30 December 2012

'The Elven Chronicles of Middle-earth'

Middle-earth Minstrels is a relatively new blog with a heavy focus on Turbine's MMO, The Lord of the Rings Online. Blog owner @MEMinstrels is chronicling the in-game progress of his Elven Minstrel, Drythril, in a video segment called “The Elven Chronicles of Middle-earth.” The current video discusses Update 9 and the Yule Festival.

Be sure to check his site regularly for upcoming weekly updates on Drythril’s in-game progress – as well as other LOTRO news of interest!  

27 December 2012

2012 Yule Festival and Wintry Yule Warsteed

I love the seasonal festivals and in-game events that occur each year in Turbine's Lord of the Rings Online. While some are pretty hit or miss with me – I never got into the Treasure-Hunting Event or the Shipwrecked Mariner quest, for instance – the Yule Festival has always been my favourite in-game activity.

Now that the Riders of Rohan expansion has finally come out, Turbine upped the festivities by adding new rewards – particularly the War-steed Cosmetic Set - Wintry Yule Appearance.

Standard mounts have now become pretty obsolete in my gaming experience (the only time I use them is when I fall victim to rubberbanding or horrific lag when on my Warsteed). I purchased a Heavy Set of the Entwash after I could no longer bear having a plain-looking steed; but after a month or so, I was starting to grow eager for more options. When I found out that there would be Warsteed cosmetics available at the rewards vendors this year, I knew I had to get my hands on them!

Heavy Set of the Entwash

Unfortunately, the only way to get these cosmetics is by completing all three Tiers of "The More The Merrier" deed – Tier one requires you to complete 30 daily quests; Tier two requires 60; and Tier three requires 120. This, of course, is a lot of dailies. And unfortunately, it turns the Yule Festival into more of a grindfest than anything else.

That being said, I spent about a week doing dailies (occasionally buying festival tickets to reset quests here and there to speed things up a bit). And earlier this afternoon, I finally got my War-steed Cosmetic Set - Wintry Yule Appearance, with enough tokens left over to buy the other three Steeds available from the vendors (I opted instead to get the Horned Snowbeast Cloak and Boots, which Beornara is wearing in the photo below).

War-steed Cosmetic Set - Wintry Yule Appearance

26 December 2012

Philippa Boyens on Adapting 'The Hobbit' for the Big Screen

Hobbit screenwriter Philippa Boyens was recently interviewed by Movieline about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and the process of adapting the classic novel to film. In the interview, several important issues were touched upon – particularly my biggest gripe, the inclusion of Azog; but also the current buzz as to whether or not Jackson and Co. might try to turn The Silmarillion into a film as well.

When asked about their decision to re-write Azog, who was slain in battle over 140 years prior to the Quest of Erebor, Boyens explained that, "[...] when we were first looking at this as a piece of storytelling, we wanted to get to the dragon. We did try getting to the dragon in one draft, actually. But you had to lose so much along the way. We also understood that the Necromancer is too ephemeral at this moment – too much of a shadowy character that's not fully understood. It's a great mystery story, but there's a big problem because there's no actual, physical enemy. And yet the dwarves had a very natural one and he was to be found. When Peter [Jackson] talks about taking this chance to tell more of the story, that was one of the pieces that we took — that and Moria. It's the story of the great hatred between the orcs and the dwarves, where it came from and what was informing it. And, also, I mean, Azog the Defiler. What a great name! You kind of can't beat that as a name."

As for Bilbo, Boyens acknowledged that he is "too much a piece of baggage visually in the story that it becomes very hard to take his POV if he's that passive. So we had to make him more active. And, you know, Bilbo is very clever. And he's a quick thinker."

With the success of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, many fans are eager to see Jackson linger in Middle-earth just a wee bit longer – via The Silmarillion, perhaps. While it's a well-known fact that Jackson and Co. do not own the rights to any of Tolkien's work beyond The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, that hasn't stopped fans – or even the screenwriters themselves – from dreaming about it, though Boyens admits the reality is painful.

"[There are] extraordinary pieces of writing, extraordinary pieces of the puzzle in The Silmarillion. And we couldn't go near it. I haven't read it for 25 years. I just can't afford to have it in my head because we don't have any of the rights. And also it will just break my heart. I had to let it go."

Be sure to check out the full interview at Movieline.

Would you like to see Peter Jackson film The Silmarillion as well? Share your comments below or Tweet me @TolkienBritta

20 December 2012

Guest Post: 'Hobbit' Review by James Maguire

My next guest post comes from James Maguire (@maguirenumber6) of Manchester, England, who has kindly allowed me to share his review of 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.'

Review of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”

by James Maguire
"We come to it at last. After years of legal wrangles, directorial changes, concerns over a ground- breaking new format and even the intervention of government of New Zealand, the wait is over. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has been released to worldwide audiences, and I, like countless others, was eager to return to our beloved Middle-earth and see the well-known tale of a reluctant Hobbit, enthusiastic Dwarves and a greedy and cunning Dragon brought to life.
Like many other Tolkien fanatics, I always hoped that The Hobbit would one day be filmed, certainly after the enormous success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. As the project progressed, many questions arose. What was first suggested as a two film series (the second being the much-discussed “bridge” between the events of The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring) became three, a trilogy that would cover just the events of the book, with material being sourced from the appendices of the LOTR books (which New Line Cinema still have the rights to use) to expand on what is a much shorter book than the aforementioned trilogy. Fans still had questions though: how much material was being used? What of the presence of Galadriel, Saruman and Radagast, who did not appear in the book? How loyal will Jackson, Walsh, Boyens et al stay to the source material, considering the changes that were made to LOTR? “The right people are in charge,” I said to myself. “They know how loved the book is, and will surely give it as much care and attention as they did to the first trilogy.” After waiting nearly a decade, I couldn’t wait to find out.
 The film opens in much the same way as The Fellowship of the Ring, with a flashback to set the scene. We are introduced to the Dwarf kingdom of Erebor, built within the Lonely Mountain, and the town of Dale which sits within the mountain’s arms. The kingdom and the town are assailed and destroyed by the Dragon Smaug, and what few Dwarves are not eaten, including Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) are forced to flee into the wilderness. We only get tantalising glimpses of the old wyrm in this sequence - a tail here, a clawed foot there, but more than enough to whet the appetite for the films to come. For me, one of the challenges of this trilogy is to get Smaug right; he is so central to this story that he must become the definitive cinema dragon, the dragon by which all others are judged. On the evidence we saw, he will be.
We cut from there to the familiar sight of Bag End, and a certain Mr Bilbo Baggins Esq., who is writing the title of his famous book, as Elijah Wood’s Frodo looks on. I thought it was a nice touch that Frodo was involved. We see him carefree here, the Frodo that we only saw for a short time in the Fellowship before a certain golden ring found its way into his hands. This short scene leads into the familiar view of a younger Bilbo sat outside smoking his pipe, when our favourite Wizard walks by, threatening to involve him in an adventure. Said adventure comes right into his very Hobbit hole the next day, much to the amusement of Ian McKellen’s Gandalf, in the form of thirteen Dwarves, ranging from the threatening Dwalin, to the eager to please Dori, to the painfully polite Ori and their leader, the proud Thorin, grandson and heir of the King Under the Mountain. This is a brilliant scene, where we even get treated to Dwarvish singing, and in which Martin Freeman excels. Despite this, I would have liked it to be longer, to get a fuller introduction to each dwarf, as we get in the book. Jackson himself said that they only wanted Freeman to play Bilbo, and they got the casting spot-on. Bilbo reluctantly agrees to join the Company and the adventure begins. It is a visual treat. We are shown stunning vistas, glorious shots of the Misty Moutains and the now-familiar Rivendell, as well as the cavernous and ramshackle Goblin-town. The Shire as ever looks beautiful.
Much has been said about the various changes made to this film from the book, and how they affect the film negatively, and I must say I have to disagree. The addition of Galadriel and Saruman as well as Elrond in Rivendell - a meeting of the White Council - reinforces the idea that there is more going on in Middle-earth at that time than just the quest of Erebor. The Watchful Peace has ended, evil is stirring again, and signs which the Wise dreaded the most have been seen. Radagast, one of my favourite characters in the film, encounters the Necromancer in the ruins of Dol Guldur. Fans will know more about this character than I will reveal here, but I am fascinated to know how much more we will see of this shadowy sorcerer in the films to come.
Possibly the most controversial change from the books (and the lore) is the presence of Azog, providing another villain pursuing the Company in much the same way that Saruman’s Uruk-hai pursued the Fellowship. While some fans will disagree with Jackson’s resurrection of the so-called Pale Orc, I thought it was pretty clever, and gave Thorin a personal adversary to contend with, adding an extra sub-plot to the film; Azog is looking to finish the job he started in the Battle of Azanulbizar many years earlier and kill off the line of Durin, while Thorin looks for revenge for his fallen grandfather once he learns that Azog yet lives. The goblins’ tracking of the dwarves vastly increases the danger of the journey, which works well in the film and adds a sense of urgency. In the book, they seem to encounter no trouble until they encounter the trolls around their camp fire, one of the film’s most entertaining scenes.
The stand-out scene in this film is the famous game of riddles between Bilbo and the iconic Gollum, brilliantly played once again by Andy Serkis. The whole scene was gripping from start to finish, a real pleasure to watch, and both actors shone. It is in Gollum’s cave, of course, that a certain artifact of ages past is found. The Ring is pocketed almost nonchalantly by Bilbo, and his accidental discovery of its ability aids his escape from the Goblin tunnels, and will aid, as we all know, his efforts in the two remaining films. Overall, I thought The Hobbit was spectacular. It did not disappoint, despite all the talk of content changes and the new format, which I thought made Middle-earth look better than ever. I couldn’t take my eyes off it for a second, and I can’t wait to see it again."

16 December 2012

Christopher Lee's "Heavy Metal Christmas"

As if it weren't badass enough that Christopher Lee announced earlier this year that he'd be releasing his second heavy metal album, Charlemagne: The Omens of Death (a follow-up to his 2010 album Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross), the 90-year old has now released two singles just in time for the holidays. His new album, A Heavy Metal Christmas, available on iTunes, features "The Little Drummer Boy" and "Silent Night."

Check out the video below for a preview!

Guest Post: 'Hobbit' Review by Noble Smith

Noble Smith, author of The Wisdom of the Shire, was kind enough to grant me permission to post his review of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" on my blog.


You Had Me At “Smaug’s Tail”
by Noble Smith

"This is not a review. It’s a love letter to Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh and all the other mad geniuses working for Wingnut Films. And there are tons of spoilers, so if you haven’t seen The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, read no more!

I saw the movie today in the old school style—2D and 24 FPS. From the opening shot I felt like I was back in that brilliantly realized cinematic world of Middle-earth that so many of us fell in love with almost a dozen years ago. The colors, the feel, the music. It’s all the same as the first trilogy when you experience it at 24 frames per second. But I didn’t really discern the full force of the Wingnut Films movie/storytelling magic in this movie until that shot of Smaug’s fat Dragon tail snaking and flicking as it disappeared through the Gates of Erebor. I started laughing out loud. Not because I thought it was ridiculous. The total opposite. It was because it seemed so real. The little bits we saw of Smaug before this shot showed him to be a badass of monumental proportions (way scarier than the inane monsters in the preview for Pacific Rim that preceded the showing). Smaug’s tail whipping back and forth lazily, like a cat’s tail, as the Dragon sauntered into his new digs…it was just a beautiful and subtle bit of filmmaking.

Surprisingly, this is one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a long time. I found myself laughing out loud every couple of minutes during the first part of the film. Martin Freeman has created a character that will become a classic in film history. He is Bilbo Baggins. And I’ll even go so far as to say (and go ahead and crucify me Tolkien purists) that his Bilbo is a way more interesting protagonist than Tolkien created in his book. From Bilbo’s “Good morning” bit with Gandalf, to his interactions with the Dwarves, to his Riddles In The Dark scene with Gollum (a scene that feels like you’re watching two pro-actors in the most awesome black box theatre production of The Hobbit ever staged!), Freeman manages something most actors never accomplish: he lets us see inside his head—see his thoughts—without resorting to pulling a bunch of stupid faces. He’s incredibly subtle in this story of mercy and friendship masquerading as an action-adventure flick. The guy just blew me away. The little vocal hitch he does in his line “I’m a Baggins…(errp) of Bag End” was so perfect. One of those wee miracles of acting that I’m certain he came up with on his own during takes. My god! This guy can even act with his back to the camera! When he wakes up the morning after the Dwarf-party and he’s all alone in his Hobbit-hole, staring down the hall toward the front door facing away from us, you can feel him thinking “Oh crap, what have I done? I need to go on this adventure!” And after he catches up with the Dwarves and realizes he doesn’t have his handkerchiefs and tries to make them all go back to Bag End to get them…so perfect. In the book he merely mentions he’s forgotten them. But in the movie he’s like, “Stop! We have to go back!” Ludicrously pompous. Totally Bilbo.

The Hobbit is a luxurious and beautiful film: the sparks floating out of the chimney at Bag End like magical fireflies, the overhead of Hobbiton as Bilbo races through yards and gardens to catch up with the Dwarves, the pine trees burning on the cliff’s edge…and that last shot of the heaps of gold in Erebor with Smaug shaking himself awake, then revealing his evil cat-like eye (which is basically how I predicted the movie would end in a blog I wrote over three months ago). And what about that scene where Thorin is striding off the felled pine tree, marching into the burning brush toward Azog? It was like a scene from the greatest opera ever staged! (Don’t you wish you could see an opera with Richard Armitage, Orcs and a Dragon? Hell, I’d go.) Should I mention the flight of the Eagles? We’ve seen this before, right? Gandalf’s rescue in The Fellowship of the Ring and Sam and Frodo lifted from the fires of Mount Doom at the end of The Return of the King. But it was way more awesome here. Spectacular. Crazy-ass-fantasy beautiful. That scene where they landed on The Carrock was perfect. And them all gazing across the Wilderlands toward Mount Doom far in the distance. I can’t wait for the next one!

By the way, I know there’s some stupid shit in this movie. Radagast’s bunny sled is simply asinine. But I didn’t care. And there were too many damned scenes with Dwarves and Bilbo on shifting ledges and Dwarves and Gandalf on shifting jerry-rigged goblin gangways and Dwarves and Bilbo and Gandalf on shifting pine trees. Enough with the 3D crap. It doesn’t need it. But still…I didn’t care.

I haven’t had this much fun at a move since…well…since my wife and I got the director’s cut for The Return of the King. And that’s what was so special about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It felt like we were treated to the director’s cut in the theater. I loved hearing the two-minute-long ode to Erebor! I loved the fact we got to see that cool flashback to the Dwarf/Orc battle! I was amazed at how long the scene with the trolls went on. I relished every second of it. And when Gandalf appears and cracks that massive rock with his staff—splits in twain—to conveniently let the rising sun shine forth, thus turning the trolls to stone, I gasped with surprise! That’s movie magic. The writers took a scene from the book and added a clever little twist. “What if the sun were behind the rock. It’s going to be another ten minutes until it’s high enough to shine on the trolls. What would Gandalf do?” Answer: “He’d split the friggin’ rock right down the middle.” Praise to the screenwriters for this cool idea!

I have to say something about the actors. Richard Armitage turns what could have been a stuffy asshole of a character into someone deep and troubled and full of yearning. And James Nesbitt, in what might have been a throwaway roll as the Dwarf-in-the-dorky-hat, turns the raunchily-named Bofur into a sweet yet wicked guy developing a budding friendship with Bilbo. Both Armitage and Nesbitt are rangy men—both over six feet tall. It’s a testament to the skill the filmmakers have achieved with scaling the actors that they appear squat and realistically Dwarfy (yeah, I know that’s not a word) next to Gandalf and the Elves.

I have to praise Andy Serkis for creating the most stunningly realized mo-cap character in the history of film. He should win an Academy Award for best supporting actor even though he’s only on screen for about twenty minutes in this movie. When he falls over after losing the riddle contest—just collapses on his side like a worn out toddler…brilliant! That’s not special effects. That’s acting, dammit!

Oh, and Ian McKellen? He is “Ass-Kicker The Grey” in this movie. Wonderful acting aside, he just plain kicks Orc-arse. The part where he launches the blue bomb in the Goblin King’s Cave was a better weapon than anything I’ve ever seen in a video game. And then he does some serious Orc-smiting. I also loved how they have him be this sort of sheepish guy when he’s sitting across from Saruman at the White Council meeting. It’s like the writers and Peter Jackson said “Gandalf is kind of an f-up at this stage in his life. He’s the Istari who’s always getting into trouble with grumpy Saruman who admonished him for his harebrained schemes.” Gandalf is like Harry Potter trying to get the Ministry of Magic to believe Voldemort is back. It’s hilarious. “Sauron is really coming back!” “Oh, come on Gandalf, he’s dead.” “I dunno, Saruman. We should go to Dol Guldur…Morgul blade…bad feeling…”

Why are critics, for the most part, ripping this film apart? I don’t get it. The production design is stupendous (John Howe and Alan Lee--you guys are masters). I was enthralled. I laughed heartily, I got numerous chills, and I left the theater with a big smile on my face. Maybe the whole 48 FPS thing really is distracting. I don’t know. But I got to go to Middle-earth again, and it was my best trip yet."

The Hobbit: A Long-Expected Disappointment

The Hobbit: A Long-Expected Disappointment
My Review of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"


I’ll be perfectly honest: I was more nervous than excited as I walked into The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. After reading numerous articles about the inclusion of old characters, the creation of a new one, and seeing photos of the Dwarves in all their sexy glory, I fully expected to see my favourite childhood story ruined. My apprehension was especially increased when, during The Colbert Report’s “Hobbit Week” special, I realised that Stephen Colbert knew much more about the material that would be taken from The Lord of the Rings’ appendices than the film’s own director – and that lack of knowledge, unfortunately, is the film’s greatest weakness.

Visually, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is impressive – Jackson and his team prove that even a decade after making The Lord of the Rings trilogy, they are still masters of digital effects. And the high frame rate was extraordinary. The landscapes looked incredibly realistic, but not overly so, as many critics had previously suggested. As someone who suffers from chronic migraines, I had had some reservations about seeing the film in 3D and at 48 frames per second, but within the first five minutes I was swept up in the beauty of it all. The only instances in which I felt any visual discomfort were close-up scenes of characters running across the screen, at which points my eyes strained to keep up. Thankfully, these scenes were few and far between. For the majority of the film, however, it felt as though filming The Hobbit using this new technology and recreating a Middle-earth just as beautiful as, if not more than, The Lord of the Rings was Jackson’s sole interest.  

Had I not read the original version as written by JRR Tolkien, I might have enjoyed this film more. It began at a rapid pace, which it maintained for most of its nearly three hour span (thus making it a bit more enjoyable to sit through). It countered the Lord of the Rings trilogy in that there were few moments that really seemed to drag on; but at the same time, it mirrored the trilogy in the sense that it was similar, if not darker, in tone. While The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is not necessarily meant to be a children’s movie, it has all but lost the spirit contained within the book and seems to be more of an attempt by Jackson to one-up his previous trilogy.

In addition to changing the tone of The Hobbit, Jackson and his fellow writers took many unnecessary liberties. Numerous characters who did not appear in the original tale managed to make their way into the film – Frodo, Galadriel, Saruman, and Radagast all make appearances, no matter how brief, out of place, or needlessly comical. But perhaps the most reprehensible character to make an appearance was Azog – or, as I like to call him, the Orc incarnation of Merle Dixon (which is a bit of a stretch, and I’m not criticising; but as a Walking Dead fan, I couldn’t help noticing the similarity). For those who have not read any of Tolkien’s work, Azog was killed by Dáin Ironfoot in the Battle of Azanulbizar nearly 142 years prior to the Quest of Erebor. And yet, as if wargs, goblins, spiders, and Smaug were not enough, the writers felt that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was in need of another obstacle – so, while Thorin believed that Azog had died from his wounds in battle, the Orc somehow managed to break free from captivity and recover enough to seek revenge. Thus the first film seems to be more about Thorin’s struggle with Azog than about making it to Erebor.

But the biggest issue I have with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is its portrayal of Bilbo Baggins. While Martin Freeman certainly looked the part and did an excellent job in the role he was given, the writers almost completely missed their mark, failing to illustrate the very essence of the original novel – that is, Bilbo’s transformation from reluctant adventurer to burglar-hero. With the narrator who explained much of Bilbo’s behaviour within the book absent from the film, the writers should have made up for that loss by really setting the scene at Bag End. From the very beginning, Bilbo seems to change his mind almost instantaneously and with no real motivation; one minute he’s wishing those obnoxious Dwarves out of his home, and the next he’s eager to tag along on their little adventure. The childlike spirit that the film lacks in tone is almost made up for by Bilbo’s eagerness to please. Yet this, too, is slightly off target: where in the book, Bilbo spends a majority of their adventure desperately trying to prove to both himself and the Dwarves that he can be the burglar they need, in the film he seems completely focused on pleasing Thorin only. This, of course, takes not the entire journey, but only the first film to achieve; by saving Thorin from becoming a trophy for the Orc-chieftain Azog, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ends on a happy, yet sappy, note, with the Dwarf taking back every nasty thing he ever said about the hobbit.

One of my favourite moments in the film, however, was the game of riddles between Gollum and Bilbo. Though luck plays little to no role in Bilbo’s victory (discounting another important theme from the book), the portrayal of Gollum is extremely well done. Not yet wholly corrupted by the ring, he is so far the most heart-wrenching character in the film; with those sad, puppy dog eyes, I felt more of an emotional connection with him than any of the other characters. Once again, Andy Serkis has proven that not only is he the king of motion capture, but he is a brilliant actor worthy of some serious recognition.

Overall, I enjoyed the film for what it was – a well-coordinated visual interpretation of JRR Tolkien’s classic meant to entertain for a few hours. The action, digital effects, and score were all worthy of praise, but the story itself left much to be desired. I’m slowly getting to the point where I dislike sitting through lengthy movies (or paying an arm and a leg for tickets) unless they’re absolutely worth it, and unfortunately, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was not entirely what I had hoped for. Sure, I’ll probably go back and see this film once in IMAX – and maybe once in 2D, 24fps – so I can compare the viewing experiences; and if the few glimpses here and there were any indication, Smaug will be absolutely worth coming back next December for The Desolation of Smaug. But for now, my fear that The Hobbit trilogy is nothing more than a horde of gold being sat upon by a greedy dragon who has no use for it still holds true.

What did you think of the first Hobbit film? Share your thoughts in the comments below or Tweet me @TolkienBritta

13 December 2012

Episode 3 of Geek and Sundry's "On the Table" Features Interactive Hobbit Quiz

Geek and Sundry's tabletop gaming news show, "On the Table," has caught Hobbit Fever in their third episode, which features The Hobbit, Kingdom Death, and Through the Breach. The episode even includes a fun interactive YouTube quiz on "The Hobbit."

Watch the full episode below and test out your "Hobbit" knowledge before seeing the film! And be sure to follow @GeekandSundry on Twitter for more updates!

06 December 2012

David Day's 'The Hobbit Companion' - a Review

When I first heard about David Day’s The Hobbit Companion, I was expecting just that – a companion volume to either Tolkien’s story or Peter Jackson’s film adaptations. However, when I opened my copy –a beautiful hardcover edition featuring some unique, eye-catching artwork by Dutch artist Lidia Postma – I was pleasantly surprised: instead of simply following the storyline of Tolkien’s book or Peter Jackson’s films, Day’s book focuses on the “verbal hocus-pocus” Tolkien used in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

In essence, it is all about language and how Tolkien utilised it to create a story revolving around the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins. Day presents us with the “chicken and egg” riddle in his chapter on Bilbo: does a name describe its owner, or does the owner inspire the name? This becomes something of a recurring theme within the book, although as we progress, Day’s focus goes from the Hobbits to the other characters within the story, showing us how language helped create their roles.

Regardless of whether or not you have any interest in language or linguistics, this is definitely a book worth reading. It is a remarkable attempt to see into the mind of the man who “discovered” Middle-earth and its inhabitants. In reading it, we gain some insight as to how the mythologies of other cultures inspired Tolkien, although it is sometimes unclear whether a given explanation has actually been made by Tolkien, or if it is just conjecture on Day’s part. 

While Day’s enthusiasm is rampant throughout, it still feels a bit impersonal when reading. One thing I would have liked to have seen is a preface by the author, or even a paragraph “About the Author” at the end of the book. Day has written many books on Tolkien, but aside from citing one of them in his Bibliography, there’s no mention of any of them.

Minor quibbles aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Despite not being a step-by-step guide to The Hobbit, The Hobbit Companion will nonetheless provide you with a greater appreciation for the time and care Tolkien put into his stories. I look forward to reading whatever Day comes out with next.  

About the Author

David Day is a Canadian poet and author of over forty books, ranging from ecology to fantasy. He is widely known for his numerous Tolkien-related books, including A Tolkien Bestiary and Tolkien’s Ring.

For more information about David, visit his website at David Day Books

You can also find him on Twitter: @DavidDayBooks.

02 December 2012

Guest Post: Rulers of Númenor

Today's guest submission comes from Matt Shaw (@mudslidematt, @TolkienNumbers). Matt has provided a chart showing the diminishing lifespan of the rulers of Númenor.

According to Matt:
The chart is based on "The Line of Elros: Kings of Númenor" from Unfinished Tales. It took around 3 hours to create the chart. I input the data into Excel and used that program to produce the chart.
The impetus was that I participate in online discussions with others on Tolkien's writing. The nucleus of the group are "Silmarillionaires" who can be heard on the Tolkien Professor's "Silmarillion Seminar." 
Click to enlarge

'Hobbit' Film Leaves Some Moviegoers Feeling Sick

After watching early screenings of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, many moviegoers complained of feeling sick and dizzy as a result of the techniques used in filming.

Director Peter Jackson has previously received criticism for his use of high-speed 3D cameras, which capture twice the number of frames per second as most films.

Some viewers complained of nausea and migraines.

According to The Sunday Times, one 'avid' fan flew from Australia to New Zealand for the premiere, stating after the film that, "My eyes cannot take everything in, it's dizzying, now I have a migraine."

"It works for the big snowy mountains," Tweeted another fan, "but in close-ups the pictures strobes. I left loving the movie but feeling sick."

One fan compared the motion sickness as similar to the feeling of riding a rollercoaster.

"You have to hold your stomach down and let your eyes pop at first to adjust," they said. "This is not for wimps."

In an attempt to explain the reason for these feelings of queasiness, The Sunday Times quoted the work of Adrian Bejan (Design in Nature), who has stated that eye movement combines "long and fast horizontal sweeps with short and slower vertical movements." 48fps film, however, "requires the eye to sweep up and down faster than usual in close-ups to absorb unparalleled detail on a big screen, causing cognitive strain."

Despite the feelings of sickness, many moviegoers were still eager to see the film again. Those of you with weak stomachs may not have to worry, though: fewer than 5% of cinemas will be showing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 48fps, according to The Sunday Times.

30 November 2012

Hobbit-Themed Week Planned for Colbert Report

Stephen Colbert is, as everybody probably knows by now, a huge Tolkien fanatic. While many of us are gearing up for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey's December 14 release by rewatching the Lord of the Rings trilogy, re-reading (or reading for the first time) The Hobbit, or making elaborate costumes to wear on opening night, the fake TV pundit has found his own way to prepare.

Next Monday (3 December), "The Colbert Report" will kick off its own "Hobbit week," wherein Colbert will interview three of the trilogy's major characters – Sir Ian McKellen on Monday, Martin Freeman on Tuesday, and Andy Serkis on Wednesday – as well as director Peter Jackson on Friday.

"Elen sila lumenn‘ omentielvo*," he said in a statement, adding, "I mean that sincerely."

Recently, Colbert boasted about his victory in a Tolkien trivia contest against Lord of the Rings screenwriter Philippa Boyens. Even Peter Jackson admits that he has "never met a bigger Tolkien geek" than Colbert.

Rumours that Colbert will make a cameo appearance in The Hobbit have also been confirmed.

* "A star shines upon the hour of our meeting"

28 November 2012

'Wisdom of the Shire' Review and Interview

I recently had the pleasure of reading Noble Smith’s The Wisdom of the Shire (“a short guide to a long and happy life”), which came out last month. Having heard many good things about this book from critics and fellow readers alike, I was more than eager to read it myself!

In The Wisdom of the Shire, Noble pulls us away from the craziness of our own lives and sticks us in the heart of the Shire, where its Hobbit citizens live simple, yet rewarding lives, and whose Hobbit holes are the true definition of comfort.

While many of us have grown accustomed to the complex and chaotic routine we call “life,” living like a Hobbit is not a difficult task, as Noble shows us. The main thing is to learn how to simplify – an idea that is both foreign and frightening to many people. Fortunately, Noble provides more than enough suggestions and information to get you on your way to living a more Hobbit-y lifestyle.

And while The Wisdom of the Shire is in some ways a sort of “self-betterment” book, it speaks to – and not at – the reader, which makes it a fun and engaging read. From the very beginning, Noble makes things personal, sprinkling bits of his own opinions and life experiences on top of the many examples he’s pulled from both Tolkien’s writings and Peter Jackson’s film adaptations.

Regardless of whether you seriously want to make a change in your life, or if you just want to read more about Tolkien’s furry-footed characters, this is a must-have. 

Noble was kind enough to answer a few questions I had about his book:

26 November 2012

A Tolkien-Inspired Cookbook

Although Thanksgiving is now behind us, hopefully you've still got food on your mind. If you're like me, then you've always wanted to cook up some dishes similar to those feasted upon in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. While there are many websites which offer creative recipe interpretations – my longtime favourite being this recipe for lembas bread from Council of Elrond – there is not yet an actual Tolkien cookbook available for us hungry fans.

Until now, that is.

With your help, Heath Dill of Massachusetts is hoping to publish (both in print and online) such a cookbook, titled Medium Rare and Back Again. He will be collaborating with his friend Corey Olsen ("the Tolkien Professor"), whose Tolkien Movie Marathon events he regularly caters at, to ensure that these recipes are as close as possible to what you might dine on in Middle-earth.

That being said, raising the necessary funds to research and write a cookbook is not an easy task. And that's why Heath needs your help! Even the smallest donation can go a long way – but if you can't donate, you can still contribute by spreading the word about Heath's campaign on Kickstarter.

Already Heath has raised over $6,000 out of the $10,000 needed to launch this project. There are still 23 days left to spread the word and make a donation, so if you feel so inclined, make a small donation and see this wonderful project come to life.

For more information on Heath Dill and his campaign, check out his blog at Dillicious and his fundraiser on Kickstarter

21 November 2012

Guest Post: 'Temptations and Corruptions, pt. 2'

Here is the second part of David Rowe's (@TolkienProverbs) article on "Temptations and Corruptions."


by David Rowe

"In the first of this pair of blogs, looking at the question, ‘Why do good people go wrong?’, I looked at the danger that besets those who trust too strongly in themselves, while also mentioning a significant knock-on effect: that humility breeds co-operation and collaboration (eg. the Fellowship, the Council of Elrond, the Last Alliance), rather than the desire to command.

I finished with Sam, under temptation to claim the Ring, falling back on his ‘plain hobbit-sense’, and that is the point from which I’ll continue.


Sam would never describe himself as much more than a simple gardener. Like his Gaffer and many other hobbits, he has had no formal education – such things as ‘learning your letters’ being treated more often with suspicion than respect. While rich in ‘real life’ experience, the Shire is therefore peopled in the majority by the unschooled and illiterate.

In contrast, elsewhere in Middle-earth learning and aptitude is at times so advanced that it supersedes what even the most brilliant contemporary scientist is yet capable of: Jewels can be crafted to permanently capture light; Rings can be forged that bring power or enslavement; minds can commune from afar through Seeing Stones. Arda abounds with technical brilliance.

However, cerebral cleverness is far from all it’s cracked up to be.

Beginning with Feanor, the creator of the Silmarils and the greatest in skill and understanding of all the Eldar, the repeated lesson is that knowledge (and the power it brings) more often leads to prideful downfall than to wisdom. For example, the influence Melkor gained over Feanor was due to a hunger for greater expertise and dexterity; likewise Sauron became the teacher of Celebrimbor the Ringmaker by exploiting his desire for ever-greater technical ability.

These Noldo learned greatly and became great, only to be overtaken by tragedy and death.

This same process is just as much at work in the latter days of Middle-earth. Denethor was the master of the lore of Minas Tirith, with records and learning compiled over millennia, but his sharp mind was overthrown when desperate need led his honest pursuit of knowledge to the peril of the palantir. Saruman, the Man of Skill, ‘long studied the arts of the Enemy himself’, but his great power through mastery of lore (again reflected in his use of a palantir) became his downfall. He was clever, yes – clever enough to devise his own Ring of Power as well as many as-yet unseen machines of war – but in seeking knowledge above wisdom, he brought about his own downfall.

Wherever you look in Arda, from Aule the Smith and the Dwarves to Lotho Sackville-Baggins and Ted Sandyman, cleverness without wisdom leads inexorably to pride, and pride (as we all should know) comes before a fall. The perverting effects of great knowledge, skill, and technological advancement show them for the great temptations they truly are. Knowledge is power, and good people go wrong when their technical abilities out-reach the astuteness to implement them wisely.

But the Gaffer? Farmer Maggot? Sam Gamgee? Unschooled and barely literate maybe, but at no point are they deceived by pride or by the deceits of others. Shire hobbits of their ilk smelled a rat the moment Lotho knocked down the Mill and fill its replacement with ‘wheels and outlandish contraptions’. Good plain hobbit-sense has a lot to say for it."

Deck the Halls with Lots of Tolkien!

If you’re like me, then you probably got all of your holiday shopping done months ago. But if you’re among those who prefer to wait until the season is actually upon us, you may be scrambling to come up with some ideas for your loved ones. Or maybe you’re in no rush at all, but you’d still like some gift-giving guidance.

Below are just some of the many wonderful things available on the Internet (and, in some cases, your local stores!). Mine is a very basic guide - poke around on some of the websites for even more ideas!


* The Wisdom of the Shire, Noble Smith
In this “short guide to a long and happy life,” Noble shows us that we can all live like the Hobbits of the Shire.

* Hobbitus Ille, translated by Mark Walker
Perfect for the Latin scholar and the Tolkien collector alike. (This book will become available November 27.)

* Exploring JRR Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’, Corey Olsen "the Tolkien Professor"
Regardless of where your loved one stands as a Hobbit fan – whether they’ve already read the book or are simply excited for the films – this is the perfect companion volume to JRR Tolkien’s classic children’s story.

* Check your local Barnes & Noble for more books, as many locations have set up “Hobbit” displays in anticipation of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" arriving in theatres next month.


* (9x12) The Hobbit - 2013 Special Edition Calendar by Poster Revolution, $9.49 on Amazon.com

* (11x12) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - 2013 Wall Calendar by Poster Revolution, $9.14 on Amazon.com

* Official Tolkien The HOBBIT Wall Calendar 2013 (illustrated by John Howe and Alan Lee), $32.96 on Amazon.com

COLLECTIBLES – Statues, Busts, Weapons, etc.

* Sideshow Collectibles – Legendary scale busts, premium format figures, fine art prints, prop replicas, and polystone statues

* Weta Shop – Polystone statues, prop replicas, fine art prints; there is also a section specifically for the Art of John Howe


$39.00, Badali
* MyPrecious.us – I purchased my One Ring replica from them in 2004 and to this day am still pleased with it!

* The Noble Collection – I purchased most of my other rings and necklaces from this website


* LEGO Board game - $26.24 at Toys ‘R US

* The Bridge Direct ‘The Hobbit’ 3.75 inch action figures – choose from Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf the Grey, Thorin Oakenshield, Legolas Greenleaf, and Grinnah. Available at most toy retailers.

* The Bridge Direct ‘The Hobbit’ 6 inch action figures – choose from Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf the Grey, Thorin Oakenshield, Legolas Greenleaf, and Tauriel. Available at most toy retailers.

* The Bridge Direct ‘The Hobbit’ 2-pack – choose from Bilbo Baggins & Gollum, Fili & Kili, Balin & Dwalin, Legolas & Tauriel, Bolg & Battle-damaged Gandalf, Fimbul the hunter & warg, and Thorin Oakenshield & the Goblin King. Available at most toy retailers.

* The Bridge Direct ‘The Hobbit’ multipack – set includes Bilbo Baggins, Thorin Oakenshield, Fili & Kili, and Dwalin. Available at most toy retailers.

* ‘The Hobbit’ Plush Dolls – $9.99 from Funko

* ‘The Hobbit’ Bobble-heads – $14.99 from Funko


Some other ideas and helpful websites to check out are:

* Mythgard Institute’s “Ticket to Learning” You’ve got a loved one who wants to study Tolkien in-depth. Why not purchase a gift card allowing them to take a course at Mythgard Institute? Courses available this spring include: Science Fiction Part II, The Story of the Hobbit, Tolkien’s World of Middle-earth, and Elementary Latin I Encourse.

* Pre-order 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' soundtrack today! (Available December 11.)

* Tolkien Town – I have purchased a number of small items from them in the past (keychains, enamel necklaces, patches, stickers, etc.) and am always impressed by their selection

* WB Shop/The Hobbit Shop

Feel free to share some of your gift ideas or favourite websites in a comment below!

20 November 2012

Guest Post: 'Temptations and Corruptions'

My second 'guest post' comes from David Rowe (@TolkienProverbs). If ever you have been in search of a single site which contains the many wonderful proverbs Tolkien has written, then look no further! Be sure to check out the website and follow David on Twitter!


by David Rowe

"I am going, over the course of a couple of (hopefully fairly brief) blogs, to deal with the question, ‘Why do good people go wrong?’

And by people, I of course mean Tolkien’s people.

The underlying assumption, throughout the history of Arda, is that the World and its inhabitants are good-but-corruptible: whether Maiar or Men, the origins of all peoples and all places are wholesome but susceptible to evil.  Even Melkor himself was created good, as were Ted Sandyman and Smeagol, but they became twisted versions of what they could have been.  I will be giving a couple of suggestions as to why this happened.


I’m going to start with the idea of trustworthiness, and to do that, we firstly we need to look at the nature of temptation.  There are several moments in the Lord of the Rings where ‘good’ characters are explicitly offered, or tempted to claim, the Ring and the power it might offer.

Boromir sees himself driving back the hosts of Mordor, all men flocking to him; Galadriel admits that she greatly desires it, to set herself up as Queen in place of the Dark Lord; Faramir has the chance to show his quality; Gandalf out of pity seeks the strength to do good; Sam sees Gorgoroth turned to a garden.

Of these, only Boromir ‘falls’, trying to take the Ring by force.  The others, in Galadriel’s words, ‘pass the test’.

In addition to these examples, several other characters desire and seek the Ring but never have it within their grasp: Saruman, to achieve Knowledge, Rule, Order; Denethor, to hold as a weapon in the defence of Gondor; and Sauron, its maker, desiring domination.

If we can put these individuals and their temptations into two categories, of those who pass the test, and those who succumb, I believe a very simple pattern emerges.  Those who fail and fall – Boromir, Denethor, Saruman, Sauron – are those who desire strength (albeit, often, in order to achieve noble purposes), and crucially, trust themselves to use that strength.

They trust themselves and fall, the others do not.

When Denethor criticises Faramir for not bringing the Ring to Minas Tirith, Gandalf tells him:

I do not trust you… no more than Boromir.  Nay, stay your wrath!  I do not trust myself in this.

Gandalf is wise enough to not depend on himself.  Those who fall to the lure of the Ring and its corrupting promises are those who think themselves trustworthy and up to the task.

It is natural to presume that being worthy of trust would make you reliable under the onslaught of temptation, but as these examples show, it is the ability (and humility) to be aware of your untrustworthiness that actually safeguards against the corruptions of power.  It should also be observed that the natural outworking of this humility is the willingness to collaborate, rather than the desire to command.  Evil swaggers in self-sufficiency, while goodness stumbles in humble interdependency.

To finish this ‘part one’ (and look towards ‘part two’), here is Sam, when the temptation to claim the Ring came upon him.

In that hour of trial it was the love of his master that helped most to hold him firm; but also deep down in him lived still unconquered his plain hobbit-sense: he knew in the core of his heart that he was not large enough to bear such a burden, even if such visions were not a mere cheat to betray him.  The one small garden of a free gardener was all his need and due, not a garden swollen to a realm; his own hands to use, not the hands of others to command. "

18 November 2012

Guest Post: ‘Hobbits and Christmas’

My blog’s first “guest post” comes from Stephen at TheHobbitMovie.co.uk (@hobbitmoviecouk). If you have not already visited, I would highly recommend that you do. Stephen has put together a marvelous fan site, featuring the latest movie news and lots of other "Hobbit" goodies.


Hobbits and Christmas
by Stephen

"With Christmas soon here (and remarkably - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey too), I had a spent a few moments thinking about what Christmas is like for those hobbits of Middle-earth…

Despite the best efforts of most supermarkets, toy shops, and so on, Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus – not the giving and receiving of gifts (although the giving and receiving of gifts is a splendid benefit that comes with Christmas). This is a tricky situation, as I’m pretty sure that Middle-earth has no churches and had no Jesus (although Sir Ian McKellen does come close – or perhaps not – as it is well known that Sir Ian is an atheist) – so this destroys any idea of Christmas in Middle-earth.

So, with the exception of the lack of a divine, virgin birth – what would Christmas be like for the Halflings of The Shire?

The first question would be when would Christmas be? On earth, we celebrate Christmas towards the end of December as everyone knows. Luckily for us, the first and last days of each year in The Shire were Yule days, when great celebrating and partying would occur. The first day of Yule would always be Highday (Friday), with the second as Sterday or Saturday. Similarly to the Christmas period, the whole period of Yule would last six days.

As per our Christmas celebrations, there would be lots of good grub – and those hobbits do enjoy their food! Second breakfasts are the norm, along with elevenses, and early lunch and so on. You can imagine those little furry feet tapping with excitement at the thought of munching on Beorn’s honey cake and lembas bread, washed down with copious amounts Barliman’s Best (yes – it comes in pints) and then to liven things up, perhaps a glug or two of Ent-Draught (which might lead to some hobbits waking up taller than they were the day before).

It’s well known that hobbits love the giving and receiving of gifts. Hobbits have the slightly strange tradition of the hobbit whose birthday it is, giving gifts to others. I initially thought this was because those friendly hobbits were such cheerful, giving creatures. Alas, I imagine this is partly because a hobbit only gets one birthday per year, whereas there’s most likely a birthday every day of the year for some hobbit or another, which means that most hobbits should hopefully get more than one present a week.

So, to wrap everything up… Hobbits love to party (as we know with Bilbo’s Long Awaited Party). Those little fellows love to eat and drink and are especially big fans of the old giving and receiving of presents and gifts. You can just imagine the gathering together of the hobbits to celebrate Yule… Young hobbits squabbling and causing mayhem. Older hobbits drinking ale, smoking pipeweed and chatting away whilst munching on good solid grub, before dozing off occasionally…

Tolkien alludes to this, when he talks about the hobbits, “And laugh they did, and eat, and drink, often and heartily, being fond of simple jests at all times, and of six meals a day (when they could get them). They were hospitable and delighted in parties, and in presents, which they gave away freely and eagerly accepted.”

Sounds like my kind of Christmas party… "

16 November 2012

Featured Website: Tolkien Brasil

Created just a few weeks ago (22 October), Tolkien Brasil is a fantastic new website that has much to offer Tolkien fans all across the world – from academic articles and book reviews to news articles and their very own "Tolkiencast" podcast (on which they have already interviewed artist Ted Nasmith!)

For more updates, you can 'Like' their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter, and add them to your circle on Google+.

Be sure to have a look at their links!

13 November 2012

Now Accepting Guest Posts/Submissions!

With the holidays (and the first Hobbit film) fast approaching, it's going to become harder and harder to cover every bit of news that pops up. Additionally, I'd like to begin working on some Tolkien essays to enhance this blog and go beyond just covering the latest news. I hope to make my blog a bit more interactive and personal than it has been recently.

And what better way to start than by inviting you, my wonderful readers and fellow Tolkien fans, to submit some of your own Tolkien-related articles, essays, photos, etc.? I would love to hear more from you guys!

I don't have any real guidelines (you can post anything you like, and at whatever length you'd like), but a few suggestions are:

  • A Tolkien essay or opinion 
  • A review of a book, film, video game, etc.
  • LOTRO screenshots or stories
  • Your review of a LOTRO expansion or general opinion(s) of the game/certain features
  • Original artwork or music
  • Recipes or craft ideas
  • Any Hobbit (or general Tolkien) news
  • Photos and/or details about your Tolkien collection
  • How you became interested in Tolkien's works

The only restrictions are:
  • Plagiarised work
  • Work that may be considered hateful or derogatory towards any individual or group of people (ie racism, sexism, etc.) 

To submit a piece, feel free to e-mail me at BrittaSiemen@Gmail.com.

Additionally, feel free to suggest via e-mail any news stories or important articles I've missed, and I'll be sure to credit you with the find!

Last updated on: 20 November 2013

12 November 2012

Neil Finn's 'Song of the Lonely Mountain' Hits Web

Neil Finn's 'Song of the Lonely Mountain,' which will play during the end credits of The Hobbit film, has now been released online.

"'The Song of the Lonely Mountain' was developed from a dark and mysterious theme which the dwarves sing early in the movie," Finn told Rolling Stone magazine. "After some days of mining underground (actually, in Peter's office) I emerged with the song, then set about recording it with my sons Elroy and Liam. Dave Fridmann came in at the end with a bold mix. He seemed to respond well to my demands for "more anvil! Pop music needs more anvil!"

You can listen to the full track here.

08 November 2012

Low Budget Mockbuster Sued over “Hobbit” Trademark Infringement

Low-budget film company The Asylum, who have released a number of “mockbusters” inspired by hit movies, are now being sued for trademark infringement over their new film, Age of the Hobbits, following previous threats of legal action by the Hobbit studios and Zaentz Co.

Warner Bros., New Line Cinema, MGM, and Saul Zaentz claim The Asylum is “free-riding” on the campaign to promote Peter Jackson’s upcoming Hobbit films, and do not want the word “hobbit” used in the title of a “knockoff film.”

Hobbit producers have called it an “intentional and wilful attempt to trade on the popularity and goodwill” of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings films, as well as the novels by JRR Tolkien, on which they are based.

The producers also want all infringing packaging and advertising material for Age of the Hobbits to be destroyed, as it could “divert customers and potential customers away from the Hobbit films.”

Age of the Hobbits is due for a DVD and online release on December 11, just three days before The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens in the US.

Although court papers not that The Aylum’s film bears a “confusingly similar and misleading title,” the company claims its movie is legally sound, as its hobbits are not based on Tolkien’s creations, but instead on the real-life human subspecies Homo floresiensis (once nicknamed “hobbits”). The company added that as a result, the term is “protected under the legal doctrines of nominal and fair trade use.”

05 November 2012

Regal Cinemas to Host 'LOTR' Marathon

In celebration of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey arriving in theatres next month, Regal Cinemas across the United States will be hosting a Lord of the Rings marathon on Thursday, December 8.

The event, which will cost $25 for Crown Club members and $30 for non-members, and includes a coupon toward a "Lord of the Rings" concession combo (a medium popcorn and medium drink for $5).

The marathon will begin with The Fellowship of the Ring at 11:15 am, followed by The Two Towers at 3:30 pm and The Return of the King at 8 pm.

Tickets for the event will go on sale on Wednesday, November 7 at 9 am.

02 November 2012

‘Hobbit’ Lecture Forced to Change its Name

Photo credit: © National Geographic Society

Following legal pressure from the Saul Zaentz Company/Middle-earth Enterprises, a lecture on diminutive primitive humans known as “hobbits” – or Homo floresiensis – is now being renamed.

The free public lecture, originally titled “The Other Hobbit,” was specifically timed to coincide with the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – the first of Peter Jackson’s trilogy. But the Saul Zaentz Company and Middle-earth Enterprises, who own some of the rights to JRR Tolkien’s creatures, objected to the use of the word “hobbit” as a generic name for the 1m tall human species.

The lecture has now been renamed “A newly discovered species of Little People – unravelling the legend behind Homo floresiensis,” and will be held at Wellington’s Te Papa museum.

Archaeologists speaking at the lecture include Professor Mike Morwood (University of Wollongong in Australia) and Thomas Sutikna (Pusat Arkeologi Nasional in Indonesia).  Additionally, the event will feature two of the principal archaeologists involved in the 2003 discovery of Homo floresiensis on the island of Flores in Indonesia.

Dr Alloway, who has visited Flores twice this year to study volcanic deposits and address such issues as whether the volcanic nature of the island allowed the species to expand, found the controversy over the name to be disappointing.

"I really want to move on from the controversy about not being able to use The Hobbit,” he said. “I kind of went into this rather naively, not really knowing about these name propriety trademarks.

All I want to deliver is something interesting to the New Zealand public, and at a time when everybody is really getting into the celebratory sense of Peter Jackson's movie, which is going to be quite a classic I'd imagine."

While some people may see the term “hobbit” as being “rather opportunistic,” Dr Alloway explained the reason for nicknaming Homo floresiensis the “hobbit” was because the species, which stood just over 1m tall, had large feet and was able to perform complex tasks.

"It's a new dimension to our ancestral roots which we're only just starting to really begin to understand."

For more information on Homo floresiensis, National Geographic posted an interesting article shortly after its discovery: "Hobbit-Like Human Ancestor Found in Asia."

Empire Magazine Puts 17 New 'Hobbit' Character Posters Online

For those of you who may not have picked up Empire Magazine's 'Hobbit' issue – which features 63 pages of 'Hobbit' goodies and 3D covers – here's your chance to see some of the treats within! Seventeen character posters from the issue have made their way onto the web.

To see the photos, head on over to Empire Magazine's website.

Also included in the 'Hobbit' issue are extensive interviews with cast members Sir Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Martin Freeman, and Sylvester McCoy. So if you haven't yet, be sure to get your copy now!

LOTRO Now Available to Mac Users

Turbine announced yesterday that a beta LOTRO client has been released for Mac. Previously, the popular MMORPG has only been available to PC users; following the release of the highly-anticipated Riders of Rohan expansion, developers pushed to make the game more widely accessible.

"We are really excited to open up the world of Middle-earth to Mac," said Kate Paiz, Executive Producer of LOTRO. "We’ve just launched our biggest expansion yet and we’re happy to welcome gamers to play the game natively on Mac OS X for the first time ever."

Click here to download the beta client.

27 October 2012

Mythgard Courses for Spring 2013

Interested in taking another exciting course at Mythgard Institute or Signum University? Or are you a first-time student looking to see for yourself what all the buzz is about?

The following courses will be available during the spring 2013 semester (which begin on January 14):

Science Fiction, Part II – In this follow-up course to the Science Fiction, Part I course that was offered this semester, Dr. Amy H. Sturgis examines the development of the sci-fi genre, from the 1960s to present.

The Story of 'The Hobbit' – Hosted by Dr. Corey Olsen (the "Tolkien Professor") and featuring scholars John D. Rateliff (The History of The Hobbit) and Douglas A. Anderson (The Annotated Hobbit), this course "will examine several important precursors of the book, works that helped establish the genre in which Tolkien was writing, or which influenced Tolkien’s own thinking."

Tolkien's World of Middle-earth – Taught by Professor Verlyn Flieger, students in this course will read Tolkien's critical essays (Beowulf and The Silmarillion), as well as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. With three interim exams and a two-hour final exam, the focus of this course is to encourage students to think deeply and critically about the material within the works, as well as their relationships with one another.

Elementary Latin I (Encourse) – This course will be offered through Signum University and taught by Professor Philip Walsh. Students will learn the basic elements of the language, with an emphasis on the fundamentals of grammar, vocabulary, and reading comprehension.

Not sure whether to enroll for credit or audit the course? Visit Mythgard's Embark page for more details.

24 October 2012

'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey' Soundtrack Available for Pre-order!

Anxious to get your hands on the soundtrack for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey? Amazon.com has two versions – a Standard and Special edition –  now available for pre-order (the official release date is December 11, 2012). While the covers have yet to be released, we do know that both versions will include two discs.

22 October 2012

Stephen Colbert's 'Hobbit' Cameo Confirmed

In the November issue of Playboy magazine, fake TV pundit Stephen Colbert - who, if you didn't already know, is a huge Tolkien fan - revealed that he had visited the set of The Hobbit, where director Peter Jackson showed him 25 minutes of footage. Naturally, this led to the question: does this mean a possible cameo appearance for the passionate Tolkien fan?

Colbert would neither confirm nor deny the possibility, but instead teased that it  "could be."

The rumour has now been confirmed, though it is currently unknown what size his role will be. All we do know is that Colbert will not appear in the first film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which comes out this December.

17 October 2012

New Tolkien Book Coming in 2013

In May 2013, fans of J.R.R. Tolkien will be able to get their hands on a new book compiled from unfinished manuscripts that were safely kept in the home of his son, Christopher. 

“The Fall of Arthur,” which will be published by HarperCollins UK, is a poem over two-hundred pages in length which depicts the last days of the legendary king.

“We were both delighted and surprised when we received word that Christopher Tolkien had completed work on editing “The Fall of Arthur” for publication,” said HarperCollins editor Chris Smith. “Though its title had been known from Humphrey Carpenter’s biography and J.R.R. Tolkien’s own letters, we never supposed that it would see the light of day.”

Sir Ian: “Gandalf is Still Inside Me”

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Sir Ian McKellen confessed that he wasn’t very keen on reprising his role as the wizard Gandalf in Peter Jackson’s upcoming Hobbit trilogy.

“It was a little like going back to something that wasn’t necessarily going to be particularly challenging,” he said. “Gandalf is still inside me, as it were, so the business of getting to know a new character -- I was sort of going to be robbed of that.”

The 73-year-old actor quickly changed his mind after a friend reminded him of the importance of his bushy-browed character, and the impact his absence would have on the millions of eager fans who are more than eager for his return.

“You felt, how many millions of people are waiting for it?” he recalls his friend saying. “They wouldn’t understand if you weren’t as keen as they were.”

Fortunately for us fans, Sir Ian didn’t let his reservations get the best of him.