December 18, 2019

"Avatar" 10th Anniversary



Today marks the 10th anniversary of James Cameron's Avatar (no, not the incredible Nickelodeon animated series, nor the crappy live action adaptation of it called The Last Airbender - which, I admit a better title to avoid confusion; though it's associated with that terrible film).

The story should be the driving force of any film, and the story for Avatar.....well, it's been done before. Quite a few times actually. Cameron did a similar approach with Titanic - "Romeo and Juliet at Sea", essentially.

So, looking at this film for the first time in...prolly 8 or 9 years (I saw it in the cinema, in glorious 2D....) how does it hold up?

Truth be told.....not that bad. Avatar was a technical marvel at its time, with the 3D aspect being a 'bonus.' In fact, virtually every major blockbuster from 2010 - 2017 (when 3D started to fizzle out) was made into 3D - usually converted in post-production after the films have finished shooting (in 2D). By today's standards, it's not quite the technical marvel. Nor is it dated. At this point, it feels like.....just another movie.

Upon my viewing today, I've come to realize that Avatar's accomplishments aren't in the 3D department, but the technical field itself. You can't help but marvel at the visuals, as well as the fact that everything is visually original. Sure, the story is nothing new (it's essentially Pocahontas) but everything you see (and hear) is. The Na'vi language and cultute is original. The plants, and animals on Pandora are impressive and quite unique. In that sense, you can appreciate the time, effort, and talent that went into making it. I felt drawn in, in a similar manner as when I watch Peter Jackson's extended Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I would not say that Avatar is among my favourite movies, however I enjoyed it enough. Despite a contrived and derivative plot, it shines in the technical department. I enjoy it 'enough' to watch it once in a while (OK, my last viewing was about 8 years ago, but you get the idea) as well as see the sequels in cinemas. I'm curious to see what direction the future instalments, and franchise as whole, will take. I'm also curious of a few other things, such as 'should I wait for a possible vinyl box set of all the soundtracks?' 'Will there be multiple versions of the film?' Things like that. 

Speaking of, starting in December 2021, there's going to be an Avatar sequel in cinemas every two years until Avatar 5 in 2027. Doing the math makes this December the perfect time to catch up on the first film, or re-watch it - if you're a fan and are looking forward to the sequels.

Avatar can be found on a few viewing platforms - most notably, on Disney+.

December 16, 2019

HarperCollins to Re-publish Tolkien Illustrated Editions

HarperCollins looks set to re-publish the Tolkien illustrated editions. These have been in print ever since 1997, 2002 and 2004 from Houghton Mifflin (the US Tolkien publisher), though HarperCollins has discontinued these for a bit. Note these are the "UK editions" and as such, should be bought off of a UK-based bookseller: (Amazon UK, Blackwell's Waterstones, etc) to garuntee stock actually arriving to those retailers.

There is no official cover art yet, but it looks to be very close to the 1997, 2002 and 2004 publications of the illustrated titles. The price seems to be indicative that that's the case. In that sense, they should all 'match.' I know that's important to some of you - myself included - so I'll be following this until it's published to see what the size dimensions are, and relay the info here. Images used are from the illustrated editions of the '00s. All titles are to be released May 14, 2020. Here are the ISBN #s - a direct link to these forth-coming editions.

The Hobbit
The Hobbit
:

ISBN: 9780008376116

"Smaug certainly looked fast asleep, almost dead and dark, with scarcely a snore more than a whiff of unseen steam, when Bilbo peeped once more from the entrance. He was just about to step out on to the floor when he caught a sudden thin and piercing ray of red from under the drooping lid of Smaug’s left eye. He was only pretending to sleep! He was watching the tunnel entrance!

Whisked away from his comfortable, unambitious life in his hobbit-hole in Bag End by Gandalf the wizard and a band of dwarves, Bilbo Baggins finds himself caught up in a plot to raid the treasure hoard of Smaug the Magnificent, a large and very dangerous dragon. Although quite reluctant to take part in this quest, Bilbo surprises even himself by his resourcefulness and his skill as a burglar!

The text of this edition has been fully corrected and revised in collaboration with Christopher Tolkien and is accompanied by a wealth of beautiful watercolour paintings and delicate pencil drawings from Alan Lee."

The Fellowship of the Ring
The Fellowship of the Ring
:

ISBN: 9780008376123

"The Fellowship of the Ring is the first part of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic adventure, The Lord of the Rings.

Sauron, the Dark Lord, has gathered to him all the Rings of Power – the means by which he intends to rule Middle-earth. All he lacks in his plans for dominion is the One Ring – the ring that rules them all – which has fallen into the hands of the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins.

In a sleepy village in the Shire, young Frodo Baggins finds himself faced with an immense task, as his elderly cousin Bilbo entrusts the Ring to his care. Frodo must leave his home and make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ring and foil the Dark Lord in his evil purpose.

The text of this edition has been fully corrected and revised in collaboration with Christopher Tolkien and is accompanied by nineteen watercolour paintings from Alan Lee."

The Two Towers
The Two Towers:


ISBN: 9780008376130

"The Two Towers is the second part of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic adventure, The Lord of the Rings.

Frodo and the Companions of the Ring have been beset by danger during their quest to prevent the Ruling Ring from falling into the hands of the Dark Lord by destroying it in the Cracks of Doom. They have lost the wizard, Gandalf, in the battle with an evil spirit in the Mines of Moria; and at the Falls of Rauros, Boromir, seduced by the power of the Ring, tried to seize it by force. While Frodo and Sam made their escape the rest of the company were attacked by Orcs.

Now they continue their journey alone down the great River Anduin – alone, that is, save for the mysterious creeping figure that follows wherever they go.

The text of this edition has been fully corrected and revised in collaboration with Christopher Tolkien and is accompanied by sixteen watercolour paintings from Alan Lee."

The Return of the King
The Return of the King:


ISBN: 9780008376147

"The Return of the King is the third part of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic adventure, The Lord of the Rings.

The Companions of the Ring have become involved in separate adventures as the quest continues. Aragorn, revealed as the hidden heir of the ancient Kings of the West, joined with the Riders of Rohan against the forces of Isengard, and took part in the desperate victory of the Hornburg. Merry and Pippin, captured by orcs, escaped into Fangorn Forest and there encountered the Ents.

Gandalf returned, miraculously, and defeated the evil wizard, Saruman. Meanwhile, Sam and Frodo progressed towards Mordor to destroy the Ring, accompanied by Sméagol–Gollum, still obsessed by his ‘preciouss’. After a battle with the giant spider, Shelob, Sam left his master for dead; but Frodo is still alive – in the hands of the orcs. And all the time the armies of the Dark Lord are massing.

The text of this edition has been fully corrected and revised in collaboration with Christopher Tolkien and is accompanied by fifteen watercolour paintings from Alan Lee.

The Lord of the Rings

Boxed set:

ISBN: 9780008376109

"Boxed gift set of Tolkien’s classic masterpieces, fully illustrated throughout in watercolour by the acclaimed and award-winning artist, Alan Lee, Conceptual Designer on Peter Jackson’s THE HOBBIT films.

Since they were first published, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings have been two books people have treasured. Steeped in unrivalled magic and otherworldliness, these works of sweeping fantasy have touched the hearts of young and old alike. Between them, nearly 150 million copies have been sold around the world. And no editions have proved more popular than the two that were illustrated by award-winning artist, Alan Lee – the Centenary edition of The Lord of the Rings and the 60th Anniversary edition of The Hobbit.

Now, the new hardback editions of these beautifully illustrated works have been collected together into one boxed set of four books. Readers will be able to follow the complete story of the Hobbits and their part in the quest for the Ring – beginning with Bilbo’s fateful visit from Gandalf and culminating in the dramatic climax between Frodo and Gollum atop Mount Doom – while also enjoying over seventy full-page colour paintings and numerous illustrations which accompany this epic tale."

The Silmarillion

The Silmarillion (republished as of late 2018/2019. Included here for uniformity purposes):

ISBN: 9780007173020

"This sumptuous, oversized hardback beautifully presents a revised and reset edition of The Silmarillion, illustrated by way of almost 50 full-colour paintings by celebrated Tolkien artist Ted Nasmith – designed to match and complement the illustrated Hobbit and Lord of The Rings.

J R R Tolkien’s SILMARILLION is the core work of the Middle-earth canon. It is in this dense and often neglected masterpiece that the entire cosmology for the background for THE HOBBIT and, particularly, THE LORD OF THE RINGS is documented.
This revised and reset volume contains fabulous tales of heroes and monsters, and the history of the Elves and of the Silmarils – the magical jewels produced by the Children of Iluvatar, or Elves (humans being the Younger Children of Iluvatar); it tells of the creation of Middle-earth, and the coming of Men into the world; it chronicles the early battles between good and evil, forces of light and dark, which foreshadow the great conflict with Sauron, the Dark Lord, in LORD OF THE RINGS.

These tales of Middle-earth were published posthumously in 1977. Tolkien worked on THE SILMARILLION all his life – long before THE HOBBIT or LORD OF THE RINGS – and his son and literary executor Christopher Tolkien edited the material he left behind into its current form.

With the close collaboration of Christopher Tolkien, THE SILMARILLION has now been completely reset, using the Second Edition text, and redesigned and repackaged to complement the stunningly illustrated hardbacks of THE LORD OF THE RINGS and COMPLETE GUIDE TO MIDDLE-EARTH, providing the reader with a definitive text.
Furthermore, acclaimed Tolkien artist Ted Nasmith has been commissioned to provide 28 breathtaking new paintings, making this new illustrated edition of THE SILMARILLION the most sumptuous and desirable ever published."

November 26, 2019

Tolkien Christmas Ideas

With Christmas coming up, we often 'give' and 'receive' gifts.
With quite a few editions of each Tolkien book available, I wanted to showcase some - whether it's for you, or the giftee. There are a few other non-book items as well. I'm also providing links on where to get them:
~
THE HOBBIT (paperback edition)



This copy is a great edition - whether you need a new one, don't have The Hobbit yet, or are looking to get someone you know into Tolkien. It's paperback, so yes, nothing special - however, it's size dimensions match the other HarperCollins paperbacks. Also, it includes chapter illustrations by David Wyatt, which can be presently found only in this edition.
~



Online, the official product description may get messed up (some sites list this as an audio edition, others as an illustrated one) so here's the actual features: "This deluxe collector's edition of Tolkien's modern classic is boxed and bound in green leatherette with gold and red foil rune stamping on the spine and cover. The text pages are printed in black with green accents. It includes five full page illustrations in full color and many more in two colors, in addition to Thror's map -- all prepared by the author."
~
Great if you want a nicer edition of The Hobbit to last for quite a while! Also worth mentioning, is that the design and style of the interior of the book itself is used for the Easton Press edition - minus the Michael Hague frontispiece. Great, alternative, and affordable way to own a special edition!
~



"The Fellowship of the Ring, part one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic masterpiece, first reached these shores on October 21, 1954, arriving, as C. S. Lewis proclaimed, “like lightning from a clear sky.” Fifty years and nearly one hundred million American readers later comes a beautiful new one-volume collector’s edition befitting the stature of this crown jewel of our list. With a text fully corrected under the supervision of Christopher Tolkien to meet the author’s exacting wishes, two large-format fold-out maps, a ribbon placemarker, gilded page edges, a color insert depicting Tolkien's own paintings of the Book of Mazarbul and exceptionally elegant and sturdy overall packaging housed within an attractive slipcase, this edition is the finest we’ve ever produce."
~
This would definitely be a treat for anyone that receives it! Also, it goes with The Hobbit collector's edition mentioned above quite well.
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THE LORD OF THE RINGS COMPLETE RECORDINGS





How many consider the extended editions to be the definitive version of the film trilogy, I consider these releases to be the definitive soundtrack. I've put the recently released CD+blu-ray sets (sorry, the vinyls are most likely well sold out by now, as they are limited edition) as it's nice owning something. However, depending on your tastes, the complete recordings also exists on digital music sources: Apple Music, Google Play, Spotify, etc...
~



I mentioned above that the complete recordings are the definitive editions of the soundtracks.....however, that doesn't mean that the standard editions aren't automatically 'not good' because of it. Many of us have listened to these versions music many, many times. I'm showcasing the vinyl edition (which collects all 3 soundtracks in one set) in case anyone missed out on the limited-edition complete recordings vinyl, they can still listen to The Lord of the Rings music on vinyl. Also, these editions exist on a number of formats: CD, and digital, such as Apple Music, Google Play, Spotify, etc.
~



This is a boxed set that contains matching hardback editions of The Children of Hurin, Beren and Luthien and The Fall of Gondolin.
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THE TOLKIEN ILLUSTRATED COLLECTION







That's all I can think of to mention: some well-known items, and some lesser known ones. I'll close by saying that some other Tolkien books that haven't had that many 'versions' are:
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- The Silmarillion
- Unfinished Tales
- The History of Middle-earth (12-book series)
- Tales From the Perilous Realm (Alan Lee illustrated edition)
~
In closing, here are some great works if you've enjoyed Tolkien:
~

- THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA by C.S. Lewis (first published book is THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE)
- HIS DARK MATERIALS by Philip Pullman (THE GOLDEN COMPASS/NORTHERN LIGHTS, THE SUBTLE KNIFE and THE AMBER SPYGLASS)
- THE EARTHSEA CYCLE by Ursula K. LeGuin (A WIZARD OF EARTHSEA, THE TOMBS OF ATUAN, THE FARTHEST SHORE, TEHANU, TALES FROM EARTHSEA and THE OTHER WIND)
- THE WHEEL OF TIME by Robert Jordan (The first book in the 14-book series is THE EYE OF THE WORLD)
- STORMLIGHT by Brandon Sanderson (is expected to be 10 books. The first in the series is THE WAY OF KINGS)
- A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE by George R.R. Martin (Is expected to be 7 books. The first book in the series is A GAME OF THRONES)
- THE LAST UNICORN by Peter S. Beagle
- works by Guy Gavriel Kay
- THE CHRONICLES OF PRYDAIN by Lloyd Alexander (THE BOOK OF THREE, THE BLACK CAULDRON, THE CASTLE OF LLYR, TARAN WANDERER, THE HIGH KING, and THE FOUNDLING)

November 23, 2019

Worthy of Note: Hæstingas



I've always loved, and been inspired by various aspects of Tolkien's mythology: not only the in-universe lore itself, but how he came to create the tales. Even in the sense of 'prose' and 'verse.' I do not know much about epic poetry (beats? chanting?) I just enjoying reading them. I've always sort of been inspired to do my own Tolkien-esque poem...a 'lay' if you will.

Somebody else, did just that. They didn't steal my idea, but this is what I would have liked to have done, or something very similar.

The author is James Moffett. Many may know him best for his blog, "A Tolkienist's Perspective". This blog, my own, isn't a Tolkien specific one; however it's a key interest of mine so it gets lots of coverage. What follows is his blog post about the book, and the official description:

Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Independently published (Nov. 2 2019) [as far as I'm aware, only available through Amazon]
Language: English
ISBN: 9781072916208

"Well folks, this is it.

The Lay of Leofwin project I briefly posted about over the last few months, has taken a life of its own and been transformed into a book. An actual, published book!

That is the primary reason behind my long absence from this blog.

Without going into too much “behind-the-scenes” detail, the writing process for what would eventually become known as “Hæstingas: A retelling of the valiant fall of England in verse” started almost 3 years ago, with a very rough idea of where I wanted the story to lead to.

Fast-track to today, that story combines three subjects dear to me: fantasy stories, poetry, and the Anglo-Saxon period. Plus, I won’t deny the huge influence Tolkien’s works have had on this too 😀

The synopsis of the book is as follows:

Dragons, mythical beasts, mighty warriors and perilous forests. This is England in 1066. The Anglo-Saxon king, Harold, is bound north to repel a strong force of Norsemen — unaware of the approaching threat upon the southern shores of his kingdom. Among his army of thousands, from noble thegns to battle-hardened housecarls and staunch fyrdmen, is the ambitious, loyal and proud Leofwin. Eager to defend his brother’s kingdom and carve his name in the annals of history, he battles in earnest against famed warriors, ravenous wolves and wicked sorcerers. However, his ambitions soon come to naught when his beloved wife’s life is in danger. His whole world and home are approaching an inevitable downfall.

I’m extremely proud of this work and really hope you get the chance of reading it."

I look forward to reading it. My reading pile is currently quite extensive: I'm working my way through Penguin's Legends from the Ancient North series, after which I'll take The Sagas of Icelanders, and then other sagas that aren't included in Penguin's Sagas. Following that, I will read The History of Middle-earth. My other Tolkien reading afterwards consists of The Children of Hurin, Beren and Luthien, The Fall of Gondolin, Tales From the Perilous Realm, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, The Fall of Arthur, Beowulf, The Story of Kullervo and others afterwards.

October 17, 2019

The Lord of the Rings + The Hobbit Coming to 4K

Image result for lord of the rings 4K

A few days ago, the news broke that in Europe there is a listing for The Lord of the Rings + The Hobbit film trilogies coming to 4K.

The date mentioned was June 2020, however 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of The Fellowship of the Ring.

The article mentions that both theatrical and extended editions would be arriving.

Now, what would I like these release(s) to be like?

Here are some thoughts on how I'd like to see these released on 4K blu-ray (or UHD blu-ray):

- HDR & Dolby Atmos, possibly Dolby Vision as well
- both extended and theatrical editions to be included in the same set: not one set for theatrical, and one for extended.
- 3 releases: The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit trilogy, and a set with both
- the packaging for The Lord of the Rings to be nearly identical to the 12-disc extended DVD trilogy set from 2004. The Hobbit extended trilogy on DVD also had similar packaging. The blu-ray release had some elements carry over, though it's not quite the same. Replicate the packaging, like how Rhino did in comparison for the complete recordings soundtrack, from the original CD+DVD release to the limited edition vinyls.
- no ads of any kind at the start of any of the discs
- Use a consistent colour tint. Some may have noticed that only the extended edition of The Fellowship of the Ring (on blu-ray, and some digital avenues) featured a different palette and colouring than the DVDs did. Please get rid of any colouring or tint issues, and possibly use the same company/team that worked on the extended DVDs. There have been some great 4K transfers done by WB lately - the Middle-earth films should be no exception.
- include all the special features, from both previous extended and theatrical sets. If possible, on blu-ray or 4K blu-ray discs, as opposed to DVDs (like what the special features were on for the extended Lord of the Rings boxed set)
- keep the same menus (and design style) that was featured on the DVD and blu-ray editions: very classy.

The 12 disc DVD set from 2004 was the crown jewel in my DVD library. The blu-ray - yes, The Lord of the Rings extended in HD is nice, but the packaging left a little to be desired, as well as the 'forced' ads in front of some of the discs. If the same care goes into the 4K release that went into the original DVD set, I'll be very satisfied.

I truly hope that Peter Jackson or Warner Bros reads this.

October 4, 2019

Hunger Games prequel Novel Officially Announced

The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes (a Hunger Games Novel) by Suzanne Collins

Earlier today, the prequel novel to The Hunger Games trilogy, titled The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was announced.

Here is the official - as of now - description:

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (A Hunger Games Novel) will revisit the world of Panem sixty-four years before the events of The Hunger Games, starting on the morning of the reaping of the Tenth Hunger Games.
It is to be published on May 19 by Scholastic, and will be 624 pages.

I imagine many book retailers are now offering pre-orders, so providing an ISBN won't be needed - especially given the popularity of the series.

October 3, 2019

Letters From Father Christmas: Deluxe Edition Details Revealed


Earlier today, details from the forthcoming deluxe edition of Letters From Father Christmas have been revealed.

Here's the info:


ISBN: 9780008327729

"This beautiful, deluxe slipcased edition of Tolkien’s famous illustrated letters from Father Christmas to his children includes for the first time every letter, picture and envelope that he sent them, reproduced in glorious colour. The perfect Christmas gift for Tolkien lovers of all ages.

This classic festive book of Tolkien’s amazing Father Christmas letters written to his children between the 1920s and the 1940s has been reworked into a sumptuous, new deluxe edition. It contains brand new high-quality digital reproductions of his wonderful letters and pictures, including a number them that have never been printed before, a revised introduction by Baillie Tolkien, and a special full-colour, foldout frontispiece.

‘My dear children, I am more shaky than usual this year. The North Polar Bear’s fault. It was the biggest bang in the world, and the most monstrous firework there has ever been. It turned the North Pole black!’
Every December an envelope bearing a stamp from the North Pole would arrive for J. R. R. Tolkien’s children. Inside would be a letter in strange spidery handwriting and a beautiful coloured drawing or some sketches. The letters were from Father Christmas.
They told wonderful tales of life at the North Pole:

• How all the reindeer got loose and scattered presents all over the place.
• How the accident-prone Polar Bear climbed the North Pole and fell through the roof of Father Christmas’s house into the dining-room
• How he broke the Moon into four pieces and made the Man in it fall into the back garden
• How there were wars with the troublesome horde of goblins who lived in the caves beneath the house!

Sometimes the Polar Bear would scrawl a note, and sometimes Ilbereth the Elf would write in his elegant flowing script, adding yet more life and humour to the stories. From the first note to Tolkien’s eldest son in 1920 to the final poignant letter to his daughter in 1943, this book collects all the remarkable letters and pictures in one enchanting edition. No reader, young or old, can fail to be charmed by the inventiveness of Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas."

Looks lie pretty nice. I like how it's a "Christmas-ized" version of the deluxe edition format. For instance: the icicles, the silver and white lettering, the silver ribbon-marker, etc. Also given the style of the slipcase, it looks like it'll fit, height-wise, with the other titles (The Facsimile Hobbit (book from 2016, and the gift set from 2017), The Lord of the Rings 60th anniversary illustrated edition, and the deluxe edition of Jemima Catlin's Hobbit don't go with the rest of the deluxes, in terms of height.

It is highly unlikely that I'll get this edition, though: the paperback (my edition says 2015 on the copyright page, but the release date on some retailers says 2009...) edition will do me just fine :) Though I'd love to get the audio CD narrated by Jacobi.

This looks to be the finalized or definitive edition, as it'll have everything related to Tolkien writing as father Christmas that he ever made, as well as it'll combine all prior releases into one set. I do not believe that the art will be removable though - could be wrong.

I'm also curious which image will be used as the foldout frontispiece they mention: "...and a special full-colour, foldout frontispiece." I think it’ll be two images side by side: “Dressed for the Snow and the Cold” with ‘my house’ (sometimes as one image, but two “panels"). If those are next to each other, than those as the frontispiece could easily be foldout. Or, perhaps, the wider version of "The North Pole" :

September 12, 2019

Looking Ahead to Tolkien in 2020




So what do you think will be the next major Tolkien book? The Great Tales have now been completed, with the recent releases of Beren and Luthien and The Fall of Gondolin by way of their own dedicated books.

Future anniversary editions (70th / 75th anniversary of The Lord of the Rings for instance) are expected as are new illustrated editions (while The Hobbit isn’t “new” Jemima Catlin’s illustrated edition is). There’s also collector’s editions, like the edition of Letters From Father Christmas to be released in a few months.

Those out of the way; what could possibly be ‘the’ Tolkien book for 2020?
There is The Book of Ishness, and I doubt enough material exists (though I’d welcome its release) for The Tale of Earendil as its own dedicated book.

Then there’s the Amazon Middle-earth series: while no doubt tie-in books will come out (pertaining directly, and only to the series – like Weapons and Warfare for The Lord of the Rings film trilogy). I would not be surprised if there will be a collected edition (dedicated book) comprised of material from The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales and possibly The History of Middle-earth dedicated solely to The Second Age as a “tie in, but not really….” type book.

Who knows what’s in the pipeline for the future? Many weren’t expecting, and thus, surprised – by publications of such works as The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, The Fall of Arthur, Beren and Luthien and The Fall of Gondolin. There was always mention of the Three Great Tales, but the gap from The Children of Hurin being to published to when Beren and Luthien and The Fall of Gondolin were was large enough, many didn’t really consider it or think that they would come.

Then there's the 2021 Tolkien Calendar - I am curious to just find out who will be the artist, and what the theme will be. Usually, the calendar that comes out the year of a major book will be the art for next year. Example: The Children of Hurin came out in 2007. The 2008 calendar (which came out in 2007) reflects that release. I have a feeling that it will be John Howe's,  possibly featuring art from his book, A Middle-earth Traveller.

So who knows what can – and could – come out next year, either completely new or re-packaged or re-edited? It’ll be interesting to see what the next “Tolkien publishing event” will be. Was The Fall of Gondolin truly the end?

Myself I have a few more Tolkien (and Tolkien related) books to get:

- The Hobbit Sketchbook
- A Middle-earth Traveller
- Author of the Century
- A Secret Vice in paperback

August 24, 2019

The Best Translations?



One of the things about great classic works from centuries past (or hundreds of centuries) is that, because they've been around for so long; and the original tales are so good, is that we have numerous translations from the original languages into English. Everyone has different tastes, and some may be in 'verse' or 'prose.'

First up, would Robert Fagles. Fagles has given us amazing translations of 'the three great epics in Western literature.' These would be The Iliad, The Odyssey and The Aeneid. The first of those two are by Homer, and The Aeneid is by Virgil. Due to the immense success of these stories - separate or together - once the Fagles translations came out; it was quite the publishing event. Many people (from general or casual readers to full-fledged scholars) quite enjoyed these. Now, I'm not saying that the Fagles versions are the only good ones because that simply isn't true. However, it appears that Penguin has adopted the Fagles translations as their current standard; though others may be available. Worthy of note is Fitzgerald's, and for prose, Butler's isn't too bad either. There are a vast amount of them. Another name I keep saying come up is Lattimore.

Moving on to other stories, Michael Alexander, Kevin Crossley-Holland and Jesse Byock also offer some great note-worthy versions of the Old Norse stories and myths and Icelandic Sagas. Be sure to check out anything with those names on it.

I should also add that for some of the epic poems, there are 'verse' translations, and 'prose' translations. The format, as well as the translator, is entirely up to the reader's preference. After all, you are the one reading, and should therefore enjoy what you read. Some specific versions may be studied academically - in which case, a particular edition is outlined in the syllabus.

Moving on, Hugo's magnum opus, Les Miserables, finds it's best, and most thorough English translation by way of Charles E. Wilbur. Again, that's not to say that others are bad; just that one is quite good.

Richard Peaver and Larissa Volokhonsky also offer up some terrific translations of some classic Russian literature, such as War and Peace (and other titles by Tolstoy) as well as works by Dostoevsky.

Umberto Eco's versions of the works of Dumas is also said to be a great joy to read.

So which of these is the best translation I've mentioned? And, the ones I've listed, are they the best translation of the original works? That is entirely up to you; though the names I've provided - of translators and works they've translated - are quite good, in many aspects and quite appealing.

In closing, I want to mention that you really can't go wrong with anything offered by Penguin, Oxford World Classics, Everyman's Library or Modern Library. When picking out a version, read some samples by randomly flipping the book open, and Amazon also offers the 'look inside!' feature. Though with Amazon, the 'look inside!' may not match the product you're actually viewing.  

August 14, 2019

Wheel of Time Amazon Series Casting Announcements



The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.

Big news day for those looking forward to Amazon's Wheel of Time series - myself included.

We've got our main Two Rivers characters. I'll run through them again, and add the casting of Rosamund Pike.

Rosamund Pike as Moraine:



Marcus Rutherford as Perrin Aybara:



Zoe Robins as Nyanaeve al'Meara:



Barney Harris as Mat Cauthon:



Madeleine Madden as Egwene al'Vere:



Josha Stradowski as Rand al'Thor:

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Seems promising!

Since that I am not overly attached to the books (I own them (in paperback), I read them, and I enjoyed them) I suppose that means that I'm looking forward to the adaptation. Whereas with Amazon's Middle-earth series, I am attached (quite strongly) to Tolkien's works, so my interest in the adaptation is fairly low as of now. I am looking forward to Netflix's Narnia, and HBO's His Dark Materials for the same reason. However of the series I've mentioned, I'm attached to His Dark Materials the most. And its trailer was fairly impressive. And it will be 3 seasons (one per book).

But back to The Wheel of Time.

It will be impossible to make everyone happy, and this casting announcement of proof of that. I believe it will be impossible to faithfully adapt 14, 600 page-plus (in mass market paperback) books to TV. Even striving for as much accuracy as Peter Jackson's extended Lord of the Rings trilogy will be a stretch. In terms of accuracy (if we're going by Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings adaptation) expect it to be the same level of accuracy as The Two Towers theatrical edition. Or, some of the Harry Potter films (I'm thinking Goblet of Fire to Deathly Hallows: Part 2). Because of the complexity of the books, challenges of turning one medium into another, the characters, plots etc that run through the series, I expect; if you add everything up, that half of the books will be faithfully adapted. The main thing, though, is that I hope it does well, and catches on. Let;s face it - however The Wheel of Time books may be, they're only really known in the fantasy genre, not 'mainstream' like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones....

I am also looking forward to seeing what type of merchandise comes out. HBO didn't really have much merchandise before Game of Thrones came along.

I've got high hopes for this one, but as ever, I'll reserve judgment until after I've seen the trailer.

I'll close by recommending specific editions of the books which offer the best value for the cost: http://insurrbution.blogspot.com/2012/09/new-editions-for-wheel-of-time.html

July 31, 2019

The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings Sketchbooks Limited-Edition Boxed Set Announced



Earlier today, this limited-edition, numbered, slipcased signed edition was announced. Only 3,000 will be printed! Official description follows below:


Presenting two richly illustrated books in one elegant slipcase, this deluxe, limited edition boxed set celebrates in words and pictures the beautiful work that award-winning artist Alan Lee has created for J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Sumptuously bound in full cloth, with a miniature colour image embossed into the front board, each large-format volume overflows with hundreds of delicate pencil drawings and conceptual sketches, and dozens of haunting watercolour paintings, including many brand-new Hobbit paintings and drawings that take us deeper into the magical world of Bilbo Baggins.

This very special set unlocks the secret of how Alan creates his own Middle-earth magic and provides a fascinating insight into the imagination of the man who breathed new life into Tolkien’s vision. It is limited to a worldwide printing of just 3,000 numbered copies and each copy of The Hobbit Sketchbook has been personally signed by the artist.

The ISBN is 9780008367435

At present, only Amazon UK is offering pre-orders. And, since only a specific number are being printed, you might want to grab this while you can. Elsewise, they may be gone.

There is also A Middle-earth Traveller by John Howe worth checking out. Here's hoping in the future there will be a 'Great Tales' set (featuring Alan Lee's art from The Children of Hurin, Beren and Luthien and The Fall of Gondolin). Also would be great if a Ted Nasmith Silmarillion Sketchbook were made....

June 26, 2019

Farewell, Dear Friend



Today was a slightly sad day....perhaps I am being overly dramatic, but it was slightly sad.
Today I packed up and boxed my wii u and its games.
I do not yet have a Switch (I most likely will at, or by, Christmas), so it wasn't done to 'make space', but rather because I played the wii u literally to its death. I got it in Sept 2013, and now (June 2019) - it's finished.

What had happened, is that the GamePad can no longer hold a charge. It can charge, but it lasts approx 45 min - 1 hr 15 before The Red Light of Doom comes on, then starts flashing. The problem is, because the wii u 'failed' we got the Switch. Because of that, Nintendo stopped supporting it in 2017. That means no more GamePad battery replacement packs. I wish I had known of the 'extended' battery pack made by Nintendo which gives longer life (both to 'extend' and get a new battery for it.) There are sellers on Amazon, etc but the reviews have been mixed: from "it works!" to "it doesn't." It also doesn't help that the companies that make them aren't Nintendo. This isn't getting a third-party controller, but rather a component of the system.

So the wii u is packed away in storage (there are 'workarounds' with the GamePad issue, but with me getting a Switch sometime soon-ish, it would need to get packed away anyway.) Someday that box may be opened again...
However, not everything from the wii u got packed away: I'm still able to use the HDMI cable (will do so for The Switch's dock) and The Switch supports amiibos. So those are still 'out.'
I still remember the day that I got it. It was the Wind Waker bundle, and I got it in September of 2013. My work contract was going to expire, and if I got renewed or extended, I was going to buy it. Once I found out, I phoned FutureShop, and put it on hold for pick-up that day. Once I was finished work, I headed there, picked it up, and headed home. Over the course of the console's short life, I got some decent games and play time out of it: Mario Kart 8, Smash, Mario Maker some downloaded games, Mario 3D World, and the 'grand finale', The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. There were others too, but those are the highlights for me.

It's unfortunate that the wii u died - it had potential, but it just didn't 'catch.' Even the name: most people thought it was an accessory or add-on to the wii, not a whole new console. Then there was how the Gamepad factored in for multiplayer games: for some it can be used as a controller; not so the case others. In that aspect, New Mario U was frustrating multiplayer wise: the controller wasn't a 'controller' but to add blocks. The option to use the GamePad as such in that game should have existed. Plus, as per usual, Nintendo didn't get a lot of support from other developers for it.
With The Switch, Nintendo corrected themselves: no discs, it has a wide array of controller options (though you still need the JoyCons for certain games, so you can't go 100% ProController dedicated; but most games support it. Should be "all" but anyway...). The name isn't 'confusing' like the wii u. Nintendo is marketing and pushing the console, and it's getting tons of support. And it's working. I think within the first year, more Switches were sold than wii us during the wii u's life.

I was initially skeptical when The Switch was announced. I wanted to wait a bit ("hey our older console was a flop. Buy our new one!") but now, my faith is restored. There are a few games I'd 're-buy' on The Switch (hey if my wii u gamepad is truly on its way to the grave, at least I can still play some of the games...) such as Mario Kart. My Mario Kart reasoning is, Nintendo may not make one for The Switch (Mario Kart 9) because it already has one on it - Mario Kart 8 (Deluxe)

So farewell, wii u - you gave me a lot of great time play time, and memories; even. You had a good, loving home; but now it's time to say goodbye. Also, thank you for getting me through a few tough times here and there. over the years.    

June 2, 2019

Thoughts on The End of Game of Thrones



Since the show ended, I've been thinking and re-thinking about the series on the whole, the final season, and the final episode.

The final season has left the internet in an uproar. Most people seemed to have enjoyed it, however those that did not were very vocal about it.


Our ‘current’ Ssn 7 and 8 were good - problem was, they were too ‘crammed.’ HBO offered more episodes / seasons, D&D should have taken and followed that plan. Or, at the very least, make Ssn 7 and 8 10 episodes each, each at least 70 min.

Here’s how it should have been structured:

Season 7: 10 episodes, about the Night King
Season 8: 10 episodes, about ‘The Last War’ against Cersei
Season 9 (final season): 10 episodes (each being 70 min at least) about the rebellion against the Queen of the Ashes.

The final two episodes alone had enough potential for two seasons.

Of course, that would probably be another three years; however I'm speaking strictly of formatting of the story that was told, and how to flesh it out properly - not in regards to actually producing a TV series - an area of which I have no experience in.

As much as I loved Game of Thrones through the years, my biggest issue is that after Season 1, the story changed too much from the books. I get that books and TV/film are different mediums etc, but I noticed this in general: the Harry Potter films started off staying pretty close to the books. Heck, even The Lord of the Rings changed considerably, even with the extended editions of The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

This is a general statement: for some reason, fantasy adaptations start out closely and faithful to the source material, and then for some reason, the story changes in the adaptation. I wish it would be kept with the same quality, (in terms of being an adaption) as it is when it first begins.

I frequently state if one did not like Season 7, they probably would not enjoy Season 8. I'm not talking about plot or story, but rather the pacing. People often say that towards the end (Season 7 and 8) it's "rushed." I don't quite feel that's the case....or perhaps I am misunderstanding. I didn't find it 'rushed' but rather 'crammed.'

Ideally, I would have loved to have gotten 9 full, 10-episode seasons that followed the books, and had similar pacing as the very first season did. Consistently, throughout the years, I've always enjoyed Game of Thrones.

Was every episode perfect? No. Was every season perfect? No. But I've always enjoyed the ride, start to finish.

Before I go further, I wish to add that I enjoyed Lost (including the final season and final episode), though I did not enjoy the finales for Battlestar or Dexter.

I re-watched the entire series leading up to Season 8, then it was 'one episode per week, every week.' What I need to do, is re-watch Season 8 (or possibly the entire show, start to finish.) I've found that with Game of Thrones, as fun as it is speculating what will happen between episodes, 'wait times' negatively affects the show. I think that's where most of the disappointment sets in.

I give Game of Thrones on the whole a very solid 8.5 / 10 for the entire series.

I give Season 8 a 7.5 /10.

I give the final episode a 7 / 10. It did what it needed to do, it made sense (though in my scenario mentioned earlier) it could have been the last two, maybe even three, episodes of Season 9) and, for me, it didn't 'ruin' the series.

Even though Game of Thrones is finished, I still look forward to reading The Winds of Winter, A Dream of Spring, more Dunk and Egg, and other Seven Kingdoms-related content by Martin. If the Thrones prequel / spin-off series look good, I may check those out as well: though I'm not 'blindly' interested in them.

March 12, 2019

Warner Bros. Drops the Ball on "The Crimes of Grindelwald" Extended Cut

Today The Crimes of Grindelwald is out on blu-ray and 4K, and the set includes an extended cut.

Don't bother with the extended cut portion of the set.


The extended cut is not on a disc. Which is pretty freaking stupid, considering that the product is physical media. To get the extended cut, they give you a code to redeem it! It's not even on a disc, even though you're buying a disc! THAT is lazy and stupid, I think. I watched the extended cut, the added stuff does nothing to further the story or offer background info, character development... I wasn't expecting stuff like The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings level of difference, but the new scenes are 20 seconds - 2 minutes long each. We're talking less than what was added to extended version of the first Hobbit movie. Not only did they drop the ball on how to access that version of the film, but I would like to add the following points:

1) the opening title where you see the name of the movie, in the movie, they slapped "extended cut" right there.


2) every time there's new footage it says "deleted scene" hardcoded in the bottom corner of the screen. So the way they handled the extended cut is very lazy and stupid.

3) not all of the deleted scenes are included in the extended cut.
In short, the extended cut is a waste. Don't go out of your way to see it, is what I mean.

Another reason why I'll wait for 5 movie set, or if there is none, get them all at once (or if all at once is cheaper). If that set doesn't include the extended cut, no big loss.

Sometimes an extended, director's, or alternate version of a film can save it from disaster, or improve on an already excellent film. Some notable examples of this include: The Lord of the Rings, Kingdom of Heaven, Once Upon a Time in America, Blade Runner (The Final Cut), and The Hobbit to name a few.

Please note, I'm not saying that The Crimes of Grindelwald is a bad movie (it's not, I liked it - I'll do a review someday soon) and I'm not telling you to not get the blu-ray or 4K version (personally I'm waiting for the boxed set and wouldn't be surprised if some are too) but rather, the way that the extended cut was handled and packaged was extremely stupid on Warner Bros.' part.

Another way to think of it, is imagine if you buy a vinyl record, and some extra content is promoted and marketed to be inside the release. Instead of putting that material onto an LP, they give you a download coupon for it...which defeats the purpose of buying the physical product to begin with. (I'm not referring to them giving you a code to download the album you also have a physical copy of)


March 7, 2019

Welcome to the Second Age



Amazon has finally fully (I never saw the point on posting about the map as it was being revealed) revealed their Middle-earth map, as well as a status update: "Welcome to the Second Age."

Worthy of note is the inclusion of Numenor on the map of Middle-earth. This interesting, as most maps of Middle-earth (books, films etc) do not feature as it sinks into the sea during the Second Age, and most maps are of Middle-earth during the Third Age.

There is a whole bunch of information I could pass on, so first I'll refer you to portions of the various books, relating to information about The Second Age, and Numenor itself. I should also add that The Second age was also known as "The Black Years" ('Black' in Tolkien means 'dark' (depression), corrupt, foul, etc.)

IN PRINT:

- in The Return of the King, read through the Appendices
- in The Silmarillion, read Akallabeth (The Downfall of Numenor)
- in Unfinished Tales, read Part Two: The Second Age. Unfinished Tales also "...reproduces the only map of Numenor that J.R.R. Tolkien ever made."
- The Maps of Tolkien's Middle-earth book / map set by John Howe and Brian Sibley also includes a map of Numenor (exclusive to that set. By that I meant the other 3 were made available separately on their own. Only in this release can you get their tretment of the Numenor map)
- in Robert Foster's The Complete Guide to Middle-earth (illustrated by Ted Nasmith) look up the entries "Numenor" and "Second Age"

ONLINE:

Numenor: http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/N%C3%BAmenor
Second Age: http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Second_Age

In closing, with The Second age and Numenor being the highlights of the new reveals, I can see the following items existing as tie-in merchandise:

- Map of Numenor (with The Lord of the Rings films (and maybe The Hobbit too...?) we had the Map of Middle-earth. With The Hobbit, we got Thror's Map)

- a 'compilation' book by HarperCollins (hardback? paperback? deluxe???) of various Second Age and Numenor related content, which has already been published, in its own book (much like Beren and Luthien and The Fall of Gondolin books). this possible book would be great for newcomers to Middle-earth who have never read Tolkien before, or for those fans who want all the info related to the show in its own dedicated volume.

Pretty interesting stuff at this point - I look forward to following the series as it develops, and will post the significant updates. 

February 15, 2019

"The Lord of the Rings on Prime"


Amazon Prime's Middle-earth series is now somewhat underway.

Not long ago, they had created a Facebook page for the project: https://www.facebook.com/LOTRonPrime/  , as well as a website: amazon.com/lotronprime. Aside from the map, not much has been uploaded yet. However, should you be interested in following the project, official updates will be there.

I look forward to following the project as it progresses: cast, poster, trailer....and any associated merchandise. Hopefully, the merchandise won't be restricted to "Prime Members Only."

I'm curious what types of merchandise and products we can expect to see associated with this. I remember from 2001-2003 HarperCollins drastically increased production on Tolkien items - both related to Peter Jackson's films and not. Can we expect to see some new editions, beyond imagery used as book covers? Also, back then bookstores were book stores - not like today where they are department stores that happen to sell books. Regardless, I look forward to seeing what publications will inevitably come out.

As for how I feel about this, project, I did a post or two a while back. It's far too early to have an actual opinion - we know so little. Trailer first, opinions later.

I will also follow and report any news-worthy news in regards Amazon's Wheel of Time project, and Netflix's Narnia.

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them,
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie



February 14, 2019

"Mario Maker 2" Announced


Many fans were hoping that the Switch would get Mario Maker ported over to it, like so many other titles from the wii u (as of now, the only titles that remain exclusive to the wii u are: Mario 3D World, Xenoblade X, and Pikmin 3 - I may be missing 1 or 2). It was announced that Nintendo is making Mario Maker 2.

When I was a kid, I used to draw Mario quite a bit. I often enjoyed sketching a 'screenshot' of a made-up level, almost Bob Ross style. I used to get quite creative: "What if I make this spiny green?? The regualr ones are red, and there's red and green koopas, so....oh! and how would it behave on-screen?" That was one such example I would enjoy thinking of.

When Mario Maker came out, i was able to relieve and fulfill that aspect of my life, almost to its fullest. As great as the game was, it lacked a few minor elements that I would have loved to seen included, so I could make my levels more varied, and recreate some from Mario 1 and Mario 3 - thinking specifically of slopes and water that you can jump out of (ie, not be restricted to fully underwater.)

This post is not only to inform you that Mario Maker 2 is coming, but I'm going to re-watch the trailer, and commentate on what Mario Maker 2 looks to be adding (base donly on the trailer) as well as a few parting thoughts ("I hope this is included."

In the words of Mario, "heeere we gooo.....!"

- from the looks of things, the game is handled (exclusively??) in hand-held mode
- there are 'wheels': once the game enters 'maker mode', there's a circle labelled 'enemies' and there are some selections that can be made. There is also an "items" circle, and a "ground" circle; which includes 2 types of slopes.

- we get slopes!! I wonder how that will factor into Mario 1 style, which didn't have slopes....?

- There are elements from Mario 3D World (in side-scroller,not 3D environment)

- The sun from Mario 3 (which can be killed with a koopa shell in the deserve level) is here. Again, I wonder how it'll factor into games that did not have it in them.

- The section that shows the sun, shows a desert background. Can we change background styles....?

- The 'caterpillar' blocks from Mario World's castle levels are in it

- again with the background change: we see a forest-y backdrop and Mario and Yoshi swimming...but...the can jump out of the water! Also, it looks as if the water level can change. You could never jump out of the water in Mario 1, so I'm curious about that game style with the elements.

- the "On/Of" blocks from Mario World are here

- it looks like the auto-scroll can be adjusted, in terms of direction and movement. Play the airship levels from Mario 3 to see what I mean.

- there looks to be new enemies: puffer fish and blue/purple caterpillars. (I think it said 'ant trooper')

- Mario 3D World is a 'game style' (in 2D mode), I wonder what the mechanics will be like...?

- climbable bell-trees from Mario 3D World are here

- the Cat Bell item is here (can that 'work' in other game styles??)

- Piranha crawlers (may may be wrong, but the type of piranha plant that's pink and moves along its stem) from Mario World 3D is here (looking forward tos eeing that enemy with other game styles. it's 'length' and movement can be adjusted

- blocks that extend as you hit them are included (marked with a "!")

- the clear pipes from Mario 3D World are included

- in the Mario 3D World style, you can Banzai Bills come from the background into the foregound

- parachutes can be added to enemies. Also, in that same screen, there's a regular pipe that's not green, but red/pink instead....can pipe colours be changed??

- There looks to be different colour Yoshis! Wonder what the colours are, as well as if they have special abilities? It also looks that the 'acid' from some of the jungle levels is included.

- Boom-Boom is included as an enemy! Looking forward to seeing his Mario 1 and Mario World sprites. Not to mention how he may behave.

- Banzai Bills are included (I didn't see a Bill Blaster....)

Now for my thoughts / hopes:

- can adjustments be made on various level types? For instance for a 'gras' level, can we choose between day and night?

- it looks like you can change the colours of pipes. That, and the different level themes will allow me to create more accurate recreations of existing Mario levels

-can we make "worlds?" Perhaps even overworld maps??

- more enemies: I would love Fire Bros., Boomerang Bros., etc added

So that basically concludes my thoughts on the upcoming title at this point. We shall what else gets revealed closer to the release date.

February 5, 2019

Myths & Legends - Icelandic and Old Norse



Hwaet!
I have an interest in Icelandic and Old Norse myths and legends. The old sagas and tales, they interest me. Have I read any? No, not yet...

This interest was initially sparked with the publication of Tolkien's The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun. It was marketed quite well by both Houghton Mifflin and HarperCollins. I got the book around the publication date of May 2009 I believe it was. Over the years, I've also dabbled my toes in other areas related to some of the old legends and tales.

The following year, 2010, saw HarperCollins start their print-on-demand service for some specific titles. One of them was for the 50th anniversary publication of The Saga of King Heidrek by Christopher Tolkien. A few years following that, Penguin published some of their titles under the theme of 'Legends From the Ancient North'. Titles include: Beowulf, The Elder Edda, The Saga of the Volsungs, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (all are re-published and existing translations at that time) and the newly published, from what I could gather - The Wanderer.

Next, once my computer was powerful enough to run it (and they were finished all content related to the game) I got around to playing Skyrim, the 5th Elder Scrolls game. That game featured a lot of story content and quests inspired by some of those old tales. Over time, I also discovered and obtained The Sagas of Icelanders by Penguin (based from the massive 1997 undertaking of publishing and translating all 50-ish Sagas) as well as few others books on the side: Seamus Heaney's Beowulf, Oxford World Classic's edition of Grettir's Saga and The Penguin Book of Norse Myths. Also, there was the publication of Tolkien's Beowulf. Not quite related, but while waiting for seasons of Game of Thrones I have also discovered Vikings, and am a fan of that show as well. And I am missing one more book - The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki. For a milestone birthday or event, I would absolutely love a copy of the 5-volume (later-bound!) boxed Complete Sagas of Icelanders, which contains EVERYTHING. That will be quite the purchase, though!

Also, one of the first single-malt Scotch whiskies I've tried (and enjoyed) is the 12 yr by Highland Park. Highland Park ha as very strong (and they embrace it and use it as part of their marketing and packaging) Norse connection. In fact, some whiskies on their respective product pages even have quotes from some of the old stories.    

My interest in all these stories, and types of tales has reached its peak. This year I fully intend to read them. I'm presently reading through the Earthsea Cycle. I also plan on doing a full re-read of the (existing) Ice and Fire books as well as A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms and Fire & Blood. Those aside, my next reading project will be tackling all the Norse and Icelandic material. However, which order will that be?

Here's my projected reading order:

- Legends From the Ancient North (in the order of: Beowulf, The Elder Edda, The Saga of the Volsungs, Sir Gawain, and The Wanderer
- The Penguin Book of Norse Myths
- The Sagas of Icelanders
- Njal's Saga
- Grettir's Saga
- The Prose Edda
- The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki (hope to have it by then)
- Beowulf (Heaney's translation)

So what began as mild or slight interest, thanks to Tolkien, has become a chief interest of mine that I look forward to exploring further. I understand that some of these are in prose, others are in verse. That shouldn't bother me, as the snippets I've read have interested me and the form does not appear to be a hindrance.

From what I can tell, the editions and translations I own and mentioned aren't too completed like some other epic poetry (in verse or prose might be.)  I look forward to reading these timeless stories; and learning about a culture through them. Also, once Vikings finishes, I look forward to getting the blu-rays. One of the reasons for this, is for some of the special features and documentaries the blu-rays may have on them.

Skal! 

February 3, 2019

"Valknut" by Highland Park Now Available in Ontario

Highland Park's second of their Viking Legends series (the first being Valkyrie, the third being the upcoming Valfather) is now available in Canada. Or, Ontario, at least. 

Here is what they have to say about it:

"I know one thing which never dies: the reputation of each dead man"
Poetic Edda, Hávamál, verse 77

STORY


Created using a higher proportion of our local peated malt and predominantly matured in sherry seasoned oak casks to give this whisky its smoky, sweet flavour, VALKNUT is the second in our Viking Legend series, celebrating our rich Nordic ancestry here on Orkney.
Valknut means ‘knot of those slain in battle’ and its symbol of three interlinked triangles appears on numerous artefacts from the Viking Age. The symbol is closely associated with the Norse god, Odin, who guided the spirits of the dead to the underworld and back to the world of the living, and is believed to represent the transition from life to death or the connection between earthly life and heavenly life.

NATURAL CASK-DRIVEN COLOUR (NO ADDITIVES)


Light and golden (average colour tint 10.5)


FLAVOURS


Toasted vanilla pods | Cracked black pepper | Oak shavings | Cloves | Aniseed | Aromatic peat smoke


ABV


46.8%


VOLUME


700ml (or 750ml depending on country)

You can see the tasting video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMs59R40jRg

For those that live in Ontario, the LCBO product number is 632687.

Expect Valfather to arrive later this year, or very early next year. While Valkyrie was red, Valknut is blue, I'm expecting Valfather to be either green or yellow.