The Prancing Pony Podcast-logo

The Prancing Pony Podcast

Literature >

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.
More Information


United States


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.




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,...


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 at...


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 Bag...


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, and...


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 to...


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 a...