29 December 2014

Merry Christmas to me!

I hadn't purchased any big Tolkien-related items recently, and my jewellery collection was just begging to be added to – so I finally treated myself to the silver version of the One Ring that I'd had my eye on for nearly a decade now. Merry Christmas to me! 

Silver One Ring with plain lettering

As with my first One Ring replica, I ordered this from My Precious Fantasy Webshop, whom I now trust with all of my Tolkien-inspired jewellery purchases. The attention to detail is amazing; the strokes of Elvish Tengwar are without flaw. What's more, the prices at My Precious Fantasy Webshop are very reasonable. If you're looking for a great replica of the Ring of Power, look no further.

Barahir and the silver One Ring
I'm ecstatic to finally have a replica of the One Ring that I can wear every day alongside my other replicas. And with a birthday coming up in three more months, I now have to decide which ring(s)/necklace(s) I want next from My Precious!

25 December 2014

Today in Middle-earth: December 25

The Ring Goes South by VictorElessar
On this day in the year 3018 of the Third Age, the Fellowship of the Ring departs from Rivendell.

30 November 2014

Middle-earth Gift-Giving Guide

Not sure what to get the Tolkien fan in your life this holiday season? I've compiled a short list of suggestions (based on my own collection and experiences with various retailers) to help you get started.

  • The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings boxed set ($22.01, Barnes&Noble) 
  • The Silmarillion ($11.95, Barnes&Noble) 
  • The Histories of Middle-earth boxed set ($24, Barnes&Noble) 
  • The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings deluxe pocket boxed set ($29.92, Barnes&Noble)
  • Tolkien's Beowulf (hardcover) ($17.71, Amazon)


  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC) (Various prices/retailers)
  • LOTRO: Turbine Game Time Card, Turbine Points Card, or a LOTRO expansion pack (LOTRO Market)
  • LEGO: The Hobbit and LEGO: The Lord of the Rings (available at most toys/electronics retailers)
  • LOTR or Hobbit themed board games: LOTR/Hobbit Monopoly, LOTR Stratego, LOTR Risk, Hobbit Yahtzee, Hobbit Scrabble, LOTR Trivial Pursuit, misc. adventure board games (HobbitShop)
  • LOTR or Hobbit cell phone case (HobbitShop)



Do you have any suggestions or recommendations? 
Feel free to share them in the comments below!

10 November 2014

Guest Post: 'Hearkening to the Horns of Hope and Love: What The Lord of the Rings Teaches Us For Today'

Hearkening to the Horns of Hope and Love:
What The Lord of the Rings Teaches Us For Today

by Anne Marie Gazzolo

Hope and love are dominant themes in The Lord of the Rings. These are two of the most desperately needed virtues today in a world entrenched in a culture of death, despair, and lust, due to the instant and 24 hour access the media provides. Those in the Red Book are no more exempt from darkness than we, but the examples of hope, love, courage, and fidelity in the tale give us inspiration and strength to keep going.

One of the most important exercises of hope is Gandalfs for Gollum. He acknowledges the small possibility of this, but it is still there. Because he refuses to abandon it, the Elves in Mirkwood treat him kindly, and Frodo actively works toward it also. We need to have this same hope for those who appear lost, for as Bilbo and Sam point out, Wheres there life theres hope (Hobbit 288, LotR IV:7, 685).

Galadriels words, on one hand lies darkness, and on the other only hope (LotR II:8, 367) are also powerful for Tolkiens world as he and his family lived through the dark years of WWII and for our present day which has witnessed so many senseless acts of hatred and violence.

Dimitra Fimi makes note of the shared faith of Tolkien and the poet Francis Thompson and Tolkiens admiration of the mans mystical work, especially noting from The Kingdom of God:

            O World invisible, we view thee,
            O World intangible, we touch thee,
            O World unknowable, we know thee,
            Inapprehensible, we clutch thee! (qtd. in Tolkien, Race 43)

These words remind me of two more times during the War of the Ring where hope is strongly present. As the siege of Minas Tirith is about to start, with no sign of hoped-for reinforcements, Pippin perceives that Gandalf remains joyful inside. The wizard has faith in his Creator and His plans, so he does not perceive just the dire straits of the present but beyond them to the future. Denethor says such hope is but ignorance (LotR V:7, 835). But it is not. It is faith and trust. Because Gandalf hopes, Pippin hopes. This also brings to mind the profound experience that Sam has upon seeing the star in Mordor, which shows him that while he and Frodo toil in darkness on the ground, there is beauty far above that evil cannot touch or mar. The words Thompson uses bring to brighter light the deep hope Gandalf and Sam both have that the present darkness is not all there is.

06 November 2014

My Thoughts on The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Official Main Trailer

Earlier, Warner Bros. released the official trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. The trailer opens somberly with numerous characters addressing Thorin, reminding him of the promises he has made and the terror he has unleashed. We do not see Smaug in this trailer, which leads me to believe his defeat will occur sometime in the first part of the movie, leaving the majority of the film to focus on the titular battle as everyone seeks to defend what they have reclaimed.

We get a quick glimpse of Saruman ("leave Sauron to me") which is probably my favourite part of the trailer. While those who have already read Tolkien's books or seen Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy know that Saruman is working with the Dark Lord, I cannot wait to see more of the White Council and Saruman's growing betrayal of his Order play out on the big screen. Of all the material that's been added, whether it be from the appendices or made up entirely, this is the one I am most interested in. (Sometimes I wish they'd filmed The Hobbit first, just to make the betrayal all the more shocking to moviegoers who have not read any of the books.)

Of course, we also get a glimpse into the Kili/Tauriel romance; he is seen giving her what is presumably his runestone, and later in the trailer we see her tearfully looking up from what appears to be Kili's body. I stand by my belief that it is an unnecessary love story, but at the same time, it will certainly add weight to his death.

As we've come to expect from Jackson and his team, the Battle of the Five Armies is going to be epic – and given that he's had 10 years to improve his skills, I'll wager that this battle will be his most impressive one yet. Between this and the White Council, you can bet I'll be giving this film a chance next month!

Watch the official trailer below and let me know what you think!

04 November 2014

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition Is Now In Stores! (Review)

May contain spoilers  
All images & review copy courtesy of Warner Bros.

The extended edition of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is out on DVD, Blu-ray™,  and Blu-ray 3D™ today! Featuring an additional 25 minutes of footage and more than nine hours of new special features (including commentary with director Peter Jackson, The AppendicesThe Appendices Parts IX and X, and New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth – Part 2), this edition is a must-have for any Hobbit fan.

While my opinion of the Hobbit films is still rather mixed (I have enjoyed them as standalone films, but not so much as adaptations), I found I enjoyed – for the most part – the extended edition of The Desolation of Smaug. As per usual, Peter Jackson's extras come in small pieces here and there as well as in wholly new scenes. Whatever their form, the extra footage adds more depth to a few characters and situations within the film, hearkening back to Tolkien's original story and enhancing the overall narrative.

One of my favourite scenes was the introduction of the Dwarves to Beorn. Where his presence in the theatrical cut was very limited, almost to the point of being unnecessary altogether, his character in the extended version is deeper and more in keeping with Tolkien's distrustful skin-changer. When he speaks to Gandalf as the Company prepares to depart for Mirkwood, it is clear that he is not just a skin-changer, but instead a being connected more deeply to Middle-earth and fully aware of the growing darkness; hence his willingness to help those he distrusts. Though brief, this conversation adds a heightened sense of dread – not just to the forest but to the film as a whole – which is something I thought was lacking in the theatrical cut. 

The extended Mirkwood scenes are another important inclusion, in my opinion. The Company's journey through the forest was so fast-paced in the theatrical cut that it hardly felt like they had spent any time there at all. Their exposure to the forest's enchanted waters and their ensuing drowsiness helps to prolong the scene and create the illusion that they have been there for an increasingly long time.

Not found in Tolkien's The Hobbit, but still a welcome addition to the story, is Gandalf's encounter with Thráin. I think my favourite scenes in the Hobbit films are those in Dol Guldur: Peter Jackson and his team accurately and appropriately portray the darkness that is overtaking Mirkwood. When Gandalf finds Thráin, he is initially under the Enemy's hold; when he comes to, he is still deeply disturbed by whatever he has endured in the fortress of the Necromancer, but his focus remains on his son, Thorin. For a moment or two, we all probably hope for a father-son reunion – that is, until the Necromancer intervenes and reclaims Thráin.

The only characters to not benefit from the extra material are Alfrid and the Master of Lake Town. While we are given more of a glimpse into just how greedy and materialistic the two characters are, neither of them are in any way likeable – or even pitiable. To see an actor as amazing as Stephen Fry reduced to a character almost as looney and repulsive as The Lord of the Rings films' Denethor is a real shame. There is little room left for sympathy if and when the time comes (spoiler alert!) when the Master succumbs to the dragon-sickness and ultimately dies of starvation after being abandoned by his friends and followers. 

Overall, I enjoyed the extended cut much more than the theatrical. The extra scenes provided more character and setting development, and were engaging enough that the additional runtime is barely noticeable. While I have not yet watched any of the behind the scenes footage, I am looking forward to doing that over the next few days!


For more details on the extended edition, please view the press release I posted back in August!

Will you be picking up a copy of The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition (or have you already)? Leave a comment and let me know why/why not!

25 October 2014

Today in Middle-earth: October 25

The Council of Elrond in Ralph Bakshi's The Lord of the Rings
On this day in the year 3018 of the Third Age, the Council of Elrond is held, where the history of the Ring is recounted and the Fellowship of the Ring is formed.

24 October 2014

Today in Middle-earth: October 24

Rivendell by JRR Tolkien
On this day in the year 3018 of the Third Age, Frodo awakes in Rivendell and is reunited with Gandalf and his companions. The wizard recounts his own delays to the anxious hobbit.

09 October 2014

Today in Middle-earth: October 9-20

Flight to the Ford by John Howe
On October 9th in the year 3018 of the Third Age, Glorfindel sets out from Rivendell; on the 11th he meets the Black Riders and drives them off the Bridge of Mitheithel. Frodo and his companions cross the bridge two days later. At dusk on the 18th of October, he is found by Glorfindel; meanwhile, Gandalf arrives in Rivendell. On October 20, Glorfindel assists Frodo across the Ford of Bruinen, where the horses of the Black Riders are carried off by a large current.

06 October 2014

Today in Middle-earth: October 6

Elijah Wood as Frodo in Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring
 The four Hobbits and Strider are attacked by Riders on Weathertop; Frodo puts on the Ring and is stabbed with a Morgul-blade.

02 October 2014

Guest Post: 'Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Review'

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is now available on PC and all next-gen consoles. While I can't wait to check this game out for myself to see how well (if at all) the narrative fits into Tolkien's canon, I'm stuck waiting until the game's PS3 release on November 18 (I think I'll prefer console to PC, in this case). In the meantime, I am enjoying the game vicariously through friends' reviews and YouTube videos.

Corey Brooks (@LOTRHobbit93 on Twitter), a friend and fellow gamer/Tolkien fan, was kind enough to allow me to host his review of Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor here on my blog.

(Note: may contain spoilers, depending on your familiarity with Tolkien's writings)

Middle-earth: Shadow Of Mordor Review 
by Corey Brooks

One does not simply walk into Mordor. Unless you're the Gondorian ranger Talion. Then it's as easy as Legolas taking down orcs in Mirkwood. Middle-earth: Shadow Of Mordor is the Middle-earth game many have been waiting for. While Middle-earth in the format of video games has had a rich history (ranging from great to not-so-great outings), none but The Lord Of The Rings Online have truly been amazing and fun games to play for hours on end while vividly bringing J.R.R. Tolkien's world to life. And while I've enjoyed every Middle-earth game that's been released, some have been waiting for a truly great virtual experience set in this world. Shadow Of Mordor has changed this, and definitely set the bar pretty high for future outings of Middle-earth related games.
Photo: Corey Brooks
The game follows Talion, a ranger of Gondor who, along with his family, is slain at the Black Gate of Mordor, where he has been stationed to keep watch over the cursed land. Some SPOILERS will follow on the story, so if you haven't played yet or do not want to be spoiled, then look away! Right off the bat the tone, very brutal and sad as Talion one moment spars with his son, then is being beaten bloody by an orc. I've never actually cried playing a video game before, but the moment Talion and his family are killed, and how he tells his son "I'm right here! Look at me!", really had me balling my eyes out, and matches the emotional scale of Peter Jackson's Middle-earth films. After a heart wrenching opening, Talion is brought back from the dead by a wraith, who after regaining memories of his past, finds out he is Celebrimbor, the greatest smith of the Second Age, and forger of the Rings of Power, and together, they try to find out why this has happened, along the way also avenging the death of Talion's family by the Black Hand, a servant of Sauron. The story is fantastically done, having a nice cinematic feel to it, with brilliant motion capture and voice work by Troy Baker, who portrays Talion. Players will encounter Gollum, and I love the Frodo/Sam relationship that Talion and Celebrimbor have with the gangly creature. Talion also aligns himself with a cowardly orc called Ratbag, who'll do anything to become a warchief, which also will play in Talion's favor amongst the ranks of Sauron's army. Talion and Ratbag's relationship is pure gold, and had me laughing many, many times. 

01 October 2014

Today in Middle-earth: October 1-3

Fire on Weathertop by Ted Nasmith
Gandalf leaves Bree on the first of October; two days later he is attacked at Weathertop.

30 September 2014

Today in Middle-earth: September 30

Nazgûl in Ralph Bakshi's The Lord of the Rings
On this day in the year 3018 of the Third Age, Crickhollow and the Prancing Pony Inn are raided in the early hours by Black Riders; Frodo and his friends depart from Bree; Gandalf reaches Crickhollow and by nightfall arrives in Bree.

29 September 2014

Today in Middle-earth: September 29

At the Prancing Pony by the Brothers Hildebrandt
On this day in the year 3018 of the Third Age, Frodo and his friends reach the Prancing Pony in Bree, only to find that Gandalf is not there. They meet Strider, who warns them about the Black Riders.

28 September 2014

Today in Middle-earth: September 28

Under the Spell of the Barrow-wight by Ted Nasmith
On this day in the year 3019 of the Third Age, the Hobbits are lost in the Barrow-downs and find themselves prisoners of a Barrow-wight; they are later rescued by Tom Bombadil. 

27 September 2014

Today in Middle-earth: September 27

Tom Bombadil by the Brothers Hildebrandt
On this day in the year 3018 of the Third Age, the four Hobbits spend a second night in the house of Tom Bombadil.

26 September 2014

Today in Middle-earth: September 26

Old Man Willow by Frank Mitchell
On this day in the year 3018 of the Third Age, the four Hobbit – Frodo, Merry, Sam, and Pippin – enter the Old Forest, where Tom Bombadil saves them from Old Man Willow.

23 September 2014

Today in Middle-earth: September 23

A Nazgûl rider in Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring
On this day in the year 3018 of the Third Age, four Riders enter the Shire while the remaining five pursue the Rangers; they all meet back up to watch the Greenway. A Black Rider reaches Hobbiton at nightfall. Frodo departs from Bag End.

22 September 2014

Happy Hobbit Day and Tolkien Week!

Happy Hobbit Day and Tolkien Week!

Tolkien Week – a week-long celebration of Tolkien, as the name rightly implies – kicked off yesterday. Today, Tolkien fans celebrate the birthdays of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. In honour of Hobbit Day, I will be reading from one of my favourite books, The Hobbit, and later, enjoying some pumpkin pie and hard cider – and what better place to do so than in my own Shire?

The rest of Tolkien Week typically involves reading more Tolkien, especially in schools, libraries, and bookstores. If you are a parent or teacher, you may consider reading from The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings to your children or students (if you haven't done so already). But really, there is no wrong way to celebrate Hobbit Day or Tolkien Week.

I have also prepared a Feast Week post for Middle-earth News, which will go live tomorrow. Here's a sneak peek:

How are you celebrating Hobbit Day and Tolkien Week this year?

13 September 2014

Guest Post: 'What Hobbits Teach Us, Part 3'

by Anne Marie Gazzolo 

In a tale strewn with heroes, Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin all discover they are braver than they ever thought they could be, as they do what they need to out of love. They learn as we have that evil is alive and well in the world but that such powers “cannot conquer for ever” as Frodo boldly proclaims at the Cross-roads (LotR VI:7, 687). These tales show that “evil labours with vast power and perpetual success - in vain: preparing always only the soil for unexpected good to sprout in” (Tolkien, Letters 76). Out of the darkness and because of the darkness, many heroic acts of love, faith, humility, and self-sacrifice abound.

            Of all these heroes, Sam is the greatest. This humble gardener shines as a bright light in the Ring-bearer’s darkening world and in our own. Sam’s selfless devotion is an example par excellence of what a loyal friend is. This “jewel among the hobbits” (Tolkien, Letters 88) voluntarily endures torment and terror on the Quest “only for the sake of one he loves beyond everything else” (Bradley 124). He turns aside his own desires, faces down his fears, and repeatedly risks his life, so he can remain at his master’s side. “Wherever you go, I will go” (Ruth 1:17). He gives up much of his share of food, water, and sleep in order to give Frodo more. Such love approaches “religious devotion” (Bradley 121) by the time the Ring-bearers’ near the Fire. Through Sam and the friendship the hobbits share, which Ralph C. Wood calls “a thing of exquisite beauty, even holiness” (Gospel According to Tolkien 135), we learn much of love, loyalty, endurance, perseverance, faith, goodness, and hope. Sam’s sterling qualities strengthen Frodo’s in the bitter battle against the Ring.

            Sam’s natural hobbit cheerfulness allows him to make light of times of terrible crisis. After he announces his presence at the secret Council of Elrond, all he says of the horrible danger that the Quest will involve, is that it is “[a] nice pickle” (LotR II:2, 264). He provides several opportunities for Frodo to laugh, which is a great blessing for a Ring-bearer increasingly beleaguered by despair. The gardener jokes about ringing the front door at the Tower of Cirith Ungol. He presses on through that dread, horror-filled place and throughout the Quest because his love for Frodo feeds his courage. It also feeds his forgiveness, which comes so naturally Sam does not need to give it conscious thought after Frodo begs for it in the Tower.

            Gandalf aptly names Sam Hope Unquenchable (Sauron Defeated 62). The hobbit’s enduring hope destroys any attempt to draw him into despair. The eyes of his heart see far more than his physical eyes do. He sees beyond what seem disasters to the possibility that they are not. As Orcs come straight toward him and Frodo and capture and discovery seem inevitable, he remains open to the possibility that it is not as bad as it appears. Even as Mount Doom explodes around them, Sam refuses to give up all hope. In our culture of death and despair, it is so easy only to see the darkness and to think things can only get worse. Sam teaches us there is a different way to look at things and to see beyond what our physical eyes do. What need we have today to fashion our hearts to model his!

            As we struggle through life with addiction to our own Ring, if we are fortunate, we will have a Sam with us to support us, for this struggle is not one we can win alone. It must be won if we are not to be totally lost. Or perhaps our part in the Music is to be a Sam to someone and to love our dear one as fiercely and unconditionally as Sam loved his Frodo; to stand by them through every hardship; to hold them against their fears, the night that threatens to overwhelm them, the ghosts that walk in their nightmares, and the horrors that haunt them during the day; to be light to their darkness, strength to their weakness, peace to their turbulence, hope to their despair, healing to their open wounds, solace to their grief, warmth to their coldness, sweetness to their bitterness, even to be ready and willing to die with them or for them. Imagine what the world would be like if more people loved and were loved as deeply and purely as Sam loved his Frodo! It would be beautiful.

            The glowing example of Sam and Rosie’s love, faithfulness, and devotion is another lesson we sorely need to learn in our era of broken promises and betrayal of friends and spouses. These two hobbits are open to the gift of life, and, surrounded by their many children, they celebrate their golden anniversary and beyond. They show where there is great and true love, many miracles happen.

            May Sam’s example inspire and strengthen us to give “perfect satisfaction” in all our relationships, as Frodo assured the Gaffer Sam had done (LotR VI:8, 991). Sam would not have considered himself anyone special, but everyone else, especially Frodo, does. Both hobbits give us examples of perseverance, loyalty, and dedication to completing difficult tasks that seem impossible to even survive. May the light of these heroes, whose stories Tolkien retold “in this very nick of time,” (LotR II:2, 236) serve as a beacon on our own journeys to Mordor or in confrontation with the Shadow in other ways and places.

Works Cited

Bradley, Marion Zimmer. “Men, Halflings, and Hero Worship.” Ed. Neil D. Isaacs and Rose A. Zimbardo. Tolkien and the Critics: Essays on J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968: 109-127.
The Jerusalem Bible Reader’s Edition. Gen. ed. Alexander Jones. Garden City, NY: Doubleday,
            1966, 1967, 1968.
Tolkien, J. R. R. The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. Ed. Humphrey Carpenter. Boston: Houghton
            Mifflin, 2000.
———. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King. 2nd edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1965-66.
———. Sauron Defeated: The History of “The Lord of the Rings,” Part 4, edited by Christopher Tolkien. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992.
Wood, Ralph C. The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-earth. Louisville, KY: Knox, 2003.


Anne Marie Gazzolo is the author of Moments of Grace and Spiritual Warfare in The Lord of the Rings (WestBow Press, 2012), where some of this essay comes from. To order the book, please visit http://www.ow.ly/ez2dT. Sign up for her mailing list at http://www.annemariegazzolo.com/ and get a free copy of the ebook, Pathways Through Middle-earth: A Guide for the Heart, which contains more lessons on how to apply to your life what Hobbits, Wizards, Elves, Men, and Dwarves teach. Find her also at http://www.facebook.com/annemariegazzolo and http://www.pinterest.com/authorannemarie.

19 August 2014

Win a Signed Gandalf Drawing from Artist Darrel Morris

Darrel Morris is scrimshaw artist whose work features many characters and logos from Middle-earth. One of his most recent works-in-progress is a drawing of Gandalf, the first in a series of drawings exploring the inner essences of Tolkien's characters. He will give away one free signed print (valued at $50) to whomever can come up with the best title for this piece:

How to enter:
  • You can enter on Facebook by commenting on this post with your title suggestion.
  • Reply to this Tweet with your title suggestion.
  • Leave a comment on this Instagram picture.
  • You may enter via all three sites if you wish; however, please note that multiple entries will not increase your chances of winning. (Similarly, any comments deemed to be "spam" will not be accepted.)
How the winner will be chosen:
  • Darrel and I will pick our top three suggestions (one from Facebook, one from Twitter, and one from Instagram) and then ask everyone to vote for their favourite.
  • Please make sure we can contact you on any of those sites if you are a winner.
  • Darrel is willing to ship overseas, so this contest is open to everyone.

The deadline will be 11:59 PM ET Saturday, August 30.

To view more of Darrel's work, visit: His website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

13 August 2014

Conference on Middle-earth 2015

While at Boston Comic Con, a woman dressed in a beautiful Elven gown handed me a flyer for an upcoming Tolkien conference, which just so happens to fall on my birthday weekend (so I'm hoping to be able to attend)!

The conference, which is being held in Albany, NY on the weekend of March 28-29, 2015, is seeking papers on "J.R.R. Tolkien, his works, works based on Tolkien and his works, criticism, teaching Tolkien in the classroom, the books’ impact on oneself and/or the world, the films and the film industry, the music, the art, the fannish side of this universe and its impact, and anything you can imagine on topic".

Examples of welcome topics include:
  • Flora and fauna of Middle-earth
  • Clothing in Middle-earth (from both the books and films)
  • Astronomy of Middle-earth
  • Food of Middle-earth 
  • The impact of The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings on 1960s/1970s popular music

Anyone interested in submitting a paper should e-mail a 250 word abstract (including the author's name, presentation title, mailing address, phone number, and e-mail address) to programming@3rdcome.org by December 31, 2014.

For more information about the conference, please visit http://3rdcome.org/COME_2015/.

11 August 2014

Boston Comic Con 2014

This past Sunday was my second time attending Boston Comic Con (you can read about my experience last year over at the Middle-earth News). I regretted not cosplaying the last time I went, so this year I decided to brave the heat and wear my Arwen gown.

While I didn't see very many Tolkien-themed cosplays this year (I passed a Galadriel and a Tauriel but didn't have a chance to ask for a photo with either of them), I was lucky enough to run into a man who made his own Gandalf costume and who kindly agreed to take some photos with me.

The highlight of this trip (and my main reason for going) was finally meeting Sean Astin. I had gone to see him in Boston back in 2004 when he was promoting his autobiography, There and Back Again: An Actor's Tale, and again in 2006 at TheOneRing.net's ELF convention in New Jersey; but I'd never had a chance to meet him at either event.

05 August 2014

'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug' Extended Cut Adds 25 Minutes of Footage

Burbank, Calif., August 5, 2014 – The Quest through Middle-earth continues in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, from Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson, when the epic fantasy adventure is released as an Extended Edition on Blu-ray 3D and Blu-ray on November 4th from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE). A production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, this extended cut of the second film in The Hobbit Trilogy includes 25 minutes of extra film footage that extends individual scenes, making this the must-see, definitive version for fans. Both versions of the Extended Edition include more than nine hours of new bonus features that will enrich the experience of the Trilogy as fans gear up for the December 17 theatrical release of the third and final film, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

Ian McKellen returns as Gandalf the Grey, with Martin Freeman in the central role of Bilbo Baggins, and Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield. The international ensemble cast is led by Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace, Luke Evans, Stephen Fry, Ken Stott, James Nesbitt and Orlando Bloom as Legolas. The film also stars Mikael Persbrandt, Sylvester McCoy, Aidan Turner, Dean O’Gorman, Graham McTavish, Adam Brown, Peter Hambleton, John Callen, Mark Hadlow, Jed Brophy, William Kircher, Stephen Hunter, Ryan Gage, John Bell, Manu Bennett and Lawrence Makoare.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition will be available as a 5-disc Blu-ray 3D set ($54.98 SRP) that features the Blu-ray 3D and Blu-ray versions of the Extended Edition; and a 3-disc Blu-ray ($35.99). Both the Blu-ray 3D and Blu-ray include a digital version of the movie on Digital HD with UltraViolet.

The nine-plus hours of new special features boasts audio commentary with Peter Jackson, the film's director/producer/screenwriter, and Philippa Boyens, co-producer/screenwriter, as well as “The Appendices,” a multi-part documentary focusing on various aspects of the film and the Trilogy. Complete special feature details are provided below the cut.

20 July 2014

Rankin/Bass "The Hobbit" and "The Return of the King" Remastered Deluxe Edition (Review)

Despite the success of Peter Jackson's "Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" films, many Tolkien fans have been left yearning for a more accurate portrayal of his classic novels. Those who grew up in the 70s and 80s may recall the Rankin/Bass television specials "The Hobbit" (1977) and "The Return of the King" (1980), which by now have become "classics" in their own right. This Tuesday, Warner Bros. will be releasing remastered deluxe editions of both specials.

"The Hobbit" (1977). Photo: Warner Bros.
Although I was not yet born when these films first came out, I have seen them numerous times and am very fond of them, especially "The Hobbit". Contrary to Jackson's "Hobbit" films, the Rankin/Bass special maintains the spirit of being a children's tale. The whimsical illustrations, the impeccable cast of voice actors, and an catchy soundtrack reminiscent of some of the company's other specials ("Frosty the Snowman", "The Year Without a Santa Claus", and so on) make for a film that is great fun for the whole family. 

As an adaptation, "The Hobbit" manages to find an equal balance between appealing to longtime Tolkien fans as well as those experiencing the story for the first time. There are some omissions to the story – Beorn, for example, has been completely left out – which are clearly done to save time and avoid complicating the story with too many characters or plot points. Such omissions do not detract from Tolkien's original story, but instead help to advance the film in a way that is easy for audiences unfamiliar with Middle-earth to follow; Tolkien fans will find the lack of new characters, subplots, and drawn out action scenes to be very refreshing. While the film is by no means a perfect adaptation of The Hobbit, it captures most of the essence of the original story and is a great venture into Middle-earth.

17 July 2014

Chance Thomas' "Theme for Rohan" to be Performed by the Utah Symphony

Composer Chance Thomas, who has contributed numerous themes to The Lord of the Rings Online score, has announced via his Facebook page that his piece Theme for Rohan will be performed by the Utah Symphony on September 6:
I am happy to announce the symphonic premiere of my original composition, THEME FOR ROHAN, to be performed by the Utah Symphony on September 6, 2014 at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City. They have invited me to guest conduct at the concert. Tickets are already going fast! Click the image below for ticket information. 

THEME FOR ROHAN will be showcased as part of the Utah Symphony’s Video Games Live concert series. Video Games Live offers terrific family-friendly entertainment bursting at the seams with lazer lights, popular video game footage on a massive screen, good humor, excitement and of course, lots of beautiful music.

You can find more of Chance Thomas' themes on LOTRO's YouTube channel!

For more information regarding the event – which will include segments from other games, including Final Fantasy, Warcraft, Skyrim, Mass Effect, and more – be sure to visit the Utah Symphony's website!
Final Fantasy, Warcraft, Skyrim, Shadow of the Colossus, Journey, Tetris, Mass Effect, Mega Man - See more at: http://www.utahsymphony.org/concerts/962-video-games-live#sthash.4ReNttLC.dpuf
Final Fantasy, Warcraft, Skyrim, Shadow of the Colossus, Journey, Tetris, Mass Effect, Mega Man - See more at: http://www.utahsymphony.org/concerts/962-video-games-live#sthash.4ReNttLC.dpuf

10 July 2014

Sociedad Tolkien Española's Ælfwine Awards 2014

The Sociedad Tolkien Española (Spanish Tolkien Society) has announced its 10th edition of the Essay Awards "Ælfwine Awards 2014".

Original essays, written in English or Spanish and relating to the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien, should be submitted to premiosaelfwine@sociedadtolkien.org by October 1, 2014 for consideration.

Before submitting an essay, please be sure to read and adhere to the official rules, which can be found on the STE webpage (English | Spanish).

08 July 2014

Call for Papers: Mythmoot III

Mythmoot III is seeking proposals for 15-20 minute papers on Tolkien and other speculative media. Some themes of particular interest include:
  • Tolkien in the 21st century– how Tolkien’s works are being engaged with by new generations of fans
  • Out of this World – Traditional and new angles on fantasy and science fiction
  • A Game of Games– analysis of fantasy/sci fi gaming from pen-and-paper to MMORPGs
Mythmoot III will be held in Baltimore, MD from on January 10 and 11.
Though Mythmoot III will take place after the premier of the third film, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, it will include sessions about the latest film and the trilogy as a  whole, along with guest speakers, musicians, artists, a reception and banquet, paper presentations, and fun and interactive sessions for fans and academics alike..
First-time presenters are especially encouraged to submit a proposal (250-500 words) proposals@mythgard.org no later than midnight EDT Sunday, August 31, 2014.

07 July 2014

Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative

Vanderbilt University is once again offering its free course on Online Games: Literature, New Media, and Narrative via Coursera. The course, which focuses on Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings Online, explores the process of turning a popular story or film into a video game.

In a recent e-mail update, instructor Jay Clayton noted that there have been a few updates to the course this year:
We’ve been working on several improvements to the course.  Last week we wrapped up filming a new gameplay session set in Helm’s Deep and Isengard, where we had the chance to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, and the other defenders of King Theoden’s mountain retreat. From there, we went on to witness the Last March of the Ents on Isengard.  Both experiences provided new insights into how video games can handle tricky narrative situations.
The 7-week course will begin on July 14 and run through September 1. Interested students can register (and learn more about the course) here.

LOTRO Forgoes Raids Due to Lack of Players

A few days ago, Massively posted a brief article on the lack of raids in The Lord of the Rings Online – something a lot of people complain about. Whenever I post about LOTRO on Facebook and ask people for their opinions, someone always ends up mentioning raids and end game content.

So why, if so many people are complaining, are players not getting the raids they so desire?

Community Manager Rick "Sapience" Heaton posted the following in the LOTRO forums:
Raiders comprise the smallest, by far, group in our game. PvMP players are far larger and even they are small. in fact together the two groups wouldn't comprise 10% of the total player base and never have (this is important. it's not a new thing, it's a long standing historical fact).
Regrettably, I have not yet participated in any real end game content, such as PvMP and raiding. I've made a few attempts to participate in PvMP with my Hunter, Bregolad, but because I am new to PvMP – beyond scrambling around trying to do quests while hoping no one sneaks up on me – I am hesitant to jump into it without help. And while I've visited Draigoch's Lair for a glimpse of the dragon, I have never been able to find the necessary heroes to help me undertake my first raid.

For that reason, I am not personally bothered by the lack of end-game content (yet?). Since I don't participate in PvMP or any raids so far, my two characters at the level cap tend to take a backseat to my seven other characters who are waiting to level up. Sometimes I'll take my level capped characters to catch up on some old deeds, reach Kindred with any remaining factions, and to participate in any festivals or in-game events.

That being said, if anyone on Landroval wants to help guide me through PvMP (or maybe even a Draigoch run), I'd be extremely grateful for the help!

Do you feel that raiders make up only a small portion of LOTRO players? Should Turbine introduce more end game content? Leave a comment and tell me what you think!

06 July 2014

LOTRO's Update 14 Launches July 14

LOTRO players will finally be able to step into West Gondor when Update 14 launches next Monday. In addition to the new landscape – which includes the Paths of the Dead, Blackroot Vale, Lamedon, and the Havens of Belfalas – Update 14 offers some of the following:
  • Increased level cap (100)
  • Volume IV of the epic story (free to all players)
  • Essence System – drops which can be used to upgrade and enhance new gear
  • The City Watch of Dol Amroth
  • Global chat channel (accessible via /world and /wd commands)

Justin Olivetti offers a more in-depth look (complete with lots of screenshots!) at what players can expect from Update 14 over at Massively.

25 June 2014

"The White Council" on QGN!

If you've ever wondered how The Lord of the Rings Online stacks up to Tolkien's lore, wonder no more! "The White Council", a new YouTube series from the folks at The Quest Gaming Network, aims to use the popular MMO as a means of teaching others about the deeper meanings behind The Lord of the Rings and some of Tolkien's other writings. 
Credit: Twitter
I'm pleased to announce that I (rather, my Champion) will be among the series' rotating hosts as my schedule allows. The show will release on Mondays and Fridays at noon EST with the first episode scheduled for Monday, June 30; in the meantime, you can follow The White Council and Quest Gaming Network on Twitter and 'like' the network on Facebook!

10 June 2014

The Long-Expected Party (Photospam!)

After nearly three years on the Middle-earth News team, I finally had the opportunity to meet the other US team members. About three weeks ago, we all met up in the beautiful state of Pennsylvania for what we lovingly called "The Long-expected Party".

At Loxley's Restaurant