If you’re a fan J R R Tolkien you’ve probably already heard of Corey Olsen, aka The Tolkien Professor, and his podcasts that offer scholarly critique and discussion of the Tolkien’s work. If you’re a fan of director Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings and are looking forward to see what he will do adapting Tolkien’s The Hobbit, then you need to be listening to Olson’s new podcast “Riddles In The Dark.”
Every other week, along with his co-host Dave Kale of the Middle-earth Network, Olsen focuses on an aspect of Tolkien’s Hobbit plus germane material found in The Lord Of The Rings’ appendices and tries to extrapolate what filmmaking choices Jackson and crew will make in their adaption from the small amount of clues we already have from trailers and on-set video.
If you think that’s a thin premise to base a show on, please note that we are already three episodes in and they are still discussing how much of the backstory of the company of dwarves that Bilbo will accompany may be presented in the film. Granted, this discussion has ranged across such topics as Thorin Oakenshield’s father and grandfather Thrain and Thror, the history of conflict between the dwarves and the goblins which lead up to the Battle of Azanulbizar and the nature of the Necromancer’s dungeons at Dol Goldur. And obsessive as it may seem, it is all done with an eye towards seeing how the material could be incorporated in order to inform the dwarves characters and motivations.
As a tenured English professor at Washington College with a PhD in medieval literature, Olsen knows his stuff. His first series of podcasts were critical looks at The Hobbit and he followed that up with two series, one highlighting his classroom lectures from his spring 2010 college literature course on Tolkien and the other a weekly roundtable discussion with several of his former students of The Silmarillion. (Both series helped me finally get through that book after numerous failed tries over the years.)
As it goes forward the podcast has announced plans to extend their prediction game to other noted online Middle-Earth luminaries, so the conversation can only get more informed and diverse. I’m looking forward to it and you should be too.
You can subscribe to “Riddles In The Dark” at iTunes.