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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In Chapters 4 and 5 of The Silmarillion, one Telerin lord settles down with a lady way out of his league while the rest of the Eldar migrate across the Great Sea to Aman. We see the founding of the great cities of Eldamar - Tirion upon Túna and Alqualondë - and meet the family of Finwë, King of the Noldor. And Ulmo actually does what the Valar tell him to, until he doesn't.
In Chapter 3 of The Silmarillion, we take a trip to Cuiviénen for the awakening of the Firstborn Children of Ilúvatar - the Quendi or Elves. Along the way we discuss the kindling of the stars, the origin of the Orcs, and the capture of Melkor. We also raise the bar on nerdy pop culture references from The Princess Bride all the way up to Get Smart.
In this special spoiler-filled episode, we delve into Tolkien's letters and The History of Middle-earth to examine Tolkien's concept of mortality as "the gift of the One to Men." We discuss the fates of Elves and Men and how they illustrate a central theme in the legendarium, and demonstrate that anything in life can be improved with a reference to The Princess Bride.
In Chapter 2 of The Silmarillion, Aulë and Yavanna demonstrate the principle of “opposites attract” even among the Valar, we witness the power of humility, and learn the origins of some of Middle-earth's most mysterious creatures: Dwarves, Ents, and Eagles. We also speculate about the materials Aulë uses to build his own couch to sleep on when Yavanna goes to bed angry.
Finally reaching Chapter 1 of the Quenta Silmarillion, we behold an Arda too perfect to last, offer a brief geography lesson, and shamelessly poke fun at as many Valar as possible before stopping to admire the beauty of the Two Trees of Valinor. Also, we almost answer a question about death.
In the second part of The Silmarillion we laugh with Tulkas, cry with Nienna, gaze on the starlit face of Varda and meet the rest of the Valar and Maiar who entered into the world at its beginning. We also answer the age-old question: which of the Valar would be the most fun at parties?
Happy Tolkien Reading Day! On March 25 every year - the date of the fall of Barad-dûr - Tolkien lovers worldwide celebrate by reading and promoting the Professor's life and work. For this special, Alan and Shawn read and discuss favorite passages related to this year's theme of Life, Death, and Immortality, and indulge in a little inter-fandom rivalry.
Reunited in the common-room and finally beginning their discussion of The Silmarillion, Alan and Shawn tackle nothing less than the creation of the universe, check out Ilúvatar’s playlist, observe a cosmic toddler tantrum, and learn what SPBMI means.
This time, Alan flies solo over the battlefields of World War I and discusses both the explicit and the implied influences that the Great War had on Tolkien’s writings, while Shawn is safely away in the officers' club in Edoras with a refreshing drink.
Shawn takes a solo look at the real-world linguistic inspirations that shaped Tolkien's invented Elvish languages, Quenya and Sindarin, while Alan is away doing whatever a Man of the West does on his day off.
We continue our introduction to J. R. R. Tolkien's ideas on fantasy and myth with a look at his short poem dedicated to C. S. Lewis, "Mythopoeia" - a thematic companion piece to "On Fairy-Stories". Also, polar bears.
In the first episode, get to know your hosts, Alan and Shawn, and learn about why we started the Prancing Pony Podcast. We also discuss favorite moments from the life of J. R. R. Tolkien as told in Humphrey Carpenter's biography, and introduce Tolkien's ideas about the nature and purpose of fantasy as described in his famous essay "On Fairy-Stories".