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Exploring the life and work of J. R. R. Tolkien. Hosts Alan Sisto and Shawn E. Marchese welcome readers of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and the other works in the Middle-earth legendarium to tune in as they discuss favorite passages from the books and films that started the worldwide fantasy phenomenon.

Exploring the life and work of J. R. R. Tolkien. Hosts Alan Sisto and Shawn E. Marchese welcome readers of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and the other works in the Middle-earth legendarium to tune in as they discuss favorite passages from the books and films that started the worldwide fantasy phenomenon.
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Exploring the life and work of J. R. R. Tolkien. Hosts Alan Sisto and Shawn E. Marchese welcome readers of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, and the other works in the Middle-earth legendarium to tune in as they discuss favorite passages from the books and films that started the worldwide fantasy phenomenon.




087 - No Shrubberies: The Hobbit Retrospective

Oh, what sad times are these when Tolkien podcasters can make it through an entire season without a single reference to shrubberies? For our final episode on The Hobbit, we return with a retrospective: one that sounds nice (of course!) and not too expensive. First, we cut down the mightiest themes in the story wiiith… a revisiting! Then we answer your questions in an extra-long Barliman’s Bag segment, placed beside the first segment, so we get the two-segment effect with a little path...


086 - Not Quite Dead

Having survived trolls, goblins, wolves, spiders, riddles with Gollum and Smaug, the horror of battle, and the rude awakening of Elvish singing, Bilbo Baggins makes it back home again in the last chapter of The Hobbit. All of his neighbors are surprised to find him alive, some are disappointed; and even Gandalf knows Bilbo is not the hobbit he was. We discuss the “mere luck” of “a little fellow in a wide world,” discover Tolkien's philological hint at the snobbery of the...


085 - Bilbo "Two Chests" Baggins

Bilbo wakes up after the Battle of Five Armies in Chapter 18 of The Hobbit, dazed, confused, and very much invisible. Returning to camp, he has a bittersweet reunion with Thorin Oakenshield and realizes that his adventure has finally come to an end. He bids a fond farewell before turning back for home with the friendship of both Elves and Dwarves, and a pretty decent retirement lined up. We estimate the value of Bilbo’s take-home pay, investigate the limits of the One Ring’s invisibility...


084 - The Violence Inherent in the System

As Chapter 17 of The Hobbit begins, the Lonely Mountain is under siege. Thorin — hanging on to outdated imperialist dogma which perpetuates the economic and social differences in Middle-earth — refuses to negotiate, knowing Dain is on his way. When Bilbo’s plot is revealed, Thorin goes into a rage and orders him gone (“‘Order’, eh? ‘Oo does ‘e think ‘e is?”); but just as all looks hopeless, goblins attack, and we see the… well, you know. The Battle of Five Armies begins, and we look back...


083 - Oh Yes, Ees Very Nice-uh

In Chapter 16 of The Hobbit, little Bilbo takes matters (and the Arkenstone) into his own hands and makes a deal with Bard and the Elvenking, who presumably don’t already have one, in an attempt to end the standoff peacefully. We consider just how short-sighted Thorin’s position really is, discuss how Bilbo totally owns the whole “honest burglar” thing, and finally welcome the return of one of Tolkien’s most beloved characters. Plus still more raven voices, and a question from Barliman’s...


082 - What is the Airspeed Velocity of a Decrepit Old Raven?

In Chapter 15, birds again show that their value in The Hobbit far outweighs their inability to carry a coconut. Bilbo and the Dwarves learn of Smaug’s death from the wise old raven Roäc, but they also learn that a host of Elves and Men is on its way to the Lonely Mountain —probably not to help redecorate. Will Thorin give charity to those in need, or has the dragon-sickness already taken root? We discuss the surprising similarities between Thorin and some of Tolkien’s greatest villains,...


081 - Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

We cut away to Lake-town for Chapter 14 of The Hobbit, as the people of Esgaroth slowly realize that the lights coming from the Lonely Mountain are not the triumphant King Thorin flooding the river with gold, but a very angry dragon. The town worrier turns town warrior and leads the people in a valiant defense, but the cost is high… and everyone looks to the Mountain for compensation. We discuss how Bard the Bowman narrowly escaped death by a stroke of Tolkien’s pen, and try one last time...


080 - And There Was Much Rejoicing

Trapped in the side-door tunnel at the beginning of Chapter 13 of The Hobbit, “Not at Home,” Bilbo leads the party in the only direction they can go: down. At the bottom they find no sign of Smaug, and the Dwarves rejoice at the recovery of their lost treasure. Only Mr. Baggins realizes that the celebration is premature and wonders where the dragon is. We examine the Arkenstone and the many meanings of a deceptively complex chapter title, and if you thought cram was hard to eat, wait until...


079 - Smaug Gets Quite Irate

In the second half of Chapter 12 of The Hobbit, Bilbo returns to Smaug’s lair to find the dragon waiting for him. Luckily he has on his ring, but the dragon senses his presence, and soon he is locked in a battle of wits with the wily worm. Bilbo’s Tookish side comes out as he plays at riddles, but Smaug quickly turns from cunning to cranky, and looks for someone to take out his aggression on. Before any of that, however, we have a little fun with young Tolkien’s first dragon story, explore...


078 - Every Worm is Sacred

As we begin Chapter 12 of The Hobbit, Bilbo the burglar is finally ready to enter Smaug’s lair alone, if only to get away from yet another self-important speech by Thorin. Braving the sleeping dragon, he manages to remove one piece of treasure from the hoard. But one piece at a time won’t cut it, and Smaug knows when something has been stolen. We delve into a Middle English proverb, Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf, and the life expectancy of dragons. Plus, we get to know another special...


077 - Questions After Nightfall II

In our second Prancing Pony Podcast Q&A episode, Alan and Shawn answer live questions from guest patrons on diverse topics, from the fate of Dwarves after death to which character we’d cosplay as… if either of us ever left the house, of course. Hear your hosts attempt to pronounce Eorl and wax philosophical about who the true hero of The Lord of the Rings really is (hint: not Eorl). Plus, a friendly warning that some of the youngest Tolkien fans are not happy with a recent answer to...


076 - The Ministry of Silly Locks

In Chapter 11 of The Hobbit, Bilbo and the Dwarves finally reach the Lonely Mountain, but they don’t know where the hidden door is. Then they find the door, but they don’t know how to open it. Fortunately, they do have an ancient map and a very lucky Hobbit with them, and they’ve arrived just in time. While Bilbo looks back to the west, missing his hobbit-hole, we talk once again about how he is the only person keeping this quest afloat. Plus a foolish Tolkien Fun Fact, and astronomical...


075 - Tolkien Reading Day Special 2018

Happy Tolkien Reading Day! On March 25 every year – the date of the fall of Barad-dûr – Tolkien lovers worldwide celebrate by reading the Professor’s works aloud. The theme for 2018 is Home and Hearth: the many ways of being a Hobbit. From the Shire to Cirith Ungol and back again, Alan and Shawn rattle on like Gaffer Gamgee at the Ivy Bush, reading passages from The Lord of the Rings that illustrate Hobbit ways.


074 – A Mandate From the Masses

Please keep your arms and legs inside the barrels at all times, until the ride comes to a complete stop in Lake-town where our heroes arrive, barely, in Chapter 10 of The Hobbit. Most of the Lake-towners have forgotten the past, but some still sing about the return of a nigh-legendary King under the Mountain. While Thorin soaks up the town’s adoration, only Bilbo seems to realize that the Mountain has not been won yet, and the most dangerous part of the journey is yet to come. We take a...


073 - Some Farcical Aquatic Ceremony

It’s the world’s worst whitewater rafting trip in the second half of Chapter 9 of The Hobbit! Bilbo reveals his plan for escaping the Elvenking’s halls. His friends are, quite understandably, less than enthusiastic, but with both time and ideas running out, it’s into the barrels they go! As they float away to freedom (or death), we learn more about Elvish wine, Dwarvish claustrophobia, and Hobbits’ legendary fear of water. Also, an excuse to talk about Eärendil (as if Shawn needed one),...


072 – King Name-Not-Appearing-In-This-Book

The rest of the Dwarves are taken by the Elves in the first half of Chapter 9 of The Hobbit. Bilbo avoids capture thanks to his ring, only to get stuck hiding for weeks in the Elvenking’s halls. Fortunately, Mr. Invisible Baggins keeps busy with more than just pilfering food, and soon an escape plan begins to take shape in the king’s impressive wine cellars. A listener question leads us to consider the difference between burglars and thieves, and Tolkien’s unfinished poetry offers another...


071 - Fortress Around Your Hoard

In our final episode on Chapter 8 of The Hobbit, Bilbo dispatches the Mirkwood spiders and rescues his friends, though it must be said that one beard sadly perishes in the effort. Thorin, however, has already been taken prisoner by the Elvenking, whose name is conspicuously missing from the pages of this book. We revisit the early chapters of The Silmarillion for a quick reminder about the difference between Wood-elves and the High Elves of the West, and finally learn why baby Tolkien was...


070 - If You Love Somebody, Cut Them Free

The second of three episodes on Chapter 8 of The Hobbit. As Mirkwood continues with no apparent end, our heroes get desperate and stray from the path when they see Elves feasting in a clearing nearby. They try three times to crash the party, but each time chaos ensues, and soon Bilbo finds himself alone in the dark with several Spiders of Unusual Size. We witness Bilbo’s most Tookish moment yet, learn about several games of the aiming and throwing sort, and rack up a number of reasons to...


069 - Be Still My Fleeting Hart

In the first episode of our trilogy on Chapter 8 of The Hobbit, Bilbo and the Dwarves enter Mirkwood and quickly learn the true meaning of the term "pitch-dark.” As the days drag on, their hunger and desperation grow, and there seems to be no end to the forest… but at least the spiders here are just small ones of Ordinary Size. We discuss Tolkien's folklore inspirations for the dark wood on the edge of the world, the enchanted stream, and more, then lighten the mood with an imaginary...


068 - Exit, Pursued by a Bear

We resume Chapter 7 of The Hobbit. Bilbo and the Dwarves spend a few days as the guests of Beorn, comfortable despite the occasional late-night sounds of a hungry bear on the other side of the door. After verifying their story personally, Beorn agrees to help the party with food, advice, and more… but he still doesn’t trust the Dwarves completely. We go further into the nature of Beorn and his place in the overall legendarium, and a Tolkien Fun Fact gives us a much-needed reason to revisit...