Let’s face it, Gentle Readers – we live good times for geeks and nerds. One of the ultimate chronicles of nerditry, the Lord of the Rings, is a major series of motion pictures, with highly anticipated “prequels” on the way. Heck, I got to listen to Enya sing Elvish during the Oscas…and it was serious! Thanks to World of Warcraft, geeky swords-and-sorcery tropes have traipsed into the mainstream. If you bellow “You shall not pass!” people will actually know what you’re referencing!
Don’t believe me when I say that being a Rings Geek is in? Look at a show like The Big Bang Theory, where they’ve had an episode involving the characters fighting over a Lord of the Rings propr of the One Ring. Viewers may not want to identify with those guys, but I bet they do. The internet hit a near standstill when the Hobbit trailer hit the waves. The first Hobbit movie is proving one of the most anticipated movies of the year. This is a time when those of us who’ve always been into Professor Tolkien’s works can smugly fold our arms, smile at our more mainstream friends, and say “Told you so.”
And yet, for all that, there are still levels of Rings geekiness that step beyond the normal. I’m going to give you several examples that, I will admit, are dredged gently from my own life. I know there are bigger Tolkien Geeks out there, but maybe you have a burgeoning geekiness of your own, and you want to enhance it…to Tweak your Geek, if you will. Read on, my friends.
Watching the Movie in Every Room
For Christmas, a good friend gave me the Blu-Ray Extended Edition Set of The Lord of the Rings. This was a safe bet to be a fave, since I adore the trilogy. What he likely didn’t realize is that the set came not only with the Blu-Rays, but also with a digital copy. Mmmm. In short order, I had this downloaded onto my desktop. Which means that in slightly longer order, it was loaded onto my iPad. And uploaded into my iTunes. Which means that, because I have a laptop, I can choose between streaming it on my laptop from my desktop, or watching it on my iPad. Heck, I could put the Blu-Ray on my TV, stream it on my laptop, and watch it on my iPad. All at once!
I have not done so, nor do I intend to, but you see my point.
Elvish Singing Is Not to Be Missed
But Andy, I hear you say, what if we want to relax, maybe unwind with some music before bed? Why for that, I offer two fine choices.
Contrary to all logic, the music from the Lord of the Rings Musical is good. No, that’s not quite true. The music from the Lord of the Rings musical is downright rapturous. I resisted buying it, because I didn’t see how that would be possible. To my chagrin, just at the moment that I discovered that I loved it and began to eye airfare to London (not just to see it, of course…but surely we could go to England…and then see it while we were there), I found out the musical was closing in 2 days. If it had been just a few weeks earlier, I would’ve made it happen. Yes, I would.
A ways back through a Live365 station called The Shire Radio, I discovered the existence of The Tolkien Ensemble. In pretty short order, I got my grubby paws on a copy of their ultimate collection: The Complete Songs & Poems. This is, literally, every piece of music and poetry in The Lord of the Rings, set to music and performed by this group, which includes Christopher Lee in their number! Even if some of the singers double and triple up in their roles (the same singer voices Frodo, Sam, and Tom Bombadil, for example), this is still quite good. The songs are not simple pieces, but many of them are quite complex and generally quite good.
Just to add one piece which I no longer have in a format I can enjoy, I used to own a cassette of an album called Poems & Songs of Middle-Earth. Side 1 was readings by Tolkien of poetry both from the Lord of the Rings and the Adventures of Tom Bombadil. Side 2 was music set to some of Tolkien’s works by the composer Donald Swann. While I found the music in this of no great quality, listening to Tolkien’s pronunciations and rolling language in his own voice is kind of a Geek-out treat.
Oh, hmm. There’s a vinyl copy on eBay. Excuse me…
It’s in the Book!
The purest way to enjoy Tolkien, of course, is to read the books. And I’m not just talking about The Lord of the Rings.
A couple of years back, inspired by all the fun I was having in LOTRO (no I’m not using LOTRO in this article…too easy…), I decided to reread The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings, back to back. When I started, I thought I was going to make myself a little crazy. In reality, however, it was completely inspiring. You come to realize that there are plots that begin in The Silmarillion and only come to fruition in The Lord of the Rings.
My personal favorite example of this phenomenon is as follows: In The Silmarillion, we learn that the elf Feanor makes the Great Jewels – the Silmarils. These possessed the light of the two trees Laurelin and Telperion, which once made all the light in the Blessed Realms of the West. The great enemy Morgoth (Sauron’s old boss) lured Ungoliant, Mother of Spiders, to the two trees, and got her to drink their light, then ran off with the Silmarils, thus taking all the light of the Two Trees with him.
With me so far?
The Silmarillion concerns itself greatly with the war against Morgoth, a fair amount of which concerns the Silmarils and attempts to get them back. You might recall that Aragorn and Sam both mention that the story of Beren and Luthien involves a Great Jewel. Yup. That was a Silmaril. But there’s a name associated with the Silmarils that’s even more important to the War of the Ring.
“Eärendil was a mariner…” begins the poem Bilbo recites in Rivendell. And Aragorn mentions that Bilbo is displaying a fair amount of sac by telling a story of Eärendil in Elrond’s house. You might wonder why that would be until you look at who Eärendil was. He was Elrond’s father, the son of a human, Tuor, and an elf, Idril, daughter of Turgon, the King of Gondolin. As a side note, Gondolin, you may recall from The Hobbit, was where Sting was forged for the Goblin Wars, as well as Orcrist and Glamdring.
So okay, why was it a big deal to mention Elrond’s father in Elrond’s home? Well, long ago, when Morgoth the Enemy was making Middle-Earth even more miserable than it was under Sauron’s rule, Eärendil sailed west across the sea, hoping to gain the help of the Valar (the gods) against Morgoth. At first, he couldn’t find his way, but then his wife Elwing brought him the Silmaril that Beren and Luthien (her ancestors) had stolen from Morgoth. With its light, Eärendil was able to sail across the sea and get the Valar to help against Morgoth.
As a token of their love for Middle-Earth and as a sign of hope to those who dwelt there, the Valar hung the Silmaril on the prow of Eärendil’s ship and set him to sail it across the skies of Middle-Earth every night as the Evening Star.
This has a point, I swear. Stick with me just a little longer.
When Galadriel gives Frodo a parting gift in Lothlorien, she gives him a Phial of waters from her fountain. In these waters, she says, has been captured “the light of Eärendil’s star”. So here, she’s giving Frodo just a tiny fraction of the power of the Two Trees of Valinor. And what primary purpose do Frodo and Sam use the Phial for? They use it to discomfort and even to some degree to poison Shelob, the giant spider. And how does Tolkien describe Shelob’s ancestry? She is the “last child of Ungoliant to trouble the unhappy world.” Ungoliant? We covered that name before.
So Sam and Frodo use the last smidgeon of the light of the Two Trees, filtered through Eärendil’s star and the Phial of Galadriel, to defeat the descendent of the evil spider-goddess-thing that destroyed the Two Trees in the first place! Why you’d think the Professor had that all worked out, somehow! Well, that’s a lot easier to believe when you remember that he only wrote The Lord of the Rings when he couldn’t get any publisher interested in the Silmarillion, which was only published posthumously.
Whew! Long story there, but that’s the kind of stuff you come to realize when you take the time to read the books together. The Simarillion can be rough reading at times, but it can be a rewarding read, as well.
Okay, I’ve definitely geeked out hard enough for one article. Are you a tolkien geek, too? Do you feel a pang of injustice everytime you think of characters who didn’t make it into PJ’s movies, like Erkenbrand, Glorfindel, or Tom Bombadil? Did you raise a glass at 9 PM on January 3rd and say “The Professor”? Do you have a particularly geeky JRRT story, item, or tradition? I’ve cooked recipes for Lembas Bread. More than one. More than once, even! I even once held a “watch all three extended edition movies back to back, with themed meals in between” party, and I may do so again! Imagine all five movies (once the two Hobbit films are out in Extended Edition!) back to back. Oh my. That may be even too much geeking for me. In any case, I invite you to share your own Tolkien geekery here.