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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
2017
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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.

May 28, 2017

We return to Chapter 23 of The Silmarillion with our second episode on Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin. Tuor’s star rises in the realm of Turgon, and soon he finds himself wedded to Idril Celebrindal, becoming the second Man ever to marry one of the Firstborn. But Maeglin is bitter at his cousin’s rejection, and soon Morgoth seizes on his discontent to fulfill some long-laid plans of his own. We trek with you through the flames, the fights, and the frights of the fall of the last Elven stronghold in Beleriand, and hint at the hope to come. Plus, don’t miss Alan’s impression of a beloved Hollywood icon.

May 21, 2017

In the first of two episodes on Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin, we go beyond The Silmarillion into Tolkien's Unfinished Tales to tell the story the way it was meant to be told. The son of Huor and Rían survives capture, thraldom, and life as an outlaw to follow the footstep of doom, and soon finds himself face-to-face with Ulmo, the Lord of Waters. Tuor is offered a quest to find Gondolin and bring a message of warning from Ulmo, in fulfillment of a plan laid centuries ago. Also, answers to a listener question about Elven sleeping habits reveal gaps in both Shawn's research… and his knowledge of Star Trek.

May 7, 2017

In Chapter 22 of The Silmarillion, Húrin is released from Angband to finish his son’s work of destroying everything he touches, and his visit to Thingol starts a chain reaction leading to war between Doriath and the Dwarves of Nogrod. As Menegroth falls, the Silmaril comes through the hands of Beren and Lúthien to their son Dior, and is noticed by seven guys we haven’t heard from in a while. Plus, a look at Tolkien's explanation of the kinship of Celeborn and Nimloth tells us how to get to Sesame Street.

Apr 23, 2017

We conclude our trilogy of episodes on Chapter 21 of The Silmarillion, "Of Túrin Turambar." After Glaurung sacks Nargothrond, Morwen pulls a Thingol and ignores Melian's advice. She leaves Doriath, Nienor secretly follows, and the dragon ensnares another child of Húrin. We witness a fateful reunion of brother and sister, and the final showdown between hero and dragon. We close the sad tale with a discussion of fate, free will, pity and mean, mean pride in a marathon podcast that challenges popular opinions about Tolkien's tragic hero... and the stamina of your hosts.

Apr 9, 2017

We continue our trilogy of episodes on Chapter 21 of The Silmarillion and Tolkien’s tragic hero Túrin Turambar. Túrin comes to Nargothrond with Gwindor, then quickly surpasses his friend in the favor of the king and the love of the king’s daughter. Túrin’s military advice brings early victory, but his deeds soon draw the attention of Morgoth, who responds with a massive army led by the dragon Glaurung. We begin examining Túrin’s choices, tally up his many name changes, and earn the wrath of Hugo Weaving fans everywhere.

Apr 2, 2017

Alan and Shawn are thrilled to welcome Simon Tolkien, novelist and grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien, to The Prancing Pony Podcast! Simon's new novel No Man's Land tells the story of a young man's journey from a class-divided coal mining town to the Battle of the Somme in World War I. We talk about the novel, its vivid depiction of the war, and the experiences of J.R.R. Tolkien that inspired it. Plus, childhood memories of young Simon and his grandfather certain to bring you unbridled geek joy.

Mar 26, 2017

Alan and Shawn begin yet another trilogy of episodes — this time on The Silmarillion Chapter 21, “Of Túrin Turambar.” The son of Húrin of Dor-lómin is fostered by the King of Doriath, but an awkward dinner party drives him to a life among outlaws. Fleeing from his own fate, he manages to bring disaster wherever he goes, and he’s headed to Nargothrond next. We give an overview of the history of the story Tolkien called the “germ” of his mythology and — surprise! — we quote Monty Python.

Mar 25, 2017

Happy Tolkien Reading Day! On March 25 every year – the date of the fall of Barad-dûr – Tolkien lovers worldwide celebrate by reading the Professor’s works aloud. The theme for 2017 is Poetry and Songs in Tolkien’s Fiction, so Alan and Shawn read their favorite poems and songs from the legendarium, discuss the ways in which Tolkien used poetry to shape his world, and quite possibly make fools of themselves. Again.

Mar 12, 2017

Shout for joy with Fingon as day breaks on the morning of the Fifth Battle, Nirnaeth Arnoediad, in Chapter 20 of The Silmarillion. Shout for outrage at the treachery and brutality of Morgoth’s forces (these are the things we can do without). Elves and Men will shed Unnumbered Tears after Morgoth’s fears of defeat are turned into victory when the Dark Lord unleashes an army more terrible than any ever before seen in Middle-earth.  We dig deep into Tolkien’s early drafts to answer a listener question about Elvish agriculture, Alan goes out of his way to insult several states, and Shawn ignores a simple request from his co-host and reads what he wants, when he wants.

Feb 26, 2017

The last of three episodes on The Silmarillion Chapter 19, “Of Beren and Lúthien.” After putting the Dark Lord down for a nap, the lovers succeed in prying a Silmaril from Morgoth’s iron crown. Beren needs a helping hand to escape from Carcharoth, and Thingol figures out entirely on his own something everyone around him already knew. Our favorite hound meets his doom, and Lúthien is offered a profound choice about the future. We wrap up by discussing the way this romance impacts the rest of Tolkien’s legendarium, and shamelessly crack left-handed jokes.

Feb 12, 2017

The second of three episodes on The Silmarillion Chapter 19, "Of Beren and Lúthien." Man's best friend has a soft spot for Elf-maidens too, as Huan the hound of Valinor befriends Lúthien and assists in her quest to fetch Beren from the dungeons of Sauron. We find two sons of Fëanor off their leash, bury the bones of a beloved Elf-king, and dig up some of Tolkien's essays and letters to determine the difference between wolves, wargs, and werewolves. As it turns out, not all dogs come from heaven. 

Jan 29, 2017

The first of three episodes on The Silmarillion Chapter 19, "Of Beren and Lúthien." The fugitive son of Barahir comes to Doriath and has a fateful meeting with the daughter of Thingol. Unimpressed with Lúthien's new boyfriend, Thingol sends Beren on an impossible quest to win her hand. We discuss the personal significance of the story Tolkien called "the kernel of the mythology" and compare excerpts from the epic poem The Lay of Leithian. Plus, what do Thingol and Archie Bunker have in common?

Jan 15, 2017

In Chapter 18 of The Silmarillion, Morgoth breaks the Siege of Angband with a sneak attack, beginning the Battle of Sudden Flame. As the fires die down, Fingolfin responds by challenging the Dark Lord to single combat. Meanwhile, displaced survivors of the Edain start down paths that will forever intertwine the fates of Men and Elves. Plus, Tolkien's best-known villain moves into the fortress next door with his annoying pets.

Jan 3, 2017

We celebrate the twelfty-fifth birthday of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien with tributes from our listeners and our own thoughts on what Tolkien has meant to us. We also give the traditional birthday toast to the Professor, and we announce the winners of our giveaway drawings for The Art of the Lord of the Rings and the Facsimile First Edition of The Hobbit.

Dec 23, 2016

Alan and Shawn call for a Christmas truce on the Beleriand battlefront to enjoy Tolkien’s letters from Father Christmas to his children John, Michael, Christopher, and Priscilla. Not content to write about just toys and reindeer, Tolkien filled his letters with the charming misadventures of a host of North Pole residents, including elves, goblins, and a trickster bear with poor spelling. You’ll never feel good about your parenting skills again.

Dec 18, 2016

Men arrive in Beleriand in Chapter 17 of The Silmarillion, and Middle-earth will never be the same. The Elves' reaction to the newcomers varies, but Morgoth's goal is clear: to keep the two races from forming an alliance. We introduce the Three Houses of the Edain, discuss one of Tolkien's great mythological puns, and expose the terrible manners of string instruments.

Dec 4, 2016

In Chapter 16 of The Silmarillion, Aredhel of Gondolin shacks up with the Dark Elf Eöl and bears a son whose coming may spell doom for the last hope of the Noldor. We revisit Elvish marriage customs and answer a question about rejected lovers in Tolkien's world. Plus, Alan completely forgets how to tell time.

Nov 20, 2016

In Chapter 15 of The Silmarillion, Turgon heeds Ulmo's warning and begins the construction of the hidden city of Gondolin. The truth finally comes out about why the Noldor returned to Beleriand, and Thingol is not pleased. Plus a special announcement about our Tolkien's 125th Birthday Giveaway, and tips for goodlier speaking from a teenage Tolkien.

Nov 6, 2016

It’s a small world, after all. Take a trip around the map with Alan and Shawn in Chapter 14 of The Silmarillion, Tolkien’s extensive description of the geography and realms of the Elves in Beleriand. Also, we receive a lesson in Dwarvish pronunciation from a listener and get up close and personal with a personal pronoun. And what’s that voice in the distance? Sounds like a very deep woodwind instrument.

Oct 23, 2016

A great feast is held in the conclusion of Chapter 13 of The Silmarillion, but not all is well in Beleriand, and two Elf-princes receive important messages about taking action before it’s too late. The Noldor successfully place Angband under a siege that will last for centuries, but Morgoth has a new secret weapon in development. A question from Barliman’s Bag gives us a chance to revisit Fëanor - and Tolkien’s own thoughts about the character - one last time, and we stretch the limits of pop culture reference.

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