Tea with Tolkien

By Kaitlyn Facista

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Join us for a cup of tea as we grow together in Hobbitness and Holiness, inspired by the faith and philosophy of JRR Tolkien.

Episode Date
Episode 9: Lembas & The Eucharist
00:13:42
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Thank you all so much for listening to our little podcast! I think you’re all the best and I love being able to have tea with you every week. If you’re enjoying these episodes, I’d love to hear from you! You can send me a note on twitter @teawithtolkien or simply capture a moth and whisper a message to me and I’m sure it will deliver that right along, agh okay not really.

Today we’re going to having a bit of a topical discussion on the subject of Lembas! As well as looking at the Catholic influences behind this, the lovely waybread of the Elves.

We’re first introduced to Lembas in The Fellowship of the Ring when the Fellowship is leaving Lothlorien. As they prepare to set off, Galadriel presents them with several gifts-- both for each individual and the company as a whole. One of these gifts is a bunch of Lembas.

A tiny bit of backstory here because I just learned this as I was preparing for this episode and I t5hought it was cool: Lembas was actually first made by Yavanna, one of the Queens of the Valar, the same that made the Ents, and the recipe was eventually passed down to Galadriel. It’s actually made out of a special corn grown that had grown in Aman. It was also an Elven custom, apparently, that only women should bake it so sorry boys! I should also note that it is extremely rare that Lembas is given to any non-Elves so this occasion of the Fellowship receiving large quantities of it is quite important.

Gimli mistakes it for ‘cram’ but is pleasantly surprised that it’s actually very lovely!

The elves explain basically what it is, how to care for it, and so on…

“Eat a little at a time, and only at need. For these things are given to serve you when all else fails. The cakes will keep sweet for many many days, if they are unbroken and left in their leaf-wrappings, as we have brought them. One will keep a traveler on his feet for a day of long labour, even if he be one of the tall Men of Minas Tirith.”

After this chapter, we see Lembas carries throughout the rest of the story, even as the fellowship has broken, all the way to Mordor -- just makes me wanna cry thinking about it.

One of my favorite things that you can sort of pull out of The Lord of the Rings and bring to life in our own world is Lembas. Tolkien goes to a lot of detail to describe it, so it’s really the sort of thing that we can actually bake ourselves and feel like we’re eating alongside the Fellowship. Even if we might have realized just two seconds ago that Lembas is actually a corn-based cake and I’ve been using wheat flour and almonds this whole time! But that’s okay!

Two years ago, I came up with a recipe based on my own interpretation of Lembas and I’m quite fond of it and I’ll add a link to it in the show notes if anyone else is interested.

It’s basically like a cookie but it’s not very sweet, maybe we would call it a biscuit, and in it we’ve got honey, almonds, orange, and lavender among other things. And of course, it’s very good with tea!

So how does the Eucharist fit into this?

One of the first hints of Catholicism in The Lord of the Rings that I picked up on after my conversion was Lembas.

Of all the Catholic parallels in Tolkien’s writings, Lembas bread is perhaps the strongest as it bears a striking resemblance to the Eucharist (also known as communion).

Tolkien acknowledges this similarity in Letter 213 when he writes about different instances of readers pointing out his Catholic influence, “Another saw in waybread (lembas)=viaticum and the reference to its feeding the will and being more potent when fasting, a derivation from the Eucharist…”

While not allegorical, of course, several characteristics of the Elvish way bread are reminiscent of the Eucharist, so it is worth spending a little time reflecting on its role in the story of Middle-Earth.

So when given to a person near to or in danger of death, the Eucharist is called Viaticum (meaning in Latin: ‘provision for a journey’). Similarly, Lembas is called way bread by the Elves, and is given to the members of the Fellowship as they embark on their perilous quest.

In Book III, Chapter II, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli are following after the group of Orcs that had captured Merry and Pippin. Tolkien writes, “Often in their hearts they thanked the Lady of Lorien for the gift of lembas, for they could eat of it and find new strength even as they ran.”

A person cannot receive the Eucharist while in a state of mortal sin without placing themselves in grave danger. Similarly, Gollum cannot eat Lembas and is actually harmed by it. Lembas is also considered more ‘potent’ when it is a person’s sole sustenance, which can be seen as a nod to the Catholic fast before receiving Communion.

And like Lembas must be eaten daily, it is recommended to that Catholics receive the Eucharist often.

In Lembas, the hobbits find renewed strength of spirit and body, often being reminded of home or safer times. Tolkien wrote, in Letter 55, of receiving Communion as “a fleeting glimpse of an unfallen world…’

Similarly, Merry remarks to Pippin that Lembas “does put heart into you! A more wholesome sort of feeling, too...”  And the Elves themselves say that it is “more strengthening than any food made by Man.”

In The Return of the King, as Frodo and Sam are almost to the end of their journey, Tolkien writes, “The lembas had a virtue without which they would long ago have lain down to die… it fed the will, and it gave strength to endure, and to master sinew and limb beyond the measure of mortal kind.”

Catholics believe the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ — in which He is truly present. While there is no such parallel within Lembas,  its power of nourishment for both body and soul speaks to the influence of the Eucharist on Tolkien’s life.

Tolkien wrote of the Eucharist often in his letters, which were compiled and published 1981 - a book, as always, I highly recommend adding to your bookshelf.

He referred to it as ‘the one great thing to love on earth’, recommending it as ‘the only cure for sagging or fainting faith’.

If you’d like to read more of his thoughts on his faith and the Eucharist, I’d recommend letters 43, 55, 89, 213, and especially 250 — available in “The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien” edited by Humphrey Carpenter.

I wanted to share two quotes from these letters:

In this one, Letter 43, Tolkien is writing to his son Michael,

“Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament. . . . There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death: by the divine paradox, that which ends life, and demands the surrender of all, and yet by the taste—or foretaste—of which alone can what you seek in your earthly relationships (love, faithfulness, joy) be maintained, or take on that complexion of reality, of eternal endurance, which every man’s heart desires.

Later, in Letter 250, also to Michael, he writes:

"The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is Communion. Though always itself, perfect and complete and inviolate, the Blessed Sacrament does not operate completely and once for all in any of us. Like the act of Faith it must be continuous and grow by exercise. Seven times a week is more nourishing than seven times at intervals.”

One of the coolest parts of Catholicism in my opinion is that not only can we receive the Eucharist during Mass, but we can also participate in something called Eucharistic Adoration.

This is when the consecrated host is placed in a neat sort of holder called a monstrance and it’s displayed, often in an adoration chapel or maybe even in the regular church building for special occasions, and anyone can just come and sit in the presence of our Lord.

Someone asked on Twitter the other day if you need to be catholic to visit an adoration chapel and I was so excited to hear this question honestly because you totally don’t have to be catholic at all! I know a lot of people have found a lot of peace within adoration, even if they don’t really believe in the Catholic teaching that the sacrament is truly Christ present. So if you’ve ever want to attend adoration but weren’t sure about it, you should totally find one nearby and go!

Whenever I feel like everything around me is chaos or I’m struggling with feeling low, I try to run to the Blessed Sacrament as often as I can. A few weeks ago I was in kind of a bad place mentally and so I was able to drive down to adoration every night after my husband came home for a week. That kind of peace and quiet and dedicated alone time in prayer helped pull me out of a pretty dark place and so if you are at all able to, I really really highly 10/10 recommend it.  

Catholics refer to the Eucharist as the source and summit of the Christian life, and so I’ve been trying to really anchor myself around this and cling to this truth when I’m kinda feeling like Frodo and Sam on the slopes of Mount Doom.

So to bring it all back together, I just wanted to share how once again learning something more about Tolkien had led me on another winding path into the depths of Catholicism!

I love so much how devoted Tolkien was to the Eucharist and it’s such a balm for my soul to see it, even just in a small way, reflected in Lembas.

I’ll talk to you all next week, but until then I’ll be on twitter and instagram (but mostly twitter) @teawithtolkien…

You might have heard me mention that after hosting my own hobbit parties for the past 7 or 8 years, I’m working on putting together all of my ideas and tips into one resource for all of you! It will be available probably within the next month but instead of selling it on my website, I’m going to first make it available for free to all of my patrons so if you’d like to sign up to become a patron of Tea with Tolkien you can head to patreon.com/teawithtolkien.

The guide won’t be available for purchase on its own until probably August or September otherwise.

Thank you so much for hanging out and having tea with me today!

Just another reminder that I’ll include the Lembas recipe in the show notes if you’d like to make a batch of your own. The recipe makes a ton because it was meant for Hobbit Party prep, but I cut it all in half yesterday when I wanted to make a smaller batch and it turned out perfectly so you can feel free to to do that as well.

I hope you all have a lovely week and we’ll be back next Tuesday for an exciting interview that I can’t wait to share with you!

Resources & Links:

Feb 12, 2019
Episode 8: An Introduction to Tolkien for Beginners
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I wanted to start out by saying that these are just my opinions based on my love for Tolkien and what I’ve learned, so you may have found a different reading style that works for you and that’s okay!

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’d like to tweet me @teawithtolkien, or send me an email - there’s a little contact form on my website, teawithtolkien.com.

Q: Should I start with The Hobbit or The Fellowship of the Ring?

  • This really depends and it’s up to you. If you want to ease yourself into Middle-Earth with something a little simpler and lighthearted, go for The Hobbit.

  • But if you want to just get straight to it, maybe go for The Fellowship.

  • Either way, you’re not doing it wrong, because although you’ll understand LOTR better if you read The Hobbit first, you will also be fine if you don’t want to at first.

Q: Should I read the prologue before beginning the Lord of the Rings?

  • You don’t have to, but you should at least read “Concerning Hobbits” and then read “Of the Finding of the Ring” if you haven’t read The Hobbit because it’s basically a summary of that story.

Q: What’s the pace of the stories? I struggle with slow-paced books.

  • The Hobbit has a faster pace than The Lord of the Rings. In LOTR, Tolkien takes a lot of time to carefully set the stage for everything to come, so the first two chapters move very slowly. If you can get past those, though, it does pick up a little.

Q: I hate his writing style. It’s way too descriptive for me. What do I do?

  • I mean there’s really nothing I can do for you if you feel like you hate Tolkien’s writing style, and I get that it’s very particular and so it won’t be for everyone. However, if it does feel to slow or descriptive for you and you find yourself getting lost, I recommend trying out the audiobook versions. I use audible, but you can also find them at pretty much any library.

Q: How do I remember all of their names?

  • Just like meeting new friends, it can be hard to remember many names when you’re reading them all at once. However, after you get to know the characters and maybe do another re-read, it becomes a lot easier. I’ve also found that watching the films or even looking at illustrations of the different characters helps a lot because it makes it easier to visualize what different characters look like, and if you’re watching the films, a voice.

Q: Which book do I read last?

  • This question is just absurd because you should never stop reading Tolkien, obviously.

Q: How many books did Tolkien publish?

  • A quick google search reveals… at least 31. There are so many!!

  • The most well-known ones of course are: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.

  • Then you have books expanding upon different chapters or stories from The Silmarillion: The Children of Hurin, Beren and Luthien, The Fall of Gondolin,

  • You have all of his essays, such as on Beowulf or On Fairy Stories

  • We have Roverandom, Mr. Bliss, Leaf by Niggle, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, Smith of Wootton Major, and more.

  • And then on top of all of this, we have Tales from the Perilous Realm as well as  The History of Middle-Earth, a twelve-volume series of books, compiled and published by Tolkien’s son Christopher (much like the Silmarillion) that basically walks you through Tolkien’s process in the creation of Middle-Earth as a whole as he was working through it.

  • You can literally probably spend your whole life reading Tolkien if you wanted.

Q: At what age should I introduce my children to Tolkien?

  • I mean my babies have been immersed in the world of Tolkien since before they were born and I think it’s important to raise lifelong readers, but of course I’m trying to do this in an age-appropriate way. Just for starters, we have this little cloth book from an etsy shop called Sweet Sequels and it’s called “A Baby’s Guide to The Lord of the Rings”. We also have this little Samwise plush that Marigold loves. And then I have a children’s biography of Tolkien called “John Ronald’s Dragons” that my kids (ages 3 & 5) really like.

  • In terms of actually reading through the stories with them, I think anywhere around 7-9 is a good time to read The Hobbit with your kids, but it really depends on your family and their maturity. And then somewhere around 11-13 maybe we might begin The Lord of the Rings. But again, this depends a lot on your family and my oldest is 5 right now so I’m not sure. We’re just taking our time.

Q: What are your thoughts on the Peter Jackson films?

  • Lord of the Rings movies: yes.

  • The Hobbit movies: if you must.

This isn’t a question I’ve received but it’s a sentiment I’ve seen expressed on various, cursed corners of Twitter and it’s that people hate Tom Bombadil. So I just wanted to take a minute to say, I get it, I used to be annoyed by him too. He’s very goofy and his character doesn’t fit easily into a box and that bothers people, so they try to hate on him as if he wasn’t straight up amazing. If you’re annoyed by Tom’s songs, again, I recommend listening to the audiobooks. I love the one in particular narrated by Rob Inglis and I feel like he does a great job of the songs. I’m also including an article on Old Tom that you all might like in the show notes.

Bonus Q (from Kyle Helmick): Can I sing the songs to the tune of Mr. Brightside?

  • Yes, Kyle, please do this. I tried for a few minutes and couldn’t, so it’s up to you.


I hope you’ve found these questions and answers helpful! Again, I might know a bit about Tolkien but I’m by no means a Tolkien scholar yet, and I know everyone has different learning styles or preferences. I’m also including a few helpful links in the show notes, such as the Frequently Asked Questions page from the Tolkien Society’s website as well as links to some books that can help you get started with Tolkien.

And of course speaking of books, I should probably mention that I’ve written a companion journal and guide to help you read through The Lord of the Rings while also reflecting on the different elements of Catholicism we see in his work and with a goal of helping you grow in hobbitness and holiness. It’s called To Middle-Earth and Back Again and it’s available on Amazon in the US currently. I’m working on getting it printed and shipped worldwide, so if you wouldn’t mind saying a little prayer for me that the process would go smoothly, I would appreciate that! I’ll also include the link to the book in the show notes.

I also just wanted to put it out there that I’d love if you’d share this podcast with a friend who might also love it! That would mean the world to me! And if you think what Tea with Tolkien is doing is cool and you wanna be cool too, consider supporting us on patreon at patreon.com/teawithtolkien.

I hope you all have a wonderful week and I’ll be back next Tuesday to talk about Lembas and the Eucharist.

Resources:

Jan 29, 2019
Episode 7: Squad Goals, Friendship in Middle-Earth
00:15:20
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One of my favorite themes from The Lord of the Rings is friendship.

It’s something that carries through the entire story in many different ways, something we could probably spend hours chatting about if we had the time.

But we find it in the first part of the story, The Fellowship of the Ring, in particular.

Tolkien takes so much care, spending so much time laying a foundation of friendship in The Fellowship of the Ring, forming new friendships as we see with Legolas and Gimli, as well as strengthening existing ones as we see in Frodo and Sam and the other hobbits.

This is a lot like how Tolkien puts so much detail into introducing the Shire and the hobbit way of life to us in the beginning, so that we can better understand exactly what it is Frodo is leaving behind.

So Tolkien emphasizes friendship in The Fellowship -- I mean, it’s right there in the name. That’s what this book is about.

He does this, I think, so we can become familiar with these friendships and begin to understand them before they are tested in the chapters to come.

I wanted to read this quote from Book II, Chapter III, The Ring Goes South -- as Elrond is selecting the members of The Fellowship, he considers sending along two more elves to complete the number. Pippin is upset at the idea of being left behind to return to the Shire, saying he wants to go with Frodo. Elrond replies that this is only because he doesn’t understand the danger, but Gandalf unexpectedly supports Pippin.

“‘Neither does Frodo,’ said Gandalf, unexpectedly supporting Pippin. ‘Nor do any of us see clearly. It is true that if these hobbits understood the danger, they would not dare to go. But they would still wish to go, or wish that they dared, and be shamed and unhappy. I think, Elrond, that in this matter it would be well to trust rather to their friendship than to great wisdom. Even if you chose for us an Elf-lord, such as Glorfindel, he could not storm the Dark Tower, nor open the road to the Fire by the power that is in him.’” — The Ring Goes South

This quote from Gandalf pretty much sums up the whole role of friendship in The Lord of the Rings. Trusting in friendship rather than strength, wisdom, blah blah blah.  

There are so many different friendships we see in The Lord of the Rings, so I thought we could take a couple minutes to look at some of my favorites.

  • Frodo and Sam

    • Self-sacrificial friendship

    • There’s this dynamic within their friendship where Sam recognizes Frodo’s great need and gives of himself to help carry -- literally and figuratively, at times -- through his journey.

    • I think we might look at their friendship and feel as though it’s terribly imbalanced, and of course it is - but we also need to remember that Sam’s intense self-sacrifice for Frodo’s sake only lasted for a season. It was really only about 6 months from when Frodo and Sam left Bag End to when the Ring was destroyed.

    • There may be times in our life when someone we know and love will need us in this kind of way, maybe they’re going through some kind of a loss or transition or maybe they’re struggling with depression or maybe they’re fighting addiction, and having Sam as a representation of this availability and humility is something I find very encouraging.

  • Merry and Pippin

    • Merry and Pippin are kind of your classic example of best friends. They’re always looking out for each other, they’re on equal terms. They have a lot of fun together, but they’re also been through a lot.

  • Aragorn and Gandalf

    • The friendship between Aragorn and Gandalf, which is similar to Gandalf and basically anyone, is a mentor type of relationship. There’s a lot of respect given to Gandalf by those he guides, and he in turn leads them with a lot of care, always directed towards what he sees as best for them.

  • Fatty Bolger

    • I think we often overlook Fatty because he wasn’t willing to go on with Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin. But I really appreciate him a lot, to be honest. He serves as a reminder that not all of your friends have to be your best friends, to be good friends. You don’t have to be willing to die for them; you don’t have to follow them into Mordor. Sometimes, you can just be happy acquaintances with someone -- and that’s fine.

  • Legolas and Gimli

    • The friendship between Legolas and Gimli is probably the most unique within the story, as it marks the end of the long-standing hatred and distrust between the Dwarves and the Elves which is referred to many times throughout the books.

    • However, Legolas and Gimli form a fast friendship within the Fellowship of the Ring that carries through until the very end of the story -- and actually, even further.

    • We see in the appendices, at the very end of Appendix A, that the friendship between the two continued on even after the Fellowship was ended.

    • And after the death of King Elessar (Aragorn), Legolas and Gimli sailed over the Sea.

    • Gimli is actually the only Dwarf who was both allowed to, and desired to, go to Aman -- in Letter 154 Tolkien calls him Friend of Legolas and ‘servant’ of Galadriel.

    • I wanted to read the last paragraph of Appendix A:

    • “We have heard tell that Legolas took Gimli Glóin’s son with him because of their great friendship, greater than any that has been between Elf and Dwarf. If this is true, then it is strange indeed: that a Dwarf should be willing to leave Middle-earth for any love, or that the Eldar should receive him, or that the Lords of the West should permit it. But it is said that Gimli went also out of desire to see again the beauty of Galadriel; and it may be that she, being mighty among the Eldar, obtained this grace for him. More cannot be said of this matter.”

After looking at these different forms of friendship in The Lord of the Rings, what stood out to you?

And what does it even mean to be a friend, or to have one?

We are so disconnected and lonely that a lot of times we don’t even know what it means or what it might look like.

This quote from A Conspiracy Unmasked is one of my favorites:

“But it does not seem that I can trust anyone," said Frodo. Sam looked at him unhappily," It all depends on what you want," put in Merry. "You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin - to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours - closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo… We are horribly afraid - but we are coming with you; or following you like hounds."

So not only are Sam, Merry, and Pippin willing to follow Frodo into deadly peril, they’ve spent months preparing to do so.

And though Frodo is at first uncomfortable with accepting the help offered, in doing so he honors the bond of their friendship by trusting that they can truly, actually help him.

This kind of true friendship requires trust, vulnerability, dedication — from everyone involved.

As our Tea with Tolkien community read through the Fellowship of the Ring last year, a lot of people mentioned they had never experienced a friendship of this depth like we see between the hobbits or Legolas of Gimli…  (or if they had, it was something rare).

And that’s so sad! But it’s not uncommon. And it’s up to us to figure this out.

If you want to make a friend, you really can’t just sit around and wait for a friend to magically appear. You need to reach out and be uncomfortable to find someone else who also needs a friend.

Along the same lines, if you want to strengthen a friendship you already have, you’re gonna need to be intentional about making time for them, investing in their lives, and so on.

But I think a lot of it comes down to being available for people. Leave room in your life for friends.

Every time I’ve moved -- and I’ve moved like 13 times in the past 8 years -- and tried to find room for myself in whatever new community I’ve found myself in, it’s been so hard to make new friends because most people just don’t care about making new friends.They’re just not interested.

Most people, in my experience, by the time they’re adults and having kids and whatnot, have found their group of friends, have filled their lives up, and simply aren’t interested in adding anything new to the mix.

So here’s my take: consider leaving room -- for new friends, new opportunities, for new graces. You’d be surprised by what good comes from it!

Before we wrap this whole thing up I wanted to mention just some of the qualities of friendship we see in The Lord of the Rings and challenge you to focus on doing one of these things this week.

  • They offer and accept help when needed

  • They accompany one another through their struggles

  • They offer and accept correction and guidance, but they also know when to withhold advice, like when Celeborn does not advise the Fellowship on which path to take after they leave Lothlorien

  • They respect each other and the ‘level’ of their friendship

  • They eat and drink together

  • They invite each other into their homes, offering shelter and protection when needed

  • ...and more!

And now I just wanted to leave you with one point to ponder and chat about: Comparing the culture we live in to that of Hobbiton, why do you suppose our relationships are so much more disconnected than theirs?

I’ll talk to you all next week, but until then I’ll be on twitter and instagram (but mostly twitter) @teawithtolkien; you can support Tea with Tolkien on patreon at patreon.com/teawithtolkien for bonus mini podcasts, coloring pages, and more to come in the upcoming months; and for all of the other ways to connect check out www.teawithtolkien.com.

I hope you have a lovely week. Bye!

Jan 22, 2019
Episode 6: Love Mingled with Grief
00:07:42
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The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater. — The Fellowship of the Ring


One of the threads woven throughout all of Tolkien’s writing is grief… so many of the tales of Middle-earth are steeped in sorrow. And so today, I hope it’s alright, I wanted to talk about love and grief, sorrow and joy, and the way they are at one in Eucatastrophe.

We see this paradox most plainly in the lives of the elves. They are the most beautiful of the children of Iluvatar, their goodness and strength are unmatched.

But because of their immortality, they have lived through many lifetimes of men. They have seen the best and the worst…

Galadriel says to Frodo in Book II, chapter 7, that she has spent many ages fighting the “long defeat” as she calls it.

“the long defeat”, a phrase Tolkien also uses in Letter 195:

“Actually I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’ –though it contains (and in a legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.” - Tolkien, Letter 195

Within the lifetime of the Elves, they have seen the world as it grows dim. In both a figurative and literal sense. Arda at first was lit by the two lamps, which were knocked down by Melkor, and then the two trees of Valinor, which were destroyed by Melkor and Ungoliant, and then at last the sun and the moon were made. So even just in this sense, the light within the world has diminished…

And so too within all the battles throughout all the ages, the Elves have seen as evil has slowly seeped into every corner of the earth. The long defeat.

And yet, the Elves sing. They are often merry and joyful. They throw the most amazing parties!  They are filled with so much goodness and peace despite their sorrow.

In Book I, Chapter IV, Sam says “They are quite different from what I expected –so old and young, and so gay and sad, as it were.’

This kind of paradox of joy mingled with sorrow, I think, is at the heart of The Lord of the Rings. Especially within the tale’s endings.

Tolkien cared so deeply for this concept that he coined the term Eucatasteophe: “the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears…” - Letter 89

Later in the same letter he wrote:

“The resurrection was the greatest ‘eucatastrophe’ possible in the greatest Fairy Story –and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love. “

Throughout all of The Lord of the Rings we expedience small moments of Eucatastrophe, when all Hope seems lost for Frodo in the Barrow-Downs and Tom Bombadil Busts In to save them, when Merry and Éowyn face the Witch king of Angmar and destroy him, when the battle seems lost but Hope is rekindled… at the Crack of Doom when Frodo betrays his quest and claims the Ring as his own, but Providence provides another way for it to be accomplished.

But there’s one scene in particular that just stays with me.

We see this mingling of joy and grief within a character that feels so much more familiar, someone I see myself in more than the Elves: Samwise Gamgee.

At the end of the War of the Ring, in Return is the King — The Field of Cormallen

When Sam awakens in Ithilien, he and Frodo have survived their quest, he sees Gandalf before them and asks “is everything sad going to come untrue?”

I’ve found so much comfort in that phrase, and often paired it with Revelation 21:5 “And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

Later in this chapter, they are all gathered together in celebration —

“ And all the host laughed and wept, and in the midst of their merriment and tears the clear voice of the minstrel rose like silver and gold, and all men were hushed. And he sang to them, now in the elven-tongue, now in the speech of the West, until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.”

The topic of grief has weighed heavily on my heart over the past few weeks.

January is a difficult month for me, as It marks the anniversary of our miscarriage. I found out I was pregnant on January 9, 2015 only to find out on January 14th that I was losing the baby. Within that span of five days, I experienced so much joy as I fell so hard in love with this little baby, mingled with so much grief as I realized I would never get to hold him or her, to really know them at all.

And even in all of the grief and wondering what things would have been life, even four years later, there is also a sense of peace that I cling to in knowing that our little baby is held so safely in the arms of Jesus.

I found this quote in Letter 45 and I wanted to share it with you all:

There is a place called ‘heaven’ where the good here unfinished is completed; and where the stories unwritten, and the hopes unfulfilled, are continued. We may laugh together yet...” - Letter 45, from 1941

In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! we are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory. Farewell!” - Return of the King, Appendix B


Is everything sad going to come untrue?

Behold, I am making all things new…


Jan 15, 2019
Episode 5: Concerning Conversion (Feat. Alex Facista)
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This week I had my husband Alex on to discuss our conversion to the Catholic faith. This is a subject I’ve had a lot of you ask about, so I was excited to be able to chat about it with him. This past weekend was the fifth anniversary of our conversion, so I thought it would be a lovely time. I hope you’ll enjoy it! We also talked about Mabel Tolkien, John Ronald’s mother, and her own conversion and the impact it had on her sons.

In this episode, we talked about:

  • the different faith traditions we were brought up in

  • how we first became interested in Catholicism

  • the somewhat unusual way we were finally received into the Church

  • talking to our family about our conversion

  • what it’s been like adjusting to Catholic life

  • and more!

Links

Jan 08, 2019
Episode 4: Ways to be more of a Hobbit at Heart in the new year (plus, a giveaway!)
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A few excerpts from Concerning Hobbits

Hobbits “love peace and quiet and good tilled earth: a well-ordered and well-farmed countryside was their favorite haunt.”

“As for the Hobbits of the Shire, with whom these tales are concerned, in the days of their peace and prosperity they were a merry folk. They dressed in bright colours, being notably fond of yellow and green…”

“Their faces were as a rule good-natured rather than beautiful, broad, bright-eyed, red-cheeked, with mouths apt to laughter, and to eating and drinking. And laugh they did, and eat, and drink, often and heartily, being fond of simple jests at all times, and of six meals a day (when they could get them). They were hospitable and delighted in parties, and in presents, which they gave away freely and eagerly accepted.”

“They were, if it came to it, difficult to daunt or to kill; and they were perhaps, so unwearyingly fond of good things not least because they could, when put to it, do without them, and could survive rough handling by grief, foe, or weather in a way that astonished those who did not know them well and looked no further than their bellies and their well-fed faces…”


“The Shire at this time had hardly any ‘government’. Families for the most part managed their own affairs. Growing food and eating it occupied most of their time. In other matters they were, as a rule, generous and not greedy, but contented and moderate, so that estates, farms, workshops, and small trades tended to remain unchanged for generations.”


“There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” - The Hobbit


Ways to Be More of a Hobbit at Heart
in the New Year

  • Spend more time outside

    • Next time it’s nice outside, grab a book and read a little

    • Go for a hike or walk along a trail

    • Have a picnic!

  • Take some breaks from the internet

  • Consider starting a garden, it can be small if you’re just starting out

  • Less fast food, more home cooking

  • Be intentional about being hospitable, make a point of inviting others into your home

  • Give gifts as often and as generously as you are able

  • Spend time in fellowship with others

  • Host at least one party this year

  • Maybe this year you’ll learn how to brew beer

  • Maybe smoke a little pipe tobacco with friends

  • Look for opportunities to humble yourself

  • Let your Yes mean Yes and No mean No

    • Frodo didn’t accept the task of carrying the Ring halfheartedly, once he said yes he stayed committed as long as he could

  • Become a better friend.

    • Everyone needs a Samwise. Be intentional about becoming a better friend to someone who needs one this year.

  • Eat more Second Breakfast.

  • Sit beside the fire and just think every so often, ponder things

  • Read and write poetry

  • Host a Hobbit Party! Every September 22 we host a party in celebration of Frodo and Bibo’s birthdays, you should too. I have tons of ideas here.


Favorite Tweets (see the whole thread here)

Zegg Noggenour‏ @zgochenour: (go-ken-hour)  The heart of the hobbit lifestyle is hospitality. One of my favorite hobbit practices is giving gifts on your birthday.

hannah  🎄‏ @hanmariams -staycations are good
-give yourself an afternoon break for tea
-learn how to garden or at least keep a plant alive from Trader Joe’s
-disappear from birthday parties in dramatic fashion

Robert the Nobody‏ @Robert_in_MN

-Be content with where you are but don't turn down a grand adventure if it's presented to you.
-Wear more bright colours
-Take time to contemplate, preferably with a pipe or tea
-Eat six small meals throughout the day
-Be proud of who you are and where you come from

Nick Senz‏ @NickSenz

Get to know and fall in love with your own local area: the woods, the fields, little rivers. Like Sam, become an expert on every nook and cranny of your natural neighborhood. Attachment to place seems very hobbitish.

Jake The Great‏ @jakecmelik

Start with, "Hobbits are a representation of of how Tolkien saw Chesterton: Authentic, merry, with a pipe and pint."


Links Mentioned


The Giveaway (A Blessed is She Planner!)

View this post on Instagram

(Giveaway! 🎉) This is the time of year where many (most? some? maybe?) of us are sitting down to plan for the new year, thinking about our hopes and goals for the days to come, and hopefully feeling at least slightly less hectic now that Christmas is finally here! 🌲 I’ve been using my @blessedisshe__ planner for the past two years and it’s been such a wonderful tool for helping stay somewhat on-task, for remembering important liturgical dates, and for basically just having one (beautiful) place to keep all of my plans and goals and to-do lists. I wanted to help one of you get a little more prepared for the new year by giving away one of these planners! 📚 To enter, make sure you’re following me @teawithtolkien, leave a comment about one of your goals for 2019, and tag two friends who might also love this planner! This giveaway is not sponsored (I purchased the planner with my own money to give away because I love you all and I love Blessed is She), and not affiliated with Instagram. This giveaway is open internationally as well! And I’ll close the entries at the end of the day on Jan. 3 and announce the winner on the 4th. 📚 For a bonus entry, share this giveaway in your insta story and tag me so I see it!

A post shared by Kaitlyn | Tea with Tolkien (@teawithtolkien) on


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Jan 01, 2019
Episode 3: December 25, The Ring Goes South
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Merry Christmas! I hope you had a fruitful advent season and that you’re enjoying the beginning of the Christmas season. I hope you’ll be able to find a few minutes to unwind from all of the festivities and have a cup of tea with me and Tolkien today!

I was so excited when I realized Christmas day fell on a Tuesday this year because it meant I would get to record a special Christmas episode. Aside from being Christmas day of course, December 25th is actually quite the important date in The Lord of the Rings as well.

It is the date that the Fellowship left from Rivendell, officially marking the beginning of Frodo’s quest! (but you might not know it without the Appendices -- this date is in Appendix B!)

“Frodo was now safe in the Last Homely House east of the Sea.

That house was perfect, as Bilbo had long ago reported,

‘a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep or story-telling or singing,

or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all.’

Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear, and sadness.”

Tolkien didn’t choose dates unintentionally, especially considering the date he chose for the destruction of the Ring on March 25th

In The Spirit of Liturgy, then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) explained, “Jewish tradition gave the date of March 25 to Abraham’s sacrifice... This day was also regarded as the day of creation, the day when God’s word decreed: ‘Let there be light.’ It was also considered, very early on, as the day of Christ’s death and eventually as the day of his conception.." This date is also the officially celebrated Feast of the Annunciation, the celebration of the Incarnation, Mary's fiat.

Considering its importance in Jewish and Christian tradition, it feels natural that Tolkien chose for March 25th to bear such significance to the history of Middle-Earth. Three major events took place on March 25th: first and foremost, it is the date on which the One Ring is destroyed; secondly, on the same date the following year, Frodo returns home to the Shire; and the following year, Elanor the Fair is born.

So what does it mean that Tolkien chose December 25th as the date the Fellowship left Rivendell?

The journey begins on December 25th, the feast of the Nativity of Our Lord, and ends on the date of his Crucifixion.

This strengthens any ideas we might have had about the Ring representing Sin in some way, or the different ways members of The Fellowship act as Christ figures.

Rivendell is a safe place, a place of refuge and healing, and it is in Rivendell that we see Frodo’s fiat -- he accepts the burden of the Ring no matter what the pains he may experience

So in leaving the safety of Rivendell, we are reminded of Christ’s birth.

Just as Jesus left the safety of Mary’s womb on Dec 25, Frodo is leaving the safety of Rivendell to begin the dangerous and difficult work of the salvation of Middle Earth.

When Jesus is born, he leaves behind the safety and warmth of his mother’s womb and join us in the cold, broken world. Almost immediately he is in danger, as the Holy Family is forced to flee to Egypt to escape King Herod. He has come into the world for a purpose, and he has a hard road ahead of him.

This kind of perspective isn’t really something I had ever reflected on before.

We often see Christmas a joyful occasion, and of course it is, but for Jesus himself it marked the beginning of his life of sacrifice. And I am so grateful to him for accepting this role.

So as we begin to celebrate the Christmas season, in joyous memory of Christ’s birth, we also begin to look forward to lent, Holy Week, to Christ’s crucifixion.  

Just as The Fellowship embarks on their quest to destroy the ring, Christ’s birth marks the beginning of his quest towards the destruction of sin and all of the death and brokenness

I hope you all have a beautiful Christmas season!


PS I also wanted to recommend another Christmasy podcast series I think you might enjoy. My friends over at the Roman Circus podcast have put together a series of mini episodes for each of the twelve days of Christmas featuring different guests, and they invited me on for the 5th day of Christmas so I hope you’ll give it a listen.


Dec 25, 2018
Episode 2: An Unexpected Book List
00:18:26
Dec 18, 2018
Episode 1: A Long-Expected Podcast
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Thanks so much for listening to Tea with Tolkien, a podcast for the Hobbit at Heart! In this episode, I chat a little bit about what my hopes are for this podcast and how I hope to encourage you to read more Tolkien and grow in Hobbitness and Holiness.

Wanna get more connected with the Tea with Tolkien community?

Read more about the heart of Tea with Tolkien here.

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater" - Haldir


Dec 11, 2018
Episode 0: Chatting with Lily
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Thank you so much for listening to our first little test episode, where I’m joined by my daughters Lily and Marigold. In this episode, we chat about why hobbits have hair on their feet, why Gollum is so scary, and what it’s like to be a hobbit kid. Listen to the very end to hear Marigold saying mama. I hope you like this tiny test episode and I can’t wait to share more (real) podcasts with all of you soon. :)

Nov 30, 2018