The colonialism behind fantasy's vaguely Irish Elves

Motherfoclóir is a delightful podcast about language and linguistics as they relate to Ireland ("foclóir" being the Irish word for "dictionary," and thus completely unrelated to that homophonic English-language word you're surely thinking of, c'mon). While that might seem like a niche topic outside of the Emerald Isle herself, a recent episode tackled something that's surely on everyone's mind: those fantastical pointy-eared aristocrats known only as elves.

Specifically, it's a conversation with Irish writer Orla Ní Dhúill, whose blog about elves, Irishness, and colonialism gained a lot of traction among fantasy fans across the globe.

Growing up as a nerdy Irish-American kid, I always understood there to be something vaguely Gael-ish about elves. Even though I didn't know why. Even though I knew it didn't make sense. Even though I knew that Tolkien himself was not particularly fond of the Irish (the language, at least, if not the people). Was it because they used an cló gaelach, the insular font so often associated with Irish Gaelic? Even in my later adolescence, as I wasted my measly weekend job wages on Warhammer 40K, I couldn't help but notice the inherent Irishness in the names and terms of the mystical Eldar alien race who are basically space elves anyway (spoiler: it turns out the Eldar language is, in fact, mostly just bastardized lines from Irish Gaelic proverbs).

The podcast episode is full of insightful exchanges on language and colonialism between Ní Dhúill and host Peader Kavanagh. You can listen below, or on your preferred podcasting platform. Read the rest

Excellent breakdown of LoTR's amazing Helm's Deep battle sequence

How can a film's 40-minute battle scene hold its tension? Nerdwriter breaks down the Battle of the Hornburg (aka the Helm's Deep battle sequence) into 24 beats to show why it works so well. Read the rest

Hobbit house above Washington lake now available on Airbnb

Kristie Wolfe loved The Hobbit ever since seeing the cartoon as a child, so she decided to build a hobbit house in Washington State. This fun video shows the whole process, and it's even listed on Airbnb. Read the rest

Lovely watercolor illustrations of The Silmarillion's first chapter

Evan Palmer's reverent watercolors capture the verbal harmonies and surprising glories of J.R.R. Tolkien's origin story for the universe he created. Read the rest

Frodo's trip to Mordor as a Google Map

Mark Carpenter made this spot-on Google Map of Frodo's journey from Hobbiton to Mount Doom. Read the rest

University of Oxford acquires rare map of Middle-earth annotated by Tolkien

The Bodleian Libraries at Oxford acquired a recently-discovered map of Middle-earth annotated by JRR Tolkien, "which reveals his remarkable vision of the creatures, topography and heraldry of his imagined world where The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings take place. The annotated map went unseen for decades until October 2015 when Blackwell’s Rare Books in Oxford put the map on display and offered it for sale."

(Thanks, Gary Price!) Read the rest

Meet Daniel Reeve, calligrapher for The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings

Artist Daniel Reeve created and re-created calligraphy and maps for Peter Jackson's films of the Tolkein adventures in Middle-earth. His gallery of images includes maps and illustrations as well as calligraphy and lettering. Some examples below:

Daniel Reeve website (h/t TMarizzle) Read the rest

Original Ballantine book cover concept art for J.R.R Tolkien's Lord of the Rings on eBay

Tolkien, perhaps rightly in marketing terms, though with the insistent literalism that makes writers writers (which is to say: not artists), demanded, of Barbara Remington's cover art for Lord of the Rings, "What has it got to do with the story? Where is this place? Why a Lion and emus? And what is the thing in the foreground with the pink bulbs?" Read the rest