The SFFaudio Podcast #319 – Jesse, Julie Davis, Seth, and Maissa continue their journey through The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien with a discussion of Book III “The Treason of Isengard” (aka the first half of The Two Towers).
Talked about on today’s show:
Lord of the Rings was published in three volumes instead of six volumes due to paper shortages; surprise, Jesse prefers shorter volumes; Ayn Rand’s thick books, and thin books like Anthem; pocket editions of The Hobbit; small books make us feel like giant Alice in Wonder characters; The Two Towers is the shortest volume, though Return of the King is bulked up by appendices; as a first-time reader, Maissa appreciated the quick pacing; Anthony Boucher’s review claims the volume makes “inordinate demands” on readers; overwhelming back history; the difference of reading review and reading for pleasure; reading at Shadowfax speed!; “hope is in speed”; the poetry of Tolkien’s prose; Anglo-Saxon influence on alliteration in Rohan speech; the beauty of Tolkien’s descriptions; Gimli’s descriptions of the caves; the illegitimate heirs of Tolkien can’t compete with Tolkien’s command of language; the Orcs as comic relief; three factions of Orcs set against the three races of runners; Legolas and Gimli working through their differences; evil by definition does not make alliances; Saruman’s cloak of many colors as a symbol of evil; the Orcs’ lack of coöperation; who is the wandering old man in the hat?; the contrast between the Orc draught and Ent draught, similar to Gandalf’s flask of Miruvor in Book II; the persistent symbolism of waters and drinking in this volume; similarities between Rohan and Anglo Saxon culture; linguistic parallels between the speech of the Rohirrim and Old English; “sister-daughter” and different familial relations in Rohan; the emerging importance of Éowyn; the underpopulation of Middle Earth; parallels between the Third Age of Middle Earth and Europe after the “fall” of Rome; Gondor = Rome to some Tolkien scholars; Dan Carlin’s Blueprint for Armageddon on World War I; the influence of World War I on Tolkien’s writing; flood and trench imagery of Orthanc recalls the devastation of World War I; Middle Earth (and the modern world) is in a time of transition; conversation with Éomer about the persistence of legends; “not we, but those who come after, will make the legends of our time”; people tend not to recognize they’re in a time of transition; Jesse deftly defines “Flotsam and Jetsam” for us and ties them into the book’s backward-looking and forward-looking symbolism; Tolkien’s love of etymology; action like the Ents’ storming of Isengard happens off-stage; Agatha Christie style foreshadowing with Longbottom Leaf; we don’t really care about Helm’s Deep; “Aragorn joined Éomer in the van”; horrible tree puns; Old Forest as the Fangorn of the West; we’re pretty sure the Entwives are hanging out there; the Elves are less interesting than Ents because the Elves are too perfect; the Elves talked the Ents into wakefulness; Shadowfax’s race of horses can understand the speech of men; the pre-speech age of human beings and Koko the gorilla; the Rangers are the detectives of Middle Earth; Voltaire’s Zadie and Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin from The Murders in the Rue Morgue; debate about existence of evidence for the Entwines–stay tuned to the next volume!; finding the Entwives = Mission Impossible (cue theme); the growth (in many ways) of Merry and Pippin; Gandalf’s foresight in allowing them to join the Fellowship; “they are the pebbles that began the avalanche of the Ents’ rising”; the three runners sped 220 kilometers in four days; it proved fortuitous that Pippin found the Palantir; the Palantir is FaceTime with Sauron; Merry and Pippin were key to Boromir’s redemption; return of the black swans–and the eagle!; Ariel in The Tempest by Shakespeare does all the work for Prospero, just like the eagles; Gandalf actually performs magic in “The Voice of Saruman” chapter; the voice in Dune; Gandalf takes over the council of wizards; the blue wizards aren’t present because they’re too “swear-y”; the recurring importance of choice; Tolkien is always on the side of free will; Aragorn’s decision not to follow Frodo; Palantir are the “seven stones” of Gondor’s flag; the Palantir is neither good nor evil; Palantir symbolizes communication of superpowers between the world wars, and the iconic red phone; The Victorian Internet by Tom Standee: the telegraph is the best thing since sliced bread; the lazy visual shortcuts that the movie takes with the Palantir and with Saruman’s influence on Théoden; The Man Who Never Was; meanwhile, Sam and Frodo are slogging through; the inevitable breaking of the Fellowship; the four elements in Gandalf’s death and resurrection; more Lovecraftian weirdness in the bowels of Middle Earth; Gandalf has changed; Norse worm gnawing at the roots of the World Tree; Treebeard as shepherd of the trees; “boom, boom, dahrar!; Net names tell the whole story of things; Freebeard’s bed isn’t for sleeping; Shakespeare’s disappointment at Shakespeare’s sleight-of-hand with the trees of Birnam Wood not actually coming to life in Macbeth; “fear not, till Birnam wood do come to Dunsinane” almost perfectly echoed in The Two Towers; nobody does Elves better than Tolkien; the joy Tolkien must have had writing about trees.
“Aragorn and Legolas went now with Eomer in the van.”
By Seth Wilson
The SFFaudio Podcast #273 – Jesse, Seth, Mr Jim Moon, and Cory Olsen (The Tolkien Professor) talk about J.R.R. Tolkien’s character Tom Bombadil – as he appears in The Lord Of The Rings and The Adventures Of Tom Bombadil.
Talked about on today’s show:
Tom Bombadil as a character spans Tolkien’s literary career; “The Adventures of Tom Bombadil” written early but revised later, while “Bombadil Goes a-Boating” post-dates The Lord of the Rings; comparing the different stages of Tom Bombadil; not the same Tom from “The Stone Troll” poem; Pauline Baynes as illustrator of Tolkien’s and C.S. Lewis’s works; Tolkien changing up song order in The Lord of the Rings; Tolkien’s recording of the troll song (see video below); “Princess Mee”; Tom’s imperviousness to rain is his only outwardly magical quality; “Tom Bombadil doesn’t fit”; Tom’s exclusion from the films was a good thing; Tom’s prose resembles his poetry; no one knows what to make of Tom Bombadil; is Goldberry dying?; The Little Mermaid; the Hades and Persephone myth; more on Tom’s contradictions; Goldberry tied to the land; Tom and Goldberry are childless; Babylon 5; Tom Bombadil’s place (or lack thereof) in Tolkien’s cosmology; the cats of Queen Berúthiel; “a story is better with some mysteries”; Tolkien’s poetry is wildly experimental in terms of meter; Tom’s trochaic meter; Väinamöinen in Finnish Kalevala myth cycle as influence for Tom Bombadil; on Tom Bombadil’s career; similarities between Tom Bombadil and Bjorn as opportunities for rest in the respective plots; derivative fantasy neglects these important rest stops; “yellow cream and honeycomb, white bread and butter” was served at Tom and Doldberry’s wedding feast; the importance of landscape and description in Tolkien’s work; dreams; Valinor is not Westerns, thankfully; no barrows in the films, sorry Jesse; Mr. Jim Moon’s podcast on wights; Old/Middle English’s many words for “man”; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; oral transmission of stories; Lord of the Rings would not have been publishable in today’s climate; Frodo’s relationship to the ring; Tom Bombadil and gravitas do not go together; Tom Bombadil’s D&D alignment is “flowers”, followed by “true neutral” as a close second; on the necessity of choosing sides; why don’t the hobbits call on Tom later?; Corey suggests The Tolkien Reader for further reading.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Recorded in 1967 and 1968, at Harvard, these Jorge Luis Borges lectures on poetry are a wondrous treasure.
A part of the long running “Charles Eliot Norton Lectures” the collection is entitled This Craft Of Verse.
The Riddle Of Poetry |MP3|
Metaphor (part 1) |MP3|
Metaphor (part 2) |MP3|
The Telling Of The Tale |MP3|
Word-Music, And Translation |MP3|
Thought And Poetry (part 1) |MP3|
Thought And Poetry (part 2) |MP3|
A Poet’s Creed |MP3|
And here’s a podcast feed:
[via Open Culture]
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #270 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The SFFaudio Podcast #270 – The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge; performed by Sir Richard Burton with John Neville and Robert Hardy. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the poem (28 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Seth, and Mr Jim Moon!
The audio for today’s episode comes to us courtesy of Resonance FM.
Talked about on today’s show:
The ballad form and rhyme scheme; transposing poem to Gilligan’s Island theme; poem’s opaque writing style; Romanticism’s links to modern science fiction and fantasy; Coleridge’s primary imagination; Tolkien’s sub-creation; Virgil Finlay’s art; Gustave Doré’s art; the poem’s influence on Poe and Lovecraft; Mariner as a bridge between old folklore ballads and new gothic literature; poem influenced buy medieval sea and travel tales; nature as a fantasy playground of experience; William Wordsworth’s influence on the poem; Stephen Gill’s biography of Wordsworth; Shakespeare in Love and the creative process; the special effects of Coleridge’s rhyme; “what the hell are those sea snakes?”; eels; the Sargasso Sea; the concept of Purgatory; a Salvation story injected with Pagan themes; Poe’s “imp of the perverse” as in his Black Cat; the frame narrative as morality tale; ghost ship à la Pirates of the Caribbean; the Flying Dutchman; Captain Kirk; the geography of the mariner’s voyage; search for the Northwest Passage; Aurora Australis; St. Elmo’s Fire; The Tempest; Charles Dickens’s “genius of the winter weather”; H.P. Lovecraft’s antarctic literature; parallel to Tolkien’s Leaf by Niggle; William Wordsworth’s We Are Seven; the natural and supernatural poems in Lyrical Ballads; Coleridge’s opium habit; Romantic poets as rock stars; intensity of Coleridge’s writing; comparing Wordsworth and Coleridge to Lennon and McCartney; the hermit as Tom Bombadil?, a wise man in retreat; hermit as crazy homeless dude; readers’ response to the poem; Blakeian progression from innocence to experience; Longinus; Kubla Khan; the H.G. Wellspring.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about in this episode:
1976, “hey it’s Zelazny”, Tibor and whatnot, “The Great C.“, waking from a gnostic dream of oblivion, “the book is opaque to say the least”, “on the pilg”, recommended for super Dick-fans who like religion, New Wave (basically shitty), Christianity, Ted White, the Sector General novels, mythology and religion, 80-85% Dick, post-apocalyptic story, the local A.I., the sacrifice of the Athenians to the Minotaur, like a Jeopardy game, heliocentricity vs. geocentricity, “Benford, Bear, and Brin’s new Foundation trilogy”, Hari Seldon in a chimpanzee body, The Best Of Gregory Benford, it’s a paycheck, “If you wanna read this piece of shit that’s fine … I’m getting paid.”, cynicism, looking for the truth behind things, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, Tibor’s conversations, there’s no fixed ground, Dr. Bloodmoney, Or How We Got Along After The Bomb, the fallout from nuclear fallout, Utah, Denver, “where are they getting this coffee?”, the socio-economic underpinnings of this book are fantasy, The Man In The High Castle, is he really worried about his bottle?, Autofac, the consequences of automated production, an economic weapon a weapon of war, Gresham’s law, The Crawlers, incs = incompletes, the thalidomide baby phenomenon, Arthur C. Clarke, Of Withered Apples (and our podcast about it), the apple tree scene doesn’t pay-off, the dog, episodic feel, the parallel pilgrimage of Peter Sands, the guy with the face problem, devil from the sky, Lufteufel (from the German words “Luft,” meaning “air,” and “Teufel,” meaning “Devil”), the class of people who engage with believers but don’t believe themselves, if you go into churches…, if there is a point to this story, representation, no photos of Jesus, does it matter if we worship a false image?, drawing a symbol, “the novel is extremely gnostic”, Zelazny’s Amber series, Islam goes the opposite way, depictions of Muhammad, believers tend not to worry about such details, the Klingons, the gnostic gloss, “it works as what it is”, the miracle of the arms and legs, a vision of the Deus Irae, what’s going on with the cow?, she’s a holy cow, the authors say?, “the cow slept and dreamed – Tibor ruminated.”, mechanical arms only (no legs), the crucifixion in reverse, the endings, Lufteufel and his daughter, dissolution, he does partake in divinity, Dr. Abernathy, Luke Daniels, the ozone in the air, an Arthurian motif, the healing of the wound, The Last Defender Of Camelot, dedicated Stanley G. Weinbaum and The Martian Odyssey, connecting the books, The Martian Odyssey is important and interesting but not great, “a classic of the field”, the first Science Fiction to come out of the 1920s, mostly junk, aliens that are just alien, where it fits in the history of Science Fiction, PKD’s favourite author was A.E. van Vogt, changing things up every thousand words, a formative influence on both Dick and Zelazny?, Eric S. Rabkin, maybe they had coffee together, A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr., dung beetles, the lizards (Lizzies), the talking bird, “the little black boys”, I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison, transformed by Am, another name for God or Popeye, evil turns into good, it’s all for the best, the philosophy behind Voltaire’s Candide, “it was good that we had a nuclear war”, the story of Noah, the ultimate Spring cleaning, religious people don’t tend to get stuck at that point, “maybe I’m wrong”, somebody is going to enjoy that sermon by Dr. Abernathy, the passing of good out of evil, internal arguments, “good” is not as strong as “evil”, a very clever sophistic argument that kind of works, a lot of German, allusions to other literature, and “the stars threw down their spears”, William Blake’s Tyger Tyger, a gnostic poem, the currency of half-forgotten poems, funerals and weddings call for the imagery and vocabulary of poetry, cultural tools for sealing social relationships, The Stars My Destination, what is gnosticism?, going out into a cave…, a vision quest, revelations, Jesus’ marriage, canonized gnosticism, religion as Jesus fan fiction, fan service, Galactic Pot Healer, a crisis of faith, a god needs help, a lack of editing, the meditation/drug thing, pastors can be grumpy without coffee and cigarettes, Abernathy is an asshole.
Posted by Jesse Willis
In Supernatural Horror In Literature, H.P. Lovecraft’s monograph on weird fiction, he lists seven short stories by Guy de Maupassant, and one poem. It took a bit of research but I tracked down that one poem and found a public domain English translation of it. I then passed on to Mr Jim Moon, of the wonderful Hypnobobs podcast. He has given it voice:
|MP3| – 2 Minutes 11 Seconds [POEM]
Posted by Jesse Willis