News stories

A chronicle of recent news stories of interest to those studying Tolkien and his works, set out by date.

31 March

Meet Earendel: Hubble telescope’s most distant star discovery gets a Tolkien-inspired name } Chelsea Gohd

Scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope just made a remarkable discovery, and they gave it quite a unique name. 

A team of researchers led by Brian Welch, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, announced Wednesday (March 30) that, with observations from Hubble, they have discovered the most distant single star ever before seen. And, while the star’s technical designation is WHL0137-LS, they gave it a much catchier name: Earendel. 

Fans of the author J.R.R. Tolkien, famous for fantasy novels including The Lord of the Rings” series and The Silmarillion,” might already find this name familiar. 

And, as NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller confirmed to Space​.com, the name is, in fact, inspired by Tolkien’s fantasy writing.…

The most distant star yet seen, called Earendel, is indicated by an arrow in the inset of this image from the Hubble Space Telescope that captured the star from 12.9 billion light-years away using a gravitational lens.…

In Old English, Earendel is a personal name, but it also can mean the morning star” or the dawn.” In the Lord of the Rings, Eärendil is a half-elven character who travels the seas carrying a jewel, a Silmaril,” called the morning star.…

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18 March

Bilbo comes to the Huts of the Raft-elves
Courtesy of the Tolkien Estate
© The Tolkien Estate Limited

Rarely seen paintings by J.R.R. Tolkien portray a lush ‘Lord of the Rings’ landscape

Smithsonian Magazine } Nora McGreevy

In his high-fantasy novels, British author J.R.R. Tolkien combined his academic training in languages and his love of storytelling to create Middle-earth, a fictional continent populated by wizards, elves, orcs, dragons, hobbits, talking trees and other mythical creatures.

But Middle-earth didn’t just live in Tolkien’s head: The Lord of the Rings author was also a skilled artist who sketched, painted and mapped the worlds that he was imagining as he wrote about them. Many of the original illustrations in the Hobbit were created by Tolkien himself.

Audiences can now view a selection of Tolkien’s rarely seen Lord of the Rings artworks for free via the Tolkien Estate’s newly updated website.…

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15 March

Two people dressed in pseudo-Medieval garb select nine Tolkien-related books in a modern library
credit: Otto Kurula

Helsinki Central Library Oodi organises its first Tolkien Day: Tolkien Day, which honours the work of fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien, will be celebrated at Helsinki Central Library Oodi on international Tolkien Reading Day on Friday, 25 March at 16:00 – 21:00. The event will be held in Oodi for the first time.

Helsinki Times

J.R.R. Tolkien has been moving people for almost a hundred years, and his work deserves a special day. The TV series to be released in the autumn has attracted a lot of discussion and increased readers’ interest in Tolkien’s production. The themes of Tolkien’s stories touch the age-old struggle between light and shadow, with which new readers can also identify. Our goal is to make Oodi’s Tolkien Day an annual tradition, and we hope that it will spread to other libraries,” says Milli Mäntynen, Specialized Assistant Librarian at Oodi.

Participants in the event, which will spread out all over Oodi, can practice Elvish language, role-play and attend a Tom Bombadil-themed poetry reading and a concert by the Another Castle choir. The Urban Workshop will offer many Tolkien-related things to see and do.…

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Speaking of books with Peter Grybauskas: on _A sense of tales untold: Exploring the edges of Tolkien’s literary canvas

University of Maryland

… Join the University Libraries for a discussion with Senior Lecturer Peter Grybauskas on his new book A sense of tales untold: Exploring the edges of Tolkien’s literary canvas.…

Moderated by University Librarians (and Tolkien fans) Emily Deinert and Suzy Wilson.…

[Register via Zoom. Open to faculty, staff, students, and the general public.]

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12 March

Prime Video/​YouTube

Hoard of the rings: Lost” scripts for BBC Tolkien drama discovered

The Guardian } Dalya Alberge

Decades before Peter Jackson directed his epic adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien was involved with the first ever dramatisation of his trilogy [sic; recte, novel”], but its significance was not realised in the 1950s and the BBC’s audio recordings are believed to have been destroyed.

Now an Oxford academic has delved into the BBC archives and discovered the original scripts for the two series of 12 radio episodes broadcast in 1955 and 1956, to the excitement of fellow scholars.…

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3 March

An awning- and fern-bedecked veranda, with prominent flags, including those of Texas and the United States
Courtesy The Hobbit Café

Houston's Hobbit Cafe turns 50 this year, celebrating the Lord of the Rings since the 1970s

Houston Chronicle } Charlie Zong

For decades, Houston’s J.R.R. Tolkien fans, vegetarian brunchers and celebrity musician visitors have gathered at Hobbit Café, a house off Richmond transformed into a unique restaurant. Now, as Hobbit Café celebrates fifty years, its expansive menu — and its mixed clientele — have grown beyond the early days of a strictly vegetarian, underground atmosphere.…

Originally called The Hobbit Hole and located in a house blocks away from the existing location, the restaurant began with smoothies and vegetarian sandwiches named after Lord of the Rings characters: the wizard Gandalf appeared as an avocado sandwich with mushrooms and melted jack cheese.… [But] now people are coming for meads.” …

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2 March

J.R.R. Tolkien,
hringboga heorte gefysed
(September 1927).
Courtesy of the Tolkien Estate

In pictures: The Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien publishes rarely seen drawings from The Lord of the Rings and other books: A new website from the Tolkien estate includes some previously unpublished artwork by the fantasy author

Artnet } Sarah Cascone

The estate of renown [sic; recte, renowned”] author J.R.R. Tolkien has released a new website featuring artworks, some previously unseen, by the author of The Hobbit and its related trilogy [sic; recte, novel”], The Lord of the Rings.

A linguist who created the land of Middle Earth [sic; recte, Middle-earth”] to give life to his invented languages, Tolkien also was a talented artist and mapmaker who illustrated his ideas.

The father of the modern fantasy genre, Tolkien died in 1973. His books became bestsellers, with more than 100 million copies of Lord of the Rings sold since their initial release between 1954 and 1955.…

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26 February

The Laughing Philosopher”
Garden House Hotel, Cambridge
August 1952

Unseen J.R.R. Tolkien paintings, photographs and video clips released

The Guardian } Harriet Sherwood

Unseen photographs and paintings of JRR Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings fantasy books [sic], have been released by the writer’s estate, along with draft manuscripts and letters.

Its website has been relaunched with new material, including sections on Tolkien’s calligraphy and a timeline of his life.

Audio recordings and video clips featuring both Tolkien, who died in 1973, and his son Christopher, who died in 2020, are among the new material.…

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21 February

panel from <span class="push-double"></span>​<span class="pull-double">“</span>The Adventures of Stybba,” showing Merry hidden in Éowyn’s cloak, saying <span class="push-double"></span>​<span class="pull-double">“</span>This is not the hobbit you are looking for”

This sweet new webcomic tells the story of Merry's horse Stybba from Lord of the Rings

Boing Boing } Thom Dunn

The recently-announced Amazon Prime miniseries The Rings of Power has (understandably) hogged all the hype reserved for random background characters from Tolkien’s complex Middle-Earthen history. Notably missing from that production, however, is Stybba, the Rohan pony given to the hobbit Merry in The Return of the King. Stybba was kind of a tricky gift — a shaggy little foal who was too slow to keep up with the rest of the riders, intentionally given to Merry to keep him from the dangers that awaited at the battle of Minas Tirith.

While this of course lead Merry into other adventures … no one really knows what came of Stybba. Which is why someone decided to make this adorable ongoing webcomic about the plucky pony:

The Adventures of Stybba

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20 February

Winner of the Best Artwork Award 2021:
He Beheld a Vision of Gondolin Amid the Snow”
 — Ted Nasmith

Nominations open for The Tolkien Society Awards 2022

The Tolkien Society } Shaun Gunner

… The first round of nominations for The Tolkien Society Awards 2022 is now open.

The Awards recognise excellence in Tolkien scholarship and fandom, furthering the Society’s long-standing charitable objective to seek to educate the public in, and promote research into, the life and works of Professor John Ronald Reuel Tolkien CBE“.

This year’s categories are:

  • Best Artwork
  • Best Article
  • Best Book
  • Best Online Content


  • Outstanding Contribution Award

The winners will be announced following the AGM on Saturday 9th April 2022.

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Prime Video
Amazon Studios

‘The history of fantasy is racialized’: Lord of the Rings series sparks debate over race

The Guardian } Sam Thielman

As the new Lord of the Rings series gears up for its September launch on Amazon, the company finds itself navigating treacherous, if familiar, waters and has already triggered a fierce debate over race by introducing characters of color into JRR Tolkien’s fantasy world.…

It’s tempting to dismiss the complaining as the usual internet nerd rage. Similar disputes played out when actors of color started taking new major roles in Star Wars products. But the conflict is also about the rise of two kinds of media empire, not just one: there is Amazon, the crown jewel in the vast business empire of Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, and there is YouTube, a place for every dork who likes to complain about pop culture and whose darker corners are a frequent haunt of racism and bigotry.

One group is populated by people who can afford to buy the rights to The Lord of the Rings, and the other is populated by people for whom The Lord of the Rings is the second-best thing to the Bible, but for both, an incredible amount of money and influence is at stake. And Amazon is probably wary that its grand project could be vulnerable to attacks by aggrieved online superfans.…

In human terms, being the target of rightwing hate campaigns can be draining and depressing. in business terms, it can really mess with a marketing budget, and that kind of power is attractive to permanently aggrieved pop culture devotees.

The extremity of protest over the unrealistic” presence of a Black dwarf princess feels silly, considering the stories themselves are about wizards and magic rings and the occasional dragon. But audiences, says Ebony Thomas, author of The Dark Fantastic and an associate professor at the University of Michigan, are not wrong when they say that Black characters seem like they just don’t belong in the notoriously white fantasy genre.

The history of fantasy is racialized,” she says. People are used to seeing fantasies and fairytales as all-white, particularly in faux-medieval or magical-medieval settings,” Thomas explains. We’re taking them out of the dream space. We’re taking them out of how they imagined it could be, and so it feels off to them. So that’s why they’re saying, you know, Who are these people? This is not what Tolkien intended! It’s not accurate!’”

Of course, if you’re willing to go back to the poems and legends that inspired Tolkien, you will definitely find characters who are not white.…

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19 February

Jeff Bezos’ new Lord of the Rings show is angering fans because it has Black dwarves. Seriously.

Fortune } Christian Hetzner

… But casting multicultural actors isn’t at all contrary to the author’s underlying theme of disparate peoples joining forces to overcome hardship, Luke Shelton, a medievalist scholar and editor in chief of Mallorn, the Tolkien Society journal, tells Fortune, adding that he personally supported it. Academic researchers have debated the undertones of institutional racism in Tolkien’s works, he added, and his society held its first seminar discussing topics related to diversity in Middle-earth last year.

I think a lot of fans are pushing back against where the show may be going, because it conflicts in some cases with their mental image of Middle-earth,” he said.…

I never really understood the importance of representation until a woman with Asian heritage told me she broke down crying when she saw another Asian actor in Laketown,” Shelton told Fortune, referring to a town in Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy. For a story she loved so much, it felt as if she finally had a place in Middle-earth.”

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