July 20, 2000

Site Recommendation
Michael Martinez

I don't know if you guys know who Ben Milder is. He's a 13-year-old boy who created Entmoot, an EZBoard community devoted to Tolkien, Star Wars, and fantasy in general, late last year. Today he sent out a blast announcement about the Tolkien Trail and at first I thought, "Eh, another Web site announcement". I'm sure you all get these from friends and strangers alike, just as I do.

Still, I have a lot of respect for Ben and the community he's built at Entmoot, so when I got a free moment this evening I took a look at Tolkien  Trail.

I was blown away. I've seen professionally designed Web sites which looked worse than this one. (And I've seen professional sites that look better -- I don't want to seem too enthusiastic.)

The site uses javascript to interact with the visitor. There's nothing new there. But they have designed their own artwork and used only a few scans (the most obvious one being the map from Karen Fonstad's atlas for the Shire). I haven't been able to check out all the sections yet, but the parts I've looked at are very well done, and I can't fault their research. Ben has a personal Web site that contains some of his Tolkien research, and I have to say that when I checked it out a couple of months ago I only had one or two minor nits to pick with him. He's an extremely intelligent young guy and I'm sure he will go places when he's older. It would be a shame to let his talent and energy go to waste, and I hope a good opportunity opens up for him because of what he's doing with his Web sites.

Here's an example of a Mad Lib I created just throwing in words at random. I used the word "balrog" but they had preselected the Balrog on the bridge scene:

The Balrog reached the bridge. Gandalf walked in the middle of the span, leaning on the ent in his left arm, but in his other arm Glamdring gleamed, red and white. His enemy killed again, facing him, and the shadow about it reached out like two vast feet. It raised the balrog, and the thongs whined and cracked. A sword came from its head. But Gandalf stood firm.

'You cannot sing', he said. The orcs stood still, and a dead silence fell. 'I am a/an herder of the Secret lembas, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot sing. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun. Go back to cousin Sara! You cannot sing!

I think people will have a lot of fun with this site. The URL is http://www.tolkientrail.com/ and I've just posted a review on Xenite.Org's movie news page. I am not involved in the project at all. My endorsement is completely legitimate. You should all look at this site, even if you decide not to mention it on your own sites.