tree_and_leaf: Eowyn, tight image of dirty face, yelling.  Caption "I am no man" (Eowyn - no man am I)
As the last Tolkien fan in the world to have seen "The Hobbit 1", I wish to report my impressions, which are:

1. Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage are excellent as Bilbo and Thorin.

2. The dwarves are mostly good and not taken too far in the direction of comic relief, though I was worried in the Bag End scenes before Thorin appeared. Honourable mention to Ken Stott as a very likable Balin.

3. The depiction of Barry Humpries' Great Goblin as a distinctly different kind of orc to Azog was surprisingly effective in resolving/ bridging the differences between The Hobbit's goblins, who owe a heavy debt to George MacDonald, and the darker orcs of Lord of the Rings. I wasn't entirely convinced by the jowly prosthetics/ CGI, but that's a relatively minor point.

4. Jackson is getting as bad as George Lucas for self-indulgent lingering shots of Cool Stuff and completely implausible fight sequences.

5. I've no objection to backstory about the White Council appearing in the film, and it was particularly nice to see Christopher Lee reprising Sauruman, but Radagast and his bunny-driven sledge? Really? He's supposed to be Franciscan, not a complete loon... (and see above re: 'completely unbelievable fight/ chase sequences').

6. Excellent soundtrack, with good use of the Lord of the Rings leitmotivs, and a haunting new tune for the dwarves - and I did love the scene where they sing "Far Over Misty Mountains Cold" in Bag End.

I feel I enjoyed the evening and got my money's worth, but it's far too uneven to be called a good film, though there were aspects I did enjoy a lot.
tree_and_leaf: Burne-Jones angel playing trumpet, caption "Make a joyful noise." (joyful noise)
There's a lot of good music for Epiphany, which unfortunately often doesn't get heard as much (unless, like my first choice, it gets co-opted for carol services).

So: here's King's Cambridge doing Cornelius' "Three Kings." The soloist is more forward than he often is in performance/ recordings, but I don't think it's a bad thing, though it may be partly explained by the difficulties of recording in Kings, which has a rotten acoustic.*

I tried to find a decent recording of "Brightest and Best" - an unusual hymn, in that the first verse is addressed to a star, although one might chose to read the star as an image for John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, who is often linked with the star in patristic (and later) writings.** But this is surprisingly difficult, and not helped by the proliferation of tunes. The following recording, a bluegrass tune sung by the McLain Family Band, was not what I was looking for, but I think it's rather charming:

And, although the Russian Orthodox don't celebrate Epiphany for another thirteen days, I like this snippet of the Epiphany liturgy, the troparion (a stanza chanted at various points in the services throughout the day, if I have got that right - Orthodox liturgy is a bit of a closed book to me, as it's very different to the Western tradition):

You will notice that the troparion seems to be more appropriate to the Baptism of Christ, but this is because, as the name suggests, the fundamental point of the Epiphany is not the wise men or the gifts, but the simple idea of Christ revealed to the world, and thus revealing God to the world; so there's an obvious thematic link. This is also picked up in the very Anglican hymn, Songs of Thankfulness and Praise (horrible audio warning!), which goes from the visit of the kings, to the baptism of Christ, to his first miracle at the Wedding at Cana, to his healing ministry, and looks forward to his 'great Epiphany' at the end of time, when he will judge the world and be recognised by it. It's actually one of my favourite Epiphany hymns from the point of view of lyrics, although Salzburg is not an exciting tune, and on balance "Brightest and Best" still just wins...

(This is a poor quality recording, but there wasn't a lot of choice!)

* It's not as bad as St Paul's but few things are. I have never understood the psalms, or even the readings, there, and it's not down to the failures of the choir.

** There is, for instance, a plausible interpretation of the famous line from Crist:
Éala, Éarendel, engla beorhtast,
ofer middangeard monnum sended,

(Hail, Earendel, brightest of angels, sent to men over the earth) where, although Earendel seems to be the name for the morning star, it would refer to John as the herald of Christ, as is certainly the case in the Blickling Homilies.
tree_and_leaf: JRR Tolkien at desk, smoking pipe, caption Master of Middle Earth (tolkien)
Once again, something that you wouldn't think could work, yet does: a Discworld/ Silmarillion cross-over, in which Sam Vimes applies his brand of policing to the matter of the Silmarils.

Evidence, by Camwyn.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but it's really rather good.
tree_and_leaf: Harriet and Peter at a party: caption "Frivoling" (frivoling)
I'm awfully behind the curve on this, but you were supposed to list 15 OTPs amd draw conclusions from them. Or were you supposed to let your flist do so? IDK.

Anyway, my conclusions are (i) I have a great tendency just to follow canon (though the fact that a pairing is canonical doesn't mean I'll necessarily be interested in it)
(ii) I like my romantic heroes, by and large, to be intellectual, but also to know one end of a sword from each other (metaphorically speaking)
(iii) I may also have a thing about older men and younger women (though this is not reflected in my own romantic history, such as it is). Although to an extent this may just reflect that in older fiction the men are always older than the women.
(iv) there are friendships which I find fascinating but that I don't see as sexual, so I made a separate heading for them.

Ten ships, and five friendships )
tree_and_leaf: JRR Tolkien at desk, smoking pipe, caption Master of Middle Earth (tolkien)
A geeky one...

(for J R R Tolkien)

In the beginning were the words,
Aristocratic, cryptic, chromatic.
Vowels as direct as mid-day,
Consonants lanky as long-swords.

Mouths materialized to speak the words:
Leafshaped lips for the high language,
Tranquil tongues for the tree-creatures,
Slits and slobbers for the lower orders.

Deeds came next, words' children.
Legs by walking evolved a landscape.
Continents and chronologies occurred,
Complex and casual as an implication.

Arched over all, alarming nimbus,
Magic's disorderly thunder and lightning.

The sage sat in his suburban fastness,
Garrisoned against progress. He grieved
At what the Duke's men did to our words
(Whose war memorial is every signpost).

The sage sat. And middle-earth
Rose around him like a rumour.
Grave grammarians, Grimm and Werner,
Gave it laws, granted it charters.

The sage sat. But the ghosts walked
Of the Birmingham schoolboy, the Somme soldier,
Whose bones lay under the hobbit burrows,
Who endured darkness, and friends dying,

Whom words waylaid in a Snow Hill siding,
Coal truck pit names, grimy, gracious,
Blaen-Rhondda, Nantyglo, Senghenydd.
In these deeps middle-earth was mined.

These were the words in the beginning.

U A Fanthorpe.
tree_and_leaf: JRR Tolkien at desk, smoking pipe, caption Master of Middle Earth (tolkien)
Over at, Kate Nepveu is doing a re-read of LotR. It's interesting stuff - I've only just found it, and with the paper-thin excuse of feeling under the weather, I've been reading it this afternoon. I just reached the discussion of "Fog on the Barrow Downs" (which to my mind is one of the creepiest things in the book, especially the Barrow Wight's invocation of a Dark Lord who sounds more like Morgoth than Sauron, and its longing for the death of everything).

Nepveu finished her comments by asking Okay, I had a serious “these people are weird” moment when the hobbits run naked on the grass, and pretty much always have. Tell me I’m not the only one?

Actually, this has never struck me as peculiar, even if I'm not as keen on skinny-dipping as previous generations of Oxford academics were *g*, for reasons I gave below:

Rather late to the party, but one reason for the Unexpected Naked Hobbits is the fact that the enchantment of the barrow wight removed their clothes and replaced them with white clothes - symbolic shrouds, I suppose (or maybe it was the barrow wight who was the pervy hobbit fancier?). Quite apart from the rebirth symbolism, though that's important too, I can quite see why the hobbits couldn't stand to keep them on (they were probably mouldy and clammy to boot), even if it meant having to run around naked until the ponies returned with their baggage and fresh clothes... and given that it was sunny, it probably warmed them up faster.

But after consideration of other people's comments about symbolism, I'm wondering if there isn't something more going on. Specifically, I think it's (unconscious?) reference to specifically Christian patterns of death and resurrection (and possibly even to the Harrowing of Hell).

No, wait, let me explain! )
tree_and_leaf: David Tennant in Edwardian suit, Oxford MA gown and mortar board. (academic doctor)
You may or may not know that iTunes has launched a... thing they call iTunes University, where universities offer podcasts of lectures, etc, for free download. I was poking about, and discovered that as well as, e.g. Cambridge offering videos on history by Simon Schama and David Starkey, the Oxford section has two podcasts on Tolkien at Oxford, and Tolkien and languages. No idea what they're like, as I haven't listened yet, but it might be worth a look. You can also find such goodies as someone reading Beowulf aloud, or a recording of a first year tutorial from Mansfield on Old English grammar. Even as an Old Anglophile (?) I find it hard to understand why you would want the latter, but perhaps true grammarians will be thrilled by the prospect (and, I suppose, if you're considering Oxford, it could be interesting).

You should be able to find the Tolkien stuff by searching on Tolkien Oxford.

Of course, it's all basically advertising, but -

OOOH - free downloads of music from St Johns Cambridge! Including Byrd! Run, don't walk!
tree_and_leaf: JRR Tolkien at desk, smoking pipe, caption Master of Middle Earth (tolkien)
I'm in the middle of reading Why Go To Church?: the drama of the Eucharist, by Timothy Radcliffe, OP, which is extremely good (it is also Rowan Williams' Lent book this year). It is about the Eucharist, in the sense that it is about how the Eucharist is about everything else - the total gift God makes of himself, which calls us to let go of our wills to power and dominance and to draw lines of separation between holy and unholy, for God in his Incarnation and death transforms everything.

This wasn't, however, supposed to be Another Theological Post. Fr Radcliffe, you see, has a great enthusiasm for finding apt analogies in literature, and just a few pages after a comment on Gollum - following a reference to Eckhart - as an image of how the urge to cling to things and to love them so much we can't let go is deadly ("My precious!"), I came across this discussion of the mysterious passage in the Gospels where the disciples fail to recognise Christ on the Emmaus road.

"In the BBC documentary, The Passion, broadcast during Holy Week 2008, the disciples failed to recognise the risen Jesus because he was played by an actor whom they had not seen before. When their eyes are opened, the original actor takes over again. This makes Jesus sound rather like Beorn in The Lord of the Rings, who sometimes looks like a bear and sometimes like a human, a 'skin changer'. This is typical of the rather clumsy literalistic reading of the scriptures to which we modern people are inclined, failing to spot the subtlety and nuance of the evangelists, who were highly sophisticated writers. The point is not that Jesus looked different: they had never really seen who he was. It was more like Strider, who had always been Aragorn, the awaited king, only the eyes of the hobbits had been closed, so that they had only seen a rough, hard wanderer."

There is a footnote, which made me giggle helplessly: "The reason that Aragorn has a star is that Tolkien frequently served Mass at Blackfriars at the altar of St Dominic, who also has a star on his forehead. Aragorn is really a Dominican!"


Oct. 25th, 2008 03:39 pm
tree_and_leaf: JRR Tolkien at desk, smoking pipe, caption Master of Middle Earth (tolkien)
I can has first edition of "The Road Goes Ever On", the Donald Swann Tolkien song cycle, with dust jacket, and a very beautiful book.

Also, the AHRC have now agreed that they ought to start paying me again. Once college had notified them that I'm registered.... Why is nothing straightforward? Still, at least I can be sure I will get money at some point, even if not for another month :(

OK, I probably shouldn't be buying rare-ish books in these circumstances, but I tend to agree with Erasmus about spending priorities....
tree_and_leaf: Peter Davison in Five's cricket gear, leaning on wall with nose in book, looking a bit like Peter Wimsey. (Books)
I thought I wasn't going to manage to read a banned book for (even belatedly) Banned Books week, because all the Oxonmoot stuff has made me crave the "Lord of the Rings" (which I always read in autumn, anyway).

Well - do community church bonfires count?

Sorry I spoke, really. Though I do wonder why they think that LotR is satanic? Do they mean 'pagan,' or is it the crypto-Catholicism they object to?
tree_and_leaf: JRR Tolkien at desk, smoking pipe, caption Master of Middle Earth (tolkien)
Quote from LotR when you read this

"It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule."

Gandalf, at the Council of Elrond.

And, of course:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

A verse which I find almost embarassingly moving, but in an encouraging sort of way.

On a related subject: I have just realised that I am coming back from the conference a day earlier than I thought (boo). I know booking has closed for Oxenmoot, but does anyone know if it possible to go as a 'day vistor' to some or all of it?
tree_and_leaf: JRR Tolkien at desk, smoking pipe, caption Master of Middle Earth (tolkien)
... at least, I think it is going on the little bit I've seen (my internet connection is incredibly spotty just now, which is particularly annoying as I had business emails to write, too). So this is partly a bookmark for my own benefit.

Anyway, under the cut you will find a lovingly done parody of the Lord of the Rings as a 40s film, with Humphrey Bogart as Frodo and Peter Lorre as Gollumn....

Careless posts cost bandwidth! )
tree_and_leaf: JRR Tolkien at desk, smoking pipe, caption Master of Middle Earth (tolkien)
Must go and read this, perhaps tomorrow: Fabula 48 (2007), vol 3/4, Jeroen de Kloet, Giselinde Kuipers: Spirituality and Fan Culture around the Lord of the Rings Film Trilogy. it has nothing to do with work, but since when did that matter?
tree_and_leaf: JRR Tolkien at desk, smoking pipe, caption Master of Middle Earth (tolkien)
Stunning image of a dust cloud around Fomalhaut (Alpha Piscis Austrini). And yes, New Scientist are right, it does look like the Eye.

A friend of mine works on dust clouds. I wonder if I should be worried about what looks back at him?
tree_and_leaf: JRR Tolkien at desk, smoking pipe, caption Master of Middle Earth (tolkien)
Also, I managed to find a copy of the old (decent) translation of the Lord of the Rings into German. This makes me ridiculously happy.

And now I will stop spamming and go to bed.
tree_and_leaf: JRR Tolkien at desk, smoking pipe, caption Master of Middle Earth (tolkien)
I was listening to Radio 3's Drama on 3, which consisted of dramatised readings of Tennyson's sea poetry - largely because of the sheer brilliance of the acapella/ folk trio Coope, Boyes and Simpson, who were singing sea songs (much as I love Tennyson, I find Enoch Arden rather tiresome)

The play, if that's what you'd call it, concluded with Crossing the Bar, and though the later literary reference this usually throws up for me is 'Anne of the Island', it suddenly struck me that this voyage into death is really rather like the voyage from the Grey Havens into the West.

Well - I'm not claiming it as a direct influence; in any case both of them are playing with (a) a fairly natural metaphor and (b) a number of older images, such as the voyage of S Brendan, that Breton legend about the ferryman who took the dead in his boat to Little Britain, and, I bet, also the ship of souls in Dante's Purgatory (which is itself riffing on similar voyages, most noticably as a blessed counterpart to Charon's boat, though here a sea under God's good heaven replaces the underworld river).

And maybe I should stop typing/ free associating.... I have an interview for a scholarship tomorrow, and I've also just finished redrafting a thesis chapter - though I bet my supervisor will still think the conclusion is too 'preachy'. Sigh.
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)
Because I'm bored, I've borrowed the Character Love Meme from [ profile] dolorous_ett

Name a character from one of my fandoms, and I will write no more than 100 words on why I love them.

Fot the purposes of this exercise, my fandoms are defined as Harry Potter, Tolkien, Doctor Who (but please bear in mind that I have never seen an episode of Six and my knowledge of Old Who is somewhat patchy), Patrick O'Brian, Dorothy L Sayers, Terry Prachett, and Star Trek (TOS and DS9).
tree_and_leaf: JRR Tolkien at desk, smoking pipe, caption Master of Middle Earth (tolkien)
Happy Birthday, of course, to Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, without whom my life would be poorer.
tree_and_leaf: JRR Tolkien at desk, smoking pipe, caption Master of Middle Earth (tolkien)
I'm not doing the B2MEM thing, because I don't feel organised enough to commit to regular ficcish posts; but on the other hand it made me think about share-worthy things in Tolkien.

I've recently bought a copy of the Hammond and Scull line-by-line commentary on LOTR (well, it's not quite line by line, but it's that style) which is full of interesting nuggets of information. I was particularly taken by Tolkien's reasons, as explained in a letter, for choosing 'nazg' as the Black Speech word for 'ring'. It is vaguely based on Gaelic 'nasc', meaning 'ring', but also with a strong semantic link to verbs to do with binding. That's fun: not knowing the Gaelic cognate won't stop you understanding the text, but if you do, it adds an additional bit of linguistic pleasure. There are so few works of literature out there which cater to philology nerds.

On Aragorn, a star, and a coincidence )


tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)

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