This month on J.W. Braun’s Bookshelf, J.W. takes a look at The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Chronicles: Art & Design by Daniel Falconer and Weta Workshop. Meanwhile, in his mailbag feature below, he shares another riddle and answers your questions about Peter Jackson’s cameo in The Hobbit, the first Hobbit movie’s Oscar that’s not really an Oscar, and more.

(Photos from The Hobbit Chronicles have been posted at The Lord of the Films facebook page.)

J.W. Braun’s Mailbag:

As per tradition, I’ll start things out with a riddle for you to ponder. The answer appears at the end of the mailbag section:

It was given to you, but others use it
That’s fine with you if they don’t abuse it
You might give it to your wife,
If you think she’ll behave
But it’s still yours for life
And will be on your grave

What is it?

Mailbag Questions

Why didn’t Peter Jackson do a cameo in The Hobbit? – Carrie

He does have a cameo appearance in the first Hobbit film, but it’s easy to miss. He plays a dwarf fleeing from Smaug at the Lonely Mountain. When asked, “Why a dwarf?” Jackson responded, “I didn’t have a great deal of choice. There weren’t any human characters in this film, and they weren’t any hobbits roles I could play… and I’m not an elf.” – JW

Which two towers are THE two towers in The Two Towers? – Jenna

Tolkien came up with the title under deadline pressure and was unsure at first himself. In a letter to his publisher on Aug 17, 1953 he wrote, “’The Two Towers’ gets as near as possible to finding a title to cover the widely divergent Books 3 and 4; and can be left ambiguous – it might refer to Isengard and Barad-dur, or to Minas Tirith and B; or Isengard and Cirith Ungol.”

A few months later, he was more definitive. In a letter to his publisher dated January 22, 1954, he said, “I am not at all happy about the title ‘the Two Towers.’ It must if there is any real reference in it to Vol II refer to Orthanc and the Tower of Cirith Ungol. But since there is so much made of the basic opposition of the Dark Tower and Minas Tirith, that seems very misleading.”

Then again, some editions of The Fellowship of the Ring have this note at the end: “Here ends the first part of the history of the War of the Ring. The second part is called THE TWO TOWERS, since the events recounted in it are dominated by ORTHANC, the citadel of Saruman, and the fortress of MINAS MORGUL that guards the secret entrance to Mordor.”

It’s unclear if Tolkien or the publisher wrote this, but Tolkien did draw Orthanc and Minas Morgul in his proposed cover for the book.

For the movies, the answer is more clear: they are stated in the dialogue as Orthanc and Barad-dûr. – JW

Did the Hobbit win an Oscar or didn’t it? Some articles say it picked up an early Oscar while others say it didn’t win any Oscars. – Andrew

This confused me also. Thankfully, the people at’s message board helped clarify it for me. In early February, Weta Digital earned a technical award for breakthroughs in CGI. Because this is an Academy Award, the press reported it as The Hobbit winning an early Oscar.

The truth, however, is that while some Academy Awards (including some technical awards) are Oscars, some are not. Weta Digital’s award falls into the latter category, with the recipients earning an Academy Plaque and not the gold “Oscar” statue. And if you really want to split hairs, the award went to three members of Weta Digital (Simon Clutterbuck, James Jacobs and Dr. Richard Dorling) and not the film. – JW

In the movies Sam is often referred to as Samwise, and there is a chapter in The Two Towers called ‘The Choices of Master Samwise’ but I’ve never come across anyone calling him ‘Samwise’ throughout the books. Do any of the characters refer to Sam Gamgee as ‘Samwise’ in the book? – David

Yes, from time to time. For example, in The Two Towers Frodo says, “’I don’t know how long we shall take to – to finish. We were miserably delayed in the hills. But Samwise Gamgee, my dear hobbit – indeed, Sam my dearest hobbit, friend of friends – I do not think we need give thought to what comes after that. To do the job as you put it – what hope is there that we ever shall?” – JW

The answer to the riddle above? Your name.

J.W. Braun is a Tolkien scholar and author of The Lord of the Films, published by ECW Press in 2009. If you have a question for him, simply drop him a line at

You can find out more about J.W. at