TRoP teaser trailer drop: Initial Thoughts, Early Theories

For a 60 second information-less teaser, I have many thoughts here. Let’s get right into it.

What city is this?

Initially, I thought the port from the intro shot was Tirion upon Tuna, as this city is what’s theorized to be from the only shot we had of this series, from the perspective of a white-cladded individual (Finrod?) in the grassy hills of Valinor. But immediately on the 2nd watch, I realized those statues had to be in a nod to the Argonath from the PJ’s film series. This is definitely a Numenorean port, and specifically I would say Andúnië as it seems to face the West.

Meteor Man: good Iluvatar where would I start. This is perhaps one of their “bigger stretches” of the Tales and where they could play into whatever they want. JD Payne & Patrick McKay have already hinted in this Variety cover that they won’t rule out a Wizard, which is strange as in the appendices they are said to have arrived to Middle-Earth a good one thousand years into the Third Age. That means they may have to first look at other narratives – and specifically, I would say the one from The Peoples of Middle-Earth. It was the Blue Wizards who first arrived to Middle Earth in the Second Age no less (specifically in 1600 during the forging of the Rings!). A lot of people say Sauron as well – an even bigger stretch as he was already in Middle-Earth. Time will tell.

The Vanity Fair follow up piece seems to answer my other questions: the girl we see is Nori Brandyfoot, a confirmed Harfoot, ancestor to hobbits (but what purpose they have at this time, I couldn’t guess. Aren’t they supposed to remain hidden?). The blond Elf fighting in golden armor is Finrod, with short hair for some reason. And the shipwrecked man is Halbrand, who if it is true that he is a member of the Éothéod, is a quite a ways from home.

Unfortunately that only sparks more questions, and sometimes, if I’m taking it too seriously, causes for concern. Ultimately, I will continue to hold my fire until we see what route the writers are taking it.

September 2nd, watch party anyone??

We’re Finally Here: The Rings Of Power Trailer

It is but the deep breath before the plunge.

Beregrond to Pippin, RotK

Forth, Eorlingas! As we sit on the cusp of the trailer drop for Amazon’s The Rings of Power, I find myself anxiously waiting at the Rammas Echor, as if I’m about to jump into the Pelennor fields at any second. I love football; I played it in high school, I play fantasy football with friends and am a genuine Joe Cool fan. But for the first time, I could not care less about the game. I’m almost considering not tuning in until the 3rd quarter, which as Stuff reports in the link above, will be when the trailer premieres. Amazon has thrown money at this like there’s no tomorrow. A Super Bowl commercial release, bringing back Howard Shore as composer, buying the rights from the Tolkien Estate, and the infrastructure deal with New Zealand has reportedly cost Amazon 465 million US dollars, establishing The Rings of Power as the most expensive TV series in history. And all we’ve seen so far is a teaser trailer of freaking wood and water.

Jeff Bezos has many fans. I’m sure. Somewhere.

Amazon continues to up the ante, and they will need to deliver in a big way. It’s not to say I don’t have hope – there was never much hope. Just a fool’s hope, some greater names than I might say. At the end of the day, what they need to do is invite a new age to Tolkien’s world, and do so in a way that stays as true to the books and legendarium as possible, that he and his son Christopher so eloquently and meticulously crafted over their lifetimes. Should a dwarvish woman have a beard? Yes, absolutely. Does it matter in the long run, to my interpretation of this beautiful world? No, absolutely not! It’s a TV shows’ interpretation trying to fit a 30-60 minute timeframe. I can appreciate it without finding my feelings hurt. And I’m sure our families and friends can be spared from every response of ours starting with “well, actually, in the Unfinished Tales, they say…”

So, with all the money in the world, I eagerly await Amazon’s show and to see a sneak peak of what they’ve been up to for the last 2 years. I’ll be on all the socials, and will be joining TORN’s trailer watch party on Discord/Twitch/YouTube. Find me @ TolkienBrews on all three!

Character Analysis: Faramir, the simp?

There’s not a lot of characters that make you scream at them in the books. In Lord of The Rings, the people are mostly static characters. Aragorn is a boss, whether as a raggedy Dunedain Ranger or a silver King of old. Samwise goes right back to gardening after coming back to the Shire, Gandalf keeps to wandering to and fro, and Barliman Butterbur is still droning on and on. But man. When it comes to our second-born son of Denethor, you’re left wanting more and more. So without further adieu: Faramir, a character analysis.

Faramir Nazgul Blank Template - Imgflip

A better way to put my former statement would be; you want more for him, because the poor guy has it rough. He’s an unloved and motherless son, a less adept fighter, and a hard “behind-the-scenes” warrior. It’s almost the world’s first teen drama, in the sense that he has a jock brother whose captain of the football team (or White Tower here), and he’s expected to go out and rule just like chummy Boromir. The reader realizes though, what Denethor and the Gondorians do not, is that Boromir… sucks. Really though; he’s not a guy who should be ruling. He’s a kickass fighter and a hardy warrior, definitely a guy you want on your side. He probably would of made a great Rohan horseman too. But he has no restraint, and not the wisdom a King or Steward needs. It’s straight up even mentioned so by Gandalf, when describing Denethor to Pippin: “… by some chance the blood of Westernesse runs nearly true in him; as it does in his other son Faramir, and yet did not in Boromir who he loved best.”

The Numenorean blood runs true! Does that mean nothing to you people?! Well… on second thought, it might not. It’s more complicated than you think at first. The line of Ecthelion does in fact have some lineage to Numenorean blood (Hurin of Emyn Arnen). But what probably amplifies this, is that Finduilas, Faramir’s mother, was a daughter of the Prince of Dol Amroth, of who have Elvish blood in their lineage (Legolas crushes harrrrd on the dude over this, true story). From those facts, you can make a valid argument that he’s more Elvish than Aragorn. When Aragorn shows up to heal those wounded in the Battle of Pelennor Fields, he comes across Faramir, and he can tell straight away that this is a lordly dude. And yet, Tolkien frequently remarks that he is less noble than Aragorn, less of a fighter, less wise perhaps.

So what then, defines a “lesser man”? Heritage? Oh sorry Faramir, you don’t have some Elrond in you and you’re not banging your great, great, 100x great Aunt. Blood lineage is mentioned here more than anywhere else in Tolkien’s work. At this point, it’s probably important to mention Tolkien’s interpretation of bloodline and nobility. While it’s not outright said, Numenoreans are clearly meant to be the superior race of Arda (at the very least, the superior race of the Edain). They live longer, fight harder, and create all the cool stuff in Middle-Earth. Far often than not, he pins the importance of characters to how their lineage is tied into the story. And when the noble intermingle “with those of lesser men”, the bloodline becomes corrupt (see Ar-Pharazôn). So not only is blood the central factor in the ability to rule, but it reflects moral fiber? I really don’t believe that looking at this in the lens of 2021 is going to be doing much service to anyone, but I do want to acknowledge this is an area where we grimace, and are left to interpret the similarities to themes of eugenics, racism, ect. I would of loved to see perhaps more tales of lesser men in the Appendices, or more “rags to riches” stories. Better minds than me have spoken more about Tolkien and race, so I leave it to you on how to make sense of it. What I will end on is that the Hobitts are clearly an exception and purposefully given the largest roles in the story – they show that even the smallest people can make the biggest difference. To quote Elrond:

“This quest may be attempted by the weak with as much hope as the strong. Yet such is oft the course of deeds that move the wheels of the world: small hands do them because they must, while the eyes of the great are elsewhere.”

Elrond, FOTR

I’m not going to get into Peter Jackson’s take here. The films crush this character, that is a fact. Why? I’m not a cinephile, I don’t want to get in the head of Peter Jackson. And I think I’ve also droned on a bit too much as well. But it’s clear that this character has been cut significantly down to size, maybe to save time.

In summary, Faramir is one of the most well-rounded characters in the whole saga, akin to Tolkien himself. Ol’ Johnny mentions that he felt as he didn’t create the character Faramir, he just embodied himself in this story and felt as if he is most similar to Faramir. In one of the many Letters of Tolkien, he describes Faramir as “modest, fair-minded and scrupulously just, and very merciful.” High praise, sir, high praise indeed. In short, give the Faramir’s of your life some credit. They are due more than they receive.

The Fall of Pliny-The-Younger

Pli-ny the Younger was a beer
Of who AJ had held so dear;
the last whose taste was good and free
between the Vineyards and the Sea.

His foam was thick, his color gold
Like his brother's, but flavor bold;
the countless hops in Yakima
were rocking like Metallica.

But long ago he hopped away,
and where he dwells Russians won't say;
for into River fell his glass
in Sonoma where the brews pass.

I missed the cutoff to order Pliny online for this years release. If you hadn’t figured it out.

Tolkien and Economics

In light of the stock market news today (who else is grabbing AMC puts?) I thought it be fun to speak on the macroeconomics of Middle-Earth. Where does money and trade play in to the various kingdoms and communities spread across Arda, and how does this play a part?

Well… the short answer is, it doesn’t have much of a space in the stories of LotR or even in the known history of Middle-Earth. We hardly have much to go on, and instead would take heavy liberties with the text to piece together a financial market. And because each race tend to keeps to themselves, we can’t in a surefire way determine what is fair trade. Hobbits practice some type of libertarian socialism – each family more or less tends with their own dealings. A small “police force” is mostly out catching lost livestock or handling petty-quarrels. Dwarves only sense of currency might be gold and other treasures mined deep in the earth. They have a love of Mitril and war-axes, but a dwarf has not much need for any other goods (that I know of). As far as Elves go, we know more about their trade practices and less about currency. Perhaps it is because of Elves that bothering with economic matters for forfeit for Tolkien. Gold for example – we do not know whether the value diminishes or increases over time (due to their immortal lives).

That is not to say that money is unheard of in these books. The hoarded gold of Erebor is a major plotline, and inevitably succumbs Thorin, King of Durin’s Folk no less, to death. The governing body of Laketown is clearly based on some Feudal system. But we have no history of the Master of Laketown, and how he came to be in power, since in the city of Dale it was governed by the ‘Lord of Dale’. And even that title we know nothing of, only that it’s hereditary, and Bard the Bowman, being a descendent of the last and only known Lord Girion.

All of this said, we do not know what roles currency, Feudal systems vs free market trade, or largely agricultural economies should have in these respective races. It is within dwarves’ nature to be drawn to rare gems and treasures of Arda, so where is the line between healthy habit and hoarding obsession? I’m not sure. I would assume digging deep enough that you find a Balrog is a pretty good starting point.

Does this change how we feel about Tolkien’s legendarium and mythology of his works? In my opinion, certainly not. If I were to have to listen to the different option strategies a Hobbit might place on their version of the NASDAQ, or the Forex rates between Ents and Elves, I’m not sure if I continue to read to be completely honest! No, the Professor’s skill is in his imagery with the landscape, the maps he has drawn in his head and his mastery of linguistics. It’s one of the rare aspects that Game of Thrones excels in where Tolkien does not go, and while an in-depth look at an medieval agricultural economy is not exactly must-see-TV, it offers a better idea of the Feudal system that high-fantasy works like these model themselves after.

I would like to give credits to this work by Jethro Elsden, who takes things so much further in regards to Tolkien and his stance on anti-socialism:

Hobbits be Drinking (Part 1)

Our monthly feature of Hobbits be Drinking explores in more depth the use of beer and other alcohol in Tolkien’s works. Passages are taken largely out of LotR

If I were to take every beer reference out of the entire Tolkien legendarium, I would assume most would be from Fellowship. They are rife with references to good ales and aged wines. Why so many in The Fellowship in particular? Certainly, what plays a factor is the fact that the quest is only just starting and not yet as perilous, leading to more merriment. But I think it’s even more simple than that. The first half of the book only has hobbits. Which leads me to my main point:

Hobbits be drinking.

Hobbits are like a bunch of 21 year old LA hipsters; fueled by alcohol, they come from the South…ern California, and gentrify good land, singing loudly and opening brunch spots (uh… “second breakfast”? We know what that really is). But did you know they also have craft breweries too? At least that’s what I imagine when I picture The Golden Perch.

‘All right!’ said Pippin. ‘I will follow you into every bog and ditch. But it is hard! I had counted on passing The Golden Perch at Stock before sundown. The best beer in the Eastfarthing, or used to be: it is a long time since I tasted it.’ 

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, “A Shortcut to Mushrooms”

Seriously, is that not something you would here from your 23 year old intern at work? Unfortnately, Pippin never makes it to The Golden Perch (he whines about it a few more times). We don’t see it ever mentioned again, and this is the type of stuff that keeps me up at night. The best beer? I swear, if they advertise that and they arrive only to find out its a Hazy IPA, I’d throw the book out the window.

Fun fact: a New Zealand brewery by the name of The Yeastie Boys (no comment) made an interpretation of a Golden Ale, and I must admit I’m rather jealous.

Courtesy of an Untappd review at The Yeastie Boys brewery.