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Q: Could the Elves that traveled to Tol Eressëa from Middle-earth, the Elves that dwelt on the island permanently and the Teleri from Alqualondë travel to Valinor, to Valmar and Tirion freely? Or were they only allowed to dwell east of the Calacirya? In the same way could the Elves of Valinor travel to Eressëa or Alqualondë? P.S. Great site, thanks.

–Jeff Hitchmough

A:This seems to be answered clearly enough in The Silmarillion ("Of Eldamar"). The Teleri "abode as they wished under the stars of heaven, and yet within sight of Aman." The Noldor and Vanyar dwelt below the Calacirya because "Even among the radiant flowers of the Tree-lit gardens of Valinor they still longed at times to see the stars." The Vanyar "grew to love the land of the Valar and the full light of the Trees" and so forsook Tirion and dwelt in Valinor. The Teleri remained on Tol Eressëa because of their love of the sea. There is no hint that the Eldar were restricted in any way, but chose their own dwellings in the West.


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Q: What do you think happened to Tuor after he and Idril sailed to the Undying lands?  Did he become immortal like the Eldar.  Did he eventually die?


A: Even if Tolkien were still alive and we could ask him directly, the fate of Tuor remains unknown. There is a hint in Letters, No. 153, that: "‘it is supposed’ (not stated) that he as an unique exception receives the Elvish limited ‘immortality’..." So there you have another non-answer straight from the Professor.


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Q: I have a question about the Poem that I'm sure you all know.  In the "One Ring to Rule them All" poem, what was JRRT talking about with the "and in the darkness bind them" part?  I know he got some of the seven back, and has the nine.  What does he want to do, (kinda kidding here) melt them all down and make another one?  I've never heard of this before, and through reading the books so many times, I find nothing about it.  Please Explain.


–A 14 Year Old That Loves You Guys


Q:This has probably been asked before, but I'm confused about why the Ring is a big deal. It makes you invisible, got that, but what else does it do? What was Boromir planning to do with it, why did he consider it this huge boon? What are its other powers?


A: When you control the Ruling Ring, you control the subordinate Rings. That’s how Sauron ensnared the Nazgûl to begin with. He "in the darkness bound them" by addicting them to the Nine Rings and controlling those Nine with the One. We have been told this worked less well with Dwarves, who were more subject to gold-greed than power-lust, and that the Elven rings were out of all except the most nominal control (the "fading" of their power once the One was destroyed) because Sauron never touched them.

In addition, it seems that the power was a tier structure. Because the Ring was only in Frodo’s possession, not being used, a subtle but crucial difference, the Ring was still responding to the will and commands of Sauron and his agents. From Sauron down through the Nazgûl down through the Orcs and Men under his control, Sauron had huge number of minions in his thrall, and part of this can be attributed to the Ring even though he didn’t physically possess it. The power hidden in the Ring was Sauron’s, therefore it continued doing his will. It is written that when the Ring was destroyed, the Orcs and Men became confused, frightened, purposeless. It seems clear from that piece of information that Sauron’s power was still working through the Ring to help him keep control of his empire. Presumably if another had taken up the Ring with the intent to use it, the power would have begun responding to their will and commands. Boromir and Galadriel both bear this out when they describe what they would do with the Ring–the bottom line for both is that people would flock to their call and do what they commanded. This is the power that is so sought-after by those who wish the Ring for themselves–the power of control over others.


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Q: What happened if a mortal dies when he's wearing the One ring? In The Hobbit, during the Battle of Five Armies, Bilbo received a rock on the head and lost consciousness while he was wearing the Ring. When he woke up a couple days after, people were searching for him but he was invisible because of the Ring. If he had died there, would he have been invisible forever and the Ring too?


A: An opportunity for sheer speculation. Well, it is not certain that someone wearing the One Ring could actually be killed – part of the Rings' effect on mortals is to keep the Fëa, or soul, from departing from the world. One might speculate that even if the material body were utterly destroyed (e.g., by fire) while the wearer were in the shadow-world, the shadow body would remain (perhaps forever experiencing that final burning of the body), taking shape only when clothed, like the Nazgûl; in effect, the destruction of the body would hasten the "fading" of the wearer. On the other hand, if it were possible to kill the wearer of the Ring, that would mean that the Fëa did indeed depart the world, and it seems logical to infer that what remained, a soulless corpse, could no more be made invisible than if you put the Ring on a stone statue.


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Q: At the end of Chapter 7 in RotK, the following exchange takes place between Frodo and Merry as they return to the Shire: 

‘Well here we are, just the four of us that started out together,’ said Merry. ‘We have left all the rest behind, one after another.  It seems almost like a dream that has slowly faded.’
‘Not to me,’ said Frodo.  ‘To me it feels more like falling asleep again.’

I always wondered what Frodo meant by that statement.  Merry seems to be accepting the reality of his return to his former life as a hobbit of the Shire.  But what is Frodo's reality?  At several times during his horrific journey in Mordor, we see an exhausted Frodo sleep and sometimes awake as if he were back in Bag End.  Could his return to the Shire now be perceived by him as the dream, and the horrors of his life in Mordor be perceived as the reality?

–Carol Aronoff

A: I think you have answered your own question. I cannot come close to imagining the horror and mental anguish that Frodo endured while the Ring exerted its most dreadful influence over him. If we can accept that he was scarred mentally and emotionally beyond any measure, then we can also accept that his perception of ‘reality’ may be fundamentally changed. It is a cryptic thing for Frodo to say but fitting nonetheless.


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Q: Hey guys!  I am just curious.  Is it your perception/opinion or Tolkien's intention that as Sméagol changes inwardly to an evil, wretched creature his outwardly appearance changes as well?  I think I do remember specific references to his undergoing physical changes of sorts, and most renderings of Gollum show him as a creature much changed from a Hobbit.  So, my question is does he somehow mutate to a more horrible wretched creature, or is it more of an adaptation to his environment, and if so, how do these changes occur? Does Tolkien mean that he just becomes more of a darkly creature, or more probably, is it that he adapts to his new environment (i.e., developing his sense of smell, walking low to the ground by his dark cave environment)?  I am unsure what Tolkien's intentions are with this change in Sméagol to Gollum.  Is it symbolic or literal? Also, does it have anything to do with his possession of the Ring (magical change) or is it in your opinion, wholly a natural, environmental change making it possible for him to adapt to his environment?


A: I think it is both: part ordinary physical change due to environment, and large part attributable to the Ring. And it is definitely a literal physical change: everybody who sees and hears Gollum is repulsed.

Tolkien describes the physical changes (from living in a cave for hundreds of years). He says that Gollum’s eyes have grown pale and bulbous and shining with a light of their own that enables him to see in the pitch blackness. He talks about this more than once, and it is the eyes which give Gollum away when he is trailing after the Fellowship through Moria and Lórien. But, the only thing that would enable Gollum to live long enough for these changes to take place is the Ring. It granted him lifespan many times the ordinary years of his kind, and after hundreds of years living with the Ring, the Ring shriveled and broke him. Remember, it says that even Bilbo was beginning to feel "thin and stretched. A sign that the Ring was taking control." Undoubtedly had Bilbo retained the Ring anything like as long as Gollum did, this process would have begun on him as well.


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Q: I read in The Silmarillion that Elendil’s people lived in many places about the courses of the Lhûn and Baranduin Rivers and the hills of Rhudaur as well as the obvious places of Annúminas, Fornost and Bree. How come we do not see any evidence of this on Middle-earth maps?

–Dendra Dwar


Q: I've never figured out exactly where Rangers live, perhaps Tolkien never got that deep into detail. I'm assuming they all live in Eriador, this is obvious, but as far as I have seen he never places any settlements or towns in any specific area. He makes reference to them in "Aragorn and Arwen," when Aragorn's mother leaves Rivendell to go back to her own people, and obviously Halbarad and the other Dúnedain had to be living somewhere, but I've never found any specifics as to where that was. Have I missed something?



Q: In composing some fan-fiction I've run into a gap in my Tolkien knowledge. What do we know about the Dúnedain and their daily life? Are they all wanderers, living gypsy-like in tent cities and moving to place to place? Or are the Rangers a select group from a larger culture that belongs to a certain land? If possible, I'd specifically like to know about the lives of the Dúnedain women. I'd like to get a sense of what has been set down by the Tolkien camp, and what I can, in good conscience, make up myself.


A: It seems pretty clear that the Rangers (and their women) are a wandering folk. The four villages of Breeland are described as "a small inhabited region, like an island in the empty lands round about", so there seem to be no substantial populations of Men anywhere in the former North-kingdoms (in a note published posthumously, Tolkien remarks that "none of the regions of the Two Kingdoms were before (or after!) the Númenorean settlements densely populated as we should reckon it."), which is why maps of the Third Age do not show these ancient settlements. There were evidently some places in which the Rangers maintain semi-permanent dwellings – Gilraen "returned to her own people in Eriador, and lived alone", yet Aragorn was able to find her, which suggests a permanent residence. Indeed, an earlier draft of the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen (found in Volume XII of The History of Middle-earth) begins, "Ere the Elder days were ended, before the War of the Ring, there was a man named Dírhael, and his wife was Ivorwen daughter of Gilbarad, and they dwelt in a hidden fastness in the wilds of Eriador; for they were of the ancient people of the Dúnedain, that of old were the kings of men, but were now fallen on darkened days."

The Red Book says that, "the Dúnedain passed into the shadows and became a secret and wandering people, and their deeds and labours were seldom sung or recorded. Little now is remembered of them since Elrond departed." So it unsurprising that practically nothing is known of their daily lives.


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Q: I have read The Silmarillion and have begun it again, and have come upon a line that intrigues me. In "The Coming of the Elves" it states: "this river was even the river that was called Anduin the Great and was ever the frontier of the west lands of Middle-earth. But the mountains were the Hithaeglir, the Towers of Mist upon the borders of Eriador." Anyway it says they were reared by Melkor to hinder the riding of Oromë. I was wondering what mountain range is it? Is it really the Misty Mountains, or what?

–Todd Smith

A: Yes, the mountain range Tolkien mentions here is indeed the same Misty Mountains that we know and love. The Sindarin translation of Hithaeglir is "mist-peak-line." I have always found it funny that Melkor’s efforts produced something that was not quite as horrible, black, and evil as all the other things he put forth. The Misty Mountains may be difficult and dangerous for travelers, but they were not filled with poisonous evil as was Thangorodrim.


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Q: I have a question about something I have been trying to figure out since I first read LotR.  Bilbo is often talking about when he met Gollum; he has told many different stories about what happened (he apologizes to Glóin at the Council of Elrond for lying).  I have only heard of one story, the one in The Hobbit, and have no idea why he would lie, or what his other stories would be about. It would be GREAT if you would clear this up.


–A 14 Year old Who Loves You

A: This is rather complicated. In the first edition of The Hobbit, before Lord of the Rings was even contemplated, Bilbo tells the Dwarves and Gandalf that he won the Ring–that Gollum had given it to him as a reward for guessing the riddles. Gandalf makes reference to this version of events in the beginning of Fellowship. "Then I heard Bilbo’s strange story of how he had ‘won’ it, and I could not believe it. When I at last got the truth out of him, I saw at once that he had been trying to put his claim to the ring beyond doubt." In fact, if I am not mistaken, in the original Hobbit, it is set down in the narrative that Gollum actually had promised to give Bilbo the Ring, but since Bilbo already had it, Gollum couldn’t find it and agreed to show him the way out as a substitute prize. I’m a little hazy on those details, never having read that ancient text, but there is reference to this as well: Gandalf asks Frodo what he knows about the Ring. Frodo says he has heard the story of how Bilbo found it. "’Which story, I wonder,’ said Gandalf. ‘Oh, not what he told the dwarves and put in his book,’ said Frodo." That last bit is the real kicker, since the Red Book of Westmarch was none other than The Hobbit as told by Bilbo. Tolkien was trying to explain away his "mistake" in the first book of having the Ring seem like a harmless trophy that Gollum would have given up willingly. Later editions of the Hobbit, of course, tell the truth in events. Even so, Bilbo at first conceals the Ring from the Dwarves and tells them he just "crept along, you know, carefully and quietly." Only later, during the episode with the spiders in Mirkwood, does he tell them the truth about finding it. So to summarize:

1) In the original Hobbit, "Bilbo" (JRRT) wrote that Gollum agreed to give Bilbo the Ring, and that’s what Bilbo told the Dwarves.

2) When it was time for LotR to be written, JRRT knew that Gollum would never have given up the Ring voluntarily, so he had to make it seem as though Bilbo had lied in the previous book.

3) Presumably, when the chapter The Council of Elrond was being written, the original Hobbit was still in print, so from Tolkien’s perspective at the time, before the Hobbit re-write, Glóin still would have been in the dark as to the truth.

Even from our perspective, Bilbo lied to Glóin and the rest of the Dwarves when he concealed the Ring from them in the beginning. Seems in this case the explanation is more complicated than the question. I’d love to get my hands on one of those pre-revision Hobbits. If anybody out there knows where there is one in existence, feel free to tell me about it. J


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Q: Did Tolkien ever draw up a map of Aman?

–Giles Puckett

A: Yes; more than one, in fact. These maps were made in the 1930s, and can be seen in Volume IV of The History of Middle-earth "The Shaping of Middle-earth" associated with the short work, the Ambarkanta, which described his conception of the cosmos at that time. As far as I can tell, no similar map was made after Tolkien took up The Silmarillion again after The Lord of the Rings was published.


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Q: When Gandalf was captured at the top of Orthanc, without his staff, how did he get it back when Gwaihir rescued him?

–Zaphod Haydee Decker


Q:How does a wizard go about making a staff? When Gandalf breaks Saruman's staff, this seems to take away a great deal of Saruman's power. Or was it the act of removing him from the Order that did this? But in the FOTR movie, when Gandalf is rescued from Saruman it appears that his staff has been left behind. Does he make a new one at Rivendell? Is it possible to make a new staff or was this just a liberty taken by the movie?

–Paul Drumgoole

A: Let’s peel apart the differences between BOOK and MOVIE. In the original book there Gandalf never loses his staff to Saruman when he is imprisoned atop Orthanc... So according to Tolkien, Gandalf had his staff the whole time, yet it did not assist him in finding escape from his perch atop the Tower. No way down the stairs, he would have been spotted and captured. No way to jump off! No possible way out except to wait. He was trapped up there a very long time.

Continuing through the written story, we see that Gandalf only loses his staff once, when he shatters the Bridge of Khazad-dûm (and the staff) in his attempt to defeat the Balrog. That is a pivotal moment indeed.

I have written before about the importance of a wizard’s staff to its possessor. [Click Here] My assumption is that each Istari had only ONE staff; it being a crucial part of his power and an emblem of "office" it would seem. The staff that Gandalf the White holds when he is sent back to Middle-earth (maybe given to him by the Valar or Ilúvatar himself?), in his new corporeal form, establishes him as the successor of Saruman.

Of course, the screenwriters made a different decision on how to deal with all this staff business in the movie. I assume the movie-Gandalf gets outfitted with a new staff sometime in Rivendell, long after his daring escape from Orthanc. Just a wee little continuity problem, but sharp eyed fans everywhere are asking about it!


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Q: Elves are creatures that have always fascinated me, but I do not understand the specifics of their immortality. I know that they can be slain or die of grief, but what about other aspects of death? Can they contract a disease or illness, and if not, why are they so skilled in healing and medicine? If they fall off a cliff or a ledge, will they die, and if not, will they be hurt? Further more, is immortality a natural trait of the elven people or is it only a gift from the Three Rings? Also, I do not understand how they age. For how long do they do so? For example, Elrond is older than (let's say) Legolas and so he should appear older than him. But I have never heard of an elderly elf. So, in other words, at what point do they stop aging, or stop looking older? Finally, (this is my last question I promise) how long do they stay children? Considering their life span of "forever" it seems that they should take longer to mature, that they would not be adults by (to them) the mere age of 1000. Thank you for any conclusion that you can provide for these questions. Devoted to LOTR and always curious–



Q:This has always puzzled me ever since I became addicted to Tolkien and sat up all night reading the Appendices and trying to learn Quenya: the Elves immortality, how did it work? Let me make myself clear: Elves have to be born as babies, for obvious reasons, but how fast do they grow up? They have to grow, but do they reach maturity and just stop? I don't understand. Please answer my question. Thank you.

–Rosamond Brown

A: From everything we are told about the life-span of Elves, several things seem clear to me: A) they do not have very many children, B) they are not subject to disease (except grief of mind and spirit), C) their vulnerability to battle wounds would logically stretch to accidental injury and death, and D) Tolkien does not come out and tell what the comparative human/elven ages are. Dragonlance elves, for example, have long lives but eventually die of old age, so Weis and Hickman laid down a numerical equivalent for the slower maturing of elven children and a comparison to the mental ages of elven adults with humans. But Tolkien never does so, presumably because the exercise would be pointless for beings which live forever. Speculation would suggest that elven children grow to adulthood a little more slowly than human children, and that once they reach their adult prime, they change very little in outward appearance no matter how long they spend in Middle-earth. An aberration from this would be Círdan, who is described as having a long beard, but I look upon this as just a detail Tolkien wanted to add. The rest is imagination.


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Q: Couldn't Gandalf 'make creatures in mockery' as well?


A: Perhaps; although he does not appear to be much interested in the making of things. That sort of activity seems to be associated exclusively with Aulë and his Maiar, such as Saruman. In any case, that is pretty much the same as asking whether Gandalf is capable of committing an evil deed – and of course the (very elvish) answer is both No (he is a good guy; he can do evil, but he won't) and Yes (he has free will and is capable of moral failure, as all such beings are).


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Q: Great site. My question deals with the Ainulindalë, and with the part the Valar had in "playing it out." I know that only Ilúvatar had full knowledge of the events to come in Arda, and that as the Valar gave life to his Vision, they only knew of some parts of it, namely those in which they had taken part themselves during the Music. This is what puzzles me: Did the Valar have prior knowledge of events in Arda in which they were personally involved? In other words, did Tulkas "know" he was destined to beat Melkor in their wrestling match? Did Melkor "know" he would be chained, and later released? I'm truly anxious to hear your opinion on this matter. Thanks.

–Jorge Jimenez

A: We have established that the Ainur (specifically, those who would be Valar) were aware of their own contributions to the Music, and the greater part of their power was given to "preparing... the physical substance of Arda for the Children of Ilúvatar," as Robert Foster describes in his Complete Guide to Middle-earth. But their participation in certain events is not as close to what the Norse Gods went through in their mythology – where those deities had foreknowledge of specific acts during Ragnarok that would doom them all.

Rather, I think the Valar knew just enough that pertained to their own work for the creation of the physical world. In Tolkien’s Letters, No. 131, he states: "The Knowledge of the Creation Drama was incomplete: incomplete in each individual ‘god’, and incomplete if all the knowledge of the pantheon were pooled." He seems to indicate here that even if Tulkas knew what he was going to do, as part of his contribution to the Music, that the others would not know. It makes for an interesting debate, but as soon as the Children of Ilúvatar come into the picture, none of the Valar knew a single thing about what would happen, as the ultimate "divine plan" was kept secret from them.


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Q: One of the things that originally kept me from reading LOTR for many years was the lack of female characters. I had heard many things about Tolkien, essentially all pointing to his being a misogynist. Having read LOTR, The Sil, and about 5/12 of the Histories of Middle-earth, I feel I know better now. However, I still wonder: why so few leading ladies?  Was he just not secure in writing the opposite sex? I love your answers, keep up the good work!



A: I cover this in greater detail in an old Counterpoint [Click here], but my basic feeling is this: Tolkien held women in a very special esteem, and each woman in his story is a separate individual with a unique purpose. There are indeed scores upon scores of male characters, but after a while the smaller ones run together. Hirgon of Gondor, Háma of Rohan, Halbarad of the Dúnedain, they’re all basic lackeys to their monarch, and not much differentiated. I could keep naming men that run in that mold, but each female character is highlighted by her differences from the others. Yes, Tolkien held the old-fashioned ideas that when there was a quest to be undertaken, it was a man who did it, but he also held that idea’s counterpart, that a woman was sublime inspiration, motivation, and strength for a man to accomplish that quest. Thus the female characters are fewer, but richer in nature than the plethora of "minor" male characters that pepper the story.


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Q: Good morning! Are there any theories as to what the population of elves was during the Last Alliance and during the War of the Ring? What area had the most elves?

–Lisa MacDonald

A: Tolkien never said, so you are free to draw your own conclusions from the various bits scattered throughout the published works (one supposes that the greatest population of elves after the First Age were the Avari; the bulk of the Noldor and Sindar went West after the First Age). Be warned that Tolkien himself was unsure about such matters, and was inventing (and rejecting) various details well after the publication of The Lord of the Rings. For example, in an essay intended to explain the name "Belfalas," he began describing a group of Doriathrin Sindar who migrated south after the destruction of Beleriand and settled around the mouth of the Morthond. He ended this excursion (which hinged on a careless error) in mid-sentence, apparently rejecting it.


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Q: How come Gollum didn't age after Bilbo took the Ring from him? 

–Dean Carlson

A: The length of time Gollum possessed the Ring has something to do with it. Consider that the preserving powers of this Ring, as intended by Sauron for all the Great Rings, was upon Gollum for many centuries. A total of 478 years by my calculation! Bilbo had the Ring for only about 60 years.

Another thing that seems to limit the Ring’s effect was exposure. Gollum used it constantly, and I mean he relied on it every waking moment of the day. His entire life was the Ring, and he must have worn it, surely, for years at a stretch... never taking it off. Bilbo only used it during his adventure to Erebor, and afterwards only when those unpleasant relatives would come descending upon him. In terms of holding dominant sway over Bilbo’s mortality, the Ring did not quite have the same progressive effect here.

After Bilbo was free of the Ring, the natural progress of time and aging set upon him much easier than it would for Gollum. If Gollum had lived a few years longer than the events in the book allowed, I’m sure he would have shown signs of advancing age.


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The Legolas Files
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the unhealthy fascination with Orlando Bloom has generated an unbelievable number of inquiries about his Elven character, Legolas. So here is a batch all at once to satisfy the Legolas-addicts in the crowd! Enjoy!


Qa: It is told that Thranduil fought in the Battle of Five Armies.  Surely at that time Legolas was alive. Do you believe that he fought in this battle? If not, how did one so valiant gain his experience? Thank you.


A: There is no reason to suppose that Legolas would not have fought with his people, but it would be only through backwards extrapolation that we could assume this, since I’m sure the character of Legolas never entered JRRT’s mind until he appeared in Rivendell halfway through Fellowship. Certainly not while writing Hobbit.

Qb: Just some questions about Legolas, a character I'd like to know more about. I’ve seen reference to him as a green elf, and also as a Sindarin, etc. What's the difference (excuse my ignorance)? What is his relationship to the other elf lords/ladies in LotR? What is the origin of his warrior skills? Why is he sent to the council in Rivendell to become part of the Fellowship? Thanks!


A: "Sindar: The Grey-elves. The name was applied to all the Elves of Telerin origin whom the returning Noldor found in Beleriand, save for the Green-elves of Ossiriand." That’s quoted from Silmarillion. Basically, a Sindar was an Elf of the group that did not go to Valinor with the Noldor and the rest near the beginning of the world. Thranduil’s crowd in Mirkwood were a group of these, and never saw the Blessed Realm unless they chose to go there, as Legolas did after the events of Lord of the Rings. Since Ossiriand had ceased to exist by the time of LotR, I am sure references to Legolas as a "green elf" were just a passing name assigned to him, interchangeable with "wood elf," or an Elf of Mirkwood.

As for his relationships, well, the Elves in Middle-earth were essentially a large and rather far-flung kinship, and they held a higher place in the spiritual pecking order than Men. The origin of his warrior skills is undoubtedly training and experience. He is sent to the Council of Elrond because (and the movie leaves this out entirely–Legolas and Gimli just show up out of nowhere) Gollum was captured and held prisoner in Mirkwood, and Legolas, son of the king of the Elves of Mirkwood, has been sent to inform the Powers That Be that Gollum has escaped. He becomes a part of the Fellowship in order to represent his people, and presumably because he wants to go.

Qc: This is a question that I had just recently wondered about.  Did anyone else love someone, save Samwise and Aragorn?  Did Legolas ever find anyone for himself?

–Soriya Doth

A: The last we see of Legolas, he is crossing over-Sea with Gimli to Valinor. Nothing is mentioned of his finding a wife.

Qd: How did Legolas and Aragorn meet?  In the movie, they already knew each other.  Thanks.

–Bunny Mercado

A: Again, the movie leaves out the back story of so many of the characters that it is difficult to keep track. Aragorn tracked Gollum and caught him, and then took him to Mirkwood for safekeeping. It could be supposed that Aragorn and Legolas met at this time, but it could also be supposed that they knew each other previously. We are not told.

Qe: How come Legolas seems so ignorant? The Elves of Mirkwood could have visited Lórien or Fangorn anytime they wanted - it certainly would have been a much shorter journey than to the Havens (and we know that Elves regularly crossed Eriador to the Havens because both Bilbo and Frodo had met them in the Shire). But Legolas, who seems to have been at least hundreds if not thousands of years old, knew nothing about Lórien or Ents, except as a matter of legend. Similarly, Celeborn doesn't seem to have ever visited Fangorn even though it's closer than Rivendell. Can you explain how come no elves had visited between Mirkwood and Lórien for centuries, or how come there was no one in either Mirkwood or Lórien who had ever hung out with Ents back in the First Age when (according to Treebeard's own account) the Ents had wandered widely?


A: Until the events recounted in Lord of the Rings, Middle-earth was an astonishingly compartmentalized place. The Shire was largely ignorant of anything that passed outside its borders. Same with Bree. People, including Elves and Dwarves, kept in their own realms, and even when Elves or Dwarves were seen crossing the Shire, the Hobbits as a rule did not ask news of them. Yes, Elves regularly crossed the Shire to the Havens, but one presumes they were leaving Middle-earth and not returning, not just making a visit to the Havens and back. Thus a trip to Lothlórien or Fangorn would not have the same purpose as a trip to the Havens, and would not be as necessary. Not many of the Wise seemed to know what was passing in Gondor until Boromir brought them up to date, and Boromir had no idea where Rivendell lay, finding it only after a long and arduous journey. People (except Rangers) simply didn’t travel–it was dangerous. One Elf we are told of who DID visit Lothlórien, Celebrían, wife of Elrond, daughter of Galadriel, was shot by Orcs in the Misty Mountains and though she was healed of her wound, departed over-Sea. The Fellowship took with it news and legends that people stared in wonder to see were real (think of Rohan’s reaction to the Hobbits). Even the Elves did not go out of their way to visit one another, and remember that the Elves of Mirkwood were somewhat estranged from the other kindreds, being Grey-elves, or those who had never seen the light of Aman. As for the Ents wandering, Treebeard seems to imply that they’d done their wandering centuries ago and were now settled down to be the keepers of the trees in Fangorn. And even then, Lórien was a more closed-off place than any other Elven habitation in Middle-earth. The Ents would most likely never have gone there, although Treebeard speaks of Celeborn as somebody he is at least acquainted with.

Qf: Also about Legolas - I hate to think him stupid, since he's got all these great characteristics (he meets Galadriel's eyes when most can't, he's not afraid of the dead, he shoots down the winged Nazgûl) - but why on Middle-earth does he vote for Minas Tirith in the debate at Parth Galen? I've never understood why anyone in the Fellowship except Boromir would have thought there was any point in going so far out of their way when they had already agreed in Rivendell that their hope was in a small band moving secretly. Do you think Legolas and Gimli were influenced by the Ring here, and that it was them Frodo was referring to when he said "there are SOME I cannot trust?"


A: I think the answer to that conundrum actually lies with Gimli. He and Legolas were of like mind on this matter. Legolas ends his piece with:

‘I should vote for Minas Tirith.’
‘And so should I,’ said Gimli. ‘We, of course, were only sent to help the Bearer along the road, to go no further than we wished, and none of us is under any oath or command to seek Mount Doom... Yet I have come so far, and I say this: now we have reached the last choice, it is clear to me that I cannot leave Frodo. I would choose Minas Tirith, but if he does not, then I follow him.’
‘And I too will go with him,’ said Legolas. ‘It would be faithless now to say farewell.’

This is a little odd, since Gimli had advocated the Fellowship taking an oath, back in Rivendell. But it seems to me that Gimli and Legolas are simply being prudent. It is difficult to see how venturing alone into a truly dark land would be more advantageous than entrenching in a strong place with armed men. However things may have looked in academic exercise in Rivendell, it seems plain that they were both thinking of strong walls between the Company and Sauron, but their primary loyalty, in the end, was to Frodo. Unfortunately they never got the chance to show this (at least not to Frodo himself), but as so many things even in this world work out, where they ended up was where they were most needed–rescuing Merry and Pippin, killing Orcs at the Deep, and riding with Aragorn to summon the Dead.

Qg: As I understand it, getting from Middle-earth to the West was pretty tricky, involving the Havens and the Straight Road, and a number of other variables. How was Legolas able to build his own ship (especially as he was not a mariner or even really familiar with seamanship) and sail to the Undying Lands with Gimli?


A: He was an Elf. He had a right to eternal rest in Valinor, thus the way was open to him. Remember, with Elves, it is ‘product and vision in unflawed correspondence.’ If they could think it, by and large, they could make it. Thus the ship. Once he had the ship, he was able to find the straight way. As for Gimli, it is legend that the Lady Galadriel ‘obtained this grace for him.’

Qh: In the movie when the Fellowship is taken to Galadriel, I noticed that Legolas was somewhat not part of the group when they were first introduced. Was this because he was also an Elf or was it something else?

–A Fellow Fan

A: I’m not sure what you mean by ‘somewhat not part of the group.’ I did notice that there were no close-ups on him while Galadriel was talking, but that was also true of the two younger hobbits. Galadriel, in the movie, concerned herself mostly with getting inside Frodo’s head. I don’t think anything can be read into the fact that Legolas was not distinguished.


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Q: Hi, folks! I have heard and read much about Dol Guldur, the Necromancer's fortress in southern Mirkwood. Tolkien tells us a lot about Sauron's hiding place. However, he never explains how it looked. Was it a fortress, with walls and towers? Or a cave under Mirkwood? Or was it only a clearing in the woods, held by the Dark Lord's will and by his many servants? I am grateful for any ideas or comments on this subject. Thanks!


A: Dol Guldur means basically "Head of Black Magic" which can be rendered as "Hill of Sorcery." It was built by Sauron approximately T.A. 1050. Unfortunately, I find nothing specific that reveals its architecture, natural defenses, or fortification. I’m sure it had outer walls, underground rooms and cells (where Thráin was held prisoner), and maybe a tower.

What few details we DO know from Appendix B is that soon after the Ring was destroyed Celeborn and Galadriel launched a military offensive against Dol Guldur, and in a destructive fit of rage Galadriel "threw down its walls and laid bare its pits." Can you imagine the beautiful and peaceful Lady of Lothlórien, all decked out in gleaming Elven-armor, showing her true power? I wish I had been there to see that!


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Q: I understand that the origin of the orcs lies in the corruption and twisting of elves by the 'dark forces;' this much could be gleaned from the movie alone. Yet, how do orcs propagate? On an abstract level, it has been explained as the result of 'sorceries' and whatnot, but are there any more specific details? Are there female orcs? (And if so, how painful must it be to give 'birth' to those huge fully-sized cocoon things in the film??) Also, where the hell are they (hanging out with all the female dwarves)? What is their role (do they take care of the 'babies' and just what would that consist of)? Are they distinguishable from male orcs? Basically, how can an Army of the magnitude needed to conquer middle earth be produced? Surely they couldn't all be former elves.

–Hobbis and Tearsong

A: Tough question with not much in the way of an answer. Leaving the movie's version of events aside, the only thing I have to go on is Treebeard's speculation about the Uruk-hai: "Are they Men that he has ruined? Or has he blended the races of Orcs and Men? That would indeed be a black evil!" I would lay good money on the premise that Tolkien never intended anything out of the ordinary course of nature--that Orcs are "bred" the same way human beings were. Female Orcs are not an impossibility, just an unnecessary element to his story. Science fiction doesn't seem to be JRRT's forte, and having them be cloned in test-tube "cocoons" doesn't seem to be his style.


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Questions 04/02
Quick navigation for questions asked this month.
 • Elves can live where in Valinor?
 • Did Tuor become immortal?
 • What is the real power of the Ring?
 • If you died while wearing the Ring?
 • Frodo falling asleep again?
 • How does a Smeagol become a Gollum?
 • Missing history of the Dunedain?
 • Is Hithaeglir really the Misty Mountains?
 • What did Bilbo lie about?
 • Is there a map of Aman?
 • How did Gandalf get a new staff?
 • How did Elves grow and age?
 • Could Gandalf create his own creatures?
 • Foreknowledge of the Valar?
 • Why so few leading ladies?
 • Greatest population of Elves?
 • Why didn't Gollum age too?
 • The Legolas Files!
 • What does Dol Guldur look like?
 • How do Orcs propagate?


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