Tag: Tolkien

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Season 1 is over! What did the people of ricochet think … Good, Meh, Suck? I liked it. Episodes 1, 2, and 8 were strong. The middle of this season was a long walk in the woods.  I think Episode 8 was a good-? Especially after the last three clunkers, I think they brought it […]

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Quote of the Day: Friendship and Stories


“Those who cannot conceive of friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a friend.” – C.S. Lewis

Contemporary media and culture does not seem to understand friendship, which is a tragedy beyond measure.  A true friend is worth more than refined platinum.   There was the friend who picked me up in another state, the friend who prayed with me after I snapped and lost control of myself, the friend who asked me to be his best man, the friend I talked down from the brink of suicide, the friend I trained and hired for my job, the friend who taught me how to shoot, the friend who I introduced to his future wife.   All of these are men I care about and respect – my bros.   There are also close friends I have that are ladies whom I am not romantically involved with at all.  These are co-workers and old college friends, one of whom is like an adopted younger sister.  The idea that having a close friend actually means a desire to screw them is utterly disgusting to me, but society seems to aim that way.

A Fresh Look at Tolkien


J.R.R. Tolkien may be the most beloved twentieth-century author with the most diverse reader base. He appealed to Christian and New Age audiences as well as readers across the political spectrum. Fame and fortune were the last things he really sought. An Oxford professor, he just wanted to tell some stories.

“The Real J.R.R. Tolkien: The Man Who Created Middle Earth,” by Jesse Xander, is a new biography of Tolkien, the first major biography in nearly twenty years.

It is an independent biography, offering a fresh look at Tolkien. Xander reveals Tolkien as simultaneously archetypically ordinary and extraordinarily remarkable, an obscure professor who wrote momentous fiction.

“I’m So Excited!” My New Roses Will Be Delivered Tomorrow


David Austin, PBUH (this is the US link; it’s originally a UK firm) says that they’ve been shipped at exactly the right time for planting in my plant hardiness “zone.”  (My zone number is somewhere between 6A and 6B, worst case indicating that the temperatures in the winter might go down to about -25F, or -32C.  Looking at the zone map is eerily reminiscent of the sort of feeling I get when I look at those cellular-phone-company coverage maps; I’m usually in none of the orange, or blue, or green areas.  Rather, my area is gray, and if you look at the key, it says that I receive “limited service.”  Yes, Virginia, I live in the little hamlet of “Limited Service, Pennsylvania.”  And my horticultural environment ain’t much to write home about, neither.)

In a Ricochet semi-crossover, Jack brings on un-Young American Craig Hanks, host of the Legendarium Podcast, who makes the case that sci-fi and fantasy literature is not just for kids.

The Conservative Stewardship of Christopher Tolkien


“A wizard is never late,” says the wizard Gandalf in Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lords of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. “Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he needs to.”

I am not a wizard. Which is why I am only now getting around to memorializing J.R.R.’s son Christopher, who died earlier this month at age 95. Indeed, his passing has already been noted, in a more timely fashion, elsewhere on Ricochet. So I can only hope that readers will excuse my tardiness. For Christopher’s efforts on behalf of his father’s literary legacy are not merely worthy of praise in themselves. They also present an example of what it means to be conservative, in the most literal sense.

Christopher was involved in the saga of The Lord of the Rings almost from its very beginning. Though the germ of Middle-Earth predates any of J.R.R.’s children, telling what became his works as stories to his children helped him refine and develop them. Christopher later recalled, “[a]s strange as it may seem, I grew up in the world he created. For me, the cities of The Silmarillion are more real than Babylon.” And of these children, Christopher was the keenest on these tales. So keen, in fact, that his father put a young Christopher to work as an editor. In a letter to his publisher, the elder Tolkien wrote that “I received a letter from a young reader in Boston (Lincs.) enclosing a list of errata [in The Hobbit]. I then put my youngest son to find any more at two pence a time. He did. I enclose the results—which added to those already submitted should (I hope) make an exhaustive list.”

‘The Silmarillion’ Is a Dense Yet Highly Engaging Origin Story for J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth


As Game of Thrones draws to a close, and a new Amazon Lord of the Rings TV series awaits, J.R.R. Tolkien is sure to return as the king of fantasy (if he ever even left). Despite being dead now for nearly 46 years, Tolkien created, in Middle-Earth and the stories that take place there, a rich, vivid mythology that has ensured his immortality.

Many people first came to appreciate Tolkien’s work because of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy in the early 2000s. I was one of them. Only eight years old when The Fellowship of the Ring came out, I was not allowed to see either it or its sequel in theaters (though I did catch them later on DVD). But when my parents said they would let me see The Return of the King in theaters, I decided to read all of the books in the trilogy before the movie came out so that I would appreciate it properly. Even at age 10, I recall getting lost–in the best possible way–in the epic and fully realized world of heroism and mysticism that Tolkien had created. Seeing the last movie in theaters remains one of my best-ever theatrical experiences, and it confirmed my status as a Tolkien fan.

Looking for more ways to deepen my fanhood at the time, I came upon The Silmarillion, which I have now had the chance to discuss on an episode of the Legendarium Podcast. Described to me as the ‘Old Testament’ of The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion gave the backstory to which the more famous trilogy is the culmination: the creation of the world, the early struggles between its gods, the plight of the elves, the coming of men and dwarves (and their own trials), etc. Delighted that there was more material to read, I dove right in…only to crash on a rocky shoal of confusing names, excessive detail, and quasi-poetic prose that seemed straight out of some ancient tome. I got only a few dozen pages in before giving up on The Silmarillion.

Director Peter Jackson Strikes Gold Again with WWI Documentary


The Oscars for 2018’s movies have come and gone. It’s far too early to tell whether any of these movies, even Green Book, the Best Picture winner, will actually be watched much after this year. But true transcendence is hard to pull off, so the safe bet is: No.

Yet one movie with a good chance of a lasting legacy didn’t even get any nominations: Peter Jackson’s World War I documentary They Shall Not Grow Old. Jackson is best known for directing live-action adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The final chapter, The Return of the King, won Best Picture for its year of release, and earned Jackson Best Director. This is worth considering not merely for reasons of pedigree. For these two works share more than a quality that has ensured a legacy for Tolkien’s work and Jackson’s adaptations, and will, I hope, ensure one for They Shall Not Grow Old.

Of Love and Saucers – and Myths and Christmas


Sex sells, which I suppose is why @ejhill egged me on to write for Ricochet about one David Huggins, an elderly New Jersey man who claims to have long ago lost his virginity to aliens who have been visiting him ever since. (Huggins is the same fellow @majestyk briefly mentioned in his recent piece on UFOs.)

More remarkable than Huggins’s claim that his first girlfriend was an alien named Crescent, or that he served as a stud to sire countless alien progeny, is the fact that Huggins won’t stop painting pictures of it. Yes, Huggins paints alien porn. Alien porn isn’t all he paints – of his hundreds of paintings of encounters with aliens, many, perhaps most, aren’t pornographic. But enough are for one reviewer to dub his oeuvre “the X-rated Files.” Oh, did I mention these paintings are featured in both a coffee-table book and now a documentary movie? The movie, Love and Saucers, is out on DVD just in time to make a last-minute Christmas gift for that hard-to-shop-for relative.

I look at Huggins’s paintings and my first thought is, why? Specifically, what drives a man to make so many oil paintings without, well, becoming a better artist? Many reviewers call the paintings impressionistic or primitivist, but the truth is they’re amateurish, achieving neither realism nor any eye-catching style which would make deviations from realism charming. Oils are a messy medium to master. Painting on canvas is also expensive and bulky – especially when compared to your typical sketchbook. Why oils? The rest of you, though, might wonder less why oils?, and more why aliens?

Quote of the Day: Your Loving Father Christmas


“Dear John, I heard you ask daddy what I was like and where I lived. I have drawn me and my house for you. Take care of the picture. I am just off now for Oxford with my bundle of toys — some for you. Hope I shall arrive in time: the snow is very thick at the North Pole tonight. Your loving Father Christmas” — J.R.R. Tolkein, Letters From Father Christmas, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995

This was the first of the yearly letters that Tolkien, writing as Father Christmas, sent to his children. Each year he would pen a new letter, in a deliberately shaky hand and script that was unique to the Father Christmas, to those of his children who were old enough (but not too old) to still be hanging their stockings up on the mantle. The letters would come in envelopes with unique North Pole stamps and postmarks, and often had illustrations of life at the North Pole. These letters ran from 1920 through 1943, from the time when his eldest, John, was quite young, to when his youngest, Edith, was nearly grown.

Over the years, Father Christmas revealed more and more about his world and the characters in it. The letters introduce the prankish Great Polar Bear, his relatives, elves, marauding goblins who set out to ruin Christmas, and assorted other figures. Some of the characters even wrote letters of their own (in their own unique hands) or append their own thoughts to the margins and ends of Father’s letters. The early letters are more whimsical in nature, but as the 1930s drew to a close they reflect the general state of worry about impending war as reflected in Father’s own wars with the goblins.

Quote of the Day: Spurious Symbols


“The notion of symbol… has always been abhorrent to me… The symbolism racket in schools… destroys plain intelligence as well as poetical sense. It bleaches the soul. It numbs all capacity to enjoy the fun and enchantment of art… In the case of a certain type of writer it often happens that a whole paragraph or sinuous sentence exists as a discrete organism, with its own imagery, its own invocations its own bloom, and then is it especially precious, and also vulnerable, so that if an outsider, immune to poetry…, injects spurious symbols into it…, its magic is replaced by maggots.” — Vladimir Nabokov, Strong Opinions, 1973

I found this quotation in another work, The Beauty of the Infinite, by David Bentley Hart, which another Ricochet member sent me to aid in my understanding of Orthodoxy. I wish I might have had that quotation readily at hand in more than a few English classes in my schooling years. Both Nabokov and Hart take great issue with the needless dissection of the beauty and flow of language in vain quests to unearth hidden meanings, while ripping the context of the language itself to shreds, and utterly failing to appreciate works on their own (and complete) merits, or on their own beauty and form.

Quote of the Day: The Tree


“There was one picture in particular which bothered him. It had begun with a leaf caught in the wind, and it became a tree; and the tree grew, sending out innumerable branches, and thrusting out the most fantastic roots. Strange birds came and settled on the twigs and had to be attended to. Then all round the Tree, and behind it, through the gaps in the leaves and boughs, a country began to open out; and there were glimpses of a forest marching over the land, and of mountains tipped with snow. Niggle lost interest in his other pictures; or else he took them and tacked them on to the edges of his great picture. Soon the canvas became so large that he had to get a ladder; and he ran up and down it, putting in a touch here, and rubbing out a patch there. When people came to call, he seemed polite enough, though he fiddled a little with the pencils on his desk. He listened to what they said, but underneath he was thinking all the time about his big canvas, in the tall shed that had been built for it out in his garden (on a plot where once he had grown potatoes).” — J.R.R. Tolkien, Leaf by Niggle.

All projects, whether they be simple writing assignments or elaborate paintings, tend to take on a life of their own, especially if not rigidly defined in advance. Sometimes they turn into masterpieces, sometimes into ill-defined messes. Tolkien wrote this as something of an allegory for his own struggles as a writer, for as famous as he is for Lord of the Rings, he actually published very little else in his own lifetime.

Member Post


I’ve a little trepidation in discussing this book. The last time I brought up Tolkien, it sparked a huge fight. Granted, I started the fight by throwing the first rhetorical punch, but it was still a fight. So yesterday I posted about the Bible, and yet now I’m more worried about sparking up controversy and […]

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Member Post


I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review appears Sunday. When it appears, I post the previous week’s review on Ricochet. Last week I had no review (a long story), so I am reprinting […]

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This is a members-only post on Ricochet's Member Feed. Want to read it? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.