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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.




105 - Who Wants to Leave Forever?

Now with more Elves — for a limited time only! Book I, Chapter 3 of The Lord of the Rings concludes with a meeting between our hobbit heroes and the company of Gildor Inglorion in the Woody End. We reach back into The Silmarillion for a recap of the Elf kindreds, and turn to one of Tolkien’s letters (guess which one!) for a reminder of their destiny: to fade and leave Middle-earth to Men. We also take a look at This Week in Tolkien History, and our extended discussion about the stars may...


104 - I See a Little Silhouetto of a Man

We return to Book I, Chapter 3 of The Lord of the Rings to find Frodo, Sam, and Pippin still in high spirits as they stroll through the Shire. Before long, though, they realize that they’re being followed by a shadowy, sniffing black rider. We talk about the “unpremeditated turn” that transformed Tolkien’s Hobbit sequel into something darker and more adult, investigate trouble with the Big People, and even receive alarming news about Lobelia’s questionable plantation income. Oh, and if you...


103 - Goodbye Everybody, I've Got to Go

We begin Book I, Chapter 3 of The Lord of the Rings, “Three is Company”. After months of preparation, Frodo sells Bag End. He leaves home with Sam and Pippin on a pretense of moving back to Buckland, but before they even get to the bottom of the Hill, there are already hints that he is being followed. A new installment of Meanwhile, Elsewhere in Middle-earth uncovers why Gandalf ran off in such a hurry, and a listener question about Sauron's motives gives us a chance to meet the new Dark...


102 - Arthur of the Century: An Interview with Sørina Higgins

Draw the sword from the stone and light the grail-shaped beacon as we welcome Sørina Higgins — editor of the award-winning book The Inklings and King Arthur — to the Prancing Pony Podcast! We discuss the various ways each of the Inklings adapted the Arthurian legend for the twentieth century, including Tolkien’s incomplete poem The Fall of Arthur. We learn more about Tolkien’s relationships within the famous literary group and even get an up-close look at Charles Williams, whom Sørina writes...


101 - Now I Need a Place to Hide Away

In the final pages of Book I, Chapter 2, “The Shadow of the Past”, Gandalf recounts how he found Gollum and filled in the gaps in the Ring’s history. Frodo begins to understand what he must do; and while he’s not exactly eager to do it, he won’t have to do it alone. We spend some time on Gandalf’s words to Frodo about the importance of pity, and flip ahead to Book IV of The Lord of the Rings for a chilling account of Gollum’s torture at the hand of Sauron. Plus, a listener question leads us...


100 - There's a Shadow Hanging Over Me

In the second of three episodes on Book I, Chapter 2, “The Shadow of the Past”, Gandalf gives Frodo a brief history of the Rings of Power and the tragic tale of how the One Ring came to Sméagol, better known as Gollum. But Frodo finds some parts of the story hard to swallow, especially the one that wanders around making a gurgling sound in its throat. We answer a question about Middle-earth’s walking dead just in time for Halloween, talk with Shaun Gunner of the Tolkien Society about...


099 - Yesterday, All My Troubles Seemed So Far Away

Years have passed since the farewell party, and as the first part of Book I, Chapter 2, “The Shadow of the Past” unfolds, Frodo has come into his own as the new resident oddball at Bag End. But rumor begins to reach the Shire about a growing shadow in the East, and soon Gandalf returns (after not quite seventeen years) with foreboding news about Bilbo’s magic ring. Tolkien meets Jane Austen in an eye-opening mailbag submission, and a brief but most excellent appearance is made by Messrs....


098 - Questions After Nightfall IV

Once again, Alan and Shawn are joined live by several visitors to the Prancing Pony for some “Ask Me Anything”-style unscripted questions! Topics include the representation of women in Tolkien’s works, SPBMI in the Third Age, Tom Bombadil, and more! Plus, corrections to our first The Lord of the Rings chapter discussion just keep piling up… and we breathe a sigh of relief over a welcome softball question about the enduring appeal of Monty Python.


097 - A Hard Day's Night

Book I, Chapter 1 of The Lord of the Rings concludes with the aftermath of the birthday party. Bilbo has left behind gifts for friends and family ranging from the sincere to the brilliantly snarky, but no trace of gold or “jools”. As the Sackville-Bagginses come to terms with their meager inheritance, Frodo settles in as master of Bag End… and owner of a certain magic ring. We name unnamed dwarves, speculate wildly about the Dúnedain of the North (despite Tolkien’s best efforts), and...


096 - I Don't Want to Spoil the Party, So I'll Go

As Book I, Chapter 1 of The Lord of the Rings continues, the Baggins binary birthday bash begins with food, fireworks, and no unwanted poetry. Bilbo actually has something far more noteworthy in mind: a dramatic and immediate departure. As the flabbergasted guests eat and drink away their confusion, Gandalf confronts Bilbo about… well, you know. We discuss Tolkien’s comments on the longevity of Ringbearers, bring out the Fëanor piñata once again, and introduce a brand-new segment: Meanwhile,...


095 - They Say It's Your Birthday

In the first pages of Book I, Chapter 1 of The Lord of the Rings, “A Long-Expected Party”, we see Bilbo Baggins through the eyes of the hobbits of the Shire, not all of whom view him kindly. Seeming eccentric to some and suspicious to others, Bilbo is nevertheless the chief topic of conversation as the occasion of his eleventy-first birthday approaches. While the Gaffer gabs in the Ivy Bush, we discuss the secret ambitions of the Sackville-Bagginses, admire Tolkien’s intractability towards...


094 - This Shire is Your Shire

Never ones to skip over the pages with Roman numerals, we begin reading The Lord of the Rings at the famous Foreword, where Tolkien offered his most well-known comments on his own work, including his thoughts about allegory. Next, the Prologue explains in rich detail the history of the Shire, pipe-weed, and the sticky story of how Bilbo found his ring. Along the way, we discuss the origins (and, uh, the 'final destination') of Hobbits, the Red Book of Westmarch, and lob more classic movie...


093 - We're In the Same Tale Still!

At long last, we finally… really this time… begin The Lord of the Rings! In this episode, we introduce the novel (not a trilogy) with the epic story of its composition and publication. Almost immediately after The Hobbit was published, Tolkien’s publishers demanded a sequel; but the road from idea to publication took the Professor seventeen long years, with more twists and turns than a goblin-tunnel. Plus, the story of the Professor’s appearance at a hobbit-themed dinner in 1958 in a...


092 - We're Not Saying It's Monsters, But It's Monsters

Before turning to The Lord of the Rings, Alan and Shawn gain some needed insight with a look at Tolkien’s influential essay “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics.” Tolkien’s response to the prevailing theories of his day about the Old English poem ushered in a new era in Beowulf scholarship; and like “On Fairy-Stories,” its concepts help us better understand the Middle-earth legendarium. As the battle rages between humanity and the forces of darkness, some beloved children’s characters...


091 - Laughing Shall We Die: An Interview with Tom Shippey

Season 3 is here, and we begin by welcoming Tom Shippey to The Prancing Pony Podcast! We discuss his classic works The Road to Middle-earth and J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century, and the remarkable story of his personal meeting with Professor Tolkien in 1972. We also talk about his new book Laughing Shall I Die, an exploration of the Viking heroic mindset and their grim (often inappropriate) sense of humor. Plus, the shocking link between Beowulf and a young woman searching for the...


090 - Between Light and Dark: An Interview with Verlyn Flieger

Alan and Shawn are honored to welcome Verlyn Flieger, author of There Would Always Be a Fairy Tale, to The Prancing Pony Podcast! We discuss her new book, her work co-editing the annual journal Tolkien Studies, and of course, her classic study of the legendarium, Splintered Light. We also learn about the best way to read Tolkien’s letters, drool over reports from the recent Bodleian Library exhibition, and applaud the way Dr. Flieger turns the tables and interviews us for a change.


089 - Questions After Nightfall III

It’s time for the latest Prancing Pony Podcast Q&A episode! This time around, Alan and Shawn attempt to answer live questions from guest patrons on life lessons in Tolkien’s works, symbolism in the story of Beren and Lúthien, The Lord of the Rings Online, and more! We revisit a recent Barliman’s Bag question about Middle-earth heroes breaking into song, and boldly try to work out whether the most memorable line in Bilbo’s birthday speech is a compliment. Plus, a recent comment about Thorin...


088 - Live From Mythmoot Five

Alan and Shawn finally draw swords together in person for a live recording from Mythmoot V in Leesburg, Virginia! We interview this year’s special guests, including Signum University president Corey Olsen, Tolkien and the Great War author John Garth, The Annotated Hobbit editor Douglas A. Anderson, and Klingon conlanger Marc Okrand. We look back at the history of the podcast, answer questions from the audience (many of whom have never had to suffer through our jokes for an entire podcast...


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 Sackville-Bagginses,...