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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
08/15/03

Q: Does the Ring hold power over ordinary Elves? I know that Galadriel was tempted to take it. Legolas, however, had been in Frodo's company for some time and seemed unaffected by it. Did the Ring's power of temptation have a hold only on the Elves who ever held a Ring of Power?

– Derek Treible

A: An interesting philosophical question; one that we can perhaps answer by looking at the way Elves reacted to the notions of "power" and "control." I see one fundamental way that the Ring worked its evil will: by tempting those who sought power and control. That's what the Ring did… strung you along with the misguided temptation of power. Power over others. Control over their wills. Of course, the only entity for whom the Ring would truly function, in that capacity, was Sauron himself. But Elves weren't necessarily given over to that kind of "power trip." There were exceptions such as Fëanor; whose selfishness and arrogance caused so much grief back in the day. Galadriel also was an inherently powerful being -- she managed to exert power and control by wielding one of the Three Rings. But her power extended to the preservation and healing of Lothlórien; and she was content with such. I believe the Elves were humbled by the terrible Oath of Fëanor and its after-effects. It was truly an awful extension of greed and revenge that caused countless sorrows. All the Noldor were stung by the memory of that Oath. Perhaps it was Tolkien's way of showing that Elves in later days had "learned from their mistakes;" but we see that Elrond, Gildor, Legolas, and others spent quite some time close to Frodo and the Ring… yet they were not given over to its vile calling for "power" and "control." We just don't see Elves being interested in that kind of thing. Their time of wielding power in Middle-earth was rapidly drawing to a close and they all knew it. Galadriel was tempted indeed -- for she had to face down both the demons of her own past and the temptation to take more power than was seemly. Thank Ilúvatar she passed the test!

Quickbeam

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Q: Also prompted by Haldir's greeting of the Fellowship: Haldir says he saw a great troop of orcs moving up to Moria's east gate (past the borders of Lothlórien) a few days before the Fellowship arrived in the forest. This is consistent with Gandalf's report in the previous chapter that of the many orcs gathering outside the Chamber of Mazarbul, some were "Uruks of Mordor." My question is -- did Sauron know for sure the Fellowship was heading into Moria and send the Uruks that way specifically to stop them? I suppose he could have just been sending reinforcements from the Head Office (so to speak) around to shore up various bastions of evil, including Moria. But then the timing of their arrival at Moria (right around the exact time the Fellowship is entering the West Gate) seems too great a coincidence. Can you help me figure out how Sauron knew they were heading that way? If he did know and sent the Uruks to tell the Moria orcs what was up, it takes a lot of the drama out of the Hobbit dropping the stone in the well and alerting the orcs that there were intruders about. Thanks in advance for your help!

– Jonathan Hart

A: Tougher question. Peter Jackson would seemingly have us believe that Saruman, at least, knew exactly what the Fellowship was doing and that it was in Moria. Presumably the information could have gone to Sauron that way. However, think what the text itself says when the Company has to retreat from the Redhorn. They speculate that the snowstorm is of Sauron's making, and Gimli says something to the effect of "His arm has grown long, if he can trouble us with snow this far north" (paraphrased), and this is the applicable part -- "His arm has grown long," says Gandalf. This would imply to me that Sauron is capable of knowing that they are there and that they will not have much choice but to retreat into Moria. However, it took them some time to get down from the mountain and into the entrance, and he would have been uncertain exactly what time/place to intercept them. As for the stone in the well -- even if Sauron knew roughly where they were, which is still nebulous, one presumes that the orcs and especially the cave trolls and the Balrog did NOT know that they were being disturbed, perhaps not until Pippin did his thing.

Anwyn

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Q: When Haldir greets the Fellowship in Lothlórien, he remarks that it is strange to see a Hobbit given that the Elves there have not (a) heard of Hobbits in hundreds of years, and (b) were not aware that any "yet dwelt in Middle-earth" (sorry that I cannot provide the full quote, I don't have the books in front of me). Haldir's statements seem inconsistent: Haven't had dealings with Hobbits in a long time, but not aware that they were "yet" around in the world? In what other context have his branch of Elves had any contact with or knowledge of Hobbits? The nearest population of Hobbits I know of are the clan of Hobbits that produced Gollum way up the Anduin river near the Gladden Fields about 500 years before that point in the story. Tolkien's wording is such that it seems he is making a very specific reference to some past interaction and/or future prediction (based on Elvish mythology?) rather than a throwaway (mis)statement. I'm just not at all aware of what he may be referring to nor how Haldir's statements can be made to seem consistent. Any help you may have would be greatly appreciated.

– Jonathan Hart

A: I don't see how his initial two statements are inconsistent with one another -- if you haven't had dealings with a race in a long time and suppose they might have died out of the earth entirely, you might be surprised to see them walking around, too. =) As for how come they don't know whether Hobbits still exist -- two things. One, Elves were much more powerful and knowledgeable hundreds or thousands of years before the events of LotR. They are dwindling at this point and don't bother to keep up with the world outside their realms -- therefore not knowing anything about the whereabouts of Hobbits or whatnot seems in keeping. Certainly Haldir wouldn't know as much as Galadriel or Celeborn, and would care less as well. As far as them having dealings, well, just because we're not told about them doesn't mean it didn't happen. =)

Anwyn

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Q: In the chapter "The Shadow of the Past," Tolkien writes, "Frodo took it [the Ring] from his breeches-pocket, where it was clasped to a chain that hung from his belt. He unfastened it and handed it slowly to the wizard. It felt suddenly very heavy, as if either it or Frodo himself was in some way reluctant for Gandalf to touch it. Gandalf held it up. It looked to be made of pure and solid gold…To Frodo's astonishment and distress the wizard threw it suddenly into the middle of a glowing corner of the fire…" Clearly Gandalf has the Ring in his possession. How come it takes no effect on him so that not only is he not tempted to use it, but he could throw it into the fire which Frodo could not later do when tested? Surely even this little touch would be enough to tempt him since he has such great need for it. Toward the end of the chapter, Gandalf emphatically rejects Frodo's offer to take the ring: "'No!' cried Gandalf, springing to his feet.. 'Do not tempt me!…The wish to wield it would be too great for my strength. I shall have such need of it. Great perils lie before me.'" Can you reconcile this difficulty for me? Thanks.

– Dave

A: Well, I fear on the one hand that I could write it off under the same heading as the camping out in The Hobbit -- that on one page, Tolkien says "In the Lone-lands they had to camp when they could, but at least it had been dry," and on the very next page he says "They had not had to camp yet on this journey." The best of authors make mistakes and the best of editors fail to catch them. However, I can also make a stab at explaining it within the framework of the story -- I would say it has to do with intent. I know that Gandalf was very quick to refuse the Ring when it was offered with the intention of him keeping it, but I find it perfectly believable that he could pick it up for a few seconds with the intention of finding out, through the only means possible, fire, that it was actually the One Ring.

Anwyn

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Q: Why was it that the Ring chose Sméagol because of his malicious will but then fell into the hands of dear old Bilbo? Did the Ring make a mistake in choosing Bilbo? Was the Ring seeking a first-come, first-serve escape from Gollum? Or is this part of Bilbo's being chosen by a higher power that Gandalf refers to in the chapter, "The Shadow of the Past"? Would this then be a case of Eru superimposing his will over that of the Ring to seek its final destruction?

– Dave

A: This is my own personal speculation, so don't flame me with thousands of corrective emails. It seems to me that Fate smiles on the fortunate in Tolkien's stories: yet sometimes Fate is indeed an act of "string-pulling" by the greater powers outside of Arda. Sometimes it's just impossible to tell. As to the Ring: well, after all those centuries of being stuck down in Gollum's cave, the Ring was happy to fall off his hand, hoping it could get picked up by the next opportune person that came along. That next person was Bilbo. Fate? Kismet? Ilúvatar? Gandalf states: "Behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker." In light of that, it seems there was no mistake here. The Ring ended up caught by accident, caught in a thread of action that was instigated by Gandalf. And of course, Gandalf's actions in Middle-earth were instigated by Manwë, for Gandalf was originally the Maiar named Olórin, of the people of Manwë. And Manwë's actions were instigated by -- who else? You can connect the dots and see how it all fits nicely together… or rather how YOU think it all fits. I am confident of this interconnectedness.

Quickbeam

Additionally As Gandalf says, the fact that Bilbo wandered along to find the mislaid Ring was not mere coincidence (if there is such a thing), but Bilbo was meant to find it, and not by Sauron. He is indeed implying that the will of Eru was at work. But I think it may be a mistake to read too much into the notion of the 'will' of the Ring. While Gandalf says that a Ring of Power 'looks after itself', it does not have a soul, and is not an independent rational being. The One Ring (and, to a lesser extent, the Seven and the Nine) is a piece of Sauron, filled with his malice, and in modern terms it is 'programmed' to do Sauron's work, but it does not have will' in the sense that Eru 'superimposing' his will would represent a denial of free will.

But this is becoming a personal theological question, to which each person must find his or her own answer. If I jump off a cliff to commit suicide, and miraculously (?) am saved because a mattress falls off a truck just below while I am falling and saves me, it may indeed be a divine intervention; if so, would you characterize it as God 'superimposing his will over mine'?

Ostadan

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Q: Greetings! First, I would like to thank you for the wonderful TORN and Green Books web sites. I am curious about the history of the sword Narsil. I know that in The Two Towers Aragorn says that the sword (by that time reforged as Andúril) was forged by Telchar "in the deeps of time." The Silmarillion describes Telchar as a Dwarven smith of Nogrod, who I believe also created the knife Angrist that Beren used to cut the Silmaril from Morgoth's crown. I do not recall any mention of Narsil in the Silmarillion or any explanation of who owned or used the sword during the First Age. This strikes me as unusual, because Tolkien created extensive histories for practically all of the other artifacts of power and significance in Middle-Earth. Does Tolkien ever describe or even hint at the history of the sword or how Narsil came to be in the possession of Elendil? Any information would be greatly appreciated! Thank you.

– Aaron Alfano

A: I disagree -- extensive histories exist for relatively few of the named 'artifacts of power and significance.' What do we know of Orcrist and Glamdring, save that they came from Gondolin and that Turgon wore Glamdring? What do we know of Aiglos, the spear of Gil-Galad? However, we can make a bit of inference from what Tolkien does not tell us: in the description of Númenor in Unfinished Tales, a note pertaining to the swords of the great chieftains does not mention Narsil. We may thus guess that Elendil received Narsil after he reached the shores of Middle-earth, perhaps from Gil-galad himself. But I do not think that much more can be said of this.

Ostadan

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Q: I have a few questions concerning The Hobbit: How is it that Gandalf entered the service of Thorin and the Dwarves? Did they hire him simply to escort them to Erebor, and did they know who he actually was? Also, what were the Dwarves doing west of the Misty Mountains? Finally, what made Gandalf "fetch" Bilbo for the journey. I recall that Gandalf knew Bilbo's parents, but did Tolkien ever indicate that there was something he (Gandalf) foresaw? Thanks!

– Scott M.

A: Gandalf was not "in their service." If you read the opening chapter of The Hobbit, Gandalf himself describes what happened -- he went after Thráin in the halls of Dol Guldur, where Thráin gave him the map and key. After a while, Gandalf decided to track down Thorin and give him the map and key. Partly to help the Dwarves, partly for reasons of his own, namely to get rid of Smaug. As for Bilbo well, let's remember the title of the story. =) The story is about Bilbo, and this was before the larger canvas of The Lord of the Rings was painted, so there was no real need to explain his presence. But the story of The Hobbit is blended into that larger painting -- see also Appendix A, Part III, Durin's Folk, at the end of The Return of the King. As for the Dwarves being west of the Mountains, they had a settlement in the Blue Mountains, even farther west, west of the Shire. [Note: See also Unfinished Tales, "The Quest for Erebor," where Gandalf explains his motives in greater detail. This material is also found in the newest edition of The Annotated Hobbit by Douglas A. Anderson.]

Anwyn

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Q: Do we know aught about Aragorn and Arwen's daughters?

– Jess S.

A: Nothing except that there is more than one of them, and that Arwen said goodbye to them when she left Gondor after Elessar's death. The alternate drafts of the tale of Aragorn and Arwen found in Volume XII of The History of Middle-earth do not contain any further information.

Ostadan

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Q: I'm just curious -- what did the Ainur who did not go to Arda do after the Valar and Maiar went to Arda? Do we know anything of the Ainur who remained with Ilúvatar? Thanks.

– Lady éowyn

A: "After?" There is no "after." Ilúvatar and the Ainur live outside of Time, as we are told repeatedly. Also remember that what we do know of these things is from the accounts of the Elves as learned from the Valar, filtered through Men (and Hobbits). Nothing is known of these other Ainur.

Ostadan

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Q: Who gave the deathblow to Sauron at the end of the Second Age? "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age" says: "But at the last the siege was so strait that Sauron himself came forth; and he wrestled with Gil-galad and Elendil, and they both were slain, and the sword of Elendil broke under him as he fell. But Sauron also was thrown down, and with the hilt-shard of Narsil Isildur cut the Ruling Ring from the hand of Sauron and took it for his own." But a few lines after we read Isildur saying: "Was it not I that dealt the Enemy his death-blow?" So, did Isildur just cut off the Ring from Sauron's hand after his fall or he fought beside Gil-galad and Elendil against Sauron?

– Ayranis of Imladris

A: My fellow GreenBooks writer Ostadan has always told me that Sauron was indeed killed, for lack of a better term, and immediately afterward Isildur cut off the Ring while Sauron lay motionless (it didn't happen in the books the way you see it in the films). When Tolkien says "thrown down" or "overthrown" he probably means that Sauron was dead. At least the way an Elf or a Man would define dead. The choice of words seems deliberate. As for Isildur's claim that he struck the death-blow, well perhaps that is also true. Perhaps. Isildur removed the One Ring and by doing so, prevented Sauron from recovering. If he had not cut off the Dark Lord's finger, can we imagine that an "overthrown" Sauron could get back up again? All of Sauron's spirit and energy was still within that golden band, and I think it likely that even an "overthrown" Maia would manage to recover, in time, with the Ring still on his person. Isildur was quite happy to think of himself as the one responsible for delivering the "finishing blow."

Quickbeam



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Questions 08/03
Quick navigation for questions asked this month.
 • Could the Ring tempt an Elf?
 • Did Sauron know they were in Moria?
 • Haldir's knowledge of Hobbits?
 • How could Gandalf even touch the Ring?
 • Ilúvatar's will or the Ring's will?
 • Tell us the history of Narsil?
 • Was Gandalf hired by the Dwarves?
 • What about Arwen's daughters?
 • What about the other Ainur Spirits?
 • Who really killed Sauron?

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