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Q: Hi. There are many and many puzzling characters in Tolkien's world and one of them is Mouth of Sauron. The only thing I know about his origin was that he was probably a Black Númenorean. Can you tell me something more about his origin and his fate? I have two more questions, concerning the origin of the Dúnedain and that of the Dead Men who broke their oath to fight against Sauron in ancient times.

Thanks from Bulgaria,

– Sofia

A: I’m afraid I cannot tell you more about his origin; what little we know from The Return of the King is all that Tolkien wants us to know, it seems. That he was originally of Númenorean descent is something only suggested, but it is enough to fill in the gaps. He would have been a scion of "the unfaithful" who fell under Sauron’s sway during the Second Age. We also are given some tidbits about this character’s pursuit of sorcery and evil magic (which I find very interesting). But I’m unwilling to follow any further conjecture beyond what little bit of color is given in the text.

His fate? Well, we know nothing of that either I’m afraid. I assume he met a very unpleasant end with the final destruction of the Ring and Sauron. There is no mention of him surrendering to Aragorn… so perhaps he was lost in the shattering of the Black Gate (indeed crushed under the massive structure along with thousands of other Orcs under his command).

On to your next question: The term "Dúnedain" was used in Middle-earth to refer to any of the Men of Númenor (and often implied here are the descendants of Elendil) who survived the destruction of Númenor at the end of the Second Age. The Oathbreakers themselves were also of the Race of Men, but I strongly believe they were not connected to the Dúnedain or their kin. I understand they were merely a collected population of Men who lived in the White Mountains and had been there for quite sometime before the establishment of the Gondor; an indigenous people of the land.


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Q: I have a question for you. Near the end of The Silmarillion, the half-elven brothers, Elrond and Elros, are given the choice to whether they want to be Elven or Human, and Elros decides that he wants to be Human. My question is what possible reason did Elros have that he would pass on immortality (and reincarnation if you are killed) for 200 to 300+ years of life and then you die to be seen no more. Obviously his descendants didn't think too much of his choice. Please help, I have never been able to understand this.

–David Scott

A: The reason that Elros might have passed on immortality was so as to be a recipient of Eru’s special "gift" to Men, and that is "death." The fate of the Elves is bound to the Circles of the World, whereas Eru, through the Ainulindalë, ordained that Men should have a special gift. After their deaths, their spirits would go to the halls of Mandos, and then pass to an unknown destiny beyond the Circles of the World. It was in the Second and Third Ages (after Elros made his choice) that this gift began to be seen as a curse, especially by the Númenoreans. And this gift was thereafter called the Doom of Men. But at the time that Elros made his choice, this gift of an unknown destiny must have seemed wondrous.

- Turgon

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Q: How could Isildur cut the One Ring off of Sauron’s hand if he was invisible?

Thank you!

- Clark Young

A: Well, well, well. Here’s a question in return: how visible was Sauron in the first place? We know that he could take physical form when he chose; we have to assume he could be invisible if he chose, as well. So the Ring wouldn’t really have too much to do with whether he was visible or not. Just because it makes mortals invisible–and some fans have written me with really good theories on that one–doesn’t mean it has to make Maia invisible.

So the question then becomes, "If Sauron could be invisible, why was he visible enough to allow the Ring to be cut from his hand?" My answer there becomes a simple math problem in terms of expenditure of power and energy on Sauron’s part.

A) The greater part of Sauron’s power was enclosed within the Ring, and that power was being used to control his minions in the battle.

B) Much of this power would have been depleted trying to keep fighting, because we know it had ebbed low enough that the Last Alliance was able to advance, and was in fact winning.

C) Sauron therefore could not draw on the power of the Ring to help defend himself, and I think we can safely assume that he had used whatever power was left in him in an unsuccessful attempt to bolster his flagging armies.

D) It didn’t work. The Alliance kept advancing, till Isildur was in a position to approach and cut the Ring off. Elendil and Anarion were dead at this point, and presumably Gil-Galad also, but still the armies of the Alliance were too much for Sauron.

E) He had no power left with which to defend himself, including invisibility.

It works for me! Hope it answers it for you.

- Anwyn

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Q: What is mithril?


A: Sometimes called truesilver, this extraordinary precious metal was mined by the Dwarves under the halls of Moria. Gandalf gives the best detailed description of mithril in The Fellowship of the Ring, "A Journey in the Dark," page 331.

Thorin once gave Bilbo a wonderful mithril mail-shirt, which he later passed down to Frodo. As you’ll recall, that mail saved Frodo’s life while the Fellowship battled orcs in Moria.

- Quickbeam

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Q: Faramir tells Eowyn, while resting in the House of Healing, that he often dreams of Númenor. He speaks to her about a darkness engulfing them, like the wave that overtook the island of Númenor. So I ask: How was Faramir able to see this? Sure, it was a dream. But how is he able to dream about something he never saw? I know he must have learned all the lore of Númenor while growing up in Minas Tirith. But Faramir was obviously a special person. Almost Elven. Yet it seems that his purpose and fate were always mingled in the history of Middle-earth. For he also had the dream in which the poem was spoken to him about the halfling and Isildur's bane. Is anything else ever spoken about Faramir and his gifts? And do you think Boromir too had dreams of Númenor. It is a vision that fascinates me.


A: Tolkien’s use of dreams as precognitive devices in The Lord of the Rings would make a fascinating study. Besides Faramir’s dream with the poem beginning "Seek for the Sword that was broken" (shared once by Boromir, who says that it "came to my brother in a troubled sleep; and afterwards a like dream came oft to him, and once to me"), and his dream of the Great Wave (a dream which Tolkien himself had, and which he said he "bequeathed" to Faramir), the dreams of Frodo also seem to have a vital role in the plot. Think of Frodo’s dreams in the house of Tom Bombadil, and of his dream of Gandalf pacing in a tower when Gandalf was imprisoned in Orthanc. Clearly there is some sort of agency at work for Frodo and Faramir to have had such dreams as they did, be it Eru or the Valar. Unfortunately, so far as I am aware, Tolkien doesn’t elaborate on this topic anywhere, nor on the undoubted special nature of Faramir.

- Turgon


Vanyar has written in with some interesting additional points:

"I just wanted to elaborate on one point that "Radagast" raised. Radagast mentions that Faramir's "visions" and lore-mastery make him seem almost Elvish. The Hobbits even make the comment that he reminds them of Gandalf, to which Faramir replies that perhaps they discern from afar the air of Numenor.....his humble way of saying that he is indeed of the progeny of Anadune.
"Anyway, back to my point. Faramir doesn't just appear to have Elvish qualities......he has actual Elven blood in his veins....Silvan blood....... but Elven nonetheless. He and Boromir's mother was Finduilas of Dol Amroth, daughter of Adrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth (the father or grandfather of Imrahil). And the Princes of Dol Amroth, in direct line, were descended from Galador, the first prince of Dol Amroth, who was the son of Imrazor the Numenorean and the Lady Mithrellas, a silvan elf who was one of Nimrodel's companions. So Boromir, Faramir and Imrahil had Elven blood in their veins.....as of course Legolas noted when he first met Imrahil."

- Turgon

Update to Update!

Will H. wrote in with another point, noting that in The Return of the King "Gandalf warns Pippin about the nature of Denethor.  I don't have the text in front of me but the gist goes like this: Théoden is a kindly old man, but Denethor is a man unlike others found in Middle Earth today.  In him, by some chance, the blood of Westernesse runs nearly true as it does in his son Faramir. He also mentions that the air of Numenor did not run as true in Boromir. . . . Faramir's visions are clearly linked to his pure Numenorean ancestry and majesty.  He is a living lord of Numenor second only to Aragorn in the LotR."

- Turgon

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Q: How does Glamdring, great sword of Turgon the High King of the Noldor and ruler of the largest elven colony in Gondolin, end up in Bert, Tom, and the other troll’s loot cave? When Turgon dies in the ruin of the royal tower in Gondolin, surely he would have his sword. This means that Glamdring, his sword and later Gandalf’s, would have fallen into the chasm next to Gondolin and been buried under thousands of tons of masonry. Also, if it were found by the servants of Mordor or Angband, why would they carry it or even touch it when they hate the blade so much? And surely if an elf was carrying it, he would have been able to defend himself from trolls or just be vicious enough to make the trolls realize that he wasn't worth the bother for his sword. Also, Orcrist, Glamdring’s sister sword, was with Glamdring in the cave. Whose was it? Where or how was it found and sorry this question is so long?

--Ben Warre

A: Well, it’s important to remember that ruins don’t stay just ruins for long. People come and scavenge. First they take the stuff on top, then they take away the rocks and stones to build new buildings, and then they take the stuff under the rubble. I have no doubt that anything valuable in the sack of Gondolin was later found and passed from hand to hand, via thieves and ruffians, so that the swords found their way into the trolls’ lair. As for why they would carry the swords if they hated them, well, remember, it’s mainly the orcs that have the grudge against the swords. Servants of Angband and Mordor come in all races, not just orc, and those swords were valuable. Good, evil, or otherwise, a good sword is worth something, and more than pays for the carrying.

- Anwyn

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Q: Hello, I was somewhat curious over the matter of Sauron's acquisition of the One Ring being the end of Middle-earth and all its inhabitants. It's been made obvious that with the One Ring Sauron's power would be immense — but what of the Valar? Surely they could have overcome the armies of Sauron. Why didn't they play any part in aiding the Fellowship or the armies of Good if the outcome were to be so devastating to Middle-earth?


–Burns Waggener

A: One must remember that during the downfall of Númenor, the Valar removed themselves from the world. What with all the armies of Númenor sailing up to make war against them they were fed up, it seems, and had had quite enough. In The Silmarillion it says: "Then Manwë upon the Mountain called upon Ilúvatar, and for that time the Valar laid down their government of Arda."

Not only did they categorically cease any involvement with the affairs of Elves and Men, but Ilúvatar changed the shape of Arda from flat to round, completely removing the continent of Aman and the Kingdom of Valinor from the Circles of the World. With that doom fallen, the lives of the Free Peoples were their own to live, and the powers of the Valar were no longer directly brought to bear in the affairs of Middle-earth. If Sauron were to rise again and cause trouble, then tough! The Valar took an attitude of "you made your bed, now lie in it." That was, of course, during the Second Age.

Later, Sauron did indeed return bringing havoc and war … and for over a thousand years the Valar stayed out of it. So yes, you’re right when you suggest they could have overcome Sauron’s forces, making everything easier for the Two Kindreds, but they didn’t.

However, later during the Third Age the Valar changed their tune a bit. They must have been keeping an eye on things from afar (certainly Manwë was), and realizing that Sauron’s threat was worsening they decided to send help — and that help was The Istari. Five Wizards they were, originally Maiar from Valinor, sent to guide the hearts of Men and Elves. The resistance and countering of Sauron was facilitated largely by their presence (most notably Gandalf’s).

So in the end the Valar offer a great help, albeit indirectly. Let it not be said that the powers of the Uttermost West fully abandoned Middle-earth in its time of need. Please see the section "The Istari" in Unfinished Tales for many more fascinating details.

- Quickbeam

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Q: In the Appendix after The Return of the King, it talks about Celeborn staying behind sadly after Galadriel left. Why? He was of the Sindar and could have gone if he wanted, couldn’t he? Why doesn’t he?


A: The history of Galadriel and Celeborn is unusually complex. In the writing of The Lord of the Rings, Galadriel made a striking and unplanned appearance, and she was clearly a great personage from the Elder Days. However, in the legends of "The Silmarillion" which Tolkien had at that time already written, she did not appear, so he had to go back and work her story, and the story of Celeborn, into the legends. Some examples of Tolkien’s thoughts and concerns with regard to this can be read in Unfinished Tales, in the section entitled "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn."

It seems that Celeborn could certainly have chosen to pass over sea with Galadriel, but maybe at that time, he felt that he was not yet ready to leave Middle-earth. In the chapter "Many Partings" in The Lord of the Rings, Celeborn makes the strange statement to Aragorn "May your doom be other than mine, and your treasure remain with you to the end!" This clearly refers to Galadriel and Celeborn separating, and to Celeborn being left alone when Galadriel departs overseas. But in Appendix B, it states that "after the passing of Galadriel in a few years Celeborn grew weary of his realm and went to Imladris to dwell with the sons of Elrond." It is possible that Celeborn later followed Galadriel, though this isn’t explicitly stated anywhere.

- Turgon


Aelfscyne has sent me the following citation which I missed:

"Tolkien does tell us that Celeborn eventually followed Galadriel: at the end of the Note on the Shire Records, p. 39 of FotR: 'It is said that Celeborn went to dwell there [in Rivendell] after the departure of Galadriel; but there is no record of the day when he at last sought the Grey Havens, and with him went the last living memory of the Elder Days in Middle-earth.' Which doesn't explain why Celeborn stayed around for so long-- but then, for an immortal, a few decades or centuries probably wouldn't be that big a deal."

- Turgon

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Q: Book III, Chapter 2, The Riders of Rohan

Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas have been pursuing the orcs who kidnapped Merry and Pippin across the plains of Rohan. They meet a troop of Rohirrim led by Eomer. In their conversation, Aragorn mentions 'Halflings'.

"'Halflings!' laughed the rider that stood beside Eomer. 'Halflings! But they are only a little people in old songs and children's tales out of the North. Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?'
"'A man may do both,' said Aragorn. 'For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time. The green earth, say you? That is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day.'"

Question: Why is the "green earth" a "mighty matter of legend" to Aragorn?


A: I love this question; I’m so glad you asked it! It’s so simple yet brilliant on Tolkien’s part. Think for a minute about places we hold to be remarkable here in our world. Battlefields are marked and preserved, such as at Gettysburg. Breathtaking natural scenery is bounded and kept undefiled as much as possible, as at Yosemite or Yellowstone. Not we, but those who come after will make the legends of our time. We know the stories of the old battles, and revere the ground where they were fought in memory of those who gave their lives there. We revere Plymouth Rock as the landing-place of the first Europeans to settle in the United States. To them, it was just the place where they happened to be, but to us these pieces of "the green earth" are the only part of the legend we can physically preserve for ourselves. The people are gone, the events are long in the past, but the earth still remembers, as it were. Even for modern legends, the green earth can be a strong attraction. I want to visit Tolkien’s grave, walk through the college quadrangles that he walked… visit Prince Edward Island, home of the fictitious Anne of Green Gables… I have actually visited Mansfield, Missouri, home to Laura Ingalls Wilder for most of her life, and seen her house and her land as well as her grave… oh yes, the green earth is a mighty matter of legend, though we tread it under the light of day.

- Anwyn

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Q: How did Beorn get his special abilities (to change in to a bear)? While you’re at it, how come the animals trust him so much like they do?

–from Tolkien fandom

A: ‘Tis a very interesting mystery indeed. We know nothing specific about the origin of Beorn’s powers. Evidently he and his kin, the Beornings, were the only mortal creatures in Middle-earth to have the gift of shape-shifting. The animals around him trusted him because he somehow had the ability to communicate with them… and the fact he was a vegetarian certainly helped. They knew Beorn would never harm them and he protected them from orcs coming down from the mountains.

When I read of Beorn, his communal life with the animals, and the unspoiled natural environment in which he lives, I am given over to thinking of the Valar. Specifically, I think of Oromë and Vána. We learn from The Silmarillion that Oromë and Vána have a great love of the lands of Middle-earth, including animals, horses, birds, etc. Remember where Oromë "would train his folk and his beasts for the pursuit of the evil creatures of Melkor?" Sounds a lot like Beorn to me. Whether there is a true connection between Beorn and these two Valar I don’t know, it is only a thin speculation.

In any case, lycanthropy is common in many myths and legends across all cultures of the world, as Professor Tolkien knew quite well. Adding an element like this to The Hobbit was part of how he masterfully wove together different threads of European folk-lore to create a unique legend of his own.

- Quickbeam


To nitpick a bit-- 'lycanthropy' isn't quite accurate; technically, it means assuming a wolf's shape. Changing into a bear is properly (I believe) 'arctanthropy.' Love the site!
- Aelfscyne

Well, I've always understood that the term 'lycanthropy' can be used broadly to include shapeshifting into any animal, although the strict Greek etymology of the word is "man-wolf." Here is what I found at Encyclopedia.com: "In folklore, assumption by a human, through witchcraft or magic, of the form and nature of an animal. The term lycanthropy also applies to a psychosis in which victims believe themselves to be animals." However, you may be quite correct that 'arctanthropy' is a more specific nomenclature! Thank you for the tip!

- Quickbeam

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Q: Dear Friends, I would like to know your opinion about this point: In the name Middle-earth, the adjective "middle" has a precise meaning or is it purely evocative?

Thank you very much,

–Alessandro Gardini

A: Tolkien’s use of the term "middle-earth" is bound up in the study of his own sources. It is just an old term (Middle English middel-erde (or erthe), altered from Old English middangeard) for our own world, in the sense that it is the inhabited lands of Men. It probably reflects the idea that the gods are in the skies above us, and the underworld is below us, hence we are in the middle world.

- Turgon


I probably should have noted above that the Old English idea of Middle-earth is the same as that of Midgard from Old Norse mythology, where Midgard is the middle-world, inhabited by men, between Asgard, the home of the gods, and Niflheim (or Hel), the underworld of the dead.

- Turgon

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Questions 06/00
Quick navigation for questions asked this month.
 • Who was the Mouth of Sauron?
 • Elros Chooses Mortality
 • How can you cut off an invisible finger?
 • What is mithril?
 • Faramir's Dreams
 • Trolls aren't worthy of Glamdring
 • Valar not Involved
 • Celeborn and Galadriel
 • Green Earth
 • Beorn's Powers
 • 'Middle' in Middle-earth


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