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Archive for the ‘Christopher Tolkien’ Category
Questions and Answers – Tom Bombadil, Orcs or Goblins?, Prophecy of Mandos, Fate of the Dwarves and more…
Back in December 1999, these were the questions on the minds of fans…
Q: Gandalf and the other wizards were obviously powerful Maiar sent to protect Middle Earth. If Tom Bombadil is a lesser Maiar, then why was Tom completely unaffected by the ring when he placed it on his finger, Tom didn’t even disappear. When Gandalf was offered the ring he refused saying that the power would corrupt him as any other. I hope you can explain this to me. I don’t think it’s because Tom Bombadil didn’t want power so he was unaffected, because Gandalf was just as uninterested in power as Tom. Thank you.
- The Dunedain
A: It seems more plausible that Tom Bombadil was uninterested in the kind of power that the Ring conveyed. Tom also clearly had his own boundaries, at least geographically, for when he takes leave of the hobbits he says “Tom’s country ends here: he will not pass the borders”. If Tom would have been persuaded to take the Ring, it would, over time and in the end, have worked its power upon him and corrupted him. But for the short time of its passage through his own country, it seems not to have affected him, and within the boundaries of his own realm, Tom seems certainly to have been Master.
A few people have written in questioning whether Tom Bombadil might not actually be Eru. Truly, there are no hints of this in Tolkien’s writings, and I think that such a Twilight-Zone styled twist would be uncharacteristic of him. Also, in view of Tolkien’s devotion to his Catholicism, and in light of his extensive rationalization of “sub-creation” in his famous essay “On Fairy-Stories”, I just don’t think his mind worked that way. But that’s only my view.
Update to Update!
One reader wrote in to point out a few passages in Letters where Tolkien states explicitly that, in Middle-earth, “there is no embodiment of the One, of God, who indeed remains remote, outside of the World, and only directly accessible to the Valar or Rulers”. These statements rule out the possibility that Tom Bombadil might be Eru.
Another theory that has been proposed is that Tom Bombadil is Aule. For more on this, see the essay by Gene Hargrove at: http://www.cas.unt.edu/~hargrove/bombadil.html
(Personally, I don’t find this argument convincing, but the possibility is intriguing.)
Q: In “Unfinished Tales,” reference is made to “The Second Prophecy of Mandos.” This foretells the Dagor Dagorath, the final battle against Melkor that will end the world (a la Ragnarok, Armageddon). But except for that tidbit, the Second Prophecy is a throwaway reference. So I’m asking–when did Mandos make this prophecy? Where and under what circumstances? What mortal ears heard it? And what, exactly, does it prophecy? Is there more to it? The First Prophecy (which I’m assuming refers to the Doom cast on the Noldor as they were high-tailin’ it out of Aman) was pretty specific and wide-ranging. The Second must be more substantial than simply, “There’s gonna be a big fight with Morgoth”.
A: The reference in Unfinished Tales comes from a passage quoted in the section on “The Istari”, and reads as follows: “Manwe will not descend from the Mountain until the Dagor Dagorath, and the Coming of the End, when Melkor returns” (p. 395). Christopher Tolkien has footnoted this to read: “This is a reference to ‘the Second Prophecy of Mandos’, which does not appear in The Silmarillion; its elucidation cannot be attempted here, since it would require some account of the history of the mythology in relation to the published version.” (footnote 8, p. 402).
Unfinished Tales came out in 1980, and fortunately, with the publication in 1986 of volume four of The History of Middle-earth, entitled The Shaping of Middle-earth, we can understand much more about the Second Prophecy of Mandos. It appears in this volume in two forms, in the earliest ‘Silmarillion’, the ‘Sketch of the Mythology’ as written for Tolkien’s former teacher R. W. Reynolds around 1926, and in the ‘Quenta Silmarillion’ proper, written around 1930. For the version from the earliest ‘Silmarillion’, see section 19, pp. 40-1 of The Shaping of Middle-earth. The second version, from which I give some extracts below, can be found in full in section 19 , pp. 163-5 of the same volume:
“After the triumph of the Gods, Earendel sailed still in the seas of heaven, but the Sun scorched him and the Moon hunted him in the sky . . . Then the Valar drew his white ship Wingelot over the land of Valinor, and they filled it with radiance and hallowed it, and launched it through the Door of Night. And long Earendel set sail into the starless vast, Elwing at his side, the Silmaril upon his brow, voyaging the Dark behind the world, a glimmering and fugitive star. And ever and anon he returns and shines behind the courses of the Sun and Moon above the ramparts of the Gods, brighter than all other stars, the mariner of the sky, keeping watch against Morgoth upon the confines of the world. Thus shall he sail until he sees the Last Battle fought upon the plains of Valinor.
“Thus spake the prophecy of Mandos, which he declared in Valmar at the judgement of the Gods, and the rumour of it was whispered among all the Elves of the West: when the world is old and the Powers grow weary, then Morgoth shall come back through the Door out of the Timeless Night; and he shall destroy the Sun and the Moon, but Earendel shall come upon him as a white flame and drive him from the airs. Then shall the last battle be gathered on the fields of Valinor. In that day Tulkas shall strive with Melko, and on his right shall stand Fionwe and on his left Turin Turambar, son of Hurin, Conqueror of Fate; and it shall be the black sword of Turin that deals unto Melko his death and final end; and so shall the Children of Hurin and all men be avenged.
“Thereafter shall the Silmarils be recovered out of sea and earth and air; for Earendil shall descend and yield up that flame that he hath had in keeping. Then Feanor shall bear the Three and yield their fire to rekindle the Two Trees, and a great light shall come forth; and the Mountains of Valinor shall be levelled, so that the light goes out over all the world. In that light the Gods will again grow young, and the Elves awake and all their dead arise, and the purpose of Iluvatar be fulfilled concerning them. But of Men in that day the prophecy speaks not, save of Turin only, and him it names among the Gods.”
Q: Back a while ago (before the internet) I remember seeing a piece written where someone was arguing that Tolkien elves were actually taller than humans. I don’t remember where it was but that doesn’t matter now. Is there any actual mention in any of the books or professor Tolkien’s letters about this? Or are elves really shorter as is shown in just about every picture painted of the Fellowship (i.e. Legolas and the humans)? If they are shorter, how do the half-elves (Elrond and Aragorn’s line) all end up being generally bigger than other humans?
A: The cheating answer is to use Robert Foster’s Complete Guide to Middle-earth and cite his entry for Elves, in which he writes, “Elves were the fairest of all earthly creatures, and resembled the Ainur in spirit. They were about six feet tall and somewhat slender…”. But the real challenge is to find where in Tolkien that Foster found this information. In The Lord of the Rings, the first meeting with an Elf occurs in Book I , Chapter 3, “Three Is Company”, where the hobbits encounter Gildor and his party of elves in the Shire. As the hobbits are marching along with them, Pippin begins to stagger, “but each time a tall Elf at his side put out his arm and saved him from a fall”. Later in The Fellowship of the Ring, in Book II, Chapter 7, “The Mirror of Galadriel”, when the fellowship meets Celeborn and Galadriel, they are described as follows: “Very tall they were, and the Lady no less tall than the Lord”. I’m sure that there are other similar references scattered throughout the books. The earliest mention chronologically within Tolkien’s life that I can find about the stature of Elves comes from Tolkien’s early poetry, c. 1915, in which the Elves were conceived with a diminutive stature. But, as Christopher Tolkien notes in The Book of Lost Tales, Part One, “All the ‘elfin’ diminutiveness soon disappeared” (p. 32). And in the prose narrative of The Book of Lost Tales (written c. 1917-20) there is some confusion as to whether Men or Elves were of a greater stature, but they are certainly seen to be of a similar size. One added note by Tolkien states that “Men were almost of a stature at first with Elves, the fairies being far greater and Men smaller than now.” (p. 235) Tolkien seems to have regarded Men and Elves to be of a similar size for the rest of his life.
Vladimir Lukic sent in a bunch of interesting observations, pointing out that there are some really fascinating comments in Tolkien’s notes on “Numenorean Linear Measures,” published inUnfinished Tales (pp. 285-287). Tolkien writes of the unit of measurement “ranga” that “two rangar was often called ‘man-high’, which at thirty-eight inches gives an average height of six feet four inches; but this was at a later date, when the stature of the Dunedain appears to have decreased. . . . Elendil was said to be ‘more than man-high by nearly half a ranga’; but he was accounted the tallest of all the Numenoreans who escaped the Downfall. The Eldar of the Elder Days were also very tall. Galadriel, ‘the tallest of all the women of the Eldar of whom tales tell’, was said to be man-high, but it is noted ‘according to the measure of the Dunedain and the men of old’, indicating a height of about six feet four inches.”
Q: At the Doors of Durin, what is Gandalf referring to when he says that Merry of all people was on the right track about the proper words to open the gates? I can’t see that Merry says anything very profound.
A: Gandalf read the elf-letters on the Doors of Durin as follows:
“The words are in the elven-tongue of the West of Middle-earth in the Elder Days,” answered Gandalf. ‘But they do not say anything of importance to us. They say only: The Doors of Durin, Lord of Moria. Speak, friend, and enter. And underneath small and faint is written: I, Narvi, made them. Celebrimbor of Hollin drew these signs.”
“What does it mean by speak, friend, and enter?” asked Merry.
“That is plain enough,” said Gimli. “If you are a friend, speak the password, and the doors will open, and you can enter.” (The Fellowship of the Ring, p.318)
Merry’s observation was not very profound, but he was at least questioning the odd phrasing of “speak, friend, and enter”, and its meaning. The phrasing proved to be the key to opening the door, as Gandalf soon figured out. The translation should have been “Say ‘friend’ and enter”, and Gandalf merely had to say the Elvish word for ‘friend’, mellon, and the doors opened.
Q: What do you know of the theory that the hero in C.S. Lewis’ space trilogy is actually a thinly discussed characterization of Prof. Tolkien?
A: Tolkien himself felt that Ransom (at least in the first two books of the so-called Space Trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra) resembled himself in superficial ways. In a letter to Stanley Unwin of 18 February 1938, Tolkien wrote about the Ransom in Out of the Silent Planet as being the hero who “is a philologist (one point in which he resembles me) ” (Letters, no. 24). But in a letter to Christopher Tolkien of 31 July 1944, Tolkien mentions that his daughter Priscilla has “just read Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra; and with good taste preferred the latter. But she finds it hard to realise that Ransom is not meant to be a portrait of me (though as a philologist I may have some part in him, and recognize some of my opinions and ideas Lewisified in him)” (Letters, no. 77).
So it seems at least some elements of Tolkien ended up in the character Ransom, but I doubt that Lewis himself intended the character to be in any sense a ‘real’ portrait of his friend. The relevance of real people to fictional characters is always a difficult issue, as the characters tend to grow to meet the needs of the story, taking on a life of their own, and then they become something other than that which they might have started out being. As anyone who has ever read the third volume of the trilogy will tell you, That Hideous Strength is rather a different book than the first two. It certainly grew and evolved in ways to match the changes in Lewis’ own life during the time of its writing, and it shows the considerable influence of Charles Williams, whom Lewis did not know particularly well when he wrote the first volume. So things evolve, and things change.
Q: So how is Glorfindel an Elf-Lord? The Glorfindel that crossed over with the Noldor in Silmarillion fell in battle with a Balrog while escaping Gondolin. And the Noldor are the only elves who crossed over, weren’t they? The only thing I can think of is the possibility that Glorfindel was a descendant of Thingol, who of course made the initial trip to Valimar and then didn’t make it back the second time around. Also, since Thingol married well (to say the least), all of his descendants could be considered Elf-Lords, I guess. But is there anything in writing that supports the idea of Glorfindel being a descendant of Thingol?
A: This questions ties into the whole problem of whether the Glorfindel of The Silmarillion, who was killed in a fight with a Balrog in Gondolin, is the same Glorfindel as is found in The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien himself considered this, and wrote a few fascinating short essays, which are printed in The Peoples of Middle-earth, pp. 377-82. I recommend that anyone interested in this very curious matter seek them out.
In one of these pieces Tolkien himself interprets a small passage in The Fellowship of the Ring (from p. 235) as pertaining to Glorfindel (when the passage itself doesn’t necessarily have to refer to him). Tolkien writes that Glorfindel “is said to have been one of the ‘lords of the Eldar from beyond the furthest seas … who have dwelt in the Blessed Realm.’.” [p. 379 of The Peoples of Middle-earth; the ellipses are Tolkien's] This would rule out Glorfindel being Sindarin (and thereby ruling out the possibility that he is a descendant of Thingol).
Though it remains problematical, one nearly has to come to the conclusion that the Glorfindel of The Silmarillion, slain in the Fall of Gondolin, was indeed reborn in Aman and allowed to return to Middle-earth, where he had a role to play in the War of the Ring, as is narrated in The Lord of the Rings.
Q: More out of curiosity then an attempt to stump…..how is it that the sword of Turin, Gurtholfin, was able to speak? What other details of this artifact can you guys did up?
A: Turin’s sword was named Gurtholfin, ‘Wand of Death’, in The Book of Lost Tales. In later writings, particularly in the published Silmarillion and in the “Narn i Hin Hurin” in Unfinished Tales, it was called Gurthang, or ‘Iron of Death’. It was named thus after it was reforged in Nargothrond from Anglachel, the sword of Beleg. The Silmarillion describes it being “though ever black its edges shone with pale fire”. And Turin’s use of it on the Guarded Plain made him known as Mormegil, the Black Sword.
To turn back to The Book of Lost Tales, it is described therein as follows: “It was made by magic to be utterly black save at its edges, and those were shining bright and sharp as but Gnome-steel may be. Heavy it was, and was sheathed in black, and it hung from a sable belt, and Turin named it Gurtholfin the Wand of Death; and often that blade leapt in his hand of its own lust, and it is said that at times it spake dark words to him” (The Book of Lost Tales, Part Two, p. 83).
The important passage where the sword itself speaks is found first in The Book of Lost Tales, and later in revised forms in the “Narn i Hin Hurin” and in The Silmarillion. I quote from the latter:
“There he [Turin] drew forth his sword, that now alone remained to him of all his possessions, and he said: ‘Hail Gurthang! No lord or loyalty dost thou know, save the hand that wieldeth thee. From no blood wilt thou shrink. Wilt thou therefore take Turin Turambar, wilt thou slay me swiftly?’
“And from the blade rang a cold voice in answer: ‘Yea, I will drink thy blood gladly, that so I may forget the blood of Beleg my master, and the blood of Brandir slain unjustly. I will slay thee swiftly.’” (p. 225)
Within the world of Middle-earth it is indeed odd for a sword to speak. There are some instances of animals speaking (I am thinking here of Huan in The Silmarillion, of the eagles and spiders and ravens in The Hobbit, and then there is that curious fox in The Lord of the Rings who passes the hobbits sleeping out in the Shire, in Book 1 Chapter 3, and “thinks” for a few sentences…), but the speaking inanimate object seems very unusual. I don’t really have a good answer for this within the world of Middle-earth itself, unless, for some reason the Valar permitted the sword to speak (or spoke through it), but that seems to be interpreting too far.
There is a more reasonable answer to this question, which comes from Tolkien’s own sources. As an undergraduate, Tolkien had become enamoured with the Finnish epic Kalevala, in the W. F. Kirby translation. The Kalevala includes the story of the hapless Kullervo, whose basic story resembles Turin’s very closely. (In fact, Tolkien himself wrote a verse-version of “The Story of Kullervo” in 1914, but this has never been published.) In both stories, Kullervo and Turin, after similar upbringings, fall in love unknowingly with their own sisters, and when the sisters learn of their incest, they drown themselves. Kullervo, like Turin, seeks release from his life from his sword, asking it if it will drink his blood. Kullervo’s sword answers very similarly, and takes its master’s life in an identical manner. The following quotation comes from the W. F. Kirby translation of the Kalevala:
Kullervo, Kalervo’s offspring
Grasped the sharpened sword he carried,
Looked upon the sword and turned it,
And he questioned it and asked it,
And he asked the sword’s opinion,
If it was disposed to slay him,
To devour his guilty body,
And his evil blood to swallow.
Understood the sword his meaning,
Understood the hero’s question,
And it answered him as follows:
“Wherefore at thy heart’s desire
Should I not thy flesh devour,
And drink up thy blood so evil?
I who guiltless flesh have eaten,
Drank the blood of those who sinned not?”
Kullervo, Kalervo’s offspring,
With the very bluest stockings,
On the ground the haft set firmly,
On the heath the hilt pressed tightly,
Turned the point against his bosom,
And upon the point he threw him,
Thus he found the death he sought for,
Cast himself into destruction.
A reader who signed himself “The Blacksword” provided some additional, very interesting insights into the question of Turin’s speaking sword:
“The answer comes from within Middle Earth. In The Silmarillion, there is a passage in [Chapter 21] ‘Of Turin Turambar’ which may provide some insight as to how the Gurthang spoke. It is as follows, ‘Then Beleg chose Anglachel; and that was a sword of great worth and it was so named because it was made of iron that fell from heaven as a blazing star. . . . and that smith was Eol the dark elf. . . . He gave Anglachel to Thingol as a fee, which he begrudged, for leave to dwell in Nan Emloth.’ [p. 201-2] And later, ‘But as Thingol turned the hilt of Anglachel towards Beleg, Melian looked at the blade; and she said: “There is malice in this sword. The dark heart of the smith still dwells in it. It will not love the hand it serves.”‘ [p. 202]
“Gurthang is Anglachel after it was reforged. At this time we know that Eol is slain, in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad Maeglin fought beside Turgon, and Eol his father was cast from Caragdur only a few days after Maeglin arrived in Gondolin. Turin was a boy when Hurin went off to that battle. There are instances in Middle Earth where spirits inhabit places; the Barrow-wights, the Dead men of Dunharrow, the Dead Marshes, Caradhras, I am sure there are more examples. I can’t think of any examples of elven spirits inhabiting objects, however, one could argue that the spirit of Sauron inhabited The Ring. . . . The conclusion is that the spirit of Eol was within the sword, and that was how it spoke. Perhaps the strange origin of the iron also made it possible for the sword to be ‘possessed.’”
Thanks for writing in and sharing these insights.
Q: Did the Decline of the Elves (in the Fourth Age) also affected the Dwarves? Did they ever went back to live in Moria? What’s the story around that place where Durin used to go, at Moria’s top, that Gimli tells us about?
thanks from Buenos Aires
–Juan Pablo Pasini
A: In The Peoples of Middle-earth, Christopher Tolkien quotes a short passage from an earlier version of the Tale of Years (Appendix B in The Lord of the Rings) in which his father wrote: “The Fourth Age ushered in the Dominion of Men and the decline of all the other ‘speaking-folk’ of the Westlands” (p. 172). In another passage from the same volume Christopher quotes from a version of “Durin’s Folk” (a section of Appendix A in The Lord of the Rings) the following statement concerning the re-population of Moria in the Fourth Age: “And the line of Dain prospered, and the wealth and renown of the kingship was renewed, until there arose again for the last time an heir of that House that bore the name of Durin, and he returned to Moria; and there was light again in deep places, and the ringing of hammers and the harping of harps, until the world grew old and the Dwarves failed and the days of Durin’s race were ended.” (p. 278). Christopher Tolkien notes that while none of this is mentioned in The Lord of the Rings proper, “Durin VII and Last” is mentioned in the genealogical table accompanying the “Durin’s Folk” portion of Appendix A in The Lord of the Rings.
As to your third question, I think you mean Durin’s Tower, which was “carved in the living rock of Zirakzigil, the pinnacle of the Silvertine.” (The Two Towers, p. 105) This was at the very top of the Endless Stair, which ran from the lowest dungeon to the highest peak of Khazad-dum, and which Gimli said had long been lost, if it ever existed. Unfortunately, aside from this brief reference, I find no other significant mention of it.
A few readers have pointed out that Gandalf chased the Balrog up the Endless Stair, during their long struggle. And they came out at last through Durin’s Tower, “carved in the living rock of Zirakzigil, the pinnacle of the Silvertine.” (The Two Towers, page 105) In their struggle, Durin’s Tower was destroyed, and the stair ruined.
Q: I thought that there were only three marriages between men and elves: Luthien and Beren, Idril and Tuor and Aragorn and Arwen. But in “The Return of the King” at the beginning of chapter IX Legolas meets with prince Imrahil and he saw “that there indeed was one who had elven-blood in his veins”. So do other unknown marriages between the two races exist?
A: The reference you sight reads more fully: “At length they came to the Prince Imrahil, and Legolas looked at him and bowed low; for he saw that here indeed was one who had elven-blood in his veins. ‘Hail, lord!’ he said. ‘It is long since the people of Nimrodel left the woodlands of Lorien, and yet still one may see that not all sailed from Amroth’s haven west over water.” (p. 148, The Return of the King).
Amroth was a Silvan Elf (of the early Third Age), and thus not among the Eldar; Amroth founded the port of Dol Amroth in Belfalas, in the south of Gondor. Imrahil was, at the time of The Lord of the Rings, the Prince of Dol Amroth, and of Numenorean descent. The elvish blood in his ancestry came from a marriage between a Silvan Elf and a human, not between an Elda and a human. The famous three marriages between Elves and Men are actually counted as being marriages between Elves of the Eldar and Men. Thus any number of uncounted marriages could have happened between Silvan Elves and Men.
Mithrigil has written in and further clarified my point: “In reference to the “Imrahil” question, the marriages in question were between the Eldar and Edain. As far as I know, the Eldar never gave such a thought to any lesser men.”
Q: What is the Gray Havens and what is its importance?
A: The Grey Havens was the coastal town and harbor founded by Cirdan at the beginning of the Second Age of Middle-earth. Cirdan held one of the Three Elven rings, Narya the Ring of Fire, which he gave to Gandalf upon his arrival in Middle-earth around the year 1000 of the Third Age. It was a stronghold for the Elves throughout the Second and Third Ages, and even into the Fourth Age. It was symbolically as well as physically the connecting point between the Valar in Valinor and the peoples of Middle-earth. By sailing from the Grey Havens, the Elves could find the straight road to Valinor after Valinor had been removed from the circles of the world, and the seas had been bent.
Q: I have a question for which I personally have 2 theories, but was wondering what “the experts” have to say. In re-reading the Prologue to Fellowship, I noticed that Tolkien refers to the party in the Hobbit getting wailaid by orcs, and Bilbo getting lost in orc caves, and Gollum eating orcs and so on. In The Hobbit, Tolkien calls them goblins. What’s the reason for this? My theories are these: 1) Blatant inconsistency (as much as I hate to even say it); 2) Tolkien uses the words interchangeably — goblins for a younger, less fantasy educated audience and orcs for a more mature fantasy audience. People who do not read fantasy would most likely not recognize orcs, whereas goblins and trolls would most likely be understood as “evil monsters.” Perhaps it’s neither. Please give me your insight with perhaps a more literate answer. I’d appreciate your time.
- Matt Creelman
A: Your answer number two pretty much captures my thoughts. In a letter dated 18 September 1954, Tolkien wrote to Hugh Brogan: “Your preference of goblins to orcs involves a large question, and a matter of taste, and perhaps historical pedantry on my part. Personally I prefer Orcs (since these creatures are not ‘goblins’, not even the goblins of George MacDonald, which they do to some extent resemble).” (Letters, no. 151). In an earlier letter to Naomi Mitchison, dated 25 April 1954, Tolkien had mentioned that his orcs “owe, I suppose, a good deal to the goblin tradition (goblin is used as a translation in The Hobbit, where orc only occurs once, I think), especially as it appears in George MacDonald, except for the soft feet which I never believed in.” (Letters, no. 144). Tolkien’s references to George MacDonald refer to MacDonald’s children’s books, The Princess and the Goblin (1872), and its sequel, The Princess and Curdie (1883).
Lee Waldman wrote in with a very pertinent comment: “It is important to note that Thorin Oakensheild’s sword was called Orcrist or goblin-cleaver by the elves of Gondolin who forged it. This suggests that Tolkien meant for the words to be interchangeable.”
Q: Perhaps Turgon would be best suited to answer this, as I suspect this would fall into his realm of expertise. Regarding the Hidden City of Gondolin (for whose story I confess a certain interest in)… there are several mentions of the Seven Names for the city within the body of Tolkien’s writings. However, in my readings I have not found out what these seven names actually were. They are not spoken of in either The Silmarillion or Unfinished Tales, although I recently found two in the section on the Fall of Gondolin which I believe was in the Book of Lost Tales 2. One of these was “Gondobar”, though the other one escapes me at the moment. There is the Sindarin Gondolin, which of course means “hidden rock”, and the Quenya Ondolinde, meaning “rock of the music of water”. I do not believe that these names actually count among the seven, though. Perhaps someone with greater familiarity with the History of Middle Earth series, and/or other “sources” can find out what Tolkien originally had in mind for these names (doubtless in the early days of the conception of the Quenta Silmarillion, since it never made the final drafts). Or maybe it’s just one of those things that only Christopher knows for sure.
- Dan Fernandez
A: Asking me about my own domain, eh? Well, here’s the answer…
In “The Fall of Gondolin” in The Book of Lost Tales, Part Two, Tuor asks your very question (“What be those names?” ) to the chief of the Guard of the Gondothlim. The answer is given as follows: “‘Tis said and ’tis sung: ‘Gondobar am I called, and Gondothlimbar, City of Stone and City of the Dwellers in Stone; Gondolin the Stone of Song and Gwarestrin am I named, the Tower of Guard, Gar Thurion or the Secret Place, for I am hidden from the eyes of Melko; but they who love me most greatly call me Loth, for like a flower I am, even Lothengriol the flower that blooms on the plain.’” (p. 158) In The Lays of Beleriand, Christopher Tolkien gives some information about the poem “The Lay of the Fall of Gondolin”, in which one of the seven names of Gondolin differs slightly: “Loth-a-ladwen, the Lily of the Plain” is given by the Guard instead of Lothengriol. (see p. 149).
- TurgonPosted in Characters, Christopher Tolkien, Hobbit Book, Hobbit Movie, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings, LotR Books, LotR Movies, The Hobbit, Tolkien
A version of this article was originally published in FAMOUS MONSTERS of FILMLAND: the enduring Sci-Fi/Horror/Fantasy magazine adored by fans since 1958, created by the wonderful Forrest J. Ackerman (who was coincidentally the first agent to approach Professor Tolkien about filming an adaptation of LOTR while he was alive).
The House That Bilbo Built: Tolkien’s Literary Legacy
by Clifford “Quickbeam” Broadway
Fans of J.R.R. Tolkien have a distinctly creative way of expressing what they like; and perhaps that is the very quality that makes them the greatest fandom to propagate a literary phenomenon. It has been said there’s Life within the words of a great book. The ultimate expression of that can be seen in the inspired individual who builds his Life from the words. Those are the types of fans who carry their love so strongly forward, into bookstores and cineplexes alike, that everyone gets swept up. Their friends and children inevitably receive the books from them when the time comes; each parent, with a knowing smile, handing the key to Middle-earth to their young ones. I sometimes wonder what Professor Tolkien would think of ‘The House That Bilbo Built:’ a wave of cultural influence and entertainment begotten by the high romantic world he invented, along with so many original languages and alphabets, such a long time ago.
Talk about longevity! THE HOBBIT just celebrated its 75th anniversary. First published in 1937, well before the first volume of THE LORD OF THE RINGS came out (1954), the whimsical adventure of the diminutive Bilbo Baggins stands as a giant among 20th century fiction. Certainly few other books sustain the same revolving fandom over decades. I don’t believe in the least that TWILIGHT or THE HUNGER GAMES will have this measure of adoration in 75 years (but POTTER damn well might). Don’t underestimate how beloved and emulated Tolkien’s books are to a surprisingly different quilt of nations, regions, and times. The world’s appetite for Tolkien’s uniquely rich fantasy storytelling caused the actual “Fantasy” section to appear in bookstores; a niche market broadened tremendously, a statement was made to the publishing industry, and there was certainly no going back. Elves, Hobbits, Wizards, Goblins and Dragons were here to stay.
So much of my own creative life has sprung from my love of Tolkien and willingly have I swam the subculture that embraces his work. Ringer fans are counted among the best of friends and talents I’ve had the pleasure to meet. They never cease to surprise me in their endless originality. Interviewing them for our documentary, RINGERS: LORD OF THE FANS got me really up-close; and I take joy in exploring this never-ceasing question: why are these readers so deeply connected to Bilbo’s and Frodo’s story? Why does this phenomenon keep expressing itself in the desire for cosplay, spontaneous music, academic symposiums, boisterous conventions, movie adaptations, and profuse indulgence in second breakfasts? I keep asking through all my interviews and meetings and moots; yet the answer is mercurial.
And what humble, delicate beginnings for a behemoth like THE LORD OF THE RINGS! Let’s take a look at Tolkien’s remarkable publishing history, and thence pop cultural history, because it almost didn’t happen, for many reasons.
Tolkien started off developing the languages, and the foundational cosmological basis for his “secondary world,” while he was still a youngling in college, earning a degree in English Language & Literature. Then World War I arrived with death and disruption. Tolkien survived unwounded but his friends did not – he was medically discharged himself with trench fever. While on sick-leave in 1917 his wife Edith assisted him with hand-copying one of his earliest tales: “The Fall of Gondolin,” a fictional wandering that would ultimately become part of THE SILMARILLION (in fact, much of the content of THE SIL was created in Tolkien’s earlier years).
He was to become an Oxford philologist, dedicating his scholarly life to the study of languages. What better way to explore them than inventing your own! There’s a term for it: glossopoeia. As explained by TORn staff contributor Ostadan: “The word glossopoeia is a coinage derived from Greek, meaning ‘the making of tongues.’ As Tolkien explains, the creation of languages offers both intellectual and aesthetic satisfaction, but at the time he wrote, there were few such creations known to the public.”
By 1917 he was on his way to inventing Quenya and Sindarin – Elvish languages yet to be uttered by Orlando Bloom. Tolkien toyed with bits of poetry and his own slant on languages that he fancied (Finnish, Old Norse, Welsh), an effort which, oh-so-gradually over forty years, became an entire universe. He was also intent on creating a new mythology for England, which he felt lacked its own panorama of deities and “epicness” as Norway did. So THE HOBBIT was begun somewhere around 1930-31 (Tolkien recalls scribbling on a blank sheet of paper while marking examination papers, ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit’).
In 1936 Sir Stanley Unwin of Allen & Unwin Publishers got his 10-year-old son Rayner on board as the first ‘early reviewer,’ believing a child was the best judge of children’s fiction. Rayner loved it and wrote a glowing report, describing it as ‘very exciting.’ So THE HOBBIT launched in September 1937, to considerable acclaim and boffo sales.
Sir Stanley quickly asked for a sequel; and the Professor sent them THE SILMARILLION, a woefully different ball of wax, with oddments of archaic manuscripts, a dense mine of data about Middle-earth’s pre-history, genealogies and somewhat biblical-style tracts that didn’t suit anyone’s taste at the publisher’s office. They wanted something with furry feet and gentle appeal.
Saying politely, “No thanks, but give us more material akin to THE HOBBIT,” they received in 1937 the first chapter Tolkien could manage – “A long expected party,” which reveled in much more hobbity sensibilities. The publishers loved what they read. But in so small an act can the hand of destiny be changed. The writing of the damn thing spiraled entirely out of control.
Tolkien felt endless pressure but wrote to Sir Stanley: “The work has escaped from my control and I have produced a monster.” This new epic was to take nearly 13 years, some say 17, during which time he held a chair at Oxford; and then, quick as you can say schnell, World War II arrived. THE LORD OF THE RINGS was finally finished in 1949. Tolkien was nigh 60 years old.
Over those years Tolkien had become quite miffed at Allen & Unwin for saying “no” to THE SILMARILLION. In 1949 he got entangled in a lengthy flirtation with Collins Publishers, hoping a new relationship would yield a home for his greatest effort.
He eventually went back to Allen & Unwin under terms of a new agreement: they would indeed publish THE LORD OF THE RINGS, even though there was a critical paper shortage during wartime. Sir Stanley did not take on THE SILMARILLION, either, another stroke against it (after Tolkien died it finally saw print in 1977, thanks to his son Christopher’s tireless efforts).
The decision to split LOTR into three volumes left the Professor rather unhappy. But he settled on the main title as THE LORD OF THE RINGS, with sub-titles for three distinct volumes (containing two “Books” each)– THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, THE TWO TOWERS and THE RETURN OF THE KING. He would much rather it had been THE WAR OF THE RING, which he sensed would reveal much less of the actual plot, but that didn’t stick.
It was the High Summer of 1954 – Bill Haley and His Comets would rock around the clock, just as Frodo Baggins made the scene in Volume 1 of LOTR; then Volumes 2 and 3 would arrive later in 1955.
The first wave of fandom simply ate up copies regardless of its mixed reviews. Tolkien’s good friend (and fellow Inkling) C.S. Lewis came to the books’ spirited defense, declaring famously: “Here are beauties which pierce like swords or burn like cold iron. Here is a book which will break your heart.” W.H. Auden also lauded: “No fiction I have read in the last five years has given me more joy.”
Steady sales and continued profits were nice, but when the American counterculture embraced THE LORD OF THE RINGS some ten years later it really skyrocketed. Over a few months time in 1966, THE LORD OF THE RINGS became a campus craze and books were seen everywhere through dormitory halls – even the University of Southern California Irvine Campus had a housing section renamed a lá Middle-earth. Causing admiration and titters alike (depending on your level of fandom) 1700 students to this day lounge in halls with such names as “Rivendell” or “Quenya.” The first and strongest wave of Western pop culture, the hippie movement, was staking its claim on how Tolkien was perceived and enjoyed by a broadly literate youth generation. Then there was the scandal of the “bootleg paperback version” of LOTR that were completely unauthorized (the guilty party being ACE Paperbacks) but that was resolved with the support of students/fans protesting booksellers who carried ACE and thus a new Ballentine edition was soon printed with Tolkien’s note on the back cover — much of this fuss we cover in greater detail in our documentary.
Then the Rock & Rollers picked up the books. An entire section of the RINGERS film covers that dynamic period where Tolkien unwittingly affected musicians of the time. Marc Bolan (of T-Rex) and David Bowie hit the underground “Middle-earth Club” on the seedy side of London. Connect the musical dots to Led Zeppelin; whose albums are rife with LOTR references and characters due to Robert Plant’s fertile affection for Tolkien’s books. I had a revealing chat with director Cameron Crowe who confessed: “Oh you’ve got to talk with my wife Nancy (Wilson of Heart), because she just loves it!” Then there was Geddy Lee (Rush), and nowadays we have Justin Timberlake – hardcore Ringers one and all.
Tolkien was uncomfortable with the explosion of attention. He was a tweedy Oxford don, after all, and wanted nothing to do with the drug-addled young people tramping across his rose garden and peeping into his windows while he worked. He once called them “my deplorable cultus.” After his death in 1973, and the posthumous publication of THE SILMARILLION, the wave of pop surrounding Bilbo and Frodo became a unique beast of another color.
The holiday animation company Rankin/Bass (yes, the folks who did stop-motion Rudolph and Frosty) brought us THE HOBBIT in less than 90 minutes of Japanese-produced 2D glory in 1977. Then Ralph Bakshi rotoscoped his drop-acid take on the first half of LOTR, but he never got to make his finale. Yet the fantasy explosion of the Eighties was off to a roaring start. Tolkien fueled all this, without dispute, and up sprang authors like David Eddings, Terry Brooks, Stephen R. Donaldson, and Marion Zimmer Bradley. Someone with a polyhedral die and several pages of Middle-earthy maps invented a pen & paper game that you might vaguely recall. And you can bet your Muggle face that J.K. Rowling was devouring the Professor’s books at the time, storing it all away for future inspiration.
Enter onto the 1990′s digital stage TheOneRing.net – an online fan community affectionately known as TORn – the largest, longest-running, all-volunteer web portal unique to a single fandom. As contributors to TORn, we spend our energy reporting news, presenting special panels coast-to-coast at massive Comic-Cons and Dragon*Cons, moderating forums, chat rooms, and Facebook timelines with an endless flow of fans who collide as much as confer. We produced three gobsmacking Oscar Parties just for Ringers, one event yearly for each of Peter Jackson’s sprawling films, which were attended by the trophy-bearing cast and crew. On the year of THE RETURN OF THE KING’s 11-Oscar sweep, the Kiwi filmmakers were especially eager to greet the grassroots fan audience that so avidly showed them three years of love (and repeat ticket sales). We also produced a hellzapoppin’ Oscar event for the HOBBIT: AUJ in 2013, providing a unique atmosphere for aficionados to celebrate a shared affection for Tolkien with creators from behind the camera.
Now the newest excursion into Tolkien’s legendarium is upon us with the late 2012 release of THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY. Not to mention the attendant merchandising and collectibles now flooding the market. Jackson and his team of film artisans surmounted terrific odds to return all the familiar players to New Zealand. The anticipation has left most fans breathless; while many purists may bemoan the stretching of an episodic 280-page children’s story into 3 extra long films. The level of involvement among fans hasn’t lessened, instead reaching a new zenith by way of shared electronic media.
On our weekly live webcast aptly named “TORn Tuesday,” actors and artists ranging from Sean Astin to Peter S. Beagle join me for a merry discussion of how THE LORD OF THE RINGS has impacted their lives. They definitively illuminate how Tolkien remains so relevant. These artists have lived and breathed the magic of Middle-earth in myriad ways. Nearly 60 years later Tolkien’s masterworks have reached countless millions; and there’s a vibrant community online that supports many great events and causes, all sharing the same literary joy. I’ve never witnessed another phenomenon like it. A shared passion for the Professor’s 1200 page opus is the very liferoot of it all.
As I said, Ringer fans really do know what they like.
Much too hasty,
Clifford Broadway, longtime contributor and webhost for TheOneRing.net, is co-author of the bestseller “The People’s Guide to J.R.R. Tolkien” (2003) and co-writer/producer of the award-winning RINGERS: LORD OF THE FANS (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2005).
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Cliff Scott Broadway @Quickbeam2000
This thing went nuts with 200,000 views in 7 hours! With a busy Facebook timeline like ours at TheOneRing.net, it is always cool to see what stands out as a favorite popular post. Today’s image of Aragorn having a fun soliloquy about the day we STOP loving The Lord of the Rings became our most widely-seen and mega shared post of the year!
So why are fans so quickly drawn to a declarative statement like: “Other Fandoms may ebb and flow, but Tolkien fans are committed to these stories for life?” Quickbeam has pondered that very thing: and here is his article from this week, above
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A couple of weekends ago, we discussed the character of Isildur in Hall of Fire. Was he, we asked, the true shaper of the Third Age? For those who couldn’t attend, here’s a log. And a reminder: tomorrow (Saturday June 8 at 6pm EDT) we’ll be returning to the Hobbit movies for the first time in a while and examining the new details about Tauriel, and what they might mean for the films. (more…)Posted in Barlimans, Christopher Tolkien, Green Books, Hall of Fire, J.R.R. Tolkien, Other Tolkien books, Tolkien
It’s a question many of us have asked, but none of us can answer: What would J.R.R. Tolkien have thought of Peter Jackson’s version of The Lord of the Rings?
Because I’ve read a lot and thought a lot about Tolkien and his invented world, and I’ve engaged in a lot of debates about the quality and accuracy of the movies, I feel entitled to say things like, “Well, there are parts he would have loved and parts he would have hated.” But that’s not Tolkien talking. That’s me. The author died long before The Fellowship of the Ring was released in 2001, so I’ll never know how he might have reacted to the Jackson films, and neither will anyone else.
The nearest we can come to Tolkien’s assessment might be that of his son, Christopher Tolkien, who did not give the Jackson movies a positive review. “They eviscerated the book by making it an action movie for young people aged 15 to 25,” Christopher told the French newspaper Le Monde in July 2012.
There’s a good chance Christopher’s father would have agreed with his son’s (rather unfair, in my opinion) assessment. It’s well known that, of Tolkien’s four children, Christopher was the one most drawn to his father’s creation. “As strange as it may seem, I grew up in the world he created,” Christopher (who is 88) told Le Monde. “For me, the cities of The Silmarillion are more real than Babylon.”
As a boy, Christopher, “huddled for warmth by the study stove, would listen motionless while his father told him” tales from his imaginary world, Humphrey Carpenter wrote in his biography of Tolkien. In his teens and twenties, Christopher was “deeply involved with the writing of ‘The Lord of the Rings’. He had read the first chapters in manuscript, and had drawn maps and made fair copies of the text for his father,” Carpenter wrote in The Inklings. When Christopher eventually joined the Inklings (the informal literary group that included Tolkien and C.S. Lewis), “it grew to be the custom that he, rather than his father, should read aloud any new chapters of The Lord of the Rings to the company, for it was generally agreed that he made a better job of it than did Tolkien himself,” Carpenter wrote.
So Christopher, clearly, knows The Lord of the Rings and his father’s thoughts about it more intimately than anyone else alive. With that in mind, it may be safe to assume Tolkien’s view would have aligned with Christopher’s, and he would therefore have hated the Jackson movies.
Then again, father and son don’t seem to have shared the same opinion about whether or not the book should be turned into a movie – any movie – at all. Christopher seems to think that The Lord of the Rings is so layered and complex that no film version could do it justice. “My own position is that The Lord Of The Rings is peculiarly unsuitable to transformation into visual dramatic form,” Christopher stated in December 2001, just before the first Jackson movie hit theaters.
Tolkien himself, however, was quite willing to see his book turned into film – under the right circumstances. In fact, he sold the movie rights for The Lord of the Rings (along with The Hobbit) to United Artists in 1969, according to Le Monde.
Tolkien was first approached about a Lord of the Rings movie in 1957, when three American businessmen proposed an animated version, according to Carpenter’s biography. “I should welcome the idea of an animated motion picture, with all the risk of vulgarization; and that quite apart from the glint of money, though on the brink of retirement that is not an unpleasant possibility,” Tolkien wrote one of his publishers that year. (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter No. 198)
In regards to selling the film rights, Tolkien and his publishers came up with a “cash or kudos” policy, according to Carpenter. Tolkien put it this way: “Either very profitable terms indeed; or absolute author’s veto on objectionable features or alterations.” (Letter No. 202)
The 1957 proposal included some “really astonishingly good pictures (Rackham rather than Disney) and some remarkable colour photographs. They have apparently toured America shooting mountain and desert scenes that seem to fit the story,” Tolkien wrote (202). But the synopsis of the proposed film they gave him was “on a lower level. In fact bad,” Tolkien wrote (202). Carpenter summarized the problems: “A number of names were consistently mis-spelt (Boromir was rendered ‘Borimor’), virtually all walking was dispensed with in the story and the Company of the Ring were transported everywhere on the backs of eagles, and the elvish waybread lembas was described as a ‘food concentrate’.”
Tolkien’s overall problem with the script was that it was “a compression with resultant over-crowding and confusion, blurring of climaxes, and general degradation: a pull-back towards more conventional ‘fairy-stories’. People gallop about on Eagles at the least provocation; Lorien becomes a fairy-castle with ‘delicate minarets’, and all that sort of thing.” (Letter No. 201) But as bad as it was, he was still willing to “play ball, if they are open to advice.” (201)
In these letters, published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, we get a rare glimpse of Tolkien the (surprisingly shrewd) businessman. The book also gives extracts from Tolkien’s comments on the 1957 film synopsis (Letter No. 210). The synopsis itself isn’t included, but Tolkien’s “review” sheds some light on its contents – and is probably the closest we’ll come to his vision of how The Lord of the Rings should be filmed.
The author’s comments also give an indirect glimpse of what he might have thought of Peter Jackson’s films. Tolkien’s “review” of the 1957 synopsis dwelled on one scene, from The Fellowship of the Ring, in particular: the Weathertop confrontation of Aragorn and the four hobbits with the Black Riders. “I have spent some time on this passage,” he wrote, “as an example of what I find too frequent to give me ‘pleasure or satisfaction’: deliberate alteration of the story, in fact and significance, without any practical or artistic object.”
He gave examples of what displeased him:
“Strider does not ‘Whip out a sword’ in the book. Naturally not: his sword was broken … Why then make him do so here, in a contest that was explicitly not fought with weapons?”
“The Black Riders do not scream, but keep a more terrifying silence. Aragorn does not blanch. The riders draw slowly in on foot in darkness, and do not ‘spur’. There is no fight. Sam does not ‘sink his blade into the Ringwraith’s thigh’, nor does his thrust save Frodo’s life.”
“A scene of gloom lit by a small red fire, with the Wraiths slowly approaching as darker shadows – until the moment when Frodo puts on the Ring, and the King steps forward revealed – would seem to me far more impressive than yet one more scene of screams and rather meaningless slashings …”
I could spend a lot of time laying out the similarities and differences of the 1957 and 2001 versions of the Weathertop scene, but you’re probably replaying the Jackson version in your head right now, and you don’t need my help. I will say this: Aragorn is too much the beefcake in Jackson’s version of this scene, swinging his big sword and throwing his flaming torches at the Black Riders, who run away like screaming babies. But I’ll side with Jackson on one point: It was kind of strange for Aragorn to be carrying a broken sword, which he did at that point in the book. Besides being a priceless heirloom, the Sword that was Broken was rather useless in a fight (which Aragorn acknowledged). Why not leave it in Rivendell until it’s ready to be re-forged, and carry a workable sword in the meantime?
Tolkien also addressed the overuse of the Eagles in the 1957 version: “I feel this to be a wholly unacceptable tampering with the tale,” he wrote. “‘Nine Walkers’ and they immediately go up in the air! The intrusion achieves nothing but incredibility, and the staling of the device of the Eagles when at last they are really needed.” At least Jackson didn’t commit that unpardonable sin.
The 1957 synopsis leaves out a scene that Tolkien considered extremely important, a scene that Jackson left in: “The disappearance of the temptation of Galadriel is significant. Practically everything having moral import has vanished from the synopsis.”
Tolkien was, however, OK with cutting out some parts of the book, if necessary. He even suggested cutting out the battle of the Hornburg (Helm’s Deep), “which is incidental to the main story; and there would be this additional gain that we are going to have a big battle (of which as much should be made as possible), but battles tend to be too similar; the big one would gain by having no competitor.” (By the “big one”, the author must have been referring to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields in The Return of the King.)
Jackson didn’t cut the battle of Helm’s Deep. Oh no. It’s the big set piece of his second movie. Whether or not that diminished the big battle in his third movie is debatable.
Then there’s the handling of Saruman’s end. The 1957 synopsis cut out the “end of the book, including Saruman’s proper death. In that case I can see no good reason for making him die,” Tolkien wrote. “Saruman would never have committed suicide: to cling to life to its basest dregs is the way of the sort of person he had become.” If Saruman needed to be tidied up, Tolkien wrote, “Gandalf should say something to this effect: as Saruman collapses under the excommunication: ‘Since you will not come out and aid us, here in Orthanc you shall stay till you rot, Saruman. Let the Ents look to it!’”
Seems like Jackson’s shorter version of “The Return of the King”, the version that ran in theaters (as opposed to the extended edition), handled “Sharkey’s End” in a manner Tolkien would have preferred.
Despite his distaste for the 1957 synopsis, Tolkien was still willing to “play ball”, as he wrote. So why was that version never made into a movie?
In his biography, Carpenter gave an explanation: “There did not seem to be much prospect of kudos in this, and as there was not much cash either, negotiations were not continued.”
Like I said at the beginning, we’ll never know what Tolkien would have thought of the Jackson movies; but based on what we’ve just read, it’s safe to say he would have preferred them over the 1957 proposal. And not to sound too vulgar, but there probably would have been more cash involved as well…
Maedhros is a guest writer and his views do not necessarily reflect those of TheOneRing.net. Maedhros lives in Grand Rapids, MI. He’s been hooked on Tolkien since he was 11, when he opened the first page of “The Two Towers” and read about Aragorn tracking a hobbit; and Boromir’s death scene, of course.
Posted in Christopher Tolkien, Hobbit Book, Hobbit Movie, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings, LotR Books, LotR Movies, Other Tolkien books, Silmarillion, The Hobbit, Tolkien, Uncategorized
October 1999 had some interesting questions from the Tolkien universe…
Q: Hello. I have one, but I’m sure that you’ll get it easy enough. It has become evident to me that me George Lucas used two names for two of the places in Star Wars movies (the first three released). Also, I have a question that I’m hoping you might be able to answer. I have read The Lord of the Rings (sadly) only once. I am 15 and currently working on The Silmarillion, while my friends read my copies of LOTR. I’m having problems with names and locations in The Silmarillion. Is Beleriand the same as Middle-earth? I know that that is a simple question for you, but I frankly have no clue. Any and all help is greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance,
–Niles “Dargon” Armstrong
A: Yes, Beleriand was originally created as part of Middle-earth. Technically speaking, the lands of the Valar, or Valinor (a.k.a. “The Undying Lands”), are all found across the sea to the west. Any landmasses on the east of Belegaer, The Great Sea, are considered part of Middle-earth.
In the First Age, the earliest settlements of Elves, Dwarves, Ents, and Men were in Beleriand, which stretched from the coast as far east as the Blue Mountains (Ered Luin). If you look at the map in The Silmarillion you’ll see this mountain range on the furthest east. Now look at any edition of The Lord of the Rings and you’ll see the Ered Luin on the far western edge of the land, bordering the coast.
This is due to the events that brought about the end of the First Age and irrevocably changed the face of the land. During the War of Wrath a great host of Valinor approached the stronghold of Morgoth to destroy him in a final confrontation. When the great towers of Thangorodrim were smashed, the entire continent was thrown into a cataclysm. The breaking of Thangorodrim laid bare the pits of Angband, and the Great Sea engulfed everything. Nearly one million square miles of land were submerged. A new coastline appeared at the Blue Mountains, becoming the more familiar area just west of the Shire where the Grey Havens would be founded centuries later.
So there you are. Beleriand was once truly part of Middle-earth, but the epic and certainly tragic events imagined by Tolkien changed all of it. Belegaer would later be called “The Sundering Sea.”
A while back one reader asked about finding a good map of Númenor. We strongly recommend “The Atlas of Middle-Earth” (1991, Houghton Mifflin) by Karen Wynn Fonstad. For those readers trying to wrap their brain around the many places mentioned in The Silmarillion, take heart! Tremendous light is shed on the material recounted there, and many nebulous things are made clear.
As for your query about George Lucas… who’s he? Never heard of him. The only filmmaker I know of is Peter Jackson.
Q: I’m Portuguese, so I’ve read the Portuguese version of O Hobbit (The Hobbit). In my version, in Chapter 3, on the third page, just before the song, it is written:
‘Cheira a Elfos,’ pensou Bilbo. —
‘It’s elf smell,’ thought Bilbo, (or something like that).
If Gandalf, or the Dwarves, never mentioned the elves, and when Gandalf, after the troll event, talked about Rivendell and Elrond never saying that there were elves: how did Bilbo know that there were elves? Could he really smell or detect their presence? It’s just an error?
A: Well, if there’s one thing you really can’t miss a mile off it’s the smell of Elves in the morning. One good whiff will clear up any sinus problem, I guarantee it. But seriously, Ângelo, the translation of your version of The Hobbit is not mistaken. In the original Allen & Unwin edition, the English text says:
‘Hmmm! it smells like elves!’ thought Bilbo, and he looked up at the stars.
And no, there is no earlier mention that Rivendell was a community of elves, or that Bilbo had ever met them. You could easily assume that, like Samwise, our dear Bilbo had never laid eyes on an elf his whole life. But if you look at the next page after the elves complete their song, it says:
He loved elves, though he seldom met them; but he was a little frightened of them too.
Elves know a lot and are wondrous folk for news, and know what is going on among the peoples of the land, as quick as water flows, or quicker.
So he had seen them in the Shire, probably in the vicinity of Bywater, I would guess, especially if the elven-folk were traveling through on their way to the Havens. We can glean from the above that Bilbo must have had an actual conversation with an Elf, at least once, to learn news of other happenings beyond the Shire’s borders:
As to what they actually smell like? Well, I don’t know. But there are several places in Professor Tolkien’s work where elves and all things elvish are strongly connected to flora and fauna. There are passages that lovingly describe the valley of Rivendell, its fragrant woods and “green pleasant places.” And when the Fellowship arrives in Lórien, great attention is paid to the vibrant plant-life and especially the mallorn trees. Remember Cerin Amroth?
‘Here ever bloom the winter flowers in the unfading grass: the yellow elanor, and the pale niphredil.’
With this literary device, the reader makes a connection with elves and the symbolism of green, living, growing things. Maybe it’s not actually the elves that Bilbo smells, but his memory of fragrant valleys and pine trees is recurrently matched with the fair elven race… and our memory is too.
Q: If Sauron can defeat all his enemies if he has the power of the Ring, why on earth did he make such a blatant tactical error and put a lot of that power into something which can be taken from him?
A: The most obvious answer is that without the existence of the Ring, Sauron would not have a reliable method of controlling the other rings (especially the Elven rings) and, through them, their wearers and their actions. Sauron’s power in the Ring is different from what it would be outside the Ring. Outside the Ring (with his full power restored to himself), Sauron is a mighty spirit with far sight and great power, but he still has to defeat his enemies the old-fashioned ways: trickery and war. He tricked the Men of Númenor into listening to him until they were under his sway; then later, he tricked the Elves of Hollin into listening to him until they showed him all they knew about ring-making. You can’t control other people unless you have soldiers with weapons around to kill or make an example of any that don’t obey, so despite the power of a Maiar, Sauron would have had no actual control over others without war. It’s a chain: Sauron controls a few by threats or promises of reward, who then turn around and do Sauron’s dirty work in controlling others for him. Same thing with Saruman: he had the power of a Maiar, but had to have a bunch of other creatures around to do his dirty work. But Sauron coveted not only control over other peoples but over their works and powers and lands, as well. Tolkien never spells out what all the Three Rings were capable of, but he gives the impression that many of the special qualities of Rivendell and Lothlórien were created and maintained by the power of the Elven rings. Sauron never touched those, but he learned all about their forging and actually helped in the forging of the Seven and the Nine, so that he learned all about the power that was imbued in all the rings, giving him the knowledge needed to make a Ring that would control all the others, control their wearers and their creations. However, the power in this Ring, the power to control the others, had to come from somewhere. So Sauron put a great deal of his own will and power into the forging, transforming his power into a specific channel: that of controlling the other Rings. He assumed he could always keep this Ring with him, thereby having access to all of his power AND controlling the other rings. I guess he didn’t reckon on the Last Alliance. =)
Q: What are the Barrow Wights? We are never really given a clear description of them (at least as far as I could figure out). It almost seems like the sort of thing that we should have prior knowledge of, but this is the only place I’ve ever seen them.
This was the major mystery that I was left with after finishing the series.
A: First let us examine the etymology of the actual word, Barrow Wight. My fellow Green Books staffperson Turgon (who is held high among the Wise) shared the following with me:
A barrow is an earthmound marking a grave (from Middle English “berw,” Anglo-Saxon “beorg”). But “wight” is also an archaic word, meaning 1) a human being, or 2) a preternatural or supernatural being. It derives from Middle English “wight” and Anglo-Saxon “wiht,” meaning “creature, animal, person, thing.” So of course the terms have a perfect resonance for Tolkien’s use of them…
Put the two together and you have “supernatural creature of the grave.” This is a shining example of Professor Tolkien’s erudition with these ancient languages.
The Barrow-downs were, as you know, dome-shaped hills crowned with monoliths and ringed with white stones. But we need to look closely at the history of the surrounding lands, as it yields more lucid information about the nefarious Barrow Wights. I will try to keep this “history lesson” as succinct as possible, for there is much to tell. What follows is most germane to your question:
Early in the Third Age, the race of Men (the Dúnedain) held power in two main Kingdoms, Arnor and Gondor. In the north, Arnor was split into three principalities: 1) Arthedain, 2) Rhudaur, and 3) Cardolan. This triad of the Dúnedain had a capital city at Annúminas (and later Fornost). There was constant strife between them and the Witch-King of Angmar, who reigned from his cold seat in Carn Dûm.
The power of the Witch-King was undoubtedly great–he was chief of the Nazgûl, after all. He took into his service Hillmen of the North, and a variety of Orcs and other foul creatures. Not the least of which were the demonic spirits that would eventually become the Barrow Wights, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Many battles were fought over the centuries between the Dúnedain and the Witch-King, and Elrond himself makes mention of them during the high Council in The Fellowship of the Ring:
“In the North … the Men of Westernesse were diminished, and their city of Annúminas beside Lake Evendim fell into ruin; and the heirs of Valandil removed and dwelt at Fornost on the high North Downs, and that now too is desolate. … For the folk of Arnor dwindled, and their foes devoured them, and their lordship passed, leaving only green mounds in the grassy hills.”
Those ‘green mounds’ he speaks of are the burial mounds the four hobbits passed through only a few chapters earlier. The men of Cardolan used the fields of Tyrn Gorthad (the Barrow-downs) as a refuge and also as a burial field for their fallen kings and warriors. The white monoliths marked the gravesites of many of the fallen.
When the Witch-King was ultimately defeated, he fled into the shadows of dusk and vanished from the north. Many tortured servants and spirits also fled from Angmar after his power was broken, no longer having their lord to rule them (or enslave them, if you prefer).
There were also demons, now disembodied and wandering aimlessly, looking for other bodies in which their evil spirits could dwell. And so that’s how I speculate the Wights came into being, as they traveled southward from Angmar to the Barrow-downs and inhabited the bones and jeweled armour of the ancient dead.
The Wights could crush the will of an unwary traveler. Apparently they wielded spells that hypnotized the victim, rendering him mindless, and luring him into the treasure tombs below ground. As you’ll recall from “Fog on the Barrow-downs,” the Barrow Wight laid the hobbits on a stone altar and bound them with gold chains. He draped them in the pale cloth and precious jewelry of the long-dead kings, then readied to take their lives with a sacrificial sword.
It certainly was a good thing Frodo did not succumb to the spell as readily as Sam, Merry, and Pippin. He found his courage and his bearing, asserting himself without the aid of the Ring.
As Tom Bombadil knew all too well, daylight would be the undoing of the Barrow Wight. Once a stone chamber was broken open, light would pour in and the Wight would fade, perishing before the sun. Gandalf would later say of these events:
“That was touch and go: perhaps the most dangerous moment of all.”
And indeed that much is true. With no Wizard or Ranger to help them, the hobbits were in their greatest peril at the hands of such an ancient evil. In the moment where Merry returns to consciousness, the golden circlet around his head falls over his face, and it somehow brings out the voice of the dead man who was originally buried with it:
“Of course, I remember!” he said. “The Men of Carn Dûm came on us at night, and we were worsted. Ah! the spear in my heart!”
Having a good understanding of Arnor and the history of the Dúnedain makes many of these small details more vibrant as you read. For the best information, you should turn to the Professor himself. Read Appendix A, “Annals of the Kings and Rulers,” especially Section I, “The Númenorean Kings,” Subsection (iii), “Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur.” As you pore over these pages you’ll gain a greater understanding of the scope of Tolkien’s world. I’m also certain that you’ll appreciate Aragorn much more, as his background and lineage is made clear.
Q: Could Gandalf have slain the Witch-king? The reason I ask is because when Gandalf is discussing the Witch-king with Denethor, Denethor asks Gandalf if he met a foe he could not match. To which Gandalf replied, Well if the old prophecy be true then he will not fall by the hand of Man. Now Gandalf was a Maiar and not a man. He may have been in the form of a man but he could use spells and he had a hidden power it says. Or maybe Gandalf just meant male. But if that were the case how did Merry help slay the Witch-king and Merry was a hobbit? I know he didn’t deal the deathblow, but his strike is said to have unknit the Witch-king’s flesh. So was this a blunder? Thanks for your time.
ALSO: related to the above question:
Here’s one that’s bothered me for a while: How is it, if only specially-wrought Elvish and Westernesse blades are any use against the Nazgul, t hat Eowyn was able to kill one (the Witch-King, no less) with her plain old Rohan sword? And with a blow to a “spiritual” area no less, the unseen head. Thanks for your time.
- Todd M. Aglialoro
A: I don’t think there was any blundering involved here. The quotations go like this: “Or can it be that you have withdrawn because you are overmatched?” “It might be,” Gandalf answered softly. “But our trial of strength is not yet come. And if words spoken of old be true, not by the hand of man shall he fall, and hidden from the Wise is the doom that awaits him.” (RotK.) First of all, this means that Gandalf himself did not know whether or not he could have slain the Witch-king in a one-on-one. “Hidden from the Wise” includes “hidden from Gandalf,” and Gandalf did not know. He did not know if he was overmatched, because it was not his time to face the Witch-king. That comes later, in the gate of Minas Tirith, and although they do not fight, Gandalf is able to drive him away because the wraith cannot claim victory yet; Rohan shows up to contest the field. As we see later, of course, “not by the hand of man” simply means “by the hand of woman and hobbit.” For myself, I believe that a one-on-one contest between Gandalf and the Witch-king would have been almost as iffy as the battle between Gandalf and the Balrog. Gandalf and the Balrog are both Maiar, and the Witch-king began as a normal human, but the ring he wore, one of the Nine, gave him power approaching the spiritual realm. So there is really no telling. I believe Gandalf was aware that the fate of the Witch-king did not rest with him, and that’s why he responded to Denethor as he did. But also he didn’t know with whom the fate actually *did* rest. As we see later, the Witch-king was so off his guard that there was no actual fight. He believed he was invincible to anything currently on the field, and probably did not realize there were those on the other side who were not men, but hobbits and women.
“‘Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may.’
‘Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!’
Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. ‘But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Eowyn I am, Eomund’s daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.’
… but the Ringwraith made no answer, and was silent, as if in sudden doubt.”
We all know what happened next. After Eowyn manages to dispatch the beast, Merry gets in one for the Shire at the wraith’s knee, and the very unexpectedness of the stroke breaks the wraith’s concentration to the point where his will no longer holds as steady, and Eowyn is able to drive her sword into what’s left of his power, shattering it. So, I believe that A) Gandalf did not know at whose door the death of the Witch-king would be laid, and he didn’t know if he would be the winner in a fight with him. B) Eowyn’s sword, so far as we know, was a “plain old Rohan sword,” but don’t forget that Merry’s blade was “forged many long years ago by the Men of Westernesse: they were foes of the Dark Lord” (FotR.) It is clear to me that Merry’s stroke shattered the spells that allowed the Black Rider his cohesiveness of form and his concentration of will, and allowed Eowyn’s sword to demolish the center of his power, the spiritual head.
Q: Exactly who is Morgoth? How did he influence the would-be Dark Lord, Sauron?
A: Morgoth is another name for Melkor, mightiest among the Ainur before his fall. In the creation of the world by Eru, the One, Melkor was chief among his servants, the Ainur, but his mind began to stray out of the will of Iluvatar. He wished to control the free peoples for his own ends, and wanted to create beings who would serve and be controlled by him, and not be free to serve Iluvatar or to pursue their own wills. His lust for domination became so great that eventually his former brothers and sisters, the Valar, Ainur that had taken up residence in the world to look over it, made war upon him, chained him in the Void, and named him Morgoth, so that he would no longer be a danger to the Children of Iluvatar. Sauron was a Maiar and the servant of Melkor. His evil influence contributed to Sauron’s downfall until he was no more than a shadow-copy of Morgoth, seeking to dominate others for his own ends.
Several people have written in to clarify an error on my part, when I stated that the Valar fought and chained Melkor in the Void, naming him Morgoth. I basically lumped all the actions against Melkor together under the banner of the Valar, but in actuality… well, read my astute readers’ comments below!
Hi. Sorry to bother you with such a silly trifle, but I wanted to clear something up for my own edification. You said in your response to “Cold Blue” that:
“the Valar…made war upon him [Melkor], chained him in the Void, and named him Morgoth.”
I thought that after Melkor killed Finwë and made off with the Silmarils, Fëanor in his rage named him Morgoth. I don’t have access to my copy of The Silmarillion as it’s on loan, so I can’t check this out. I just wondered what you thought.
If you’ve been bombarded with messages from snotty know-it-alls, please just consider me another and accept my apologies. I very much appreciate the breadth and depth of knowledge at the Green Books and always find the site enlightening.
Thanks for your efforts,
Sorry to nitpick, but it was Fëanor who named him Morgoth, and not the Valar.
Just an amendment. Melkor was named Morgoth (“Black Enemy of the World”) not by the Valar but by Fëanor after Melkor slew his father Finwë and stole the Silmarils.
–TormenderkPosted in Characters, Christopher Tolkien, Hobbit Book, Hobbit Movie, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings, LotR Books, LotR Movies, The Hobbit, Tolkien
As we all know, J R R Tolkien was, from an early age, fascinated by myth and heroic legend, reading all he could of the romances and epics of many nations. In a letter to Milton Waldman, which appears in the Preface to the second edition of The Silmarillion, he wrote that he was ‘grieved by the poverty of my own beloved country: it had no stories of its own … Of course there was and is all the Arthurian world, but powerful as it is, it is imperfectly naturalized, associated with the soil of Britain but not with the English; and does not replace what I felt to be missing…’
The Professor, then, had little time for the legends of King Arthur; but he did make one foray into those tales, and we are about to be able to read for ourselves the results of those labours! Tomorrow, publishers Houghton Mifflin Harcourt release Tolkien’s narrative poem The Fall of Arthur, edited as ever by his son Christopher. HMH’s press release tells us:
‘The Fall of Arthur, the only venture by J.R.R. Tolkien into the legends of Arthur, king of Britain, may well be regarded as his finest and most skillful achievement in the use of Old English alliterative meter, in which he brought to his transforming perceptions of the old narratives a pervasive sense of the grave and fateful nature of all that is told: of Arthur’s expedition overseas into distant heathen lands, of Guinevere’s flight from Camelot, of the great sea battle on Arthur’s return to Britain, in the portrait of the traitor Mordred, in the tormented doubts of Lancelot in his French castle.’
Alas, Tolkien never finished his poem; but amongst his manuscripts were sketches and drafts, which included ‘significant tantalizing notes. In these notes can be discerned clear if mysterious associations of the Arthurian conclusion with The Silmarillion, and the bitter ending of the love of Lancelot and Guinevere, which was never written.’
It’s a day of celebration for Tolkien fans whenever we have a chance to read more of the Professor’s work, and gain further insight into the explorations which lead to his great myth of Middle-earth. You can read Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s full information about the book here; and you can order your copy from Amazon by clicking here. The Fall of Arthur will also be available as an e-book. Happy reading!Posted in Books, Books Publications, Christopher Tolkien, Headlines, J.R.R. Tolkien, Merchandise, Other Tolkien books, Shop, Silmarillion, Tolkien
Back in September 1999, these were the questions on the minds of fans…
Q:What role did Glorfindel play after the incident at the Fords of Bruinen? I don’t remember any further mention of him and it seems strange that such a noble Elven Lord would not be involved at all in the War of the Ring.
- Quinton Carr
A: He wasn’t. But if you think about it, many “noble Elven lords” did not do anything *active* in the War after the Fellowship left Rivendell or Lorien. Elrond, Celeborn, noble Elven ladies like Galadriel, Arwen . . . their roles were peripheral. Not to mention the fact that I’m sure both Elrond and Celeborn had a goodly number of strong, well-armed Elves at their disposal, who didn’t go with the Fellowship *or* down to the battles in Gondor. But the answer is actually pretty simple, and Elrond gives it to us in “Fellowship:” “The number must be few, since your hope is in speed and secrecy. Had I a host of Elves in armour of the Elder Days, it would avail little, save to arouse the power of Mordor.” So that explains why none of them went with the Fellowship. Why did none of these mighty Elves save Elrohir and Elladan ride down to Gondor once it was clear that there would be battle? My answer has a couple of parts. Firstly, Elrohir and Elladan, according to the Tale of Years, were born after the wars at the end of the Second Age when Sauron was thrown down, and were not a party to them as their father was. They’d never gotten their “chance,” so to speak. As for the rest of them, they had all gone to war against Sauron at the end of the Second Age. They felt their time had passed, and moreover that the hour of the Secondborn was striking. They knew that the power of their Rings would fade if Frodo was successful, and that Men would rise and Elves would dwindle. They must have felt it was right for the men, i.e. the armies of Gondor and Rohan, to earn for themselves the privilege of ushering in the Fourth Age.Posted in Characters, Christopher Tolkien, Hobbit Book, Hobbit Movie, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings, LotR Books, LotR Movies, The Hobbit, Tolkien
It’s been over 12 years since some of these common Tolkien related questions have been answered, so what better time then to repost some of them for the newbies. Contained in this post are some newbie classics….Why do the Eagles always show up at the last minute? Why did Sauron not just come forth to war? Why do the Black Riders seem to be so weak? Read on…
Q: Greetings masters of lore. My question deals with the Nazgul. I know of Khamul, but I have not found the names of the other Nazgul. If they had names, what were they as well as who were they prior to their transformation? Furthermore, is there any story about their creation and why Sauron decided to choose them specifically?
A: Khamul seems to be the only named Ringwraith. What we know of him is given in the section “The Hunt for the Ring” in Unfinished Tales (1980). He was second to the Chief, and his name is given as Khamul the Shadow of the East. Some more about the Nazgul, or the Ulairi, can be found in some of the volumes of the History of Middle-earth, particularly in the section “The Story of Frodo and Sam in Mordor” in Sauron Defeated (1992), and in the work on the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings as printed in The Peoples of Middle-earth (1996). But, unfortunately, the histories of the men who became the Nazgul seems nowhere to be specifically illuminated.
Welcome to our collection of TORn’s hottest topics for the past week. If you’ve fallen behind on what’s happening on the Message Boards, here’s a great way to catch the highlights. Or if you’re new to TORn and want to enjoy some great conversations, just follow the links to some of our most popular discussions. Watch this space as every weekend we will spotlight the most popular buzz on TORn’s Message Boards. Everyone is welcome, so come on in and join in the fun!
The quest for Middle-earth canon. In some ways it always feels a bit of a Sisyphean endeavour.
You know the story of the mythological Greek king, Sisyphus, right?
For those who don’t recall, Sisyphus was just too crafty for his own good. So the Greek gods, never tolerant of being made to look foolish, designed for him the most frustrating of punishments: Sisyphus was compelled to roll a huge boulder up a steep hill. Just before he could reach the top, it would roll back down, forcing him to begin all over again. (more…)Posted in Christopher Tolkien, Green Books, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings, LotR Books, Other Tolkien books, Silmarillion, Tolkien
Several strongholds of elves and men are besieged while Frodo and Sam are trudging laboriously through Mordor to Mount Doom. In particular, Lothlórien repels three such assaults before Galadriel and Celeborn finally lead a counter-offensive against Dol Guldur.
“…the assaults were driven back; and when the Shadow passed, Celeborn came forth and led the host of Lórien over Anduin in many boats. They took Dol Guldur, and Galadriel threw down its walls and laid bare its pits, and the forest was cleansed.” Appendix B, Lord of the Rings.
That last sentence has often puzzled; people wonder exactly how Galadriel might have accomplished such a task. More, why is she doing now what ought to have been accomplished when the White Council drove Sauron from Dol Guldur years before? (more…)Posted in Christopher Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring, Green Books, Hobbit Book, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings, LotR Books, Other Tolkien books, Return of the King, Silmarillion, The Two Towers, Tolkien