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    >My new video "A HARD DAY'S KNIGHT," in which I don chain mail to find glory, donuts and spare change for my quest. BIGGER SCREEN ON YOU TUBE

    CLASSIC BOOK trailer! [bigger screen on YouTube]

    more videos here

    Entries in tolkien (10)


    See the Sketches J.R.R. Tolkien Used to Build Middle-Earth

    Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings but he also drew it:

    The many maps and sketches he made while drafting The Lord of the Rings informed his storytelling, allowing him to test narrative ideas and illustrate scenes he needed to capture in words. For Tolkien, the art of writing and the art of drawing were inextricably intertwined.

    In the book The Art of The Lord of the Rings, we see how, and why.

    My sneak peek of his sketches for



    Lost Bakshi Lord of the Rings footage found

    Over at BoingBoing, I posted a short piece about new, previously unseen footage from the love-it-or-hate-it 1978 Ralph Bakshi Lord of the Rings adaptation. Turns out, Bakshi (actually, his son Eddie) has unearthed some unfilmed cel animation art that was never previosuly used. Those drawings have recently been filmed...

    Click to read more ...


    Desolation of Tolkien: My BoingBoing review of Smaug

    If part 1 plodded, then part 2 flies. But in what directions! And, quite possibly, asunder. Read more of my review of my BoingBoing The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

    Click to read more ...


    Huff Post "14 Holiday Gifts For Any Middle-earth Lover's Library" includes Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks

    Great news today! Huffington Post named Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks one of "14 Holiday Gifts For Any Middle-earth Lover's Library."
    I am honored to be in the company of these other fine books. The post says Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks is "a moving and funny look at the saving grace and inspirational power of fantasy."

    Click to read more ...


    Red Sox beards vs. Dwarf beards from The Hobbit

    Who is Fili and who is Napoli? Balin vs. Buchholz? Ori or Ortiz? Here's a "Beard Blueprint" -- your guide to the Red Sox vs. Hobbit dwarf beards.

    Click to read more ...


    Tolkien Geek Out

    Tolkien & other nerds: I recently had the pleaure of nerding out about The Hobbit (and the new Desolation of Smaug trailer) and other Tolkien, D&D and fantasy topics with the Tolkien Professor, aka Corey Olsen, and Noble Smith (my collaborator over at Dungeons & Dorkwads)

    Click to read more ...


    Unknown Tolkien Letter Falls Out of Book


    As reported on and elsewhere, a handwritten note written by J.R.R. Tolkien that he’d addressed to a couple he and his wife Edith had met on an unfortunate holiday just sold to an anonymous internet bidder for £1,700, or about $2,700.

    “It’s a complete mystery how it turned up,” said Adrian Rathbone, an associate at Richard Winterton’s, the UK auction house where it was sold. In another report, Rathbone said the person who sold the letter had unexpectedly found it in the most unlikely place — tucked into a book the seller owned. One day, the letter fell out.

    “It dropped out of a book they had,” Rathbone, said. “It wasn’t even a Tolkien book. We’ve brought in several experts who say it is real.

    The letter, written in Tolkien’s script recognizable to anyone who has pored over maps in The Hobbit, dates to 1963.

    “Rather a disgusting and costly holiday, but for us it was at any rate made memorable by your company and kindness,” Tolkien writes to the couple. “We thought of you yesterday, and hoped your journey home would be less unpleasant than our icy winds and snow have foreboded.”

    Included with the letter was a Christmas card and a photograph of Tolkien and the couple the Tolkiens met on the trip (who are named Wilfrid and Nora). The couple the letter was addressed to wasn’t related to the seller, apparently, and the seller was also unnamed. So how that letter ended up in the seller’s hands is a mystery only a few people know — the seller and the auction house, perhaps. And the ghost of Tolkien himself.

    [This post originally appeared on GeekDad/]


    YouTube playlist of Tolkien-themed videos!

    Hey! There's a new dedicated playlist of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks videos on TheOneRing.Net's YouTube channel.

    These are Tolkien-themed videos I shot in New Zealand: looking for hobbits in Hobbiton (Matamata); elves in Rivendell (Kaitoke Regional Park); Weta Workshop (Wellington); and a mash-up of footage from the "If you want him, come and claim him!" scene (Arrowtown). 

    More to come. Hope you'll take a look.



    When literary authors slum in genre


    There’s a curious phenomenon happening out there in LiteraryLand: The territory of genre fiction is being invaded by the literary camp.

    While it could be argued that literary writers have always borrowed from fantasy, science fiction and horror, even stolen genre's best ideas, I think there's a new and significant shift happening in the past few years.

    Take Justin Cronin, writer of respectable stories, who recently leaped the chasm to the dystopian, undead-ridden realm of Twilight.  With The Passage, his post-apocalyptic, doorstopper of a saga, the author enters a new universe, seemingly snubbing his former life writing “serious books” like Mary and O’Neil and The Summer Guest, which won prizes like Pen/Hemingway Award, the Whiting Writer’s Award and the Stephen Crane Prize. Both books of fiction situate themselves solidly in the camp of literary fiction. They’re set on the planet Earth we know and love. Not so with The Passage, in which mutant vampire-like creatures ravage a post-apocalyptic U.S. of A. Think Cormac McCarthy’s The Road crossed with the movie The Road Warrior, with the psychological tonnage of John Fowles’ The Magus and the “huh?” ofThe Matrix.

    Now comes Ricky Moody, whose ironic novels like The Ice Storm andPurple America were solidly in the literary camp, telling us about life in a more-or-less recognizable world. His latest novel, The Four Fingers of Death, is a big departure, blending a B-movie classic with a dark future world. The plot: A doomed U.S. space mission to Mars and a subsequent accidental release of deadly bacteria picked up on the Red Planet results in that astronaut’s severed arm surviving re-entry to earth, and reanimating to embark on a wanton rampage of strangulation.

    And there’s probably other examples I’m forgetting at the moment.

    So what’s all this forsaking of one’s literary pedigree about?

    It began with the flipside of this equation. It used to be that genre writers had to claw their way up the ivory tower in order to be recognized by the literary tastemakers. Clearly, that’s shifted, as more and more fantasy, science fiction, and horror writers have been accepted by the mainstream and given their overdue lit cred. It’s been a hard row to hoe. J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Philip Pullman and others helped blaze the trail to acceptance. Now these authors have been largely accepted into the canon. You can take university courses on fantasy literature and write dissertations on the homoerotic subtext simmering between Frodo and Sam. A whole generation, now of age and in college, grew up reading (or having read to them) the entire oeuvre of Harry Potter. That’s a sea change in the way fantasy will be seen in the future—not as some freaky subculture, but as widespread mass culture.

    Yes, Margaret Atwood and Doris Lessing have delved into genre, although their works (A Handmaid's Tale, for example) was always taken as highbrow. Perhaps a better example: Stephen King, considered a hack horror writer for years who began publishing in the New Yorker in 1990. One wonders why the New Yorker finally caved and let him in the doors --- is this an implicit acknowledgement of his popularity? Or had King's writing gotten better. In any case, it's was a shocker when he began racking up impressive literary kudos, like in 2003 when the National Book Awards handed over its annual medal for distinguished contribution to American letters to King. Recently in May, the Los Angeles Public Library gave its Literary Award for his monstrous contribution to literature.

    Now, as muggles and Mordor have entered the popular lexicon, the glitterati of literary fiction find themselves “slumming” in the darker, fouler waters of genre. (One reason: It’s probably more fun to write.) But in the end, I think it’s all about call and response. Readers want richer, more complex and more imaginative and immersive stories. Writers want an audience, and that audience increasingly reads genre. Each side—literary and genre—leeches off the other. The two camps have more or less met in the middle.

    One wonders who’s going to delve into the dark waters next—Philip Roth? Salman Rushdie? Toni Morrison? Actually, it turns they already (sort of) have --- Roth explores alternative history in The Plot Against America
    Rushdie's "Magical Realism," of Midnight's Children, in which children have superpowers. You might even argue that Morrison's Beloved is a ghost story.


    [thanks to readers at, where this post originally appeared, for catching some errors and helping me revise this into a better essay]

    Ethan Gilsdorf is the author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms, which comes out in paperback in September. Contact him through his website,


    China Miéville on why Tolkien rocks

    I saw China Miéville speak at a forum at Book Expo a few weeks back. Smart, articulate guy. Re His take on Tolkien is one often forgotten: Tolkien built the world --- mountains, forests, seas --- and made up languages,  THEN wondered who might live there to speak those tongues.

    "The order is reverse: the world comes first, and then, and only then, things happen--stories occur--within it. ... So dominant is this mode now (as millions of women and men draw millions of maps, and write millions of histories, inventing worlds in which, perhaps, eventually, a few will set stories) that it's difficult to see what a conceptual shift it represented."

    Plus, get this note by Miéville: "Tolk gives good monster. Shelob, Smaug, the their astounding names, the fearful verve of their descriptions, their various undomesticated malevolence, these creatures are utterly embedded in our world-view. No one can write giant spiders except through Shelob: all dragons are sidekicks now. And so on."



    --- Ethan Gilsdorf, author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks