Saturday, July 29, 2017

Birthday of the Fellowship

I remember, a few years ago, I decided I wanted to read the Hobbit on my own. I think it must've been the year between the first and second Hobbit movies. So every afternoon for a few days, I sat in the closet in Daddy's library with the door shut, and I read. Out loud. I did every voice, in an odd mixture of movie, radio, and Rankin-Bass video. "Misty Mountains" in particular was quite... interesting. I used bits and pieces from each version of the song, and spoke the rest.

I think I'd gotten them out of the Misty Mountains by the time I stopped. I might have even reached Mirkwood. I don't really know. But I plan on going from Hobbiton to the Lonely Mountain and back again, all the way to the end. You guessed it: I'm starting to reread The Hobbit again, this very day. And I'll proceed from that on to Lord of the Rings. Until, "Well, I'm back."

If you could see me right now, you'd see me wearing a green medieval-looking shirt, leggings of the same colour, and a white puffy shirt. I even put a gold ring on a chain.

Why all this hubbub about Tolkien, you ask? I reply, saying; didn't you read the title? Today is the birthday of Fellowship of the Ring!

The Hobbits and Gandalf at a birthday party (from the book we're throwing a birthday party for, oddly enough)

Its 63rd, to be precise. On July 29th, 1954, J. R. R. Tolkien's Fellowship of the Ring was released for the first time. Thus, all this. Of course, it wasn't the first book about hobbits old Tolkien had written, as I'm sure you know. The Hobbit, about a certain Bilbo Baggins and his adventures with dwarves, came out 17 years earlier.

These books have had numerous adaptations, including full-length movies, TV specials, radio dramas, and even a graphic novel. They have influenced many, many artists in their work. Musicians, for example.

Yet more so, the works of Tolkien have influenced storytellers. Sometimes, they are inspired to show his stories in other ways, such as film. Sometimes, it is in the way they tell their own tales. I remember someone once said "Most modern fantasy just rearranges the furniture in Tolkien's attic." Modern fantasy as in that which has been written after July 29th, 1954. I myself have been greatly inspired by it, as you may guess once my writings are up here as well.

Even those funny little things I talked about on Wednesday--the Silmaril Awards--were named after his Silmarillion, and his characters present the award, in each one as is most fitting. Sam Gamgee for Most Loyal Friend, Gandalf for Wisest Counselor, Tom Bombadil for Strangest Character, and so on. And each presentation is shown by way of a story. Each person will write exactly how the ceremony goes. And occasionally, there is some little adventure along with it--though it rarely is the sort that makes one late for dinner.

The work of Mr. Tolkien and the words of his characters have changed us. Not only in how we tell tales, but us, too. The way we act, the way we think about certain things. I, for one, can no longer walk down the road without thinking about how river-like it is, and where one might get swept off to if one doesn't keep his feet. And there are many other ways, as well. But in particular, it has changed the way we think about the tale we live in ourselves.

   'But I suppose it's often that way [said Sam]. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that's not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually--their paths were laid out that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn't. And if they had, we shouldn't know, because they'd have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on--and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not out call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same--like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren't always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we've fallen into?'

After these tales of a time "Between the Dawn of Faerie and the Dominion of Men", of the crownless again becoming king, and of hobbits that have gone There and Back Again, how could the world ever be the same?

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Mid-Week Music #4 - The Dragon (MC)

Today, I am going to be giving you one of two different songs with the same name. This is the one by Michael Card, a rather talented Christian musician, if you didn't know. The song is called, The Dragon.

(My apologies that the video does not have any dragons in it. I will give you some pictures.)

A vile, enormous Dragon
With heads and horns and crowns
And a tail that swept the stars from heaven
And cruelly cast them down

He lurked before the Woman
About to bear her Son
The One Who'll rule the nations
With a rod of iron

And now has come our salvation
The Pow'r and the Kingdom of God
For the Dragon is defeated
By the Word and the Blood of the Lamb

Behold, a war in Heaven
Reflected here on Earth
And Michael and his angels
Fought for all their worth

That wicked, ancient serpent
Who leads the world astray
The Accuser of the brethren
Was beaten from the fray


By the Word and the Blood of the Lamb

Rejoice then, O ye heavens!
But woe to the earth and the sea
For he is filled, filled with fury
He knows his time is brief
Cause he knows his time is brief

And now has come our salvation
The Pow'r and the Kingdom of God
           *           *           *
For the Dragon is defeated
By the Word and the Blood of the Lamb
By the Word and the Blood of the Lamb

The reason I chose this song in particular is rather interesting, I believe. When I woke up today, I was thinking about dragons. I was thinking about dragons because of an event that happens around this time every year (well, since last year). This was my first time learning about it. It's called the Silmaril Awards.

I first found out about them on a blog called Scattered Scribblings. Basically, the Silmaril Awards are... like the Oscars for Fantasy. At least, that's what the creators of the thing said. There are Silmarils for many kinds of Fantasy Characters, from Wisest Councilor to Most Nefarious Villain, and everything in between. And here's the catch: characters out of Tolkien are not up for nomination. They're the ones that present the awards, you see.

And here's one of our presenters now. He doesn't seem too happy about the winner.

You may easily guess that today was the day that they gave out the award for dragons. And you'd be right. If you'd like to see how well that went, I'll give you a lift. The writer of that post sure would appreciate your popping over to see it.

So this morning I was thinking about dragons. It's as simple as that. And it rather reminds me of, of...

Of "Rushings-out, and Rescuings, 
And Savings from the Dragon's Lair,
And fighting all the Dragons there.
And sometimes when our fights begin, 
I think I'll let the Dragons win... 
And then I think perhaps I won't, 
Because they're Dragons, and I don't."

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Mid-Week Music #3 - Hoot, Man!

Now, this will be quite the departure from what I wrote yesterday, but in honour of my brother William, it must be done. Old-time comedy is one of his favorite things, after all. Hope it makes you laugh. Happy 14th birthday!

Hoot, mon! Out of me way! Who do ya think ye arrrrr?
It's the toe of my boot, man, if ye push too farrrrr
Hoot, mon! This is the day I celebrate my birrrrrth
A seventh son of a seventh son of a son of a gun from birrrrrth

Who can play the drums? Is there a piper in the town?
Have them put their kilts on and come right down
All ye brawny lads, whether ye're poor or ' man o' wealth
Meet me in the tavern to drink my health

Who's that standing in my path?
Bing: Stand clear!
Bob: (growls)
Don't you know you're face-to-face with Robbie Macbeth?
Bing: Ah Robbie Macbeth

Hoot, mon, out of me way, who do ye think ye arrrrr?
(getting gradually louder)
It's the toe of my boot, man, if ye push too farrrrr
Hoot, mon! This is the day I celebrate my birrrrrth
The seventh son of a seventh son of a son of a gun from birrrrrth!

Bob: Hello, Haggis!
Bing: What is it, McBaggis?
Bob: Have you heard the latest about McTavish?
Bing: What's he done now?
Bob: I heard he was living on the rrrrroof!
Bing: But why would he be living on the hrrrrroof?
Bob: He heard someone say the drinks were on the house!
(They both laugh)
Bob: The drinks are on the house! You know...what we...

(tick, tock)

Bob: It's a little late, so goodnight folks


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What is the Difference Between Aliens and Humans?

No, this isn't the setup for a punchline. It's a real question. In most science-fictional stories, what is the difference between Earthlings--humans--and aliens from distant planets? I knew I had to do more than one post this week, and this is one I've wanted to do for awhile. And, funnily enough, it's related to last week's Mid-Week Music.

So what is the difference? Not an outward difference, such as how they look, but fundamental differences. And a consistent difference, between humans and all aliens. It's not reason, surely. I highly doubt that it's spunk. And please don't try to convince me of that 'advanced technology' story, because I won't believe it. First, in some stories, the inhabitants of other planets are incredibly primitive. Second, who says that humans themselves won't someday reach the same degree of technological prowess?

Then what can the answer be? I have a theory--with an occasional exclusion, I'm sure--and it is this: we are different from the aliens of distant planets in that we can tell stories. And not merely telling facts in an enjoyable way, nor just cautionary tales of 'do this or you will die a horrible death': I mean creating stories with our own imagination. Allow me to show my evidence.

In Galaxy Quest (a favourite film of mine, starring Tim Allen), we see the Thermians, who are in desperate need of help from their all-time heroes... who just happen to be characters from a Star Trek-esque TV show. These Thermians believe the episodes of that show to be 'historical documents', because they have never heard of fiction. Deception, they know well enough, due to Sarris (the villain) using it on them constantly. But they've never heard the concept of telling a fictional story for enjoyment. This makes things very difficult for the had-been heroes of Galaxy Quest. But let's not stray into spoiler territory just yet.

The next example can be found in the cartoon show, Transformers: Rescue Bots. Specifically, the episode called "Once Upon a Time". In said episode, the Burnses and the Bots find themselves lost and separated in a forest. The catch? This forest is the home of fairies, according to local legend. Most of the characters couldn't care less about the legends, though one of these thinks it good for his own story he must write. Still, one or two of them wonder if these things--literal old wives' tales--might be true. Especially after...shall we say, certain strange happenings.

But this is just part of the picture. The main focus of the story is that of stories, stories that may or may not be true. Chase (one of the Bots) tells the humans that on their planet, they didn't have things like fairy-tales. They do, however, have stories like "The Bot Who Didn't Clean His Windshield": cautionary tales and such like. They usually end with the titular Bot being eaten by a giant space monster. Cybertron may have some of the most advanced tech in the universe, but I wouldn't want to live there if those were the only kinds of story to hear.

Which brings me back to my point. How many sci-fi stories have you found in which the aliens tell things like fairy-tales? It's usually just them telling what they believe to be facts, even when they are legends. To be sure, there are exclusions to this theory. I just can't really think of any. Even those on other planets (such as Malacandra) that tell stories in exciting or epic ways do not create the stories themselves: they tell those stories about things that truly happened. And this is storytelling too, good and important. But not the same kind.

And why does this matter, you may ask? I mean, fairy-tales are just people trying to explain things they didn't understand, or trying to force their little moral systems on other people, right? Only if you happen to be one of those modern, Politically Correct types. In the real world, they are something different entirely. And that leads me to a very important point.

In both of those examples from before, in both Galaxy Quest and Rescue Bots, those fictional fairy-tales... come true. In the first example, those had-been heroes from a Star Trek show are summoned by an alien people--who believe these actors to really be their characters from the show--to help defeat a space villain. As this is a comedy, in both senses, you can be assured that they save the day. I won't say how they manage to do this, but I will say that, the moment the Thermians find the stories of the Galaxy Quest heroes to be lies, they turn round to see the stories come true for the first time. And the heroes of the movie become the heroes they had before only pretended to be.

In the second example, the Burnses and Bots get lost and separated in a forest while trying to understand why its trees are falling over. They unwittingly act out several familiar tales, which you may recognize when you watch it yourself. In that way, the fairy-tales do come true, as well as in another, smaller way, but no less important. A way very similar to what they did in "The Haunting of Griffin Rock". Put quite simply, "It's Griffin Rock. Anything can happen."

I've found that people love disproving magic and fairy-tales. I personally have mainly only come across it in movies and TV shows, and such like. People in those say things like 'magic's only science we haven't figured out yet', or 'there are no such things as that!' Sometimes they're disproved, sometimes not. In Sherlock, in a great many kid's shows, all kinds of things. I've found few things that aren't specifically fantasies that include real fairy-tales and legends.

And oftentimes, folks like disproving heroes in general, showing that they aren't really great, and are just lying to you and everybody. Sometimes this goes hand-in-hand with disproving the idea of villains, showing that they aren't really bad, and are just misunderstood victims of the heroes. These things are themes running through today's culture.

And this is why we must not lose what makes us different. Aristotle tells us that what makes us different and unique in regards to animals is our reason, our logic, rational thought. This is something we cannot lose, not without losing all humanity within us. But what makes us different from those of other planets?

You know this by now, right?

It is our ability to tell fairy-tales. To create something in our own minds, to do "such noble feats as bringing forth new worlds, stories, and adventures", to weave words into an image for those who will hear it. It is to reveal an eternal truth in something that may not be true, to create characters that strive for goodness even in situations that are not, to inspire hearts for beauty. To kindle a light in the eyes of the hearers, whether they be our families, our friends, or complete strangers. Or even those who have never yet heard of the tales of Faerie: those of far-flung worlds?

Perhaps someday...

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Mid-Week Music #2 - Aliens and Strangers

I'm back again! Today, I have a song by DeGarmo and Key, called Aliens and Strangers.

Sunday morning, the pews are filled with friends of mine
Yeah, friends of mine
And for the first time, I look around and I realize
I realize

My closest friends are aliens and strangers
Travelers here, living with danger
My closest friends are aliens and strangers
Travelers here, living with danger

I used to wonder why they act so strange
Now I know, yeah, now I know
I heard the preacher say this world we're in
Is not our home, it's not our home


They're pilgrims just passing through
Heroes away from their homeland
And since I've discovered the truth
I look at my friends
And I can't help but think that
All of my friends, they're aliens
Just passing through, yeah, they're aliens...

I remember when I first heard that song. The idea that we're aliens really captured my imagination. I even worked it into a poem I wrote once. (More on that anon).

It occurs to me now that you can't help being an alien to one thing or another. "That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world..." Ephesians 2:12. Now we are aliens to the worldliness that fills our culture, and our own Middle Earth.

But you see, that's where most people misinterpret things. Some people take this to mean we are aliens to this world, this earth, and heaven is where we're really supposed to be. But that isn't so. Why would we be 'taking dominion over the earth' if we were not supposed to abide in it?

We're not supposed to be disembodied spirits floating around in the ether. Even heaven won't be our permanent home. Yes, it will be wonderful. But when we die, and join the cloud of witnesses, we will be watching and waiting for Mankind, through the grace and power of God, to bring about heaven on earth. And when all has been done, then, and only then, will Christ bring everything back together, and the Resurrection will finally come to be.

We are not aliens and strangers to our world, to Tellus, to this Middle Earth, but to the evil that has taken it over. Our homeland is a perfect world, and that just isn't here. So we are taking it back from those who have invaded it. Our enemies are dangerous. They don't mess around. And so we are engaged in a war, a Last Crusade, against them. The fate of an entire planet, and its people, is at stake.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Mid-Week Music #1 - Star-Spangled Banner

Hello again, readers! I’m posting on my blog--it’s like I’m going to be doing this all the time! And I’d like to introduce you to a new feature/blogpost-type. I’m calling it Mid-Week Music.

Every Wednesday from this point on, I will be putting up a Mid-Week Music post for you all. Even if there’s nothing else that week for the busy-ness, this will be there like clockwork. Basically, I post a video of a song--and it could be any random song, so be forewarned--along with the lyrics, and then I might say a little something about or related to the song. A very simple post, and gives all those lyrics written down on my computer something to do.

Today, I’m going to give you two videos of the same song--it’s the first Mid-Week Music post, after all. Today, we will have a very special song. Why? Yesterday, it was the Fourth of July. That song is--you guessed it!--The Star-Spangled Banner.

Pretty good singer--gives me chills every time I hear his version. I first heard it years ago, and it occurred to me (well, to my dad) that its minor key was somewhat apt for the times we live in. That is true. But times have changed, indeed. And the events that followed the next video are a big part of it.

Such a beautiful voice. And so proud to be a part of her country.

O, say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hail'd at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream,
'Tis the star-spangled banner--O long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

O thus be it ever when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto--"In God is our trust,"
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.