Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Danger of Canonizing Tolkien

Darcy and Winters

In an interview after the release of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit films, his son Christopher–his literary executor and one of those most responsible for cultivating his father’s posthumous legacy–expressed a fair amount of skepticism about whether it was truly possible to translate his father’s work into the popular medium of film. Something, he seems to suggest, always gets lost.

This attitude on Chistopher’s part shouldn’t surprise us. After all, this is a man who has devoted much of his adult life to, first, ensuring that his father’s literary legacy was created and then, subsequently, burnishing until it shines as brightly as it ever has. To someone a bit old-fashioned in his tastes, the medium of film no doubt appears more than a little frivolous directed primarily, as he puts it, at young people.

To be fair to Christopher, however, this is hardly unique to him. Indeed, part of the effort…

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TV Review: His Dark Materials: "The Daemon Cages" (S1, Ep. 6)

Darcy and Winters

Let me begin by saying…wow.

That was, without doubt, the best episode that this series has produced by far. And it’s not just that it was a great episode of His Dark Materials; it was a great episode of television, period.

In this episode, Lyra finally discovers what it is that’s being down at Bovangar: human children are being forcibly separated from their dæmons. Being Lyra, she immediately begins to hatch a plan to escape, and while she eventually does so, it’s only after she is almost subjected to the cruel process itself and is only saved by the intercession of Mrs. Coulter. At the end, Lyra tumbles out of the hot-air balloon, her fate uncertain.

From the beginning, I’ve thought that Ruth Wilson threatened to walk away with the entire series in her back pocket, and this episode reveals why that’s a very real threat. She manages to combine…

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The Terror of the Nazgûl: Evil and the Uncanny

Darcy and Winters

When I think back to the first time that I read The Lord of the Rings, one of the things that stands out most to me is just how disturbed I was by the hobbits’ encounters with the Ringwraiths, both within the bounds of the Shire and outside of it. Though the effect has been mitigated a bit as I’ve grown older, I still feel a little chill race down my spine every time I read those passages in the books where these terrible servants of Sauron appear to afflict the heroes.

Consider, for example, the first time that we get a glimpse of one of them. We as readers don’t know that the horseman pursuing the hobbits is one of the most evil beings in Middle-earth, but the way that Tolkien describes it makes it abundantly clear. Matters escalate when the frantic hobbits turn to a shortcut After they…

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Tolkien’s Songs: Pleasure or Pain?

Darcy and Winters

In the annals of Tolkien fandom, there is no subject more likely to cause an argument that the subject of the songs. Anyone who’s read either The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings knows that fans either love them or hate them. Anecdotally, I’d go so far as to say that casual fans tend to simply skim over them in the process of reading the books, while those who are a little more in-depth in their appreciation read them and savor them (though whether they enjoy them, per se, is a rather different question). To some they’re an essential part of world-building, while to others they’re hopelessly self-indulgent and more than a little silly.


In my opinion as someone who has read both of these books more times than I can count, I have to say that I’m still divided. Part of me dearly wants to love the ones…

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Book Review: The Dark Powers of Tolkien (by David Day)

Darcy and Winters

As I do every year at this time, I find myself wanting to read anything and everything I can about Tolkien, his worlds, and his philosophy. When I saw David Days The Dark Powers of Tolkien in a bookshop in Edinburgh, I knew at once that I had to have it. Well, I started reading it and, a day later, I’m finished and ready to share my thoughts with all of you.

It’s a slender book, but Day manages to pack quite a lot into it despite that. He gives us a pretty good overview of the various incarnations of evil that appear in all of the ages of Middle-earth, ranging from the titanic force of Morgoth in the First and Sauron in the Second and Third to the rather lesser evils of Saruman, Orcs, Trolls, and sundry dragons and other monsters. The book is arranged chronologically, so that the…

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TV Review: His Dark Materials: "The Lost Boy" (S1, Ep. 5)

Darcy and Winters

In this episode, things begin to take some interesting turns, as Lyra at last discovers for certain what exactly the Magisterium has been doing to the captured children: separating them from their dæmons. Meanwhile, in our world, we are finally introduced to the character Will Parry and his troubled mother, both of whom are being pursued by Boreal in his efforts to discover what it was that Stanlislaus Grumman managed to discover. In the final moments of the episode, Lyra is captured by unnamed persons and taken to the terrible Bolvangar.

Even though I’ve read the book and knew what to expect, the death of Billy Costa was still like an emotional punch to the gut, and it serves as an important reminder of the stakes of the journey to regain the children from the hands of the Magisterium. When his mother tells him that he can go and…

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On the Pleasures of Re-Reading "The Lord of the Rings"

Darcy and Winters

As I do every year, I’ve recently started re-reading The Lord of the Rings. Those who are familiar with my old blog no doubt know that, every December, I commit a good amount of my blog space to a discussion of Tolkien and his works, and this year is no different. So, to inaugurate my first Tolkien Appreciation Month on this author blog, I thought I’d talk about the pleasures of re-reading Tolkien.

I first read The Lord of the Rings when I was about 9 or 10, and it proved to be one of those truly life-changing literary events. I simply couldn’t stop reading it; it seemed to exert some sort of hold on me that I couldn’t break. Full of trembling fear at the Ringwraiths, swept up in the majesty of Tolkien’s world, and moved to tears by this tale of sacrifice, I knew that here was a…

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TV Review: His Dark Materials: “Armour” (S1, Ep. 4)

Darcy and Winters

First of all, let me start off by saying…wow, what an episode! Lyra finally meets both Lee Scoresby and the formidable armored bear Iorek and, by the end of the episode, they have all begun their trek to the place known to the witches as Bolvangar, where they hope to at last find and rescue the missing children. All of that is quite a lot of action to pack into an episode, but somehow it manages to feel perfectly paced.

I’ll confess that I had some serious doubts about Lin-Manuel Miranda as Lee Scoresby. I guess I had a certain image of him (okay, it’s Sam Elliott from the film version), and I just wasn’t sold that the man most famous for playing Alexander Hamilton could conform to what I saw in the character. Say what you will about LMM, but he does have a certain rakish charm, and that…

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Book Review: “The Ruin of Kings” (by Jenn Lyons)

Darcy and Winters

As readers of this blog know, I’m always on the lookout for a new fantasy to really sink my teeth into, one that would allow me to lose myself in its world while also keeping the pace moving. I remembered seeing Jenn Lyons’ The Ruin of Kings at Barnes and Noble some time ago, but it was some time before I could actually sit down and read it, and even more time after that until I’d finished it.

The novel follows Kihrin as he struggles to come to terms with a destiny that is far grander–and far more dangerous–than he’d ever imagined. It toggles between three different timelines, as well as several characters, before they all come together in the sort of climaxes that are the hallmark of much epic fantasy. The novel ends with Kirhin fleeing into exile, while a horde of demons has been unleashed upon the land.

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TV Review: His Dark Materials: “The Spies” (S1, Ep. 3)

Darcy and Winters

In the most recent episode of His Dark Materials Lyra, having escaped from Mrs. Coulter’s clutches and those of the Gobblers, finds herself taken in by the Gyptians who, we know, are on their own mission to rescue their children. Though much remains unclear, it is becoming increasingly obvious to her that she is part of a much greater destiny than she ever suspected. Meanwhile, the Magisterium–particularly Mrs. Coulter and Boreal–continue their own investigations.

At this point, the series has begun to take some liberties with the original novel, fleshing out some of the behind-the-scenes action that we don’t get in the book. For example, in this episode we see Mrs. Coulter ransack Jordan College, under the mistaken belief that Lyra has fled back to them. And of course we also see Boreal making continued forays into our world in order to track down the man she knows as Stanislaus…

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