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Q: My question is pretty simple: Where do dwarves go when they die?

– Tyler

A: The Silmarillion: "Aforetime it was held among the Elves in Middle-earth that dying the Dwarves returned to the earth and the stone of which they were made; yet that is not their own belief. For they say that Aule the Maker, whom they call Mahal, cares for them, and gathers them to Mandos in halls set apart; and that he declared to their Fathers of old that Iluvatar will hallow them and give them a place among the Children in the End. Then their part shall be to serve Aule and to aid him in the remaking of Arda after the Last Battle."


Q: If Saruman had claimed the Ring for himself, would he become the next Dark Lord or was he mistaken? Could the Ring leave him as it did Gollum? Thank you for your time.

– Eric

A: Bearing in mind that I have only speculation to go on here, I'm gonna say that Saruman could have been a formidable Dark Lord, but that in the end the Ring would possibly help lead to his downfall. You can think of the power of the Ring as incremental proportionally to the power of the being that holds it: in Gollum's hands it was relatively harmless because he was relatively powerless; in Isildur's hands not much more so. But Gandalf gives us a little sketch of what it would be like were he himself to take up the Ring with power: "With that power I should have power too great and terrible. And over me the Ring would gain a power still greater and more deadly ... Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself." Also Galadriel tells that the power would warp her too, yet she would be able to do much with it. So we see that yes, Saruman with his innate power probably could have made a good showing for himself as Dark Lord-destroying his soul, of course, in the process, and eventually I don't think he could have kept going. The Ring would have been in control in the end. Though it might be a moot question at that point as to who is in control, still, we can conjecture that anybody but Sauron holding the Ring would not be quite as formidable as Sauron himself. As for the Ring leaving him, I don't suppose it would do that unless Sauron could exert considerable influence on it-and that might be less likely to happen if it were under the control of a powerful will such as Saruman's.


Q: How old (in years) is Galadriel at the time she leaves Middle-earth? I know Tolkien alluded to the fact that elves would grow weary after ten thousand times ten thousand years (I don't have the exact quote, but its something like that)--is he indicating that there are elves that lived that long (i.e. Cirdan, Galadriel, Celeborn)? The age before the two lamps, then trees, then sun, etc.... isn't accounted in exact years by Tolkien, and you guys obviously know your stuff & I'm wondering if you've read something out there that would answer my question.

– Tai Truesdell

A: Unfortunately it seems impossible to get an exact year count of Galadriel's age, since the years of the First Age are not clearly recorded. The years of the Second and Third ages combined reach approximately 6,580. If we assume the First Age was a bit longer than the other two-say 5,000 years just as a middle estimate, then her age approaches 12,000 years. Wow.


Update: Olog-hai, our "Science of Middle-earth" columnist and author, kindly wrote in to help me out on calculations of Galadriel's age.

Hi Anwyn,

I hope you won't mind my bothering you about an answer you gave to a Q&A, but there is a way to work out Galadriel's age, which I worked out when writing The Science of Middle-earth. The Annals of Aman (in History of Middle-earth vol. X) places Galadriel's birth in the Valian Year 1362, each of which is approximately equal to ten years of the Sun. The first Sun rose in Valian Year 1500, or 15,000-13,620 = 1,380 solar years later. The First Age lasted another 600 years, and with the combined total of the Second and Third Ages of 6,460 years, Galadriel when we see her is 8,440 years old.

Pedantically yours,


Q: In the movies Aragorn and Legolas are longtime friends when the movies begin. They only grow closer. In the book they seem to start as two strangers who become close friends. Do you know if they had meet before the Fellowship? If so, how?

– Amber L.

A: Gandalf's tale of the capture of Gollum states that at first the Wood-elves hunted him, and we know Legolas was involved in that affair since it is he who is sent to bring report to Gandalf that Gollum has escaped from their keeping. However, the Elves did not find him themselves; they only kept him under guard. It was Aragorn who found Gollum. I cannot find that it says that Aragorn took Gollum personally to the Wood-elves; however, it was in Mirkwood that Gandalf questioned him, and Aragorn was probably there for that. In any case, I would presume that with all of Aragorn's early-life wandering, and the fact that he was raised among Elves, he had been in and out of Mirkwood once or twice. It is just speculation, but I would presume that he and Legolas were at least slightly acquainted before the making of the Fellowship.


Q: I was just wondering, if Gollum was a hobbit, why did he expect Deagol to give him a birthday present? Aren't hobbit's supposed to be giving presents themselves at their birthday ?

– Ari Apteker

A: Good question! But one for which, I fear, the answer is not very easy, though it might be very simple. I am inclined to put this down with the fireworks that sounded like an express train and the clothes that smelled of moth-balls as an example of Tolkien's modern English background intruding itself unnoticed onto the tapestry of his story. Or, if you like, Gollum was just so selfish that he expected the custom to be turned upside-down for him and used the occasion of the birthday as an excuse to try to get what he wanted.


Update: Lots of readers took exception to my answer about Smeagol/Deagol and the "birthday present." Reader "Eowyn" pointed me to the Letter #214 of Tolkien's, in which he deals with this matter. It is too long to quote or summarize here--it delves deeply into the customs surrounding birthdays and gift-giving, but in essence gifts were given to the birthday-hobbit by near kin, required by custom, and given BY the birthday-hobbit to those in his household, near neighbors, and anybody else they felt like.


Q: Hi! Thanks to the books you've compiled. They make good reading. What I want to know is, what is the black breath. I've read the books multiple times, and I just don't get it. Thanks!

A: The Black Breath is nothing more or less than the deadly spiritual and physical effects of a close encounter with a Black Rider and/or his weapon. I presume Tolkien called it "breath" because that is a picturesque title for it, but obviously the Riders do not necessarily require oxygen. We have seen the effects-comalike state, paralyzation of the limbs in contact with the Rider or his weapon, and eventual death.


Q: What would have happened to the Ring if Bilbo hadn't left it? Would it still have awakened and caused all the trouble it did? What caused the ring to awake?

A: The Ring was never particularly "asleep," though it was only after the re-emergence of Sauron as the Necromancer in Mirkwood that it decided it was no longer to its advantage to stay with Gollum. In that sense, the Ring "awakened" before Bilbo even laid hold of it, so yes, we could say it would still have been awake at the time of Bilbo's going-away party, even if Bilbo had not left it behind. As to what would have happened, well, we would have to construct a rather elaborate tower of guesswork. Gandalf was on Bilbo's case to leave the Ring behind; he had a suspicion of its nature but did not know for sure yet; that knowledge came many years later. I can guess from what I know of Gandalf that he would have undertaken to go with Bilbo on the Road, or to get him some protection, possibly in the form of Aragorn. And also, quite possibly, as Bilbo himself said, he could have gotten the Ring to Rivendell then and there without all the fuss-at the time of Bilbo's party, the Riders had not yet arisen again, and there was not as much danger as there eventually was at the time Frodo set out. As for what would have happened once Bilbo reached Rivendell with the Ring, well, one presumes that events would still have taken a very similar course. Gandalf would still have needed to confirm the identity of the Ring, the Council would still probably sit to decide what to do with it. The only real difference would have been that Frodo would not have spent years of his adulthood in keeping of the Ring, he would have been less prepared than he was for the story of what it really was, and he may not have been involved at all. But my last thought on the subject is that there would still have been a Ringbearer who still would have made his best effort to carry out the destruction of the Ring-Tolkien's religious outlook and belief in the Creator rather seems to dictate that these events would have needed to be carried out by persons of good heart, whether Frodo and companions or another group. But there is no saying if this other group's efforts would have been up to the task! :)


Q: I read that Arwen was the last elf born in Middle Earth. Since this information is new to me, I can't help but think it might be something implied somewhere in the FotR movie and not Tolkien canon. However, if this is true, this would help somewhat in placing Legolas's age as he would then have to be born before Arwen, whose birth year is noted. I understand that elves did not usually reproduce during times of trouble/darkness, so am I correct in assuming that, if Arwen wasn't the last elf born, the last elves that were born would be somewhere in the beginning/middle of the Third Age?

– Traci

A: The notion that Arwen was the last elf born in Middle-earth seems to have become a very common bit of folk wisdom among Tolkien fans, but is not borne out anywhere in Tolkien's writing. It may be because of her name "Undomiel", the 'even-star of her people', but this is more symbolic than literal, and as likely signifies the waning of the Eldar in general.

Perhaps Sam's words to Elanor in the epilogue provide a clue: "You came at the end of a great Age, Elanorelle, but though it's over, as we say, things dn't really end sharp like that. It's more like a winter sunset. The High Elves have nearly all gone now with Elrond. But not quite all; and those that didn't go will wait now for a while. And the others, the ones that belong here, will last even longer." We may also add that those elves "that belong here" were not a 'fading' people at the beginning of the Fourth Age. "Legolas and his friend also brought south Elves out of Greenwood, and they dwelt in Ithilien, and it became once again the fairest country in all the west-lands." (end of Appendix A). There is no reason to think that this elvish 'colony' could not have been blessed with children, especially during the first years after the departure of the Shadow from Mirkwood.


Q: I hope you will forgive me all the problems in my mail, I am French. My friend and I have a terrible problem existencial: we are not agree on the meaning of an elven word. Yes, yes I know it is terrible, perfect to make nightmares. Let's see: according to the French translations in the movie she thinks that galad means light, but in the book I have read that the Galadrhim were the tree-people. So like the Rohirrim are the people from Rohan, my clever mind, hum, thinks that rim means people, so that the translation of galad is naturally tree. But perhaps I'm not so clever, or there is a link between tree and light. Please help us in our tragedy, and go on to be so full of passion. Thank you.

A: The situation is complex. The root "GAL-" is a described in Tolkien's "Etymologies" as a variation of "KAL-" and means radiance or light. It is seen in Sindarin names like Galadriel ("glittering garland" - Letters #345). There is a separate but similar word in Sindarin, "Galadh", meaning 'tree'. The "DH" spelling represents the soft "th" sound in words like English "the". This is seen in words like "Galadhrim", the tree-folk. Matters are complicated by the fact that Tolkien disliked the appearance of "dh" and in the first edition of Lord of the Rings wrote "Galadrim", only correcting the situation in the second edition.

Also, remember that to the Elves, there was a mythical connection between radiance and trees.

As for -rim and Rohirrim:

"The name of [the] country obviously cannot be separated from the Sindarin name of the Eorlingas: Rohirrim. Rohan is stated to be a later softened form of Rochand. It is derived from Elvish rokk_ 'swift horse for riding' (Q. rokko, S. roch) + a suffix frequent in names of lands. Rohirrim is a similarly softened form of roch + hir 'lord, master', + r_m (Q. rimbe) 'host'. (Letters #297)
"Rohir-rim is the Elvish (Gondorian) name for the people that called themselves Riders of the Mark or Eorlings. .... In Grey-elven the general plurals were very frequently made by adding to a name (or a place-name) some word meaning 'tribe, host, horde, people'. So Haradrim the Southrons: Q. rimbe, S. rim, host; Onod-rim the Ents. The Rohirrim is derived from roch (Q. rokko) horse, and the Elvish stem kher- 'possess'; whence Sindarin Rochir 'horse-lord', and Rochir-rim 'the host of the Horse-lords'. In the pronunciation of Gondor the ch (as in German, Welsh, etc) had been softened to a sounded h; so in Rochann 'Hippia' to Rohan. " (Letters #144)


Q: I was wondering is there is a difference between oliphaunts and the mumakil?


'"Sam drew a deep breath. 'An Oliphaunt it was!' he said. 'So there are Oliphaunts, and I have seen one.''" If there can be said to be a difference, it is that the "Oliphaunt" was, to the Hobbits, a legendary creature, while the Mumak was the reality behind the legend; it is rather like the difference between Robin Hood (http://www.legends.dm.net/robinhood/index.html) and whatever real person it was (perhaps Robin of Loxley) on whom the legend was based. Tolkien repeatedly points out the blurry barriers between reality and legend. "Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?' Eomer asks, when being told that Aragorn and his friends were searching for Halflings. "'A man may do both,' said Aragorn. 'For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time. The green earth, say you? That is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day!''
In the Guide to Names, Tolkien writes of "oliphaunt" that "It is an archaic form of 'elephant' used as a 'rusticism', on the supposition that rumour of the Southern beast would have reached the Shire long ago in the form of legend."


Q: Is it possible that Goldberry is really Nimrodel, or a desendant of Nimrodel? Bombadil makes reference to finding her at the river's edge, she is called the river's daughter, she is immortal (one would think) so she is probably an elf. Also, Tolkien doesn't waste anything! Couldn't he have tied these story lines together?

A: Ummmmm... these are fictional characters, and there is no 'really' in which the question can be answered. But if, as you seem to imply, you mean "did Tolkien intend these two to be connected," the answer is almost certainly No. Goldberry and Tom Bombadil pre-date The Lord of the Rings, having first appeared in the poem "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil" in _The Oxford Magazine_ in the February 1934 issue; a somewhat revised version was the first in a collection of poems of the same name in 1962. The legend of Nimrodel was conceived much later, and it is likely that even to Tolkien, her fate was always a mystery. In "Unfinished Tales" appears a late writing on the tale of Amroth and Nimrodel. Notable is the final sentence: "Of what befell Nimrodel nothing is said here, though there were many legends concerning her fate." For whatever it's worth, it's hard for me, at least, to imagine her making her way from the Ered Nimrais up to the Old Forest and living with her "mother in her deep weedy pool," as in the poem. But you are free to feel otherwise.


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