For those within easy travelling distance of Bradford in the UK, this weekend is going to be a good one! Bradford Literature Festival is happening; and there are several talks related to JRR Tolkien.

Tolkien taught at Leeds University from 1920 to 1925, before his teaching career at Oxford began. It was during his years at Leeds that he wrote A Middle English Vocabulary and his definitive edition of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (with E. V. Gordon). Like many other areas of England’s ‘green and pleasant land’, there are stunning landscapes across West Yorkshire which lay claim to be (at least partly) inspiration for the Shire.

Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 June, Tolkien Archivist Catherine McIlwaine, author and scholar John Garth, and others will participate in various presentations, exploring Tolkien’s work:

What was Tolkien’s intended ending for The Lord of the Rings? What was the audience’s response to the first ever adaptation of The Lord of the Rings – a radio dramatisation that has now been deleted forever from the BBC’s archives? The University of Oxford’s Grace Khuri will be joined by Tolkien Archivist Catherine McIlwaine and biographer John Garth to explore J.R.R. Tolkien’s mammoth legacy and his son’s tireless work in sharing it with the world.

Catherine McIlwaine, John Garth, Grace Khuri: Tolkien: The Great Tales Never End (Saturday 25th June at 10.30am). More information and tickets available here

From Norse mythology and Christian faith to his fellow fantasy writers and the very real battlegrounds of World War I, join us as we explore the varied and unlikely inspirations that shaped J.R.R. Tolkien’s much-loved fantasy worlds – including Catherine J. Blatt, John Garth, and Alaric Hall.

Catherine Batt, Alaric Hall and John Garth: Where Did Tolkien Find His Inspiration? (Saturday 25th June at 11.45am). More information and tickets available here

Author of The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien, John Garth will take audience on a journey through the places that inspired the Shire, Rivendell, Helms Deep and Mordor and will discuss how the West Midlands and Oxford, alongside Yorkshire, played their part in the creations.

John Garth on The Worlds of JRR Tolkien: The Places that Inspired Middle-Earth (Sunday 26th June at 11.45am). More information and tickets available here

Tolkien has inspired many writers across all genres to follow in his footsteps. Samantha Shannon, Courttia Newland and David Barnett will discuss Tolkien’s vast impact within literature, and how his writing has influenced them personally as writers.

Samantha Shannon, Courttia Newland and David Barnett: Inspired By Tolkien (Sunday 26th June at 4pm). More information and tickets available here

Let us know if you’re fortunate enough to attend!

Timed perfectly to coincide with Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, which takes place in the Second Age of Middle-earth, Harper Collins have announced their next Tolkien publication. The Fall of Númenor, edited by Brian Sibley, brings together the key tales of the Second Age, in chronological order. Sure to be the perfect handbook for those who want to see exactly what Tolkien did write about this earlier period of his legendarium, it will not contain any previously unpublished text; but it does feature new art by beloved artist Alan Lee. It will be released in hardback and deluxe editions November 10th 2022, two months after the debut of The Rings of Power.

You can read comments Brian Sibley made exclusively to our friends at The Tolkien Society on their website. Further details can be found in the official press release from HarperCollins, below:

HarperCollins is proud to announce the publication in November 2022 of THE FALL OF NÚMENOR by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by writer and Tolkien expert, Brian Sibley, and illustrated by acclaimed artist, Alan Lee. The book will be published globally by HarperCollinsPublishers and in other languages by numerous Tolkien publishers worldwide.

Presenting for the first time in one volume the events of the Second Age as written by J.R.R. Tolkien and originally and masterfully edited for publication by Christopher Tolkien, this new volume will include pencil drawings and colour paintings by Alan Lee, who also illustrated The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit and went on to win an Academy Award for his work on The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

J.R.R. Tolkien famously described the Second Age of Middle-earth as a ‘dark age, and not very much of its history is (or need be) told’. And for many years readers would need to be content with the tantalizing glimpses of it found within the pages of The Lord of the Rings and its appendices.

It was not until Christopher Tolkien presented The Silmarillion for publication in 1977 that a fuller story could be told for, though much of its content concerned the First Age of Middle-earth, there were at its close two key works that revealed the tumultuous events concerning the rise and fall of the island-kingdom of Númenor, the Forging of the Rings of Power, the building of the Barad-dûr and the rise of Sauron, and the Last Alliance of Elves and Men.

Christopher Tolkien provided even greater insight into the Second Age in Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth in 1980, and expanded upon this in his magisterial 12-volume History of Middle-earth, in which he presented and discussed a wealth of further tales written by his father, many in draft form.

Now, using ‘The Tale of Years’ in The Lord of the Rings as a starting point, Brian Sibley has assembled from the various published texts in a way that tells for the very first time in one volume the tale of the Second Age of Middle-earth, whose events would ultimately lead to the Third Age, and the War of the Ring, as told in The Lord of the Rings.

The Hobbit was first published in 1937 and The Lord of the Rings in 19545. Each has since gone on to become a beloved classic of literature and an international bestseller translated into more than 70 languages, collectively selling more than 150,000,000 copies worldwide. Published in 1977, The Silmarillion sold more than one million copies in its first year of publication and has gone on to be translated into almost 40 languages.

Brian Sibley says: ‘Since the first publication of The Silmarillion forty-five years ago, I have passionately followed Christopher Tolkien’s meticulous curation and scholarship in publishing a formidable history of his father’s writings on Middle-earth. I am honoured to be adding to that authoritative library with The Fall of Númenor. I hope that, in drawing together many of the threads from the tales of the Second Age into a single work, readers will discover – or rediscover – the rich tapestry of characters and events that are a prelude to the drama of the War of the Ring as is told in The Lord of the Rings.

Alan Lee says: ‘It is a pleasure to be able to explore the Second Age in more detail, and learn more about those shadowy and ancient events, alliances and disasters that eventually led to the Third Age stories we are more familiar with. Wherever I had the opportunity when working on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, I tried to imbue pictures and designs with an appropriate antiquity, an overlayering of history and of echoes of those older stories, and The Fall of Númenor has proved a perfect opportunity to dig a little deeper into the rich history of Middle-earth.’

The Fall of Númenor will be published by HarperCollins with a simultaneous global publication date of November 2022, and subsequently in translation around the world.

Have you ever wanted to listen to the sounds of Mirkwood? Hear the flow of the Brandywine River? Or perhaps stand in the midst of whistling winds on Caradhras? Soon, you will be able to – thanks to the extraordinary concept and creativity of Jordan Rannells.

Jordan is a composer and sound engineer, with many years experience in the business. His work will be familiar to some Middle-earth fans: he’s an editor for the Prancing Pony podcast. He also has his own podcast – Music of Middle-earth – and, as if that wasn’t enough, he worked with renowned Tolkien artist John Howe on his audiobook Ultimate Fantasy Art Academy.

But Jordan has a dream and a vision – or perhaps one should say, a ‘hearing’! He has long felt that audio books are lacking something. In computer gaming, the artificial realm is brought to life with music, sound effects and ambient sound; the same has long been true of radio plays. And yet, when we listen to books record by brilliant readers such as Stephen Fry and – most recently in Middle-earth – Andy Serkis, we generally only hear their voices delivering the text.

Jordan has a plan to change that. He’s creating (to quote his own words) ‘an audio soundscape to accompany your journey through Middle-earth while you read J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings’. He tells us:

This is something that has never been done before. It is on a scale far above any of our wildest Tolkien fan dreams. I will have CHAPTER SPECIFIC audio.

  • I will be writing an entire score. Each piece will run alongside the length of an entire chapter of the book.
  • I will be using advanced 3D immersive audio equipment to record the natural world. These recordings will be inserted into the Soundscape to make you feel like you are walking alongside the Fellowship.
  • I will be designing and mixing sound FX for creatures like the Balrog, Ringwraiths, and many more to appear along your journey through the story.

All of these layers will be presented separately and together to have a multitude of listening experiences for your adventures in this world. They will be composed and mixed for the purpose of listening while you read, but these files will also be excellent for relaxing, D&D nights, immersing into other fantasy worlds, and more!

Composer and Sound Engineer Jordan Rannells

Jordan recently shared with TORn some insight into HOW exactly he will create this incredible soundscape. Thanks to the latest technology (such as 3D microphones), he can capture locational sound, which will surround the listener. He intends to record specific, different sound environments for all the realms of Middle-earth (no two forests will be the same!); and to have continuous, through-composed audio, with no looping. He also plans to create different speed versions of the soundscape – with one timed perfectly to be played as background whilst you listen along to Andy Serkis’ recording of The Lord of the Rings!

All of this is a huge undertaking, of course! We’re looking forward to hearing how Jordan’s journey to create this audio feast progresses; we hope to connect with him in the coming months, as he conjures and explores his soundscape for Tolkien’s world. Meanwhile, if you’re as excited by this project as we are, you’ll definitely want to know more – and see how you can get involved, and perhaps even lend your voice to the work! Click here to read all the details about this amazing undertaking. We wish Jordan the best of luck – can’t wait to hear the finished product!

Amazon’s latest book sales chart reveal that J.R.R. Tolkien books now occupy five of the top 20 spots.

The charts for the week of March 27 show the three volumes of The Lord of the Rings in spots #3, #5, and #7, while sales of The Hobbit meant it slotted in at #4. The real surprise, though, is that Tolkien’s posthumously published novel The Silmarillion sold well enough to enter the charts at #12.

Apparently this is the first time that The Silmarillion has reached the top strata of the Amazon sales charts. The result might indicate that Amazon Studios’ Rings of Power series is creating a wider interest in Tolkien’s First Age myths.

Priscilla Tolkien, the youngest of J.R.R. Tolkien’s four children, died on February 28 2022. She was 92 years old.

Born June 18 1929, Priscilla was the only daughter of the Professor and his wife Edith. They were already living in Oxford when she was born. At the age of fourteen, Priscilla typed up some of the early chapters of The Lord of the Rings for her father. She studied English at Lady Margaret Hall college in Oxford, who yesterday announced her passing.

Priscilla, like her older brother Christopher, was a champion of her father’s work. She was Vice-President of the Tolkien Society, and together with the oldest of the four children, her brother John, she published in 1992 The Tolkien Family Album. Frodo’s name in early drafts of The Lord of the Rings, Bingo Bolger-Baggins, apparently came from her names for a family of toy bears she had as a child.

This week on TORn Tuesday Justin and Cliff spoke with writer Joanna Robinson (@JoWroteThis) who had the opportunity to view the first three episodes of Amazon Prime’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. She then authored two articles for Vanity Fair with revelations about the show – ‘Amazon’s Lord of the Rings Series Rises’ (co-authored with Anthony Breznican), and ‘10 Burning Questions About Amazon’s The Rings of Power.’

Joanna Robinson with Justin Sewell and Clifford Broadway of TORN Tuesday

Below are some highlights from last night’s conversation. Watch the entire interview on TORn Tuesday’s YouTube channel.

[Note: The conversation has been edited down from the original due to space.]

Justin: Are the articles speculation on your part, or are you hinting at stuff you’ve actually seen?
Joanna: In the cover story … and the article that I put up, the “questions answered” one … hardly any is speculation, um, if I’m saying something I’m saying something … when I put down here’s what I asked … then I printed word-for-word the answer I got.

Justin: Was there any discussion with the showrunners of, you know, a certain level of faithfulness?
Joanna: … they’re not deviating from that core lore …

Justin: Is the sword that we see Narsil?
Joanna: I’m gonna go and be safe and say pretty sure.

Justin: Can you provide any reaction to Lenny Henry as a Harfoot?
Joanna: That is something that I would love to see.

Justin: Was the first teaser photo from last summer of the two trees in Tirion, was that intentional misdirection?
Joanna: No

Justin: There’s so much comment about hair … let me start with Galadriel’s hair …
Joanna: … fandoms are not a monolith, and what one person wants in the fandom is not what another person wants with the fandom … I tend to be very CG resistant in general … when we got to the Harfoots in the episodes I saw … that felt so Willow to me, and that is the highest compliment I can give anything … Do people really want a glow filter on Galadriel all the time? … The hair that you see in the photos and footage that you’ve seen is accurate to what I’ve seen … [but] I have not seen all the finished digital effects …

Joanna: I think the casting of Morfydd Clark is incredible because she’s not super well-known, though if you haven’t seen Saint Maude I really recommend you go see it because she is astonishing in that, and if you want to like get a preview of how, uh, you know a Galadriel that might go toe-to-toe with Cate Blanchett going like photo negative in The Fellowship of the Ring, like, that’s the performance that she gives in that film … she’s such a perfect casting for this because people … aren’t coming in with preconceived notions of her … so she can just become Galadriel.

Justin: What are those people with the antlers?
Joanna: Here is what I can say about that, don’t worry too much about it.
Justin: Are they an integral part of the story?
Joanna: Don’t worry too much about it. They’re a very cool visual. It’s a very cool, practical effect visual. 

Joanna: Does hair play an important part in the narrative?
Joanna: Like Elf hair? As far as I know, no … I didn’t ask this question specifically … but as far as the story that I’ve seen so far, it does not seem to be related to the plot … I’m guessing … it’s an aesthetic decision.

Cliff: [There’s] all this Galadriel focus … but where’s Celeborn?
Joanna: I haven’t seen him.
Cliff: They’re saving him for a later season perhaps?
Joanna: That would be my guess.

Justin: Is there a vibe of a CW show?
Joanna: No. No. No. … that’s the concern that surprised me the most … attached to Bronwyn and Arondir, that people were like, oh, are they giving a CW … this idea of sort of star-crossed lovers is a recurring theme in Tolkien’s work … the rarity of those pairings … is what makes them so special … I can understand why, you know, a slightly forbidden romance would be part of it because that’s a theme that Tolkien was interested in. But it doesn’t smack of CW to me at all.

TORN: Is it possible this only gets one season?
Joanna: Zero percent … they payed so much money for this, are you kidding me?

Joanna: There was the Covid, and the question was did they reconfigure the whole show when they shot the back end of the first season, what did they do during that Covid time? … did their understanding of what they want to do with the show fundamentally change? I can only give you the answer that JD and Patrick gave me … They said nothing fundamentally changed, in they plotted out their first season, and nothing … changed in the Covid pause … They took time during the Covid pause to map out Season Two … there wasn’t any massive structural changes. The other misapprehension that I’ve seen floating around is this idea that the first two episodes are sort of one thing, and then the rest of the season is something else. That’s not the case at all. It’s one flowing story.
TORN: It’s not a two hour prologue?
Joanna: It’s not …
Cliff: Even in the new article it says there aren’t many time jumps aside from the first two episodes.
Joanna: Am I saying there is no, uh, First Age stuff in this at all? No, Amazon has already told you that there is. But it’s not a massive prologue. No.

Justin: Jeff Bezos said early on ‘bring me the next Game of Thrones‘, and then they got Bryan Cogman the lore expert on Game of Thrones
Joanna: Bryan also happens to be a really good friend of mine … I’m a huge fan of his … I can see his fingerprints on it [The Rings of Power], but he was very clear he was only there in a consulting position right at the beginning.
Cliff: … it led to worry … about the probability of nudity or sexualized elements to the story…
Joanna: I don’t think Cogman or anyone in that writers’ room, and there’s so many smart, talented writers in that writers’ room, I don’t think any of them wanted to do like orgies in Middle-earth, ever, or anything like that. 

Justin: A lot of people say it doesn’t look like there was a plan…did you get a sense that there is a five season plan?
Joanna: I can’t say that for certain, but when they offered up their roadmap … 4-5 big stories they’re interested in telling, involving like Númenor and Sauron and the forging of the rings, and … I think the end after that, right, the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. I think they have the major beats of the whole story laid out.

Durin IV played by Owain Arthur

Cliff: The novelty [of seeing the seven clans of dwarves and their lords] is the most powerful draw for me personally.
Joanna: They [the showrunners] are interested in showing us a wide array of cultures of Middle-earth in a wide array of locations … I gasped when I saw Khazad-Dûm, like when I saw the first shot … sort of descending into Khazad-Dûm … I was dazzled by it, and they built that, I know they built that, […] they told me they did.

Joanna: I found a question I feel really comfortable answering … did I have a favorite performance so far? I think Markella Kavenagh who plays Nori Brandyfoot the Harfoot, she’s my standout by far. I just loved everything that she did … and I think stories about Elves and Men and Dwarves are … fun and interesting, but for me, it doesn’t really feel like it’s Tolkien without a Hobbit or Harfoot there, and I feel like once she showed up I was like I’m locked in, I get it.
Cliff: But we have to acknowledge it is a bit of a lore squeeze.
Joanna: Yup
Justin: That’s the fear that a lot of fans have, that there’s so much good stuff in the Second Age, they don’t want this show to be told from the Harfoots’ perspective.
Joanna: I don’t think its accurate to say it’s told from the Harfoots’ perspective – the Harfoots that we see are nomadic, and they have a rule they don’t engage with the bigger folk … You’re not going to see a Harfoot forging the rings or fighting a Balrog or anything like that as far as I know … they are not bending the text that far.
Justin: Is the show being told from a certain perspective?
Joanna: Amazon is very careful over and over again to call this an ensemble cast, and I don’t think it’s inaccurate … Amazon wants everyone to be in on the show, they want the deep dive lore loving […] people excited, and there’s so many little details in there that I think are gonna make people who are engaging on that level excited, but they want those people [fans of the Jackson films] excited, too … I wouldn’t say this is Galadriel’s show, or this is the Harfoots’ show, or Elrond’s show, or this is the Númenor show. 

Markella Kavenagh who plays Elanor ‘Nori’ Brandyfoot

Justin: Can you help fans reconcile the idea that they’re creating new characters?
Joanna: If you were just reading the Appendices of what happened in the the LotR trilogy … a character like Rosie Cotton … a character like that is not a big part of the history that you boiled down for the Appendices … but if you’re putting together the whole world, um, you want your Rosie Cotton since she’s important to matters … The Nazgûl, the nine kings, we know so little about them, right? So doesn’t the Amazon show have a really rich opportunity to introduce us to all of those men, and so that when they fall, it is a tragic story? … so when we lose them we will feel the loss of them. That’s pure speculation, but that’s I think a justifiable reason to add nine characters we may or may not have names for … The way they want to present Isildur … let’s spend time with Isildur … so that when it all shakes out the way it does, we really feel that. I find that kind of story-telling really interesting.

Justin: I hear the loin cloth we see on meteor man was a CG.
Joanna: Honestly classic … If you’ve got a young actress and an adult man … [the intimacy coordinator might have been for Nori so she would feel comfortable.]

Joanna: Is your question, do I know who Sauron is after three episodes?
Justin: Yeah, let’s go there.
[Joanna pulls a red card that indicates she can’t answer in front of her face.]
Justin: Well there you go.

Justin: Any hints that WETA workshop is involved?
[Joanna pulls the red card in front of her face.]

Joanna: I’ll be really curious to see if we’ll be able to tell a demonstrable difference between the seasons shot in England and those shot in New Zealand … JD and Patrick said ‘Our characters are on the move, so you’ll understand it will make sense that maybe we won’t have access to the same vistas’ – I’m paraphrasing.

Justin: There’s a fear that if they share crews because they’re in the UK, it will look like other shows.
Joanna: They are building a home studio in the UK … it will make production easier … In terms of will this show look like the Witcher or Wheel of Time … These are portraits [the posters and photos in Vanity Fair], they’re not the moving images that you’re going to see … When I saw the Wheel of Time screeners that we got which were finished … I spent a long time thinking about why that film, that show, didn’t look as good as I thought it should … there was something slightly off, I thought … it looked ‘costume-e-y’ … I did not feel that way watching [Amazon’s] The Lord of the Rings footage. 

Justin: Are there any photos that almost made the cut?
Joanna: There were many, many, many, many, many … conversations about … which photos were going to be in this piece and which weren’t … we had a beautiful portrait of Benjamin Walker as Gil-galad … I love all the photos … I would have put like all the photos we got [in the article] … I want to give you every single name of every single actor playing every single character … Amazon is like, hey, it’s February, we want to keep doling these cookies out … and let other outlets have some fun in sharing.

Justin: Cliff, what is your one ask? What do you wish you would have seen?
Cliff: I want to see Celebrimbor with a hammer and tongs working over some molten ring-making chaos. I want to see the Elven smiths behind him watching, learning while he’s doing this ring-craft, and then, into the frame, reaches one long, slender hand with the golden robe and guiding Celebrimbor’s hand to a different position with the tongs … I want to see Annatar teaching Celebrimbor this most specific thing.

Justin: Can you give us one no context spoiler?
Joanna: Oh that’s really fun! Hmmm … I’m sorry; if I come up with something, I’ll tweet it to you…

Cliff: We’re on the threshold … I’m going to quote Dune … “A beginning is a very delicate time…”

Check out the full interview on TORn’s YouTube channel.

Thanks to Varking, head of the Rings of Power sub-reddit, for notes on the interview.