31 December 2013

A Very Hobbity Yuletide!

The holidays are, of course, all about surrounding ourselves with our loved ones and enjoying the togetherness. While I'm far from being a materialistic individual, I'll admit that as a collector of all things Tolkien related, I do enjoy the gift-giving (and receiving) part of the holidays. Not only do my family and friends know me exceptionally well as a collector, but often times they do a better job of finding unique things than I!

From my sister: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey collector's puzzle and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey desk calendar

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey backpack/messenger bag – I will be taking this to EVERY convention I attend from now on! 

Hobbit PEZ!

Tree of Gondor case for my Galaxy S3 – I love the previous case my parents gave me, but it's nice to have options now!

My dad discovered Etsy earlier this year, and he finds some of the coolest things on there! This lovely pendant depicts both the One Ring and Smaug the Magnificent. 

Similarly, he found this unique bracelet, which he said reminded him of Daryl Dixon's crossbow in The Walking Dead. It also looks very Elven to me; I love it!

Another Elven-looking piece my father found on Etsy, this bracelet is made from guitar strings (which is perfect, as I've played the guitar for years). It also includes my birthstone, which was purely coincidental. 

This gorgeous Moleskine notebook was a gift from one of my Middle-earth News colleagues, Lily Milos. 

Some Hobbit swag from Middle-earth News director Arwen Kester.

These were gifts from my Middle-earth News Secret Santa. I love the Smaug tote and cannot wait to dive into both books!


Did you receive any Tolkien-related gifts over the holidays? 

25 December 2013

Happy Holidays!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for visiting my blog and following me on Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest/etc. I have "met" so many wonderful people this year, had some pretty lively debates and discussions, and have received a tremendous outpouring of support and encouragement from so many of you. It is an honour to be amongst such an incredible group of people.

I look forward to posting more regularly now that the holidays (and my crazy work schedule) are winding down – I promise I haven't forgotten about those two book reviews; nor will I fail to post my review of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (as soon as I've seen it, of course).

And, most importantly, I look forward to continuing the friendships I've already made, as well as making many new ones in 2014.

I wish each and every one of you a very happy holiday!

Ich wünsche euch gesegnete Weihnachten und ein glückliches neues Jahr!

メリークリスマス! 新年おめでとうございます

С Рождество́м и С Новым годом!

Feliz Natal e próspero ano novo!

Cheers,
Britta xx

03 December 2013

Guest Post: 'Words of Power'

Joseph Bradford is the News Director for the Quest Gaming Network and an avid lover of Tolkien. He is particularly fond of the languages and lore of Middle-earth, hence his Twitter handle @LotRLore. Joe also happens to be a good friend and a fellow Tolkien scholar; he's written a guest post on the power of words in Tolkien's writings.

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Words of Power
by Joseph Bradford

Throughout the stories Tolkien wrote, one common theme is woven into his mythos: Words have power. This should not strike anyone as odd, as the Professor was a philologist by trade and at heart. In fact, Tolkien states plainly in his prologue that the original purpose behind the stories was to create a world in which to place the languages he had created:
“ I desired to do this for my own satisfaction, and I had little hope that other people would be interested in this work, especially since it was primarily linguistic in inspiration and was begun in order to provide the necessary background of ‘history’ for Elvish tongues” – Forward, The Fellowship of the Ring
Words in the world of Arda hold more weight than just the meaning behind the speech. Tolkien knew that words, even in our society, carried a certain power all their own. Words, and the ability to speak and comprehend them, separates us from the creatures around us. This distinction Tolkien makes known when he creates the Elvish word for what the Elves call themselves. Most people believe, as well as myself for most of the time I read through The Lord of the Rings that the Elves referred to themselves as “The Eldar.” In fact, the Elves call themselves the Quendi or “Those who speak in tongues.” This fundamental ideal that the Elves themselves realized from the beginning gives us some insight into who they were from the very first time we meet them. In fact, throughout most of the “history” of the Quendi that we get to see, spoken word seems to be heralded over the written word. This could be due to the fact that the Elves live…well basically forever, so they would need no reason to write stuff down; they simply remembered everything.

Words in our world have created bonds of friendship, incited riots, started wars and then ended them. We form phrases into oaths to bind people to each other, oaths to uphold a standard of behaving in society, oaths for protecting your country, and so on. Words bind us legally if said in the right context. When we give our “word” to someone, we assure them that we will uphold a promise made. Words carry weight, regardless of circumstance. Arda is no different.

We see examples throughout the histories of Arda where mere speech can conquer someone, or blast another into total submission. They can cause a character to hold sway over another’s ideals and actions. Words can create as well as destroy.

In the very beginning of The Silmarillion we see an example of creation taking place. The Ainur sing their music and the idea of The World that Is comes into thought, yet it is the word of Eru that brings Eä into being.
“Then there was unrest among the Ainur; but Ilúvatar called to them, and said: 'I know the desire of your minds that what ye have seen should verily be, not only in your thought, but even as ye yourselves are, and yet other. Therefore I say: Eä! Let these things Be!” – The Ainulindalë

The Use of Speech As a Weapon 

When one typically thinks of power and magic in Middle-earth, the scene of Saruman blasting a fireball at Gandalf from atop Orthanc in the movie version of the story comes to mind. Magic as we see it today is just that: spells with fantastical effects such as element manipulation, fireballs hurling at one another, and so on. We do see instances, especially in The Hobbit where a wizard will conjure fire to scare enemies, but we don’t see these effects being hurled around like they are going out of style. 

We do, however, have many examples where words, and speech in general play a major role in battles and events throughout the stories. Throughout the history of Arda we see battles large and small fought with sword, bow and eventually machine. There is a great line in The Fellowship of the Ring where Gandalf has to tell Aragorn “Swords are no more use here!” While he was referring to the struggle of wills he would eventually have with the Balrog in Moria, this idea that not everything is won with the sword is a fundamental theme throughout some of Arda’s greatest battles.

Even in the scene that plays out a page or two later with the Balrog, we see the effect of the power Gandalf has in declaring himself to the Balrog.
“ ‘You cannot pass,’ he said. The orcs stood still, and a dead silence fell. ‘I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass.’
“ The Balrog made no answer. The fire in it seemed to die, but the darkness grew.” – The Bridge of Khazad-Dûm, The Fellowship of the Ring
The Balrog seemed to suppress its flame after Gandalf declared that the fire would have no power over him. This creature, one of the Maia like Gandalf as well, is a spirit of Shadow and Flame, but due to Gandalf’s proclamation has to set aside one attribute of its very nature. In the end, the struggle between Durin’s Bane and the Grey Pilgrim is decided by the sword, but the battle is evened a bit by the power of Gandalf’s word.

Some other examples are found throughout The Silmarillion, as we see full battles themselves completely waged by words. As Beren sought the Silmaril that would win Lúthien’s hand, he called upon King Felagund to fulfill an oath sworn to Beren’s father, Barahir. Though Felagund knew that his oath would claim his life, as he told Galadriel earlier in The Silmarillion, he went with Beren to help fulfill the quest. Along the way they were waylaid by Sauron, a mere lieutenant in Morgoth’s army at the time, and a battle was fought not by sword, or any way of warfare as we know it, but rather a contest of Songs of Power.
 "This befell the contest of Sauron and Felagund, which is renowned. For Felagund strove with Sauron in songs of power, and the power of the King was very great; but Sauron had the mastery as is told in the Lay of Leithian: - Of Beren and Lúthien, The Silmarillion
The battle goes back and forth, Sauron singing of piercing, treachery, betraying. Felagund counters with resisting, trust unbroken, strength like a tower. The song of the two titanic figures swelled, bringing the beauty of Elvenland and the power of Elvenesse into Felagund’s words. However, Sauron cripples and ultimately wins when he sings about evil’s triumph in those lands: the Kinslaying at Alqualondë.
“Then in the doom gathered; darkness growing

In Valinor, the red blood flowing

Beside the Sea, where the Noldor slew

The Foamriders, and stealing drew

Their white ships with their white sails

From lamplit havens. The wind wails,

The wolf howls. The ravens flee.

The ice mutters in the mouths of the Sea.

The captives sad in Angband mourn.

Thunder rumbles, the fires burn-

And Finrod fell before the throne."
– Of Beren and Lúthien, The Silmarillion
Crippled and defeated, Finrod Felagund, the King of Nargothrond is imprisoned along with Beren by Sauron. There is no “mortal” struggle here as we would know it, but the effects of the songs of power taxed and utterly defeated Felagund just as much as a sword fight might’ve. Worse in some respects even. Being reminded of the greatest error in the history of the Elves, and having that be used against you would be debilitating indeed.


Powerful Words of Rescue

We see another display of this same type of power a few pages later when Lúthien, being aided by the hound Huan, comes to Minas Tirith (not the same as in The Lord of the Rings) to rescue Beren. She sings a song that Tolkien states that “no walls of stone could hinder.” Sauron comes forth himself, and after being defeated by Huan, yields the tower and the surround isle to her and flees. Tolkien goes on:
“Then Lúthien stood upon the bridge, and declared her power: and the spell was loosed that bound stone to stone, and the gates were thrown down, and the walls opened, and the pits laid bare; and many thralls and captives came forth in wonder and dismay, shielding their eyes against the pale moon light, for they had lain long in the darkness of Sauron.” – Of Beren and Lúthien, The Silmarillion
Declared her power. Think about that for a second. She simply stood on the bridge and declared her power. With this, the walls of the tower fell. She didn’t come against it with siege weaponry, nor did Huan bash his mighty body against the door to the keep in an effort to open it. She simply declared her power, and the stone tower crumbled. 


Words Overcoming Even the Mightiest

In a final example from the Lay of Leithian, we see Lúthien use her power to help achieve the goal of obtaining a Silmaril. Daunting though it may seem, she disguises herself and Beren and they enter Morgoth’s stronghold. The Dark Lord, however, is not tricked and he quickly casts down their disguise by the sheer power of his will. Lúthien is undaunted to be standing in front of Melkor. She names herself and even offers her services as a minstrel before him. Morgoth then is blinded by an evil lust and allows her to roam free before him. He soon regrets that decision:

“Then suddenly she eluded his sight, and out of the shadows began a song of such surpassing loveliness, and of such blinding power, that he listened perforce; and a blindness came upon him, as his eyes roamed to and fro, seeking her.
"All his court were cast down in slumber, and all the fires faded and were quenched; but the Silmarils in the crown on Morgoth’s head blazed forth suddenly with a radiance of white flame; and the burden of that crown and of the jewels bowed down his head, as though the world were set upon it, laden with a weight of care, of fear, and of desire, that even the will of Morgoth could not support. The Lúthien catching up her winged robe sprang into the air, and her voice came dropping down like rain into pools, profound and dark. She cast her cloak before his eyes, and set upon him a dream, dark as the outer Void where once he walked alone.” – Of Beren and Lúthien, The Silmarillion

It's not just the song, but the context!

Notice how this is called “Words of Power” and not “Songs of Power?” That was by design. While the battles waged, and the power displayed was typically in the form of a song, it’s the context of that song that holds the real power. The songs between Sauron and Finrod Felagund are on equal footing, one combating the other with opposing views. It’s not until the Kinslaying is brought up that Sauron has the mastery. The utter woe and despair of the Noldor (excluding the sons of Fëanor it seems) that is shown forth in the song by Sauron is what brings Felagund to fall before the throne and not the song itself. 

The same could be said of the song that subjugates Morgoth. A song of surpassing loveliness, of blinding power, the Silmarils react to the song and cause the burden to be even greater than normal for Morgoth to bear.

The context of Gandalf’s declaration against the Balrog in Moria is what cows the Maia before him. Gandalf even warns those who accompany him to Orthanc following the events at Helm’s Deep to beware Saruman’s voice. He doesn’t warn them of his fire powers, but rather the sorcery of his tongue. Even though Saruman is defeated, he still holds power.

Conclusion

Throughout the history of Arda we see words being used for more than just mere communication. Tolkien has at its heart created a world where words and the power behind them can sometimes be more powerful than an army besieging a keep.  In the end, we can’t even really call this magic, as in the world of Arda, it’s just how things are (see Galadriel’s response to Samwise in Lórien). This difference helps make the world Tolkien cultivated more unique, especially when compared to the subcreated worlds that followed in Arda’s footsteps.
             
Words in our world today carry a lot of weight as well. While we may not be able to blow the hinges off a door with a simple declaration of our power, our words and meaning behind them can help foster peace, or move a populace into blind loyalty. They can portray love and kindness, hate and slander. Our words can tell stories and bring about the creation found only in our imagination, and they can inspire others to great deeds otherwise unseen. Our words, and our ability to communicate them separates us from other life on this planet, and that alone should be reason enough to cherish the power each of us holds.         

25 November 2013

Julianne Snyder - Abstract Artist, Tolkien Fan

Since creating this blog, I have had the pleasure of meeting and befriending some truly wonderful people, which for me is the biggest joy that comes from being a Tolkien fan and blogger. One such new friend is Julianne Snyder, a Philadelphia-based abstract artist.

I first met Julianne back in July after she asked me to help translate a phrase into Sindarin for a ring she was creating. When I noticed how amazing her artwork was – and that some of them were even inspired by Tolkien – I knew I had to share it. Juli very kindly agreed to answer some questions for me, and provided some very thorough and heartfelt responses.



When/how did you get started?

I first started painting in 2000, my first year of college at Temple in Philly. I had a couple great painting teachers, but the one I most connected with was an extraordinary abstract painter. He was a Vietnam vet, with such a blunt, honest realness about him, and I greatly admired him. I always hated still lifes and working from a model, and I'd get so frustrated and angry because I could never get it to look exactly as it was! No matter how many times I'd go back into the piece, I was never satisfied. One day he told me to just do my own work, rather than tear my hair out over whatever wretched still life we were supposed to be painting, and that changed everything for me.


How would you define "art"?

I suppose I'd define art as anything one does that creatively expresses one's self.
If it gets what you're feeling out there, that's incredibly important, and very powerful. If you feel inclined to do something creative, please don't ignore it! Nurture it! You have nothing to lose and so much to gain! Follow what your heart wants, even if you don't understand why you're drawn to certain things. Try out mosaics, take a stained-glass class or a knitting class! You feel empowered when you create art. There's a piece of you in everything you create.

Don't Follow the Lights, 12"x30" acrylic and gel medium on canvas

What medium/techniques do you use?

I use acrylic paint mostly and some mixed media. Acrylic colors are really vibrant, quick drying, and you can mix so many other things into the paint to alter the texture and fluidity. Texture is something that always excited me. Whenever I'd look at artwork, I'd always want to get super close to the thing and even touch it, if I was allowed! It's fascinating. I love seeing the foundation, the layers and 'mistakes'.

I paint primarily with pallette knives, brushes and recently, with twisted up towel, but am open to using whatever is lying around! I've used forks, toothbrushes, sticks...I've found that in life, as well as in art, what you add to it is as important as what you take away. I'll often wipe off and re-paint many times til I'm satisfied with it. I like to work on multiple paintings at once too, so I don't obsess over one thing.


How do you come up with new pieces? What is the process like?

I usually have a different color palette I prefer during any particular period of time. Right now for example, I'm big into neutrals, metallics, earth tones; things I shied away from for the longest time. I'll put something good on Spotify or Pandora, and let my intuition and emotions guide me. It's extremely rare I go into a painting with something specific in mind, because it never turns out the way I'm envisioning it. Sometimes I'll decide on a couple colours I definitely want to use and let that shape everything else. Sometimes the hardest part of starting a new piece, is just picking up the brush or knife.

The Lonely Mountain, 12"x36" acrylic and gel medium on canvas

What is your favourite piece that you've created?

Oooh that's a toughie! I don't think I have a favourite one piece. Many of my paintings I feel a strong emotional attachment to due to whatever I had going on in my life at the time. Emotion is one of my main inspirations; I can't create without some very real emotion as the base. I just can't do it. I've tried. People have asked me why I can't just crank out more pieces with less time put into them, but I really can't. I'd probably have to go with these guys: Ultimatum, Time Will Tell, The Way Out Is Through and Sea In My Soul. Ultimatum is going to be in a private collection in L.A., Time Will Tell will be shown in the SOLO exhibit at the NY Art Expo in April 2014. The others I may never sell.


Do you have a favourite artist or piece of artwork by someone else?

Wow - that's serious! I have so many of both! I'll just go with the first bunch of each that comes to mind:

Alan Lee's brilliant conceptualizations and meticulous attention to detail. The mastery and skill that comes from Weta; I'm totally blown away by what they do.
Frida Kahlo's work is wild. Her story is somethin' else. She was a super tough lady who had a rough go of it; really inspirational. I saw her show at a museum a few years back in Philly, and I remember just standing in front of this massive self portrait she did called "The Two Fridas", and just staring for so long. I was so overwhelmed by the weight of this piece; the raw, honest emotion and the duality of it. I could've stood there for hours.

Maxfield Parrish was born in Philadelphia; he was one of my first favourite artists. His style, use of light, fantasy subject matter and wildly vibrant colors always had an immense appeal to me. He even invented his own shade of blue! My dad introduced me to his work when I was younger.

Thomas Cole was around in the 1800's and was part of the Romanticism movement. His work is mostly comprised of evocative landscapes, showcasing depth and light. The duality in his work I really connect with.

Viggo Mortensen - I mean, really, the man is a genius. He is a huge inspiration to me on many levels. Not just as an artist, but as a person; as an actor on film and on this stage that is life. I guess "life artist" would be a fitting way to describe him. I keep a piece of paper with me that has "What would Viggo do?" written on it. He's 120% invested in his work and that passion really comes across in whatever artistic outlet he's involved in. He really lives life to the fullest, taking advantage of every opportunity he deems worthwhile. He truly LIVES, and that is something I aspire to do, always. We humans sometimes fall into the belief that we're just existing; but there is SO much that life has to offer. We must believe in our dreams and go after the things we are drawn to. We have to have faith in what moves us and inspires us! Viggo is an exceptional role model - the dude really gets it. Life. Art. Seems like everything. I have to meet him. If there is a God, I will meet him. (laughs)

As far as some favourite works of art go, here's a handful off the top of my head:

          The Two Fridas by Frida Kahlo
          Moonlight by Maxfield Parrish
          Death and the Maiden by James Christensen
          Melencolia by Albrecht Durer
          Expulsion: Moon and Firelight by Thomas Cole

The Fall, the movie directed by Tarsem Singh. This film is an absolute masterpiece; the visually arresting landscapes complement perfectly the characters' range of emotions and connections with each other. I consider this a work of true art and just surreal beauty. It was shot in more than 20 countries. This ranks up there with the Lord of the Rings movies, although I can't watch it often; it hits very close to home, emotionally. There is this incredible raw, real connection between the two main characters, one of which, before the creation of the film, spoke no English, so there had to be a genuine connection made for the dynamic to really work. I feel like my heart and soul just cracked open when I watch this. It's a serious heart-opener; symbolism, metaphor, mortality, love, and of course the classic battle of good and evil, both inside and outside of us all. So powerful.

Lee Pace is another one I'd be totally honoured to meet. He's a phenomenal actor.


For Gondor, 12"x12" each, acrylic and gel medium on canvas

Who or what inspires you?

I find inspiration in so many places! The biggest creative inspirations for me are emotions, clouds, nature, music... Music really lifts me. I don't remember the last time I painted without music, or listening to some kind of inspirational talk. If ever I'm stuck in indecision or if I start to doubt what I'm doing, I'll put something on that really draws out my emotion and evokes - The Lord of the Rings soundtracks, Lindsey Stirling's music, or a Viggo interview. Who isn't moved by "Concerning Hobbits", "May It Be", or Lindsey's Lord of the Rings Medley?! That Lord of the Rings video kills me - I remember watching and hearing it for the first time, and I was just in tears, totally overwhelmed and in total awe in my car!

As far as people go, I'd say Marianne Williamson, who's this incredibly enlightened, gifted, spiritual leader. Rachel Benyola, who is the driven, strong female role model and mentor I wanted for so long and finally, this year, found. I'm so blessed to have her as a guide; she has changed my life exponentially for the better. These women have made the biggest creative impact on me thus far. I am a far better, far happier person with their influence in my life. They showed me there was a better way to be - that there are answers to the burning questions you're asking. It's like the saying goes, "When the student is ready, the teacher will come." They continue to assist me in my evolution as an artist, and as a person. Viggo Mortensen made a huge impact on me as well. I used to carry a piece of paper around with me that said, "What would Viggo do?" He is an excellent role model; incredibly dedicated, brimming with curiosity and creativity. I'm actually getting a portrait of Aragorn tattooed on me next year.

Juli's most recent piece, "Through Shadows"

For more of Julianne's incredible artwork, visit her website at http://www.juliannesnyderart.com.
You can also follow her on Twitter and 'Like' her on Facebook.

22 November 2013

"Rise of the Fellowship" Coming to DVD December 3rd

“Rise of the Fellowship” (formerly “The FellowsHip: Rise of the Gamers”) is an upcoming film from Opening Act Productions. It follows the conventional “loser,” Randall, who just can’t seem to catch a break from anyone – his mother and older brother, his peers at school, and not even his nerdy boss at Game Parlor. All of that stands to change, however, when he and his friends set out on a journey to right a wrong, making new friends along the way and forming an unbreakable fellowship of gamers.  

Unlike most independent films I’ve seen, “Rise of the Fellowship” rises above the norm and above my own expectations. The acting and cinematography alone are of a much higher quality than a number of films I’ve seen lately, including those coming straight out of Hollywood. I was particularly impressed by Justin Moe (Randall) and Wolf J. Sherrill (Baba Melvin), the latter being my favourite character in the film. 

While it pays many a tribute to J.R.R. Tolkien’s books and Peter Jackson’s films, “Rise of the Fellowship” is not simply a “Lord of the Rings” knock-off. It is a well-written, family-friendly comedy that will appeal to a variety of audiences and is a must-see for any fan of “The Lord of the Rings” and The Lord of the Rings Online. 


“Rise of the Fellowship” is currently available for pre-order on Amazon and will be available at your local Wal-Mart, as well as iTunes and Video On Demand, on December 3. 

Links and More Info can be found at:
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Tolkien's 'Unfinished Tales' Gets Persian Translation

Source: IBNA
J.R.R. Tolkien's collection of stories and essays of Middle-earth, Unfinished Tales, has been translated into Persian by Reza Alizadeh and published in Iran. This is just one of several of Tolkien's books to have been rendered into Persiann; the others being The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and The Children of Húrin.

Unfinished Tales (full title Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth) was never completed by Tolkien; instead, his son Christopher edited the notes and manuscripts his father had left behind, and the book was first published in 1980.

The book features many well-known stories and characters from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, such as "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn" and "The Quest of Erebor," but also features some lesser-known tales which may appeal to those with a deeper thirst for Middle-earth history: "Of Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin," "Cirion and Eorl and the Friendship of Gondor and Rohan", and more. 

13 November 2013

Coming Soon: Two New Book Reviews

It's been awhile since I've posted anything of substance on this blog, so I thought I would pop in and offer a quick update. I have recently been asked two review two books on Tolkien and Middle-earth – the first one being The Ideal of Kingship in the Writings of Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien: Divine Kingship is Reflected in Middle-Earth by Christopher Scarf; and the second being Christopher Synder's The Making of Middle-earth: A New Look Inside the World of J. R. R. Tolkien.

Regrettably, it has taken a bit longer than I'd hoped to get to these reviews; but they will be posted in the very near future.

As always, thank you for visiting my blog. Remember, you can always suggest a topic for a future blog post; or, even better, submit your own guest post!

14 October 2013

The Divisions of Tolkien's Elves (Quendi)

Following the defeat of Melkor in the Battle of the Powers, the Valar decided to bring the Elves back to Valinor to be kept directly under their protection. They sent Oromë to Cuiviénen to summon them.

But upon his return, he discovered that the Elves were reluctant to make the journey, as they were in fear of the Valar. Three ambassadors were sent with Oromë to help coax the Elves – Ingwë, Finwë, and Elwë. These three had seen the light of the Two Trees and were so overcome with awe that they counselled their people to follow the summons and undertake the Great Journey back to Valinor.

However, not all of the Elves accepted the summons, and this separation led to numerous branches, all of which stem from the decision to undertake or reject the Great Journey. 

THE AVARI

The Avari, or the Unwilling, were those who refused the summons of Oromë and remained in the wilds of Middle-earth. It is said that some of the Avari were corrupted by Melkor in ancient days and became the precursors to Orcs. The Avari are counted among the Moriquendi, the Dark Elves who did not see the Light of the Two Trees.

THE ELDAR

The Eldar were those who accepted the summons of Oromë and completed the Great Journey to Valinor and are counted among the Caliquendi, those who did see the Light of the Two Trees. The Eldar are comprised of Three Kindreds:
  • The Vanyar (Light Elves) were the first of the Elves to undertake the journey from Cuiviénen to Valinor, and they are accounted the highest of the High Elves. Ingwë is their leader, High King of the Elves, and his dwelling is on Taniquetil beneath the halls of Manwë.
  • The Noldor (Deep-Elves) are those Elves who followed Finwë as their lord. They were the second great host of those marching from Cuiviénen to the shores of Middle-earth; after arriving in Valinor, they learned much from Aulë and were accounted the greatest Elves of lore and craft. After the Darkening of Valinor, in which the Two Trees were poisoned, Finwë slain, and the Silmarils stolen, many of the Noldor forsook Valinor and in exile returned to Middle-earth in pursuit of Melkor.
  • The Teleri (The Third Clan) were the last comers to Aman, and made their homes in Alqualondë on the western shores of the Great Sea. Twice a host of this people turned away from the Journey; they are collectively known as the Úmanyar, the Eldar not of Aman, and are further broken into two main groups: the Nandor, those who turned away east of the Misty Mountains, and the Sindar, those who tarried in Beleriand seeking their lord, Elwë Singollo.
    • The Nandor are those of the Teleri who forsook the Great Journey east of the Misty Mountains and journeyed down the River Anduin; some came into Beleriand and made their dwelling in Ossiriand (these were known as the Laiquendi), while others founded realms of their own. (The Elves of Lórien and the Wood-elves of Mirkwood were of this kind, known as Silvan Elves.)
    • The Sindar (Grey-Elves) are those of the Teleri who remained in Beleriand; some to await the return of their lord Elwë, and others who had been persuaded by Ossë to stay. When Elwë returned to them, they made their home with him in Doriath (which he ruled with his wife, Melian); the other main country of the Sindar was the Falas (under the rule of Círdan the Shipwright).
    • The Falmari (Sea-Elves) are those of the Teleri who became enamoured with the sea and made their dwelling near the shores of Aman. 
    • The Eglath (Forsaken Ones) are those of the Teleri who remained in Beleriand seeking the return of their lord Elwë and were left behind by those Teleri who refused to wait any longer to depart for Aman.

11 October 2013

GraniteCon 2013

My recap of GraniteCon is long overdue, I know – but better late than never, right?

Although much smaller in scale than Boston Comic Con, GraniteCon (organised by the awesome Double Midnight Comics in Manchester, NH) was fun in that it was easier to get around and see everything. And being a sufferer of chronic migraines, the fact that it was much closer to home really kept me at ease.

My dad, who had accompanied me to Boston Comic Con back in August, came with me to GraniteCon on Saturday, 28 September. Although I do enjoy a good comic book, my knowledge is still somewhat limited; I prefer to go to these events to check out the cosplayers and scope out any neat or must-have collectibles. There were a lot of amazing cosplayers there; check out my GraniteCon album on Facebook to see them all! 

In this case, my big purchase was this cute Vaporeon plush. I know it's a bootleg, but I rarely come across memorabilia from Genenerations I and II, so I couldn't resist. The first thing I ever really became "obsessed" with as a child was Pokémon; to this day, you will still catch me playing the video games or watching the original anime.


Unlike Boston Comic Con, for GraniteCon, I chose to cosplay as Arwen. The dress was a big hit – not only did I receive many compliments, but I even had a few people ask to take my picture. I'm already eager for the next cosplaying event!



All in all, GraniteCon was a blast. Although we didn't stick around for the entire weekend (or even the entire day), my dad and I had fun, and even stopped at the historic Red Arrow Diner in Manchester. While there, one of their regular customers informed us that a replica was being built for an upcoming Adam Sandler movie – which is only fitting, as Adam Sandler was born in the Granite State! 

05 October 2013

Another Character Hits Level 85

It took a gruelling 22 hours (12 hours yesterday, and another 10 today), but my hunter, Bregolad, is finally level 85! He hit the cap a few hours ago in Fangorn. (He was level 80 when I began this grind.)

We still have more Fangorn quests to finish, as well as the entire Sutcrofts region; and once I renew my VIP subscription, there'll be the Wildermore region to tackle. There's still a lot of work to be done! I'm very tempted to renew my subscription so I can participate in some PvP before Helm's Deep is released and the level cap increases again. I have really enjoyed playing my Hunter and think he will be a deadly foe in PvP.


I'd been dying to get my hands on the Bone Set of war-steed cosmetics; lucky for me it happens to be on sale in the LOTRO Store for 995 TP until October 31st! Of course, I grabbed a set for Bregolad, as he only had the Steed of Night, Caparison of Plenty, Steed of Michel Delving, and Rohan Elite Armour sets (I feel it necessary to ensure that things are fair between my two main toons).


After playing around with my war-steed sets a bit, I decided to keep these two sets as my active outfits. The first is simply the war-steed with its hide and tail dyed black; the only item equipped is a plain black saddle. The second set is the Bone Set, which I've dyed indigo (I haven't yet purchased the black dye set).

In playing my Hunter and paying more attention to war-steeds and mounted combat, I've found that I truly love this aspect of the game. Where I struggled a bit with mounted combat on my Captain, I had an extremely easy and enjoyable time shooting arrows off of Bregolad's war-steed.

I'm going to keep playing Bregolad a bit more. Like I said, there are still so many quests to complete. I'd also like to start preparing my Champion, Brittanyia, so she can finish Rohan and be the next of my toons to hit 85.

28 September 2013

Middle-earth News is Giving Away Helm's Deep Beta Keys!

If you missed out on Turbine's Facebook giveaway last week, or simply didn't want to give OfferPop access to your private information to claim the code, don't fret! The Middle-earth News team has some extra beta keys to give away over the weekend -- but hurry! The contest will end on Monday, September 30 at 11:59 PM EST.

For more information on how to enter, please visit the Middle-earth News site! Best of luck!

22 September 2013

Happy Hobbit Day!

Hey all! I apologise for the lack of updates recently; I've been pouring most of my time and energy into writing more for the Middle-earth News, for whom I have been a staffer for over two years now.

What does that mean for this blog? Simply put, it just means that I'll be writing less about the Hobbit films and focusing more on Tolkien in terms of literature and gaming. You can expect more essays, opinions, and gaming updates in the near future. As always, if there's something in particular you'd like to read about, don't hesitate to leave a comment below, Tweet me, or shoot me an e-mail. I am working on a short list of topics I'd like to touch upon, but suggestions are always greatly appreciated.

That being said, today is Hobbit Day and the beginning of Tolkien Week. How do you plan to celebrate these special occasions?

24 August 2013

Bregolad Finally Gets His Warsteed

Those of you following me on Twitter are probably aware of the fact that I've been playing my Hunter, Bregolad of Gondor, more regularly. In fact, right now I've only been playing him (Beornara is finally level 85 and patiently waiting for Helm's Deep to come out, and all my lower-level [currently non-VIP] characters are stuck in "you must purchase this region!" limbo).

I've taken a slight detour from finishing rep quests in Enedwaith and Mirkwood; for the past week I've been questing in Dunland. Yesterday, Bregolad got his Warsteed just prior to hitting level 74; today he hit the milestone that is level 75 (and he is Kindred with the Men of Dunland!).

About a year ago, I purchased the Steed of Night from the LOTRO store; I got Beornara the Steed of Minas Ithil, and didn't want to leave my Hunter out. Now that Warsteeds have become available, when you purchase a normal steed from the LOTRO store, you typically get the matching Warsteed cosmetic set. Even though I'd purchased the Steed of Night long before Warsteeds were around, the cosmetic set transferred over once I got mine (I was very happy about that!).

Because I already had two sets of Warsteed cosmetics (the Steed of Night and Eastemnet Armour sets), I decided my big splurge would be on a colour pack for my steed. The Steed of Night armour just didn't look that great on a white-grey horse. So I spent 595 TP to make my Steed look more badass:


In my vault I have a Flame-touched Hauberk and the Flames of the Deep cloak to match my steed a bit more. But I am loving the outfit Bregolad is currently rocking, so it will likely be awhile before I change it. (Although I did replace the Lórien quiver with the Flames of the Deep.) 

Now I'm plugging through the epic storyline, which currently has me a prisoner of Isengard. After that I should be working on my rep with Théodred's Riders. And then...ROHAN!

11 August 2013

Boston Comic Con 2013: There and Back Again

I’ll preface this article by saying that Boston Comic Con 2013 was my first Comic Con; the only convention I had attended previously was an East Coast Lord of the Rings fan convention (ELF) hosted by TheOneRing.net in 2006 (one of the downsides of living in New England is that big events like these don’t happen as frequently as I would like).

I guess I’d somehow missed the adverts for Boston Comic Con in previous years; I found out about the event about two weeks prior to the original April date while trying to compile a list of upcoming conventions for 2013. I knew that this year I had to go and see for myself what Comic Con is really all about — especially after seeing the guest list: Lauren Cohan and Laurie Holden of The Walking Dead, and Dean O’Gorman and Aidan Turner  from The Hobbit. Following the tragic bombing at the Boston Marathon a week prior to Boston Comic Con, the event was postponed until August. Unfortunately, Lauren Cohan had to drop out.

My father, who became a fan of The Walking Dead this past season, happily agreed to come along for a chance to see “Andrea.” (Also, after reading about Johnny Galecki making a surprise appearance at San Diego Comic Con, he was hopeful that another celebrity might surprise us in Boston.) My boyfriend also came along, being a huge fan of Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars, as did our boss (also a huge Star Wars fan).

Thankfully, Boston is close enough that we didn’t have to fly in or get up early just to make it there in time. We left around 9 am and got there a little after 10.

When we got there, the line seemed to wrap around the entire building; I was sure we wouldn’t be getting in anytime soon. Standing in the hot sun, I was immediately relieved that I did not dress up for this event; but when all was said and done, we only ended up waiting in line for about twenty minutes, so it actually paid off to show up a bit late.


Within ten minutes of being inside, who do you think walked past me but Aidan Turner and Dean O’Gorman. Somehow I recognised Dean first; for a split second, I was star struck: like an excited child, I tugged at my boyfriend’s arm and several times chanted, “OhmyGodit’sAidanandDean!” I could have tried to get their attention – even a photograph of them walking by might have sufficed – but for some reason, in that moment I was unable to do anything but stare.

I wasn’t initially planning on getting any autographs. I had intended to spend my cash on the photo-op with Aidan and Dean, thinking that was the best bang for my buck. Having started watching Being Human just over a month ago (and subsequently becoming hooked on the series), I was determined to meet Aidan in particular. But trying to think in a more practical sense, I figured an autograph would allow a bit more time to actually interact with him; when I met Billy Boyd back in 2006, the photo-op process was simply: exchange polite greetings, have photo taken, and move on. I was eager not to repeat that experience, so I chose to go stand in the autograph line.

It was not a long wait by any means; we were there early, so there wasn’t much of a line to begin with. But it moved rather slowly. They must not be ready for us yet, I thought; but then every now and then I’d look ahead and see a young girl walking back from the table. I realised Aidan was actually stopping to have a chat with everyone who stopped by!

That’s when I panicked.

What do I say? What if I make a fool of myself? 

But there’s something about Aidan that makes you feel instantly comfortable around him. I hate to sound too sappy, but he has a way of making you feel like you’re the only person in the room when he talks to you. He is very sincere and welcoming, and it was clear he was really enjoying the convention experience. I immediately felt very relaxed.

We shook hands, introduced ourselves, and exchanged pleasantries. Surprisingly, I didn’t say anything too stupid (although I did make some cheesy remark about how beautiful the weather was). He asked if I had been there on Saturday, and I responded that I was only there for the one day. When I told him this was my first Comic Con, he seemed genuinely excited, assuring me that I was in for an incredible time. We chatted a bit, and I asked him to sign my deluxe pocket edition of The Hobbit – a Christmas present from my boyfriend (who thankfully didn’t mind!).

We walked around the convention floor for the next few hours, surveying each of the vendor tables to see what souvenirs we might like to come back for and photographing cosplayers along the way. We grabbed some overpriced (but delicious) food, forgetting completely that there was both a Dunkin’ Donuts and 7-11 right next door.

I kept debating whether or not to pay for the photo-op. It was worth it, certainly, but at the same time, I didn’t really have an extra $100 at my disposal. By the time I decided to just go ahead and spend the money, time was running out and we were unsure of where to go (there were no signs or announcements for the photo-ops, and the staff members we asked were unsure of the location themselves). I watched my phone anxiously as the time went by: 1:15… 1:20… 1:30.

Shouldn’t have been so indecisive, I lamented. Maybe next time…

We continued to walk the floor; I decided it was a perfect time to start buying things. Surprisingly, most of the items were all reasonably priced (at least compared to the comic book stores and other retailers I’ve been to). I ended up purchasing for myself a Tom Bombadil bust and two Hobbit pins; I grabbed a Walking Dead pin (featuring Andrea) for my dad and two pins for my boyfriend (Veronica Mars and Walter Bishop from Fringe). Because Adventure Time is a guilty pleasure of ours, he grabbed me a cute Gunter plushie. There was also a stand giving away free movie posters; I grabbed a small Desolation of Smaug poster, which ultimately got crinkled in my backpack (but still looks great).

After making a quick run to Dunkin’ Donuts for caffeine, we decided to try and get in line for the Hobbit Q&A, which would be starting in about an hour or so.  My heart sank when we got there: the line seemed to go on forever. My companions were growing tired, and I didn’t want to make any of them wait around for an hour; I decided to abandon my quest to sit in on the panel. We stuck around to watch participants in the costume contest come out and show off their costumes and their awards. I still don’t know the results or how individuals were judged, but many of the most impressive costumes we had seen that day hadn’t even placed in the competition, which didn’t make any sense to us.

We walked back into the hallway where the Hobbit Q&A line was stationed, trying to come up with a plan for the remainder of the evening. Do we call it a day and get going? Or do we try to stick around and see if we can still get in to the panel?

Suddenly I saw Dean coming down the stairs; my dad had noticed his leg brace earlier, and as a result I had decided not to even try and pursue him. Fortunately, I have a really awesome dad with an incredible camera; since I wasn’t going to meet Dean, he took plenty of photos for me. Then some of the girls waiting in line for the Q&A noticed Dean; one ran over and gave him a hug, and my comrades suggested I make an attempt to say hello. But after a few photographs with fans, his assistant said there would be no more photos. Dean left and we went back onto the convention floor.

We made our way out there as well, deciding to leave in a few moments. I was kind of starting to feel bummed; no photo-op, no Hobbit panel…

And then suddenly those two familiar faces came into view again. This time, my co-worker convinced me to just ask Aidan about getting a photo. Still a bit hesitant about “bothering” him, my dad came to my aid. He approached Aidan and very nicely asked if he could take a couple of photos for me. Trying to be charming, I smiled (“hello, again!”) and asked if I could trouble him to take one photo with me. He very kindly obliged.

The highlight of my trip? Meeting Aidan Turner!
After the impromptu photo-op, we decided to take one more walk past the Waterfront Room, where the Hobbit Q&A was being held. The line was gone and they were still letting some people in! There were still a few seats near the back, so we rushed in and sat down. Unfortunately, the room had two enormous columns on either side, which blocked the view for just about anyone sitting behind them; despite best efforts from the guys in charge, they were unable to move the podiums to a universally visible location, and ended up returning them to their original spot, so I couldn’t see Dean or Aidan at all.

Fortunately, Middle-earth News friend Amanda Capley recorded the panel and was kind enough to send it to us! Thanks, Amanda!

It’s already been announced that Boston Comic Con 2014 has been turned into a three-day event, taking place on August 8, 9, and 10. Depending on the guests, I may try to stay the full length next time. Boston is so close that I hate to spend extra money to stay the night, but at the same time, it doesn’t make sense to drive back and forth several days, either.

**Huge thanks go to my father, who took all of these photos for me!**

29 July 2013

"Hobbit" Filming Wraps

Filming on the final installment of Peter Jackson's "Hobbit" films drew to a close this past Friday, and the director, who has kept fans updated via Facebook statuses and YouTube videos throughout the filmmaking process, found the time to post numerous updates and behind the scenes photos during the last day of filming:

"Ever since starting these blogs, there's been something I thought I'd like to try one day (as well as answering the other 19 questions I owe you!)—blogging throughout a shoot day in real time," he wrote. "Try to give you all a feeling for what we deal with on an average day."

Peter Jackson/Facebook
"A 20 hour day…15 years of Tolkien…771 days of shooting…And we arrive home exhausted, to a house full of teenagers! It's going to be a long night!"

"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" will be in theatres December 13, 2013; the final instalment, "The Hobbit: There and Back Again," will be released in December 17, 2014. 

13 July 2013

Penguin Classics to Re-release Tolkien Inspirations

With the next Hobbit film, “The Desolation of Smaug,” arriving in theatres this December, Penguin Classics has decided to re-release several classic titles which inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to write his own sagas.

Being re-packaged in new jackets created by a Swedish designer and lowered in price, these titles will be part of a new series, “Legends from the Ancient North,” and will include Beowulf, The Saga of the Volsungs, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, The Elder Edda, and The Wanderer.

Click to enlarge

“Tolkien was professor of Anglo Saxon for many years at Oxford so he knew all of these inside out and was fascinated by them,” said publishing director Simon Winder.

“There are some really interesting links—The Wanderer has all the kinds of riddles that Golem told in it—and The Hobbit is totally a work of Tolkien’s own imagination, but you can see what fired him was this world of elves and dragons and swords and heroic bravery and terrible monsters and dangerous journeys. He just revelled in all of that, and we wanted to create something new which would express his own excitement at this world that he knew really well.”

Winder said he saw this as an opportunity to celebrate both Penguin Classics as well as Tolkien’s own imagination, and to “get everyone reading sagas again.” And despite the links between these five works and the Hobbit films being light, Winder stressed that they are important.

“We’re hoping that bookshops will display them intelligently so people will make that link. I think it’s fair to say that Tolkien was the first serious academic who thought Beowulf was a great work of art; until then it was considered a curiosity and I think only one copy existed. People thought it was a ridiculous story about swords and witches, and when he was writing The Hobbit that was on the back of his mind—how do you dramatise these sorts of things?

“It’s funny how the stories in the world of Edda and The Saga of the Volsungs has sunk into the minds of millions of people through Tolkien, but we’ve sold hundreds of thousands of copies of Beowulf now; it in itself is a famous translation.”

The Legends from the Ancient North series will be available on Amazon on 29 October.  

Be Sure to Cast Your Votes in This Year's Dragon Slayer Awards!

The nominations are in – now it's up to you, the dedicated players, to vote for your favourite games/communities!

The LOTRO fan base, who won the "Most Passionate Fanbase" title last year, has been nominated again!

LOTRO's 2012 Dragon Slayer Award for Most Passionate Fanbase. 
Source: Lorebook

LOTRO has been nominated in the following categories:
  • Most Passionate Fanbase - The Lord of the Rings Online
  • Top Community Management Team - The Lord of the Rings Online
  • Community Manager of the Year - Rick "Sapience" Heaton
  • Best Gaming Team/Guild/Clan Dragonfly kinship and The Lonely Mountain Band kinship (both on Landroval)
Go show your support for LOTRO (and your other favourite games) by voting at GuildLaunch! You have until 2 September to do so, but why wait?

Twenty Questions with Turbine

Earlier this month, the LOTRO devs at Turbine offered to play another game of Twenty Questions. Questions tackled a variety of subjects, from Lalia's Marketplace to PvP/PvMP updates, all the way to the tuning that goes into making each landscape difficult enough for certain levels.

But perhaps the most important question of all, the one that's been on everyone's mind lately, is, "can you say anything about LOTRO ending in 2014 as some have predicted?"

To which Sapience responded, "We plan to support LOTRO for many more years to come. We are very fortunate in that we enjoy a great relationship with Middle-earth Enterprises. They visit our offices several times a year to check out our upcoming plans for LOTRO and continue to be very supportive."

To read all twenty questions, visit the LOTRO forums! And if you're not already, be sure to follow them on Twitter so you don't miss the next round!

08 July 2013

'Hobbit' Q&A With Aidan Turner and Dean O'Gorman at Boston Comic Con


'Hobbit' actors Aidan Turner (Kili) and Dean O'Gorman (Fili) will be appearing at Boston Comic Con August 3-4 and taking part in a 'Hobbit' Q&A session from 5-6pm on Sunday the 4th.

Autographs (separate) are $40; tickets can be purchased at the show and are first come, first served. Be sure to periodically check the Boston Comic Con website and follow them on Twitter (@BostonComicCon) for more updates!

UPDATE (1:14 pm): Aidan and Dean will be doing a limited number of photo-ops: 200 on Saturday (11:30 am) and 100 on Sunday (11:30 am). The cost of the photo-op is $100 and allows you to have your photograph taken with Aidan and Dean.

Important note: Admission, photo-ops, and autographs are sold separately.

04 July 2013

LOTRO's "Riders of Rohan" 50% Off!

From now until July 7, you can purchase a copy of LOTRO's previous expansion, Riders of Rohan, for half the price! This is also the last chance to get your hands on the Heroic and Legendary editions, which will go away forever after the 7th (only the Base edition will be available).

Prices for the expansion are currently as follows:

Legendary Edition - $34.99

Heroic Edition - $24.99

Base Edition - $19.99

Additionally, you can purchase a triple-pack expansion set (includes the Mines of Moria, Siege of Mirkwood, and Rise of Isengard expansions) for $39.99.

For more information, or to purchase any of these editions, visit Turbine's LOTRO Market!

For the record, I'm glad I was indecisive for so long; I finally got my hands on the Legendary Edition and didn't have to pay $70!

28 June 2013

THE ISTARI

by Britta Siemen

EMISSARIES OF THE WEST

When Greenwood the Great fell under shadow at the beginning of the Third Age, the Valar sensed that Sauron had returned and was beginning to grow in power. However, they had long decided not to directly interfere in the lives of the denizens of Middle-earth, having been met with war and bloodshed when they had tried to lead the Eldar into the West during the Years of the Trees. Instead they sent messengers to Middle-earth to inspire Men and Elves to noble deeds, thus indirectly helping to ensure that they fulfilled their destinies. 

With the consent of Eru, the Valar sent several Maiar – members of their own order “but of less degree” – known as the Istari (21). (Though they are more commonly referred to as “wizards,” Tolkien is careful to point out that his wizards are not the magicians we usually associate with the term; instead they are wise men or messengers.)

The Istari appeared in the forms of Men, “old but vigorous” (360), and although they were Maiar, in their human bodies they were “subject to the fears and pains and weariness of earth, able to hunger and thirst and be slain; though because of their noble spirits they did not die, and aged only by the cares and labours of many long years” (406). Likewise, their human bodies did not protect them from the temptations and corruptions which plagued the other denizens of Middle-earth: they “might even as Men and Elves fall away from their purposes, and do evil, forgetting the good in the search for the power to effect it” (407).

The exact number of the Order of the Istari was unknown, “but of those that came to the North of Middle-earth” during the Third Age “the chiefs were five” (406), and they were: Curúnir (Saruman the White), the two Blue Wizards, Aiwendil (Radagast the Brown), and Olórin (Gandalf the Grey).


WHO WERE THE ISTARI?

Curúnir (Q. ‘skillful one’; also called Curumo) was the first and eldest, and as such was named Chief of the Order (denoted by his white robes). “Great skill he had in works of hand” (406), having been the servant and helper of Aulë; in Middle-earth he was called Saruman (Rohirric, ‘man of skill’). He travelled East for a millennia and a half before returning to the West and settling in Orthanc. He became knowledgeable in the lore of the Rings of Power, and sought the One Ring for himself, so that he might bend all of Middle-earth to his will. His pride, arrogance, and jealousy made him easily malleable by Sauron, and the White Wizard was ultimately corrupted and failed in his task.

Following Saruman were the two Blue Wizards, whose names are not given, aside from Ithryn Luin (‘Blue Wizards’); occasionally the names Alatar and Pallando, or Morinehtar and Rómestámo, are attributed to them.  Neither are their fates in Middle-earth known. In Unfinished Tales, Tolkien wrote that these two journeyed East with Saruman but did not return; “whether they remained in the East, pursuing there the purposes for which they were sent; or perished; or as some hold were ensnared by Sauron and became his evil servants, is not known” (407). In a letter dated 1958, Tolkien reiterated this belief, adding of their fall: “I suspect they were founders or beginners of secret cults and ‘magic’ traditions that outlasted the fall of Sauron” (418). 

The fourth to arrive in Middle-earth, Radagast the Brown had been a servant of Yavanna, and was fond of all things Kelvar (fauna) and Olvar (flora), though his name Aiwendil suggests he was perhaps most fond of birds. In Unfinished Tales, it is noted that Yavanna forced Saruman to take Radagast with him, which was perhaps the reason the White Wizard was so scornful of him – openly referring to him as “simple” and “a fool.” Like the Blue Wizards, Radagast, too fell away from his purpose, becoming “enamoured of the many beasts and birds that dwelt in Middle-earth, and forsook Elves and Men, and spent his days among the wild creatures” (407).

Indeed, “one only remained faithful, and he was the last-comer” (407), Tolkien wrote of Gandalf (known in Valinor as Olórin). Associated with Nienna, who taught him pity, Gandalf was fond of the Gardens of Lórien (Irmo), and in this way learned much about the dreams of Men and Elves. He also had a fondness for the Hobbits of the Shire, but unlike Radagast and Saruman, he did not stray from his mission.


THE WHITE COUNCIL

It was Gandalf who sensed that the growing darkness in Mirkwood was more sinister than Ringwraiths; and in the year 2463 of the Third Age, the White Council was formed, consisting of Galadriel, Elrond, Círdan, Gandalf, and Saruman. Galadriel had hoped that Gandalf would serve as their leader (an offer which angered Saruman), “but Mithrandir refused the office, since he would have no ties and no allegiance, save to those who sent him” (361). And so Saruman was named as their leader.

When Gandalf visited Dol Guldur and learned that the Necromancer was, in fact, Sauron, he urged the Council to make a swift attack; but Saruman, hoping the One Ring would reveal itself as the Dark Lord rose back to power, counselled them to wait. But the more they waited, the more Saruman fell to temptation and plotted not only against his Order, but against the Enemy as well, seeking the One Ring for his own purpose. In the last meeting of the White Council (TA 2953), he asserted that the One Ring had been lost forever in the Belegaer. Soon after he took control of Isengard, which he fortified, and began to aid the enemies of his neighbours in Rohan.


THE FATE OF THE TWO WHITE WIZARDS

By now, Saruman had grown to fear and hate Gandalf, whom he suspected knew all about his traitorous plans. Making note of everything the Grey wizard said to him, he became aware of the Shire – a place which Gandalf frequently visited. The ever-suspicious White wizard assumed Gandalf was there for other purposes (when in fact, Gandalf as yet knew nothing of the location of the One Ring), and so sent spies to learn all they could about the Shire and its inhabitants. When Gandalf did learn that the One had been found, Saruman was the next to know (and given that ring-lore was his speciality, he begrudged Gandalf even more for knowing something he did not).  

So he deceived Radagast, and sent him as his messenger to lure Gandalf to Isengard in TA 3018 with the promise of counsel; “he sought me in good faith, and so persuaded me,” Gandalf later recounted to Frodo upon their meeting in Rivendell (313). But it was this good faith that also turned Radagast into an unwitting rescuer of Gandalf, who was imprisoned atop the pinnacle of Orthanc after refusing to join forces with Saruman and the Enemy. Having called upon his friends, the Eagles of the Mountains, to send word of the Enemy’s movements, Gwaihir the Windlord found Gandalf and carried him away from Saruman, whose treachery was now fully known. 

While Saruman busied himself with the fortification of Isengard and the breeding of an army to rival that of Sauron, Gandalf never strayed from his mission – even at great personal sacrifice. As the Company of the Ring made their way through the Mines of Moria, they were faced with a most fearsome enemy: a Balrog of Morgoth.

Although he was Maia in origin, in his Middle-earth body, a sacrifice was a sacrifice:

“[I]n his condition it was for him a sacrifice to perish on the Bridge in defence of his companions, less perhaps than a mortal Man or Hobbit, since he had a far greater inner power than they; but also more, since it was a humbling and abnegation of himself in conformity to 'the Rules' […] He was handing over to the Authority that ordained the Rules, and giving up personal hope of success” (Letters, #156).

Because of this sacrifice, he was sent back to fulfil his mission. Tolkien goes on to remind us that the Valar did not have the authority to send him back (thereby directly intervening): “He was sent by a mere prudent plan of the angelic Valar or governors; but Authority had taken up this plan and enlarged it, at the moment of its failure” (Letters, #156), which indicates that Gandalf was sent back by Eru Ilúvatar himself.

"Naked I was sent back – for a brief time, until my task is done. And naked I lay upon the mountain-top. … There I lay staring upward, while the stars wheeled over, and each day was as long as a life-age of the earth." (125)

He was taken to Lothlórien, where he was healed by Galadriel and clothed in white; and he was now called “Gandalf the White,” for he was the wizard Saruman should have been.  It was in this new body that Gandalf was able to fully carry out his task, and ultimately influence all races – Men, Hobbits, Elves, and Dwarves – to play an important role in the Downfall of Sauron. Upon completion of his mission, he was granted access back to Valinor.

While Gandalf was rewarded for his faithfulness, Saruman met an ignominious fate. His plans at Isengard had been foiled by the neighbouring Ents, which had caused him to flee to the one place he still had power to control: the Shire. And yet, to his surprise, the Hobbits revolted and cast him out, and his cruel ways finally caught up with him. He was slain at the hand of his own miserable servant, Gríma Wormtongue, “and his spirit went whithersoever it was doomed to go, and to Middle-earth, whether naked or embodied, came never back” (408). 



REFERENCES

The Fellowship of the Ring, “The Council of Elrond”
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, (#156)
The Silmarillion, p. 21, 360
The Two Towers, “The White Rider”
Unfinished Tales, “The Hunt for the Ring,” p. 365
Unfinished Tales, “The Istari,” p. 406-408, 415, 418

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