repeat airing of Ian McKellen on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ will air tonight on ABC. If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you, if you want to catch it online follow out original post about it here. [More]

Posted in Events, Ian McKellen, Lord of the Rings, LotR Cast News, LotR Movies, Old Main News, Television

Brett Ratner wants Ian Mckellen as ‘Rush Hour 3’ baddie

Washington, May 29(ANI): Director Brett Ratner is hoping to persuade busy British thespian Sir Ian Mckellen to play the villain in his upcoming sequel ‘Rush Hour 3’ Ratner and McKellen have only just finished working together on the much anticipated action sequel ‘X-Men 3’, in which McKellen plays the notorious role of Magneto.

Posted in Ian McKellen, Lord of the Rings, LotR Cast News, LotR Movies, Old Main News

SHOP: Boromir, Son of Denethor Pre-Orders Tomorrow

Last week we linked you a sneak peak at the Boromir, Son of Denethor 12-inch Figure coming from Sideshow Collectibles. Sideshow has since updated their preview with a striking image of one of our favorite characters from The Lord of the Rings. If you are planning on adding this figure to your collection, the exclusive edition will be available for pre-order at 10am PT Tuesday — make sure to follow the instructions on Sideshow’s website concerning Priority Pre-Order. Check it out!

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Posted in Collectibles, Lord of the Rings, Merchandise, Old Main News, Sideshow Collectibles

POLL: Which character is most tragic?

Sideshow Collectibles has posted a poll asking ‘Which character is the most tragic?’ While the list is limited to the licenses they carry, KING KONG and LOTR characters do make an appearance. TORnadoes will probably prefer the ‘Boromir’ option. The poll is located in the red bar on the right side of their homepage. Cast your vote!

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Posted in Events, Lord of the Rings, LotR Movies, Old Main News, Other Events, Peter Jackson, PJ's Other Films