Tolkien’s Children of Hurin

Filed under:Authors,Cool,Tolkien — posted by Anwyn on April 18, 2007 @ 9:15 pm

Christopher Tolkien’s master-stroke of editing and piecing together his father’s fragmentary work was released yesterday to much “fan”fare. TORn covered and assisted the line at a Manhattan Barnes and Noble where fans lined up to buy copies signed by both C. Tolkien and illustrator Alan Lee. Andrew O’Hehir, who’s been covering matters Tolkien for Salon for a long time now, has a thoughtful, in-depth review, focusing largely on the startling difference in tone between this tome and The Lord of the Rings.

“The Children of Húrin” will thrill some readers and dismay others, but will surprise almost everyone. If you’re looking for the accessibility, lyrical sweep and above all the optimism of “Lord of the Rings,” well, you’d better go back and read it again. There are no hobbits here, no Tom Bombadil, no cozy roadside inns and precious little fireside cheer of any variety found here. This is a tale whose hero is guilty of repeated treachery and murder, a story of rape and pillage and incest and greed and famous battles that ought never to have been fought. If “Lord of the Rings” is a story where good conquers evil, this one moves inexorably in the other direction.

Readers of The Silmarillion, which seemed at the time of its publication the end of all things Tolkien but proved to be merely the beginning of Christopher Tolkien’s work of editing his father’s legacy, know that LotR notwithstanding, Tolkien was very occupied with themes of hubris, falls from grace (or characters without grace altogether), and dark, inexorable destinies. The jagged yet constantly descending roads these characters take in their slides toward doom are indeed startling, but though as O’Hehir says the darkness will “surprise almost everyone,” the surprise for those left out by “almost” is more and more coming to be that Tolkien had it in him to write the happy-ending stories of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings at all. He could only do it by omitting utterly one of those occupying themes, hubris, from his three central characters of Frodo, Aragorn, and Gandalf, thus avoiding for them the dark destiny but reserving for them nevertheless places in grey twilight as their reward. When all’s said and done, Lord of the Rings is not a happy story, but at most grimly optimistic, to use Andrew’s word. In the end the individual matters only insofar as he or she did duty in the larger battle against evil, or failed in that duty.

Judging by the reviews, it looks as if The Children of Hurin will be a stark illustration of how to do your duty and fail miserably in life all at the same time. In a phrase, it’s Tolkien, painfully aware of the human condition, to the core.

I Am the Monarch of the Sea

Filed under:Movies — posted by Anwyn @ 3:33 pm

… but apparently not even appearing in the fourth Indiana Jones movie. John Rhys-Davies, famous as Gimli in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, but forever Sallah in my heart, has been “written out of Indy 4 in favour of a younger cast.” Cinematical speculates that if he was “written out,” does that mean he was previously “written in?” I doubt it–I’d guess “written out” in this case means that they will mention him in passing in the script rather than ignore the fact that he once existed.

I get that, just as with the abominable last three Star Wars movies, there was the need to reach out to the younger audience, those benighted souls who’ve perhaps grown to late adolescence without even seeing Raiders. But it seems to me that one good way to do that would have been a cameo by an actor from three of the highest-grossing, most wildly popular films of all time.

Alas. Was there anything better than Sallah’s bustling anxiety to be of help, his deep sense of honor and friendship? “These are my friends. They are my family. I will hear of it, if they are not treated well.”

Also, he once shook my hand.


“That is for Fayah. And that is for your children. And this is for you.” She kisses him; he is transported. Indy and Marion take leave. As they walk away, Sallah sings.

“A British tar is a soaring soul, as free as a mountain bird …”


H/t: J.

Update: See-Dub brings to light the actor’s controversial social positions. I doubt those are popular at Skywalker Ranch or Playmountain Compound. More reasons to love Rhys-Davies.

Geeks in Uniform

Filed under:Cool — posted by Anwyn @ 9:35 am

I’ve known some cute gaming geeks in my time. Representative sample, serving in Iraq:

Any good commander knows that to stay sharp, the boys and girls have got to get their game on from time to time. Hence Ziggurat Con.

Ziggurat Con, being held June 9 from 1200 to 2100 hours at Camp Adder/Tallil Airbase, is open to all allied military personnel and civilian contractors in Iraq.

“Here in Iraq, we do many things on the different Forward Operating Bases to help keep our spirits up,” said SPC David Amberson, the Con’s organizer. “Here at Camp Adder/Tallil Airbase, we have lots of sports activities — baseball, football, dodgeball, kickball — and we work with many marathons across the US like the Boston Marathon. This is a great way to improve morale among the troops, but what about those who prefer Role-Playing Games?”

But of course these gamers can’t go down to the local Wizards and Warriors and pick up books, dice, or figures.

The largest problem with running a Con in Iraq, of course, is that there are no local stores or game publishers, and few game books on the post. Even dice are in short supply, with many soldiers breaking the unwritten taboo held by many gamers and (gasp!) sharing dice. Thankfully, many game publishers have also lent their support, and have agreed to supply game products to help the Con along. aethereal FORGE, Sovereign Press, Final Redoubt Press, Goodman Games, Paizo Publishing and Steve Jackson Games are among those that have thrown in their support for the convention. But Amberson indicated that the soldiers could definitely use more

Good for the publishers. But if you’ve got some game stuff lying around and care to use it to support the troops, ship it!

For more information, contact SPC David Amberson at the following address: david.amberson (at)

Donations can also be sent to SPC Amberson directly at the following address:

SPC David Amberson
A Co 86th Sig Bn
APO, AE 09331

“We thank you all back home for supporting us, and we promise that we will try to come back home safe and sound,” said Amberson.

Via Bonus Ace, via Yeah, Right, Whatever.

Obama’s Officially a Political Hack in My Book

Filed under:Jerks,Language Barrier,Politics,Priorities — posted by Anwyn @ 8:28 am

When you care enough to make the “larger point,” even when the “larger point” has squat-all to do with the atrocity at hand. Obama in a talk that began with Virginia Tech but somehow managed to wander back to his pet themes:

“There’s also another kind of violence that we’re going to have to think about. It’s not necessarily the physical violence, but the violence that we perpetrate on each other in other ways,” he said, and goes on to catalogue other forms of “violence.”

There’s the “verbal violence” of Imus.

Whether it’s deliberate or just thoughtless, I hope he finds out shortly that trying to divert attention and emotion from the cold-blooded brutal murder of 32 people back to an already-punished verbal insult, however racially charged, backfires. And there was more:

There’s “the violence of men and women who have worked all their lives and suddenly have the rug pulled out from under them because their job is moved to another country.”

As Ben Smith at Politico says:

Many politicians would avoid, I think, suggesting that outsourcing and mass-murder belong in the same category.

Via Ace.

And I Ain’t Old Either

Filed under:Cool — posted by Anwyn @ 8:21 am

She’ll never be a liberal because she knows what left-wing collectivism did to her native Russia. She listens to hip-hop. She uses MySpace. She lives in New York City. Altogether politically savvy and hip. Must be one of those meddling kids. The best part?

She’s only two years younger than me. Happy birthday, Karol!

Bonus Karol: Check out the cute lil’ brand-new American citizen.

image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace