Why We Love Middle-Earth
Why We Love Middle-Earth is a new book by Shawn E. Marchese and Alan Sisto. Shawn and Alan are the co-hosts of the popular Prancing Pony Podcast. The book grew out of the podcast.
Why We Love Middle-Earth is a trip through the world of JRR Tolkien. Your tour guides are two men who have seeped themselves in Middle-Earth books and studies. If you have a question about anything Tolkien wrote these two will more than likely have the answer or at least know where to find it.
The book is separated into three parts. The first is about the books JRR Tolkien wrote, how he came about writing them and a bit about the stories themselves. A lot here is about the process of writing the books and the publishing world. There are stories here that surprised me and also delighted me.
The second part of the book is about adaptations of Tolkien’s work. This was limited to the TV and movie adaptations. Here you find yourself disagreeing with or heartily agreeing with the authors as they skillfully critique each film beginning with The Rankin Bass production of The Hobbit and coming full circle to Peter Jackson’s Adaptation of The Hobbit. The films are critiqued in chronological order and so The Hobbit bookends the adaptations of The Lord of The Rings.
What is missing from this section is critiques of comic book adaptations, radio adaptations and stage adaptations. I believe the authors hope to cover these in a future book.
The third and final section of the book is about Tolkien Fandom. This section takes you through the types of fans that are out there and some of their specific interests. The book discusses collecting Tolkien and goes into all the things Tolkien collectors are into. This can vary from first printings of the books to toys and fine collectibles. Collecting is a matter of taste and how much money you have rather than any specific items or items.
There is a large section devoted to the discussion of the languages that Tolkien created. Tolkien’s books sprung out of his need to create languages and so language is very important in the world of Tolkien. However, I found this chapter the hardest to read and understand. I was never much for language studies at school and have little interest in language studies now. The good thing is this book does not have to be read cover to cover. The authors themselves stated that you can read the parts that most interest you and so if language isn’t your thing, you can just bypass this chapter and enjoy the rest of the book.
And there is much to enjoy. The chapters of the different Tolkien websites, other podcasts, Moots, Fan Clubs, YouTube Channels and so many other ways to dive into the world that Professor Tolkien created and learn more about it.
On the whole, this book is delightful. You know you are being led by two men who know what they are talking about. They point you in the direction of new discoveries and adventures and show you that you don’t have to go it alone. Tolkien fandom is varied and available almost anywhere you are in the world as long as you have access to a computer and the World Wide Web.
The Prancing Pony Podcast is a great place to start learning about the works of JRR Tolkien. Start at the beginning and Shawn and Alan will walk you through The Silmarillion and the Hobbit and a good part of The Lord of the Rings. They haven’t quite finished The Lord of the Rings and because of work duties Shawn has had to leave the show, but Alan moves on bringing in an assortment of co-hosts to move the story forward. Shawn hasn’t left completely, he comes back, on occasion, to the delight of the listeners.
Alan has developed The Daily Tolkien Times, a short video on YouTube where a different theme is discussed daily. If you want a fun way to learn about The Lord of the Rings and the other work of the good Professor there is no better way than to put yourself under the teachings of these two lore masters.