23 January 2017

New LOTR Funko Pop! Vinyl Figures Revealed at London Toy Fair

At long last, we have word on new Funko Pop! vinyl figures featuring more characters from The Lord of the Rings (the original run was very light, and The Hobbit figures were discontinued almost immediately). A few months ago, my friends Myla, Lily, Josh, and I all came up with a wishlist of Funko Pop! vinyl figures we'd love to see released; and it was nice to see a few of them made the cut! I'm still hoping they will release even more figures, as these all seem to be from The Fellowship of the Ring; but in any case, this is a great addition to the Funko line!

Just announced are Frodo Baggins (three variations), Samwise Gamgee, Gandalf, Saruman,
a Nazgûl, and a Twilight Ringwraith, while the big 6-inch figure is the much-anticipated Balrog!

Additionally, there will be two Pocket Pop! keychains available: Frodo and Gandalf.




While a date has not been set for their release, they will be here sometime this year. Earlier reports had suggested this spring, so stay tuned for updated info! 

Which of these are your favourites, and which other characters were you hoping to see?

22 January 2017

Valentine's Day Shopping Guide

Christmas may be over, but there's one more major shopping holiday coming up -- you guessed it: Valentine's Day. Although not everyone is on board with the concept, it is a fun occasion to spoil yourself or a friend/spouse/significant other/etc. Like Christmas and birthdays, it's an opportunity for Tolkien collectors to give and receive something special. So regardless of how you feel about Valentine's Day, here are some gift-giving ideas for all types of recipients, whether you want to give an extravagant gift, something small, or a card with a message from the heart.


CARDS

Cards are great for friends, family, and new relationships where you want to express your feelings but aren't sure what kind of gift to give.

Beckadoodles has some fun Hobbit Valentines on her Etsy shop; while you're there, take a look through Etsy, as there are lots of creative designs available this time of year!


You can also share some of these eCards made by a few of my Middle-earth News colleagues:





JEWELLERY 

Who doesn't love Tolkien-themed jewellery? There are so many different items to choose from, so for this guide, I've narrowed it down to "his and hers" sets - so if you're looking for promise, engagement, or weddings rings with a Tolkien twist, look no further! (Then again, any ring can be whatever you want it to be; it's always up to personal taste.)

  • His and hers Nenya rings from Badali Jewelry - Get your officially licensed, book-inspired Elven rings of Power from Badali Jewelry! These rings are available in sterling silver, white gold, yellow gold, rose gold, and palladium white gold and with several different stone options. Prices range from $177 to $3,716. This set is as versatile as you want to make it and can be used as a promise, engagement, or wedding ring set. 


  • Elvish inspired engagement rings from Jens Hansen - Made by the same folks who crafted the original One Ring for Peter Jackson's Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films. Custom engraving available on inside and out. Ring is available in white gold, platinum, palladium, red gold, and yellow gold and ranging in price from $629 to $2,859. 


  • Elvish inspired wedding rings from Jens Hansen - Made by the same folks who crafted the original One Ring for Peter Jackson's Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films. Custom engraving available on inside and out. Ring is available in red gold ($3,589), yellow gold ($3,589), white gold/palladium/platinum ($4,219).



MISCELLANEOUS

Maybe you want to be different and skip the cards and jewellery altogether. If you/your significant other aren't big on these, here are a few other gift ideas to consider:

  • The Tale of Beren and Luthien (pre-order) - Perhaps the greatest love story ever told. While you won't be able to read this book until its release on May 4th, you can at least pre-order it. 
  • Tolkien's Requiem: Concerning Beren and Luthien - you can download this title for Kindle and read up on the story of Beren and Luthien while you wait for the aforementioned book's release. 
  • Cooking for Halflings and Monsters - Why not treat your Valentine to a nice, home-cooked meal using one of the recipes in Astrid Winegar's new book? Or maybe you'd have more fun cooking some delicious meals and treats together? 
  • The Proverbs of Middle-earth - This is a fun read featuring many of the proverbs found in Tolkien's writings, through which we learn a lot about each culture and race in Middle-earth.


GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS
 
When in doubt, some good places to browse are Etsy for handmade/unique items, eBay for harder to find items and good deals, and AbeBooks for a wide variety of Tolkien books at great prices.

While places like HobbitShop and The Noble Collection do offer a wide range of merchandise and collectibles, when it comes to expensive items like jewellery, my personal recommendations are Badali Jewelry, Christie's Jewellery in NZ, and Jens Hansen jewellers. You will pay more money in some cases, but the quality of these three companies is far superior and definitely worth every penny.

 
Have some ideas of your own you'd like to share? Feel free to leave a comment below, Tweet me, or leave a comment on my Facebook page!

15 January 2017

Help Tolkien Fan Rúnar's Dream Come True

Rúnar Þór Njálsson is a 25 year old Tolkien fan from Iceland who was born with cerebral palsy. Although he has been confined to a wheelchair all his life, he hasn't let that get in the way of his dream to visit Middle-earth (aka New Zealand) and participate in the Red Carpet Tours. But travel is expensive, especially given the circumstances; which is why Rúnar has set up a GoFundMe page.

I’m a HUGE The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit fan, not a day goes by without me doing something related to it and I live and breathe Middle-Earth as you can clearly see by looking at the pictures :) My ultimate dream/on the top of my bucket list, is to travel to New Zealand and to go on a 14 day tour, to travel across the country and visit all the locations that were used in the filming, meeting the people responsible for creating this masterpiece and getting a look behind the scenes and just being in NZ/Middle-Earth for real. Here is the tour I’m hopefully going on http://www.redcarpet-tours.com/lotr-tours/14-day-lord-of-the-rings-tour

I find it quite hard actually to describe just how much The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit means to me and my life. It’s much more than just movies or books to me. If I’m feeling down or just plainly having a bad day I can always lose myself within this magical world and forget all about my disability and troubles even if it’s just for a little while.

New Zealand is very far from Iceland and this will be a very expensive and difficult journey (flights, the tour and accommodations). I knew I could never afford this myself, being disabled and receiving disability pension which would never be enough to pay for this adventure. So I always thought that my dream would just stay a dream and I would never be able to see it coming true. That was until I stumbled on this site and saw all the amazing work gofundme and the people in this world were doing. Helping people in times of need and making distant dreams like mine, a reality. This filled me with great hope and here I am writing my campaign :)
For more information about Rúnar and his campaign, please visit his GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/2dj937ms. If you cannot donate, please share the link with your friends and networks and help spread the word!

14 January 2017

Matt Ferguson's Official Lord of the Rings Trilogy Set On Sale Now!

Interested in adding some cool Lord of the Rings art to your home? Bottleneck Gallery has you covered! From now until Sunday, January 15th at 11:59 pm eastern, you can order one (or all) of three officially licensed prints by Matt Ferguson!
 
Click to enlarge

Title: Bag End, Zirakzigil, Minas Tirith
Type: Screen print
Size: 12 x 24 inches
Price: $35 each/ $100 for the set

It will be a timed edition that will start Thursday, January 12th at 12pm eastern and last till Sunday January 15th at 11:59pm eastern on our homepage bottleneckgallery.com.

We will also being holding a charity pin release for the Myfanwy Townsend Melanoma Research Fund. 100% of all profits from the pin will be donated to the fund in memory of Alexandra Grace, who was close to one of the members of the Bottleneck team. 

The pin will cost $10.


This set is truly amazing, and one that every fan of Middle-earth should have in their home or office. If your interests extend to other areas of pop culture, be sure to browse more of Bottleneck Gallery's website, as they offer a variety of other products fans all over are sure to love!

13 January 2017

The Role of Luck in 'The Hobbit'

It's Friday the 13th and I thought I'd get back into the swing of things by writing a quick post on luck. And what better example of luck in Middle-earth than in Tolkien's The Hobbit?


Luck plays a pretty prominent role in The Hobbit, beginning with Bilbo Baggins himself, chosen by Gandalf to even out the odd number of Dwarves:
You asked me to find the fourteenth man for your expedition, and I chose Mr Baggins. Just let any one say I chose the wrong man or the wrong house and you can stop at thirteen and have all the bad luck you like, or go back to digging coal. 
 From then on, luck seems to follow the Company in ways both subtle and more pronounced.

When Bilbo is tasked with scouting the Trolls' camp, he has the misfortune of setting off William's squealing purse, alerting the trolls of his presence and thus getting him captured. However, this bad luck is offset by Gandalf, who shows up at precisely the right moment and confuses the Trolls as they argue over how to cook the Dwarves and Hobbit, delaying them long enough for the sun to come up and turn them all to stone.

After they escape the Trolls' camp, the Company finds shelter in a small cave, which, as it turns out, is the entrance to Goblin-town:
It turned out a good thing that night that they had brought little Bilbo with them, after all. For somehow, he could not go to sleep for a long while; and when he did sleep, he had very nasty dreams. He dreamed that a crack in the wall at the back of the cave got bigger and bigger, and opened wider and wider, and he was very afraid but could not call out or do anything but lie and look. Then he dreamed that the floor of the cave was giving way, and he was slipping-beginning to fall down, down, goodness knows where to.
At that he woke up with a horrible start, and found that part of his dream was true. A crack had opened at the back of the cave, and was already a wide passage. He was just in time to see the last of the ponies' tails disappearing into it. Of course he gave a very loud yell, as loud a yell as a hobbit can give, which is surprising for their size.
Bilbo yells at the right moment: Gandalf awakens and uses his magic to light up the cave and strike down some of the goblins trying to capture them. However, in the chaos, Bilbo and the Dwarves are swallowed up into a crack in the cave, separating the wizard from the rest of the Company. Shortly thereafter, they meet back up in the halls of the Great Goblin, but as the Dwarves again try to escape the goblins, Bilbo gets separated from the rest of the group.

When Bilbo regains consciousness, he discovers that his sword (Sting), shines blue to alert him of the presence of goblins; normally a troublesome sign, but in the darkness of the cave, it is another stroke of luck for him. Fumbling around in the dark cave, he soon stumbles upon a ring – and its dangerous owner, Gollum, who wants to eat him. The two devise a game of riddles, with Gollum showing Bilbo the way out if the hobbit wins; or eating the hobbit if he loses. Towards the end of the game, Gollum begins to grow impatient, and Bilbo nervous.
He began to get frightened, and that is bad for thinking. Gollum began to get out of his boat. He flapped into the water and paddled to the bank; Bilbo could see his eyes coming towards him. His tongue seemed to stick in his mouth; he wanted to shout out: “Give me more time! Give me time!” But all that came out with a sudden squeal was:

“Time! Time!”

Bilbo was saved by pure luck. For that of course was the answer.
By now, Gollum is angry, hungry, and sick of riddles. He tells Bilbo to ask one last question. Unable to think of anything, Bilbo simply asks, "What have I got in my pocket?" and after three unsuccessful guesses, Bilbo declares himself the winner. He reminds Gollum of his promise to lead him out of the cave, and the creature scampers off to find his precious. His plan is to slip the ring on his finger, turn invisible, and eat the poor hobbit anyway. Angered by the discovery that his precious is missing, Gollum launches into a fit of rage and pursues Bilbo, who ultimately ends on slipping the ring on his finger, turning invisible and escaping Gollum just in the nick of time.

Bilbo manages to make it out of the cave and reunite with his companions; but Gandalf presses them to move on, knowing that come nightfall, the goblins will be out in the open air looking for them. After they make it some distance, they hear the howls of wild wolves. The Company soon finds themselves trapped in the tall trees above the wolves and goblins.

By another stroke of luck, the Lord of the Eagles just so happens to notice the commotion and sends some of his eagles to investigate out of curiosity. The Eagles generally take little notice of the goblins, and they do not go out of their way to help others; but "as a matter of fact, Gandalf, who had often been in the mountains, had once rendered a service to the eagles and healed their lord from an arrow-wound" (p. 110), and so the eagles returned the favour by rescuing the Company from the wolves and goblins.

After the depart from the eagles' eyries, the Company seek a short rest at the House of Beorn, who loans them steeds to bring them to the edges of Mirkwood. Once they reach the strange forest, Gandalf leaves them with a warning to stay on the path and don't stray for any reason.  While trying to board their small boat to cross the waters, the Company is startled by a deer, which Thorin shoots down. At the same time, Bombur falls into the enchanted water and begins to drown. When he is pulled out, he is fast asleep; he remains in a deep slumber for several days while the Company struggles to carry him along.

Bilbo is again separated from the Dwarves, this time in the forest. At one point, he dozes off and wakes up just in time to see a giant spider tying up his legs – "It was lucky that he had come to his senses in time. Soon he would not have been able to move at all" (p. 155). Bilbo saves himself and his companions from the spiders and, later, the halls of the Elvenking. They arrive in Lake-town, where they receive a warm welcome as they make their way toward the Lonely Mountain.

Once the Company reaches the top of the mountain, they are unable to locate the secret entrance, nor do they have any idea how to open it. Bilbo, upon hearing the knocking of the thrush, remembers Elronds words back in Rivendell and is able to solve the riddle; the Company watches as the last rays of light fall upon the entrance and illuminate a small door on the side of the mountain. They are able to use Thorin's key to unlock the door and enter the mountain.

When Bilbo sneaks into Smaug's lair and attempts to find the Arkenstone, he happens to notice a weak spot in the dragon's armour; but he has also angered the dragon, and the Dwarves find themselves trapped in the mountain as Smaug launches his first attack:
Something in [Thorin's] voice gave the dwarves an uncomfortable feeling. Slowly Thorin shook off his dreams and getting up he kicked away the stone that wedged the door. Then they thrust upon it, and it closed with a snap and a clang. No trace of a keyhole was there left on the inside. They were shut in the Mountain!

And not a moment too soon. They had hardly gone any distance down the tunnel when a blow smote the side of the Mountain like the crash of battering-rams made of forest oaks and swung by giants. The rock boomed, the walls cracked and stones fell from the roof on their heads. What would have happened if the door had still been open I don’t like to think.
Meanwhile, the thrush, who has been listening to Bilbo's tale of meeting Smaug and noticing his one weak spot, flies back to Esgaroth to tell Bard the bowman just as he's about to loose his final arrow; with a single shot to the breast, Bard defeats the dragon and saves the people of Lake-town.

After some time, the Dwarves begin to wonder at the silence outside the mountain, and the sudden gathering of birds. The raven Roäc appears and informs the Company that Smaug is dead and the birds are returning to the land; without this lucky appearance, the Dwarves would have had no idea of the death of Smaug. Roäc reminds Thorin of the deal he struck with the men of Lake-town, but Thorin sends the raven off, unwilling to share any of his treasure with 'thieves'. 

Thorin's unwillingness to part with even one piece of his treasure ultimately leads to an almost-battle between the Dwarves and the men of Lake-town and the Elves of Mirkwood; by another stroke of luck, they are warned just in time by Gandalf of an attack by goblins, bats and wargs. As the Battle of Five Armies ensues, Bilbo slips on the ring to avoid being in the way. Upon noticing the arrival of the eagles, he is struck by a hurtling stone and knocked unconscious, eventually coming-to after the battle has ended and several members of the Company have died.

After all that the Company has been through, Bilbo suggests that he has been quite lucky throughout his adventure; to which Gandalf remarks that it was not necessarily luck, but instead prophecies of old finally coming true:
Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself? You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You are a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!

What do you think? Was Bilbo as lucky as The Hobbit seems to suggest, or was it more fate than luck? Leave a comment with your thoughts below or Tweet me @TolkienBritta!

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