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Q: Which of the Vala made the dwarves? And in doing so, did he inadvertently create the goblins (the forerunners of the Orcs)?

–Earl Duncan

A: Time to check your head at the door, my friend. The race of Dwarves were created by Aulë, long before the first Elves and Men appeared. And Aulë had NOTHING to do with goblins! Further, the goblins are not the forerunners of Orcs by any stretch of the imagination. Tolkien used different names for the same creatures, and in LOTR mostly abandoned his earlier use of the word ‘goblin’.

It is understood that the origin of the Orcs goes back to Morgoth, who took a huge population of the original Elves and twisted them through black arts and torture to become Orcs.

Now my turn to ask a question: Have you read The Silmarillion lately?


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Q: In The Return of the King, ‘The Field of Cormallen,’ why does it say, "‘Twice you have borne me, Gwaihir my friend,’ said Gandalf. ‘Thrice will pay for all…’" After being carried this last time, Gandalf has been carried four times not three. I am assuming Gwaihir is supposed to pay for Gandalf's healing of the arrow-wound.

a. Carried from the top of the pine tree in The Hobbit
b. Carried from Orthanc
c. Carried to Lothlórien after fight with Durin's Bane
d. Carried to Mt. Doom to save Frodo

–Matthew McMahan

A: Gwaihir definitely carried Gandalf three times (your examples b, c, and d). However, your example (a) isn't necessarily correct. Sure the Lord of the Eagles carried Gandalf in The Hobbit, but this need not have been Gwaihir. See The Annotated Hobbit, p. 123:

Many Tolkien commentators have been tempted to equate the Lord of the Eagles in The Hobbit with Gwaihir, the Windlord, the eagle who rescues Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings. The evidence, however, is inconclusive, and one is left with he thought that if Tolkien had intended them to be the same, he would most likely have stated it.


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Q: Why did Gandalf not give the One Ring to Tom Bombadil to destroy? He was a Maia spirit of great power and the Ring seemingly had no effect upon him, as evidenced in The House of Tom Bombadil.


A: It is true that the Ring had no power over him, but it is also true that Tom had no special power over the Ring. It is also true that he had set the borders of his land, and he would not pass beyond them. For that reason, he would not be able to carry the Ring to the Fire, which is the only place it could be destroyed. Gandalf further stated that he could not keep the Ring in his lands, forever harmless, because it had no hold upon his mind and he would throw it away or forget about it, making him an unsafe guardian. Chapter 2 of Book II, The Council of Elrond, contains the direct quotations to which I refer.


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Q: Is it possible that Tom Bombadil was the first ever Elf?

–Matt Russell

A: This notion can only go so far before it breaks down. Bombadil says of himself that:

When the Elves passed westward, Tom was here already…

And thus we know that he could not be of the same Firstborn Children of Ilúvatar. He would have counted himself among their number if he were.

It is doubtful that Tolkien wanted Bombadil to fit into the legendarium as a Dwarf, Elf, Man, or Maiar. Quite the opposite, in fact! Bombadil defies all we know of Middle-earth’s categorization and nomenclature.

Many people argue that Bombadil was a unique spirit among the Valar. I contest that view by saying that Tolkien did not put him into LOTR as a typical character… rather he is an essence, a device of mythology if you will. His constant refusal to be solved makes him part of a greater ambience of mythology. He was a child’s toy become a poem; later to become a personification of the natural world (to my mind).

We really know nothing conclusive about how the Bombadil piece is supposed to fit into the rest of the puzzle. No doubt the many arguments that have surrounded this enigmatic character since the books publication will continue unabated. You can find all sorts of websites and publications that pick and pick at the myriad hypothesis. The ideas I have put forward are of course only my gut feeling, and like all things Tolkien they are open to further scrutiny and debate.

Ask yourself, "Who is Bombadil to me?" That is as good an answer as you’ll get.


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Q: How old is Círdan the shipwright? Was he one of the first Elves to "awake" by the shores of Middle-earth? Not including the Istari, Sauron, or Bombadil, what is the oldest thing in Middle-earth? Treebeard? Círdan? Ents were the first, but was Treebeard the first Ent?


A: Círdan is one of the most interesting of the characters whose role in The Lord of the Rings is rather minor. He was a Sindarin Elf, who lived in the Falas on the western shores of Beleriand in the First Age. By the end of the Third Age, he–apparently alone among the Elves–had a long beard; I’ve never seen any explanation of why.

Círdan was probably among the Elves who awakened at Cuiviénen, which was long before the Coming of Men, and (probably) also before the awakening of the Ents. Treebeard was among the oldest beings in Middle-earth, but the original Elves who awoke at Cuiviénen would be older.



Michael Martinez contributes the following comments: "Cirdan was a kinsman to Elwe and Olwe. None of them could have been among the first 144 Elves to awaken at Cuivienen. The farthest back we can take Cirdan in any extant writing is the Great Journey itself, where he was said to have taken up an interest in boats while the Eldar stopped by the shores of the Inland Sea. That, however, is a fairly late writing, but clearly Cirdan was old enough to be considered a leader of the Elves after Elwe vanished and Olwe departed over Sea."

- Turgon

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Q: I just re-read The Silmarillion, and am left wondering about the status of Dior, Thingol's heir. It is clear that Eärendil, Elwing, Elrond, and Elros, since they have both human and Elvish ancestors, are allowed by the Valar to choose whether to accept the fate Elves or Men. Elwing's Half-Elven status comes from being a descendant of Beren and Luthien via Dior. But to which race did Dior himself belong? As Thingol's heir and King of Doriath, I would guess that he should be considered an Elf, but that would seem to make Elwing herself Elven, in the same way that Arwen is fully Elvish, despite being the daughter of one of the Half-Elven.

Of course Dior is only one-quarter Elf anyway since Luthien's mother was a Maia.

Any thoughts?


A: These family trees are fun to puzzle over. Keep in mind that Elven, Half-elven, and Human status depend in part upon individual choice as much as lineage, of those who begin life genetically mixed. Starting with Luthien: She was Half-elven because her mother, as you observe, was Melian the Maia. It appears that she was allowed to choose mortality despite having no human heritage whatsoever, but that her son, Dior, was allowed to remain Elven. Whether this was a choice he made, whether any choice was ever even offered him, is not clear. It would seem that since his choice of life-mate was Elven that it would not have been an issue. Given that she had two Elven parents, Dior and Nimloth, it seems reasonable to suppose that Elwing considered herself fully Elven. Upon marrying a human, Eärendil, her sons, Elrond and Elros, then had direct Half-elven and half-Human heritage between which they could choose.

There is never any mention, once Elrond has made his choice to be Elven, of his sons Elladon and Elrohir ever facing a choice, whereas we know well that Arwen followed Luthien, her ancestor, in choosing mortality to be with her love.

It seems clear, then, that only in cases where there was an issue of the chosen partner being of a different heritage, was there a choice to be made. Most probably, in the case of Dior, since his mother was Elven/Maia and his father was totally Human, if he had fallen in love with a Human woman, he would have been allowed to make the same choice as Luthien and Arwen, but that since he fell in love with an Elf, it was not an issue. It seems that if we’re going to put it in genetic terms, Elven heritage is "dominant" and Human "recessive;" that is to say, if you have one Elven parent, or a Half-elven parent who has chosen immortality, then you have Elven immortality by default and do not have to make a choice unless you wish to.


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Q: I know that both Gandalf and Saruman are of the Maiar, the servants of the Valar, who are basically the ‘gods of Middle-earth,’ but why aren't the Maiar allowed to challenge the Dark Lord and the Ringwraiths? Wouldn't it have gone a lot quicker if the Valar had just destroyed Sauron before he got the Ring, or did they have other problems on their minds at the time? And why was Gandalf the only Wizard to come on the quest—wouldn't it have been safer with two or three?


A: There are several distinct questions here. 1) First of all, the Valar had removed themselves from the world, the whole of Arda actually, and not just Middle-earth. After being arrogantly attacked by the Númenoreans under Sauron’s sway, the Valar just packed up the Blessed Land and made their exit. I have discussed in some detail the facts of the Valar’s withdrawal in an earlier Q&A, but of course the best source on this is Tolkien’s original text in The Silmarillion. Going a step further, I would say many of the events in LOTR show that the descendants of the Númenoreans go a long way towards redeeming themselves for their previous transgressions against the Valar. The ‘sins of the father’ are vindicated only after great effort.

2) This fact directly ties into why the Wizards (or Istari) are not allowed to directly confront Sauron. The Two Kindreds had to do it for themselves. The Valar would not go back on their decision and again get their hands dirty, not directly. However, from a brief sketch published in Unfinished Tales we learn that Manwë deemed it necessary to send emissaries to help Elves and Men alike against the Shadow. Help them make plans, encourage them in battle, offer guidance and counsel, etc. But NOT to engage in a head-to-head with Sauron himself.

3) These helpers, the Istari, were only Five in number. Alatar and Pallando went off into the East and were not involved in any published stories of Middle-earth. Radagast became enamored of the beasts and birds and went off to commune with them, ignoring his original purpose. Saruman was a traitor. So that left Gandalf to accompany the Ringbearer on his Quest … certainly the only good choice out of the bunch. Indeed, he was the only one who did right by Manwë and stuck to his job.


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Q: Why did the First Age (the Elder days) last for only 600-700 years while the 2nd and 3rd Ages lasted 3-4 thousands years apiece? It seems like there was all this epic history happening in the span of a few centuries, and then after the War of Wrath things just slow down. Do you think time changed from the Elder days to the later Ages? Does this have something to do with how the Eldar experience the passage of time, or some other arcane reason?

–Arpurva Dave

A: The boundary between one Age and another is usually defined by some momentous event, not by the passage of any certain number of years. Thus, with the War of Wrath, which brought about Morgoth being cast out of Eä, and the sinking of Beleriand, it certainly would have been appropriate to begin a new age, with the Age of Morgoth thus ended.

In Tolkien’s earlier "Annals of Beleriand," published in The Shaping of Middle-earth (1986), only two hundred and fifty years pass from the making of the sun and moon to the end of the First Age. In Tolkien’s later "Grey Annals," published in The War of the Jewels (1994), the same events are spread out to five hundred years.


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Q: Why does Aragorn have the shards of Narsil with him at Bree? It seems awfully risky, both to be toting around an irreplaceable heirloom and not to have a useable sword, especially with the Black Riders in the area. After all, he's supposed to be protecting Frodo & Co. while hiding his own identity from Sauron. Has he been wandering around the Wild this way for long? Somehow I doubt he hunted orcs, much less served Ecthelion in this fashion!

--Catherine Aragon

A: I think you’re entirely right about his years of wandering in the Wild; he would have needed a whole, functioning sword to serve the Steward and the King of Rohan. This is wholly speculation, but it would seem that he went armed for battle; he probably kept the shards of Narsil close by, either in a pack or strapped into a second scabbard. Remember that he never lost a combat; losers of swordfights do not live to tell the tale, so as long as he was alive, there was likely no danger of his losing Narsil or having it plundered from him. Black Riders would not have been abroad at this time; they roamed the land again only after Sauron had removed to the Dark Tower and begun putting out his thought for the Ring. Most of all, remember that only once in our experience were Black Riders fought with swords: on the fields of the Pelennor, when Meriadoc and Eowyn put an end to the Witch-king. At all other times we see fire, water, arrows to slay their steeds, etc., but never swordfighting. On the trip to Bree to pick up Frodo and Company, it was vital for Aragorn to stay out of the path of Riders, who were too busy searching for Frodo themselves to worry about a Ranger in the wilderness, whom nobody suspected of being more important than an average Ranger, other than those who already knew the truth about Aragorn, son of Arathorn.


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Q: This is a bit general, but anyway: I was interested in Ghân-buri-Ghân and his Wild Men. In relation to that I found the passage concerning the Púkel-men very interesting. Unfortunately, I just can't seem to find more information on these somber statues, much less anything on their history or origin. I was wondering if you could help me…



One of the things that I find most intriguing about LOTR are the Púkel-men that we encounter on the way to the Dunharrow. I know they have something to do with the Wild Men and Ghân-buri-Ghân, whom I also found interesting. But they seem to play an ancient role, and I doubt Tolkien put them there for scenery. Does anyone have any ideas of their origin or more information on them? Thanks in advance for answering.

–A Concerned Púkel-man

A: The statues that Merry observes along his trek through Dunharrow are indeed connected to the Woses (or Wild Men). I surmise the whole array of statues was carved and placed along the ancient valley by the Woses who once lived there. Actually, this race has a history recorded by Tolkien as far back as Beleriand and the First Age; and they are numbered as a subset of the original races of Men to appear in Middle-earth.

Tolkien put the Púkel-men in LOTR to reflect the Woses’ lost ancestry in that part of the White Mountains, where they once abided. Although I can find no passage that identifies the crafters of these stone monuments, looking through the eyes of Merry we see the connection between them and the secluded race living under Ghân-buri-Ghân. And yes, they remain one of the most unique and interesting races in all of Tolkien’s creation.

The best information on the mysterious Wild Men of the Drúadan Forest is actually in Unfinished Tales. In Part Four you will find a whole section, ‘The Drúedain’ dedicated to these people. The brief story found there, The Faithful Stone, is fascinating. Read also the tale of Tal-Elmar in ‘The History of Middle-earth Series,’ Vol. XII: The Peoples of Middle-earth. It’s a shame Tolkien never finished it.


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Q: My question is a simple one, but it still confuses me. Why did it take 969 years after the death of King Eärnur for Gondor to crown a new king? It took 16 generations for an heir of Elendil to make his way south and claim the throne. Surely at that time the lineage of the Dúnedain was known in Gondor. And of course the plight of Gondor was known in Imladris, which was the home of the heirs of Valandil. Now I understand why the crown could not be claimed right away, but I don't understand why it took a thousand years.



A: There is no single easy answer to your question. If one of the Dúnedain would have, at any time in those thousand years, come to Gondor to claim the throne, would anyone in Gondor have supported him? In one sense the heir to the kingship would need to show that he deserved it. Also, during that thousand years, each heir was of necessity occupied with his own struggles, and perhaps not ready to take upon his shoulders the concerns of a distant country. For the right time for the return of the King, it might take ten years, or a hundred years, or a thousand years; or it might never come to pass at all.


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Q: What do you think happened after the Eldar returned to Valinor? Does their history just end? Is there no flame or restlessness or desire in their hearts to go out into the world again? Surely the Eldar couldn't have all become old and sorrowful, or just content to stay at home. I know many of the Nandor and the Sindar stayed in Middle-earth, but what about the Noldor? And what about the future generations of all elves born in Valinor?

--Arpurva Dave

A: Good question! Never before have I considered the fact of baby Elves born in Valinor.

Unfortunately any answer we might give about restlessness or desire on their parents’ part to return to Middle-earth would be speculation. I would guess that if they wished to return, they could do so; Cirdan’s ships would have to ply the route enough that they could probably ride over if they wished. If this were true, it would logically follow that Elves born in Valinor could also forsake the Blessed Realm for Middle-earth if they chose, but remember that of all the Elves who originally came to Valinor from Middle-earth, the only ones who ever left it again did so because of a bitter rift and an exile, whether decreed or self-imposed. Therefore it seems unlikely, to this writer at least, that Elves with no cause for quarrel with the Valar would wish to leave the Undying Lands. Lastly, remember that at the end of the Third Age, Elves were decreasing, while Men were rising to take their lordship of Middle-earth. It is very likely that fewer and fewer Elf-children were being born, and the fact of Man’s domination in Middle-earth would make it a distasteful thought for many Elves to leave the sanctity of Valinor for the turbulent shores of lesser lands.


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Questions 10/00
Quick navigation for questions asked this month.
 • Who Made the Dwarves?
 • Gwaihir Carried him 4 Times
 • Why not give Tom the One Ring to destroy?
 • Is Tom Bombadil the first Elf?
 • How Old is Cirdan?
 • Dior, Thingol's Heir
 • Istari not Allowed to Challenge Sauron
 • Duration of the First Age
 • Why does Aragorn carry the Shards of Narsil?
 • Who Carved the Pukel-men?
 • 1000 years to claim the Crown?
 • Eldar History just ends?


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