Witches and werewolves and vampires, oh, my! J.R.R. Tolkien was not one to shy away from creatures of the night. Just the opposite–he seemed to relish writing horror stories.

When we think of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”, Elves, Wizards, Hobbits, and quests come first to mind. But the Professor’s long quest to create an encompassing mythology for Britain led him to conjure stories within stories. Middle-earth feels real because Tolkien fleshed out its history in-depth. Though they are often only hinted at in the main stories, Tolkien wrote many of these historical references in detail.

In honor of the best holiday of the year (subjectively), let’s explore a few tales of terror written by Tolkien fit for All Hallows’ Eve. These are by no means the only ones. The Silmarillion is filled with stories that invoke a sense of horror in us, such as the story of Húrin and his family. Just thinking about Frodo and Sam’s encounter with Shelob in her lair is enough to make skin crawl. Dig deep, and you’ll find bones aplenty in Tolkien’s work.

Continue reading “Yes, Tolkien Wrote Horror stories”

The rollout of the Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power TV series has re-energized Middle-earth fandom, and one thing is clear, we all love to get together, online, at conventions, and at the theater and talk Tolkien.

Reading The Hobbit during the Baggins Birthday Bash

The Baggins Birthday Bash, coming to Los Angeles at 11:30am on September 24 at Griffith Park’s Mineral Wells picnic area is the perfect way for SoCal Tolkien fans to gather and party like Hobbits. There will be games, there will be food, there will be plenty of Tolkien discussion going on, and I’m sure we can fit some fun in there somewhere.

Regarding food, in the before times it was a big buffet, and last year, we decided to ask everyone to just bring enough food and drink for their own party. This year, it will probably end up being a bit of a hybrid. Some will just bring what they want to eat, and a few will bring shareable dishes, and we’ll let the food and drink sort itself out. It would be nice if some folks bring extra picnic plates and cups, maybe some paper towels, and of course, everyone should bring a portable chair or blanket and a popup if you have it.

We would like to bring back the Cake or Cupcake contest for the best Middle-earth designed desserts. We’ve had some really creative and beautiful designs in the past, so start contemplating now on how to wow your fellow fans this year. Costumes are welcome, as usual, especially any new 2nd Age costumes. If we do trivia, there is a decent chance it will include some references to the Rings of Power show, since the 5th episode will have screened just 2 days before the picnic.

Please do RSVP on our Facebook Event page, located at: https://www.facebook.com/events/1271178800320132/ and read through the About Details, including selecting ‘see more’ to access the directions for those driving from different sections of Southern California in order to get to Griffith Park and the Mineral Wells section of the park.

Tying in with the upcoming release of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power tv series, Amazon Books has launched a new Lord of the Rings Book Club.

The Book Club will be starting in September with The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers will follow in October and finishing in November with The Return of the King. To take part visit www.amazon.com/lotrbookclub

Press Release

On August 25th Amazon Books launched its newest Top Book Club, this one centered around The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy and hosted by the Amazon Book Review’s Managing Editor, Marcus Mann. The LOTR Book Club will start in September and continue monthly, covering: The Fellowship of the Rings (September), The Two Towers, (October), and The Return of the King(November).

A beloved franchise, LOTR has always had a passionate and engaged reading fan base, and with all of the reader excitement for Prime Video’s ‘Rings of Power,’ Marcus will be reacting and discussing the various connections between the books and the show as the series airs. He will host an interactive club where members can celebrate a shared love of the series and live video discussions.

“Reading The Lord of the Rings has been one of my favourite escapes since I was a child, when the series first captured my imagination,” said Marcus. “I’m thrilled to be able to take this journey through Middle-earth again with readers around the world in our new Amazon Book Club. I can’t wait to share the experience and learn from the perspective of old fans and new alike!“

Amazon Book Clubs is a free service where readers join book clubs of all genres or create their own. To join the LOTR Book Club and start discussing with fellow Tolkien fans, visit  www.amazon.com/lotrbookclub

In 1967, Tolkien began writing a letter to his son, Michael, where he shared his perspectives on cultivating faith. Tolkien likened the character of faithfulness (‘loyalty’) to that of a full-grown tree — a living organism that must be tended to by its keepers (Letter 306).

While the reasons for this letter may be forever lost to time, the excerpt reveals a fundamental notion in Tolkien’s mind: The symbolism of great faithfulness with the thriving health of trees

There is no resemblance between the ‘mustard-seed’ and the full-grown tree. For those living in the days of its branching growth the Tree is the thing, for the history of a living thing is pan of its life, and the history of a divine thing is sacred. The wise may know that it began with a seed, but it is vain to try and dig it up, for it no longer exists, and the virtue and powers that it had now reside in the Tree.

Very good: but in husbandry the authorities, the keepers of the Tree, must look after it, according to such wisdom as they possess, prune it, remove cankers, rid it of parasites, and so forth. […] But they will certainly do harm, if they are obsessed with the desire of going back to the seed or even to the first youth of the plant when it was (as they imagine) pretty and unafflicted by evils.

The other motive […] aggiornamento: bringing up to date: that has its own grave dangers, as has been apparent throughout history. 

Letter #306, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

In my previous article, we discussed clues from the trailer and images of Amazon’s The Rings of Power that directly led us to identifying Sauron’s haunting presence on Middle-earth. Here, I will discuss how The Rings of Power might be using trees to illustrate the shrinking faith of the Númenoreans (Men) and the Noldor (Elves).

We begin in the island nation of Númenor. The Númenoreans are Men descended from the line of Elros, brother of Elrond. The line of the Kings of Numenor going back to Lúthien, daughter of the Sindarin King Thingol and Melian the Maiar. Of Lúthien’s descendants, Tolkien writes that ‘her line shall never fail’ (A Knife in the Dark, The Fellowship of the Ring). 

In the King’s Court at Armenelos, Númenor’s capital, a white tree blooms: Nimloth the fair (Nimloth is Sindarin for ‘White Blossom’). Descended from a tree made in the likeness of Telperion for the Noldor of Tirion  (Galathilion, the’White Tree’ of Yavanna, The Silmarillion), Nimloth was gifted as a seedling by the Eldar of Tol Eressëa in Aman. Her white petals gleam with the setting Sun and her scent fills the air of King’s court. Nimloth is the symbol of friendship between Men and Elves. (Cite.) A sign of the Númenor’s faithfulness to Eru and her Elven heritage.

The Númenoreans retained the dedications and order, but altered the fourth day to Aldëa (Orgaladh) with reference to the White Tree only, of which Nimloth that grew in the King’s Court in Númenóreans [my emphasis] was believed to be a descendant.

Appendix D, The Lord of the Rings
Nimloth, the White Tree in the Courts of Armenelos

The significance of the blooming white tree is not lost to readers of Tolkien. Soon after arriving in Gondor, Aragorn discovers the sapling borne from the fruit of Nimloth. The discovery astonishes Aragorn, but Gandalf recalls the significance of the sapling:

Verily this is a sapling of the line of Nimloth the fair; and that was a seedling of Galathilion, and that a fruit of Telperion of many names, Eldest of Trees. Who shall say how it comes here in the appointed hour? But this is an ancient hallow, and ere the kings failed or the Tree withered in the court, a fruit must have been set here. For it is said that, though the fruit of the Tree comes seldom to ripeness, yet the life within may then lie sleeping through many long years, and none can foretell the time in which it will awake.

The Steward and the King, The Return of the King

In Gandalf’s words, we see the link between preservation and renewal. The line of Telperion preserved from the days of the Two Trees, and the promise of renewal to its former glory. 

But, alas, our first sight of Nimloth in The Rings of Power is a solemn one. Unlike the  sapling of Gondor emerging from the snow, we instead witness the opposite, the beginning stages of a fully-grown white tree beginning to wither.

Nimloth is weeping.

Her blossoms scatter onto the royal courts as Queen Regent Míriel and her advisor Pharazôn pause to make note of the moment. Míriel’s face flushes with unmistakable desperation.

Nimloth, the White Tree in the Courts of Armenelos

Is this then the first of many signs and warnings of Númenor’s descent to her watery grave? As steward-keeper of Nimloth (Faith), is Míriel’s faith in Eru and Númenor’s alliance with the Elves starting to crumble?

From what we are seeing, Nimloth is shedding her crown; Númenor is dying.

Mortality is, of course, a theme central to Tolkien’s works. Endings are inscribed to the life and stories of every creature on Middle-earth. It is this ill-fate that Tolkien has termed “fading” that the immortal Elves seek to halt. As Tolkien writes of the Second Age in a letter to Milton Waldman: 

All through the twilight of the Second Age the Shadow is growing in the East of Middle-earth, spreading its sway more and more over Men — who multiply as the Elves begin to fade.

Letter #131, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

Following the destruction of the Two Trees, their great Elf-king Finwë’s death at the hands of Morgoth, the theft of the Silmarils, and in defiance of Eru and the Valar, the arrival and lingering presence of the Noldor (tribe of Elves descended from Finwë) on Middle-earth resulted in their inevitable decline as a people. Yet, the hubris, ingenuity, and might of the Noldor also meant they were a great force to be reckoned with.

They are the chief artificers of devices (“rings”) that halt fading in the Second and Third Age.

In The Rings of Power, the fading of the Noldor is discreetly translated through the Tolkienian metaphor of suffering trees. Given their presence on Middle-earth is consequential to their continued defiance to the Valar, the Noldor’s faltering faith is represented in their inability to keep their beloved Mallorn trees (plural Mellyrn) from fading.

Farewell to Lorien by Ted Nasmith
Farewell to Lorien by Ted Nasmith.

We are quite familiar with the description of the Mallorn Tree from several Tolkien texts (Letter to Minchin (1956), The Fellowship of The Ring, Unfinished Tales). It is prominently described as having a single smooth bark (“pillar”) of grey silver whose leaves turn to pale gold in the autumn, which carpeted the forest floor through spring and summer.

Its bark was silver and smooth, and its boughs somewhat upswept after the manner of the beech; but it never grew save with a single trunk. Its leaves, like those of the beech but greater, were pale green above and beneath were silver, glistering in the sun; in the autumn they did not fall, but turned to pale gold.

In the spring it bore golden blossom in clusters like a cherry, which bloomed on during the summer; and as soon as the flowers opened the leaves fell, so that through spring and summer a grove of malinorni was carpeted and roofed with gold, but its pillars were of grey silver. Its fruit was a nut with a silver shale.

A Description of the Island of Númenor, Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth

Unlike the description of the Mallorn  given by Tolkien, we instead witness a dark, crudely shaped, and twisted bark of a large, and what we presume is an ancient Mallorn Tree

From stills and footage, we can construct a working hypothesis that the Noldor are experimenting with planting a Mellyrn forest in Lindon. As Gil-galad and Elrond commune among the trees at night, our eyes are drawn to the sharp contrast of the younger Mellyrn (right) and the dark,  brooding, and ancient Mallorn (left). It appears that the ancient Mallorn is fading, albeit gradually. What may have begun as a silver pillar for a bark has gradually twisted unto itself; stopping the Mallorn from growing to its magnitudinous heights. Her golden leaves also appear to be much darker compared to the younger ones.

The Lindon Mallorn forest.

Further evidence for this hypothesis is the telltale presence of a Mallorn sapling in Khazad-dûm. While we cannot confirm why a sapling might be growing in the deep underground caverns of Moria, it is curious that the Elves as keepers of the Mallorn sought the Moria Dwarves as collaborators in testing the  possible thriving conditions for Mellyrn.

A simpler explanation might be that the Mallorn sapling was grown from a seed gifted to the Moria Dwarves in lieu of friendship. A possible callback to Galadriel gifting Samwise Gamgee a single Mallorn nut that was consequently planted in the Shire.

Even so, the fading of the Mallorn will be an ongoing leitmotif that will marshal the Noldor into seeking and creating the Rings of Power as a means to halt the Fading of the Elves and their realms.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of PowerElrond (Robert Aramayo) is pensive during a visit to Khazad-dûm.

Extra

The Mallorn of Lothlórien. 

Source: The Fellowship of the Ring, New Line Cinema.

About the author: DrNosy is a scientist (physical science), scholar, and Tolkien enthusiast. Her primary interests lie in review and analysis of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. She is an active contributor and Reading Room Moderator on TheOneRing.net Discord where she also hosts live open-forum panel discussions on The Rings of Power, The Silmarillion,  and a variety of Tolkien-related topics. You can reach her on Twitter.

If you have a Tolkien/Middle-earth inspired poem you’d like to share, then send it to poetry@theonering.net. One poem per person may be submitted each month. Please make sure to proofread your work before sending it in. TheOneRing.net is not responsible for poems posting with spelling or grammatical errors.

The Haggerty Museum of Art and Raynor Memorial Libraries at Marquette University will be presenting a a lecture series in September in conjunction with the collaborative exhibition “J.R.R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript.

The exhibition — which opens on August 19 — will feature original manuscripts created by J.R.R. Tolkien for his The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and other works. It will consider Tolkien’s work through the lens of manuscripts, in terms of both the materials that he studied as a medieval philologist and the manuscripts that he created while developing his legendarium.

All lectures will be held at the Haggerty Museum of Art and are free to attend. They will also be streamed online for audiences who wish to attend virtually (great for people not in the USA!). The museum states that — due to limited capacity — reservations are required. You can reserve a place to attend the lectures here.

Thursday, Sept. 22, 5 p.m.: “Editing the Tolkienian Manuscript,” presented by Carl Hostetter

Carl Hostetter is a computer scientist at NASA who has earned a reputation as one of the leading experts on J.R.R. Tolkien’s invented languages. He is a key member of the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship, an elite group of four Tolkien scholars whom the Tolkien Estate has entrusted with special access to the author’s unpublished linguistic manuscripts. These linguists have published extensively on Tolkien’s invented languages, including in “Vinyar Tengwar,” a peer-reviewed journal that Hostetter edits.

Hostetter is one of the most experienced students of Tolkien’s manuscripts. His ability to read and interpret Tolkien’s notoriously difficult handwriting is second to none. Christopher Tolkien (1924-2020) entrusted Hostetter with editing his father’s last volume of published writings, released in 2021 under the title, “The Nature of Middle-earth.” Hostetter’s work is highly regarded by Tolkien scholars. His volume “Tolkien’s Legendarium”—co-edited with Verlyn Flieger—is considered one of the best collections of essays on the history of Tolkien’s secondary world.

Thursday, Oct. 13, 5 p.m.: “Tolkien’s Faith and the Foundations of Middle-earth,” presented by Holly Ordway

Holly Ordway is a rising star among Tolkien scholars. Her 2021 book “Tolkien’s Modern Reading” is a tour de force destined to become a classic in Tolkien studies. Ordway demonstrated that Tolkien, usually pigeonholed as a medievalist, was remarkably well read in modern literature.

Her work shows how many modern works affected Tolkien’s creative output. Currently on faculty at Houston Baptist University, Ordway has taught English at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and MiraCosta College. She specializes in J.R.R. Tolkien and, more generally, in mythopoeic literature. Ordway’s current research project is a book-length treatment of Tolkien’s Catholicism, fitting for a Catholic, Jesuit university such as Marquette.

Thursday, Nov. 17, 5 p.m.: “Whispering Leaves: How Tolkien’s Manuscripts Reveal the Secrets of His Creativity,” presented by John Garth

Trained as a journalist, John Garth has gained an international reputation as a leading writer about J.R.R. Tolkien and a popular commentator on Tolkien’s works and life. His published works include the recent “The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien” (2020). His earlier masterpiece, “Tolkien and the Great War” (2003), is universally acknowledged as a classic in the field of Tolkien Studies.

Garth, who has made a special study of Tolkien’s manuscripts, will focus his lecture on a manuscript that is part of Marquette’s collection and has never previously been exhibited or published. He will demonstrate his renowned historical research skills by analyzing the manuscript and using it to tease out insights about Tolkien’s experiences during the Second World War.

Tickets for the “J.R.R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript” exhibition are on sale now. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $8 for senior citizen and active military (with I.D.). Friends of the Haggerty Museum of Art members, K-12 educators, children aged 17 and under, and Marquette University students, faculty members, and staff members are free with advance reservations and a valid I.D. The exhibition will be open until 8 p.m. on the night of each lecture.

About the Haggerty Museum of Art

The Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University is an innovative nexus of interdisciplinary learning where creativity, intellect and social justice intersect. Located in the heart of the Near West Side, adjacent to downtown Milwaukee, and open daily, the museum is one of the most accessible arts venues in the city.

“The Short Lay of Earendel, Earendillínwë,” Version K, ca. 1949–1953
“The Short Lay of Earendel, Earendillínwë,” Version K, ca. 1949–1953. Raynor Memorial Libraries, Marquette University. Credit: © The Tolkien Estate Limited 2022.

BBC has enlisted noted Tolkien scholar John Garth for this Middle-earth quiz that may actually stretch your knowledge of The Lord of the Rings.

Garth is best-known for his award-winning book Tolkien and the Great War as well as The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien: The Places that Inspired Middle-earth.

There’s no “what is the name of Frodo’s sword?” questions in this quiz. Instead, he’s set 15 tricky questions that will test your ability to recall some fine details about Tolkien’s novel.

Test your LOTR knowledge over at the BBC.

Thanks to Pontin on our Discord for the link.