J.R.R. Tolkien: The Silmarillion

December 29th, 2017

I read Tolkien’s “canon”, that is, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, around Christmas every year. So also this year.

One of the most fascinating stories in The Silmarillion is of course the story of Túrin Turambar. He is regarded as one of the major heroes of his age. At the Council of Elrond, Elrond himself lists the great men and elf-friends of old, Hador and Húrin and Túrin and Beren. But while reading through the Silmarillion, there are few among mortal men that have also added so much pain and disaster to the elves. While a great war hero, Húrin was also responsible for the slaying of the greatest hunter of the elves, Beleg Cúthalion, the strong bow. Being the war hero, he turned the people of Nargothrond away from the wisdom of their history, and even their king, and made the hidden kingdom available for the enemy. How many elves were cruelly slain or taken to captivity in Angband because of Turin’s pride? Thousands! Perhaps even tens of thousands? So how come the elves, ages later, still reckoned Túrin son of Húrin as one of the great elf-friends?

In a Nordic saga style stunt, Túrin finally slew his greatest enemy, Glaurung the great fire-breathing dragon. Glaurung had been a continous danger to all peoples of Middle-Earth, and the end of that worm was of course a great relief to all the elves, even Elrond’s ancestors, the kings of Doriath and Gondolin. Also, we must remember that the lives of the elves are different from that of men. When the elves’ bodies die, their spirits go to Mandos, where they sit in the shadow of their thought, and from where they may even return, like Glorfindel of both Gondolin and Rivendell. But when men die, they go to somewhere else, and are not bound to the world. It seems that elves are more willing to forgive and let grief rest for wisdom over time, than are men’s wont. Even the Noldor who survived the passing of the Helcaraxë forgave and united the Noldor of Fëanor’s people that left them at the burning of the ships at Losgar.

Perhaps that is one of the lessons learned from the tragic story of Túrin. From all his unhappy life, good things happened, and afterwards, the elves forgave and even mourned him and his family.

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings

December 25th, 2017

I read Tolkien’s “canon”, that is, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, around Christmas every year. So also this year.

2017 was a great year for Tolkien fans. It was the 125th anniversary of the Professor’s birth, and the 80th anniversary for the Hobbit. We also got the magnificent news that Amazon will produce a TV series based on “previously unexplored stories based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s original writings“. So what storylines would that be? A reboot of the 2001-03 trilogy is out of the question, as Peter Jackson explored and extended more than enough already. So, what do we have left? A lot! Let’s have a look.

The Lord of the Rings and its appendices tells stories in several different timelines. Long before (as in hundreds, and even thousands of years) before the main story, just before the main story (like a few decennials), parallel to the main story, and after.

One storyline could follow the ancient history of Gondor and Arnor. There are lots and lots of substories there. If I should pick one I would like to see, it would be the stories of the kings Arvedui of Arnor and  Eärnil II of Gondor, perhaps started with the Firiel incident. There are lots of exciting points to pick up there. Gondor throne heiritage politics, the war against, and the prediction of the downfall of the Witch King, the flight to Forochel, with the disastrous ship’s wreck in the ice, and the loss of the palantiri.

For the “near history” before The War of the Ring, the obvious choice would be a “The young Aragorn” series, where we could follow Aragorn in his many guises, riding with the Rohirrim, going on raids with Gondor against Harad, in and in constant conflict with Denethor. And his love life, of course, with his meeting and very long-term relationship with Arwen. And speaking of Arwen, her family story is a good storyline, with the love of Celebrían and Elrond, travelling from Lorien to Rivendell, and her abduction, and Elladan and Elrohir’s rescue of her from the orcs. Parallel to that, the story I would most love to see, would be, the story of Denethor. His tragic life is worth a season alone. Another storyline from the years just before The War of the Ring, could be Balin’s attempt to retake Moria, and build  a colony of dwarves. Lots of gore and killing of goblins to depict!

Parallel to the War of the Ring, there are a lot of things going on, that are merely mentioned in the book, and completely forgotten in the movies. The fight in Dale. The Ents’ war against the orcs after the capture of Isengard, the loss of Osgiliath and Cair Andros, to name just a few.

And of course, even after the the War of the Ring, and the Return of the King, there are stories to follow up. Aragorn’s “negotiations” for peace with his neighbouring peoples, with armed battle as alternative, supported by Eomer of Rohan. The sweet but bitter death of Aragorn and Arwen. The reign of King Eldarion.

I’m optimistic! This is going to be great!

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit

December 24th, 2017

I read Tolkien’s “Canon”, that is, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion, every year about Christmas. These year, it’s even The Hobbit’s 80th Anniversary, and to celebrate, I have of course read through The Hobbit again.

So many have said so much about this book, so I’d rather show off my newest addition to my Tolkien bookshelf. This is the Swedish 1962 edition of The Hobbit, Bilbo, En Hobbits Äventyr (Bilbo, A Hobbit’s Adventure), and it has quite an interesting history.

In the 50s and 60s, Astrid Lindgren, maybe most famous for her children’s books about Pippi Longstocking, worked as an editor at the department for Children’s literature at Rabén & Sjögren, who published Tolkien’s works in Sweden. Lindgren was very interested in Tolkien’s work, and while she later denied Tolkien as an inspiration for it, she published the quite Lord of the Rings reminiscing Mio my Son in 1954, and later the world beloved classic children’s fantasy novels The Brothers Lionheart and Ronia, the Robber’s daughter.

In the early 60s Lindgren was not content* with the current Swedish translation of The Hobbit, Hompen (translation by Tore Zetterholm, 1947), and wanted to better it. So she opted for a new translation and got hold of Britt G. Hallqvist for the job. For illustrations, she contacted her friend Tove Jansson, now World famous for her Moomin Valley universe. Jansson had already had success with her Moomintrolls, and had previously made illustrations for a Swedish edition of Lewis Carrol’s classic poem Snarkjakten (The Hunting of the Snark, 1959), so a successful publication seemed likely.

Hallqvist translated, Jansson drew, Lindgren published it, and it flopped! Tolkien fans didn’t enjoy Jansson’s drawings much, and the illustrations were not used** again before 1994. By then, the 1962 version was cherished by Tove Jansson fans and Tolkien collectors over the World, and it had become quite hard to find. The 1994 edition was sold out in a jiffy. The illustrations were finally “blessed” by the Tolkien Estate, when they were used for the 2016 Tolkien Calendar.

Jansson’s illustrations were also used in the 2016 Tolkien calendar, which I’m, afraid to say, have not acquired (yet).

I was lucky and found a decent copy of the 1962 edition in a Japanese(!) bookstore on the Net. Now I LOVE this book. Its illustrations are absolutely gorgeous.




The destruction of Lake Town and the death of Smaug are my personal favourites

The destruction of Lake Town and the death of Smaug is my personal favourite

It makes a great additon to my ever growing list of Hobbits.

This book makes a great additon to my ever growing list of Hobbits.

It would be a pity to let this book stay alone without decent Janssonic company, so I searched a few weeks, was lucky again and found a nice copy of the mentioned Snarkjakten by Lewis Carrol, and an almost mint copy of the absolutely fantastic (in all meanings of that word) Swedish 1966 edition of Alice i underlandet (Alice in Wonderland). If you enjoy Alice, you will love Janssons’ illustrations, even outshining her work on The Hobbit.

Janssons illustrations of <i>Alice</i> were later used in a lot of versions, among them, Finnish, American, British, and Norwegian editions.

Janssons illustrations of Alice were later used in a lot of versions, among them, Finnish, American, British, and Norwegian editions.

For an intensely interesting read about Jansson’s artistic work on these classics: Read Olga Holownia’s essay at barnboken.net.

That’s it. Merry Christmas and happy Youletide everybody!

*) Neither was Tolkien himself. He specially disliked the translation of Elvish names into Swedish, like Esgaroth -> Snigelby (ie. Snail Town!!!). Also interesting: Svensson, Louise, Lost in Translation? – A Comparative Study of Three Swedish Translations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’, Lund University 2016

**) Actually, there were other versions with Jansson’s illustrations; the Finnish Hobbit Lohikäärme-vouri (The Dragon mountain) from 1973, and the updated Finnish translation in 2003. The illustrations were also used in this year’s Finnish 80th Anniversary edition of The Hobbit.

12 days of Varnish

December 19th, 2017

While Varnish is most famous for its speedy caching capabilities, it is also a general swiss army knife of web serving. In the spirit of Christmas, here’s Twelve Days of Varnish Cache, or at least, twelve Varnish use cases. Read the rest of this post on Redpill Linpro’s Sysadvent calendar.

Dynamic DNS helper scripts

December 1st, 2017

While dynamic DNS is a wonderful tool for automation and orchestration, tools for easy cleaning up and logging changes are needed. This post describes a couple of scripts that may help.

Read the rest of this post on Redpill Linpro SysAdvent Calendar.

copr packages of varnish-5.2, varnish-modules and miscellaneous vmods for el6 and el7

October 27th, 2017

Some weeks ago, the Varnish Cache project released a new upstream version 5.2 of varnish cache. I have built a copr repo with varnish packages for el6 and el7 based on the fedora package, and a selection of matching vmods.

The following vmods are available:

Included in varnish-modules:

Packaged separately:

Please test and report bugs. If there are enough interest, I may consider pushing these to fedora as well. Packages are available at https://copr.fedorainfracloud.org/coprs/ingvar/varnish52/

Hans Olav Lahlum: Haimennesket

March 10th, 2017

Kolbjørn Kristiansen, K2 blant venner, har endelig funnet ut at han kan kalle Patricia sin kjæreste. For å feire det reiser de to turtelduer på hotellferie på en øy på Sørlandet. Hotellet har en mørk historie. Et barn ble drept i vuggen sin, og storesøsteren, en av to tvillinger forsvant like etterpå, før endelig moren tar selvmord. Dystert der altså, og nå, i ekte Agatha Christie-stil, er sjakkbrettet stilt opp på nytt, og de som var tilstede da barnet døde, er igjen samlet på sommerhotellet. Så går det som det gjerne gjør i slike historier: Noen dør, og for sikkerhets skyld er telefonlinjene kuttet, og båten til fastlandet kan ikke brukes.

En veldig klassisk setup altså, men likevel elegant løst i klassisk stil. Patricia er den reneste Poirot, mens Kolbjørn gjør en passe slett Hastings. Anbefales.

Sue Grafton: A for Alibi

March 3rd, 2017

Tidlig 80-tall, Santa Teresa, en liten by i California. Det er en varm og tørr sommer, så varm at det nesten ikke er mulig å jogge. Oppdragsskuffen til Kinsey, ung kvinnelig privatdetektiv, er også tørr. Så da Nikki Fife kommer innom, rett fra tukthuset, for å få henne til å etterforske mordet hun – etter egne ord – urettmessig ble dømt for, tar Kinsey saken.

Drapsgåten, med gift som mordvåpen, viser seg å være mer innfløkt enn først antatt. Kinsey må rote rundt i fortiden både til offeret og den dømte, og det viser seg at når alt kommer til alt, er det mange som har tatt feil. Ikke minst Kinsey. Kronet med en ganske så spennende action-scene blir dette bra krim. Det er dessuten helt umulig å ikke bli veldig glad i Kinsey med en gang.

Anbefalt for dem som klarer å holde hodet klart, også gjennom en kronglete etterforskning.

Diana Wynne Jones: Witch Week

February 27th, 2017

Storbritannia, en gang på 80-tallet. Larwood House er en kostskole, i en verden ganske lik vår egen, med et unntak: Magi finnes, men det er veldig, veldig forbudt. Hekser, både kvinnelige og mannlige, som blir oppdaget, kan bli tatt av selveste inkvisisjonen, for å bli brent på bålet!

En morgen oppdager lærerne at noen har skrevet på tavla: “NOEN I KLASSEN ER EN HEKS”. Dette er selvsagt en forferdelig påstand. Er det en dårlig spøk? Er det en provokasjon? Tyster noen? Er det sant? Det mysser av rykter og hvisking. Her må lærerne ta tak.

Barne- og ungdomsbok med litt girl power. Ikke overraskende er det barna med litt tilpasningsvansker, og ikke alltid dem med flest venner, som er disponert for magiske krefter. Miks inn en del tenåringsintriger, og en god porsjon humor, så har du en strålende bok. Litt mer alvor blir det når inkvisisjonen dundrer inn, men ikke verre enn at vi overlever.

Diana Wynne Jones: Conrad’s Fate

February 20th, 2017

Tilbake i serien med mange verdener, hvorav noen har magi, har vi landet i en verden i Serie 7, med en litt annen tektonisk utvikling enn vår egen. Vår lille hovedperson er 15 år gamle Conrad Tesdinic, som bor i en liten landsby i de Britiske Alpene(!). I landsbyen skjer det underlige ting, sannsynligvis på grunn av underlige magiske eksperimenter på storgodset, der selve virkeligheten blir endret på. Conrad blir sendt til godset for å jobbe, men med det hemmelige oppdraget; å stoppe galskapen, ved å drepe den som utfører dem.

Som søker til samme jobb finner vi den unge Christopher Chant i forkledning, og sammen løper de rundt på godset nattestid, mens de prøver å skjøte jobben som tjenestegutter og håndtlangere på dagtid.

Magisk moro for barn i alle aldre. Frittstående fortsettelse i serien om Chrestomansi. Ikke for tungt.