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.


Back to the top of the page


This post is closed for comments.

Our Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.