Saturday, December 31, 2011

Arwen and Pippin

Okay, Arwen and Pippin aren't in The Hobbit. You probably didn't know that Pippin has a thing for Arwen either.  No, we aren't talking about the real characters!  We are talking yet again about my cats for (I promise) the last time.  As you may remember, Pippin was a stray that I adopted, or abducted depending on if you take mine or Pippin's point of view.  In any case, Pippin was very lonely and needed a lot of attention.  He literally used me as a tree when he was bored. I was beginning to reconsider his name.  Maybe shrapnel would have been better. *snort*

Arwen was specifically  adopted for Pippin.  We had to find a zippy kitty and so we spent most of an afternoon at the Humane Society looking for just that.  Arwen is a little skinny black and white kitten who met the criteria very well.  After a little hissing and growling they were fast friends.  Just look at them! I like to call this pic (above)  the yin yang of cats.
licky, licky, bitey, bitey

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Cast So Far

Friday, October 28, 2011

Pippin, the Purrrfect Name

Peregrine Took, more commonly known as Pippin, is J.R.R. Tolkien's fictional character from Lord of the Rings.  Pippin is a very mischievous hobbit and is prone to making trouble and being a tad on the naughty side!  He had some trouble with Gandalf's fireworks, and some more problems in the mines of Moria.  He got captured by orcs, and had to go to Minas Tirith due to looking into the palantir of Orthanc.  This brings me to my new kitten, Pippin.

Pippin was found at one of the schools in my district as a stray with its litter mate.  One of my teacher friends brought him to a meeting and my son happened to be there.  My son was quite taken with him and we adopted him the next day.

Pip is only seven weeks old so he is definitely a little wild.  He launches himself at your toes and fingers and routinely bites them.  He was doing very well with the litter box until I changed his litter to one that tracks less.  He was very put out with me and decided to use my formal living room couch and my bed as his new litter box!  Good thing I figured out what was wrong.  Last night we lost him for awhile and found him in my son's toy box.  We have no idea how he got in there.  As you can see Pippin is the purrfect name for our newest family member.

Adorable Pippin

"I'm  thinking of doing something naughty!"

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Is George R. R. Martin the New Tolkien?

Every once in awhile you hear about a fantasy author being the next Tolkien.  I have seen this a few times in reviews of George R. R. Martin's book A Game of Thrones and his other books in the Song of Ice and Fire series.  I started reading it to find out.  My opinion is that he is not at all like Tolkien in his writing.  People may be comparing him to J.R.R Tolkien because they both wrote long epic tales that span many books.  They are both writers of the same genre.  Here is really where the comparisons stop,  unless you count their names being similar; J.R.R Tolkien, George R. R. Martin.  That is kind of weird.

Tolkien wrote of elves and dwarves and magical things.  Lord of the Rings was linguistic in nature as well.  There were hardly any women in Tolkien's stories.  This was remedied in the Lord of the Rings movies by creating larger roles for Arwen and Eowyn.  Also, in The Lord of the Rings the big bad guy marched a few thousand orcs at you when he felt like being a jerk.

George R. R. Martin's work is very different.  There is some magic or supernatural things that go on but it isn't the same style as Tolkien. It is almost written as a medieval history. There are many women and a whole lot of wenching that goes on.  Lots of smut and violence.  The people in his stories are about as awful as orcs, maybe worse.  Many of the characters you like end up dead or maimed or wronged in some way.

Don't get me wrong.  I did love A Game of Thrones.  It is a very different read than most fantasies.  I have to say I still love my Tolkien with his underlying message of "don't count the little guys out!"  I will have to see where Martin takes me in the rest of the series.  A good thing about his books is that they are very long, as I am a very fast reader.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

My Childhood Love of The Hobbit

I have been thinking about the reasons I liked the hobbit when I was a child.  One reason is the very cool maps of Middle Earth.  I enjoyed following the character's travels along these maps while reading the story.  I remember doing this with Lord of the Rings also. 

The other thing that I really liked as a kid were hidden things that could only be discovered by being in the right place at the right time.  An example is the Indiana Jones film Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Indiana had to take a staff with some sort of crystal attached to the top of it to a certain place at a certain time.  Light from sun passed through the crystal and pointed the way to the ark.  For some reason, I love that stuff!

The Hobbit has similar scenarios.  Although the dwarves and Bilbo had looked at the map at Bag End, it wasn't until Elrond looked at it that he sees moon runes.  He is looking at the map with moonlight shining through it.  This is the only way to see these letters.  It must also be the same phase of moon as when they were written.
 Here is an animation of the map with moon runes.  I loved this part of the book because the moon letters also point to another hidden object which comes at the end of the Hobbit.  The moon runes read:

"Stand by the grey stone when the thrush knocks and the setting sun with the last light of Durin's day will shine upon the keyhole."

Bilbo figures this one out when he sees a bird (thrush) knocking a small shell onto a rock.  The light from the sun then illuminates a keyhole on the rock face.  The key to open the door actually came with the map from the beginning of our story so the whole thing comes full circle.

If you don't remember these events from The Hobbit you should read it again.  It is a very fun and enjoyable read...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Who's Returning for The Hobbit

Many of the characters from Lord of the Rings will be back for The Hobbit.  Obviously Bilbo (Martin Freeman/Ian Holm) will be back since this story is about him finding the ring.  Gandalf (Ian McKellen), and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) will be included in the cast of The Hobbit as will Gollum (Andy Serkis) and Saruman (Christopher Lee).  Some of our elf friends will be back including Elrond (Hugo Weaving), and Galadriel (Kate Blanchett).  Missing from the elf line up is Arwen (Liv Tyler) who was not in the original story "The Hobbit" so that makes sense.  Actually, most of her part for Lord of the Rings the movie was taken from the appendices in  the books.  I guess otherwise it would be mostly a guy film without her and Eowyn who also had a bigger role in the movies.  I don't know how they will work him in but Frodo (Elijah Wood) will be back for The Hobbit.  Frodo was not originally in The Hobbit story by J.R.R Tolkien and since this movie is a prequel to Lord of the Rings I am not sure what his role will be.  I guess we will all have to stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Hobbit Crossword

Well I finally reread The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.  I am really looking forward to the movie that is now in production in New Zealand.  Peter Jackson is the director (thank goodness) after others that were interested in the movie dropped out.  I just got a look at the first day of filming which is posted on Peter Jackson's blog.  The sets are amazing!  He walks around the set of Rivendell and in some caverns where they most likely will film Bilbo's exchange with Smaug the dragon. 

What does this have to do with a crossword you ask?  While I was reading The Hobbit I made some notes on characters and such and created a crossword for the book.  At first I thought of doing more than one, but in the end I just went with a big crossword that covered the entire book.  Here it is with a very nice background:

You can find this crossword and many others at my store on Teachers Pay Teachers here:

Monday, July 18, 2011

Background of J.R.R. Tolkien

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa on January 1892.  His father was in South Africa hoping to have better prospects of promotion as a bank manager.  When Tolkien was three years old he travelled with his mother and brother to see her family in England.  His father died of rheumatic fever before he could join them.  Without his father's income the family was basically destitute.  His mother returned to England with the two boys and lived with her parents in King's Heath. 

Although he basically grew up in poverty, J.R.R. Tolkien was taught many things by his mother including botany, and Latin.  He excelled at languages from a young age, and it could be said his later writings were exercises in linguistics.  He eventually studied at King Edward's School, Birmingham where he had won a scholarship.  His mother, despite her family's opposition, joined the Catholic Church.  Her family then cut off all finanacial assistance to her.  Tolkien remained Catholic throughout his life.  In 1904, his mother died of diabetes.  There was no insulin in those days and mid-thirties is about the longest one could live with type I diabetes.  Tolkien and his brother were then under the guardianship of Fr. Francis Morgan.

While at King Edward's school, Tolkien made some good friends who started a club called T.C.B.S. (Tea Club and Barrovian Society)  Throughout Tolkien's life, he remained loyal to small groups of friends who shared common interests.  The T.C.B.S was the first such group.  This group stayed in touch after leaving school and actually met together again in 1914.

Tolkien met Edith Bratt at age 16 when he and his brother moved into a boarding house where she lived.  She was also an orphan and the two took to frequenting the tea shops of Birmingham.  The relationship stalled, however, when Father Francis found out he was involved with a protestant girl.  He made contact with her forbidden until he was 21.  At 21, Tolkien wrote Edith a letter proclaming his intention to marry her.  Unfortunately, she was engaged to another man at the time.  Edith eventually did break off her engagement and married Tolkien in Warwick, England in 1916.

Tolkien did not readily enlist when England entered into World War I in 1914.  Instead, he completed his degree first.  He served in WWI in the British Army and survived the Battle of the Somme, where he lost many of his closest friends.  He eventually came down with trench fever which is spread in the unsanitary conditions in which he found himself.  His recovery was slow and his illness kept reoccurring.  It was during this time that he started writing The Book of Lost Tales.

Upon returning to academic life, he eventually became Merton Professor of English at Oxford.  He was close friends with C.S. Lewis and other writers who called themselves "The Inklings."   Tolkien's career and life changed drastically while he was doing the mind-numbing task of grading essay papers.  A student had left an answer blank and he found himself writing "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit"...

For more information on J.R.R Tolkien, I recommend an excellent biography by Humphrey Carpenter:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Concerning Hobbits

 I thought I would just post a video of the song "Concerning Hobbits" by Howard Shore from which this blog gets it's name.  This is one of my favorite songs from the movie.  I loved it so much I learned the Irish whistle part on my own whistle.  You can see this part in this video.  I think I might use this song with a powerpoint for an end of the year presentation.  I could take pictures all year of my 7th graders and put it to this music.  After all... they are little hobbits.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Making an Elvish Costume

Last Halloween my son told me it would be the last time he went trick or treating.  He was 12 at the time and I thought he was appropriately giving the Halloween tradition up.  However, he wanted a costume that was the best elvish costume ever!  That meant I had to do armor!  There are some great websites that use materials other than metal to make elvish armor.  The websites below are wonderful resources for making armor and other costume elements for elves.
Haldir's Elven Archers
Craft foam tutorial

These sites have templates for armor which I used for my son's costume.  They have pictures of the actual costumes from the movies as well.  These are very detailed sites.  I actually used the craft foam tutorial to do my son's armor.  It was a lot of work but looked amazing.  I spent the majority of my time covering the craft foam with a glue mixture so it would look shiny like metal.  I made the elvish writing on the hip armor  by using a metallic fabric paint to create the raised areas.

The chest armor was the most difficult to create because it had to fit him exactly.  I also used metallic paint to create the designs on the chest armor.

This was an exciting project for me because I am such a LOTR fan.  I will say that sewing velcro onto spandex material is horrible!  I only completed that task with a lot of colorful metaphors!  The armor on the arms was done in this way because I did not have time to make some kind of gadget to attach the armor to his arm any other way.

I also made Haldir's pin that can be seen on his cloak in The Two Towers.  I also made this out of craft foam.

The other clothing was researched using the above sites.  I tried to make all closures authentic to the time period so no zippers, or buttons for that matter, were used.  I mostly just used laces to close the garments.

There are some side panels of armor under the hip armor on the Haldir costume.  These look like they are made of scales in the movie.  I chose to use a fabric that looked very metallic and had a scale-type design imprinted on it.

It turned out pretty well for a final Halloween costume.  I think he looks great.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Why J.R.R. Tolkien Loved Trees

I always wondered why Tolkien wrote about trees so much.  He gave life to them and obviously cherished them.  Coming from the dry western United States, trees rarely impressed me.  Not until I went to England myself did I understand about the trees.  They are most wonderous!  I spent a week in the Lake District in the summer of 2010.  The trees there are just like they are in Tolkien's writing.  They are huge!  They have tangled roots that stretch across the ground and look like they could grab you at any moment.  It would not be hard to write about trees coming to life in England.  The picture below was taken in a village called South Nutfield.  My son tells me it is just like the scene from Fellowship of the Ring where Frodo calls out, "Get off the road!"  I think he is right.