The Prancing Pony Podcast – Tolkien and Middle-earth

By Alan Sisto & Shawn Marchese

Listen to a podcast, please open Podcast Republic app. Available on Google Play Store.


Category: Literature

Open in Apple Podcasts


Open RSS feed


Open Website


Rate for this podcast

Subscribers: 401
Reviews: 4

Andreas
 May 3, 2020
Totally awesome podcast with some of the funniest hosts! They might have a penchant for musty musical references and dusty dry humour but man, this is a must if you are slightly interested in Tolkien. 👍

Dan
 Oct 16, 2019
Amazing.

Elli
 Sep 30, 2019
:)

Elizabeth
 Sep 11, 2019
Thank you so much for this podcast! Loving it!

Description

As they explore the 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.

Alan and Shawn engage in plenty of in-depth study of Tolkien's books, but with a healthy dose of self-effacing humor, pop-culture references, and bad puns. These are the two guys you'd want to hang out with at a pub and talk Tolkien with.

Episode Date
173 - Questions After Nightfall 11
5771

Join us once again as we welcome guest listeners to the common-room for our eleventh unscripted Q&A episode! Looks like Elves are back on the menu (that came out way weirder than we meant it to) as we answer live questions about Galadriel, the fading of the Eldar, and whether Elrond has Thranduil on his speed dial. Also, Alan and Shawn read favorite passages from The Lord of the Rings to shine a light of hope through the darkness, and go deep into the dictionary and Tolkien’s works to discover the difference between and “oath” and a “vow”.

Jun 28, 2020
172 - Bye, Company (Till the Day You Die)
7925

Galadriel says farewell with a few extra-special gifts for the extra-special members of the Fellowship while the others sit back and grumble about their belts and stuff. Gimli — unfazed by Celeborn’s presence — sweet-talks the Lady into giving him something incredibly personal, and Frodo and Sam receive gifts that seem nice, but aren’t something they’ll be using every day. We remember our painful teenage years with some weepy ‘80s love songs, whack the Fëanor piñata again (because why not), and interview James Tauber of the Digital Tolkien Project.

Jun 21, 2020
171 - Can't Get Enough of Your Leaves
5551

Now outfitted with boats, travel gear, and road snacks, the Fellowship leave Lothlórien. They make it just a little way down the river before they’re attacked by a gargantuan swan (which is just a big boat! Whew. And obviously we all totally knew that... who’s freaked out? We’re not freaked out) and invited to finally have a meal with the Lord and Lady of the Galadhrim. After an epic picnic on the grass, Celeborn — typical dad — gives directions, and Galadriel gives the Company “personalized” gifts that prove exactly who her favorites are.

Jun 14, 2020
170 - Feel Like Bakin' Loaves
5427

Galadriel and Celeborn test the Fellowship once again by kindly inviting them to leave Lothlórien and not let the light plaited screen hit them on the way out. The Company are all ready to move on, but not sure where to go — fortunately, a few boats delay the need to make a decision for at least another week. Pippin gets confused looks for saying the M-word around Elves; Sam might have warned him if he wasn’t so busy geeking out on ropes. And your hosts get word-nerdy on lembas and the ladies who make it (warning: this podcast may contain gluten).

Jun 07, 2020
169 – The Grand Illusion
6182

Galadriel welcomes Frodo and Sam to come on in and see what’s happening with her Mirror. Sam receives a vision of some devilry at work in the Shire; but the Mirror is dangerous as a guide of deeds, and Sam is forced to choose between going on and going home. Frodo catches a glimpse of someone who fortunately can’t see him just yet, and Galadriel faces a temptation of epic proportions. Eärendil shows up to shine a little light on the situation, and we speculate about everything from ring resizing to Irish linguistics.

May 31, 2020
168 - Too Much Time on Their Hands
6520

The Fellowship pass “some days” in Lórien as guests of Galadriel and Celeborn (though not the kind of guests who actually get to see or speak to their hosts), and get plenty of recovery, escape, and consolation from their travels and their grief. With nothing to do but eat, drink, rest, and walk, they are content — but life in a time bubble can’t last forever, and even Sam knows they’ll have to be leaving soon. Frodo remembers Gandalf in song, Pippin gets awfully protective about his blankets, and your hosts graciously accept corrections offered by actual experts in their fields.

May 24, 2020
167 - You're My Lady
6760

The Fellowship comes to Caras Galadhon — the city of Lothlórien — where lights twinkle like stars in trees as tall as skyscrapers. After climbing to a high a and enormous flet they are greeted by Middle-earth’s #1 power couple: Lord Celeborn and Lady Galadriel. Celeborn’s welcome is warm at first, but cools when he learns the Company awoke something very warm (and wingless) in Moria. But when the Lady comes to their defense, even Gimli starts to feel all gooey inside. All this, and a sidebar illustrates the dangers of research in the murky waters of Tolkien’s unfinished material.

May 17, 2020
166 – Inspiration in Unlikely (and Likely) Places: An Interview with John Garth
3532

Alan and Shawn are pleased to welcome John Garth back to the podcast to talk about his upcoming book, The Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien. It gives us an unprecedented look at the places that inspired Tolkien, from locations close to home in England to cultural traditions around the world. Listen in as Garth explains the origins of the book and his approach to the topic, shares surprising connections between the legendarium and the real world, and even debunks a few myths. We close with a look back at Christopher Tolkien and legacy owed to him by fans of his father.

May 10, 2020
165 - Just a Little Bit of Peril
6069

The Fellowship are led through Lothlórien blindfolded, and yes, Legolas is still complaining. Deprived of his sight, Frodo’s heightened senses take in the sounds, the smells, and the feel of the world around him; and we bask in the beauty of Tolkien’s prose all the way to Cerin Amroth — the heart of elvendom on earth — where the blindfolds are finally removed. We ease up on our criticism of Haldir (once he finally does the right thing), contemplate Galadriel’s punk phase, and offer up word-nerdery on the Elvish name of Sam’s (and Alan’s) favorite flower.

May 03, 2020
164 - Nobody Expected the Elvish Insinuation
6020

Haldir of Lórien greets the Fellowship (the less beardy fellows, at least) as friends and invites them to spend the night in his magic treehouse. Poor Gimli is deemed a spy just for being a Dwarf in an Elvish forest, but nobody tells him. And while the others sleep, Frodo awakens in the middle of the night to the sound of Orcs… and something else. We expose the casual racism of the Galadhrim, discuss surprising connections to a recently unearthed Tolkien Christmas poem, and go back to the Bovril well (trying hard not to fall in) for more jokes.

Apr 26, 2020
163 - Strange Women Singing in Streams
6361

No basis for a system of government, maybe, but it’s a perfectly good reason for an Elf to wax poetic about the good old days (or the bad ones… but it’s not the Dwarves’ fault). After Legolas tells the story of Nimrodel and Amroth, the Fellowship continue through the Golden Wood until they are halted by mysterious voices from above. We get word-nerdy on the language of the Silvan Elves, contemplate Wizard staffs (staves?), and run off after Thorin’s dad in This Week in Tolkien History. Plus, Amazon series predictions that will be hilarious in a few years.

Apr 19, 2020
162 - 'Tis but a Scratch
6079

The Fellowship mourns Gandalf quickly before moving on to put as much distance as possible between themselves and Moria. Gimli makes a quick stop at a legendary Dwarvish tourist attraction, but Aragorn leaves the car running, hoping to make it to Lothlórien before dark (he’s got rewards points, and all the rooms are Orc-free). Legolas suddenly remembers that, oh yeah, Frodo almost died… so Aragorn pulls over to tend to the wounded, and to deliver an alarming joke about Hobbit-poaching which must draw at least four slightly terrified stares.

Apr 05, 2020
161 - Questions After Nightfall 10
5671

Pull up a seat near the log-fire as we welcome a few guest listeners to our tenth quarterly unscripted Q&A episode! It’s a small gathering in the common-room tonight, and we take our time answering some deep and nuanced questions about Tolkien’s legendarium. Let’s get metaphysical as we speculate about the Ainur, the limits of their power, and their lasting impression on the physical world. We geek out on Old English (no surprise there) and eucatastrophe (ditto), and more... including a brave attempt to answer a one-word question.  

Mar 29, 2020
160 - Tolkien Reading Day Special 2020
7761

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. A theme is chosen by The Tolkien Society every year, and for 2020 the theme is: Nature v. Industry. Join Alan and Shawn for more reading and less talking than usual as we read some of the best-known passages on the topic, and hopefully a few curve balls too. All that, plus a Barliman’s Bag question that may not be appropriate for young Entings (par-Ental discretion advised).

Mar 22, 2020
159 - A Farewell to Wings
7106

On a very special episode of the Prancing Pony Podcast, we come to the most divisive question in Tolkien fandom: are Balrogs left-handed? No, wait, it’s the other one about Balrog physiology, and we finally, definitively* answer it here. The answer we land on may surprise you... but only if you’ve never listened to us before. But first, there’s a chapter to finish! Join us for a free-for-all of fear, foes, and fellowship for Frodo and his friends, before a fiery face-off with a (flightless) First Age fiend and the fatal fall of a fan favorite, and his final “Fly, you fools!”

* Not definitively.

Mar 15, 2020
158 - Troll the Bones
6389

Gandalf discovers a damaged book documenting the Dwarves’ doomed attempt to retake Moria. They read with growing horror about the fates of Balin, Ori, and others; but at least they now know where they are and how to get out. Before they can leave, though, a killer drum solo begins in the depths far below, and soon they are attacked by Orcs, bigger Orcs, and even (say it with us) a cave-troll. Also: bad-luck names for library buildings, Tolkien’s commitment to realistic illustrations, and adventuring undergarments that offer more than just comfort.

Mar 08, 2020
157 - Don't Stop Believin'
5250

Following an insensitive remark about the “darksome” halls of Khazad-dûm by Samwise at bedtime, Gimli delivers an impassioned defense of his people’s lifestyle choices — in verse — and Gandalf gives a history lesson about Moria and mithril. Safe in his (really valuable) mail-shirt, Frodo takes the first watch… and starts to believe he may not be the only one doing the watching. We revisit the ill will of Caradhras, spoil Gimli’s family reunion plans, and terrify our vegetarian listeners (and Alan) with way too much talk of meat extract.

Mar 01, 2020
156 - Any Way You Want It (Just Not the Middle Way)
6254

Frodo feels a sense of growing dread — and hears faint footsteps behind them — as the Fellowship marches across the long dark of Moria, navigating the twists and turns with only Gandalf’s memory as their guide. But when they reach a fork in the road that the wizard can’t remember, what then? Maybe throwing a rock down this well will help. A passing reference to Middle-earth’s most notorious cat lady gets us chasing our tails in a screeching good sidebar, but before any of that, an interview with the acclaimed Tolkien artist Jenny Dolfen.

Feb 23, 2020
155 - Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'
4574

The Fellowship has found the Hollin Gate! But before they can enter Moria, they need to figure out the password. Merry stumbles upon a clue quickly, but no one notices, and Gandalf proceeds to shout spells at the door while something in the water waits for a chance to get handsy (tentaclesy?) with Frodo. Impulse control, Lovecraftian horrors, and an unusually high number of Monty Python references lie within (recorded prior to the passing of the great Terry Jones). Plus, word-nerdery about the worst password a Tolkien fan can use, friend.

Feb 16, 2020
154 - Separate Ways
5419

After the warg attack the weather changes again, becoming sunny and clear. That’s terrible news, of course, since now the Fellowship is visible to any unfriendly eyes that may be watching. They must get under the mountains quickly, but first they have to find the Elven Door into Moria; and someone still needs to tell Sam that he can’t take his little pony underground. We examine the implications of separate doors for guests, talk about Tolkien’s flexibility with moon phases, and call a lifeline for a question about Dwarvish word-nerdery that is beyond our skill to nerd.

Feb 09, 2020
153 - When the Lights Go Down
6032

Defeated by Caradhras, the Fellowship regroups and discusses what to do next. Going back — though supported by the second-breakfast faction — is not a viable option. Boromir, who was apparently napping through that part of the Council, continues to push for the Gap of Rohan. Finally, Gandalf makes a motion to go through Moria, and is seconded by a pack of hungry wargs. Amazingly, we do not revisit the whole warg/wolf/werewolf thing again (just kidding; we totally do). Plus, a heartwarming letter from the Professor to the Tolkien Society in This Week in Tolkien History.

Feb 02, 2020
152 - Trampled Under Snow
4676

The crossing of cruel Caradhras is hindered by snow, wind, and falling stones that seem to be sent by some supernatural force. Who or what is against them is unclear, but it is clear that continuing on is not an option… and going back is not going to be easy. Fortunately, a few members of the company aren’t quite as short as the rest, and Gandalf has something in his flask that will keep their spirits up. Also: the 1911 hiking trip that inspired Tolkien’s perilous mountain crossings, Elf-jokes, and profound listener insights about the varying tones in the Red Book of Westmarch.

Jan 26, 2020
151 - Misty Mountain Hop
4995

The Fellowship is forced to leave Hollin early when “no sign of life nearby” turns into “giant evil crows filling the sky”. Certain they are being watched, they get moving as soon as possible and make for the Misty Mountains, but Gandalf and Aragorn bicker like an old married couple about the best way to get across — if you’re more familiar with the movies, Gandalf’s choice may surprise you. Barliman brings us a welcome follow-up on a listener’s question about the friend who dismissed Tolkien as “nerdy”, and we seriously try to make “brupper” a thing, because the alternative is far worse.

In memory of Christopher Tolkien, 1924 – 2020.

Jan 19, 2020
150 - Time to Ramble On
5292

On a cold grey winter evening, Frodo sets out on the Quest of Mount Doom with eight companions. Boromir blows his horn to make sure everyone for miles around knows about their “secret” departure, and Gimli debates the value of oaths with Elrond before the Fellowship of the Ring says goodbye to the Last Homely House. We get knee-deep in Dwarvish word-nerdery, investigate Tolkien’s (unintentional?) symbolism in choosing Christmas Day as the start of the quest, and pass ourselves off as a couple of hoopy froods who really know where our towels are.

Jan 12, 2020
149 - Good Times Bad Times
6222

We resume the narrative with the first part of “The Ring Goes South”, as Frodo and his friends come to terms with the decisions made at the Council of Elrond. But the Ring isn’t going anywhere for a couple of months; and that leaves time for scouts to scout, smiths to smith, and Bilbo to get all nostalgic. As the roster of the Fellowship is filled and Frodo and Aragorn get (not really) new swords, we take another look back at the “incident” in the Hall of Fire, and lament the endless abuse piled onto Pippin by everyone’s favorite wizard.

Jan 05, 2020
148 - Questions After Nightfall 9
4905

Alan and Shawn once again open the doors of the common-room to our listeners for live, unscripted Q&A! We shoot from the hip on questions about “wild men”, Frodo’s mental resilience, and whether Fëanor really is just too melodramatic (spoiler: yes). Also, what is it that makes Tolkien’s work so enduringly popular, and does Tom Bombadil have a personal teleportation device? Answers to these questions and more inside… plus, great ideas about where to wear your Prancing Pony Podcast T-shirt.

Dec 15, 2019
147 - Tales from the Perilous Green Room: An Interview with Brian Sibley
5912

Alan and Shawn are thrilled to welcome back Brian Sibley for his first full-episode interview! A writer and broadcaster, Brian has been responsible for beloved adaptations of Tolkien’s work such as the BBC radio dramatizations of The Lord of the Rings and Tales from the Perilous Realm. He’s also written several books on Peter Jackson’s films, for which he had rare access behind the scenes during production. We talk to Brian about the history behind these projects, hear inside stories about your favorite hobbit actors, and learn why producers try (and often fail) to keep the writers out of the studio.

Dec 08, 2019
146 - Bring It on Home
5754

The Council of Elrond draws to a close, and options are finally debated about what to do with the One Ring. But the easy way is obviously the wrong way, the hard way seems impossible; and frankly, you know the committee is running out of ideas when “give the doomsday weapon to the guy in the yellow boots who sings all the time” is a proposal under serious consideration. But in Tolkien’s world, small hands often move the wheels of the world… and fortunately, there are a lot of small hands going up around the table.  

Nov 24, 2019
145 - What Is and What Should Never Be
5871

Frodo finally learns why Gandalf never came as promised: Saruman the (Until Recently) White has turned to the dark side! The betrayal sinks in as the wizard tells the tale of his imprisonment at Orthanc and his rescue by Gwaihir, swiftest of the Great Eagles. With the Council finally caught up, they turn to the real question: what to do with the Ring? (And no, Gwaihir isn’t taking it anywhere.) We celebrate an important Tolkien birthday, go on tour with the Dreadful Nine, and wonder what lucky person in Rivendell got picked to hang the Ring on Frodo’s neck.

Nov 17, 2019
144 - Nobody's Fault but Mine (and Yours, and Isildur's)
5014

Gandalf and Elrond come to terms with their own past mistakes while Aragorn reveals the lengths to which he’s gone to repair the faults of Isildur. As the story continues to unfold, the truth becomes clear to all at the Council of Elrond: Frodo’s ring is the One Ring cut from the hand of Sauron, and Gandalf isn’t afraid to use strong words — in the Black Speech — to prove it. We meet Radagast (in flashback), get word nerdy on a rather condescending name for Hobbits, and look for eucatastrophes in our favorite non-Tolkien stories.

Nov 10, 2019
143 - Whole Lotta Lore
5811

The Council of Elrond continues with a brief history of Arnor and Gondor since Isildur’s time, and Boromir begins to learn the meaning of the riddle that brought him to Rivendell. He takes the revelation of Aragorn’s identity surprisingly well; but he still has questions, prompting another tale from Bilbo about the finding of the Ring. We hear back from some listeners we met at Tolkien 2019, revisit a meaningful comment by Elrond from last episode, and learn disturbing truths about the teenage preoccupations of one of our hosts.

Nov 03, 2019
142 - Confustication Breakdown (with special guest Corey Olsen)
8690

The Council of Elrond begins, and to help us bring the meeting to order, we welcome Corey Olsen — the Tolkien Professor himself — to the Prancing Pony Podcast! We start with a conversation about the nature of Rivendell itself, then dive into the text to untangle the various accounts at a pace none of us are quite used to. Along the way, we revisit the making of the Rings of Power, the Last Alliance, and Elrond’s less-than-exemplary committee chairing skills. Plus, what really happened when Frodo showed Bilbo the Ring? And what's up with Boromir's hair?    

Oct 27, 2019
141 - Starship Trooper
5732

With his friends all gone, Frodo stays in the Hall of Fire listening to the minstrels of Rivendell. The Elvish singing speaks to him in sweet accustomed ways, and he wanders enchanted for longer than time can remember... returning only when he hears a familiar voice chanting. We give Bilbo’s Song of Eärendil the full Prancing Pony Podcast treatment, explore its origins in an earlier Tolkien poem, and start assembling our best playlist as the starship mariner goes sailing on by. But first, Shawn takes the helm in an intro segment that he’s way too excited about.

Oct 20, 2019
140 - I've Seen All Good People
5446

Now taking a straight and stronger course to recovery, Frodo feels it’s time for food, drink, and merrymaking. He has a brief reunion with Sam, then with Merry and Pippin before they’re all moved on to the hall for a feast.  Each way he turns his head, Frodo is surrounded by fair and powerful folk; but he has a pleasant (if cautious) dinner conversation with Glóin, after which he’s on his way to the Hall of Fire for a very merry meeting in the corner of the room. Plus Elves are singing! Dwarves are blinging! And Elrond makes a claim for the title of Best Elf Father-in-Law to a Man (your move, Thingol).

Oct 13, 2019
139 - Close to the Edge
5709

We return to the text of The Lord of the Rings with the first chapter of Book II! Frodo awakens in Rivendell after the incident down by the river to find Gandalf beside him. Now that it’s all over and done, Frodo is relieved to find that he and his friends are alive and whole, but as he learns more about events since Weathertop, he realizes how close he came to becoming a wraith himself. We get up to a Tolkien Quote of the Day about children, and get down to why the Barrow was “the most dangerous moment of all”. Also, another chance to talk about werewolves? Yes.

Oct 06, 2019
138 - Questions After Nightfall 8
4986

Alan and Shawn welcome a cozy group of listeners to the common-room for another round of live, unscripted questions about Tolkien, the podcast, and more! We return to the Ford of Bruinen to figure out exactly what happened, and even look back on the early adventures of the Hobbits in Book I of The Lord of the Rings. We court controversy with questions about Balrog wings and whether we really are too hard on Fëanor (spoiler: no). Plus, what happened to the greatest Elvish poets of the First Age, and wouldn’t it be nice if they were still around?

Sep 29, 2019
137 - Go Back to the Beginning
6043

That’s what Vizzini told us to do, so we have. As we shake off the jet lag and learn to live again without full English breakfasts and a steady supply of fish and chips, we look back at Book I of The Lord of the Rings, revisiting the recurring themes in the story so far. Then we look ahead to Book II, and the new themes and tone that will emerge as Frodo continues on the ever-darkening road to Mordor. We shake the dust off Barliman’s Bag with a few questions from our summer hiatus, finally put Tolkien 2019 behind us with a brief discussion of our favorite moments, and explore the answer to the burning question: Who’s more goth than Morgoth?

Sep 22, 2019
136 - Live from Tolkien 2019
6306

Alan and Shawn reunite in person for a live recording from Tolkien 2019 in Birmingham, England! We interviewed several special guests at the conference, including returning guests (Marquette University archivist Bill Fliss, authors Dimitra Fimi and John Garth) and some first-timers: legendary artist Ted Nasmith, Richard Medrington — the man behind the one-man theatrical production of Leaf By Niggle — and dramatist Brian Sibley of the Lord of the Rings BBC radio play! Plus live questions from our panel audience, questionable wardrobe choices, and some other unquestionably good stuff!

Sep 15, 2019
135 – Things You Don’t Want to Say No To: An Interview with Wayne Hammond & Christina Scull
5455

We end Season 3 by welcoming Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull to the podcast! This renowned husband-wife team have co-authored some of the most essential books in Tolkien studies. In addition to several volumes on Tolkien’s art (such as J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator) they’ve given the world The Lord of the Rings: A Reader’s Companion, the recently-expanded J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, and much more. We talk about their many award-winning publications, hear how it feels to be given a special project by Christopher Tolkien himself, and receive a comforting reminder that anyone can make a mistake.

Aug 04, 2019
134 – White Horses Could Drag Me Away
6579

Strider is remarkably not disappointed that the Elf who’s overtaken them on the road is not his girlfriend. It’s Glorfindel of Rivendell; and for listeners who remember our episodes on the fall of Gondolin, we’ll not only answer the question of whether this Glorfindel is really that Glorfindel, we’ll also delve into Tolkien’s essays to understand what makes him so special. Plus, more questions about Elvish rebirth, a booth review on who attacked the Prancing Pony in the previous chapter, and hip-but-casual footwear options for the discerning demiurge.

Jul 28, 2019
133 - It's Only Rock (Not Trolls) But I Like It
4686

Strider’s path to Rivendell leads the hobbits through rough terrain; all the while, the days get colder and Frodo gradually succumbs to the evil effects of the Witch-king’s blade. A bad situation starts to look even worse when Pippin and Merry catch a glimpse of three trolls ahead — and if that sounds familiar to you, then you scored higher than they did. Sam surprises everyone again with a bit of his own poetry, we talk about the power of textual ruins with a Tolkien Quote of the Day, and Shawn once again wonders about the smells of Middle-earth.  

Jul 21, 2019
132 - Ranger's Little Helper
5420

Frodo awakens, wounded and bewildered, after the attack on Weathertop. Believing they’ve been led into a trap, Sam is certain (again) that Strider is not to be trusted, but the Ranger proves himself useful (again) by treating the wound with athelas, a healing herb of the Dúnedain. The wonder drug doesn’t work wonders, but it eases Frodo’s pain enough to resume the journey to Rivendell. We ponder the possibilities of troll architecture, celebrate a podcast milestone, and consider how Sauron is like a cell phone battery.

Jul 14, 2019
131 - Visualizing Middle-earth: An Interview with Greg Hildebrandt
4225

Alan and Shawn are pleased to welcome Greg Hildebrandt to the Prancing Pony Podcast! An iconic artist and illustrator, Greg (together with his twin brother Tim as the Brothers Hildebrandt) helped a generation of readers visualize Middle-earth in the Ballantine Books J.R.R. Tolkien Calendars from 1976 to 1978, and continues to create fantasy and sci-fi art to this day. Greg talked to us about his art and shared some incredible stories from his long and celebrated career, including the story behind the poster for some obscure 1970s movie called Star Wars.

Jun 30, 2019
130 - Questions After Nightfall 7
5773

It’s our most Bombadilicious episode yet! Once again, Alan and Shawn open the common-room to listeners for live, unscripted questions that we answer on the spot as best we can. This time around we tackle several questions about Rings of Power (and the people who wear them), the optics of invisibility, and how not to purloin poultry. Also, some pre-finale Game of Thrones predictions that will seem absolutely hilarious now… and move over, Carolinas and Texas: Tuckborough-style barbecue might just be the next hot culinary trend.      

Jun 23, 2019
129 - Fooled on the Hill
4450

Evening falls on Weathertop, and our heroes make camp beneath the stars with the Black Riders not far away. Strider tells stories to chase away their fears, covering most of The Silmarillion in a lot less time than we did. But in the darkest night, the Black Riders sneak up on the camp, and Frodo is suddenly overcome by a desire to disappear. We revisit the story of Beren and Lúthien, Alan alliterates again, and we solve several surprisingly similar listener questions about Ringwraiths.

Jun 16, 2019
128 - Magical Mystery Tour
5324

Strider leads the hobbits through the mysterious (and not entirely comforting) ruins of ancient kingdoms of Men along the road to Weathertop, with the hope of meeting Gandalf there. The Ranger’s knowledge of ancient lore surprises the hobbits nearly as much as Sam’s does; and as they roll up to the hill, they discover they’re not the only ones to have been here recently. Plus, Strider still needs to lighten up, a listener shares a pro tip about reading Tolkien to kids at bedtime, and we see how many quotes from The Princess Bride we can squeeze into a short amount of time. 

Jun 09, 2019
127 - Twelve-Penny Lane
4957

Black Riders attack the inn during the night, so Strider opts for an early check-out to get out of Bree quickly. They soon discover that Merry’s ponies are missing, delaying their departure; but Barliman, uh, ponies up the money to compensate their losses and buys them one underfed beast of burden for the road. Bill Ferny (now twelve silver pennies richer) sees the heroes off on their way out of town, and Sam repays his kind gesture with an apple. Also: more listener questions on the Rings of Power, and word-nerdery on the itchiest place name in Middle-earth.

Jun 02, 2019
126 - Noble Enough to Know What's Right
5930

Frodo reads Gandalf’s letter, more concerned than ever at the wizard’s absence and the delay caused by Barliman. But at least the letter confirms Strider’s identity, and Frodo is wise enough to choose to trust him. Sam’s continued protests give the Ranger a chance to be tempted by the Ring, but he keeps his self-control; and before long Merry returns with a report that the Black Riders are much closer than they think. Also, we welcome Marquette University archivist Bill Fliss to talk about his exciting new project: the J.R.R. Tolkien Fandom Oral History Collection. 

May 26, 2019
125 - A Writer and a Ranger
8484

We begin with a review of the new biographical film Tolkien (spoilers: see below) before moving on to the first half of Book I, Chapter 10. Frodo, Sam, and Pippin retire to their parlor after the “accident” in the common-room, only to find the mysterious Ranger called Strider there with them. Strider seems to know a lot about their errand, but before Frodo can find out how, Barliman comes in with a not-exactly-rush delivery. We investigate the peculiar names of inns, mock the poverty of bards, and reveal there’s more in our CD collections than just classic Rush albums.

SPOILER ALERT: Our review of the new biopic film Tolkien is (of course) full of spoilers, and (also of course) went longer than we planned. If you haven't seen the film and don't want it spoiled, skip ahead to just before the 59-minute mark for our chapter discussion.

May 19, 2019
124 - Living in the Limelight
6154

Cast in his unlikely role as “Mr. Underhill”, Frodo tries to keep a low profile at the Prancing Pony. But the attention he’s getting from a shady-looking Ranger approaches the unreal, and someone has to distract the room from the loose-lipped Pippin. Frodo handles the situation with insufficient tact, delivering a speech and a song that offer the Ring an opportunity to keep itself intact. Shawn gets on with the fascination of etymology, and Alan has way too much fun using sound effects to announce a Double Sidebar on an underlying theme in Tolkien’s poetry.

May 12, 2019
123 - Be Cool or Be Cast Out
5827

Frodo and his friends make their way to Bree, and to an inn with a strangely familiar name, in the first half of “At the Sign of the Prancing Pony”. The Men of Bree are an independent people, cheerful and friendly as a rule… but Sam is nervous with all these Big Folk and bigger buildings about, and Frodo stays on his guard while Pippin makes friends with the Little Folk among the locals. We revisit the role of forests in the legendarium, offer tips on which Tolkien moot is right for you, and walk in the Professor’s footsteps to the nearest pub.    

May 05, 2019
122 - The Digital Mead-Hall: TexMoot 2019 Keynote Presentation
3930

In January, Alan and Shawn were honored to be the keynote speakers at Signum University’s second annual Texas Literature & Language Symposium (“TexMoot”) in Waco, Texas! Our talk, recorded live, explored podcasts as modern-day mead-halls providing a virtual place for communities to come together around a work of literature. We shared our experience of seeing a community of Tolkien fans build up around our own podcast, cracked the kind of jokes that can only happen in front of a live audience, and even trotted out a few old favorites.

Apr 28, 2019
121 - Comfortably Tom
6972

In the final pages of “Fog on the Barrow-downs”, the hobbits — now armed with nice, shiny daggers — reluctantly take their leave of Tom Bombadil. Before we say goodbye to Tom, we give the greatest enigma in Middle-earth the full Prancing Pony Podcast treatment! We answer listener questions, respond to popular theories, and assemble a council’s worth of comments from our favorite scholars (including an unpublished letter by Tolkien himself) before making our final conclusions about what Tom Bombadil really is. A day may come when your hosts have an epic disagreement… is it this day?

Apr 14, 2019
120 - Wish You Weren't Here
5827

As we resume “Fog on the Barrow-downs”, Frodo comes to and finds himself trapped in a barrow with his friends unconscious beside him, arrayed eerily in the buried treasures of long-dead lords. For a moment, Frodo is tempted to flee with the Ring and leave his friends behind, but there is a seed of courage hidden in the heart of every hobbit, and Frodo isn’t just any hobbit. Also: halfling streaking, a listener question about Sauron’s massive blind spot, and we’ll take “Unflattering Names to Call Your Pony” for $200, Alex.  

Apr 07, 2019
119 - The Dark Side of the Tomb
4918

We begin the chilling chapter “Fog on the Barrow-downs” on the hobbits’ last morning in the house of Tom Bombadil and Goldberry. Soon they must be off again and into the haunted hills beyond; but they should be safe if they just keep to the west side of the barrows and get out of the downs before sunset, so let’s just see how that works out for them. Plus, more about wights than you ever wanted to know, another prophetic dream for Mr. Frodo Baggins, and a pair of incredible The Lord of the Rings–inspired parody songs that deserve better singers.

Mar 31, 2019
118 - Tolkien Reading Day Special 2019
7866

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. A theme is chosen by The Tolkien Society every year, and for 2019 the theme is Tolkien and the Mysterious. Join Alan and Shawn as we read favorite passages from The Lord of the Rings and Unfinished Tales about mysterious people and places in the legendarium. We’ll even investigate one of Middle-earth’s great unsolved mysteries with a question from Barliman’s Bag.

Mar 24, 2019
117 - Questions After Nightfall 6
6022

Alan and Shawn once again welcome several of our listeners to the Prancing Pony Podcast for live, unscripted “Ask Me Anything”–style questions. In this episode, we give our best on-the-spot answers to questions about the power of the Elven Rings, Tolkien’s maps of Middle-earth, Gandalf, Sauron, and even the dreaded Watcher in the Water, with nothing more than our memories and a few hasty ebook word searches to help us along. Plus the answer to a question we’ve never considered before: would Fëanor and Eöl have been buds?  

Mar 17, 2019
116 - Does Goldberry Float in Water?
5888

The hobbits experience a rain delay the morning after their first night in the house of Tom Bombadil, and Frodo couldn’t be happier. While Goldberry does her “washing”, Tom regales his guests with stories, but after supper Frodo starts telling his own tale, even the parts about the Black Riders and the Ring. What will happen when the “Eldest” crosses paths with the most dangerous weapon of the Third Age? Well, not that much, actually, and we’ll discuss why. Plus, why did Tolkien use the name “Tom” so often, and just what is Goldberry washing anyway?   

Mar 10, 2019
115 - Fetch the Comfy Chairs
5860

Frodo and friends get comfortable in the first half of “In the House of Tom Bombadil,” and Alan and Shawn finally begin to unwrap the enigma that is Tom and his wife Goldberry. While the hobbits eat and drink as only famished hobbits can, we dive into Tolkien’s letters, poetry, and more for clues to the nature of our mysterious hosts and their relationship; but don’t hold your breath for any conclusions just yet. We also answer a listener question on why Tom has been cut out of every screen adaptation so far, and get word-nerdy on one of Gandalf's most memorable lines.

Mar 03, 2019
114 - Race, Tolkien, and Middle-earth
5842

For the first time ever, the Prancing Pony Podcast is proud to release one of our patron-exclusive episodes to our general audience. In this special originally released in October 2018, we take a serious look at a topic that’s not always easy to address. Tolkien’s work has occasionally been labeled as racially insensitive or (in some cases) outright racist. It’s something no Tolkien fan wants to hear, but is there any truth to it? We take a close look at the texts and Tolkien’s letters to attempt to dispel some myths… and confront some real concerns. 

Feb 24, 2019
113 - Trouble with the Trees
4802

It’s nap time in the Old Forest as our heroes gradually succumb to the power of an ancient and angry willow. Sam rolls a natural 20 to resist the spell and manages to save Frodo, but Merry and Pippin are trapped inside the enormous tree. Just when all seems hopeless, a merry old fellow comes hopping along with a unique fashion sense and some very delicate lilies. We remember J.R.R. Tolkien’s brother Hilary and speculate about Old Man Willow; we’ll also answer all your questions about the enigmatic figure in the blue jacket and yellow boots… just not today.

Feb 17, 2019
112 - Unrest in the Forest
5149

Frodo and his companions enter into the Old Forest in the first part of Book I, Chapter 6 of The Lord of the Rings. Merry has been beyond the Hedge before and does his best to guide them, but it’s hard to navigate a forest when the trees won’t stop moving. Something or someone is making a path before them, leading them inexorably into the deepest, strangest part of the forest. We answer more questions about the One Ring from Barliman’s Bag, discuss the Hobbits’ ruthless deforestation campaign, and get schooled by a listener on basic fractions.

Feb 10, 2019
111 - Eleventy-first Episode Extravaganza
8190
Alan and Shawn are celebrating their eleventy-first episode with a party of special magnificence! But instead of inviting you to a feast and risking a possible appearance by the Sackville-Bagginses, we’re looking back at a few dozen of our best clips from the first three seasons of the PPP, nominated by our listeners. From the silliest jokes to the most tragic readings, from great insights and character voices to the most ridiculous mistakes imaginable, it’s all here in a special that goes ever on and on.
Feb 03, 2019
110 - With a Little Help from My Friends
5163

A conspiracy is finally unmasked in the second half of “A Conspiracy Unmasked”! Frodo’s dread turns to relief when he learns his friends already know much more than he gave them credit for. They insist on leaving with him and promise to stick to him through thick and thin — all except for Fredegar, who finds those creepy, sniffing Black Riders far less scary than… uh, trees. We take time to analyze Frodo’s mysterious dream, wax poetic about the importance of fellowship, and get our hearts full of hobbitry with an uplifting Tolkien Quote of the Day.

Jan 27, 2019
109 - Hello, Goodbye
4962

In the first half of Book I, Chapter 5 of The Lord of the Rings, the Hobbits cross the Brandywine and come to Frodo’s new digs at Crickhollow, where a hot bath and all the comforts of home await them. Frodo does his best to enjoy a well-earned second supper and good company, but a dark cloud hangs over him as he dreads having to tell his friends he won’t be staying. Also in this episode: architectural musings, more mushrooms, and speculation on why ordinary Hobbits like Maggot and the Gaffer don’t go all Sir Robin when face-to-face with a Ringwraith. 

Jan 20, 2019
108 - Ain't Gonna Walk on Maggot's Farm No More
5447

The second half of “A Short Cut to Mushrooms” finds Frodo almost as scared of Farmer Maggot as he is of the Black Rider following him. His fears are quickly eased, however, and he finds a good friend in an unexpected place. We discuss the hospitality of hobbits (and their mistrust of outsiders), talk with our North Wing guest about the value of finding one’s tribe among the Tolkien community, and answer questions from Barliman’s Bag about Sauron’s tactical decisions. Also, how to make mushroom soup sound even less appetizing.

Jan 13, 2019
107 - The Nazgûl is Wailin' in the Wind
6246

We begin the new year with a Tolkien Fun Fact in honor of the Professor’s birthday before starting on Book I, Chapter 4 of The Lord of the Rings, “A Short Cut to Mushrooms.” Frodo, Sam, and Pippin wake up after the Elf-party refreshed and encouraged, and soon fall into a false sense of security… but a piercing cry on the wind reminds them that danger is still very near. We discuss the Ringwraiths in an extended sidebar, and go back to all our old wells of pop culture referentiality. Admit it: you totally expected the Spanish Inquisition.

Jan 06, 2019
An Evergreen PPP Holiday Event - The Father Christmas Letters
5311

In what has officially become an annual event, join Alan and Shawn as they use the wayback machine to revisit episode 028 in this special director's cut re-release of our episode on Letters From Father Christmas. Marvel at how far we've come since our early days, but mostly enjoy the charming adventures of Tolkien's creations at The North Pole!

Dec 23, 2018
106 - Questions After Nightfall 5
6839

It’s time once again for Alan and Shawn to welcome several visitors to the Prancing Pony! Hear us stay mostly on topic as we attempt to answer live, unscripted “Ask Me Anything”–style questions about The Lord of the Rings and much more. We revisit recent mailbag questions on Bilbo’s wealth and the Dead Men of Dunharrow, say a few premature words about Tom Bombadil (whom we’ll be getting to soon enough, we promise!), and demonstrate that the only thing worse than Alan’s Tom Hanks impression is Shawn’s Tim Allen impression.

Dec 16, 2018
105 - Who Wants to Leave Forever?
6410

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 send you venturing into the attic to find your old telescope. 

Dec 09, 2018
104 - I See a Little Silhouetto of a Man
6552

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 hear surf guitars, get to high ground immediately. 

Dec 02, 2018
103 - Goodbye Everybody, I've Got to Go
4987

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 Lord (not quite the same as the old Dark Lord).

Nov 18, 2018
102 - Arthur of the Century: An Interview with Sørina Higgins
5111

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 about at her blog The Oddest Inkling. Warning: some mature content.

Nov 11, 2018
101 - Now I Need a Place to Hide Away
6472

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 into a conversation about magic, Morgoth, and MacGuffins.

Nov 04, 2018
100 - There's a Shadow Hanging Over Me
6476

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 Oxonmoot, Tolkien 2019, and reveal a big announcement about the PPP!

Oct 28, 2018
099 - Yesterday, All My Troubles Seemed So Far Away
7001

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. Preston and Logan of San Dimas.

Oct 21, 2018
098 - Questions After Nightfall 4
5711

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.

Oct 14, 2018
097 - A Hard Day's Night
5906

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 remember another legendary hero with the initials F.B.: Ferris Bueller.   

Oct 07, 2018
096 - I Don't Want to Spoil the Party, So I'll Go
5999

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, Elsewhere in Middle-earth. 

Sep 30, 2018
095 - They Say It's Your Birthday
5567

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 proofreaders, and have fun with numbers in Old English.

Sep 23, 2018
094 - This Shire is Your Shire
7320

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 references than your best friend from high school on a Saturday night.

Sep 16, 2018
093 - We're In the Same Tale Still!
4504

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 combined Tolkien Quote of the Day / Tolkien Fun Fact.

Sep 09, 2018
092 - We're Not Saying It's Monsters, But It's Monsters
5174

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 enter the fray… and we remember a key lesson from Galaxy Quest.

Sep 02, 2018
091 - Laughing Shall We Die: An Interview with Tom Shippey
5378

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 perfect bowl of porridge.

Aug 26, 2018
090 - Between Light and Dark: An Interview with Verlyn Flieger
5437

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.

Jul 08, 2018
089 - Questions After Nightfall 3
4965

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 Oakenshield incites one listener to school us on ancient history.

Jul 01, 2018
088 - Live From Mythmoot Five
5040

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 before), and finally revisit pantsless bears, Schrödinger’s Dwarf, and “when to swipe left” in our first-ever live trivia competition.

Jun 27, 2018
087 - No Shrubberies: The Hobbit Retrospective
6361

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 running down the middle. You must listen or else you will never pass through this season… alliiive! 

Jun 17, 2018
086 - Not Quite Dead
6180

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, and sing way too many classic rock radio hits.

Jun 10, 2018
085 - Bilbo "Two Chests" Baggins
5626

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 effect, and speculate on Aulë’s possible resemblance to his most bearded creations.

Jun 03, 2018
084 - The Violence Inherent in the System
6274

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 Tolkien’s famous essay “On Fairy-Stories” to explain the sudden turn of events.  

May 27, 2018
083 - Oh Yes, Ees Very Nice-uh
5110

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 about Gandalf’s D&D character sheet that makes us reach for a lifeline.

May 20, 2018
082 - What is the Airspeed Velocity of a Decrepit Old Raven?
5533

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 croak our way through more avian dialogue than ever before (or again, we hope).

May 13, 2018
081 - Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
5882

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 resolve the question of thrush-language.  

May 06, 2018
080 - And There Was Much Rejoicing
5782

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 you hear how hard it is to figure out its etymology.

Apr 29, 2018
079 - Smaug Gets Quite Irate
5639

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 rare biblical reference in Middle-earth, and engage in some wild speculation on the identity of the mysterious King Bladorthin.

Apr 22, 2018
078 - Every Worm is Sacred
6266

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 guest in our second-ever North Wing segment.

Apr 15, 2018
077 - Questions After Nightfall 2
5261

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 Barliman’s Bag. 

Apr 08, 2018
076 - The Ministry of Silly Locks
5460

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 calculations to confusticate your average Dwarf… or podcast host.

Apr 01, 2018
075 - Tolkien Reading Day Special 2018
6539

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.

Mar 25, 2018
074 - A Mandate From the Masses
6234

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 moment to appreciate the vast improvement in the depiction of Dwarves from Tolkien’s earliest writings, and look again at fate and free will.

Mar 18, 2018
073 - Some Farcical Aquatic Ceremony
5985

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), and historic moments from the War of the Ring remembered in a special Tolkien history segment.

Mar 11, 2018
072 - King Name-Not-Appearing-In-This-Book
5573

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 classic tale of Elves under the influence.

Mar 04, 2018
071 - Fortress Around Your Hoard
5658

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 tougher than our kids will ever be.

Feb 25, 2018
070 - If You Love Somebody, Cut Them Free
5956

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 apologize to Mr. Gordon Sumner.

Feb 18, 2018
069 - Be Still My Fleeting Hart
5298

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 photographic tour of Middle-earth.

Feb 11, 2018
068 - Exit, Pursued by a Bear
5577

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 our favorite ursine from the Father Christmas letters.

Feb 04, 2018
067 - Forget About Your Worries and Your Strife
6599

Chapter 7 of The Hobbit begins with a rude awakening in an Eagle’s eyrie. But our heroes are soon off on their way again, and find themselves at the home of Beorn the skin-changer. Is he a man that changes into a bear, or a bear that changes into a man? Find out as we explore the linguistic and mythical inspirations for one of Middle-earth's most enigmatic characters. We also remember a poignant letter J.R.R. once received from a friend on This Week in Tolkien History, and ask you to bear with us as we discuss our favorite music inspired by the legendarium.

Jan 28, 2018
066 - A Slaying Song Tonight: An Interview with Michael Drout
5247

Alan and Shawn are delighted to welcome Michael Drout to The Prancing Pony Podcast! As co-founder and co-editor of the journal Tolkien Studies and multiple books on the Professor, Drout is one of the most prolific Tolkien scholars in the field today. We talk to him about his personal discovery of Tolkien, the future of Tolkien studies and fandom, and Beowulf. Plus, we discuss the very highest quality of The Lord of the Rings Online players, and how to write a new Old English poem more well-known than some of the originals.

Jan 21, 2018
065 - Lobbest Thou Thy Holy Pine Grenade
5780

We pick up Chapter 6 of The Hobbit with our heroes literally up a tree. Gandalf keeps the wolves at bay by playing with fire, but when the goblins arrive, things quickly heat up for Bilbo and his friends. Just as the situation begins to go up in smoke, unexpected help comes from above. We talk about the Eagles, their role in the legendarium, and the dangers Tolkien saw in using them too much in his stories. We also do a quick background check on Gandalf and recite some more goblin poetry bad enough to make a Vogon (and your hosts) cringe.

Jan 14, 2018
064 - And Now, the Larch
5352

As Chapter 6 of The Hobbit opens, Bilbo emerges from the mountains and soon hears the familiar voices of Gandalf and the Dwarves. He sneaks up on them with the help of his new ring, and finally wins some respect with his stealth and the tale of his escape. But the happy reunion proves short-lived; the company move on, coming to a clearing in the woods… and find themselves surrounded by howling wolves. We revisit the nature of wargs, showcase our limited botanical knowledge, and enjoy yet another philological joke from Professor Tolkien.

Jan 07, 2018
063 - How Not to Be Seen
5934

We conclude our trilogy of episodes on Chapter 5 of The Hobbit. Gollum begins to realize that Bilbo has his ring, and Bilbo begins to realize what it does. He uses its power of invisibility to escape from Gollum, but stops short of killing the wretched creature: an act of pity that will have great implications for Bilbo and for Middle-earth. We turn again to the first edition to see how Tolkien’s minor edits changed the ring from a magical trinket into an artifact of power with a will of its own, and your hosts thankfully retire their Gollum voices until The Lord of the Rings.

Dec 17, 2017
062 - Ere the Other Side He See
5786

Our second episode on Chapter 5 of The Hobbit. Tension mounts as the riddle contest between Bilbo and Gollum continues, with Bilbo’s life at stake. His luck saves him in the final round, but when Gollum accuses him of not playing fair, he’s still very much in danger. We compare the current text to the first edition to see how Tolkien transformed Gollum from a hungry, but honest, monster into a “miserable wicked creature” corrupted by the One Ring. And we welcome a listener to The North Wing of the Prancing Pony in a new segment!

Dec 10, 2017
061 - Answer Me These Questions Five...
5389

The first of three episodes on Chapter 5 of The Hobbit. Bilbo wakes up in the darkness below the mountains, and soon finds himself in a life-or-death riddle-game with one of Tolkien's most infamous creations: Gollum. We begin to discuss the changes made to this chapter during the composition of The Lord of the Rings, as Tolkien’s understanding of Gollum and the ring changed. Also, we look to the Professor’s own words for context about the newly announced Amazon series in a new segment: The Tolkien Quote of the Day.

Dec 03, 2017
060 - Questions After Nightfall 1
5518

It’s our first ever Prancing Pony Podcast Q&A episode! Alan and Shawn answer live questions from our very special guests, ranging from the fun to the philosophical. Topics include our favorite villains, the surprising similarities between goblins and dwarves, and the importance of reading Tolkien's poetry aloud. Also Entwives, and the uncanny ability of goblins to recognize millennia-old Elvish swords.

Nov 19, 2017
059 - Run Away!
4990

As we resume Chapter 4 of The Hobbit, Bilbo and friends are captured by goblins. Thorin Oakenshield’s name and reputation are known in these parts, and the Great Goblin does not take kindly to his arrival. Gandalf comes to the rescue with his shining Elven-sword, allowing our heroes a chance to escape… maybe. We get word-nerdy to explain Tolkien’s use of the terms ‘goblin’ and ‘orc’, have fun with goblin voices, and a Tolkien Fun Fact reminds us how different the Professor’s school days were from ours.

Nov 12, 2017
058 - There Lies a Cave
5013

In Chapter 4 of The Hobbit, our heroes begin the crossing of the mountains under threat of stormy weather and rock-hurling stone-giants. They seek shelter in a cave, but caves up in the mountains are seldom unoccupied, and this one is no exception. We investigate the nature of the mysterious stone-giants, a new Philology Faire segment unveils surprises in Tolkien’s original conception of Treebeard, and we get a little spooky for a listener question about the Dead Marshes.

Nov 05, 2017
057 - 'Tis a Silly Place
4886

In Chapter 3 of The Hobbit, Bilbo’s story takes its first steps into Tolkien’s greater mythology, but these aren’t your grandfather’s Eldar. We uncover the hidden secrets of the notorious “silly Elves” of Rivendell, introduce Elrond, and discuss the incredible luck of arriving at the Last Homely House at precisely the right time. Also, a listener question sends us searching for the reason why Gandalf didn’t seem to know where his new sword came from.

Oct 29, 2017
056 - He’s a Burglar and He’s OK
5563

In Chapter 2 of The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins wakes up to the pleasant lack of Dwarves. He’s beginning to think that he’s escaped adventure after all when Gandalf pushes him out the door. Immediately, little Bilbo misses the comforts of home, but the trouble is just beginning… and before they even reach the dangerous part of the road, he must test his burglarious skills on a trio of hungry, if illiterate, trolls. Plus, we let the Professor make the bad puns for once in a new Tolkien Fun Fact.

Oct 22, 2017
055 - Pining for the Hoards
5438

We wrap up Chapter 1 of The Hobbit, “An Unexpected Party”, where Bilbo’s Tookish side is awakened by the mysterious dwarf-song filling his home, but his Baggins side is less enthusiastic once Thorin and Gandalf lay out the details of the dwarves’ quest. Will Bilbo stay safely in his comfortable hole, or will he rise to the challenge like his great golfing ancestor Bullroarer Took? Also: more word-nerdery as we talk about Tolkien’s use of the plural form ‘dwarves’ in the first installment of another new show segment: Philology Faire.

Oct 15, 2017
054 - Nobody Expects the Dwarvish Inquisition
6262

We begin our reading of The Hobbit with the famous first line and meet Bilbo Baggins, living a predictable life of luxury and ease until Gandalf comes by one Tuesday morning. Soon Bilbo’s world is turned upside down by an unexpected party of hungry dwarves, and his comfortable life is threatened. Along the way, we discuss the enduring courtesy of hobbits, the dangers of saying “Good morning” to wizards, and offer fashion tips for homeless dwarves. Plus, the first installment of our new segment: Today in Tolkien History.

Oct 08, 2017
053 - A Hole New World
6259

It’s the start of Season 2 here on The Prancing Pony Podcast as we start discussing the book that first introduced Middle-earth to the world: J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit! In this episode, we look at the novel’s composition, publication and lasting legacy. Alan and Shawn share their personal stories about reading The Hobbit for the first time, and talk about the Professor’s surprising genealogy in a welcome return of the Tolkien Fun Fact segment. Plus, learn how young Christopher Tolkien’s attention to detail tended to confusticate and bebother his father.

Sep 24, 2017
052 - Exploring The Hobbit and More: An Interview with Corey Olsen
7220

In honor of the 80th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit, Alan and Shawn are excited to welcome Corey Olsen, the Tolkien Professor himself, to The Prancing Pony Podcast! We talk about Corey’s work as a Tolkien podcaster — and get the latest news about Signum University, Mythgard Institute, and more — before jumping into a discussion of his book Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Plus, sage advice for parents seeking to raise the next generation of Tolkien-loving fantasy geeks.

Sep 21, 2017
051 - Why Does It Hurt So Much?: The Hobbit Film Trilogy
7102

It’s there and back again at the movies with the Prancing Pony Podcast! After talking about The Lord of the Rings films in our last episode, Alan and Shawn dive into Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit film trilogy. Once again, we watch clips of the changes we liked (and just a few of the ones we didn’t) and discuss them, returning to Tolkien’s own observations about film adaptation to assess the films fairly. Luck lost, love found, dragon-sickness… and how will we ever know if four-legs got some? Video version available on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Sep 10, 2017
050 - You Have Kept Your Honor: The Lord of the Rings Film Trilogy
6925

Put aside the books and join us at the movies! In this episode, Alan and Shawn discuss Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. We watch clips of our favorite (and not-so-favorite) changes and go back to Tolkien’s own words about film adaptation to understand why some worked and others didn’t. Blazing beacons, tragic deaths, Elves where Elves have no business being… they’re all here in this action-packed, star-studded, Oscar-winner-watching episode of the Prancing Pony Podcast! Video version available on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Aug 27, 2017
049 - The First Age Strikes Back: The Silmarillion Retrospective
6556

A long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away, Alan and Shawn started discussing The Silmarillion. Now, witness the power of this fully armed and operational retrospective episode! First, we open Barliman’s Bag and stay on target to answer as many questions about the First and Second Ages as we can. Then we search our feelings for our favorite recurring themes in The Silmarillion and discuss Morgoth’s playbook for evil, the greatness of Finrod, the enduring importance of hope in Tolkien’s works, and more. And we make use of our Star Wars referencing skills for the first time in a long time… a long time. 

Aug 13, 2017
048 - People Are People
7655

In the second half of "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age,” Isildur refuses to destroy the One Ring when he has the chance, keeping it as his prize from the vanquished Sauron. But he is stripped of the Ring, and his life, when he's ambushed by Orcs on his way home. It’s only a question of time before the Ring is found centuries later by one of the fisher-folk living near the river, and eventually comes to the hand of some creature called a Hobbit from some place called the Shire. Think you've heard this one before? Not so fast! We go back to Tolkien's Unfinished Tales to learn more about Isildur's death at the Gladden Fields and the origin of the Istari or Wizards. We also dig up some blasphemous rumours about the origins of Orcs to answer a listener question.

Jul 30, 2017
047 - Never Let Me Down Again
7489

Alan and Shawn rewind to the end of the War of Wrath to begin "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age." Sauron refuses to beg the Valar’s pardon for his misdeeds, and remains in Middle-earth to follow in Morgoth’s footsteps as the new Dark Lord. Men prove easy to sway with pleasure and a little treasure, but it’s the Elves that Sauron wants now, courting them with secret knowledge. He soon finds ready pupils in Celebrimbor and the Noldorin smiths of Eregion, who use their new knowledge to make the Rings of Power; but Sauron is really behind the wheel, and in secret he makes another ring to have and to hold in domination over the others: One Ring to… well, you know the rest.

Jul 16, 2017
046 - Master and Servant
8971

The second of two episodes on the Akallabêth, Tolkien's story of Númenor. Ar-Pharazôn is offered no resistance by Sauron, and gets the bright idea to take him as a hostage. Soon, you-know-who has wormed his way into the King’s trust and turned the Númenóreans to the worship of Melkor. As Sauron’s cult gains power in the kingdom, the Faithful led by Amandil and Elendil are persecuted; the aging Ar-Pharazôn prepares his armada to sail to the Undying Lands to take immortality by force, and the Valar respond with a disaster of biblical proportions. Also, Alan and Shawn finally disagree about something: Genesis.

Jul 02, 2017
045 - Just Can’t Get Enough
9452

The first of two episodes on the Akallabêth, the story of Númenor. At the outset of the Second Age, the Valar reward the Edain with wisdom, long life and their own private island in the Great Sea. The Númenóreans become legendary seafarers, sailing east to the edge of Arda and bringing knowledge back to Middle-earth. But the Valar forbid them to sail west in search of the Undying Lands, and soon the Númenóreans begin to yearn for the one thing they cannot have: immortality. We look into Tolkien's essays and letters to see what happens to mortals who do come to Aman, and dabble in genealogy with questionable results. 

Jun 18, 2017
044 - The Threshold of Middle-earth: An Interview with John Garth
3488

Alan and Shawn are honored to welcome John Garth, the award-winning author of Tolkien and the Great War and Tolkien at Exeter College, to The Prancing Pony Podcast! John’s work as a biographer and researcher offers a rare glimpse into the early life of J.R.R. Tolkien, and the experiences and ideas that helped shape the Middle-earth legendarium. We discuss war, friendship, sorrow, and tales of college tomfoolery that may surprise you.

Jun 11, 2017
043 - The Final Frontier
8770

Join Alan and Shawn as they don red shirts for the final chapter of the Quenta Silmarillion, the voyages of the star-ship Vingilot. Its continuing mission: to bring Eärendil and Elwing into the West, to seek the pardon and aid of the Valar, and to become a beacon of hope for Elves and Men forever after. The ensuing War of Wrath leaves behind a strange new world, and each of the Silmarils boldly goes where no one has gone before… or ever will again.

Jun 04, 2017
042 - Resistance is Futile
5645

We return to Chapter 23 of The Silmarillion with our second episode on Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin. Tuor’s star rises in the realm of Turgon, and soon he finds himself wedded to Idril Celebrindal, becoming the second Man ever to marry one of the Firstborn. But Maeglin is bitter at his cousin’s rejection, and soon Morgoth seizes on his discontent to fulfill some long-laid plans of his own. We trek with you through the flames, the fights, and the frights of the fall of the last Elven stronghold in Beleriand, and hint at the hope to come. Plus, don’t miss Alan’s impression of a beloved Hollywood icon.

May 28, 2017
041 - Make It So
8719

In the first of two episodes on Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin, we go beyond The Silmarillion into Tolkien's Unfinished Tales to tell the story the way it was meant to be told. The son of Huor and Rían survives capture, thraldom, and life as an outlaw to follow the footstep of doom, and soon finds himself face-to-face with Ulmo, the Lord of Waters. Tuor is offered a quest to find Gondolin and bring a message of warning from Ulmo, in fulfillment of a plan laid centuries ago. Also, answers to a listener question about Elven sleeping habits reveal gaps in both Shawn's research… and his knowledge of Star Trek.

May 21, 2017
040 - He's Dead, Gem
6842

In Chapter 22 of The Silmarillion, Húrin is released from Angband to finish his son’s work of destroying everything he touches, and his visit to Thingol starts a chain reaction leading to war between Doriath and the Dwarves of Nogrod. As Menegroth falls, the Silmaril comes through the hands of Beren and Lúthien to their son Dior, and is noticed by seven guys we haven’t heard from in a while. Plus, a look at Tolkien's explanation of the kinship of Celeborn and Nimloth tells us how to get to Sesame Street.

May 07, 2017
039 - Exit the Warrior
10688

We conclude our trilogy of episodes on Chapter 21 of The Silmarillion, "Of Túrin Turambar." After Glaurung sacks Nargothrond, Morwen pulls a Thingol and ignores Melian's advice. She leaves Doriath, Nienor secretly follows, and the dragon ensnares another child of Húrin. We witness a fateful reunion of brother and sister, and the final showdown between hero and dragon. We close the sad tale with a discussion of fate, free will, pity and mean, mean pride in a marathon podcast that challenges popular opinions about Tolkien's tragic hero... and the stamina of your hosts.

Apr 23, 2017
038 - I Will Choose Free Will
6518

We continue our trilogy of episodes on Chapter 21 of The Silmarillion and Tolkien’s tragic hero Túrin Turambar. Túrin comes to Nargothrond with Gwindor, then quickly surpasses his friend in the favor of the king and the love of the king’s daughter. Túrin’s military advice brings early victory, but his deeds soon draw the attention of Morgoth, who responds with a massive army led by the dragon Glaurung. We begin examining Túrin’s choices, tally up his many name changes, and earn the wrath of Hugo Weaving fans everywhere.

Apr 09, 2017
037 - No Man's Land: An Interview with Simon Tolkien
4602

Alan and Shawn are thrilled to welcome Simon Tolkien, novelist and grandson of J.R.R. Tolkien, to The Prancing Pony Podcast! Simon's new novel No Man's Land tells the story of a young man's journey from a class-divided coal mining town to the Battle of the Somme in World War I. We talk about the novel, its vivid depiction of the war, and the experiences of J.R.R. Tolkien that inspired it. Plus, childhood memories of young Simon and his grandfather certain to bring you unbridled geek joy.

Apr 02, 2017
036 - Fly By Night, Away From Here
7598

Alan and Shawn begin yet another trilogy of episodes — this time on The Silmarillion Chapter 21, “Of Túrin Turambar.” The son of Húrin of Dor-lómin is fostered by the King of Doriath, but an awkward dinner party drives him to a life among outlaws. Fleeing from his own fate, he manages to bring disaster wherever he goes, and he’s headed to Nargothrond next. We give an overview of the history of the story Tolkien called the “germ” of his mythology and — surprise! — we quote Monty Python.

Mar 26, 2017
035 - Tolkien Reading Day Special 2017
7123

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 2017 is Poetry and Songs in Tolkien’s Fiction, so Alan and Shawn read their favorite poems and songs from the legendarium, discuss the ways in which Tolkien used poetry to shape his world, and quite possibly make fools of themselves. Again.

Mar 25, 2017
034 - Let It All Out
6675

Shout for joy with Fingon as day breaks on the morning of the Fifth Battle, Nirnaeth Arnoediad, in Chapter 20 of The Silmarillion. Shout for outrage at the treachery and brutality of Morgoth’s forces (these are the things we can do without). Elves and Men will shed Unnumbered Tears after Morgoth’s fears of defeat are turned into victory when the Dark Lord unleashes an army more terrible than any ever before seen in Middle-earth.  We dig deep into Tolkien’s early drafts to answer a listener question about Elvish agriculture, Alan goes out of his way to insult several states, and Shawn ignores a simple request from his co-host and reads what he wants, when he wants.

Mar 12, 2017
033 - The Princess Bride
7822

The last of three episodes on The Silmarillion Chapter 19, “Of Beren and Lúthien.” After putting the Dark Lord down for a nap, the lovers succeed in prying a Silmaril from Morgoth’s iron crown. Beren needs a helping hand to escape from Carcharoth, and Thingol figures out entirely on his own something everyone around him already knew. Our favorite hound meets his doom, and Lúthien is offered a profound choice about the future. We wrap up by discussing the way this romance impacts the rest of Tolkien’s legendarium, and shamelessly crack left-handed jokes.

Feb 26, 2017
032 - Lady and the Tramp
7154

The second of three episodes on The Silmarillion Chapter 19, "Of Beren and Lúthien." Man's best friend has a soft spot for Elf-maidens too, as Huan the hound of Valinor befriends Lúthien and assists in her quest to fetch Beren from the dungeons of Sauron. We find two sons of Fëanor off their leash, bury the bones of a beloved Elf-king, and dig up some of Tolkien's essays and letters to determine the difference between wolves, wargs, and werewolves. As it turns out, not all dogs come from heaven. 

Feb 12, 2017
031 - Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
6812

The first of three episodes on The Silmarillion Chapter 19, "Of Beren and Lúthien." The fugitive son of Barahir comes to Doriath and has a fateful meeting with the daughter of Thingol. Unimpressed with Lúthien's new boyfriend, Thingol sends Beren on an impossible quest to win her hand. We discuss the personal significance of the story Tolkien called "the kernel of the mythology" and compare excerpts from the epic poem The Lay of Leithian. Plus, what do Thingol and Archie Bunker have in common?

Jan 29, 2017
030 - Another One Bites the Dust
7732

In Chapter 18 of The Silmarillion, Morgoth breaks the Siege of Angband with a sneak attack, beginning the Battle of Sudden Flame. As the fires die down, Fingolfin responds by challenging the Dark Lord to single combat. Meanwhile, displaced survivors of the Edain start down paths that will forever intertwine the fates of Men and Elves. Plus, Tolkien's best-known villain moves into the fortress next door with his annoying pets.

Jan 15, 2017
029 - Tolkien's 125th Birthday Special
2676

We celebrate the twelfty-fifth birthday of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien with tributes from our listeners and our own thoughts on what Tolkien has meant to us. We also give the traditional birthday toast to the Professor, and we announce the winners of our giveaway drawings for The Art of the Lord of the Rings and the Facsimile First Edition of The Hobbit.

Jan 03, 2017
028 - Father of the Century: a PPP Christmas Special
6114

Alan and Shawn call for a Christmas truce on the Beleriand battlefront to enjoy Tolkien’s letters from Father Christmas to his children John, Michael, Christopher, and Priscilla. Not content to write about just toys and reindeer, Tolkien filled his letters with the charming misadventures of a host of North Pole residents, including elves, goblins, and a trickster bear with poor spelling. You’ll never feel good about your parenting skills again.

Dec 23, 2016
027 - Go West, Young Edain
7200

Men arrive in Beleriand in Chapter 17 of The Silmarillion, and Middle-earth will never be the same. The Elves' reaction to the newcomers varies, but Morgoth's goal is clear: to keep the two races from forming an alliance. We introduce the Three Houses of the Edain, discuss one of Tolkien's great mythological puns, and expose the terrible manners of string instruments.

Dec 18, 2016
026 - You're The One That I Want
6782

In Chapter 16 of The Silmarillion, Aredhel of Gondolin shacks up with the Dark Elf Eöl and bears a son whose coming may spell doom for the last hope of the Noldor. We revisit Elvish marriage customs and answer a question about rejected lovers in Tolkien's world. Plus, Alan completely forgets how to tell time.

Dec 04, 2016
025 - Watch Your Language
5924

In Chapter 15 of The Silmarillion, Turgon heeds Ulmo's warning and begins the construction of the hidden city of Gondolin. The truth finally comes out about why the Noldor returned to Beleriand, and Thingol is not pleased. Plus a special announcement about our Tolkien's 125th Birthday Giveaway, and tips for goodlier speaking from a teenage Tolkien.

Nov 20, 2016
024 - Territories
6672

It’s a small world, after all. Take a trip around the map with Alan and Shawn in Chapter 14 of The Silmarillion, Tolkien’s extensive description of the geography and realms of the Elves in Beleriand. Also, we receive a lesson in Dwarvish pronunciation from a listener and get up close and personal with a personal pronoun. And what’s that voice in the distance? Sounds like a very deep woodwind instrument.

Nov 06, 2016
023 - Distant Early Warning
5998

A great feast is held in the conclusion of Chapter 13 of The Silmarillion, but not all is well in Beleriand, and two Elf-princes receive important messages about taking action before it’s too late. The Noldor successfully place Angband under a siege that will last for centuries, but Morgoth has a new secret weapon in development. A question from Barliman’s Bag gives us a chance to revisit Fëanor - and Tolkien’s own thoughts about the character - one last time, and we stretch the limits of pop culture reference.

Oct 23, 2016
022 - Subdivisions
6161

In Chapter 13 of The Silmarillion, Fëanor's host arrives in Middle-earth shortly before Fingolfin's, leading to an awkward family reunion that just gets more awkward when somebody calls Uncle Thingol. Fëanor's dream of revenge goes up in flames, and we tally up his good-or-evil score including Tolkien's own thoughts from his letters. We also read the inspiring story of Fingon and Maedhros, and have way too much fun with the new toy in Alan's studio.

Oct 09, 2016
021 - New World, Man
5991

In Chapter 12 of The Silmarillion, the Second Children of Ilúvatar - the Atani, or Men - awake, and we quickly learn precisely what the Elves think of them. We revisit the differences that Tolkien created between Elves and Men in both life and death, along with the ominous portent this new race holds for the Firstborn. Plus, the monotony of Manwë’s wardrobe.

Sep 25, 2016
020 - Tolkien's Secret Vice: An Interview with Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins
3668

Alan and Shawn welcome Dr. Dimitra Fimi and Dr. Andrew Higgins as the first guests to The Prancing Pony Podcast! They are the editors of the new critical edition of Tolkien’s A Secret Vice. We turn the word-nerdery up to 11 to talk about Tolkien’s approach to language invention and the lasting impact his work had on the Middle-earth legendarium and the fantasy genre itself. Our inner geeks get the vicarious thrill of handling manuscripts written in the Professor’s own hand.

Sep 18, 2016
019 - How to Get the Celestial Body You Want
5996

In Chapter 11 of The Silmarillion, the Valar put forth their power to help the Trees bear one last fruit and flower, and then place them in the sky as celestial lights to illuminate all of Arda: the Sun and Moon. We also delve into some of Tolkien’s own concerns about his astronomical myth. Finally, the Valar go shopping for a home security system, but instead opt for a really, really big wall.

Sep 11, 2016
018 - Menegroth: Love It or List It
6951

Returning to Middle-earth from Aman, we cover thousands of years in just a few pages in Chapter 10 of The Silmarillion, "Of the Sindar." The remnant of the Teleri in Beleriand ruled by Thingol and Melian befriend the Dwarves and delve underground to build the fairest dwelling this side of the Sea. But soon Morgoth's beasts and Orcs move in next door, and the neighborhood goes downhill quickly. Plus, Elvish beauty secrets and a surprise visit from an old friend.

Aug 28, 2016
017 - ...Don't You Come Back
6021

In the second half of Chapter 9 of The Silmarillion, “Of the Flight of the Noldor”, the exiles continue down the road to certain doom, spurred on by Fëanor’s oath. We witness the terrible Kinslaying at Alqualondë, hear what Mandos has to say about that, and see the straw that broke Fingolfin’s back. Also, we date ourselves terribly with some appropriate music references.

Aug 14, 2016
016 - Hit the Road, Jack...
7033

In the first half of Chapter 9 of The Silmarillion, “Of the Flight of the Noldor”, Melkor and Ungoliant leave the dead Trees behind them and continue their crime spree in Formenos. Fëanor goes full-emo and rallies the Noldor to pursue his Black Foe back to Middle-earth, swearing a terrible oath in the process. We revisit Míriel in Mandos, and also discuss how a Silmaril is like a bite of ribeye.

Jul 31, 2016
015 - Along Came a Spider
5705

Doom falls on Valinor in Chapter 8 of The Silmarillion. Manwë hosts a feast to reconcile the estranged sons of Finwë, but Melkor chooses that moment to get his revenge with a little help from the mother of all evil spiders (literally), Ungoliant. We bring back the 'Tolkien Fun Facts' segment with a young Professor's trek through the Swiss Alps, and wonder about Valarin bug spray.

Jul 17, 2016
014 - Trouble in Paradise
6123

In Chapter 7 of The Silmarillion, Fëanor crafts the most renowned jewels in the history of Middle-earth - the Silmarils - and conflict is immediately kindled between the sons of Finwë while Melkor stokes the fire. Meanwhile, a listener question about the crafting of weapons leads Alan and Shawn down a nerdy pop culture reference path from which there is no turning back.

Jul 01, 2016
013 - The Blame Game
6476
In Chapter 6 of The Silmarillion, Míriel chooses death over the labor of living, so Finwë remarries to the displeasure of his eldest son Fëanor (and half the Valar). Amid the strife in Finwë's house, Melkor is granted parole and begins to gain influence in Valinor. But Fëanor is a spirit so fiery, not even Melkor can sway him. Cue the foreboding music.
Jun 18, 2016
012 - All in the Family
6591

In Chapters 4 and 5 of The Silmarillion, one Telerin lord settles down with a lady way out of his league while the rest of the Eldar migrate across the Great Sea to Aman. We see the founding of the great cities of Eldamar - Tirion upon Túna and Alqualondë - and meet the family of Finwë, King of the Noldor. And Ulmo actually does what the Valar tell him to, until he doesn't.

Jun 05, 2016
011 - Elves and All! Hooray!
5331

In Chapter 3 of The Silmarillion, we take a trip to Cuiviénen for the awakening of the Firstborn Children of Ilúvatar - the Quendi or Elves. Along the way we discuss the kindling of the stars, the origin of the Orcs, and the capture of Melkor. We also raise the bar on nerdy pop culture references from The Princess Bride all the way up to Get Smart.

May 22, 2016
010 - It Is A Gift
5757

In this special spoiler-filled episode, we delve into Tolkien's letters and The History of Middle-earth to examine Tolkien's concept of mortality as "the gift of the One to Men." We discuss the fates of Elves and Men and how they illustrate a central theme in the legendarium, and demonstrate that anything in life can be improved with a reference to The Princess Bride.

May 07, 2016
009 - The Odd Couple
4772

In Chapter 2 of The Silmarillion, Aulë and Yavanna demonstrate the principle of “opposites attract” even among the Valar, we witness the power of humility, and learn the origins of some of Middle-earth's most mysterious creatures: Dwarves, Ents, and Eagles. We also speculate about the materials Aulë uses to build his own couch to sleep on when Yavanna goes to bed angry.

Apr 24, 2016
008 - And So It Begins
5120

Finally reaching Chapter 1 of the Quenta Silmarillion, we behold an Arda too perfect to last, offer a brief geography lesson, and shamelessly poke fun at as many Valar as possible before stopping to admire the beauty of the Two Trees of Valinor. Also, we almost answer a question about death.

Apr 10, 2016
007 - The Powers of Arda
5596

In the second part of The Silmarillion we laugh with Tulkas, cry with Nienna, gaze on the starlit face of Varda and meet the rest of the Valar and Maiar who entered into the world at its beginning. We also answer the age-old question: which of the Valar would be the most fun at parties?

Mar 27, 2016
006 - Tolkien Reading Day Special 2016
5024

Happy Tolkien Reading Day!  On March 25 every year - the date of the fall of Barad-dûr - Tolkien lovers worldwide celebrate by reading and promoting the Professor's life and work. For this special, Alan and Shawn read and discuss favorite passages related to this year's theme of Life, Death, and Immortality, and indulge in a little inter-fandom rivalry.

Mar 25, 2016
005 - The Music of the Ainur
5417

Reunited in the common-room and finally beginning their discussion of The Silmarillion, Alan and Shawn tackle nothing less than the creation of the universe, check out Ilúvatar’s playlist, observe a cosmic toddler tantrum, and learn what SPBMI means.

Mar 13, 2016
004 - The Great War
1060

This time, Alan flies solo over the battlefields of World War I and discusses both the explicit and the implied influences that the Great War had on Tolkien’s writings, while Shawn is safely away in the officers' club in Edoras with a refreshing drink.

Mar 10, 2016
003 - The Origins of Quenya and Sindarin
1714

Shawn takes a solo look at the real-world linguistic inspirations that shaped Tolkien's invented Elvish languages, Quenya and Sindarin, while Alan is away doing whatever a Man of the West does on his day off.

Mar 06, 2016
002 - The Myth-lover
4223

We continue our introduction to J. R. R. Tolkien's ideas on fantasy and myth with a look at his short poem dedicated to C. S. Lewis, "Mythopoeia" - a thematic companion piece to "On Fairy-Stories". Also, polar bears.

Feb 28, 2016
001 - In Defense of Fantasy
5161

In the first episode, get to know your hosts, Alan and Shawn, and learn about why we started The Prancing Pony Podcast.  We also discuss favorite moments from the life of J.R.R. Tolkien as told in Humphrey Carpenter's biography, and introduce Tolkien's ideas about the nature and purpose of fantasy as described in his famous essay "On Fairy-Stories".

Feb 22, 2016