Mar 22 2010 6:16am

GGG#012: Hobbits! Balrogs! My Precious! (Guest: Corey Olsen)

The Tolkien Professor, Corey Olsen, joins us to talk about Tolkien, Medieval literature, and whether Balrogs have wings. Stay with us after the interview when Dave and John discuss all things Hobbit.



0:00 Introduction by

0:37 Dave and John introduce the show

Interview: Corey Olsen

02:22 Interview begins

02:39 How Corey got interested in Medieval literature, and the Medieval spirit of Tolkien

04:58 Chronological snobbery and other common misconceptions about the Medieval world

07:47 Who takes a class on Tolkien?

09:44 Tolkien and war

10:57 Themes in Tolkien’s work

11:54 J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century by Tom Shippey--is Tolkien the most important author of the 20th century?

12:29 Is George R.R. Martin really “the American Tolkien”?

15:38 Do Balrogs have wings? Paying attention to what is on the page

17:35 Dave’s mom has a complaint that is totally legitimate unless you happen to be a linguist

19:04 Regarding Tom Bombadil

21:02 The Professor weighs in on the movies

29:58 Books and conferences the aspiring Tolkien scholar should know about, including The Festival in the Shire and MythCon

33:09 End of interview

Dave and John discuss all things Hobbit

33:10 Proper pronunciation, and Dave’s adventures in trying to teach Tolkien

35:16 Fantasy languages: world-building from the ground up

37:04 Introducing young people to fantasy literature via Tolkien, and how to make people aware of the existing short fiction market

38:37 John’s take on the “author of the century” label for Tolkien

40:45 If sexy elves and space marines didn’t exist, would it be necessary to invent them?

45:13 Almost a decade later, the guys talk about the Peter Jackson films, and get a little misty about the dungeon crawl in Fellowship

51:37 The importance of Gandalf’s death and what it can teach new writers

53:52 The new Hobbit movie vs. the original Hobbit

01:07:19 There and Back Again, and Ralph Bakshi’s animated version of The Hobbit

01:11:47 Regarding George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones coming to HBO, and retrofitting the mythology of an author’s first story into a later epic

01:15:11 Avatar: The Last Airbender as an example of great world-building--join us at for the Rewatch!

01:16:29 Show wrap-up

Next week: John Langan, author of House of Windows!

Thanks for listening!

Update: Avatar: The Last Airbender fans, please note if you haven't watched the show all the way through yet, there's a huge spoiler in the comments to this post (comment #7). Since is currently doing a retrospective on the series which may have encouraged some people to watch for the first time, I wanted to post this warning since you wouldn't expect to find Avatar spoilers in this comment thread otherwise.

John Joseph Adams ( is an anthologist, a writer, and a geek. He is the editor of the anthologies By Blood We Live, Federations, The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Living Dead (a World Fantasy Award finalist), Seeds of Change, and Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse. He is currently assembling several other anthologies, including Brave New Worlds, The Living Dead 2, The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination, and The Way of the Wizard. He worked for more than eight years as an editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and is currently the fiction editor of Lightspeed Magazine, which launches in June 2010.

David Barr Kirtley ( is a writer living in New York who has been called “one of the newest and freshest voices in sf.” His short fiction appears in magazines such as Realms of Fantasy and Weird Tales, and in anthologies such as The Living Dead, New Voices in Science Fiction, and Fantasy: The Best of the Year, 2008 Edition.

Show notes compiled by podtern Christie Yant. Friend us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

1. KurtRoedeger
I'm listening to last weeks (episode 11) podcast and had a question, but the comments are closed. Then I wondered if you guys really created enough of a hub-bub over Star Wars that the comments turned into a flamewar or some such. Now I forget my original question and I'm curious if I missed any good snark.
John Joseph Adams
2. johnjosephadams
The comments to ep. 11 look like they're open to me. Do you actually see something that says "comments closed"?
3. David Bunnell
Great Podcast, thanks.

Not sure if was David or John who said that computer character models of the actors running across the bridge of Khazad-dum did not look realistic. I agree with the comment, but if you watch the making of specials on the DVD, you will see that that shot was done with actual actors, running one at a time. It was the merging of different people running at different rhythms that looked weird, I think.

Legolas on the Cave troll is a good example of a bad computer rendered actor. Hopefully they will re-render the generated character scenes for Bluray. With the latests stuff I've seen you can't really tell the difference. (And BTW, Jackson talks about fixing Gollum in the Fellowship so that he matches Gollum in TT and RtoK.)
4. KurtRoedeger
There was something that said "Comments Closed" and no comments shown; that's why I came to episode 12 and commented. Now I just went to it again and it has 19 comments, AND I get to look spazzy in front of John Joseph Adams. Some days you're the cheese, some days you're the mouse.
Josh Kidd
5. joshkidd
Just a note: There are actually three animated films based on Tolkien's work: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Return of the King. The "Where There's a Whip, There's a Way" is from The Return of the King. Which also includes such classics as "Frodo of the Nine Fingers."

Also, I think I may have had the same record that John mentions when I was a kid. It was part of a set of records that I had that were typically based on movies. The records would have audio from the movie and they would come with a short book that had a transcript of the recording and stills from the movie. I remember that I had these for a lot of Disney movies. I think I even had one for The Black Hole. In any case, this record of The Hobbit was my introduction to Tolkien also.
Josh Kidd
6. joshkidd
And, thanks to the magic of Google and Wikipedia, I can find exactly what it was that I had as a kid. Disney Read-Along.

I don't know if this is what you had too, John, but you can see The Hobbit is on their list. The Black Hole, too.
Sandi Kallas
7. Sandikal
I just had to comment about "Avatar: The Last Airbender". I'm so glad you discussed this show. I absolutely love this series. (I have a 14 year old son, so I've seen the whole thing.) It has a great story arc and the characters actually grow and change. I think it's one of the best fantasy series that I've seen. I'm just so disappointed that it seemed to end unfinished. I want to know what's going to happen now that Zuko is leader of the fire nation and he and Aang are friends. Will Katara choose Aang, or is there a little something developing between her and Zuko? And, I want to see how Azula's insanity plays out.
8. KurtRoedeger
I do not have a 14-yr old son for an excuse, but I watch Avatar. It's a great show and has a good storyline to it. It did seem to just end for me too. Though, there is a live action movie in the making. M. Night Shyamalan is working on it and a portion of it was filmed near a pagoda that I can see from my office window. and for more info. Hopefully the movie fits in with the story.
Sandi Kallas
9. Sandikal
I am so excited about "The Last Airbender" movie coming out. I just think it's a shame that Shyamalan can't use Avatar as the title because Cameron beat him to it.
Scott Moore
14. Delta-Slider
Excellent show! Not sure how you can dismiss Heinlein's importance.

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