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


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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.

Oct 9, 2016

In Chapter 13 of The Silmarillion, Fëanor's host arrives in Middle-earth shortly before Fingolfin's, leading to an awkward family reunion that just gets more awkward when somebody calls Uncle Thingol. Fëanor's dream of revenge goes up in flames, and we tally up his good-or-evil score including Tolkien's own thoughts from his letters. We also read the inspiring story of Fingon and Maedhros, and have way too much fun with the new toy in Alan's studio.

Sep 25, 2016

In Chapter 12 of The Silmarillion, the Second Children of Ilúvatar - the Atani, or Men - awake, and we quickly learn precisely what the Elves think of them. We revisit the differences that Tolkien created between Elves and Men in both life and death, along with the ominous portent this new race holds for the Firstborn. Plus, the monotony of Manwë’s wardrobe.

Sep 18, 2016

Alan and Shawn welcome Dr. Dimitra Fimi and Dr. Andrew Higgins as the first guests to The Prancing Pony Podcast! They are the editors of the new critical edition of Tolkien’s A Secret Vice. We turn the word-nerdery up to 11 to talk about Tolkien’s approach to language invention and the lasting impact his work had on the Middle-earth legendarium and the fantasy genre itself. Our inner geeks get the vicarious thrill of handling manuscripts written in the Professor’s own hand.

Sep 11, 2016

In Chapter 11 of The Silmarillion, the Valar put forth their power to help the Trees bear one last fruit and flower, and then place them in the sky as celestial lights to illuminate all of Arda: the Sun and Moon. We also delve into some of Tolkien’s own concerns about his astronomical myth. Finally, the Valar go shopping for a home security system, but instead opt for a really, really big wall.

Aug 28, 2016

Returning to Middle-earth from Aman, we cover thousands of years in just a few pages in Chapter 10 of The Silmarillion, "Of the Sindar." The remnant of the Teleri in Beleriand ruled by Thingol and Melian befriend the Dwarves and delve underground to build the fairest dwelling this side of the Sea. But soon Morgoth's beasts and Orcs move in next door, and the neighborhood goes downhill quickly. Plus, Elvish beauty secrets and a surprise visit from an old friend.

Aug 14, 2016

In the second half of Chapter 9 of The Silmarillion, “Of the Flight of the Noldor”, the exiles continue down the road to certain doom, spurred on by Fëanor’s oath. We witness the terrible Kinslaying at Alqualondë, hear what Mandos has to say about that, and see the straw that broke Fingolfin’s back. Also, we date ourselves terribly with some appropriate music references.

Jul 31, 2016

In the first half of Chapter 9 of The Silmarillion, “Of the Flight of the Noldor”, Melkor and Ungoliant leave the dead Trees behind them and continue their crime spree in Formenos. Fëanor goes full-emo and rallies the Noldor to pursue his Black Foe back to Middle-earth, swearing a terrible oath in the process. We revisit Míriel in Mandos, and also discuss how a Silmaril is like a bite of ribeye.

Jul 17, 2016

Doom falls on Valinor in Chapter 8 of The Silmarillion. Manwë hosts a feast to reconcile the estranged sons of Finwë, but Melkor chooses that moment to get his revenge with a little help from the mother of all evil spiders (literally), Ungoliant. We bring back the 'Tolkien Fun Facts' segment with a young Professor's trek through the Swiss Alps, and wonder about Valarin bug spray.

Jul 1, 2016

In Chapter 7 of The Silmarillion, Fëanor crafts the most renowned jewels in the history of Middle-earth - the Silmarils - and conflict is immediately kindled between the sons of Finwë while Melkor stokes the fire. Meanwhile, a listener question about the crafting of weapons leads Alan and Shawn down a nerdy pop culture reference path from which there is no turning back.

Jun 18, 2016
In Chapter 6 of The Silmarillion, Míriel chooses death over the labor of living, so Finwë remarries to the displeasure of his eldest son Fëanor (and half the Valar). Amid the strife in Finwë's house, Melkor is granted parole and begins to gain influence in Valinor. But Fëanor is a spirit so fiery, not even Melkor can sway him. Cue the foreboding music.
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