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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.