Lord of the Rings

The Hobbit: Where There’s Treasure, There’s Always a Dragon

Hobbit By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

In The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Bilbo Baggins and the band of dwarves continue their quest to steal the Arkenstone back from the dragon who has it (the Smaug of the title), along with all the dwarven treasure stored inside the Lonely Mountain.

Thorin Oakenshield, the dwarf who is heir to the kingdom of the Lonely Mountain, desperately wants the Arkenstone because he believes it will reunite the scattered dwarven families so they can destroy the dragon who stole their home. He wants to rule over his rightful kingdom. He wants the gold. It’s the dream that drives him.

As the band finally reaches the mountain and Bilbo heads into the depths to steal the Arkenstone, the oldest of the dwarves pulls Bilbo aside.

“If there is a dragon sleeping down there,” he says, “don’t wake it.”

The problem is that if you want the treasure, you’ll never be able to get it without waking the dragon.

It’s a truth well known to fantasy fans. It’s a truth that’s equally true in life.

The only difference is that the treasures we seek in real life aren’t piles of gold or magical stones. They’re usually less tangible—the dreams and goals we have for our lives.

And the dragons…they don’t have impenetrable scales and they don’t breath fire. But they’re no less dangerous. They’re doubts. Fears. Insecurities. Sometimes they’re even people or circumstances standing between us and the thing we most desire.

Dragons are scary things, so when we first realize they’re standing between us and our treasure, sometimes it’s easier to give up on the treasure. That’s the path the unhappy Thorin had chosen until Gandalf encouraged him to go after the Arkenstone, dragon or no dragon.

When we first try to reach the treasure, we often take the same tactic Bilbo took. We try to sneak around it, hoping it won’t wake up. Hoping it won’t see us. We try to pretend it doesn’t exist.

But dragons, in real life like in fantasy, can’t be tiptoed around. Trying only delays the inevitable.

When we wake the dragon and have to face it, many of us will try to bargain with it or trick it. I’ll only do this, if this happens. If I do this, it doesn’t really mean I’m that kind of person. I don’t have to do thus-and-so to succeed. I’ll follow my dream when a certain perfect situation occurs. I didn’t really want it anyway.

Like when Bilbo tried to flatter Smaug, dragons won’t be tricked by words and rationalizations.

And so we’re left with only one option if we want the treasure.

It won’t be easy. We’ll come out the other side a little more battered than when we went in. The costs may be higher than we ever thought.

But it’s the only way.

Because if we decide to give up on this treasure and chase another, we won’t be avoiding facing a dragon. We’ll only be changing dragons.

Where there’s treasure, there’s always a dragon. The dragon always wakes. And if you want the treasure, there’s only one way—fight the dragon and slay it.

January is the time when most of us think about where we want our year to head. What’s your treasure and your dragon? Have you managed to face it?

Special Announcement: I’ll be releasing a book of suspense short stories in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned!

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Have You Lost Your Taste for Adventure?

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien with Bilbo BagginsBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

As The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens, Bilbo Baggins has no desire for adventure. The curious child he once was is gone, leaving only a hobbit who enjoys his food, and pipe, and comfortable home.

The wizard Gandalf and a pack of zealous dwarves invade his house and offer him the opportunity for riches and excitement, along with the risk of death and dismemberment, for which they, of course, won’t be held responsible.

“Can you promise that I will come back?” Bilbo asks Gandalf when Gandalf tries to convince him to help the dwarves take back their home from the dragon.

“No,” Gandalf replies. “And if you do, you will not be the same.”

The same is true of every adventure we take.

No, we won’t face fire-breathing dragons that will very likely incinerate us. We won’t face trolls who want to eat us. We won’t need to outrun orcs who want to cut off our heads.

But the real life adventures can be just as terrifying. Our emotional lives, our very selves, are at stake. And adventures, in fantasies and in real life, are never easy.

His first night on the road with the dwarves, Bilbo can’t sleep for their snoring. The rain drenches him, and he regrets coming. It would have been easy for him to turn back. In fact, Thorin (leader of the dwarves) frequently goads him to, telling him he never should have come.

If we’re brave enough to take an adventure this year, we’ve going to face tests to our resolve as well.

Marriage. Parenthood. Leaving an abusive relationship. A move across the country. A change in jobs. Launching our own business. All the things that are really worth doing. We put ourselves in danger of broken hearts, lost sleep, separation from family, financial tragedy, and humiliation.

Part way in, we’ll probably wish we could turn back. We’ll regret the adventure we’ve started. We’ll be afraid that we won’t make it, and that if we do, we won’t know the person we’ve become.

And if we only look at the risks, we probably will turn back. We need to look at the benefits instead.

Because Bilbo didn’t run away, the dwarves accepted him as one of them, and he, in turn, was ready to give his life for them. Any spouse or parent would do the same for their family. Friendship, loyalty, love, and courage are worth the risk.  

Bilbo learned his own strengths, like his intelligence. In our safety zones, we don’t always know what our strengths are. Sometimes discovering them takes risk.

What’s more, like Bilbo, we’ll prove the people wrong who said we’d never make it. We’ll learn what we’re truly capable of.

What adventure have you taken in the past that you’re glad you took? What adventure are you going to take this year?

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Related Posts:
Do You Believe in Second Chances? What Frodo and Gollum Can Teach Us About Forgiveness
What Lord of the Rings Character Are You?
Beorn’s Honey Cake

Want to Try Beorn’s Honey Cake from The Hobbit?

Beorn's Honey CakeBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

The Hobbit came out last week, so I thought it was only fitting to do a little digging and see if I could find a treat to celebrate the release. What I found was a recipe for Beorn’s honey cake.

Beorn is a shape-shifter (what J.R.R. Tolkien called a “skin-changer” in the book). He’s a vegetarian, but can take the shape of a bear. In the novel, he helps Gandalf, Bilbo, and the thirteen dwarves in their quest to regain the dwarves’ kingdom.

Here’s how Tolkien describes Beorn’s send off.

He lade them with food to last them for weeks with care, and packed so as to be as easy as possible to carry — nuts, flour, sealed jars of dried fruit, and red earthenware pots of honey, and twice backed cakes that would keep a good long time, and on a little of which they could march far. The making of these was one of his secrets; but honey was in them, as in most of his foods, and they were good to eat, though they made one thirsty.
The Hobbit, Chapter 7

What I love most is the line “but honey was in them, as in most of his foods” because he could take the form of a bear. (It makes me think of Winnie the Pooh.)

For those of you who want to try it, you can find the recipe for Beorn’s honey cake here.

And inquiring minds want to know, what’s your favorite kind of cake?

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Image Credit: MMNoergaar from SXC.hu

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What Lord of the Rings Character Are You?

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

A few months ago, I shared how an argument between my husband and I turned into a quiz on What Star Trek Race Are You?

Since not everyone is a Star Trek fan, I thought I’d create another one on The Lord of the Rings this time.

Read the descriptions below and write down the letter of the one that’s most like you. (Don’t look for it to be exact. Just pick the one that’s most like you.) At the end, I’ll tell you what character you picked

(A) You have a strong sense of honor and duty, and you thus have a difficult time letting go of mistakes made in the past. You fight for what you believe is right and defend the weak, regardless of the consequences.

(B) Your life experience has taught you where you’re weak, and so you show mercy and compassion to others. You’re kind and willing to sacrifice yourself for the benefit of others, and friends seek you out for your sound advice.

(C) You’re a hopeless romantic—a lover, not a fighter. You’ll do anything for the ones you love. You feel their joys and pains as if they were your own.

(D) You prefer the simple things in life—good food, fresh air, friendship. You’re practical, rather than adventurous, and you try to keep an eye on everything that’s happening so you’ll be prepared. You’re honest and loyal to a fault.

(E) You’re strong, ambitious, and a born leader. Along with those virtues comes a tendency to pride and arrogance, but when you hurt someone, you quickly make up for it, and you’re honest about your failings.

(F) You’re independent and prefer spending time alone to being in a crowd. This time alone gives you plenty of time to dream. You have strong emotions and melancholy tendencies.

(G) You’re curious, cheerful, talkative, and a little quirky, which means people often underestimate you. You look at life with a child-like curiosity. Your biggest challenge is keep from becoming careless and impulsive.

ANSWER KEY:

Aragorn Lord of the Rings(A) You’re Aragorn. Aragorn was the rightful heir to the throne of Gondor, but lived as a Ranger because he didn’t want to repeat his ancestor Isildor’s mistake and let power and greed go to his head. He was willing to give up his life protecting the Hobbits and the people of Rohan, even though they weren’t technically his responsibility.

 

Gandalf Lord of the Rings(B) You’re Gandalf. Gandalf the Grey was a wizard and longtime advisor of Bilbo Baggins. He refused to carry the ring because he knew it would be too great a temptation for him, and he reminded Frodo of the need to show compassion to Gollum. When the Fellowship of the Ring ran into the Bolrog (a deadly creature of fire and shadow) in the Mines of Moria, Gandalf sacrificed himself so the others could escape.

Arwen Lord of the Rings(C) You’re Arwen. Arwen is the daughter of the elvin king Elrond. She gave up her immortality in order to spend a single lifetime with Aragorn.

 

 

Samwise Lord of the Rings(D) You’re Samwise. Samwise Gamgee was Frodo Baggins’ gardener and closest friend. Without Sam’s care, loyalty, and planning (he rationed their food, made sure they had rope, etc.), Frodo would have never made it to Mount Doom to destroy the ring.

Boromir Lord of the Rings(E) You’re Boromir. Boromir was heir to the Stewart of Gondor, who cared for the kingdom of Gondor in Aragorn’s absence. Boromir’s desire for the ring and the power it could bring to Gondor got the best of him, and he tried to take it from Frodo by force. He died honorably defending the other hobbits from an orc attack and making sure that Frodo was able to escape.

Frodo Baggins Lord of the Rings(F) You’re Frodo. Frodo Baggins became the ring bearer, the only one who seemed able to tolerate the corrupting power of the ring long enough to carry it to Mount Doom to destroy it. Before the ring came into his life, Frodo enjoyed long walks alone in the woods and had very few friends. After taking on ring, Frodo insisted that the burden was his alone to bear and tried to go alone to Mordor and Mount Doom.

Peregrin Took Lord of the Rings(G) You’re Pippin. Peregrin Took was the youngest of the hobbits to leave the Shire with Frodo. In the Mines of Moria, he knocked a skeleton down a well, alerting the orcs to their presence, and later stole what he thought was a pretty bauble from Gandalf, which turned out to be an evil object that almost got them all in trouble when Pippin tried to use it. In the end, Pippin distinguished himself by his bravery in the final battle.

My husband and I are still trying to figure out if I’m more Samwise or Gandalf. No question, he’s Aragorn.

What Lord of the Rings character are you?

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Revolution: How Do You Remember to Be Grateful?

Revolution on NBCBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

I take my washing machine for granted. And my refrigerator. And cheesecake.

What if they were all gone tomorrow?

New to the fall lineup of TV shows on NBC is Revolution. An unknown phenomenon knocked out every power source across the globe. No electricity. No cars or planes. No batteries. Nothing works.

In the pilot episode, Ben Matheson (who knows the secret behind the power outage and knows the power won’t be coming back on—ever) empties the ice cream from his family’s freezer. He sets an entire carton down in front of his young daughter, Charlie.

“Really?” she asks.

Her mom nods. “It’s all going to melt anyway.”

Charlie shovels ice cream into her mouth.

Ben stops her. “Slow down. I want you to really remember what ice cream tastes like, okay?”

He wants her to savor it because he knows that carton will likely be the last ice cream she ever has.

Charlie nods, but you can tell she doesn’t really understand.

We’re a lot like Charlie sometimes.

No, we’re not in danger of the power going out forever (all joking about the zombie apocalypse aside), but we don’t always recognize how good we have it at this very moment.

So we forget to savor life and easily fall into the pattern of complaining rather than stopping to be grateful for what we have.

We rush through our meals without appreciating them. We grumble about having to do a load of laundry without being grateful for the fact that all we really have to do is sort, load, and fold. My grandma still remembers washing laundry by hand.

Because most of us haven’t truly known the kind of hardship where we go to sleep hungry and don’t know where we’ll be sleeping tomorrow, we don’t understand how blessed we are.

I’m a big offender.

Today is Thanksgiving in Canada, so I’m calling this my fresh start.

Starting today, I’m going to try to eat a little slower, appreciate the time spent with my family a little more, and grumble a little less.

When I’m annoyed about having to change the toilet paper roll, I’m going to be thankful I even have toilet paper (my husband says that people in Iraq use their left hands for the same purpose).

When I’m tired and don’t really feel like cooking dinner, I’m going to be thankful we have the option of take-out or, if I cook anyway, that I didn’t have to raise, kill, and pluck that chicken myself.

My life might be far from perfect, far from what I want it to be, but I have it pretty good.

What mundane item are you most thankful for?

And remember to vote for Zerynthia the warrior My Little Pony in Rebecca Enzor’s PonyFest12!

For writers, there’s still time to register for How to Write Faster and Make the Most of Your Limited Time for only $30. All the classes I’ll be teaching this fall are now also listed here on my website under the classes tab on the menu bar.

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Top 10 Science Fiction and Fantasy My Little Ponies

Rebecca Enzor fantasy authorI’m excited to bring special guest poster Rebecca Enzor to you today. She’s a nuclear chemist who writes young adult and new adult fantasy and magical realism, and each Sunday has a Custom Pony of the Week feature on her blog where she highlights customized My Little Ponies based on books, TV shows, movies, or comics. Because of how much I love these customs, I asked her if she’d put together a Top 10 list of her favorite science fiction and fantasy My Little Ponies. We’re getting an extra treat because some of these ponies haven’t even been featured on her blog yet!

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First, I’d like to thank Marcy for asking me to guest post! It’s always nice to know someone loves the Custom of the Week feature on the blog :)

To give you a little bit of background information, My Little Pony is what originally got me into writing. When I was in fourth grade we had a city-wide competition in which everyone wrote and illustrated a book (my spelling and grammar might have been worse than my artistic ability at that point!). The book I wrote was called “My Life with Pone” and was all about a My Little Pony who was my invisible friend. Years later, in college, I started collecting ponies again and found a nifty little RPing community that allowed you to play as a pony in Dream Valley. I was hooked. I haven’t stopped writing since (I have sold my pony collection though – I had to pay for my wedding somehow!).

So now, my Top Ten Sci-Fi/Fantasy inspired My Little Pony customs:

#10: Harley

Harley Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m cheating just a bit with Harley, because I’m the one who customized him, and as you can see, my artistic talent has not evolved much since fourth grade (those yellow dots are stars, by the way). I added him to the list because Across the Universe is one of my favorite books ever. It’s definitely the best book I read last year. And the author, Beth Revis, is a huge My Little Pony fan! When I found out she would be coming to town in November, I had to make a pony for her, and Harley was born. I can’t think of a character that deserved to be immortalized in pony form more than Harley.

#9: Doctor Whooves (by Jill Baguchinsky)

Doctor Hooves Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bit of a cheat again, because Doctor Whooves is actually a character in the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic television series. But that doesn’t make him any less of a custom pony – he’s just customized by Hasbro! And who could resist snuggling up to the Doctor in plush form? Not me. Plus the customizer won last year’s ABNA in the YA category and her novel, Spookygirl, will be hitting shelves soon!

#8: Madam Em

Madam Em Medusa Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you can’t guess who this pony is based on then you don’t know your mythology very well. With her mane full of snakes, Madam Em is Medusa-inspired. The detail that went into this pony is amazing, and if you visit the customizer’s DeviantArt page, you’ll see that she puts just as much detail into all of her beautiful customs.

#7: Deadpool

Deadpool X-Men Custom My Little Pony

 

Oh Deadpool, you have my silly little X-men loving heart. There was a time, in fact, that I played *coughownedcough* an X-men/MLP crossover RP. And one of my very best RP buddies played Deadpool. So to find a Deadpool pony custom was a real treat. And one that I think Deadpool himself would appreciate.

#6: Neytiri

Neytiri Avatar Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a biologist, I thought the Avatar films were really interesting. As a writer, the storyline was decent. And as a person who loves colorful, pretty things? I thought the film in IMAX 3D was amazing! So when I found this Neytiri pony, it immediately became a favorite of mine. And guess what? The customizer has published a novel too! You had no idea there were so many authors who loved MLPs did you?

#5: Mad Hatter

Mad Hatter Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I admit it. It’s the colors that really do it for me in this custom. There are at least a dozen other Mad Hatter customs that I’ve seen on Deviant Art, but the color scheme on this one sets it apart. And all those curls! And the tiny Doormouse! I am in so much love with this pony I can’t even explain it.

#4: Red Riding Hood

Red Riding Hood Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This pony is absolutely amazing. From her sculpted clothing, to her fur coat, to her wolf mask and other little accessories, this twisted version of the Red Riding Hood fairytale has all the details just right for the wolf-as-the-victim twist. Since I first saw her, she’s been a favorite of mine.

#3: Howl

Howl's Moving Castle Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, it could be the fact that Christian Bale voiced the role of Howl in the film adaptation that makes me love this character so much, but I think it’s actually the beautiful story arc that really does it. And this gorgeous half-pony/half-bird Howl does him so much justice. The detailing on the feathers is amazing, and the little Calcifer so adorable!

#2: Aragorn

Aragorn Lord of the Rings My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You didn’t really expect me to make a list of my Top Ten Sci-Fi/Fantasy customs without a Lord of the Rings pony, did you? Plus, have you ever seen a pony with a beard? The customizer even went so far as to put a magnetic wire in the sword so that Aragorn could “hold” it with the magnet in his foot! Now that’s dedication to your craft. (This customizer has also made a Legolas pony, and has plans to continue with the other characters as well.)

#1: Starbuck

Starbuck (Kara Thrace) Battlestar Galactica My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You would think with all the stunning custom ponies out there it would be hard to choose a favorite, but ever since I saw Starbuck, I knew she was my all-time favorite custom pony ever. This pony is the reason I started the Custom of the Week feature on my blog. The character is one of my all-time favorite characters ever, with one of the strangest character arcs I’ve ever come across, and I think this custom captures her perfectly – right down to the thick eyebrows that give her the perfect Starbuck expression.

I hope you enjoyed my Top Ten Sci-Fi/Fantasy custom ponies. You can find all of the story-based custom ponies that I’ve featured on my blog by clicking on the Custom Pony link in the sidebar.

Did I miss one that was your favorite? Which ponies make your Top Ten list?

Do You Believe In Second Chances?

Gollum Lord of the RingsLong after I finished reading the books and watching the movies, the character from the Lord of the Rings trilogy I couldn’t stop thinking about wasn’t any of the plucky hobbits, Viggo Mortensen’s ruggedly handsome Aragorn, or Gandolf with his words of wisdom.

It was Gollum.

Born a hobbit-like creature named Sméagol, Gollum wasn’t always the shriveled, conniving wretch we meet in Lord of the Rings. It wasn’t until Sméagol was in his thirties that Sméagol’s friend Déagol found the powerful ring that Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring would later seek to destroy. Overcome by lust for the ring, Sméagol killed Déagol and took it for himself.

The ring prolonged Sméagol’s life, but began to corrupt him until his family finally cast him out. From that point on, he lived alone in the dark caves of the Misty Mountains, eating raw fish. Déagol’s death haunted him.

When Frodo learned about Gollum, he said, “What a pity that Bilbo did not stab that vile creature, when he had a chance!” (Fellowship of the Ring, pg. 78).

“Pity!” Gandalf answered. “It was Pity that stayed his hand.”

Gandalf believed that everyone deserves a second chance—a chance at redemption. He went on to tell Frodo that even Gollum wasn’t wholly ruined: “I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it…My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many” (79).

Gandalf’s words stuck with Frodo.

Later, when Frodo showed him kindness, the Sméagol side of Gollum’s personality found the strength to fight against the Gollum side. What good was left in him tried to drive out the evil. Frodo’s kindness gave him a second chance.

Sam couldn’t see it. He couldn’t see past the disgusting parts of Gollum to take into account what he’d been through—isolation, torture in Mordor, the clutches of a ring that ruined all who carried it. He refused to try to see what Gollum might become if given a second chance.

When I first met Lynn* in elementary school, all I saw was a girl who disliked me for no reason. She told others’ secrets as soon as she found them out, seemed to take pleasure in embarrassing me in particular, and acted like she thought she was better than the other students. I found her annoying and wanted nothing to do with her.

When I should have been Frodo, I was Sam.

I didn’t bother to find out that Lynn was abused, had trouble reading, and, as we reached high school, struggled with an eating disorder, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

When she disappeared, I didn’t even notice. I cared as little for her as Sam did for Gollum, and would have gladly left her behind in my past. When she came back during our senior year of high school, she wanted to be my friend.

Second chances are tricky things. You could get your finger bitten off the way Frodo eventually did. Every second chance comes with another opportunity to experience the pain you did the first time.

I was hesitant, skeptical. But, to borrow from Gandalf, my heart told me that she still might have a role to play in my life.

Years later, Lynn and I stood up in each other’s weddings. Her children call me Aunt Marcy. We joke now about back when we didn’t like each other and talk about who disliked whom most. And we laugh.

But if I hadn’t given her a second chance, I would have missed the trips we’ve taken, times we’ve cried on each other’s shoulders, good advice exchanged, secrets shared (and kept). I would have missed out on knowing a woman who’s now one of my dearest friends.

For me, the chance to get exactly what I did was worth the risk of giving her that second chance.

Has there ever been a time you decided to give someone a second chance and were glad you did? Do you believe in second chances?

*Lynn isn’t her real name. I’ve changed it to protect her privacy.

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