Life, Death, and the Immortal Four

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Today is Tolkien Reading Day. As always, there is a theme. This year’s theme is life, death, and immortality.

Morbid, huh … or is it?

Many of you may be thinking this is a far cry from last year’s theme of friendship, but I think it goes hand in hand and strikes a very similar chord–though maybe a more solemn tone.

We know that Tolkien’s relationships influenced his writing, but do we realize how much their deaths did as well? Read any of his books and you’ll find themes of immortality/mortality, death/life, and loss. The Lord of the Rings quickly comes to mind, but themes of loss and death can be found in even his lighter works, such as the Hobbit.


 

The Immortal Four

Tolkien was greatly inspired by the lives and deaths of his friends and members of his writing group, The Tea Club Barrovian Society (TCBS).

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The members were Tolkien, Robert Gilson, Christopher Wiseman, and Geoffrey Smith. Like Tolkien, they were all academic, philosophical, poetic, and artistic young men, and they became very close friends.

Several of the members died during the First World War in battles that are said to have inspired the wars of Middle Earth, particularly the Battle of Somme, which was a gruesome battle that took thousands of lives and ruined the landscape. This was supposedly and very possibly the inspiration for Mordor.

The first to die was Rob Gilson. In a very heartfelt letter sent to Tolkien by Smith you get a good sense of the strong bond and deep connection that the members had for one another.

My dear John Ronald,

I saw in the paper this morning that Rob has been killed. I am safe but what does that matter? Do please stick to me, you and Christopher. I am very tired and most frightfully depressed at this worst news. Now one realizes in despair what the T.C.B.S. really was.

O my dear John Ronald what ever are we going to do?

Yours ever.

G. B. S.

Not long after, Smith died as well, leaving only Wiseman and Tolkien. In this letter to Tolkien, Wiseman grieves the loss of their members while declaring that death cannot end their ideas and goals.

…there will still be left a member of the great T.C.B.S. to voice what I dreamed and what we all agreed upon. For the death of one of its members cannot, I am determined, dissolve the T.C.B.S. Death can make us loathsome and helpless as individuals, but it cannot put an end to the immortal four!

The immortal four is the perfect epitaph, because though they died, they lived on in Tolkien’s memory and in his writing. Their ideas, discussions, and Smith’s words, “May you say things I have tried to say long after I am not there to say them.” inspired Tolkien to write The Silmarillion and other stories of Middle Earth. We wouldn’t have The Hobbit or the Lord of the Rings if not for these men.

So essentially what I’m saying is the death of his friends gave Tolkien a kick in the butt to start writing. He certainly felt the pressures of being one of if not the soul survivor of the group. Tolkien’s burden of carrying their stories, their memories, and their ideas is clearly comparable to Frodo’s burden of carrying the one ring. I have to wonder if Merry, Pippin, Frodo, and Sam weren’t inspired by the immortal four. There were four hobbits and four members of the T.C.B.S. Coincidence?

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Tolkien’s Immortality

I don’t think we’ll ever live in a world where people aren’t familiar with Tolkien and his books. While no one can live forever, like Tolkien’s elves, he certainly has achieved immortality in its most obtainable sense.

Anyone will tell you, Tolkien lives on because of his books. Another way he lives on is through his friends, family, and children.

Christopher Tolkien (3rd and youngest son) is said to be the most like his father: a soldier, scholar, writer. Of all of his four children, Chris was probably the favorite. In one of Tolkien’s letters, he refers to Chris as a “special gift” to him, “in a time of sorrow and mental suffering.”

Just like with the Immortal Four, you can see where his relationship with Christopher inspired his works.

Chris completed his father’s writing just as Frodo finished Bilbo’s writing in the Lord of the Rings.

Without Christopher’s efforts, the Silmarillion would never have been finished. This act in itself speaks of immortality. If someone else picks up the story where you left off, then does the story end?

Which reminds me of something Bilbo says, “Don’t adventures ever have an end? I suppose not. Someone else always has to carry on the story.”

Indeed, Tolkien is immortal, even in death, because of the love his son has for him. Chris loves him so much infact that he is very protective of his father’s works. He wasn’t particularly fond of Jackson’s films, so it’s very unlikely that we’ll see a Jackson adaptation of the Silmarillion. sigh …

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Speaking of Peter Jackson’s films. Whether or not Chris thinks they measure up to the integrity of his father’s work, they are helping to preserve Tolkien’s memory by rekindling an interest in his writings and creating new fans of his works.

Even when Chris Tolkien dies, Tolkien will live on because of his fans. His work continues to inspire readers even to this day. With holidays celebrating Tolkien (such as Tolkien Reading Day) it’s practically impossible for Tolkien to be forgotten.


 

Life, Immortality, and Death in Tolkien’s Works

This would be a never ending blog post if I listed all of the stories that have to do with life, death, and immortality. However, if you’re looking for a passage to read to observe Tolkien Reading Day, you could read Boromir’s death, The end of the Return of the King where Frodo sails west, The Appendix: Story of Aragorn/Arwen, Thorin Oakenshield’s death, the story of Beleg and Turin, The Story of Glorfindel, or the story of how Aule created the dwarves.

I chose a story that combines all three: life, death, and immortality. This Tolkien Reading Day, I’ll be reading chapter 24 of the Sil where Elrond and his brother Elros are given the choice which kindred (man or elf) they will join. Elrond chooses the side of the Firstborn and remains immortal while his brother chooses to be a king of humans, thus forsaking his immortality–though he does live for 500 years. I can’t think of a better chapter to read than one where characters literally have to choose between death and immortality.


 

The Story Must Continue

Tolkien’s life was full of loss: his mother died at an early age, his wife died before him, he lost many friends to war. This is why he is so able to successfully articulate the feelings of loss in his writings: The death of Beleg, of Boromir, of Frodo.

Despite that, he seemed to have an optimistic attitude about death with descriptions of white shores and a land of ever green. He seemed to view death as a beginning, not an end.

While I don’t share his sentiment, I find his attitude regarding death to be very hopeful and optimistic. I hope that’s the feeling you’ll come away with this Tolkien Reading Day.

Please share and comment below. Let me know what you’ll be reading today. Will you be reading a passage with the theme of life, death, or immortality?

 

 

 

 

Meet the King of Sass and Class

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I love meeting other Tolkien fans, but that can be a challenge in my hometown (We do, however, have a surplus of Harry Potter fans). Thank goodness for the Webosphere.

Since I started cosplaying, I’ve met so many awesome people (and other Hobbit fans). One of which, I had the privilege of interviewing recently.

I discovered the King of Sass and Class, Joshua Dart (better known as Thranduart) while browsing Thranduil cosplays on Google while I was developing my own Thranduil costume. I saw a couple of pics of him at a Starbucks and I thought to myself, here is a fan I want to get to know.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Thranduart, you must not be a fan of the Hobbit. He has a strong online presence and he’s a very enthusiastic Tolkien fan.

Without further delay, here is the interview with the Party King.

Thranduart: It’s Good to be the Elven King

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How long have you been a Tolkien fan?

Since I was about 15 years old–over half my life.

Is this your first cosplay? How long have you been cosplaying as Thranduil?

Yes, Thranduil is technically my first cosplay. I dressed as him for my first convention ever, Dragon Con 2013, and that’s where it all started.

What drew you to this particular character? Why do you think Thranduil has such a large following?

Honestly, the look. I was super impressed by the Weta team’s design for the character and I just felt like I could pull it off really well–I guess I was right!

Agreed : )

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How long did it take you to develop this costume?

About four months of on and off work in the beginning. The Starlight Robes (silver) took about two months on and off. The crown alone took thirteen to fifteen man hours.

Are you going to continue developing your costume? What additions or changes will you make now that you’ve seen BOFA?

Well I definitely want to make the armor version. And I have to re-make my crown because i sold the second version.

How far have you traveled as the Party King? How many cons or fan events have you attended in costume? Any plans for this year?

I’ve been to Dragon Con, Tampa Bay Comic Con, Mega Con (Orlando), and NYC for the Hobbit BOFA Fan Event. NYC is the farthest this costume has been so far. 

When you’re not the Party King, tell us a little about yourself when you’re not in character.

Hmm . . . hard to really put yourself into words. I’m a pretty easy going guy, but I love to read and watch movies. I ADORE going to movies. It’s probably my favorite thing.

Where did you see BOFA for the first time? Your reactions/responses to the movie.

At the NYC Fan Event. I cried like a baby afterwards. It just felt like an ending and I didn’t want it to be over. 

As a die-hard Tolkien fan, I think you’d be a reliable person to ask, what do you think (against or in defense) of some of the changes Peter Jackson has made in his adaptation.

I think you have to separate the two, honestly. Tolkien created this beautiful, fantastic world of characters and places. Peter took that to another level and made it his own. Whether or not you agree with that is a whole different story. I think the movies are spectacular in their own way, just like Tolkien’s writings. 

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Pace face!!!

You met the fabulous, handsome, and charming Lee Pace. Tell us about that. Is this the highlight of your year?

Oh, gosh, definitely. He was so kind to come out there and visit with us. He didn’t have to–what an amazing feeling when his assistant came out and told us he wanted to come out and say hi to us. Incredible. And the things he and his assistant said about my costume just made me feel like all the hard work had paid off. Best day.

I, as well as other fans, would like to see some Thranduil tutorials on YouTube. Any plans for this or expanding your presence on YouTube?

Gosh, it’s so hard to find the time, but I really want to make a makeup tutorial, as well as a bloopers reel for the music video.

Speaking of your presence on YouTube, the Lady Gaga video was perfect. Tell me about this project.

It was a labor of love, to be certain! SO much planning and hard work went into it, but I had help from amazing people. Without them, it never would have been as amazing as it was. As far as future videos, I would love to do more! We shall see!

(If you haven’t seen this, check it out now. I’m sure this was just as much fun to make as it is to watch)

You certainly feel the love as the Party King. I think some people obsess about you as much as they do over Lee Pace. Ever run into haters? How do you deal with them?

I think everyone has people that don’t care for them, no matter who they are or how “famous” they are considered. Sometimes you know that they exist, sometimes you don’t. If you are unfortunate enough to be made aware of their presence, you just have to remember that at the end of the day, the only opinion that matters is your own. I truly try to live by one of my favorite quotes, “What other people think of me is none of my business” -RuPaul

As first time cosplayers, after the convention ended, the makeup and wigs were removed (with much effort and spirit gum remover), my sister and I were at a bit of a loss. Do you ever feel this way after a convention or fan event?

Not really, honestly. I’m usually in costume for long periods, so I’m ready for it to be off. And by that point, I’ve had my fill.

Speaking of feeling at a loss, we’ve probably seen our last Peter Jackson adaptation of Tolkien’s works. How do you feel now that we’ve come to the end of this journey? Do you think Tolkien and Peter Jackson’s works will live on or do you think they will be buried under future trends?

I think the movies will live forever in their own way because they are so special and mean so much to so many people. I know they will for me. Hello Extended Editions!!!

Long live Tolkien and Peter Jackson’s creations, and long live the Party King!

thgIf you’d like to connect with Thranduart, check out these links:

Facebook

Twitter

Redbubble (where you can purchase Party King memorabilia)

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A Long Expected Party: Celebrating Hobbit Style!

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We partied like it was Mereth Nuin Giliath!

Last night I had a long-expected party, a Hobbit party. My sister and I just saw The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. I have so many thoughts and feelings after seeing the film, and I promise, this post contains no spoilers. Just hurry up and see it already. I will say this: If you’re hoping for a true adaptation of the book, you will be disappointed; however, if you like epic fantasy, grand-scale adventure, bloated, over-the-top battle scenes, and wizards busting ninja moves, you’ll love it.

I knew after seeing the third and final chapter, we’d be left with a little bit of a Hobbit hangover, kind of like the one we had after seeing The Return of the King, so I thought a party would be a great way to get closure and end the night.

My party hat is better

My party hat is better

I wish you all could have been there, but since you couldn’t be, I’d like to share some photos and moments from my party.

Hobbit Inspired Food

Hobbits are all about food. They eat 12 meals a day after all. Our Hobbit inspired menu included cheese, a meat log, ale, and pizza. I’m pretty sure if pizza existed in Middle Earth, hobbits and dwarves would have loved it. Elves . . . not so much.

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What’s yummier than cake, Lee Pace’s face on a cake of course. Doesn’t he look delicious. Usually I go straight for a corner edge piece instead of a center piece, but who wouldn’t want to eat the Elven King? He’s so om nom nommy.

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Frosted and Fabulous

This cake was too pretty to eat, but too delicious not to. I still have plenty of leftovers. I really wish I could share it with you.

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Eating Lee Pace’s face!

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Decorations

The decorations were pretty simple. Aside from ordering balloons, I printed off some signs and posted them everywhere. I did, however, get a little crafty. With just some ordinary paper plates and a Sharpie paint marker, I made Hobbit door plates.

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Bilbo’s door

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Smaug’s edible treasure

Check out these Party Kings

Check out these Party Kings

Games

Hobbits love games, and it wouldn’t be a party without them. We danced all night, played, “what have I got in my pocket,” told riddles, and took turns shooting Smaug with a black arrow.

My cute little bowman

My cute little bowman

Middle Earth Inspired Music

All night long, we listened to music from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogy. Six movies equals hours of Middle Earth music. It was so much fun dancing like elves and hobbits and singing along to the songs. My dance moves were a cross between Frodo and Michael Jackson because I can moonwalk.

It was quite a celebration. We partied all night like it was Mereth Nuin Giliath. I hope you all enjoyed the photos. For those of you who haven’t watched the movie, make plans this weekend to go. I’ll be seeing it again for sure. For those of you who have, what are your thoughts?