In the second half of Chapter 12 of The Hobbit, Bilbo returns to Smaug’s lair to find the dragon waiting for him. Luckily he has on his ring, but the dragon senses his presence, and soon he is locked in a battle of wits with the wily worm. Bilbo’s Tookish side comes out as he plays at riddles, but Smaug quickly turns from cunning to cranky, and looks for someone to take out his aggression on. Before any of that, however, we have a little fun with young Tolkien’s first dragon story, explore a rare biblical reference in Middle-earth, and engage in some wild speculation on the identity of the mysterious King Bladorthin.
As we begin Chapter 12 of The Hobbit, Bilbo the burglar is finally ready to enter Smaug’s lair alone, if only to get away from yet another self-important speech by Thorin. Braving the sleeping dragon, he manages to remove one piece of treasure from the hoard. But one piece at a time won’t cut it, and Smaug knows when something has been stolen. We delve into a Middle English proverb, Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf, and the life expectancy of dragons. Plus, we get to know another special guest in our second-ever North Wing segment.
In our second Prancing Pony Podcast Q&A episode, Alan and Shawn answer live questions from guest patrons on diverse topics, from the fate of Dwarves after death to which character we’d cosplay as… if either of us ever left the house, of course. Hear your hosts attempt to pronounce Eorl and wax philosophical about who the true hero of The Lord of the Rings really is (hint: not Eorl). Plus, a friendly warning that some of the youngest Tolkien fans are not happy with a recent answer to Barliman’s Bag.
In Chapter 11 of The Hobbit, Bilbo and the Dwarves finally reach the Lonely Mountain, but they don’t know where the hidden door is. Then they find the door, but they don’t know how to open it. Fortunately, they do have an ancient map and a very lucky Hobbit with them, and they’ve arrived just in time. While Bilbo looks back to the west, missing his hobbit-hole, we talk once again about how he is the only person keeping this quest afloat. Plus a foolish Tolkien Fun Fact, and astronomical calculations to confusticate your average Dwarf… or podcast host.
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 2018 is Home and Hearth: the many ways of being a Hobbit. From the Shire to Cirith Ungol and back again, Alan and Shawn rattle on like Gaffer Gamgee at the Ivy Bush, reading passages from The Lord of the Rings that illustrate Hobbit ways.
Please keep your arms and legs inside the barrels at all times, until the ride comes to a complete stop in Lake-town where our heroes arrive, barely, in Chapter 10 of The Hobbit. Most of the Lake-towners have forgotten the past, but some still sing about the return of a nigh-legendary King under the Mountain. While Thorin soaks up the town’s adoration, only Bilbo seems to realize that the Mountain has not been won yet, and the most dangerous part of the journey is yet to come. We take a moment to appreciate the vast improvement in the depiction of Dwarves from Tolkien’s earliest writings, and look again at fate and free will.
It’s the world’s worst whitewater rafting trip in the second half of Chapter 9 of The Hobbit! Bilbo reveals his plan for escaping the Elvenking’s halls. His friends are, quite understandably, less than enthusiastic, but with both time and ideas running out, it’s into the barrels they go! As they float away to freedom (or death), we learn more about Elvish wine, Dwarvish claustrophobia, and Hobbits’ legendary fear of water. Also, an excuse to talk about Eärendil (as if Shawn needed one), and historic moments from the War of the Ring remembered in a special Tolkien history segment.
The rest of the Dwarves are taken by the Elves in the first half of Chapter 9 of The Hobbit. Bilbo avoids capture thanks to his ring, only to get stuck hiding for weeks in the Elvenking’s halls. Fortunately, Mr. Invisible Baggins keeps busy with more than just pilfering food, and soon an escape plan begins to take shape in the king’s impressive wine cellars. A listener question leads us to consider the difference between burglars and thieves, and Tolkien’s unfinished poetry offers another classic tale of Elves under the influence.
In our final episode on Chapter 8 of The Hobbit, Bilbo dispatches the Mirkwood spiders and rescues his friends, though it must be said that one beard sadly perishes in the effort. Thorin, however, has already been taken prisoner by the Elvenking, whose name is conspicuously missing from the pages of this book. We revisit the early chapters of The Silmarillion for a quick reminder about the difference between Wood-elves and the High Elves of the West, and finally learn why baby Tolkien was tougher than our kids will ever be.
The second of three episodes on Chapter 8 of The Hobbit. As Mirkwood continues with no apparent end, our heroes get desperate and stray from the path when they see Elves feasting in a clearing nearby. They try three times to crash the party, but each time chaos ensues, and soon Bilbo finds himself alone in the dark with several Spiders of Unusual Size. We witness Bilbo’s most Tookish moment yet, learn about several games of the aiming and throwing sort, and rack up a number of reasons to apologize to Mr. Gordon Sumner.
In the first episode of our trilogy on Chapter 8 of The Hobbit, Bilbo and the Dwarves enter Mirkwood and quickly learn the true meaning of the term "pitch-dark.” As the days drag on, their hunger and desperation grow, and there seems to be no end to the forest… but at least the spiders here are just small ones of Ordinary Size. We discuss Tolkien's folklore inspirations for the dark wood on the edge of the world, the enchanted stream, and more, then lighten the mood with an imaginary photographic tour of Middle-earth.
We resume Chapter 7 of The Hobbit. Bilbo and the Dwarves spend a few days as the guests of Beorn, comfortable despite the occasional late-night sounds of a hungry bear on the other side of the door. After verifying their story personally, Beorn agrees to help the party with food, advice, and more… but he still doesn’t trust the Dwarves completely. We go further into the nature of Beorn and his place in the overall legendarium, and a Tolkien Fun Fact gives us a much-needed reason to revisit our favorite ursine from the Father Christmas letters.
Chapter 7 of The Hobbit begins with a rude awakening in an Eagle’s eyrie. But our heroes are soon off on their way again, and find themselves at the home of Beorn the skin-changer. Is he a man that changes into a bear, or a bear that changes into a man? Find out as we explore the linguistic and mythical inspirations for one of Middle-earth's most enigmatic characters. We also remember a poignant letter J.R.R. once received from a friend on This Week in Tolkien History, and ask you to bear with us as we discuss our favorite music inspired by the legendarium.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.