Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Strange and Fishy

I haven't seen this before; evidently with the thaw yesterday a lot of the fish in the pond swam to the top of the ice and then couldn't get back under before they froze. There were several of these fishy lineups. Very strange.

Monday, December 22, 2008

After the Lord of the Rings

This post is dedicated to those that have read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and perhaps the Hobbit, and wish to dig a little deeper into Middle-Earth. Tolkien's fiction is unique in it's depth and lends itself well to further reading, but where do you start?

Tolkien's son Christopher, a professor of English Literature in his own right, has released many books relating to, editing and sometimes even finishing his father's works. The obvious first choices are The Silmarilion and The Children of Hurin. The are both indispensable, in my opinion; in particular, the Silmarillion has much of interest to LotR fans, including the origins of Sauron, an explanation of what a Balrog is, where dragons came from, and so much more, including a retelling of the creation and early history of the world, from the point of view of Tolkien's elves! It ends with the history of the events leading up to the War of the Ring itself. However, at best, it is a much more difficult read than LotR or the Hobbit, since Tolkien never meant it to be a linear story, and much of it is written in an archaic style of English.

My real suggestions are a little more off the beaten track:

  1. Unfinished Tales It contains several stories and other works relating to Middle-Earth, from what Tolkien refers to as the First, Second and Third ages. This is by far my favorite of Christopher Tolkien's works on his father. For an LotR fan it has many special treasures, including:

    • unpublished essays on the wizards (such as Gandalf and Saruman) and the Palantiri (the far-seeing crystal balls)
    • a compilation of several unfinished essays on the origins and history of Galadriel and Celeborn of Lothlorien
    • a "historical" essay about the Ringwraithes' hunt for the ring in the Shire and elsewhere
    • an unpublished story of the history of the Hobbit, from Gandalf's point of view!
    • much more

  2. Professor Tom Shippey's non-fiction book The Road to Middle Earth. Professor Shippey more or less followed in Tolkien's footsteps in academia, and has much interesting information about the inspirations for Tolkien's work in ancient English history and literature. I find this sort of thing terribly interesting. There must have been a mythology available to the Germanic inhabitants of post-Roman England, equivalent to that of the old Norse, but we only have tantalizing hints about these, evidently due to the lack of writing by the pre-literate English and also because of active suppression, first by the church and later by the Normans after the invasion of 1066. Professor Shippey shows us many of these hints and how Tolkien developed them into a new "English" mythology. Wonderful stuff.

I'd also like to mention a work with a hidden treasure, The War of the Ring, Part 3. A slim book in the series of Christopher Tolkien's books about his father's writings, it has one truly outstanding piece, Tolkien's original Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings, a sweet story from the life of Sam Gamgee in the Shire AFTER Frodo and Bilbo sail into the west.

Monday, December 08, 2008


Gen. Eric Shinsecki as Secretary of Veteran's Affairs; take that, Bushies!