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The Prancing Pony Podcast – Tolkien and Middle-earth

Exploring the life and work of J. R. R. Tolkien. Hosts Alan Sisto and Shawn E. Marchese welcome readers of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and the other works in the Middle-earth legendarium to tune in as they discuss favorite passages from the books and films that started the worldwide fantasy phenomenon.
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The Prancing Pony Podcast – Tolkien and Middle-earth
2018
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Jan 21, 2018

Alan and Shawn are delighted to welcome Michael Drout to The Prancing Pony Podcast! As co-founder and co-editor of the journal Tolkien Studies and multiple books on the Professor, Drout is one of the most prolific Tolkien scholars in the field today. We talk to him about his personal discovery of Tolkien, the future of Tolkien studies and fandom, and Beowulf. Plus, we discuss the very highest quality of The Lord of the Rings Online players, and how to write a new Old English poem more well-known than some of the originals.

Jan 14, 2018

We pick up Chapter 6 of The Hobbit with our heroes literally up a tree. Gandalf keeps the wolves at bay by playing with fire, but when the goblins arrive, things quickly heat up for Bilbo and his friends. Just as the situation begins to go up in smoke, unexpected help comes from above. We talk about the Eagles, their role in the legendarium, and the dangers Tolkien saw in using them too much in his stories. We also do a quick background check on Gandalf and recite some more goblin poetry bad enough to make a Vogon (and your hosts) cringe.

Jan 7, 2018

As Chapter 6 of The Hobbit opens, Bilbo emerges from the mountains and soon hears the familiar voices of Gandalf and the Dwarves. He sneaks up on them with the help of his new ring, and finally wins some respect with his stealth and the tale of his escape. But the happy reunion proves short-lived; the company move on, coming to a clearing in the woods… and find themselves surrounded by howling wolves. We revisit the nature of wargs, showcase our limited botanical knowledge, and enjoy yet another philological joke from Professor Tolkien.

Dec 24, 2017

In what is likely to become an annual event, join Alan and Shawn as they use the wayback machine to revisit episode 028 in this special director's cut re-release of our episode on Letters From Father Christmas. Marvel at how far we've come since our early days, but mostly enjoy the charming adventures of Tolkien's creations at The North Pole!

Dec 17, 2017

We conclude our trilogy of episodes on Chapter 5 of The Hobbit. Gollum begins to realize that Bilbo has his ring, and Bilbo begins to realize what it does. He uses its power of invisibility to escape from Gollum, but stops short of killing the wretched creature: an act of pity that will have great implications for Bilbo and for Middle-earth. We turn again to the first edition to see how Tolkien’s minor edits changed the ring from a magical trinket into an artifact of power with a will of its own, and your hosts thankfully retire their Gollum voices until The Lord of the Rings.

Dec 10, 2017

Our second episode on Chapter 5 of The Hobbit. Tension mounts as the riddle contest between Bilbo and Gollum continues, with Bilbo’s life at stake. His luck saves him in the final round, but when Gollum accuses him of not playing fair, he’s still very much in danger. We compare the current text to the first edition to see how Tolkien transformed Gollum from a hungry, but honest, monster into a “miserable wicked creature” corrupted by the One Ring. And we welcome a listener to The North Wing of the Prancing Pony in a new segment!

Dec 3, 2017

The first of three episodes on Chapter 5 of The Hobbit. Bilbo wakes up in the darkness below the mountains, and soon finds himself in a life-or-death riddle-game with one of Tolkien's most infamous creations: Gollum. We begin to discuss the changes made to this chapter during the composition of The Lord of the Rings, as Tolkien’s understanding of Gollum and the ring changed. Also, we look to the Professor’s own words for context about the newly announced Amazon series in a new segment: The Tolkien Quote of the Day.

Nov 19, 2017

It’s our first ever Prancing Pony Podcast Q&A episode! Alan and Shawn answer live questions from our very special guests, ranging from the fun to the philosophical. Topics include our favorite villains, the surprising similarities between goblins and dwarves, and the importance of reading Tolkien's poetry aloud. Also Entwives, and the uncanny ability of goblins to recognize millennia-old Elvish swords.

Nov 12, 2017

As we resume Chapter 4 of The Hobbit, Bilbo and friends are captured by goblins. Thorin Oakenshield’s name and reputation are known in these parts, and the Great Goblin does not take kindly to his arrival. Gandalf comes to the rescue with his shining Elven-sword, allowing our heroes a chance to escape… maybe. We get word-nerdy to explain Tolkien’s use of the terms ‘goblin’ and ‘orc’, have fun with goblin voices, and a Tolkien Fun Fact reminds us how different the Professor’s school days were from ours.

Nov 5, 2017

In Chapter 4 of The Hobbit, our heroes begin the crossing of the mountains under threat of stormy weather and rock-hurling stone-giants. They seek shelter in a cave, but caves up in the mountains are seldom unoccupied, and this one is no exception. We investigate the nature of the mysterious stone-giants, a new Philology Faire segment unveils surprises in Tolkien’s original conception of Treebeard, and we get a little spooky for a listener question about the Dead Marshes.

Oct 29, 2017

In Chapter 3 of The Hobbit, Bilbo’s story takes its first steps into Tolkien’s greater mythology, but these aren’t your grandfather’s Eldar. We uncover the hidden secrets of the notorious “silly Elves” of Rivendell, introduce Elrond, and discuss the incredible luck of arriving at the Last Homely House at precisely the right time. Also, a listener question sends us searching for the reason why Gandalf didn’t seem to know where his new sword came from.

Oct 22, 2017

In Chapter 2 of The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins wakes up to the pleasant lack of Dwarves. He’s beginning to think that he’s escaped adventure after all when Gandalf pushes him out the door. Immediately, little Bilbo misses the comforts of home, but the trouble is just beginning… and before they even reach the dangerous part of the road, he must test his burglarious skills on a trio of hungry, if illiterate, trolls. Plus, we let the Professor make the bad puns for once in a new Tolkien Fun Fact.

Oct 15, 2017

We wrap up Chapter 1 of The Hobbit, “An Unexpected Party”, where Bilbo’s Tookish side is awakened by the mysterious dwarf-song filling his home, but his Baggins side is less enthusiastic once Thorin and Gandalf lay out the details of the dwarves’ quest. Will Bilbo stay safely in his comfortable hole, or will he rise to the challenge like his great golfing ancestor Bullroarer Took? Also: more word-nerdery as we talk about Tolkien’s use of the plural form ‘dwarves’ in the first installment of another new show segment: Philology Faire.

Oct 8, 2017

We begin our reading of The Hobbit with the famous first line and meet Bilbo Baggins, living a predictable life of luxury and ease until Gandalf comes by one Tuesday morning. Soon Bilbo’s world is turned upside down by an unexpected party of hungry dwarves, and his comfortable life is threatened. Along the way, we discuss the enduring courtesy of hobbits, the dangers of saying “Good morning” to wizards, and offer fashion tips for homeless dwarves. Plus, the first installment of our new segment: Today in Tolkien History.

Sep 24, 2017

It’s the start of Season 2 here on The Prancing Pony Podcast as we start discussing the book that first introduced Middle-earth to the world: J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit! In this episode, we look at the novel’s composition, publication and lasting legacy. Alan and Shawn share their personal stories about reading The Hobbit for the first time, and talk about the Professor’s surprising genealogy in a welcome return of the Tolkien Fun Fact segment. Plus, learn how young Christopher Tolkien’s attention to detail tended to confusticate and bebother his father.

Sep 21, 2017

In honor of the 80th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit, Alan and Shawn are excited to welcome Corey Olsen, the Tolkien Professor himself, to The Prancing Pony Podcast! We talk about Corey’s work as a Tolkien podcaster — and get the latest news about Signum University, Mythgard Institute, and more — before jumping into a discussion of his book Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Plus, sage advice for parents seeking to raise the next generation of Tolkien-loving fantasy geeks.

Sep 10, 2017

It’s there and back again at the movies with the Prancing Pony Podcast! After talking about The Lord of the Rings films in our last episode, Alan and Shawn dive into Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit film trilogy. Once again, we watch clips of the changes we liked (and just a few of the ones we didn’t) and discuss them, returning to Tolkien’s own observations about film adaptation to assess the films fairly. Luck lost, love found, dragon-sickness… and how will we ever know if four-legs got some? Video version available on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Aug 27, 2017

Put aside the books and join us at the movies! In this episode, Alan and Shawn discuss Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. We watch clips of our favorite (and not-so-favorite) changes and go back to Tolkien’s own words about film adaptation to understand why some worked and others didn’t. Blazing beacons, tragic deaths, Elves where Elves have no business being… they’re all here in this action-packed, star-studded, Oscar-winner-watching episode of the Prancing Pony Podcast! Video version available on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Aug 13, 2017

A long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away, Alan and Shawn started discussing The Silmarillion. Now, witness the power of this fully armed and operational retrospective episode! First, we open Barliman’s Bag and stay on target to answer as many questions about the First and Second Ages as we can. Then we search our feelings for our favorite recurring themes in The Silmarillion and discuss Morgoth’s playbook for evil, the greatness of Finrod, the enduring importance of hope in Tolkien’s works, and more. And we make use of our Star Wars referencing skills for the first time in a long time… a long time. 

Jul 30, 2017

In the second half of "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age,” Isildur refuses to destroy the One Ring when he has the chance, keeping it as his prize from the vanquished Sauron. But he is stripped of the Ring, and his life, when he's ambushed by Orcs on his way home. It’s only a question of time before the Ring is found centuries later by one of the fisher-folk living near the river, and eventually comes to the hand of some creature called a Hobbit from some place called the Shire. Think you've heard this one before? Not so fast! We go back to Tolkien's Unfinished Tales to learn more about Isildur's death at the Gladden Fields and the origin of the Istari or Wizards. We also dig up some blasphemous rumours about the origins of Orcs to answer a listener question.

Jul 16, 2017

Alan and Shawn rewind to the end of the War of Wrath to begin "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age." Sauron refuses to beg the Valar’s pardon for his misdeeds, and remains in Middle-earth to follow in Morgoth’s footsteps as the new Dark Lord. Men prove easy to sway with pleasure and a little treasure, but it’s the Elves that Sauron wants now, courting them with secret knowledge. He soon finds ready pupils in Celebrimbor and the Noldorin smiths of Eregion, who use their new knowledge to make the Rings of Power; but Sauron is really behind the wheel, and in secret he makes another ring to have and to hold in domination over the others: One Ring to… well, you know the rest.

Jul 2, 2017

The second of two episodes on the Akallabêth, Tolkien's story of Númenor. Ar-Pharazôn is offered no resistance by Sauron, and gets the bright idea to take him as a hostage. Soon, you-know-who has wormed his way into the King’s trust and turned the Númenóreans to the worship of Melkor. As Sauron’s cult gains power in the kingdom, the Faithful led by Amandil and Elendil are persecuted; the aging Ar-Pharazôn prepares his armada to sail to the Undying Lands to take immortality by force, and the Valar respond with a disaster of biblical proportions. Also, Alan and Shawn finally disagree about something: Genesis.

Jun 18, 2017

The first of two episodes on the Akallabêth, the story of Númenor. At the outset of the Second Age, the Valar reward the Edain with wisdom, long life and their own private island in the Great Sea. The Númenóreans become legendary seafarers, sailing east to the edge of Arda and bringing knowledge back to Middle-earth. But the Valar forbid them to sail west in search of the Undying Lands, and soon the Númenóreans begin to yearn for the one thing they cannot have: immortality. We look into Tolkien's essays and letters to see what happens to mortals who do come to Aman, and dabble in genealogy with questionable results. 

Jun 11, 2017

Alan and Shawn are honored to welcome John Garth, the award-winning author of Tolkien and the Great War and Tolkien at Exeter College, to The Prancing Pony Podcast! John’s work as a biographer and researcher offers a rare glimpse into the early life of J.R.R. Tolkien, and the experiences and ideas that helped shape the Middle-earth legendarium. We discuss war, friendship, sorrow, and tales of college tomfoolery that may surprise you.

Jun 4, 2017

Join Alan and Shawn as they don red shirts for the final chapter of the Quenta Silmarillion, the voyages of the star-ship Vingilot. Its continuing mission: to bring Eärendil and Elwing into the West, to seek the pardon and aid of the Valar, and to become a beacon of hope for Elves and Men forever after. The ensuing War of Wrath leaves behind a strange new world, and each of the Silmarils boldly goes where no one has gone before… or ever will again.

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