This month on J.W. Braun’s Bookshelf, J.W. takes a look at The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Chronicles II: Creatures and Characters by Daniel Falconer and Weta Workshop. Meanwhile, he announces a new contest and answers your questions in the mailbag section below.

(To see photos of The Hobbit Chronicles II, visit The Lord of the Films facebook page. To see the details of J.W.’s Big Spring Giveaway, where you can win Tolkien merchandise, visit his blog.)

JW’s Riddle of the Month: (The answer appears below)

I never was, but am always to be
Yet some will look forward to seeing me
To some I give hope, to some I give fear
But for today, I’m never here

What am I?

JW’s Mailbag Questions

Why do the Orcs in The Hobbit movie look different than the Orcs in LOTR? – Jay

To quote Sir Richard Taylor, “It would be a mistake to think of the Orcs of Middle-earth as one species without regional variation, characterized by a single look and culture.” – JW

I read that Arwen was the last elf born in Middle Earth. Is this true? – Traci

The notion is not borne out anywhere in Tolkien’s writing but is part of Arwen’s original character description for the Peter Jackson films. In the books it is true that she carries the name of “Undomiel”, which means ‘the even-star of her people’, but this is probably more symbolic than literal, signifying the waning of the Eldar in general. -JW

How many times does Frodo almost die in The Lord of the Rings movies? – Primula

Take this sporcle quiz and find out yourself! In all seriousness, it’s a fun quiz and interesting to see which various characters save Frodo, including one you probably wouldn’t think of offhand. (No surprise who saves him the most!) – JW

[In reference to the article Nine Absurd Ideas for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings That Were Actually Considered:] You forgot one: Last year, TORn reported that Jackson thought of having Gollum kill Frodo’s parents in The Hobbit. I remember because I attended a discussion hosted by Quickbeam on the idea. – Christine

The idea has some merit! When Frodo’s parents are boating, Gollum is on the loose and looking for a Baggins from the Shire. (In “The Shadow of the Past” Gandalf even mentions that Gollum pursues the Ring to Dale and back West again, all the way to a river.) And Tolkien even hints that the drowning of Frodo’s parents has some suspicious circumstances, possibly including a struggle. Then again, the river Gandalf is referring to is the Anduin, so it shoots down the whole theory, doesn’t it? As the Gaffer says, boats are tricky enough for those that sit still. – JW

What tobacco did J.R.R. Tolkien smoke? – Dan

There’s no record of what he preferred, but his children have said he used to keep nuts and washers in Navy Cut tins, so that’s as likely as any. – JW

The answer to the riddle above? Tomorrow (Or “the future”, but that doesn’t come with a cool hobbit video.)

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