QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
Its mentioned in The Fellowship of the Ring that Merry, Pippin, and Sam
dream about the battles of Angmar when captured by the Barrow Wight. Now, Tom Bombadil
is one of the oldest living beings in Middle-earth, so if the Battles of Angmar took
place on his land, wouldnt he have been there? And if he was, did he take part
in the battles?
Actually, the great conflicts between the North Kingdom and the Witch-king
took place at Amon Sûl and Annúminas, outside the borders of Toms realm.
He seemed quite content to keep out of the affairs of Men and Elves, concerning himself with
his microcosm of the Old Forest. He did not take part in any of those battles, and along
those lines he also kept himself out of The War of the Ring centuries later.
Click here to
see my answer from December 7, 1999, regarding Gandalfs final conversation with
Tom Bombadil. You may also click here
for more insight into
this character from my friend Turgon.
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Can you tell me what an Elf is supposed to look like and where you can find a good
description of one in Tolkiens work? I ask because Ive seen a good deal
of correspondence in Q&A regarding elves (their height, whether they had pointed
ears, etc.) But Ive never read anything but vague physical descriptions of elves
in The Hobbit and LOTR. Same goes for Orcs, too. Tolkien made references
to Elves being fair and having some sort of glow, but thats about it. They also
didnt physically age. And heres something else to consider: when Faramir
and his crew discover Sam and Frodo hiding in the bushes, they initially mistake them
for elves. Shouldnt it have been obvious they werent? It seems like it
would have been akin to mistaking an Ent for a Dwarf. I find it rather frustrating that
Tolkien would have been so specific in describing some creatures and so vague in
describing others. But I guess it adds to the allure of his writings in a way.
Perhaps the best single description of Elves in Tolkien occurs at the end of
Appendix F in The Lord of the Rings:
They were a race high and beautiful, the older Children of the world, and among them the
Eldar were as kings, who now are gone: the people of the Great Journey, the People of the
Stars. They were tall, fair of skin and grey-eyed, though their locks were dark, save in
the golden house of Finarfin; and their voices had more melodies than any mortal voice that
now is heard.
That Faramir might mistake hobbits for elves is probably due to curious traditions of
mankind, who, having lost touch with the elves, had no reliable information, and various
false legends had sprung up. Consider too the Victorian traditions of diminutive fairies
which Tolkien was countering.
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There have been several questions about Tom Bombadil so far, but what about Goldberry?
I assume that she is immortal, or else Tom who is so old probably wouldn't have hooked
up with her. Then, is she an Elf or another of the lesser Maia? Tom says that she is
the "River's Daughter." Is this somehow connected with Ulmo? Do they have any
All right, lets start at the beginning. "I am Goldberry, daughter of the
River." She says this herself when she welcomes Frodo and Company into her home.
Later Tom, in verse, adds, "By that pool long ago I found the River-daughter, fair
young Goldberry sitting in the rushes. Sweet was her singing then, and her heart was
Going off of sheer extrapolation from these statements, it would
seem that Goldberry is a being somehow connected with whatever spirits inhabit the River
(and were talking here about the weird Withywindle), whether they be Maia in the
service of Ulmo, Ulmo himself, or some nature-spirit we have no knowledge of. By the
fact that Tom says she was young and her heart was beating, she was definitely in a physical
form, but that by itself means little; Gandalf, Saruman, Tom himself, et. Al., also have
physical forms. David Day, in his excellent reference AZ of Tolkien, has
the following to say:
"Goldberry: River-daughter of Old Forest. Goldberry was the
daughter of the River-woman of the Withywindle River, and the spouse of Tom Bombadil.
She was a golden-haired and beautiful nature spirit who may have been a Maia. Whatever
her origin, like Tom Bombadil, her concerns were with the natural world of forest and
stream. During the Quest of the Ring, the Hobbits were rescued and sheltered by Bombadil
and Goldberry. Compared to an Elf-queen in her radiance, Goldberry wore flowers in her
hair and belt. She wore garments of silver and gold, and shoes that shimmered like
fish-mail. The sound of her singing was said to resemble a bird song."
All very well as far as it goes, and very similar to the extrapolation
above except for one thing: What/who are River-women, and where does Tolkien mention
them? Day continues:
"River-women: In the histories and writings of Middle-earth,
mention is made of the River-women. Whether, like Ossë and Uinen, these were
Maiar of Ulmo, Lord of the Waters, or whether they were spirits who came into the World
like Ents, is not told, but it is certain they were chiefly concerned with the Kelvar
(animals) and Olvar (plants) of the world. The Red Book of Westmarch tells how the
River-woman of the Withywindle had a daughter named Goldberry, who was the wife of Tom
I dont have any other reference to "River-women,"
but I can trust Days sources for the time being. It still does not answer the
question of whether she was Maia, but presumably she was immortal, a spirit being with
a physical form. It makes me wonder, since these other "River-women"
presumably do not all take physical form, whether she took the form for love of Tom or
some other reason. It makes for interesting speculation, as well as does the question
"Did they have any kids?" Its just not known.
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Whats the relationship between C.S. Lewis Perelandra
Trilogy (and the worlds in them) and Númenor? I remember reading something
about it in Lewis foreword, but I dont remember the connection.
In the Preface (published only in the American edition) to That
Hideous Strength (1945), the third volume of C.S. Lewis Space Trilogy,
Lewis wrote that:
Those who wish to learn further about Numinor [sic] and the True West must (alas!)
await the publication of much that still exists only in the MSS. of my friend, Professor
The Preface is dated Christmas Eve, 1943, so by that time Lewis must have had some
of Tolkiens Númenor legends read to him. (Lewis preferred having such
things read aloud to him, which also accounts for his misspelling of "Numinor".)
Lewis would probably have known Tolkiens unfinished novel, "The Lost
Road," (eventually published in 1987 in The Lost Road and Other Writings),
which introduced the story of the fall of Númenor, which was Tolkiens
version of the Atlantis legend. Tolkien also felt that Lewis "eldils"
were derived from his own Eldar, and that Tor and Tinidril, the king and queen of
Perelandra, were influenced by two characters in his Silmarillion, Tuor and
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I hate to ask this because I know you must have been asked this
same question numerous times, but here goes anyway: Do Balrogs have wings or not?
I ask this because the passage in question is ambiguous and because the artwork
Ive seen is contradictory. Is this perhaps along the same line as whether
or not elves have pointed ears?
Yup, the passage in question in The Lord of the Rings is
ambiguous, for Tolkien describes the Balrog facing Gandalf, while "the shadow
about it reached out like two vast wings." Shortly thereafter, "it stepped
forward slowly on to the bridge, and suddenly it drew itself up to a great height,
and its wings were spread from wall to wall." These wings appear to be
metaphoric, not literalin that the wings are like shadows. In
Tolkiens earliest writings (specifically in "The Fall of Gondolin"
in The Book of Lost Tales), in the passages leading up to Glorfindels
fight with a Balrog in Gondolin, we do not see any mentions of wings at all. This
Balrog is large, twice Glorfindels stature, but the Balrogs are described as
"demons of power" who wear iron armour, have whips of flame and claws of
steel. At one point it is mentioned that the Balrogs "might ride upon the
dragons of flame." So it seems that in Tolkiens conception, Balrogs might
not have had wings.
Okay, I opened up a can of worms with my answer to this question.
There are quite a number of hard-core wingers (and some no-wingers) out there!
I had a very interesting interchange with Michael Martinez, who passed on a Balrog
Wings FAQ, and gave us permission to use some of it, and I have followed below
excerpts with some further comments he sent in an email:
Q) What about the word "like" in THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING?
Doesn't it prove that the wings were just a metaphor?
The wings were seen by the members of the Fellowship. They were hardly
metaphorical (metaphors are used in narrative or to convey ideas in
character-to-character discussions). That Tolkien used the word "like" in the
clause "and the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings" doesn't
itself indicate the wings were not there. This is only the first indication
that there were indeed wings. If "like" means there were no wings, then it
means there was no shadow to begin with, as the shadow is introduced with "like":
"What it was could not be seen: it was like a great shadow...." And since the
"shadow" is referred to, it must have existed, just as since the wings were
referred to they must have existed.
Q) What were the wings made of?
We don't know. Quite probably "shadow-stuff", whatever it was which the Balrogs
used to cloak themselves in darkness. They probably were not made of flesh and
blood, or feathers, and need not have been membraneous (skin stretched across
Q) Did Balrogs fly?
Not in the 1916 story "The Fall of Gondolin". However, in a passage of "Quenta
Silmarillion" which was not completely included in the published SILMARILLION,
Tolkien wrote the following sentence: "Swiftly they arose, and they passed with
winged speed over Hithlum, and they came to Lammoth as a tempest of fire."
To date, all attempts to show that this passage can mean something other than
that the Balrogs were flying have been unsuccessful. The sentence indicates
the Balrogs were travelling very fast ("swiftly", "winged speed"), but their
arrival in Lammoth indicates they came out of the sky (as a "storm of fire").
"Tempest" can mean something other than "storm", most notably "tumult", but a
tumult is a great noise or confusion, and the sentence makes no sense if you
substitute "tumult" (or great noise) for "tempest". Since the Balrogs were
flying, "winged speed" may be more literal than figurative. Hence, Tolkien's
use of the phrase here is another indication of the wings on the Balrogs.
There are just so many questions and counter questions. The issue
will never be settled if for no other reason than that someone CAN always produce
a new question. I don't think most people see the passage as ambiguous at all
until they find out someone disagrees with their perception of the Balrog. And
I would say that holds equally true for both hard-core camps...But in every poll
I've seen, the majority of people favor wings of some sort. Not that facts are
democratically determined. :)
Turgon back here. Im still not sure I find Michaels pro-wing arguments convincing. But I'm not really a hard-core no-winger either. I think it's an inconclusive point, though I lean towards no wings because the evidence **seems** to lean in that direction, as I see it. (And even the point on "winged speed" is not really conclusive-- a person riding a horse could be moving at winged speed.) Unless Christopher Tolkien turns up a drawing by his father of a Balrog, we might never know (though wouldn't that be nice!).
P.S. The reader who sent in the original question also wrote in with some further pertinent comments:
This is a follow up to my question concerning whether Balrogs have literal wings. In Appendix A,
in the section entitled "Durin's Folk," there is this sentence: "Thus they roused from sleep a thing of terror
that, flying from Thangorodrim, had lain hidden at the foundations of the earth since the coming of the Host of
the West: a Balrog of Morgoth." The key word here is "flying." There are two definitions for the word "fly"
which are of interest. The first is "to move through the air by using wings, as a bird." The second is "to flee."
The Balrog was fleeing Thangorodrim, but the question is: "Could it have also been literally flying through the
air on literal wings?" Since both of these definitions are applicable to the Balrog's actions during his "flight"
from Thangorodrim, the sentence really doesn't shed any light on the subject. However, the use of the word "flying"
just may indicate that Balrogs do have literal wings which they use to fly through the air. It is also possible
that Balrogs have the supernatural ability to fly without wings. And it is also possible that both the Balrogs
"wings" and his "flight" are merely figurative and all Tolkien meant was that the Balrog was escaping from danger.
After all, when Gandalf said: "Fly you fools!" he didn't really mean for the Fellowship to grow wings and flutter
away. Ultimately, there is really no way of knowing any of this for certain. It's all a matter of
Update to Update
Matt Kearns wrote in with a short observation which provides more food for thought:
"Can Balrogs fly? No I don't believe so because if they could, why didn't
the one in Moria just start flying instead of falling when Gandalf broke the bridge?"
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One thing has often bothered me about the Grey Havens and the end of
the Third age. In The Silmarillion, it seems almost impossible to enter Aman.
Even the great mariners on world-saving quests are only permitted entry to the blessed
realm reluctantlyif at all. Why the sudden "relaxation" of the entry
requirements for Fellowship members? This seems especially apparent given Aman was not
even within the confines of the world at this time. Frodo and Sam? Gimli?
Saurons Ring wasnt THAT important or powerful compared (I guess there
could be a relativity argument here) to the deeds of the First and Second Ages, was
It needs to be remembered that by being allowed to enter Aman, the
life spans of the hobbits (and the dwarf) were not affected. They were allowed to
dwell in Aman for their remaining days. But that they were allowed in Aman is unusual.
Probably Galadriel strongly supported admitting Gimli and perhaps even Sam, and it
might be that her voice, with support from Elrond and Gandalf, and with sympathy towards
Frodo and others, that the exceptions were made. But this is mere speculation.
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Why is Samwise Gamgee Frodo's servant throughout The Lord of the Rings? It doesn't
seem that he's of lower status than Frodo according to some reference. For example, near
the end of the chapter "The Window" on the West of The Two Towers, Faramir
"Your land must be a realm of peace and content, and there must gardeners be in high
honour." Then Frodo responded: "Not all is well there, but certainly gardeners are
Despite all this, Sam calls Frodo Master. However, Pippin and Merry never
call him Master. Is it because they are of higher social status and even though gardeners
are honoured in the Shire, he is nonetheless of lower status out of the other three
In a word, yes. J
"Baggins," "Brandybuck," and "Took," are three of the
highest-regarded names in the Shire. The office of Thane has been in the Took family
for time out of mind, and they have their own little patch within the Shire, the Great
Smials. Brandybucks the same; they founded Buckland and keep a seat at their Brandy
Hall. Baggins is described in the very beginning of The Hobbit as being a greatly
respected (not to mention rich) name. Now take it back further, to Tolkiens own
time and country. Being a servant in somebodys house or garden was a widely-held
occupation. In England around the turn of the last century, rich peoples money
came not from working hard and building an empire, usually, but from money that had been
invested by parents, or some such arrangement. These people had land, houses, horses,
carriages, gardens, and servants to look after it allpeople who did not come from
money and had to work for a living. Money confers power through employment of those who
dont have as much. Read Quickbeams excellent "Out On A Limb" for
an example of an exchange between Tolkien, as a college Professor, and a gardener at the
college. Servants addressed their employers and their employers peers as
Now, take all this back to Middle-earth. Its as if Bilbo was a Carnegie, the
Brandybucks were Vanderbilts, and the Tooks were the Rockefellers. Sams father Ham
Gamgee was directly employed by Bilbo as Bag-ends gardener and was training his son
to take over in the same job, so when Gandalf basically orders Sam to go with Frodo,
its as if the son of the castle gardener had been directed to be the personal
plant-keeper of the crown prince. (Thats too extreme of an example, but you get my
drift.) There were social strata in England, so too in the Shire, where the image of
"country squire" with his children and servants was alive and well. This is why
we later see Sam addressing Pippin and Merry as "sir," and Pippin rather
cavalierly ordering him around near the beginning of the journey in the matter of bath-water
and breakfast preparation. He was of the "servant class," where as Pippin, Merry,
and Frodo were of the "gentry." The fact that in the Shire, people in general
were treated better than in our modern world and that these people were friends across the
social lines just speaks to Tolkiens love of "the way things ought to be."
And, conversely, Sam took very seriously his assigned duty to "watch out for Mr.
Frodo," again an example of "the way things ought to be," people taking
their tasks seriously, with a zeal that was born of true affection for his employer, which
we later see turned to love between friends on equal footing.
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How did Morgoth escape the Door of Night to fight the final battle after
being imprisoned there for so long?
Perhaps a little clarification is needed here. During the Spring
of Arda, before the Two Lamps were created, Melkor (Morgoth) willingly withdrew
beyond the Door of Night and harbored himself there, nursing his malice in the darkness.
At this time he was not held captive, rather he had voluntarily withdrawn from Arda.
When he found a time that was comfortable for him he returned with a host of spirits
and began to build his secret refuge of Utumno.
Later, after the first Children of Ilúvatar appeared, the Second Great
Battle commenced. This was the point when the Valar successfully unroofed the
hidden pits of Utumno and took Melkor captive. Back in Valinor he was chained within
the fastness of Mandos for three ages until Manwë pardoned him and let him loose.
So in this instance, Melkors freedom came not by "escape" but by the
grace of Manwë, who did not conceptualize the true depth of Melkors evil.
So lastly, at the end of the First Age, we have the War of Wrath, also
called The Great Battle, wherein the host of Valinor shattered Thangorodrim
and all of Morgoths might was obliterated. I assume this is the final
battle you refer to in your query. Now Manwë was to show no leniency, and
put forth Morgoth and shut him beyond the World in the Void
that is without; and he cannot himself return again into the World, present and visible,
while the Lords of the West are still enthroned."
Actually, this was only the second time in Tolkiens record that Morgoth physically
left the realm of Arda "thrust through the Door of Night." He was not
killed and did not escape again. That means Morgoth is still out there even as I type
this, perhaps waiting for a chance to come back to the modern world and wreak havoc upon
There is something called the "Second Prophecy of Mandos" that refers to
this very probability. You may click here
to learn the
fascinating details from Turgon.
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Envinyatar and Telcontar. Yes, I know theyre the same person,
and that they translate to "The Renewer" and "Strider" in Quenya.
But what is the actual structure of these words (prefixes, suffixes, roots)?
Envinyatar is evidently a form of the unattested verb *envinyata,
"to renew", with the ending (-tar) giving it the meaning of "one
who". Telcontar is a bit more difficult. It evidently contains the same
stem télek- "stalk, stem, leg," as appears in Quenya telko
"leg," with the ending similar to that in envinyatar. The verb form
could possibly be *telconta, "to stride", but this too is unattested.
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I heard a rumor that it
was Radagast who told the Eagles where to be and helped to ultimately win the battles.
For example, in The Hobbit when the Eagles come to the aid, and in the final
battle in front of Mordor's gates. Just wondering if there is any credibility there.
To put it simply, what is the deal with Radagast the Brown? How involved was he with
the fight against Sauron? Where was he during the War of the Ring? Did he do anything
other than send all the birds and animals he was friendly with out to gather news? Was
he part of the White Council that drove the Necromancer out of Dol Guldur? Why wasn't
he at the Council of Elrond? And why didn't he leave Middle-earth on the same ship
Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, Bilbo, and Frodo did? Is it even correct to consider him
one of the Istari, or is he a lesser kind of wizard? Considering that Radagast is only
mentioned once in The Hobbit and once, as far as I remember, in Lord of the Rings, I
realize that any information on him is skimpy, but did Tolkien say any more about Radagast
in other writings?
These beg a lot of questions
on top of the ones they ask themselves! Firstly, since we know that the Eagles were
agents in Middle-earth of Manwë, is it possible that Radagast acted as a messenger
to the Eagles? Here we enter the realm of sheer speculation. I would say that although
it is certainly possible, it is by no means likelier than any other explanation. Not
only were the Eagles Manwës vassals, but they spoke the language of Men and
Elves, so it did not take a Wizard to communicate with them, specifically. I would have
to say that the Eagles had many means of receiving news, from Manwë himself, from
Elves (remember Galadriel sent the Lord of the Eagles to look for Gandalf after the battle
with the Balrog), and from their own eyes and messengers.
Next, Radagast himself. David Day has this to say of him:
"Radagast: Istari, Wizard of Middle-earth. Radagast the Brown was
originally a Maia spirit of Yavanna the Fruitful called Aiwendil, meaning "lover
of birds." Chosen as one of the Istari, the order of Wizards, he came to Middle-earth
in the year 1000 of the Third Age of the Sun. He seemed little concerned with the affairs
of Elves and Men, but was extremely knowledgeable about herbs, plants, birds, and
He is an Istari and he was part of the White Council. There is no doubt in my mind
that he participated in the sacking of Dol Guldur; Gandalf says that the entire Council
put forth its strength to drive the Necromancer out, and whatever else may have happened,
Radagast actually lives in Mirkwood, so the inhabitants of Dol Guldur were no
small matter to him. Did he do anything in the War? Obviously, not that we saw, but
that doesnt mean he did not have his own tasks appointed to him. Gandalfs
task is to be the Enemy of Sauron and to coordinate the fight against the Dark Power.
Radagast, Im sure, had other duties. Getting birds and beasts to play messenger
is no small feat. Why did he not leave on the ship? Perhaps his tasks were not finished.
Gandalfs were. For all we know, Aragorn in his wanderings may have stayed a time or
two with Radagast the Brown and learned from him his plant- and animal-lorenot a
small stock of knowledge, as we know later by his use of athelas and his knowledge
of the natural world in general. I like to think that could have been part of his task,
and part of the reason he was in Middle-earth, to facilitate the Return of the King. And
lastly, I also would like to throw out the possibility that when Galadriel led the fight
against the evil that still inhabited Dol Guldur, in the last days of the War, that Radagast
was there, helping to protect his homeland once again.
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Several times in LOTR there is mention of an underworld. Why?
Tolkien refers to something coming from an underworld, I am not sure when but I think
it is in ROTK. I doubt its the halls of Mandos seeing that that is not
under anything (I dont think). Its named Middle-earth because it was
between Aman and the Lands of the Sun, not because it is between a upper world (the
Void??) and a lower world. When Valinor left earth I guess it could be considered an
upperworld but then Middle-earth would be the underworld, therefore an underworld cannot
have another underworld (sub-basement or something, no?). The only thing I can think of
would be perhaps submerged Númenor or Beleriand, or the deep pits under Mordor or
It would help me so much if you could assist with this problem because my brain has
been hurting for at least six days now from when I read it. I really didnt want
to have to ask for help but I cant find anything on the subject. It is probably
quite obvious but I am just not seeing it.
I havent found any instances in The Lord of the Rings in which
Tolkien used the phrase "underworld", but I think I know what you mean. Perhaps
the most representative description can be found in the passage where Gandalf describes his
fight with the Balrog:
"We fought far under the living earth, where time is not counted
below the deepest delvings of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even
Sauron knows them not. They are older than he. Now I have walked there, but I will bring
no report to darken the light of day." (The Two Towers, p. 105)
These places far below Middle-earth do not seem to be necessarily outside of
Middle-earth, but just very much in its depths.
Tolkiens conception of the relationship between Arda and Aman is not a simple
one. I recommend Tolkiens own account, probably from the 1930s, "The
Ambarkanta: The Shape of the World", which appears in The Shaping of
Middle-earth" (Volume IV of The History of Middle-earth), including maps and
drawings and a descriptive text.
A reader pointed out to me that there is an instance of the phrase underworld
being used in The Lord of the Rings. Specifically, in The Return of the
King, near the end of the chapter "The Siege of Gondor", the orcs use
a battering ram: "Grond they name it, in memory of the Hammer of the Underworld
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Do the women hobbits have furry feet like the men hobbits? I
dont think there is any reference for this in The Hobbit nor The
Lord of the Rings, but Im curious and would also like to know your opinion.
In the Prologue to The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien wrote:
"As for the Hobbits of the Shire
they seldom wore shoes, since their
feet had tough leathery soles and were clad in a thick curling hair, much like the
hair of their heads, which was commonly brown." There is no reason to think
that this description refers only to one sex of the hobbit-folk, so I would say that
hobbit-women have hairy feet, just like their male counterparts.
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Hi. Heres my question. When Cirdan gives Gandalf the Ring of Fire when he arrives
in Middle-earth, he says, "...I will dwell by the grey shores until the last ship sails.
I will await you." Did Cirdan sail with the Ring-Bearers? Was that the last ship he
referred to or, as I like to think, would he remain till the last Elf forsook Middle-earth?
Well, we know that Cirdan definitely sailed with Gandalf and Company. (Hes in
charge of the ship.) Did he come back?
David Day states that "Cirdan himself remained [at the Havens] long into the
Fourth Age, until the last Elves departed." We are clearly told in Tale of Years
that Legolas builds his own boat in Ithilien and takes Gimli with him. If there were
still ships available at the Havens, why would he build his own? Also, we are never
clearly told of Elves who sailed after Legolas. (See also questions about Celeborn and
the Sons of Elrond.) We are told that tradition has it that Sam sought passage
at the Havens and was granted it. Was Cirdan still there for that? Presumably, since
he was Lord of those Havens. In that case, although it carries a lot of grandeur to
think of the ship Elrond, Galadriel, Gandalf, and the Hobbits sailed on as the last,
it wouldnt be possible if Cirdan came back and was there when Sam arrived.
I am of a couple of minds on this. I dont like to think that Cirdan was
destined to stay at his post until the very last solitary Elf made up his mind to sail,
but on the other hand, there have been duties more stern than that, and what are a couple
of ages to an immortal being? I think its very likely that Day is correct (I
dont know what his sources are) and that Cirdans task was to be in charge
of the Havens and its ships until an end was come of the First-born in Middle-earth.
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In the beginning of time when the Elves awoke the Eldar peoples
all had their high kings. The VanyarIngwë, The NoldorFinwë and
the TeleriElwë (Thingol). But the vast majority of elves remained in the
east of Middle-earth and were called Avari. Did they also have a high king? What was
his name and where did he live?
Most of the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien concern the High Elves and their
relations with the other peoples of Middle-earth. The Avari do not enter into such tales
very much, but we do have some tidbits of information on them, gleaned from various
sources. Whether they had a high king as such, I have not discovered, but Thranduil was
the King of such elves in the Woodland Realm in Greenwood the Great, or Mirkwood (and he
figures in The Hobbit as the Elvenking). There were, perhaps, other populations
of the Avari in various parts of Middle-earth with their own kings, but they do not seem
to have come into the tales as we have them.
Yes, I got a bunch of the distinctions between the various types of elves confused here.
Anthony Perez-Miller elaborated as follows:
"The Elves of the Greenwood (and the non-Eldarin elves of Lothlorien) were -not- Avari. When the Vanyar, Eldar, and Teleri departed on the Great Journey, either the Teleri were the most numerous of the three branches, or they simply wandered more than the other tribes. Some of the Teleri remained in the Vales of Anduin and the Greenwood during the First Age, some crossed the Hithaeglir and Ered Luin into Beleriand, and some departed across Belegaer into Aman.
"The first group of Teleri--those that remained east of the Misty Mountains--were the ancestors of the Silvan elves, who are considered neither Eldar nor Avari. The Teleri of Beleriand were the Sindarin elves; although not Eldar in the true sense (i.e., they never saw the light of the Trees in Aman), they were nobler in spirit and bearing because of their association with Melian during the First Age. Of course, the Teleri of Alqualonde are Eldar in the strict sense. . . .
"The wood-elves of Greenwood were silvan; consider Legolas' words in "The Ring Goes South", while the Company travelled through Eregion: "But the Elves of this land were of a race strange to us of the silvan folk..." "Silvan" is not a word invented by JRRT; this is an excerpt from the Oxford English Dictionary: One who (or something that) inhabits a wood or forest; a being of the woods. . . .An imaginary being supposed to haunt woods or groves; a deity or spirit of the woods. [Clearly here the word is used as a noun, not an adjective.]
"It seems safe to say that silvan elf = wood-elf, as you already said; certainly they are equivalent in Westron, at least. Although it's probably possible to find evidence in the corpus to the contrary, it's a good bet to maintain the distinction between silvan Elves and the Avari, because of the difference between those Quendi who eventually sailed into the west, and those who never even began the journey. Also, the language of the wood-elves is a dialect of Sindarin, while that of the Avari is largely unknown."
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While reading the appendices for the LOTR, I noticed two
references to The Silmarillion (in Appendices A and F). This raises a
few questions. Wasnt Sil unfinished by the time of Tolkiens
death? If it werent for Christopher Tolkien wouldnt we all be like:
"Whats The Silmarillion?" Could Tolkien have been simply
referring to a book that he never intended to publish, as yet another way to add
"depth" do his book? Or is this proof that he definitely intended to
publish Sil (along with proof of what he intended to call the book)? Leaving
these references behind makes me think that it was definitely Tolkiens intention
to eventually publish this book (although I understand that many critics believe
Christopher T. was wrong to publish it posthumously). What do you guys think?
Christopher Tolkiens twelve-volume series, The History of
Middle-earth, shows in great detail the writings his father had made, ranging
from the late 1910s up to the time of his death in 1973, as regards
The Silmarillion. There is really no question at all that Tolkien himself
wanted to publish The Silmarillion, in some form, and it was his expressed
wish that if he died before completing it, the job would pass to his son. I think
Christopher Tolkien has done an exemplary job in publishing both The
Silmarillion (1977) as we know it, and in showing the development of these
"Silmarillion materials" over the span of his fathers life in The
History of Middle-earth series. Personally Im very pleased that Christopher
Tolkien has devoted twenty-five years of his life to sharing these remarkable creations
with the public, but I am aware that there are some critics who do think that it was
wrong for him to have published such unfinished and unpolished materials. My view is
that these critics need not read these books if they dont want to. But I
(and many others) have wanted to read them, and I think that such materials should be
made available for those who want to read them. A complete proscription on the
publication of such materials, as some of these critics have wanted, seems to me an
outlandish and indefensible position. Over the years such questions of posthumous
publication have been raised about the writings of many authors, not just Tolkien.
Its a question that will always be raised, but I stand firmly on the side in
favor of such publications.
A reader Mason Proulx commented: "You perfectly answer the questions about
whether or not it should have been published (that Tolkien truly wanted it published
and at one point even he fully intended it to be published together with LOTR), but
the person here also seems to be asking something more which I hope you can still address.
Although he doesn't ask it directly, he seems to be inquiring about why Tolkien would often
mention The Silmarillion in his writing as if other people should know what he was
talking about? If so, how is it that other people (not related to the publishing business)
were aware of its existance?"
Tolkien gave a number of interviews in the mid-1960s, as The Lord of the Rings
appeared on bestseller lists after the paperback edition had appeared. In articles written
at that time there was frequently a mention of Tolkien working on The Silmarillion.
So from the mid-1960s on, we can see how fans would have known about The Silmarillion.
Plus, as can be seen in Letters, Tolkien himself frequently mentioned it in his
correspondence, so some word of the book must have gotten round that way too.
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Why did Frodos party never encounter or even hear anything from
Morias inhabitants until the Chamber of Mazarbul? Frodo even spent a night
listening intensely in the darkness, with the enhanced hearing that the one ring gave
him. But he did not hear anything at allno faint orc cry from the deep chasms,
no distant troll-roar, nothing (except Gollums steps). And then suddenly, when
they have crossed almost the entire cave system, hundreds of orcs, trolls and the Balrog
himself suddenly appear outside of the Chamber of Mazarbul. Can orcs be silent? Why
did they not hear anything before?
It appears that most of the underground realm of the Dwarves was towards
the east end of the Mountains. All of the many chambers and deeps seem on the
Lórien side, and it may have been only little-used passages that stretched out
west so far as to the West-gate, opening out to Eregion. By the time of The Lord of
the Rings, the orcs seems to have been concentrated towards the eastern end. And
Gollum, who had entered through the east end, was trying to find his way to the West-gate
when he encountered the Fellowship, and began to follow it back eastwards. Once the orcs
became aware of the Fellowship, they watched them and were trying to lure them into an
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Gandalf explains to Frodo in "The Shadow of the Past" that Sauron has learned from
Gollum that the Ring still exists. However, if Sauron's continued existence depends
on the continued existence of the Ring, shouldn't he know that the Ring still exists
just by the fact that he's still alive?
Ack! Okay, lets start with the facts as we know them. Gandalf states: "He
believed that the One had perished; that the Elves had destroyed it, as should have been
done. But he knows now that it has not perished, that it has been found."
He goes on to recount how the Ring was cut from Saurons hand, his spirit was
"vanquished" and fled until taking shape again in Dol Guldur. So far so good,
Sauron did indeed think that the Ring was destroyed. But did he know that if it was
destroyed he would lose his spiritual cohesion, be, in essence, destroyed? I dont
Firstly, I do not recall any passage in the book that tells of this knowledge. The
Council of Elrond discusses what would happen to the other Rings if the One were
destroyed, and they talk about Sauron losing his grip over his slaves and lands, but
looking at this with logic, if Sauron knew that if the Ring were destroyed, he would be,
then he never would have supposed that it had been destroyed. As Holmes used to
say, "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable,
must be the truth." Sauron thought the Ring had perished, therefore he was not under
the belief that his own existence was connected with the continued existence of the Ring.
I like to think that it came as a shockingly nasty surprise for old Sauron, that once the
Ring was melted, he was toast! J
This, of course, merely begs the question of whether or not Sauron or any other spiritual
being with a soul, however twisted, could actually be destroyed or whether he was merely
rendered innoccuous or imprisoned in a particular form of Hell or chained in the Void with
his mentor. In my understanding of Tolkien so far, he really does not say.
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Is there a mention of the Mirror of Galadriel anywhere other than in the
LOTR? What is its origin? Do other high elves have one? Did she create it? What would
have happened to Sam and Frodo or their visions if they HAD touched the Mirror? Galadriel
makes a clear point to both of them not to touch it.
There are no other unique details about the Mirror other than what we
experience through Frodo and Sams point of view. Of its origin and history we
know nothing. I would not assume that other high elves had their own Mirror
but perhaps similar methods of scrying were still within the power of certain elves.
I find many instances in occult lore and folk tales where the scrying object may not
be touched or disturbed. Traditionally, it is most important for the scryer to
concentrate on the visions within the water (or crystals), and any disturbance of the
water would certainly break down the process.
I believe too much disclosure would have destroyed this artifacts enigmatic hold
on our imaginations. It was wise of Tolkien to shy away from such.
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Just recently I have purchased the Illustrated Encyclopedia of
Middle-earth and found a time chart of Middle-earth and the Undying Lands.
In the chart concerning ME it says "Saurons spirit vanishes" but
in the chart of the UL it says "Valar reject Saurons spirit." Do
you know anything about that, and where is the source? Cause I think it is a
real interesting fact that the Valar are not once again fooled by Sauron and do not
give him a second chance like they did before with him and Morgoth.
It is possible that the statement that the "Valar reject
Saurons spirit" is an interpolation of the events at the Field of
Cormallen, where Gandalf announces that the realm of Sauron has ended:
And as the Captains gazed south to the Land of Mordor, it seemed to them that,
black against the pall of cloud, there rose a huge shape of shadow, impenetrable,
lightning-crowned, filling all the sky. Enormous it reared above the world, and
stretched out towards them a vast threatening hand, terrible but impotent: for
even as it leaned over them, a great wind took it, and it was all blown away, and
Compare this passage with the death of Saruman, as described in The
Scouring of the Shire:
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.
The spirit of Saruman seems very clearly to have been rejected by the Valar,
with the cold wind from the West. And though the passage about Sauron is not as
explicit, it seems likely that his spirit too was rejected in a similar manner.
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If Im not mistaken, Durin the Deathless founded Khazad-dûm
some time predating the First Age. However, Morgoth was defeated at the very end of
the First Age. At the time of Morgoths defeat dragons, Orcs, Balrogs, etc. fled
from the destruction of Angband. And according to LOTR, the Balrog of Moria
escaped the destruction of his masters realm by hiding beneath the mountains of
Moria! How could the dwarves not notice a Balrog of all things entering the Halls of
Khazad-dûm!? Could the Balrog tunnel underground somehow? How could he have
hidden himself under the mansions of Moria without the Dwarves knowing it?
We dont really know the answer to this, but I suspect a clue
lies in Gandalfs description of his fight with the Balrog. They fought far
below the earth, "far, far below the deepest delvings of the Dwarves" where
"the world is gnawed by nameless things". Clearly the Balrog knew these
underworld denizens and their secret passages (and Gandalf himself recognized this,
knowing that his enemy was also his only hope out of there), and it may be that in
fleeing Morgoths defeat at the end of the First Age, the Balrog approached
Khazad-dûm from below. But this is speculation.
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Daeron was the finest singer in all of Middle-earth and the personal
bard of Lúthien. Correct me if I am wrong. From what I remember he wandered
off in sorrow after Lúthien died. Does that mean that he is still walking
around in the late Third Age?
Actually Daeron was in the service of Thingol, Lúthiens
overbearing father, and was considered the greatest loremaster within the kingdom.
Within his time of service, Daeron was so smitten with Lúthien that he "set
all his thought of her in his music." The downside of this, of course, was that
he played an integral part in the tragedy that befell Beren and Lúthien. He
was so jealous of Beren that he betrayed Lúthiens trust on two occasions,
creating an opening for Thingol to counter her efforts to be with her true love.
What ultimately became of Daeron is unknown. There is no record of his deeds in
the Second or Third Ages. If he did not fall in some battle or decide to return to
Valinor, then its possible he was still wandering across the East of Middle-earth
in his ongoing lament.
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Is there a detailed description in any of Tolkiens works
(father or son) of the fight between Sauron, Gil-galad and Elendil on the slopes
of Orodruin other than the one in the LOTR, which is not detailed at all?
This great battle is referred to as The Last Alliance and was
masterminded by Gil-galad, Elendil, Isildur, and Círdan. Ultimately, their
armies laid siege to Barad-dûr for seven years and forced Sauron to come forth.
Elrond was there himself and discusses it during the great Council in The Fellowship
of the Ring on page 256. Look also in The Silmarillion on pages 293-294.
Not much, admittedly, but there you are.
You can find maps and more details in Karen Wynn Fonstads The Atlas of
Middle-earth on page 47.
I understand our favorite director Peter Jackson will include scenes of The Last
Alliance vs. Sauron during the opening minutes of his first film installment.
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I have heard that LOTR was based on World War II, and that
the different races represent different countries and so on. If this is true,
which races represent which countries? Also, are there any main characters who
represent important historical figures, such as Sauron (Hitler perhaps), or Aragorn
Tolkien himself responded to this line of questioning in the
"Foreword to the Second Edition" of The Lord of the Rings (1966).
The real war does not resemble the legendary war in its process or its conclusion.
If it had inspired or directed the development of the legend, then certainly the Ring
would have been seized and used against Sauron; he would not have been annihilated
but enslaved, and Barad-dûr would not have been destroyed but occupied. Saruman,
failing to get possession of the Ring, would in the confusion and treacheries of the
time have found in Mordor the missing links in his own researches into Ring-lore, and
before long, he would have made a Great Ring of his own with which to challenge the
self-styled Ruler of Middle-earth. In that conflict both sides would have held hobbits
in hatred and contempt: they would not long have survived even as slaves
I think that many confuse applicability with allegory; but
one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of
There are indeed some critics who discount Tolkiens own statements, and maintain
in spite of his protest that The Lord of the Rings is some sort of allegory of
World War II. I think that, like Tolkien says, they confuse "applicability"
with "allegory". Certainly Tolkien wrote about a great war; and the great war
in the collective memory of the 1960s and 1970s was W.W.II. But Tolkiens own
earlier writings, including The Book of Lost Tales from the teens, and The
Silmarillion from the twenties and thirties, show that legendary history, including
major wars, was a predominant aspect of his imagination, and The Lord of the Rings
is a very representative development of his earlier literary interests. Still, critics
will be critics, and will continue to make their own critical fantasies. This line of
pursuit holds no interest for me.
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In Fellowship, Frodo asks Gandalf why the Ring has only served to make him invisible,
and not given him any knowledge of, let alone power over, the other Great Rings. Gandalf
counsels him (sensibly) not to try, saying that to do so "You must first accustom your will
to the domination of others," etc. Yet, standing before the Crack of Doom, Frodo doesn't
just put on the Ring -- he wields it, claiming its full power of command and defying
Sauron. How? By what has he "accustomed his will to the domination of others?"
My answer: Gollum. When he and Sam catch Gollum trailing them out of the Emyn Muil, Frodo
asks Gollum for a promise he can trust that Gollum will not betray them. Gollum offers only
one promise -- he will swear on the Precious, the One Ring. Frodo sternly bids him swear
by the Ring and not on it, yet swear he does -- "I will serve the master of
the Precious." So now Frodo commands the wretched Gollum -- commands him by virtue of holding
the Ring, whom that same Ring made wretched. This is Frodo's practice at the use of the Ring
to bend others to his will, that makes him able to wield its full power, and ultimately
makes the Ring his master. Of course, it is foolish to ask "if?" of such a well crafted
tale, yet I must ask: If Frodo had not subjugated Gollum, and yet had come to the Crack of
Doom, might he have still been uncorrupted enough as to just toss the Ring in?
Wow. Im pretty sure
youve answered your own question here, but its such a fascinating argument I
had to print it. I think youre absolutely right in that by being "forced"
by Gollum to use the Ring to command Gollum, Frodo came even more under the control of the
Ring. He had to do this, or else the success of the whole mission would be
imperiled by Gollum. What an unbelievable irony! However, I cant help wondering
how the whole Shelob episode plays into this. It was, after all, Gollum who betrayed them
to the monstrous thing. I wonder if, having sworn by the Precious, he was not still at
least a little bit under the sway of the Maker of the Precious, as well as under
that of its current Master? Another interesting speculation. I find I lean
powerfully towards an affirmative answer to your speculation about Frodos willpower,
although I objectively know that Frodos will was not entirely his own from the
moment he first took the Ring under his responsibility. He had trouble handing it to
Gandalf for testing, and cried out when it was thrown into his hearth-fire, and did not
want to get it out to show Bilbo, and so on. So no, he would not have just "tossed
it in," although that image makes me want to cheer a bit.
I do think, however, that if he had not accustomed himself to the power the
Ring wields over others through his hold over Gollum, he might have been persuaded
by Sam or some other device to give it up. I think youre on the right track.
I find it interesting, though, that in the end, the difference between swearing by
the Precious or on it made no difference to Gollum whatsoever. He was sworn
to serve the master of the Precious, but in the end when it came down to the Precious OR
the master, he, of course, chose the Precious. And it was Frodos salvation that
he did so.
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I was just wondering what really happened to Nimrodel? She was
supposed to sail over the seas with Amroth, but never reached the sea. From the
story I assumed that she perished on the road. However, in The Return of the
King I read "It is long since the people of Nimrodel left the woodlands
of Lórien, and yet still one may see that not all sailed from Amroths
haven west over water" (p. 148). What happened, and why was she delayed?
According to "The Tale of Years" in Appendix B of The
Lord of the Rings, Amroth and Nimrodel were lost in the year 1981 of the Third
Age, the year after the Balrog appeared in Moria and slayed Durin VI, after which
time the Dwarves fled from Moria and many of the Silvan Elves of Lórien fled
south. A short text by Tolkien entitled "Part of the Legend of Amroth and
Nimrodel recounted in brief" appears in Unfinished Tales, but in this
text it states "of what befell Nimrodel nothing is said here, though there were
many legends concerning her fate." One of these legends appears in another text
quoted in Unfinished Tales:
When Nimrodel fled from Lórien it is said that seeking for the sea she
became lost in the White Mountains, until at last (by what road or pass is not known)
she came to a river that reminded her of her own stream in Lórien. Her heart
was lightened, and she sat by a mere, seeing the stars reflected in its dim waters,
and listening to the waterfalls by which the river went again on its journey down to
the sea. There she fell into a deep sleep of weariness, and so long she slept that
she did not come down into Belfalas until Amroths ship had been blown out to sea,
and he was lost trying to swim back to Belfalas.
One of Nimrodels companions, Mithrellas, was harboured by Imrazor, a
Númenorean dwelling in Belfalas, who married her. From their union, the strain
of Elven blood entered the line of Dol Amroth. (See The Peoples of Middle-earth,
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When Finrod dies, it says that he "walks with Finarfin his father
beneath the trees in Eldamar." Now, Ive never understood the whole Mandos
thing very well, but I could have sworn that when elves die, they remain in the Halls
of Mandos until the End. Is this not true? Or did Felagund get a get outta
jail free card or something cause he did good or was so damn cool or something?
When elves "die," their spirits go back to Mandos where they can
be healed and released again. So explain the Dead Marshes. Were there elf spirits in
the mere? Surely Sauron couldnt interfere with Ilúvatars plan. So
what do you guys think?
According to The Silmarillion:
Whereas the Elves remain until the end of days
For the Elves die not till the world dies, unless they are slain or waste in grief (and to both these seeming deaths they are subject); neither does age subdue their strength, unless one grow weary of ten thousand centuries; and dying they are gathered to the halls of Mandos in Valinor, whence they may in time return.
This is the text I pretty much follow to the letter for my interpretation of the elves afterlife. Tolkien is quite clear that the Elves are immortal in that their relationship to death is completely different than that of Men. Elves may die at the hands of other creatures or die of grief; they may even choose to forsake their defining aspect of spiritual rejuvenation and become like Men (i.e., mortal as we know it).
The Professor also clearly states the Fate of the Elves is bound to the world. In his Letters he usually wrote of Elves being immortalthat is, immortal within quotation marks (i.e., Letters, p. 146: "The Elves are immortal, at least as far as this world goes"; or look on p. 285: "In this mythical prehistory immortality, strictly longevity co-extensive with the life of Arda, was part of the given nature of the Elves.").
Also consider this from Letters, p. 286:
The Elves were not subject to disease, but they could be slain: that is there bodies could be destroyed, or mutilated so as to be unfit to sustain life. But this did not lead naturally to death: they were rehabilitated and reborn and eventually recovered memory of all of their past: they remained identical.
So when an elf dies his physical shell is empty and his spirit is "gathered" or reincarnated in the halls of Mandos (or the Halls of Waiting). If Tolkien says "whence they may in time return" that means after an indeterminate period of time they may leave the halls and return to Valinor (not far to go, since the halls of Mandos are already in Valinor, placed in the west of West). Based on the excerpt above, I feel that elves did not have to wait until the End to come forth again. Glorfindel is an example of an Elf dying, being reborn, and returning to Middle-earth (though the latter part is unusual). However, I do not know what the deciding factor was that released them from the time of waiting. The statement of Finrod Felagund walking around Eldamar supports my view. Of course, there is plenty of room for speculation both pro and con.
Turgon, my fellow Green Booker, found something dealing with this subject in The History of Middle-earth series:
There is a fascinating text in Volume 10 of The History, Morgoths Ring, entitled "Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth," or the Debate of Finrod and Andreth, which concerns an Elf (Finrod) and a wise-woman (Andreth) discussing their beliefs on the natures of souls in Men and Elves. This deals in some extent with what happens to the Elves when they die, and things get a bit complicated (like everywhere else in Tolkien).
As for the Dead Marshes, well, here you get into a technical discussion of what makes a haunting. The area was originally the vast graves from the Battle of Dagorlad, heaped with many thousands of bodies. I dont believe any spirits of Men, Elves, or Orcs haunted the Marshes but the bodies remained. No, the spirits were long gone to other destinations; but Tolkien created a haunted place that was filled with memories, grief, and some furtive menace of Sauron. Even Sam asks:
The Dead cant be really there! Is it some devilry hatched in the Dark Land?
It seems to me the great sorrows of that Battle were never washed away. The power of those memoriesthe compounded unrest of thousandswould be ample enough haunting for my taste sans the spirits. So it begs the question: Is a haunting qualified by a ghostly apparition or can it be a focused impression of the deceaseds memory, a lingering imprint of the former self? You may reach your own
- Quickbeam and Turgon
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Why did Morgoth fear Gondolin? Even at the battle of Unnumbered
Tears the united might of the Noldor was not great enough to break his power, so
why did he have to worry about Turgon? What could the Gondolithrim have done to
seriously hurt Morgoths power, even if they had not been laid under a doom
Morgoth especially feared Gondolin because he did not know it. For a
long time he knew nothing of its location, or its strengths, but only that Turgon
had amassed a stronghold to resist him. This lack of specific information evidently
caused Morgoth to fear how powerful Gondolin might be, rather than the more limited
power it in fact turned out to be.
Tim from New Zealand pointed out a very pertinent passage that I missed. In Chapter
20 of The Silmarillion ("Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad"), it reads:
"Morgot feared Turgon; for of old in Valinor his eye had lighted upon him, and
whenever he drew near a shadow had fallen on his spirit, foreboding that in some
time that yet lay hidden, from Turgon ruin should come to him."
Update to Update!
A few readers have written in to point out that Morgoth was correct to fear
Gondolin, as it was the ultimate source of his downfall. Earendil, son of Tuor and
Idril, daughter of Turgon, successfully navigated to Valinor and sued for the pardon
of the Noldor. Thus was Morgoth finally defeated.
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What made Gandalf decide that the position of burglar in the party of
Thorin Oakenshield and Co. needed to be filled by a short, portly, timid, unworldly,
inexperienced homebody named Bilbo (other than because there would not be a story
otherwise)? I know that Gandalf persuades Bilbo that the adventure is good for him, but
he could have given Bilbo a nice adventure by taking him to Bree and back. What was in
it for Gandalf and the Dwarves?
There is a very curious text by Tolkien called "The Quest of
Erebor," published in Unfinished Tales. In this text, which is set
in Minas Tirith, Gandalf tells the story of how he came to arrange Bilbos
adventure. Its a fascinating perspective, and I recommend that you read it,
for it will answer most if not all of your questions.
Please see further details from our first Q&A of September 5, 1999, by