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Q: This seems like a fairly easy question, but I'm not sure if it is ever actually mentioned in the book. So… does Gandalf actually wear Narya or does he keep it in his pocket or on a chain or something? I'm curious because this could be a small but important point for costuming in the movie.


A: I find no clear indication as to how Gandalf bore the Ring that Círdan bequeathed to him. Since it was vitally important for him to keep it a secret, he must have kept it safe within his clothing on a chain or other careful wrapping. He never wears it in the book until the very last pages of ‘The Grey Havens.’

As for what costume designer Ngila Dickson has planned for our dear Sir Ian McKellen, I wouldn’t have a clue. We shall have a very long wait until 2003 when The Return of the King is theatrically released… because we are not likely to see it until then.



Here we have some insight from one of our readers about the actual process of the Elven Rings being noticeable to the Ringbearer, ostensibly because of the influence of the One Ring:

I think that Gandalf (and Elrond and Galadriel) wore the ring [Narya] on his finger the whole time, but that nobody saw it because it was invisible. It seems clear to me that the Three Elven rings were invisible while the One Ring existed. Nobody ever notices any of the elven rings. Narya is never seen or mentioned, and Sam can't see Galadriel's ring in the scene at Galadriel's mirror. In that scene it's pretty obvious that only Frodo can see Galadriel's ring, because of the influence of the One Ring.

--Pepijn Schmitz

Following this line of thought seems sensible to me. Galadriel says of Nenya, "It cannot be hidden from the Ringbearer..." So perhaps the Elven Rings could be concealed even though worn openly, by some unique property of their own. However, it is worth noting that out of the numerous times Frodo, as Ringbearer, was in the presence of Gandalf he never notices the Red Ring. This causal relationship between the One and the Three does not seem to apply unilaterally, at least in Tolkien's mind. It is still possible that Gandalf concealed it by hidden chain when appropriate.

- Quickbeam

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Q: Gollum follows Frodo and the Company through Moria… but how does he get across the Bridge of Khazad-dûm without them noticing him?

–Daniel Martin

A: Gollum need not have followed the Company across the Bridge of Khazad-dûm in order to get out of Moria. As the Company enters the cavernous hall in which the Bridge is located, Gandalf remarks:

I now know where we are: we have reached the First Deep, the level immediately below the Gates. This is the Second Hall of Old Moria; and the Gates are near: away beyond the eastern end, on the left, not more than a quarter of a mile. Across the Bridge, up a broad stair, along a wide road, through the First Hall, and out!

Gollum could have ascended to the level of the Gates, and (perhaps already knowing the tunnels from his being lost in Moria) found his way out from there.


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Q: With all the debate about Arwen’s role in the movie now extended to fighting Orcs, is there any history of Arwen, 3000 years old, of her doing battle herself? Was she really a XenaArwen all along????

--Jason DeGraf

A: The simple answer is, "No." Arwen is mentioned in primary sources only as a remote inspiration, the treasure of her people. Galadriel seems to have been made of slightly more warlike stuff; Silmarillion speaks of her as one of the "leaders" of the rebellion of the Noldor, and they had her leadership when crossing the Grinding Ice in the far north, but Arwen is seldom mentioned except in connection with Aragorn, either in their courtship, her days of waiting and encouragement before he was crowned, or in their married bliss.


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Q: My mind had always toyed with the idea that the singular presence of mithril under Caradhras and the presence of an ancient evil power were related. I thought that maybe the coming of the Balrog to the roots of the mountain in the First Age had caused the only vein of mithril to be formed of natural elements and unnatural heat and power. Now, however, I think that Khazad-dûm existed before the Balrog came… can you clarify the issue?

–Christopher Eloranta (Luinar)

A: An interesting idea. The ancient civilization of Khazad-dûm was indeed thriving by the time the Balrog hid underneath the dwarves’ mountains. Turgon has already speculated as to how the creature got down there without the dwarves noticing it, but that’s a another question altogether.

Whether there is a connection between Balrog and mithril is worth looking at. We know mithril was found nowhere else in Middle-earth (even though Tolkien gives hints that some may have once existed in Númenor). And there certainly weren’t any other surviving Balrogs that we know of! You can connect the dots if your fancy is so inclined.


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Q: Where did Tolkien get the name Gollum from? I'm under the opinion that he got it from Hebrew lore, "a spirit takes the body of a dead man" which is also called Gollum. Since Gollum killed for the Ring, and was never himself again, it could be said that he lost himself to the spirit of the Ring. Taken over similarly to how a Hebrew Gollum ‘takes over.’ Help me out if you can.


A: Tolkien would certainly have known of the Jewish legend of the "Golem"–a man artificially created by cabalistic rites, but the character of Gollum first appeared in The Hobbit (1937), and in the first edition of The Hobbit, Gollum is still a sorry character, but the depth of his character (and his backstory, with his killing of Déagol) is undeveloped, and he is by no means as evil a character as he became in The Lord of the Rings. (In the first edition text of The Hobbit, Gollum even shows Bilbo the way out from under the mountain. This version can be read in the notes at the rear of The Annotated Hobbit.) I’d say that the explanation Tolkien himself gives in The Hobbit is probably near the truth: "And when he said gollum he made a horrible swallowing noise in his throat. That is how he got his name." And when you listen to the recording of Tolkien reading the Gollum chapter of The Hobbit, and you hear the sort of gurgling "Gollum" noise he makes, you can believe him.

Another possibility is suggested in The Annotated Hobbit: "Constance B. Hieatt has noted that ‘Old Norse gull/goll, means "gold, treasure, something precious’" and can also mean "ring," a point which may have occurred to Tolkien." (The Annotated Hobbit, p. 83.)


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Q: Now here's where it gets confusing: the final battle takes place on the peak of Mount Doom. That's a well known fact. We know that Gil-galad and Elendil perished here (Elendil I think wrestled with Sauron and, after being slain, fell on Narsil, breaking it in two). And that, as they wrestled, Isildur slipped in and cut the One Ring from Sauron's hand. And that Cirdan and Elrond stood with him there and advised that it be thrown into the very fire in which it was wrought. So obviously, they were in the Cracks of Doom at this point.

Here's my question (you knew I'd get there sooner or later): Mount Doom is miles away from Barad-dur. There is a straight road that leads to its front door, but Frodo saw it from a far distance, even when he was standing at the head of the volcano. So how can it be that the final sword fight took place on Mount Doom and not at the foot of Barad-dur when Sauron came down? Did they all agree that the weather would be better near the volcano and so they relocated back a couple of miles to the volcano? Obviously, that is not the case. But it seems that Tolkien never explained this "middle ground." Meaning, what happened from the exact moment the siege ended to where Sauron was vanquished on Mount Doom? Is this ever spoken about anywhere? If so, please tell.


A: Wow. Okay, let’s sort this out a little bit. I don’t have the History books in front of me, just Silmarillion, LotR, and Unfinished Tales. I’ll state that up front. Now then. I see nothing in my sources that says they were on the peak of Mount Doom. Nor does the fact that Cirdan and Elrond advised Isildur to destroy it in the fire nigh at hand where it was wrought mean that they were in the Cracks of Doom. They could have been anywhere on the mountain or at its foot and the Cracks would still be relatively "nigh at hand." All this is secondary, however, to the real question. Here’s a quotation from Silmarillion:

"Then Gil-galad and Elendil passed into Mordor and encompassed the stronghold of Sauron; and they laid siege to it for seven years, and suffered grievous loss by fire and by the darts and bolts of the Enemy, and Sauron sent many sorties against them. There in the valley of Gorgoroth Anarion son of Elendil was slain, and many others. But at 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."

Also, as a side-note, it is my understanding that Isildur did this after the fighting, when Sauron was vanquished and the two champions were dead. "This I will have as a weregild for my father and my brother…." Etc. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there right now.

Okay, so we know from the above quotation that they were inside Mordor. What it doesn’t say is that they made a tight circle around Barad-dur and stayed there. A siege could have been huge. It says Anarion perished in the valley of Gorgoroth. With all the armies they had, they were going to take up a good deal more room than just circling Barad-dur. So we can pretty much surmise they were spread out all over Mordor, making sure that nothing came in or out of the encircling mountains… isn’t that the point of a siege? Also Sauron sent sorties against them. If they were drawn up to the gates of Barad-dur and camped there, sorties wouldn’t be able to get out.

As to why Sauron came to Mount Doom, well, we’re told all good commanders command from the back, right? Just ask Denethor. So it’s likely that while Gil-galad and Elendil led from the front when it was necessary, during a siege they likely would have administrated from the rear, ordering their armies like chess pieces. It is likely that Sauron would’ve had to sweep to the back or middle of the armies, even as far from the Tower as Mount Doom, in order to find and bring down the commanders.


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Q: What were the nameless creatures that Gandalf mentioned digging tunnels in Moria?


A: Well, my friend, that’s exactly what they are: nameless. They could have been creatures once in the service of Morgoth… or perhaps creatures that were part of the Valar’s early creation that had since been discarded and forgotten.

I myself am grateful that we do not know what they are. Having full disclosure of every little thing in Middle-earth would surely erode the best quality of the narrative: the grand subtlety of it all. Keeping a sense of mystery and wonderment is so very important to Tolkien’s development of the tale. If the Professor let all of his secrets out of the bag, we wouldn’t really have much to daydream about, would we?


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Q: I rather hate to ask this, there being no logical answer to my mind, but it is Passover/Easter, and the question plagues me (no pun intended). The reason 13 is considered an unlucky number is because that is the number of attendants at Jesus' last supper (i.e. Jesus and The Twelve Apostles). The 13th man was Judas, who revealed Jesus to the Romans, resulting in his trail and execution. Thus, 13 is an undesirable number. Fair enough. So, the question is, why do Thorin & Co. consider 13 members in the party that's to go to the Lonely Mountain unlucky? Gandalf himself says: "Just let anyone say I chose the wrong man or the wrong house, and you can stop a thirteen and
have all the bad luck you like, or go back to digging coal," at the Unexpected Party. An unfortunate choice indeed, but Gandalf etc. would have no knowledge of the unlucky thirteen superstition's Christian source as it is long ahead of their time or totally removed from their reality. The Hobbit being a children's story, could Tolkien have over looked this small detail, not wanting to bog done the story with a reason for the numbers
unfavorableness? Surely the good Professor would have known its true origin.


A: Tolkien would certainly have been aware of the origin. Yet in medieval England, the number was not ill-omened (hence the extra item in a "baker’s dozen"–certainly a good thing!). But by the time of Tolkien’s own childhood (he was born in 1892), thirteen was widely considered an unlucky number, and probably even then most children were aware of the belief without necessarily being aware of its origin. I think in this instance Tolkien was clearly referring merely to the commonplace idea of thirteen as unlucky, without intending any direct association to the origin of the belief.


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Q: Hi. Why did Aragorn have to take the Paths of the Dead with Gimli and Legolas? He arrive after Eomer in Gondor. Could he not just go with Eomer and arrive at the same time?

He said that he was short of time.


A: He did indeed say that he was short of time, but his errand and Eomer’s were not the same. If he was simply short of time to show up at the battle of the Pelennor, then yes, riding with the Rohirrim would have been quickest, but he had another errand. Remember that south of the Harlond, the River was held by Corsairs and men of Harad and Easterlings. If Aragorn had not gone South to take care of these armies, Rohan’s driving away of the Mordor armies would have been for nothing. The Paths of the Dead allowed Aragorn to ride quickly with just a few followers, gather up a huge army of the Dead at the stone of Erech, then attack the ships of the Corsairs, take them and the slaves that rowed them, free the slaves only to have them join his army, and sweep up the River, driving back the enemies and taking their ships as he went, and swelling his army so that by the time he reached Minas Tirith he was leading a great force.


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Q: In The Return of the King, Aragorn summons the Oathbreakers to defeat the Corsairs at Pelargir. The spirits decimated the Corsair forces. Then, Aragorn dismisses the spirits after only one battle. Why did Aragorn use this powerful weapon only once? Why didn't he bring them to the Fields of Pelennor and on to the battle before the Morannon?

–Noah Allison

A: The Oathbreakers had only to fulfill their vow originally made to Isildur; and that was to aid in the fight against Sauron. And aid they did. The Army itself, a grim and powerful resource indeed, was not Aragorn’s to exploit… after their task was done they were not to be made continued slaves of his whim. It was inherently understood that the Oathbreakers were instrumental in aiding the new King, and their efforts against the Black Fleet were enough to seal the deal.

Actually, Aragorn’s decision to use the Army of the Dead was more than it may at first seem. It was an event that brought him closer to asserting his birthright, and closer to claiming the throne of his forefathers. At this point in the story, along with Andúril being reforged and his claiming of the Palantír, our surly Ranger was quickly revealing his true mettle. He was taking on his new role and the responsibilities (and burdens) associated with it. Any less of a man would not have the resolve to summon and command such a force as did he with the Oathbreakers.


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Q: In The Hobbit, the Eagles are also given a great role. I am in a quandary about this because I do not see that Manwë would have charged the Eagles with the help of the party, both from the rescue against the wolves, and also the Battle of Five Armies. Gandalf was charged to enter Middle-earth in a human form, and aid and prepare the people against the coming Darkness and to unite the races in an alliance if he could, but not to overtly exert his own might and splendour in the overthrow of Sauron. However, Gandalf clearly states in RotK appendixes that he "stumbled upon Thorin" and devised the plan to use the Dwarves in an attempt to reclaim Erebor and to slay the dragon if they could. Gandalf and the Istari were vassals of the Valar, and in this case, the quest for Erebor was a plan of Gandalf's own devices. I do not feel that Manwë would have interceded in this case as it was a mission of Gandalf's devising. Although the slaying of Smaug was deemed important, I do not feel it was of such desperation that the Eagles were needed. (Although a dragon would have been a terrible ally for Sauron to command, if indeed the dragon would be loyal to him.) My only solution that comes to mind is that Manwë, still very concerned with Middle Earth is aware of the One Ring being in Bilbo's care, and of the peril should the Orcs capture it. Now that I think of it, perhaps the situation was more dire than I first thought--and this may be the reason for the intervention. What are your opinions on this matter? Do you think the events in The Hobbit, although of Gandalf's almost fluke chance of meeting Thorin, and the quest to retake Erebor were of such dire interest to the Valar that Manwë himself would let the eagles join in?

--Indur of LOA

A: Well, the first and simplest answer is that you’ve answered your own question. Both Eagles interventions came after Bilbo discovered the Ring, and in such a case, it was of utmost importance that the Orcs not recover the Ring. Also remember that the Valar are, at the very least, longsighted. Once Erebor was re-established, the Dwarves were there to stave off Sauron’s northern expansion plans, Gimli was provided for the Company of the Ring. I think Manwë could appreciate the importance of all this, and moreover, we don’t know how Gandalf communicated with his bosses back home. It could very well be that Gandalf wanted the help of the Eagles and Manwë granted it to him.


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Questions 09/00
Quick navigation for questions asked this month.
 • Concealing Narya on film
 • Gollum's escape from Moria
 • Arwen the Warrior Princess?
 • The Balrog and the Mithril
 • Origin of the name Gollum
 • Good weather to battle in.
 • What were the Nameless Creatures?
 • The Unlucky Number?
 • Why go through Paths of the Dead?
 • Why did Aragorn dismiss the Dead?
 • Manwë's control on the eagles


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