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.
Now, I don’t know how long Glorfindel had been alive at this point. Whether he was around at the first overthrow of Sauron, I can’t say. All I know is that he, like Elrond and Celeborn and Erestor and Cirdan and all, elected not to go down to the war this time. Turgon says that there is some speculation about an earlier elf, also named Glorfindel, who had been killed in battle. The question revolves around whether or not this is the same guy, somehow returned to life and to Middle-earth, or is it a namesake? I haven’t delved into the History of Middle-earth volumes, but Turgon tells me more Glorfindel information can be found in the Peoples of Middle-earth, volume 12 of the History, on pages 377-384.
Q: I want to know if Bilbo was Frodo’s cousin or uncle.
– Heather Mackie
A: Chestnuts, chestnuts! The answer to this is in The Fellowship of the Ring, Book I, Chapter 1, page 1:
“Mr. [Bilbo] Baggins was generous with is money, … But he had no close friends, until some of his younger cousins began to grow up.The eldest of these, and Bilbo’s favourite, was young Frodo Baggins.”
If you take a look at Appendix C, “Family Trees” at the end of The Return of the King, you’ll see that Frodo was the Great-grandson of one Largo Baggins, whom Bilbo saw only as a Granduncle, if you can imagine such a thing. Now, according to modern American standards this familial relationship might seem quite thin, but in the Shire cousins are held very close to the heart, no matter how distantly related (unless of course you’re a Sackville-Baggins). Hobbits held great interest in their own genealogy, as Tolkien wrote, and the operative term “cousin” would probably be liberally applied to any of a number of different relatives.
Your answer about Bilbo and Frodo being “cousins” is accurate, as far as it goes. But their relation is slightly more complex than that, since they are related not only on the Baggins side, but on the Took side as well. But to explain it properly I have to refer to the technical names of different types of cousins, which most Americans, at least, do not understand.
A quick refresher course for those who do not share a Hobbitish interest in genealogy: the ordinal number before “cousin” (as in “first cousin”, “second cousin”, “third cousin”) refers to how many generations back you have to go before you reach siblings. If I had a son, he would be a first cousin with my sisters’ children. His children would be second cousins with my sisters’ grandchildren, and so on. Another way of looking at it is that first cousins share grandparents, second cousins share great-grandparents, and so on.
“Removed” refers to a difference in generation. Suppose I have a first cousin, and she has a daughter. That child is my first cousin once removed, the “removed” signifying that she and I are one generation apart. If she then had a son, that child would be my first cousin twice removed, and so on. If you think of a genealogical chart, you will notice that all first, second, third, etc. cousins will be on the same level horizontally; if you go one step down, you will get a “remove.”
All right: let’s apply this to Frodo and Bilbo. Looking at the chart in Appendix C, we find the common ancestor, Balbo Baggins. Among his children are Mungo and Largo; they are siblings. Mungo begat Bungo, and Largo begat Fosco; Bungo and Fosco are therefore first cousins. Bungo begat Bilbo, and Fosco begat Drogo; Bilbo and Drogo are second cousins. Finally, Drogo begat Frodo; therefore, Frodo and Bilbo are second cousins once removed — on the Baggins side.
But they’re also related on the Took side. Look at the Took family tree on the next page. You’ll see that Bilbo’s mother Belladonna Took was the sister of Mirabella Took, Frodo’s maternal grandmother. So (are you following this?) on the Took side, Frodo and Bilbo are *first* cousins once removed.
So while the short and easy answer is that Frodo and Bilbo are just cousins, the long answer is that, as the Gaffer explains on the third page of A Long-Expected Party:
“Mr. Frodo is his first *and* second cousin, once removed either way, as the saying is, if you follow me.”
I have no idea whether the readers of the Green Books would have any interest in this… but here it is, all the same.
Yes, indeed we ARE interested, and I appreciate the clarification! You’ve made easy work of this complicated family tree! And I really have no excuse for not knowing my trees. 😛
Q: Does Saruman survive after he is killed? Sauron was killed three times before he actually died. They were both Maia and they both had the same master Aulë the smith. So is it possible that Saruman lived?
A: Very, very good question. Let me start by quoting you the passage that is also in my second “Counterpoint;” it is Saruman’s death scene.
“To the dismay of those that stood by, about the body of Saruman a grey mist gathered, and rising slowly to a great height like smoke from a fire, as a pale shrouded figure it loomed over the Hill. For a moment it wavered, looking to the West; but out of the West came a cold wind, and it bent away, and with a sigh dissolved into nothing.” [Excerpted from Return.]
To me, this seems final as regards Saruman’s demise, but let me first interject an interesting thought: Was Sauron ever actually killed before the War of the Ring? When was the last time he had a corporeal body? He “perished” once in the drowning of Númenor, and beyond that, I don’t know to which other two times you are referring, unless you refer to him fleeing Angband for Mordor, then at the end of the Second Age when the Ring was taken from him. As far as that last time, does it say he was killed, or merely that the Ring was taken and he was defeated? Sauron had long ago lost the ability to keep a corporeal body, but it seems obvious to me that his spirit was never dissolved before the Ring was destroyed. His own folly in putting the majority of his original power into an object outside himself was his undoing, in that when *that* “corporeal body,” the Ring, perished, the part of his spirit/power that was in it was dissolved, and the rest of his spirit could no longer survive. And on a final note about Sauron, he had long ceased to acknowledge Aulë as his master, and had been Melkor’s servant for as long as anybody could remember.
So, the point I’m making is that Maiar, good or evil, do not “die,” no matter what the state of their corporeal bodies, until their spirits are dissolved. I think it’s safe to say that Gandalf’s original corporeal form was killed in the battle with the Balrog. But at the end of the day, it was the spirit of the Balrog that was dissipated, not Gandalf’s, and those in charge (i.e., Valar) saw fit to allow him to take on another body. Sauron did not have the power, after the theft of the Ring, to take a body any more, and Saruman still had his own body. Well and good. Well, when Saruman’s body was destroyed, then what was left was the spirit, and the hobbits witnessed this being blown away on the West Wind. I feel that this was the final destruction of the Maiar spirit that had been Saruman, and that he would not have survived this. On a final note, my fellow Green Books staffperson Turgon mentioned that he had always thought of the breeze that blew away the mist as the Breath of Manwë. Talk about your poetic justice!
A reader has written in to direct me to be more specific about the “death,” before the return, of Gandalf…
In your answer to the question about Saruman’s death, you make a reference to Gandalf being returned after death by the Valar. That’s not exactly correct.
Gandalf’s words and a couple of letters by Tolkien (I can look up the exact references if you’re interested) indicate that when he was killed in his battle with the Balrog, Gandalf’s spirit left this world entirely, going beyond even the Valar’s ability to interfere. He was returned and imbued with new power by none other than Eru Ilœvatar Himself, the One.
Q: Do Tolkien’s Elves have pointed ears? (I’ve never found any reference to this in any of his writings, and many artists portray them without pointed ears…)
A: This is a tough question that has baffled many Tolkien-readers for years and years. The only evidence there is, and it can be interpreted in several ways, comes from a letter Tolkien wrote to the American publishers of The Hobbit, sometime around March 1938. This letter, a response to a request for some drawings of hobbits in various attitudes, is published in Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien (Letter no. 27, p. 35). Part of the description reads as follows: “A round, jovial face; ears only slightly pointed and ‘elvish’.” The quotes around “elvish” are Tolkien’s own, so what does he mean? Elvish, as in his own Elves? Or “elvish” as in what the recipient of the letter might think of as “elvish”–i.e., a more public idea of “elvish”? I suspect Tolkien meant the latter, but the remarkable thing here is that Tolkien does imply that Hobbits have ears which are “slightly pointed”.
Carl F. Hostetter pointed (no pun intended) us to another consideration that really makes a much stronger case that Tolkien intended his elves to have pointed ears. In “The Etymologies”, a very important work for the study of Tolkien’s Elvish languages, first published in The Lost Road (1987), the two entries given for the elvish element “las” show that “las”, as in the Quenya *lasse, meaning “leaf”, is possibly related to “las” meaning “listen”, and *lasse meaning “ear”. Tolkien wrote: “The Quendian ears were more pointed and leaf-shaped than [?human]” (The reading of the last word is uncertain in the lightly pencilled manuscript.) Fascinating!
Q: What’s the deal with the “stone giants” that are mentioned in The Hobbit? Are they chronicled anywhere in the history of Middle Earth? Are they allied with good or evil? Did they have any part in the War of the Ring?
A: To answer you in order: No, neither, and no. The singular mention of them anywhere seems to be only in The Hobbit, during that thunderstorm as the travelers attempted to cross the high pass through the Misty Mountains. They were given neither names nor station in the vast Tolkien legendarium, though most beasts and creatures were. Then again, not every single denizen of Middle-earth is revealed plainly. There was the slimy, tentacled Watcher in the Lake that assaulted Frodo and the Fellowship as they stood just outside Moria’s East Gate. Consider it one of those occurrences where the mystery of the thing is an important storytelling device. Gandalf gives no details, no history, to the frightened and inquisitive Hobbits, and that leaves the reader’s mind to wander. What on earth could it be? Who set it there to guard the Gate? And why did it attack the Ringbearer first? By keeping some of these monsters/creatures more obscure, Tolkien makes them more fantastical, and thus they carry more of a wallop to the imagination.
Also, it has been suggested throughout the years that Professor Tolkien wrote The Hobbit directly for his children. My guess is that the inclusion of these Stone Giants could have been to add fairy-tale flavor to the proceedings, as you will find throughout The Father Christmas Letters.
Q: You mentioned Glorfindel, what race was he, how awesome was he and what was he to do to help Elrond?
A: Well, I think this question (or questions) is best answered with the words of the Professor:
“‘This is Glorfindel, who dwells in the house of Elrond,’ said Strider.
‘Hail, and well met at last!’ said the Elf-lord to Frodo. ‘I was sent from Rivendell to look for you. We feared that you were in danger upon the road.'” [Excerpted from Fellowship.]
So far so good. His race is Elven, and he dwells in the house of Elrond. Moving on:
“‘There are few even in Rivendell that can ride openly against the Nine; but such as there were, Elrond sent out north, west, and south. … It was my lot to take the Road … three of the servants of Sauron were upon the Bridge, but they withdrew and I pursued them westward.’ …
With his last failing senses Frodo heard cries, and it seemed to him that he saw, beyond the Riders that hesitated on the shore, a shining figure of white light; …
‘I thought that I saw a white figure that shone and did not grow dim like the others. Was that Glorfindel then?’
‘Yes, you saw him for a moment as he is upon the other side: one of the mighty of the First-born. He is an Elf-lord of a house of princes.'” [Ibid.]
As for how “awesome” he was, there you have it. He is a mighty Elf-lord with power to intimidate even Black Riders. Gandalf also says of him:
“Caught between fire and water, and seeing an Elf-lord revealed in his wrath, they were dismayed…”[Ibid.]
What was he to do to help Elrond? It seems clear that he obeyed Elrond’s orders, since it was Elrond who ordered riders into the wilderness to search for Frodo. It seems likely that whatever Elrond needed him to do, he would undertake.
Q: Who is Tom Bombadil anyway? Is he a Valar, Maia, or something else entirely? Does anyone even really know?
We have had a few major discussions in Barliman’s about this… Who was eldest–Fangorn or Tom Bombadil? Fangorn is said to be “eldest” in one spot, and Bombadil is known as “oldest” and “fatherless”. The folks at Barliman’s would love your insight on this matter!
A: Tom Bombadil is another really tough person to place and define in the whole scheme of Tolkien’s legendarium. This topic also has been debated for many years. About the best answer one can give, and it is still only a speculation, is that Tom Bombadil was some lesser form of Maia. After all, Tom refers to having been around Arda from very early on– “He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless–before the Dark Lord came from Outside.” And the reference to the Dark Lord must to refer to Morgoth, rather than Sauron. Treebeard’s title as “Eldest” must be some sort of honorific, for he and the Ents as a race seem likely to be slightly younger than Tom Bombadil.
Q: Who was Aragorn I destroyed by?
A: Aragorn I was a mighty chieftain of the Dúnedain and a direct descendant of Isildur. He was the Great-great-great-great-great-great- great-great-great-grandfather of Aragorn II (a.k.a. Strider, and later crowned King Elessar in The Return of the King). According to Tolkien’s record, Aragorn I was killed not by a whom but by a what:
“Aragorn I, it is said, was slain by wolves, which ever after remained a peril in Eriador, and are not yet ended.”
Please see his notes in Appendix A; “Annals of the Kings and Rulers” at the very end of the trilogy.
Q: Maybe I misread the Fellowship, but in the scene at the Barrow-Down was Frodo actually wearing the princely white outfit like Merry and Pippin? When he was captured, he immediately looked in his pocket for the Ring. Now why would he search in his pockets for the Ring if he was wearing a different outfit? Also, Frodo said to the other Hobbits that their clothes were probably lost forever. So if Frodo was wearing something else, and the missing clothes were gone for good, wouldn’t the ring be in his old Shire pants and not in his new white outfit? Was Frodo in his normal outfit while the others were dressed up?
A: I won’t try to quote directly from Fellowship on this, as the passages involved are rather lengthy, so I’ll just paraphrase. The short answer is yes, you did misread just a bit. Here’s the sequence of events:
- Frodo becomes separated from Sam, Merry, and Pippin in the darkness and fog at the end of the day. He hears cries, his friends calling out for him in distress and alarm, but he cannot find his companions in the dark. So Merry, Sam, and Pippin were captured first.
- Frodo hears a deep voice coming out of the ground, feels a freezing touch, and falls unconscious.
- Frodo wakes up in the barrow. He is lying on his back and his hands are on his chest, but this seems to be the only thing the Wight has done with him. There is no mention of his clothes being different.
- Frodo looks around and sees Sam, Merry, and Pippin all laid together, dressed in white with gold jewelry, with weapons laid at their sides, and across their three necks, “one long naked sword.” [Shiver!]
- It’s obvious at this point that the other three were captured together in a bunch and dressed up like this, and laid there with spells on them. It becomes apparent later that the spells laid on them to keep them unconscious also gave them dreams in which they were forced to re-enact some of the battles that took place in those lands during the rule of Angmar. You remember that Merry speaks of the attack of the men of Carn Dûm, etc., once they wake up. Frodo was captured later, and laid down with lesser spells upon him and his clothes were not touched. The conclusion that he had fewer or even *no* spells laid upon him is evidenced by the fact that he woke up before the other three, had not been touched except to be brought into the Barrow and laid down, and did not have these dreams about battles.
- He at first thought of putting on the Ring and trying to escape the Barrow, but decided he could not leave his friends. He hacked off the hand of the Barrow Wight, pitch black instantly fell, and he called for Tom Bombadil, who almost immediately appeared, bringing the walls and ceiling of the Barrow crumbling in, dissipating the Wight, and releasing Merry, Sam, and Pippin from the spell. Merry, Pippin and Sam wake up, look in amazement at the clothes and gold they are wearing, and wonder where their clothes are. Tom tells them that clothes are a small loss for people who escape drowning. JRRT goes on to tell us that Sam, Pippin, and Merry were soon too warm, for they had to put on in place of their clothes some of the heavier garments they’d brought with them to prepare for the winter. It says nothing about Frodo needing to change his clothes.
So there you have it, I hope that helps. The only other question that this brings up for me is: Why didn’t the Barrow-Wight take the Ring?
My only guess is that he was too weak a spirit to use it–he was bound in his Barrow and had no influence outside of it. This is clear from the fact that Tom is easily able to dissipate him as soon as the Barrow is demolished. I think he was too bound to the Barrow to be able to make any use of the Ring, but that’s just speculation for fun on my part.
Q: In The Two Towers, Aragorn states that Sauron does not allow his name to be spelt or spoken. So why in The Return of the King does Sauron’s Lieutenant clearly state “I am the Mouth of Sauron?”
Also: Aragorn states (Two Towers, p. 18 hardback) that Sauron never uses the name “Sauron”, nor does he “permit it to be spelt or spoken”. Reconcile this text with the text of Return of the King, p. 164 hardback, where the Lieutenant of Barad-Dûr clearly states, “I am the Mouth of Sauron.”
A: The passage on p. 18 of The Two Towers (hardcover), after Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas have seen some goblin-soldiers with S-runes on their shields, reads as follows:
‘S is for Sauron,’ said Gimli. ‘That is easy to read.’
‘Nay!’ said Legolas. ‘Sauron does not use the Elf-runes.’
‘Neither does he use his right name, nor permit it to be spelt or spoken,’ said Aragorn.
By implication, it appears that Aragorn is referring to the name ‘Sauron’ as his ‘right name’, but that might not necessarily be the case (Who in fact knows what Sauron’s true name was?). But it may be that Aragorn misstated the case, or misunderstood it slightly. Certainly the lowest of the hierarchy of Mordor were not allowed to speak Sauron’s name, but perhaps those higher-ups in fact were. Or it could be, too, that the “Mouth of Sauron” was speaking his master’s name in a way which the gathered hosts would recognize, or he might have used the name even as a show of pride in his own position as the “Mouth of Sauron.”
Q: This is in response to your answer concerning the names of the Nazgûl. At the siege of Gondor, after the death of the Witch King, Gothmog leads the army of Sauron. He is described as “the lieutenant of Morgul.” I had always assumed he was a Nazgûl. My question, therefore, is: Of what race was Gothmog if he was not a Nazgûl?
A: Sharp eyes and quick wits! My first answer was going to be very short: He was a Balrog. There is ample evidence for this, as it is stated in Lord of the Rings encyclopedias and in excerpts from The Silmarillion that he is a Balrog. But, like any good researcher, I checked another source, and in the index to Sil, it states the following: “Gothmog: Lord of Balrogs, high-captain of Angband, slayer of Feanor, Fingon, and Ecthelion.” Quite a résumé for one very long-lived Balrog, wouldn’t you say? But, reading on in the same source: “(The same name was borne in the Third Age by the Lieutenant of Minas Morgul; The Return of the King V 6.)” Oops! So while my answer was correct, that the *original* Gothmog was a Balrog, the question now becomes: is the Lieutenant of Minas Morgul, who would not seem to be the same spirit, since it makes a point of saying the name was ALSO borne, etc., a Balrog or a Nazgûl? I have to say I’m with you on this one, Balin, that all my reading leads me to believe that Minas Morgul was the Nazzie headquarters, so to speak, and that the Lieutenant would naturally be the second head-honcho Black Rider. So the conclusion is that the name Gothmog applied first to the leader of the Balrogs in the time of the power of Angband, and later to the second-in-command of the Nazgûl, during the War of the Ring.
A few eagle-eyed readers have noted a discrepancy between Anwyn’s comment about Gothmog, and my (Turgon’s) comment in an answer from 9/5/99. Technically, Gothmog is described as the “Lieutenant of Morgul,” and this doesn’t tell us whether Gothmog is a Nazgûl, an Orc, or even a Man. Anwyn has interpreted that Gothmog is a Nazgûl. She may be correct, but it is not certain. In any case, a Captain can have more than one Lieutenant, so if Gothmog is a Nazgûl, and Khamul is the second to the Chief, Gothmog could have been the name of another Nazgûl.
Update! In a question from LONG LONG AGO, in September 1999, I got myself in trouble with the wording of my answer to a question about Gothmog. Because he was called “the Lieutenant of Morgul,” I referred to him as “second in command of the Nazgûl,” and not only got into hot water with lots of readers but into discrepancy with another answer given by Turgon. I wish to set the record straight–I have no clue what his place was within the Nine. I simply mean to say that I believe–and I could be wrong, of course–that Gothmog during the War of the Ring was the Nazgûl who was in charge at the tower of Minas Morgul. Thus he was the “Lieutenant” of that tower–he held it at the pleasure of the boss Nazgûl. I do not mean to imply I believe he is above Khamul in the ranks of the Nine or whatever. Thanks for all those who wrote in, anxious to be sure Khamul got his rightful place! J
Q: I was just wondering did they ever explain the origin of hobbits in Middle-earth?
A: The records do not seem to say much on this point, other than that the hobbits were more nearly akin to Men than any of the other races of Middle-earth. Though obviously their origins were earlier, they seem to have lived quite unobtrusively in the Vales of the Anduin until early in the Third Age.