Tolkien Reading Day 2017

March 25 is Tolkien Reading Day. Organized by the Tolkien Society, the day was chosen to coincide with the defeat of Sauron. The day was established “to encourage fans to celebrate and promote the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien by reading favourite passages”. My posts covers my plans for today + 8 playlists to listen to while reading your favourite Tolkien tales.

Too much time has passed since  I read much by or about Tolkien. I recently completed Tolkien in Translation and that has renewed by hunger for Middle-earth. I read that book for a guest post I’m doing as part of Pages Unbound‘s two week long celebration of Tolkien Reading Day. They’ve been featuring a post a day about Tolkien (including many guest posts) since March 19, so be sure to check it out. My review of Tolkien in Translation will be posted there on 31 March.

I actually have some fun plans beyond reading Tolkien all day (see below for my book choices). Way back in October at Comic-con, I bought tickets to an event titled “All Who Wander” that will feature dramatic readings from the Middle-Earth canon and acapella renditions of songs from The Lord of the Rings. Sounds like a fun evening!

Today’s Reading

Tolkien Reading Day 2017 TBR

  • A Secret Vice by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins – I started this book way back in the summer. I only finished the introduction. Time to delve into the lecture proper.
  • The Botany of Middle-Earth by Dinah Hazell – A lovely hardcover that’s been sitting too long on my shelf.
  • The Hobbit facsimile first edition – I received this edition as a Christmas gift in 2016. This edition replicates both the original text (which Tolkien made some significant modifications to after publishing The Lord of the Rings) and the design of The Hobbit as first published in 1937.

Recommended Listening

One of my favourite websites for discovering thematic background music is 8tracks. 8tracks allows users to create and tag their own mixes. The website has an extensive tagging system so you can pinpoint just the kind of music you want to listen to. I would like to recommend 8 of my favourite Tolkien-themed playlists. Playlist themes include places, races, characters, and particular chapters. Below I’ve listed the title of the playlist and the description given by the playlist creator. Links to listen to the playlists on 8tracks. I’ve embedded my most listened playlist 🙂

Rohan from mindlessdesigns on 8tracks Radio.

  1. In Places Deep – Songs for Erebor (“An instrumental mix for the high, proud halls under the Lonely Mountain, for the clang of hammer-falls and the roar of the forge, gold-veined caverns and lost places deep in the earth.”)
  2. Alix’s Hobbit-Style Birthday Playlist (“Guess what! It’s my birthday today, and in true hobbit fashion I’m giving you all a gift! Here’s a playlist of some of my personal favorite Tolkien-inspired music.”)
  3. Rohan (“A mix for the men of Rohan.”)
  4. Songs of Forgotten Kings (“songs for the Dunedain, the songs of forgotten kings”)
  5. A Elbereth Gilthoniel (“a mostly instrumental mix for varda elentári, queen of the valar and renowned star-kindler”)
  6. The River Run (“Joined by a mysterious Ranger the party races to Rivendell. ‘It is a fair tale, though it is sad, as are all tales of Middle- earth, and yet it may lift up your hearts.’ – Strider.”)
  7. Songs for Middle-Earth IV (“The fourth addition to a never ending collection of fanmixes dedicated to the beauty of Middle-earth. {featuring the soundtracks of BCC Merlin, War in the North & Kingdom of Heaven}”)
  8. Tolkien Readalong‘s playlists – Featuring playlists that follow readalongs of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. Additional playlists cover characters and appendices.

(All the Elvish playlists I saved seem to no longer be in existence :/ Guess I’ll have to find some new ones!) Do you have any plans for Tolkien Reading Day?

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Literary Pilgrimages: Hobbiton, Middle-Earth (Part 5)

Middle-Earth Literary Pilgrimage
Earlier this year, I spent three months travelling around New Zealand. My primary reason for doing so? Exploring locations in featured in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, of course! Come along as I revisit what will likely remain my most extensive ‘literary pilgrimage’.

Hobbiton

My final post in this literary pilgrimage series features Hobbiton, home to Bilbo and Frodo, protagonists of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Some might say I’ve saved the best for last. That was my intent when I planned out my trip. Of all the locations one can visit, Hobbiton is the only one preserved as seen in the movies (the set was dismantled after The Lord of the Rings and rebuilt permanently after The Hobbit). I booked the evening banquet tour. The tour is absolutely worth it. You explore Hobbiton by day and by night (as the tour runs from something like 4300PM-7:30PM), and enjoy an impressive hobbit feast in the Green Dragon. I have also read the evening tour only runs one tour at a time – you can see Hobbiton without the crowds of Big Folk, which I found essential to the experience.

Hobbiton is about a 15 minute drive from Matamata. As the bus approached the site, I felt like I was really leaving New Zealand for the Shire. The rolling green hills, trickling brooks, and bright sunbeams set the mood. I felt a bit odd as I walked the paths of Hobbiton. I kept wondering where all the hobbits had gone! It seemed to me that they’d been shuffled out by a real estate agent who wanted to show off their homes to likely buyers (those of us on the tour).  This was one of my most surreal experiences.

Hobbit hole in Hobbiton

View of Hobbiton from Bag End
Looking down over Hobbiton from Bag End. Can you spot the Green Dragon?
No admittance except on party business
An iconic notice…
Bag End, Hobbiton
Anybody home?
Bag End, Hobbiton
Bag End, home of Bilbo and Frodo
Sam's hole, Hobbiton
If I recall correctly, this is Sam’s hole (note the gardening supplies out front)
Hobbiton
By the time we wandered down to the Green Dragon, the sun had set and the lights of the village were coming on.
The Green Dragon, Hobbiton
Behind the counter at the Green Dragon
Green Dragon, Hobbiton
Enjoying my Sackville Cider. You can enjoy four brews exclusive to this inn.
Hobbit feast, Hobbiton
The meal was one of the most expansively and beautifully prepared I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying. I only wish I had been able to eat more!
Inside the Green Dragon, Hobbiton
Choosing a dessert was a difficult task! I had one of the baked apples. I enjoyed reading the notices that were posted up around the inn. The cat looked especially cozy, curled up by the fire.

Walking through Hobbiton after dark was an entirely different sensation. (I don’t have any great photos as I was relying on an iPhone). As we wandered through the village with lanterns in hand, I imagined the hobbits were now home, snug and cozy in their holes. This was an easy thing to imagine as lights came on outside the holes and in the windows. We visited the field were the party tent was set up. We sang the tribute to the Green Dragon that Merry and Pippin sing in The Return of the King. I had a wonderful evening. This tour was the perfect event to round off three months of exploring Middle-Earth.

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Literary Pilgrimage: Visiting Middle-Earth (Part 4)

Middle-Earth Literary Pilgrimage
Earlier this year, I spent three months travelling around New Zealand. My primary reason for doing so? Exploring locations in featured in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, of course! Come along as I revisit what will likely remain my most extensive ‘literary pilgrimage’.

Wellington and Surrounding Area

Wellington, New Zealand’s capital and hub of the film industry, is home to a number of locations used in filming. Wellington differs from Queenstown in that it doesn’t have the most photogenic locations (many filming sites were dramatically altered for filming). The majority of these locations benefited from direct comparison to screen shots. Wellington’s big draw is that it is home to Weta Workshop – the company that created the special effects, digital effects, and props in the film. I did the ‘Ultimate Movie Tour Plus+’ from Adventure Safari. If you have a car, you probably wouldn’t need to do a tour. I wanted to get out to Rivendell and Weta, so the tour worked for my needs.

Lower Hutt Quarry
Quarry where Helm’s Deep and Minas Tirith were built. Not a lot to see here! The set building and filming (especially the battle at Helm’s Deep) that was done in this location was very impressive – some of my favourite stuff from the film.
Harcourt Park
This public park was transformed into the Gardens of Isengard. The rough patches are remnants of the path on which Gandalf rode into Isengard.
Harcourt Park 2
Gandalf and Saruman walked through this area. The bench was covered up with a digital bush in post-production.

The following shots are from Mt. Victoria, in Wellington. The forests of this hill were the locations of the Old Forest, which the hobbits flee through while being pursued by Nazgul.

'Get off the road!' scene, filmed on Mt. Victoria
Where the hobbits fell off the slop and into the road. I have long dreamt about standing in the spot where Frodo shouted ‘Get off the road’…dreams do come true, haha.
Black Rider at the top of the path
Three guys from our group trekked up this path to recreate this shot. It was an amusing process, but it does look like the film!
Forest through which the hobbits dart while being chased by Black Riders
Rivendell gate
This gate was not used in filming. It was recently built so visitors to the Kaitoke Regional Park could get a better feel for Rivendell. I certainly appreciated it. Lovely area.
Map of Rivendell
Map of the locations built for the filming of Rivendell (structures are no longer there)
Post indicating height of LotR characters
This post indicates the heights of LotR characters (according to the books). I didn’t realize Gandalf was so short 😉

The closing piece of the tour is a trip to Weta Studios. The workshop tour was my favourite part of the day. I felt like I was in a museum, looking at all the objects that were used in filming! I had an emotional moment viewing Pippin’s Gondorian armour, haha. Unfortunately no photos allowed during the tour. I did get to take a photo of the armour (Theoden’s, worn by actor Bernard Hill) that I fangirled over in the shop, though. And of course a few shots of the trolls from The Hobbit outside. 🙂

Trolls outside Weta Cave

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Literary Pilgrimage: Visiting Middle-Earth (Part 3)

Middle-Earth Literary Pilgrimage
Earlier this year, I spent three months travelling around New Zealand. My primary reason for doing so? Exploring locations in featured in The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit, of course! Come along as I revisit what will likely remain my most extensive ‘literary pilgrimage’.

Queenstown

Queenstown serves as New Zealand’s hub of adventure activities. You can paraglide, jetboat, bungy jump, and visit a variety of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit filming locations! …That’s adventure enough for me. (I did have plans to go mountain biking but I scrapped that to save some cash.) Queenstown was a key hub of filming for both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, making it a must do for any literary pilgrimage like mine. To see all the locations in the area, you would need two or three days. I picked a half day tour hitting the sites that most interested. I took Pure Glenorchy‘s half-day tour.

Frodo and Sam see an Oliphaunt This is the ledge that Frodo and Sam peered over to spot the Oliphaunt in The Two Towers.Rangers cross the river

Although this little river doesn’t look too impressive, I was excited to see how similar it was to the film (where it appears for about two seconds), and to be standing to close to where Faramir stood…

Dead Marshes panorama

Kepler Mire served as the Dead Marshes in the distance shots. We had excellent timing with the weather I loved seeing the fog rising above the marsh. Dead Marshes Jenna in Lothlorien This bit of forest is where the Fellowship first entered Lothlorien and were caught by Haldir and company in The Fellowship of the Ring.

Fangorn mountains

This tour comprised of many small locations that you think wouldn’t be recognizable from the film, but they somehow are…these mountains are great example of that. They appear a few times in distant shots of Fangorn.Fake tree at Beorn's house

See the odd tree out? That’s a fake tree that was erected to stand by Beorn’s house in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I would have loved to get a bit closer to it!

Although I didn’t come away with as many great shots as I would have liked (I had some camera issues ;_;), that made me more grateful for the CD the tour company provided with numerous shots of the locations throughout the seasons. Which of these locations would you like to visit the most?

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Literary Pilgrimages: Visiting Middle-Earth (Part 2)

 Earlier this year, I spent three months travelling around New Zealand. My primary reason for doing so? Exploring locations starring as Middle-earth in Peter Jackson’s films, of course! Come along as I revisit what will likely remain my most extensive ‘literary’ pilgrimage’.

Twizel

Flag of Rohan
Flag of Rohan used in fliming o.o

My next destination after visiting Mt. Sunday was Twizel. Twizel, a town in the Canterbury region with a year-round population of about 400, played host to thousands more cast and crew for filming of the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. This is the greatest battle scene in the trilogy, taking place towards the end of The Return of the King.  I took the two hour tour offered by local tour operator OneRing Tourstour. The location can be accessed via tour only as it is on private property. The vast, grassy fields bordered by mountains were stunning. This was my first tour with other LotR fans, and it was fun to geek out with people from around the world. The tour was very informative. I learnt a few facts I hadn’t heard before. For example, Peter Jackson initially wanted to bring in trained cavalry,  considering Canada’s own RCMP. But that idea was squashed once they realized the horses would have stay in quarantine for something like three months. I recommend this tour for fans who like to learn about the behind-the-scenes and how a big battle is brought to life.

This little water made an appearance as a larger river in The Return of the King, as Gandalf and Pippin travel to Gondor. The camera angle makes the river look much larger than it is.

The vast field – no hints of modern civilization to be found! That’s one of the main reasons this location was chosen. The placement of the mountains was also a factor. I don’t have any photos, but there was one line of telephone polls towards the edge of the field that had to be digitally removed. The road in the photo to the left was built to facilitate filming. The farmer who owns the land requested the crew leave it after filming.

I took this photo atop the ridge from where the Rohirrim make their long-awaited appearance at the Fields. Theoden, their King, gives a rousing speech before leading the charge (clip below). I haven’t watched the films since I returned from my trip. I’m a little wary of being removed from them and thinking too often “I was there!!” But when I watched this clip, I got chills. For me, there’s a sense of history about it – it has the same feel as visiting a real place where a real battle occurred in another age.

I spent ten minutes taking landscape photos while the others had fun going through the costumes and swords. I’m not the sort to dress up, but when I saw one person had donned the full Witch-king costume I couldn’t resist getting caught up in the fun…Yes, that’s a replica of Eowyn’s sword! 🙂 If ever I could pull off a real cosplay, I think I would like to cosplay as Eowyn.