The Forge of Tolkien

I first read The Lord of the Rings when I was eleven. My mother gave me the boxed set (see above) for Christmas, and I read all four books in one trip to our grandparents’ house by New Year’s. Imagine my 11-year-old self struggling with the hobbits across Middle-earth as my mother drove us across the middle of America from Kentucky to Texas (and back again), and you will get some sense of the effect that it had on me.

Of all the things that drew me to become a medieval historian, reading (and re-reading, and re-reading, and re-reading) Tolkien is at the top of the list, although it took me decades to admit it. Tolkien lived in my imagination somewhere between stories I remembered reading as a child and my first (magical) visit to England with a school trip in high school—not really real, certainly not the stuff of serious scholarship.

Latin and Chartres drew me to study the history of medieval Christianity, not elves, hobbits and dwarves.

Or so I told myself.

And then Peter Jackson c…

Dialogue with Dignity

Our cities are in flames, and our citizenry is busy choosing sides against each other. Now is NOT the time to be giving into despair. 

Next Sunday, August 2, at 12pmEST/11amCST, join me and an AMAZING panel assembled by Alice Maher, MD, and Niquie Dworkin, PhD, to talk about how we can change our public dialogue through respectful listening and conversation.

You can register for the webinar and Facebook group at Changing Our Consciousness, Inc.

Panelists include professionals in education, psychotherapy, and entrepreneurship. We come from a wide variety of faith backgrounds—Presbyterian, Catholic, African Methodist Episcopal, Hindu, Muslim, and Jewish—and from both the United States and abroad (U.K. and India).

We have agreed to certain guidelines to facilitate our conversation:
To speak for ourselves and from our own experience, using “I,” not “you,” when expressing our thoughts.To refrain from criticizing each other or attempting to convince each other that our viewpoint is correct.T…

Iambic Pentameters—or Bust!

My Telegram dragons and I have spent the past two weeks practicing our iambic pentameters

ti TUM ti TUM ti TUM ti TUM ti TUM.

Our first exercise was 20 lines, no sense or rhymes, just getting a feel for the beat. These were mine:
I gave you lines to write in measured verse. Let’s see who came to play with metered lines. I asked for playful dragons to arise And sing their joyful praises to the stars.
A steak, a plate, a fork, a fitful dream. A poet trains with pen and notebook blank. Perhaps we can an epic story tell Of dragons come to save the dying West.
I know you have the tools you need to fly. Now share them in the chat so we can sing. My heart has broken far too many times To tell in such a public place as this.
Mere hints of sorrow are the poet’s ink, The joy and laughter hidden in the pain. I long to sing to you of Mary Queen, But all I see is statues on the ground.
A piece of prose, a song of hanging wit. See, here we are in conversation now. My time is short, …

What When All the Statues Are Gone?

Alex von Marstall and Richard Storey had a question for me!
As the radical left is on an iconoclastic crusade to entirely and selectively erase Western history, we discuss the more sinister and dark side of their motivations with Professor Rachel Fulton Brown.  Rachel Fulton Brown, PhD, is Associate Professor of History, Fundamentals, and the College at the University of Chicago, where she has taught since 1994. She is the author of Mary and the Art of Prayer: The Hours of the Virgin in Medieval Christian Life and Thought and From Judgment to Passion: Devotion to Christ and the Virgin Mary, 800-1200, and she blogs regularly at Fencing Bear at Prayer. She teaches courses on the history of Christianity in medieval Europe, as well as on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. She is best known in the public sphere for her friendship with Milo Yiannopoulos, whom she has characterized as a “holy fool.” Her own work emphasizes the importance of empathy, imagination, and play for the training of the s…

Up, drakes! It’s time for tea—and prosody!

Our culture is dying, or so some opine. How do we save it? With meter and rhyme!

How do I say this? If we are losing our culture, it is because we have lost our words. We have lost the meter by which we built cities and poems, the measure of rhyme, the call and response in praise of our Maker, the great Artist of creatures and words.

It is easier to exclaim this truth with gesture and breath than to write it. Writing takes patience and dictionaries. Long lists of words. Well-structured arguments. Persuasive imagery and fire. Stories and themes.

What has happened to reading? What has happened to prose? I write now in short bursts on social media, blurts and quips. Slogans that puzzle—startle and tease.

𝕸𝖊𝖉𝖎𝖊𝖛𝖆𝖑 𝖔𝖗 𝕲𝕿𝕱𝕺

꧁Totalitarianism, race war, chaos, or Christ. Choose wisely.꧂

Capture the moment! Stay not to think! Look, there’s a meme! Laugh now, and move on! “Okay, boomer, lmao.” “Say the n-word, I dare you.” “Your mother is fat.”

Quick, now—recite something. A snippet…


Want to know what Milo and I were talking about last Friday? You can watch at where every Friday night’s all right!

For a complete list of my video, radio, and podcast appearances, see Bear On Air. To find Milo out in the wild, check the Milo Spotting Guide. For all our adventures together, see The MILO Chronicles

A Time to Build

“All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven.  A time to be born and a time to die.  A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.  A time to kill, and a time to heal.  A time to destroy, and a time to build.”  —Ecclesiastes 3:1-3
Imagine you are a child. You have a set of blocks. Somebody else made the blocks, and your parents bought them for you. The blocks come with plans that enable you to build a variety of buildings, far more complicated than you could build on your own.

What do you do with these blocks? Perhaps you are lucky and you are gifted a full set of 3,851 blocks. Perhaps you only have a single tray of 105 blocks. You look at the pictures and determine that you will build only the most elaborate buildings, but when you realize you cannot read the plans, you give up and never play with the blocks at all. Alternately, you could start with the simplest plans, decide that you had learned everything there was to learn about …

“I am a little world made cunningly”

More poetry! Zaklog the Great and his friend Travis invited me to talk with them about John Donne’s Holy Sonnet V.
I am a little world made cunningly
Of elements and an angelic sprite,
But black sin hath betray'd to endless night
My world's both parts, and oh both parts must die.
You which beyond that heaven which was most high
Have found new spheres, and of new lands can write,
Pour new seas in mine eyes, that so I might
Drown my world with my weeping earnestly,
Or wash it, if it must be drown'd no more.
But oh it must be burnt; alas the fire
Of lust and envy have burnt it heretofore,
And made it fouler; let their flames retire,
And burn me O Lord, with a fiery zeal
Of thee and thy house, which doth in eating heal.  “Along the way, we also mention Galileo and his non-persecution by the church, Noah’s flood and the coming apocalypse by fire, Dante’s Inferno and the stupidity of envy, and the importance of our physical bodies in Christianity.”

Watch on YouTube: https://you…

One COVID to Rule Them All

I meant to write this post yesterday, but I got distracted on social media... And, well, I had a paper to read for an exam I am participating in this afternoon. And there was fiddle to practice, although I haven’t always been doing as well with learning the tunes since our class went over to Zoom. I wanted to watch another episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I got caught up redesigning the stickers for my Telegram chat...

Somehow the hours just dribbled away, and before I knew it, it was time for bed.

I have excuses. Of course I have excuses. I was tired thanks to teaching my Tolkien class. I had spent two days looking for slides of monsters (spiders, dragons, andfeonds, oh, my!). It is stressful teaching on Zoom, even with the practice I have had. I wanted to think more carefully about how to set up the argument for this post. I...

Dribble, dribble, dribble, dribble.

The days since March 21 when Illinois went on lockdown have been dribbling by. The first week, it was ordinary. …

Channeling Fencing Bear at Prayer

Come join Fencing Bear and friends over on Telegram, where the dragons keep their memes—and poetry! We have had quite the opening week! As of this evening, I had 183 subscribers to the channel and 82 members in the chat. Not bad for a bear who didn’t know how to train her Group Guardian bot a week ago!

Mornings I post links to Mass live-streamed from St. John Cantius in Chicago, followed by a stanza from “Dragon Song” for the chat to discuss. (We are on stanza 8; things are heating up as the dragons take wing!) Over the course of the day, I share articles, images, occasional thoughts, Ankerstein builds, stickers, and videos—content you won’t get on my Facebook or Twitter. If I get my courage up, I might even start sharing some of my fiddle tunes. Okay, maybe not—it depends on how much you beg! But Telegram also supports voice and video messages, so you never know!

Links from my channel will guide you elsewhere in Telegram to channels with memes, photos of architecture, political comm…