Witches and werewolves and vampires, oh, my! J.R.R. Tolkien was not one to shy away from creatures of the night. Just the opposite–he seemed to relish writing horror stories.

When we think of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”, Elves, Wizards, Hobbits, and quests come first to mind. But the Professor’s long quest to create an encompassing mythology for Britain led him to conjure stories within stories. Middle-earth feels real because Tolkien fleshed out its history in-depth. Though they are often only hinted at in the main stories, Tolkien wrote many of these historical references in detail.

In honor of the best holiday of the year (subjectively), let’s explore a few tales of terror written by Tolkien fit for All Hallows’ Eve. These are by no means the only ones. The Silmarillion is filled with stories that invoke a sense of horror in us, such as the story of Húrin and his family. Just thinking about Frodo and Sam’s encounter with Shelob in her lair is enough to make skin crawl. Dig deep, and you’ll find bones aplenty in Tolkien’s work.

Continue reading “Yes, Tolkien Wrote Horror stories”

Staffer WeeTanya drew to our attention this article from the folks who created the title sequence for The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

If you’d been wondering what those dancing grains, and the patterns they make, are all about, then wonder no more! Or maybe, wonder a little more; it seems there are secrets hiding in the images… ‘Plains of Yonder’ are the team behind the sequence, and they took for their inspiration nothing less than the music of the Ainur itself. The patterns and images seen on screen reflect the phenomenon of cymatics, when ‘Vibrations of fine particles on a flat surface display striking symmetrical patterns that reflect audio frequencies.’

Plains of Yonder’s team write:

The sequence conjures an ancient and invisible power, struggling to be seen. Symbols form, flow, push, and disappear as quickly as they came. The unknowable realms of sound create fleeting visions of conflict and harmony that move in lockstep with Howard Shores’ opening title score.

Over a dozen hidden symbols reflect themes and storylines in the show.  Some are hidden in plain sight and others are far more subtle. Successive episodes reveal more meaning to the symbology.

What symbols have been spotted thus far? Two trees have appeared; and in the opening to Episode Three, there appeared to be something dark and perhaps sinister winding its way through the rest of the golden particles. Could this represent Melkor interweaving ‘matters of his own’? The beginning of all evil in Arda…?

Read the article here; and look out for symbols in the episodes to come!

The rollout of the Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power TV series has re-energized Middle-earth fandom, and one thing is clear, we all love to get together, online, at conventions, and at the theater and talk Tolkien.

Reading The Hobbit during the Baggins Birthday Bash

The Baggins Birthday Bash, coming to Los Angeles at 11:30am on September 24 at Griffith Park’s Mineral Wells picnic area is the perfect way for SoCal Tolkien fans to gather and party like Hobbits. There will be games, there will be food, there will be plenty of Tolkien discussion going on, and I’m sure we can fit some fun in there somewhere.

Regarding food, in the before times it was a big buffet, and last year, we decided to ask everyone to just bring enough food and drink for their own party. This year, it will probably end up being a bit of a hybrid. Some will just bring what they want to eat, and a few will bring shareable dishes, and we’ll let the food and drink sort itself out. It would be nice if some folks bring extra picnic plates and cups, maybe some paper towels, and of course, everyone should bring a portable chair or blanket and a popup if you have it.

We would like to bring back the Cake or Cupcake contest for the best Middle-earth designed desserts. We’ve had some really creative and beautiful designs in the past, so start contemplating now on how to wow your fellow fans this year. Costumes are welcome, as usual, especially any new 2nd Age costumes. If we do trivia, there is a decent chance it will include some references to the Rings of Power show, since the 5th episode will have screened just 2 days before the picnic.

Please do RSVP on our Facebook Event page, located at: https://www.facebook.com/events/1271178800320132/ and read through the About Details, including selecting ‘see more’ to access the directions for those driving from different sections of Southern California in order to get to Griffith Park and the Mineral Wells section of the park.

In 1967, Tolkien began writing a letter to his son, Michael, where he shared his perspectives on cultivating faith. Tolkien likened the character of faithfulness (‘loyalty’) to that of a full-grown tree — a living organism that must be tended to by its keepers (Letter 306).

While the reasons for this letter may be forever lost to time, the excerpt reveals a fundamental notion in Tolkien’s mind: The symbolism of great faithfulness with the thriving health of trees

There is no resemblance between the ‘mustard-seed’ and the full-grown tree. For those living in the days of its branching growth the Tree is the thing, for the history of a living thing is pan of its life, and the history of a divine thing is sacred. The wise may know that it began with a seed, but it is vain to try and dig it up, for it no longer exists, and the virtue and powers that it had now reside in the Tree.

Very good: but in husbandry the authorities, the keepers of the Tree, must look after it, according to such wisdom as they possess, prune it, remove cankers, rid it of parasites, and so forth. […] But they will certainly do harm, if they are obsessed with the desire of going back to the seed or even to the first youth of the plant when it was (as they imagine) pretty and unafflicted by evils.

The other motive […] aggiornamento: bringing up to date: that has its own grave dangers, as has been apparent throughout history. 

Letter #306, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

In my previous article, we discussed clues from the trailer and images of Amazon’s The Rings of Power that directly led us to identifying Sauron’s haunting presence on Middle-earth. Here, I will discuss how The Rings of Power might be using trees to illustrate the shrinking faith of the Númenoreans (Men) and the Noldor (Elves).

We begin in the island nation of Númenor. The Númenoreans are Men descended from the line of Elros, brother of Elrond. The line of the Kings of Numenor going back to Lúthien, daughter of the Sindarin King Thingol and Melian the Maiar. Of Lúthien’s descendants, Tolkien writes that ‘her line shall never fail’ (A Knife in the Dark, The Fellowship of the Ring). 

In the King’s Court at Armenelos, Númenor’s capital, a white tree blooms: Nimloth the fair (Nimloth is Sindarin for ‘White Blossom’). Descended from a tree made in the likeness of Telperion for the Noldor of Tirion  (Galathilion, the’White Tree’ of Yavanna, The Silmarillion), Nimloth was gifted as a seedling by the Eldar of Tol Eressëa in Aman. Her white petals gleam with the setting Sun and her scent fills the air of King’s court. Nimloth is the symbol of friendship between Men and Elves. (Cite.) A sign of the Númenor’s faithfulness to Eru and her Elven heritage.

The Númenoreans retained the dedications and order, but altered the fourth day to Aldëa (Orgaladh) with reference to the White Tree only, of which Nimloth that grew in the King’s Court in Númenóreans [my emphasis] was believed to be a descendant.

Appendix D, The Lord of the Rings
Nimloth, the White Tree in the Courts of Armenelos

The significance of the blooming white tree is not lost to readers of Tolkien. Soon after arriving in Gondor, Aragorn discovers the sapling borne from the fruit of Nimloth. The discovery astonishes Aragorn, but Gandalf recalls the significance of the sapling:

Verily this is a sapling of the line of Nimloth the fair; and that was a seedling of Galathilion, and that a fruit of Telperion of many names, Eldest of Trees. Who shall say how it comes here in the appointed hour? But this is an ancient hallow, and ere the kings failed or the Tree withered in the court, a fruit must have been set here. For it is said that, though the fruit of the Tree comes seldom to ripeness, yet the life within may then lie sleeping through many long years, and none can foretell the time in which it will awake.

The Steward and the King, The Return of the King

In Gandalf’s words, we see the link between preservation and renewal. The line of Telperion preserved from the days of the Two Trees, and the promise of renewal to its former glory. 

But, alas, our first sight of Nimloth in The Rings of Power is a solemn one. Unlike the  sapling of Gondor emerging from the snow, we instead witness the opposite, the beginning stages of a fully-grown white tree beginning to wither.

Nimloth is weeping.

Her blossoms scatter onto the royal courts as Queen Regent Míriel and her advisor Pharazôn pause to make note of the moment. Míriel’s face flushes with unmistakable desperation.

Nimloth, the White Tree in the Courts of Armenelos

Is this then the first of many signs and warnings of Númenor’s descent to her watery grave? As steward-keeper of Nimloth (Faith), is Míriel’s faith in Eru and Númenor’s alliance with the Elves starting to crumble?

From what we are seeing, Nimloth is shedding her crown; Númenor is dying.

Mortality is, of course, a theme central to Tolkien’s works. Endings are inscribed to the life and stories of every creature on Middle-earth. It is this ill-fate that Tolkien has termed “fading” that the immortal Elves seek to halt. As Tolkien writes of the Second Age in a letter to Milton Waldman: 

All through the twilight of the Second Age the Shadow is growing in the East of Middle-earth, spreading its sway more and more over Men — who multiply as the Elves begin to fade.

Letter #131, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

Following the destruction of the Two Trees, their great Elf-king Finwë’s death at the hands of Morgoth, the theft of the Silmarils, and in defiance of Eru and the Valar, the arrival and lingering presence of the Noldor (tribe of Elves descended from Finwë) on Middle-earth resulted in their inevitable decline as a people. Yet, the hubris, ingenuity, and might of the Noldor also meant they were a great force to be reckoned with.

They are the chief artificers of devices (“rings”) that halt fading in the Second and Third Age.

In The Rings of Power, the fading of the Noldor is discreetly translated through the Tolkienian metaphor of suffering trees. Given their presence on Middle-earth is consequential to their continued defiance to the Valar, the Noldor’s faltering faith is represented in their inability to keep their beloved Mallorn trees (plural Mellyrn) from fading.

Farewell to Lorien by Ted Nasmith
Farewell to Lorien by Ted Nasmith.

We are quite familiar with the description of the Mallorn Tree from several Tolkien texts (Letter to Minchin (1956), The Fellowship of The Ring, Unfinished Tales). It is prominently described as having a single smooth bark (“pillar”) of grey silver whose leaves turn to pale gold in the autumn, which carpeted the forest floor through spring and summer.

Its bark was silver and smooth, and its boughs somewhat upswept after the manner of the beech; but it never grew save with a single trunk. Its leaves, like those of the beech but greater, were pale green above and beneath were silver, glistering in the sun; in the autumn they did not fall, but turned to pale gold.

In the spring it bore golden blossom in clusters like a cherry, which bloomed on during the summer; and as soon as the flowers opened the leaves fell, so that through spring and summer a grove of malinorni was carpeted and roofed with gold, but its pillars were of grey silver. Its fruit was a nut with a silver shale.

A Description of the Island of Númenor, Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth

Unlike the description of the Mallorn  given by Tolkien, we instead witness a dark, crudely shaped, and twisted bark of a large, and what we presume is an ancient Mallorn Tree

From stills and footage, we can construct a working hypothesis that the Noldor are experimenting with planting a Mellyrn forest in Lindon. As Gil-galad and Elrond commune among the trees at night, our eyes are drawn to the sharp contrast of the younger Mellyrn (right) and the dark,  brooding, and ancient Mallorn (left). It appears that the ancient Mallorn is fading, albeit gradually. What may have begun as a silver pillar for a bark has gradually twisted unto itself; stopping the Mallorn from growing to its magnitudinous heights. Her golden leaves also appear to be much darker compared to the younger ones.

The Lindon Mallorn forest.

Further evidence for this hypothesis is the telltale presence of a Mallorn sapling in Khazad-dûm. While we cannot confirm why a sapling might be growing in the deep underground caverns of Moria, it is curious that the Elves as keepers of the Mallorn sought the Moria Dwarves as collaborators in testing the  possible thriving conditions for Mellyrn.

A simpler explanation might be that the Mallorn sapling was grown from a seed gifted to the Moria Dwarves in lieu of friendship. A possible callback to Galadriel gifting Samwise Gamgee a single Mallorn nut that was consequently planted in the Shire.

Even so, the fading of the Mallorn will be an ongoing leitmotif that will marshal the Noldor into seeking and creating the Rings of Power as a means to halt the Fading of the Elves and their realms.

The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of PowerElrond (Robert Aramayo) is pensive during a visit to Khazad-dûm.

Extra

The Mallorn of Lothlórien. 

Source: The Fellowship of the Ring, New Line Cinema.

About the author: DrNosy is a scientist (physical science), scholar, and Tolkien enthusiast. Her primary interests lie in review and analysis of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. She is an active contributor and Reading Room Moderator on TheOneRing.net Discord where she also hosts live open-forum panel discussions on The Rings of Power, The Silmarillion,  and a variety of Tolkien-related topics. You can reach her on Twitter.

If you have a Tolkien/Middle-earth inspired poem you’d like to share, then send it to poetry@theonering.net. One poem per person may be submitted each month. Please make sure to proofread your work before sending it in. TheOneRing.net is not responsible for poems posting with spelling or grammatical errors.

It’s the discovery of a lifetime: a handwritten manuscript by JRR Tolkien, penned and signed in 1964, has surfaced. This nine-page text, which Christopher Tolkien painstakingly recreated from memory, tells a mostly familiar story for readers of The Silmarillion in chapter 22. Yet, as the ‘original’ manuscript for this part of the story, it contains new treasures to delight the serious Tolkien reader.

First Report

The Italian Tolkien Society’s group Associazione Italiana Studi Tolkieniani broke the news yesterday in this phenomenal write-up: Il Silmarillion, scoperto un manoscritto inedito Bring your Italian for this one! I sure wish I had mine…

Opening Bid: 15 Large via Heritage Auctions

This treasure goes under the auction gavel in two weeks with a starting bid of $15,000! Looking over the offerings for this lot is impressive, as The Professor keeps company with the likes of Poe,  Dickens, Doyel, Washington, Jefferson, Einstein, Beethoven, and some other incredible artifacts and memorabilia. The manuscript includes a rare genealogy chart titled “Kinship of the Half-Elven,” a signed letter to Mrs. Eileen Elgar in transmission of the manuscript, and “Concerning… The Hoard,” the manuscript itself.

Check out the auction lot here at Heritage Auctions, and be prepared for beauty.

Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

Here’s to hoping this find becomes available for scholarly study far and wide! A special, “Thag you berry buch!” to Lasswen and DrNosy for bringing the news to our Discord chat this morning.