This month on the podcast roundup: Podcasts related to the worlds created by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Website Features: Information about the Tolkien Professor, links to the Tolkien Professor’s discussion forums at the Middle-Earth Network, and descriptions of various types of podcasts available in the feed, plus RSS Feeds and iTunes links for the podcast.
Average Length: 45-50 minutes
About: The Tolkien Professor podcast is a must-listen for all serious Tolkien nerds. Corey Olsen, English professor at Washington College in Maryland, shares all manner of information and scholarship about J.R.R. Tolkien and the worlds he created. Podcasts include an ongoing lecture series about The Hobbit, interviews and discussions with other Tolkien scholars as well as with former students who are particularly interested in various aspects of Tolkien’s works, recordings of class sessions of two of Olsen’s Washington College classes (a Tolkien survey class from Spring 2010 and a Spring 2011 class called “Faerie and Fantasy” that surveys fantasy literature from medieval times to the present, the second of which he is still in the process of putting up online), and the currently ongoing Silmarillion Seminar, where Professor Olsen gets together via computer with a bunch of people who like Tolkien so much that they are willing to give up two hours of their time every week to discuss The Silmarillion chapter by chapter. I thoroughly enjoy every episode that I listen to, and it makes me wish I had such a cool professor when I was in college. If you are at all interested in learning more about Tolkien and his works, you should check out this podcast.
Website Features: RSS and iTunes links, brief episode descriptions, and supplemental articles, plus links to the podcast’s Facebook and Twitter pages. There are also video versions of some episodes to see where they are and what they are doing within the LOTRO game.
Average Length: 1 hour
About: Father Roderick is a Catholic priest in the Netherlands with an interest in media and movies, and he hosts this podcast with Dave and Laura from the U.S. and Inge, also from the Netherlands. For each episode, they meet up within the Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO) game to explore the digital world of Tolkien’s stories and discuss the associated stories. While there is a little bit of game discussion in each episode, they mostly use it as a springboard for discussion of some aspect of Tolkien’s works, including The Hobbit, LOTR, The Silmarillion, and The Book of Lost Tales. Previous topics have included dragons, the Mines of Moria, Bag End, and Tom Bombadill and the Old Forest. Dave and Laura are both part of the Tolkien Professor’s Silmarillion Seminar, and the Tolkien Professor himself has made a guest appearance on both this and the “Secrets of the Hobbit” podcast. I probably won’t keep this podcast in my feed now that I’ve reviewed it because they are covering ground that I’m already familiar with from listening to the Tolkien Professor. If Dr. Olsen is a little too academic and nerdy for you, however, try this podcast instead. LOTRO players may also enjoy the backstory, but it is not necessary to know anything about the game at all to get something from this podcast.
Website Features: RSS and iTunes links, descriptions of podcast episodes with show notes and links, and supplemental articles related to things discussed on the podcast, plus links to the podcast’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
Average Length: 1 hour
Frequency: Several times a month
About: This is Father Roderick’s second Tolkien-related podcast, which he hosts with Dave from the “Secrets of Middle Earth” podcast. The main focus is the news and rumors surrounding Peter Jackson’s two-movie adaptation of The Hobbit, which is currently being filmed in New Zealand, but they often have in-depth discussions of particular aspects of the book as they speculate (and yes, it is definitely rampant speculation and sometimes pretty out there) about the way the book will be adapted to film. If you are primarily interested in the book, you may not enjoy this podcast as much, but if you eat up news and gossip about the movies, you will probably eat up this podcast as well.
Website Features: Download and subscription links and episode descriptions with show notes/links to articles discussed. The podcast also has presences on Facebook and Twitter, and is available on iTunes.
Average Length: Just under 1 hour
Frequency: Irregular, but generally about twice a month
About: This father/son team of Michael and Micah discuss the latest news on the Hobbit movie and other Tolkien-related things and engage in a bit of exploration of the LOTRO game and discussion of Tolkien’s works as it relates to game locations. Basically, it is the two SQPN podcasts rolled into one. The news stories they cover are usually ones I have already heard about from Secrets of the Hobbit, and the Tolkien discussions related to the LOTRO game are not generally as in-depth as those of the Secrets of Middle Earth crew. I also sometimes get a bit annoyed with Michael because he can come across as semi-patronizing in the way he asks Micah questions about Tolkien’s works. Micah is pretty well-read and knowledgable about Tolkien, even at age 11, but I sometimes feel like I’m listening in on a middle school English class where the teacher is questioning the students to gauge their understanding of last night’s reading assignment. It is a good family podcast though, and the young co-host might make it more interesting for younger audiences. Again, although they use LOTRO as a vehicle for their Tolkien discussions, it is not the focus of the podcast and knowledge of it is not required.
I did not come across that many Tolkien-related podcasts, but in the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that I did not search for them on iTunes or anywhere else. I just checked out several that I heard about because the Tolkien Professor was a guest or because they were mentioned on other podcasts. If you are looking for more Tolkien-related content to listen to, however, I would suggest checking out Middle-earth Network Radio. You can listen to radio shows about Tolkien books and movies, LOTRO, and filk music, including several of the podcasts reviewed here, streaming from the website. If you particularly like a show, you can find many of them in podcast form to listen to on your own time. If you are particularly interested in the Lord of the Rings Online game, there seems to be a whole subcategory of LOTRO podcasts that go into detail about the game and game play. Since I don’t play the game, I did not review any of them, but do be aware that they are out there. Several of them, such as the Casual Stroll To Mordor podcast, can also be heard on Middle-earth Network Radio.
What is your favorite Tolkien podcast? Please share in the comments, especially if I didn’t cover it here. Next time, we will explore the world of speculative fiction podcasts, including book discussions, writing advice for aspiring speculative fiction writers, and actual science fiction and fantasy stories for your listening pleasure. Until then, happy listening!