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Hello and welcome to chapter 5. I hope you are all enjoying the series so far and are not yet sick of me! Regular readers may have heard me go on about losing some of my Tolkien collection. Well the other day I decided to replace some of them, and the day they arrived I was clearing some cupboards out and guess what I found? I don’t know whether to be pleased or annoyed at my own stupidity. So I’m currently going through the history/ early drafts so you can look forward to a light-hearted chapter in the near future all about the entertaining ‘could have beens of middle earth.’ (think a tale about hobbits defending the shire against a dragon attack…yes…it gets even better..) Anyways…..
I had to put this one off for a week as it’s taken so much damn research that its given me a bad head (but was all the more enjoyable for it). Though this chapter may be shorter than others, it is no less (and perhaps more) detailed, and answers to these questions certainly do not come easy. Main sources for this one was Morgoth’s Ring-history #10 which Christopher Tolkien takes his father’s notes on this subject and attempts to draw some conclusions. How well does he do this? Well we’re about to find out: these are the points I am going to cover…….-RACE DESCRIPTIONS – WHICH ARE THE SAME? WHICH ARE ---DIFFERENT?
-WHERE DO ORCS COME FROM-ARE ORCS IMMORTAL?
-AN ANSWER TO THE PROBLEM OF CHRONOLOGY
-CONCLUDING THOUGHTSRACE DESCRIPTIONSOrcs and Goblins
Here, believe it or not, there is no difference. They are both interchangeable, a fact we see Tolkien use often, sometimes even using goblin and orc in the same sentence, regarding the same creature. I’m not sure where the idea that they are different comes from, though I think it is likely that the cross-usage of terms causes a lot of confusion, and the films probably didn’t help this fact.
Orcs and goblins refer to the species as a whole. So to use an example, if we take the word- Cat. That would be the equivalent of orc/goblin- it describes a species as a whole, taking into account tigers, lions, house cats etc.
Orcs were first ‘created’ by Melkor in the pits of Utumno- his first fortress, where he spawned his many twisted creations. How they were created will be dealt with later on in this chapter, as it is a topic of debate in itself, and even the pretty much accepted ‘corrupted elves’ theory is not certain. But it can be said with certainty that they were created from some other race- Melkor could not create life on his own accord- only the Creator Eru could do that (even the dwarves were not given life after Aule secretly made them, it was only after Eru gave his blessing that they were given true minds).
Orcs were vile, pitiless creatures, who took delight in death and destruction. If they couldn’t fight an enemy they would fight amongst themselves, often over petty squabbles. As orcs were creatures of darkness, they hated the sun. They didn’t perish in it, unlike trolls, however it caused them much discomfort, and they needed to be driven under threat of death or pain to march under it. This was obviously a big disadvantage to their masters, so a better, more refined breed was made. The Uruk-Hai.Uruk Hai/ Hob Goblins
Here it would appear that these two are also alike in meaning, hob-goblin being Tolkien’s early word for larger orc types in The Hobbit. As is usual with Tolkien, many ideas he came up with in the Hobbit (being before the trilogy in creation) were used in the trilogy, however are given separate names in the narrative.
Note: Here Tolkien uses the usage of the prefix HOB- ie, HOB here means large (as in larger-goblin) however in most mythology hob-goblins are the opposite-small.
So what exactly are the Uruk-Hai? Well lets first get something out of the way that may be confusing film goers. Saruman actually didn’t first create the Uruk Hai, they were first ‘bred’ (again this will be discussed later) by Sauron in Mordor around the year 2475 of the 3rd age. They attack and swarmed over Osgiliath, the defenders being off-guarded by the new stronger breed of orcs. They were Mordor and later Isengard’s fighters, and they often fought against their smaller counterparts in quarrels over plunder, orders etc. and thought the smaller orcs to be mere work slaves. Note: The word for orc slave is Snaga, which we see used several times in the trilogy. In the past it was theorised that Snaga was in fact a different breed of lesser orc, but it is generally thought to be ‘slave.’ It was also given to the smaller swifter orc trackers.
Unlike their smaller ‘standard’ cousins, the uruks did not fear the sun.Half-Orcs/Goblin-Men
Again there appears to be another pairing of terms meaning the same thing. Half orcs and goblin men appear very little in the text of the books, and it may be that goblin men was just a phrase of the other, a slang if you like, and they were the same thing. But there defiantly appeared to be a ‘watered down’ cross breed of orc/human.
So half-orcs can be seen as a more human breed of Uruk-Hai, as they resemble men more than any other type of orc. They are primarily used as spies however, and they appear in Bree in The Fellowship of the Ring (perhaps because they could blend in better?), and they follow Saruman after his downfall to The Shire. In fact it is very likely there were half-orcs, or at least evil men having dealings with The Shire early on, before the events of the trilogy, as Saruman is seen to be trading pipe weed for his own use. A deed he carried out in secret due to previously scorning Gandalf for using the ‘Halfling’s leaf.’
Tolkien hints in his notes that it is likely that Melkor was the first to experiment with the cross-breeding of orcs and men, and that Saruman came across some ancient source of his lore, and took it up himself.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------WHERE DO ORCS COME FROM? ARE ORCS IMMORTAL?
If we take the (almost fully accepted, but certainly not final) theory that orcs are corrupted elves then this raises a bit of a question- are orcs immortal? What happens to them in death? The elves are immortal, and are neither affected by illness nor age, however are still vulnerable to forced death (ie mortal wounds). When this happens they go to Mandos’ halls (think Hades) where they await their time to return. So does the same happen to orcs?
The problem with all these breeding theories is that Tolkien constantly changed how orcs came in being. He already tended to change his mind a lot, which was a habit he had, so paired with this, we see many different changes that Tolkien makes, and he never really settles on one single theory. In later life, he became dissatisfied with the Silmarillion theory of orcs from elves, and began trying to come up with a better answer.
To find the answer to my question we must therefore determine whether orcs were in fact derived from elves, for if they are not, then that certainly helps us out a lot (and in typical Tolkien fashion opens up even more questions).
So I am going to discuss various notes Tolkien made, and will refer to them as note A B C etc. and give in the title the general theory he was putting forth. I have placed important areas in bold. NOTE A- Orcs came from beasts/elves
Tolkien in this note stated these facts (at the time) about orcs-
1. Only Eru could create life
with independent will- which orcs seem to have as they can both serve and rebel their masters
2. Therefore orcs must be made from some corruption of something else already living
3. Orcs were already present before the awakening of men. The newly awakened elves by the lake of Cuivienen were terrified of being taken by creatures that Melkor sent, however much of this was rumours sent by Melkor himself (though the Silmarillion does indeed say many were taken). Early Orcs couldn’t be men.
4. Eru as stated would not give independence to Melkor’s creations, unless…he though them ultimately redeemable and could be saved (finished with a ? beside it)
5. Melkor could not corrupt an entire race- the case of orcs had to be inheritable at some point, and this must have been the work of Eru (if indeed this last point is a fact, which Tolkien didn’t state either way). Therefore the orcs from elves theory is put into doubt.
6. Other species with free speech and will are not yet accounted for ie. beasts such as the eagles- some of which were Maiar in eagle form. Therefore could then some of the greater orcs be Maiar? Some of the lesser ones that Melkor is said to have turned to his service early on? If so then do they become earth bound as they become older and more corrupt? This would explain how some orcs seem to be immortal. (the great goblin is a strong contender for a lesser maiar…see NOTE C)
7. Speech however cannot be seen as proof of an independent spirit. Even though orcs spoke, much of it just rhymed off records set by Melkor, and even Sauron is later said to have devised a speech for his orcs. Therefore orc speech can be seen as the equivalent of a parrot speaking- it is merely copying. Even the orc’s treachery and hate for their masters still placed them as carrying out their master’s ultimate goal- evil. This points to orcs being no more than lifeless beasts made to mock the forms of elves.
Tolkien then ends the note with stating that saying Melkor could not wholly corrupt anything was going too far. Melkor could be seen as starting this off with ‘lifeless’ beasts, then mating the end results with the later elves to further create the true orcs. Therefore there is a strong possibility that there is elf blood in the early orcs.
Thusly in death they go to the halls of Mandos and are held in prison to the end.
The problem here is that in a single note- Tolkien is contradicting himself, as stated by his son Christopher (editor of the histories). Tolkien states at the start that orcs can be no more than beasts, and in fact Christopher ends by stating his father had written at the bottom of the passage yet again orcs are beasts. However by the end he is starting to state they may be from elves, and have their blood in them. Therefore why conclude at the end, after stating the theory of crossing beasts with elves, that orcs are beasts. Was this a final word on the note? So that we may disregard all of it?
This is just the start of what becomes an ever more complicated set of notes. It is difficult to discern what Tolkien left, and what he later discarded as an old idea.NOTE B- Mixed origins
In a separate note Tolkien explains how Melkor, though not having powers to create, did have great powers of distortion and corruption of those who came within him. He then concludes that orcs had mixed origins, and were mostly likely a mixture of corrupted elves, and later men, and most likely had in their ranks (leaders) who were fallen maiar. This would explain how some orcs had exceptionally long lives, and some did not. The ones that crop up again were leaders of the orcs and were likely maiar.NOTE C-Early orcs maiar/spirits
Here again we have Tolkien writing a completely different note on orcs, dated later on from 1959/60.
In this text Tolkien explains how the orcs of later wars at least (after Melkor’s return from captivity) were capable of craft and speech- and concludes that these orcs were not the same orcs the elves had feared at their awakening in Cuivienen, which was very early on in the history of Arda. He therefore states that the ‘early’ orcs were in fact corrupted maiar, taking elf-like forms in mockery of them.
Tolkien then goes on to write the following…NOTE D- Orcs came from men
Tolkien starts with the same passage as note c- that orcs of later years were much different to the terror that the elves saw after their awakening. He then makes two very important (and related) notes, the first regarding the theory that orcs were corrupted men. The second on a point that arises from it.
1- Those who state orcs derived from men cannot be correct regarding these early orcs. Men had not awoke then, only elves had, so therefore it was not possible for men to be taken when they were alive in middle earth yet!
2. However soon after this, when Melkor returned from captivity he very quickly had a huge army of orcs to attack elves with. How? If they were not elves, and men had not awoken (because we must assume given the speed the army was raised the orcs had to already exist during Melkor’s captivity), then where did they suddenly come from? (for an answer to this see the chronology heading).
Tolkien then states “the view of the origin of orcs thus meets with difficulties of chronology. But though men may take comfort in this, the theory remains nonetheless the most probable.”
He then goes on to explain many similarities between men and orcs- most notable the ability to become ill, and die of old age (for here Tolkien states that orcs had a lesser life span compared to the Edain).
This last point he goes on to explain, as we know of several orcs who are seen to have a longer lifespan than men. He thus says, as previously stated, that those orcs (usually great captains) who in the early days lived long lives and crop up several times were in fact fallen maiar, who having business to direct orcs, took their forms.Note: there is an interesting footnote here that states Boldog comes up several times as an orc in the history of middle earth. It is theories that instead of Boldog being a name it is in fact a title for the orc-maiar beings, which were still maiar, just less formidable than balrogs for instance.
After this Tolkien states a point that the men could be corrupted to an ‘orc-like’ level of existence, and then be forced to mate with other orcs, creating a more formidable breed of orc (see half orcs/goblin men), and that Saruman likely found this lore many thousands of years later. AN ANSWER TO THE PROBLEM OF CHRONOLOGY
At the end of this note, Tolkien finally gives us a formed answer to the problem of the timeline and how orcs fit into it.The thought of orcs was created in the mind of Melkor- he bade his spirits take hideous forms to terrify the newly awakened elves, and it is these the elves see at Cuivienen, and their intent was to mock and cause terror. However the actually core breeding of orcs was left to Sauron, who Tolkien states was ever cooler in thought than his master, and during Melkor’s time of captivity, it was Sauron who bred the vast armies that were available at his return. It was from men that these orcs were created.
…..and yet again we run into a problem. For this to work men would have to awake much earlier to be taken during Melkor’s captivity. Therefore it was likely an unfinished task of Tolkien before he died to slightly bring forward men’s emergence into the world.CONCLUDING THOUGHTS
Well as you can see, there really isn’t an answer that was ever officially taken. Tolkien, if he had lived to change the timeline may have settled on men, or he may have changed his mind again. I think the concluding theory to take away is the early orcs, and several of the orc leaders were maiar (as this crops up in several notes) and the vast amount of orcs, especially in later periods were bred from men, and were certainly not immortal, which may seem strange as it is never changed in the Silmarillion, but remember Christopher Tolkien- again editor of the Silmarillion, firstly published the notes in Morgoth’s Ring much later than the Silmarillion, and secondly he really didn’t know for sure if he would be correct in changing it to men, and he would have to change a lot of his father’s work to fit it in, therefore it remains elves in the book.
As ever I hope this was enjoyable and/or informative and if you have comments or opinions please post.Sources: Morgoth’s Ring (Myths Transformed)/ large amounts of black coffee
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Welcome to Chapter 4: The Tale of Numenor, Arnor, Gondor and the Dunedain, and sorry for those of you expecting orcs and goblins. That particular topic will have to hold off for a week or so, as I am still researching it! The more I look the more complex the situation becomes. As I am about to explain I have managed to get a part of Tolkien’s notes (via the histories) and this is helping shed a lot of light on the matter. Anyways, onto this week’s topic.
Last weekend (it being 3 minutes into Monday when posting this) I managed to finally grab hold of some books id been wanting to get for a while, and I managed to get Unfinished Tales, Adventures of Tom Bombadil, Tree and Leaf, Farmer Giles of Ham, (those last 3 were old 70’s copies) Morgoth’s Ring (history series 10- which by the way is HUGELY detailed- a must have - as is the rest of the series) Children of Hurin and a 1st edition copy of Silmarillion and only spent £2.80!! The 1st edition of Silmarillion has a beautiful red ink fold out map which they don’t put in anymore and was worth getting a hardback copy for.
….anyways re-going through it all has inspired me to focus my efforts on the wealth of material that Tolkien wrote on Numenor, and consequently the north and south kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor, and the Dunedain. The Unfinished Tales particularly has some fine information that is otherwise unavailable. As usual the parts of the chapter are split up for easier reading, however in this case id recommend reading in order, especially if you’re new to this topic, as it will make more sense.
Arnor and Gondor
The Rangers of the North
To those who have only read the trilogy you will recognise many names in this chapter, however hopefully it will give you a better view of what the legend on Numenor is about, and where the Dunedain (a key aspect in the trilogy) come from and how they are all related. To those familiar with this topic, I hope as usual, the reading will be entertaining. The legend of Numenor is particularly fascinating as it (by Tolkien’s design) mirrors our legend of Atlantis, which if we are to take the information from my last chapter, Atlantis was actually Numenor. Like Atlantis, Numenor was ahead of its ‘time,’ the inhabitants were wise and powerful beyond measure for men, and many of the items we see in the 3rd age came from there, notably the Palatiri seeing stones, and the White Tree of Gondor, which was descended from the tree of Numenor that Isildur saved a fruit of before Sauron
had it burned.
NOTE: from now on I’ll be ending each section with a list of my sources incase you want to read up on it yourself, or are wondering where I find all of this material.
To get a clear view of all this, we must travel far back into the first age. When the first men awoke, many of them, being under Morgoth’s shadow, fell into darkness and evil. However some were not corrupted and these were known as the Edain. After Morgoth was over thrown the Valar, in reward for their services, gave the Edain an island to dwell in, neither in middle earth nor in Valinor, but in between. It was called Numenore (among other names), and those who lived there became wise, and lived a longer life span than other mortal men, so that the men of Numenore were more alike to the elves than any other race. These were the Numenoreans, otherwise known as The Dunedain- The Men of the West. However for all their reward they were not given the one thing that in time they would most lust for, they still bore the gift of men – immortality. They were specifically banned by the Valar not to travel west and set foot upon the undying lands. This was the first act in the downfall of Numenor.
The first king of Numenor was Elros, who along with his brother Elrond, were half elven, and allowed to choose their fates. Elrond as we know chose a life of the Eldar, however his bother chose to remain among the Numenoreans. He still was given a long lifespan – 500 years he lived, however he was not immortal, and nor was any king after him.
So, while to the east middle earth entered the 2nd age in something pretty much like our dark ages, the Numenoreans, being so close to Valinor, grew in power and wisdom. But they began to look more and more to the west seas, and could glimpse the white towers of Eressea, the easternmost point of the Undying Lands. They become resentful of the Valar not giving them access to the west and immortality. So, after all while the Numenoreans became split, with the Kings Men on one side, becoming parted from the elves, and the Elendili or the Faithful on the other side, who remained friends with them.
As the power of Numenor grew, they became tired of their island and began to settle along the coasts of middle earth, thinking that if they could not sail west to Valinor, then they could dominate the east instead. They built harbors and fleets, and took whatever they pleased. The Elendili however took no part in this, and remained true. As time went on, the split become more apparent, and the Kings Men forsook their elven heritage, and forbade anyone to use their language. The Elendili were forced to the east of Numenor and were watched.
In this time, Sauron had rose to power again, and was fortifying Mordor with the building of Barad Dur, however he feared the power of Numenor. The current, 25th, and last, king of Numenor Ar-Pharazon, seeing Sauron’s power, wanted it for himself, claiming that he was to be ‘king of men’ not Sauron. So with a great army he sailed to middle earth and landed in the port of Umbar. After travelling inland he told Sauron to come before him, and seeing the king’s power, Sauron did this, however he came to them as a fair, wise, person, rather than the dark lord, knowing that what he couldn’t achieve in power, he could in subtly.
The king took Sauron back to Numenor as prisoner, however it took him only three years to become close to the king as a counselor, and eventually corrupt Ar-Pharazon into worshipping darkness. Ar-Pharazon became a tyrant over his people, though in truth Sauron ruled. Through all of this the lifespan of the Numenoreans grew shorter, and the more corrupt they become the shorter they lived, and the shorter they lived, the more they hated the Valar for denying them immortality.
An important note here on the lifespan of Numenoreans: In the early days of Numenor the lines of kings did not fight their coming deaths. In fact their way was to embrace death before their bodies and minds degraded beyond their status. They could have in fact lived longer, however it would not have been ‘life.’ In the days of the ‘fallen’ Numenoreans, the kings fought off death till the very end, and so they lingered alive, but as withered and senile old men.
Eventually Sauron convinced Ar-Pharazon that if he were to sail west and force his way to the Undying Lands, then he would be granted ever lasting life, which was wrong anyways- it wasn’t the actual being in Valinor that granted immortality (Frodo and Bilbo would have died there eventually). So the king, with his army amassed, sailed towards Valinor. They went unchallenged, and even managed to set foot upon Valinor, and the king, thinking he was victorious claimed the land for his own.
He was wrong however. Manwe- king of the Valar, called Eru Illuvitar, the creator, for assistance. Eru opened up a chasm in the sea, and the fleet of Numenor sank into it, and those on land were buried underneath falling mountains. Then Eru parted the Undying Lands from the material earth, so that it was no longer reachable by ordinary sea travel, and sank the island of Numenor into the sea.
Thankfully, some of the Faithful were saved from this, and in their 9 ships they eventually were washed on the shores of middle earth. They were led by Elendil and his sons- Isildur and Anarion, who had all refused the call to arms by their king. Sauron, who had created all of this, was destroyed by his own treachery in his temple in Numenor, as he looked out laughing at the demise of his great enemy, however, as we well know killing that old bugger isn’t as easy as it may seem, and he was not just a mortal body- he was Maiar, and his spirit lingered.
Sources: Silmarillion (Akallabeth), Unfinished Tales (A Description of the Island of Numenor, The Line of Elros)
ARNOR and GONDOR
After arriving in middle earth Isildur and his brother Anarion, both founded the kingdom of Gondor in the south. Their father Elendil founded the kingdom of Arnor in the north. Both Gondor and Arnor were known as the Realms of the Dunedain in Exile.
Arnor covered a vast area of middle earth. In the west it reached the Blue Mountains, the east the Misty Mountains, and it covered all the lands in between, including what was later to become The Shire. Like Gondor, it was populated by Numenoreans who had previously migrated from their island and who had most likely mixed with the locals, so the Numenoreans already had a population in their lands, and were welcomed as kinsmen.
The men of those lands, though not having the level of wisdom and craftsmanship of Numenor, still built many great things. In Gondor, the capital of Osgiliath was built, where Isildur and Anarion ruled together, and near it the tower of Minas Anor (aka Tower of Anorien) which was later to be re-named Minas Tirth (aka Tower of the Guard) and facing it, Minas Ithil (aka Tower of The Moon) later to become Minas Morgul (aka Tower of Black Sorcery). Orthanc was raised in the ring of Isengard. In Arnor the capital of Annuminas was built - located on the shore of Lake Nenuial, and there Elendil ruled the west of middle earth. Also built was the tower of Amon Sul (weathertop), Fornost, and also Bree. In many of these places, were brought the Palantiri- the seeing stones, so that the leaders of Numenor could communicate over their vast twin kingdoms.
Where as Gondor lay near the lands of the enemy (both Mordor and those of men), Arnor was located near Lindon, the kingdom of Gil-Galad. It was therefore favoured at first over its counterpart, as the lands of men and elves could benefit from one another, and the friendship between the men of Numenor and the elves grew again. It was however ironically to become the first kingdom to fall.
Eventually Sauron, who had lain hidden, began to grow in power once more, so that eventually it came to the War of the Last Alliance. In this last war, the people of Arnor and Gondor lost many, including Elendil, and Gil-Galad, both felled by Sauron himself. Anarion also was slain in battle, and so the kingdom of Gondor was passed to his son. Isildur, the only leader from Numenor to survive the war, came back to Arnor as its king, however he himself, along with three of his sons, were killed in the disaster of the Gladden Fields (in which the ring was lost, only to be found by Gollum centuries later). The only heir to remain was Isildur’s last son- Valandil, who had remained in Rivendell with his mother.
Even though the king of Arnor technically topped the king of Gondor, the two become separate, each being governed in their own ways. After this time, the kingdom of Arnor began to decline, and after civil war, and the thinning of the Numenorean bloodline, it became separated into minor kingdoms and steadily fell into ruin. This was sped up even more by the threat of a new kingdom founded in the north- Angmar- land of the Witch King, of which more will be said in the next section.
Gondor however continued to grow into the 3rd age, ruled by Anarion’s lineage. However once more evil returned to Mordor, and the Nazgul came through the pass and took Minas Ithil, and re-named it Minas Morgul, and they made it their lair. The twin towers of Morgul and Anor warred against each other, and in between the capital of Osgiliath became ruined, and Minas Anor was re-named Minas Tirith, and became Gondor’s capital. It took until the 33rd king for the lineage to finally fail. Earnur, the last king, was challenged by the Witch King to come before Minas Morgul and duel him in single combat. Earnur accepted and rode alone (or possible with guard- seen it stated as both) to the gates, where he was betrayed and taken alive into the tower never to be seen again. After this the realm of Gondor was ruled by Stewards until a time could come that the throne be taken again by one with the blood of Numenor, which was not to be until the end of the 3rd age, when Aragorn came from the north.
Sources: Return of The King (Appendices), Silmarillion (Akallabeth, Of The Rings of Power and The Third Age)
THE RANGERS OF THE NORTH
After the decline of both kingdoms, the true line of the Dunedain was thin, and broken. After the fall of the last king of Arnor- Arvedui, the Dunedain became a scattered wandering people. They were known as the Rangers of the North, and they were led by chieftains, who were Isildur’s heirs, though in truth the lineage meant little until Aragorn.
The rangers play a large part in the trilogy, and we also know of a little of their past. In 1974 of the 3rd age the kingdom of Arnor truly ended. The Witch King, after many wars took Fornost and filled it with orcs and other evil things. The last king of Arnor – Arvedui, held off in the North Downs, however fled northwards to the Ice Bay of Forochel and took up residence with the Lossoth (basically Inuits). When the elf lord of The Grey Havens, Cirdan, heard of this, he sent a ship to bring back Arvedui. However when the snow men seen the ship arrive, they said ‘Do not mount on this sea-monster!’ and they feared danger for those on board. Arvedui did not take their advice, and he, along with the elven mariners, died being washed upon the ice. The palantirs of Annuminas and Amon Sul, which Arvedui had rescued, also drowned in the sea along with him.
Note: Interestingly there was still a palantir left in the north that was not known of. It was kept by Cirdan, and apparently it behaved differently to the others in that it would only look to the west sea, as Elendil had intended it to look for Valinor, however the globular earth would no longer allow for that sight. Therefore the palantiri at the time of the war of the ring are accordingly:
1.Annuminas- in the sea
2.Amon Sul- in the sea
3.Emyn Beriad/ Tower Hills- possession of Cirdan
4.Orthanc- still present under Saruman (later recovered and used by Aragorn to trick Sauron into war)
5.Minas Tirith- still present under Denethor (later to be useless showing only Denethor’s burnt withered hands as he grasped it in his death)
6.Minas Ithil- taken by the Nazgul at Ithil’s fall and given to Sauron in Barad Dur (most likely to be buried in Barad Dur’s fall)
7.Osgiliath-lost at the cities fall into the Anduin
So the last king of Arnor lay at the bottom of the sea and the Witch King dwelled in Fornost. It was not until Cirdan along with Glorfindel and Earnur (who was to become the last king of Gondor) that the Witch King was repelled. It was here that Earnur and the Witch king briefly met, which sparked their hatred and later duel before Minas Morgul where Earnur was to meet his death. It was also here that, as the Witch King fled, Glorfindel prophesised that ‘not by the hand of man will he fall.’ But the Witch didn’t care about his defeat- his task, presumably set by Sauron, was complete- there was no longer an enemy of Mordor in the north, and the only true power left as a barrier was Gondor.
Aranarth, son of Arvedui became chieftain of the northern Dunedain. Each son after him bore the prefix Ara (Arathorn, Aragorn etc.) to signify that they were heir to the throne of Arnor. The chieftain’s sons were always fostered and raised by Elrond in Rivendell, where was also kept the shards of Narsil and the other heirlooms of the house of Elendil. There were 15 chieftains of the Dunedain before the 16th and last- Aragorn II, who later became King Elessar of the Re-United Kingdom.
The rangers led a dangerous, wandering life, hunting evil in the northern lands, protecting lands such as the Shire and Bree, who were now ignorant of such matters, and had all but forgotten the North Kingdom, or which they still belonged (and would return under the protection of Elessar). They were grim in face, and wore dark green, brown, and grey to blend into the land. They were expert huntsmen and trackers, presumably due to their life in the wild, as they seldom took to houses, preferring a life of hardship.
The rangers, being so far from the days of Numenor, lived shorter lives than their ancestors, though still around twice the age of ordinary men. Aragorn lived to be 210, which was the longest of his line of chieftains. By the events of the war of the ring, very few remained, and when called for to aid Aragorn, only 30 came in the Grey Company (though they admittedly had little time to gather).
After Aragorn’s reclaiming of the crown, the Dunedain once more dwelled in the joint kingdoms of Arnor and Gondor, and Aragorn himself dwelt for a while in the city of Annuminas, which he rebuilt. With him marrying Arwen, he also re-introduced elf blood back into the line of kings.
Sources: Return of the King (appendices), Guide To Tolkien (David Day)
Not much is said on the Black Numenoreans. They were the remains of The Kings Men, those who in Numenor had been led astray by Sauron. Before the time of the downfall and sinking of Numenor, many had sailed to middle earth and settled along the coasts, most notably the port of Umbar. There they built great fleets and raided the coasts of middle earth, and were in the end just another servant of Sauron. Out of the 9 rings of power (of men) he gave three of these to Black Numenoreans (and so therefore became three of the Nazgul), and to another two lords he gave lands of the Haradrim.
In the end however, they were destroyed by the kings of Gondor, who took Umbar for their own. Some of the Black Numenoreans survived however, and were merged into the armies of Harad, and together they retook Umbar and became the Corsairs of Umbar, which were present at the war of the ring, and defeated when Aragorn came from the Paths of the Dead. The Mouth of Sauron was also a Black Numenorean, who came into personal service to the dark lord, and rose to Lieutenant of Barad Dur and learnt black sorcery and other dark arts.
Sources: A Guide To Tolkien (David Day), Return of the King (appendices), Silmarillion (Akallabeth)
While not being core reading for understanding the trilogy, it’s pretty easy to see how important Numenor is. In itself it is a fascinating part of Tolkien lore, however more than that, it sparked off events that rippled all throughout the 2nd and 3rd ages. It created the hatred between Gondor and Mordor, which would later lead to the war of the ring. It created Arnor which in turn led to the Shire, and the settling of the hobbits. It led to the building of Orthanc and its palantir, which in turn led to Saruman’s treachery, and all of the war of Rohan/Isengard. There is just so much that it isn’t possible to list all here.
Finally it led to one of the key aspects of the entire trilogy- the return of the king. Without Numenor and its downfall the entire history of middle earth would have been vastly different.
I hope you enjoyed. Please comment and tune in next week.
Hi and welcome to chapter 3 of what is so far a series going better than what I thought. Firstly I would like to thank all the support I have received from those who have been following my writings.
Last chapter we looked at the mysteries of Tolkien’s writings, and I was reminded that even though I had touched on some pretty in depth material, I hadn’t yet done a chapter on the basics.
So without further ado……
Where better to start than the beginning? It’s a safe bet everyone reading this will have heard of Middle Earth, however the professor seemed to have a lot of confusion regarding his choice of words. What exactly does ‘middle earth’ mean?
Tolkien actually didn’t create the term middle earth, it comes from the word middle erd, which in itself comes from the word middangeard, the name of the inhabited lands of men between the seas. It also bears resemblance to the norse word midgard, the world of living between heaven and hell.
The confusion arises that many people think that middle earth is a fantasy world created by Tolkien, in which he places his dragons, balrogs, elves and so on. This is in fact incorrect and middle earth is our world in which we sit today.
Sounds crazy doesn’t it? But no, Middle Earth is not a planet in a galaxy far far away (sorry couldn’t resist), but to use that last famous line as reference, what it is, is a long time ago.
Tolkien specifically stated that he didn’t think himself as writing fantasy. What he called it was mythopoeia-creating myths inside our own earth.
And indeed, taking this new fact, if Middle Earth is our earth, then the only fantasy that Tolkien ever created was the pre-history timeline.
To put this clearer, everything that happened in Middle Earth- Melkor, Sauron, the rings, Frodo, Gondor, Elves, hobbits, happened in our earth, just a very long time ago. How long ago? Well……(these are according to my sources- from books and other websites- not editable wikis, though if you have other numbers that are backed up id like to hear them, as ive known authors to be wrong before on dates.)
From the creation of the world, known as Arda (which includes middle earth and the undying lands)-to the events of the war of the ring, there is approximately a gap of 37 000 years. After the events of the trilogy finish and the 4th age starts, there is a gap of around 6000 years until Tolkiens’s time- ie the 20th century. This would place the war of the ring around 4000bc in our years, and the creation of Arda around 41 000 bc.
So if middle earth is our earth, then where would all of Tolkien's locations be now placed on a map? Well, if you look at a map of middle earth, it loosely represents the area of north western Europe. We know that Tolkien based his inspiration for The Shire on the Midlands of England, placing Bag End near Birmingham. Also Rivendell is sometimes loosely associated with Oxford. Gondor can be seen as Italy, and in some places- The Roman Empire (the splitting of the roman empire into Rome/Constantinople looks alot like the north/south realms of Arnor/Gondor), and Rohan can be seen as the various Germanic tribes. Mordor can be seen as the Black Sea and the lands about. (it would also put the colder north farthing of the shire around the lake district which is where I’m at….yeah gotta love being in the shire :D)
Of course there is a glaring problem here with matching locations on our maps, to locations on a middle earth map. They obviously can't be transposed directly. If Bag End is Birmingham, then id challenge anyone to travel due east for about 300 miles to get to oxford, and they’d most likely end up in the North Sea. But we must remember that Tolkien is not saying these places are their earth counterparts. They are more based on them. Tolkien himself states that it would be pointless looking for geological references as the days of the third age are long past, and the lands much changed. Here Tolkien is of course referring to the world's geological change from one super continent to those we know today.
Taking this we can say for certain that Tolkien is not trying to be geologically correct, as the shape of middle earth of course could not possibly change to our continents in a mere 6000 years. Here Tolkien is speeding up continental shift by many thousands of years.
So it can be said that Tolkien's creations are more of an 'alternate reality' or to be more precise, an 'alternate timeline,' as we actually knowin our reality what was happening 6000 years ago, however according to Tolkien it is much different. Not to mention us having proof that the world is much older than the 43 000 years Tolkien is proposing. Also none of the places that we encounter in the hobbit, or the trilogy, or the silmarillion, existed in the same time as their counterparts- they couldn’t possibly have- we already know that 6000 years ago none of the places that Tolkien uses as inspiration would have existed.
If we look at the writings of Tolkien in this new light, then we only begin to see how clever he really was. For instance, take the downfall and sinking of the island of Numenor in the 2nd age. It has always been clear that the inspiration for this was of course the legend of Atlantis. But seeing as everything that happened in middle earth happened in our earth, then Tolkien is in fact saying that Numenor was Atlantis. It is Numenor that in fact fuelled that legend that we call Atlantis today, not the other way round.
Other examples are the Barrow Wights. The Barrows in England did not inspire Tolkien to write such material. The Barrow’s creators thousands of years ago were actually inspired by true events that happened many thousands of years before that. The same can be applied to almost every part of what was previously called Tolkien’s sources of ‘inspiration.’ This is how mythopoeia works.
So we can see here how Tolkien really pushed the boundaries of making his works ‘realistic.’ Not many writers after him (I can’t think of many, can you?) have made such a bold claim as to state their creations were the pre-history of our own earth.
Ok that’s it for this chapter. Next chapter I intend to look at goblins, orcs, half orcs, goblin men, uruk hai, snaga, and the confusion that is sometimes concerned with them., and if I can manage to physically write it, the icky sticky topic on how do orcs reproduce.
Note: due to the length extreme of this chapter I have split it into sections which you can scroll down to and read at your own leisure. They are in large bold text and are as follows.
1.Tom Bombadil- who and what was he?
2.Radagast The Brown- what happened to him and did he fail in his wizardly task?
3.Balrogs- wings or no?
4.How did Gandalf intend on entering Mordor
Firstly I apologise if this one seems a bit random, however it is a subject that fascinates me, and hopefully will have an interest for you too. It will also be central for those not familiar with characters such as Radagast and Bombadil in particular (if/when he is released as a card), to understanding their importance in Middle Earth. Also I’m sorry for the length, however you can’t really tackle this one without going into a certain level of depth.
Tolkien’s universe is vast, and despite it not having the 14 x1000 page book material of series such as The Wheel of Time, it is no less detailed, and arguably more so for its creativity and originality at the time it was written.
This chapter takes a look however, as some of the unkowns in Middle Earth lore- some of the mysteries that have been discussed in length over the years. There are several, and I could have written double this, however I intend to look at the main following:
Tom Bombadil- who and what was he?
Radagast The Brown- what happened to him and did he fail in his wizardly task?
Balrogs- wings or no?
How did Gandalf intend on entering Mordor?
If ever there was an enigma in Middle Earth it is Tom Bombadil. He appears in person only in 3 chapters of the trilogy (a little more in other works- The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, and is talked about in other chapters) those being The Old Forest, In the House of Tom Bombadil and Fog on the Barrow Downs. He comes to the hobbit’s aid when they are attacked by the evil tree Old Man Willow, and again when they re attacked by Barrow Wights, and shows his, for want of a better word, magical prowess by subduing them both with a song. The hobbits also travel to Bombadil’s house, where he lives with his wife, Goldberry.
Now, onto the mystery. Firstly who is Bombadil? Well there are several theories I have seen, which vary in likelihood.
-He is one of the Valar
-He is Maiar
-He is some form of spirit not known about
-He is Eru- God
-He is the reader (yes, I have seen this stated!!)
I will talk about these each of these in turn, then finish with my opinions, and what I consider to be the most important and conclusive quote of all.
He is Vala
With Bombadil, Tolkien introduces us to a character here that is firstly not connected to anyone else in Middle Earth. He is in the form of a man, certainly, however we know that in Middle Earth this doesn’t mean much. The Istari for instance, were in the form of men, however were in fact Maiar. He is part of no nation that ever was or ever will be, and he lives in, and is bound to, a forest that is part of the ancient forest that covered middle earth thousands of years previously. He has magical powers that give him control over extremely powerful evils, and he describes himself as master of ‘wood, water and hill,’ and most curiously of all- he describes himself as ‘Eldest’ and knew the first raindrop and acorn, and a time before the Dark Lord came from ‘outside’, though which dark lord – Melkor or Sauron is not stated (though its generally thought to mean the original Dark Lord), which is unfortunate as it would have a huge impact on aging him.
If we take all this literally we can take it that Bombadil was present at the creation of the world which would have to place him as one of the godly spirits- the Valar.
The problem here, is that Bombadil is never once mention in the creation of Middle Earth. He doesn’t appear in the Silmarillion and no one like him appears in it either. However during the council of Elrond it is stated that:
'…..was not then his name. Iarwain Ben-adar we called him, oldest and fatherless. But many another name he has since been given by other folk...'
So, if we stick with the literal translation, it would only leave 1 option- that Tom is a Vala, disguised in Middle Earth as the ridiculous merry dol that we know. So how do we find out which one?
Well, seeing as the Valar were paired in marriage, we must take a look at both Tom and his other half-Goldberry, otherwise known as The River Daughter. Firstly-Goldberry, bears a large resemblance to a Vala, namely Yavanna- the Queen of The Earth. Yavanna had spent time in The Old Forest, and was concerned most with plants, which fits her ‘caring for the forest’ personality perfectly. She is also described as clad in green, which in comparison, Goldberry is three times stated alongside the colour green in the Fellowship of the Ring.
So if we take Yavanna, then we must assume that Tom is hr husband-Aule the smith- the master creator of all the physical things in Middle Earth and creator of the Dwarves. Now we see that there are indeed many points to support Tom=Aule. Firstly Aule was among many things the creator of minerals, which would include the rings of power, secondly Sauron himself was a mere servant of Aule, so this would explain Tom’s apparent mastery over the Ring- he was the Ring’s master’s master (if that makes sense!).In fact not only does Tom not have any fear over the Ring, he can make it disappear, showing he has complete and utter control over it, more so than its creator, Sauron.
So there is an obvious connection between Bombadil/Goldberry, and Aule/Yavanna. But is it enough to be conclusive? Certainly not. Here is a quote from Glorfindel at The Council of Elrond:
"...soon or late the Lord of the Rings would learn of its hiding place and would bend all his power toward it. Could that power be defied by Bombadil alone? I think not. I think that in the end, if all else is conquered, Bombadil will fall, Last as he was First; and then Night will come."
So here we have Glorfindel, who is wise even for an elf, clearly stating that Sauron has greater power over Tom. If Tom is Vala then this doesn’t fit. Sauron is Maiar, more specifically as already stated, Aule’s servant. That Aule’s servant could defeat him is pushing the lore of Tolkien a little far. Secondly we have a similar quote from Galdor:
"Power to defy our Enemy is not in him, unless such power is in the earth itself. And yet we see that Sauron can torture and destroy the very hills."
We must take these quotes as truth, not only from their speakers, but also because Gandalf, who knows Bombadil well (this is discussed later) doesn’t object to them. So it can be assumed that Bombadil doesn’t have the strength to hold off Sauron. This is the main counter argument for this theory. However there is more counter-support in this quote, when Gandalf is asked whether Tom could guard then ring:
"He might do so, if all the free folk of the world begged him, but he would not understand the need."
Could a creator of Middle Earth really be so ignorant in matters? No, so we must move on to an alternate theory-
Tom is Maiar
This is in fact the most commonly believed answer. It came about due to the fact the people seen that Tom couldn’t be Vala, so he must be a lesser being, a Maiar. There is one main quote that is at the end of this section that supports this- where Gandalf implies that they are akin. i.e they are both Maiar. However to me this is hugely flawed.
Firstly, it does nothing to explain how he came before the world. Secondly if we use the three main Maiar characters in the third age as examples, we see what their reaction to the Ring was, we find the following
Sauron-its creator, and yet by his own design, was reliant on it
Gandalf- terrified of touching it, would not dare use it for the corruptive effect it would have on him
Saruman-actually become corrupted by the rings master, and the lure for it
So, we can see from this that anything under Valar, couldn’t likely have immunity to the ring, so again, this points to the direction of Tom in fact being a Valar.
Bombadil=Maiar is a convenient answer, as they weren’t all named or accounted for (the moria balrog for example, also the Watcher in the Water was considered one). So it is perhaps a little too easy to slot Bombadil in this category. And to me it is more flawed than the Vala theory.
Tom is Eru
The flip side of saying he couldn’t be Vala, is not going lower, but higher, that he is THE Creator of the Tolkien universe. This would account for many of the things he says, his absolute lack of worry over worldly events, and his power over other beings. Also at one point, when Frodo asks who he is, Goldberry simply states the ‘He is.’ Also Tom uses songs as his power- the universe likewise was created by music.
Despite this, this is one theory we can say with certainty is wrong, given Tolkien in his letters himself stated:
'There is no embodiment of the One, of God, who indeed remains remote, outside the World, and only directly accessible to the Valar or Rulers.'
Furthermore, we have already discussed that Sauron>Tom, which would mean Sauron was more powerful than God which is of course ridiculous.
Tom is the Reader
It’s a shame this isn’t founded in more factual evidence, as I really like this one. Several readers have concluded that given Bombadil’s ‘cut and paste’ characteristics, that he is the reader- in effect the viewer of a world that he takes no part in. Almost as if it were you that took hold of the ring and could make it disappear, as you can in your imagination. As a reader it has no effect as you are separate and apart from Tolkien’s universe so you can still see Frodo for example, when he wears it. Of course this theory is especially far fetched and based on little or no evidence.
He is an unnamed natural spirit
Seeing as there is no definite answer to where Tom fits in the cosmology of Middle Earth, it can be said that he is in fact a being not otherwise talked about- an undiscovered species if you will.
In a passage from the Silmarillion,
'...in majesty they are peers, surpassing beyond compare all others, whether of the Valar and the Maiar, or of any other order that Iluvatar has sent into Ea.'
Here it is shown that Tolkien considered other forms of spirits that entered the world, not just Maiar and Valar. However again this is an open ended theory, possibly the most speculative of them all as we are creating beings out of our own minds and seeing if they fit the character of Tom. In theory we could create anything and say- here is what Tom is, but it would still be our being and not Tolkien’s.
So far we have not really gained much to help us make a decision. We have seen facts that point to Tom being one thing or another, but all are seriously flawed. So, just to confuse us all even more I will leave you with this quote from Gandalf to the hobbits after Sauron’s downfall:
"going to have a long talk with Bombadil: such a talk as I have not had in all my time. He is a moss-gatherer, and I have been a stone doomed to rolling. But my rolling days are ending, and now we shall have much to say to one another."
Return of the King, chapter-homeward bound
This to me this is the most important and conclusive passage of all (if such a thing can be applied to Tom). From it we can take the following-
-Gandalf, after completing his task set out for him in Middle Earth, is going to have the longest and most important talk with Tom of his life. This is a lot to say of a wizard such as Gandalf so we can assume their topic would be pretty epic.
-Gandalf’s words seem to imply that he is ‘reporting back’ to a fellow operative- someone of at least the same stature.(here is the Maiar reference)
-The last part confused me for a long time; however I now understand it to mean the following: Tom’s role in middle earth is static (moss gatherer). He is bound to his forest, but still plays an important role. Gandalf’s on the other hand is constantly moving (doomed to rolling), he is needed everywhere, and played a role that encompasses the entire of middle earth. Now that task is over. We already know this however as he states earlier in the chapter that his time is over.
While this doesn’t conclude anything, and makes things even worse you might say, I can draw the following:
-He was part of, or the creator of, the plan to cause Sauron’s Downfall. Gandalf’s talk to him was a report on all that had happened and that it was successful.
-He was extremely powerful, but for some reason chose not to show it in mortal lands- he was a ‘moss gatherer’ who did his part at home, while Gandalf had the actual task of going to places/doing things.
-There is no answer. Seriously, there isn’t. If you have your own ideas id love to hear them.
Radagast The Brown
Radagast is one of the 5 Istari, and along with Gandalf and Saruman, is the third and last wizard that actually appears in Tolkien’s works- the remaining two are a mystery in themselves.
Radagast, who is featured as a neutral ally card in the game, was a lover of nature in Middle Earth. While his two other companions busied themselves with the world of men and elves and dwarves, Radagast was content with flowers and creatures. Therefore he plays a small and insignificant role in the events of world, and most especially the war of the ring.
The problem here is the Radagast, being one of the maiar sent to Middle Earth specifically to combat Sauron, wanders from his task. He takes part in no battles, he aids no free nation, and counsels no leaders.
So did he fail in his task? Well that is what we are about to find out. First we must take the other two wizards and find out what exactly failing their task means:
Gandalf- absolutely did not fail- in fact he was probably the most responsible for the downfall of Sauron.
Saruman-the opposite- he did fail, to the point that he turned sides and fought for evil
So where does Radagast come in this scale. The middle? Well this all depends on how much he actually did aid either side. There are two main theories on this. The first is that Radagast actually completed his task set out to him before his departure to Middle Earth, and that task wasn’t to aid men or dwarves or elves, but to aid flora and fauna. This would explain his love for such beings, and his general shunning of other races. Therefore, taking this theory, Radagast lies somewhere close to Gandalf’s side of the spectrum- he completed his task, however he wasn’t as active as Gandalf was in causing the downfall of evil.
The second theory is that Radagast was actually ensnared by his leader, Saruman, and lured Gandalf to his initial capture in Orthanc, seeing as it is Radagast that tells him that Saruman is waiting for him in Isengard. The problem with this theory is that it is also Radagast that sends the Eagle Gwaihir to Isengard to gain news of the enemy, which in turn leads to Gandalf’s rescue, so we can see that this second theory falls apart on this basis.
It is far more likely that Radagast was fooled by his more powerful fellow wizard, Saruman, who was still under the disguise of good at that time. In fact it is shown that Saruman has no respect for Radagast calling him simple and a fool, so it would be no giant leap to assume that Saruman, master of deception, could trick Radagast into thinking this.
So we can safely rule out that Radagast failed to the extent of treachery. However at best he only helped out creatures and flowers, it can’t even be assumed that trees and ents fall into this category, as Treebeard pays no mention to Radagast while he is talking about Gandalf being the only true tree friend left in Middle Earth (Treebeard/Two Towers/book1).
The general accepted thought here (and the one Tolkien hints at) is that Radagast in fact forgot his task completely, and became too involved in his love of birds and plants.
He is not again mention in the trilogy. The last mention he gets is in the council of Elrond, where it is stated that he was sought for in Rhosgobel, however wasn’t there at the time of need.
So if he neither failed, nor completed his task, was he allowed back to the undying lands as Gandalf was? Gandalf is the only wizard that truly completed his task so was the only one we know was allowed back. But would Radagast, after so many thousands died in the war of the ring (and they certainly could have used another good wizard), be allowed?
Well, firstly unlike Saruman, who is cast out of the order by Gandalf, and pretty much has his power taken off him, Radagast receives no consequences of his actions. Gandalf certainly doesn’t go off looking for him after the downfall of Sauron, to either invite him back to the Undying Lands or to give him a good kicking for forsaking them all.
Here thankfully we can ask Tolkien what he thought happened-
Radagast’s failure was not as great as Saruman, so he may have eventually been allowed back (if he chose so) to the Undying Lands (not direct quote- I cant find the actual letter reference now, so if anyone knows where this can be found please say).
However this does not tell us either way. Most who have discussed this have came to this conclusion however:
Radagast forgot his task, so much to the point that he forgot why he was in Middle Earth. He became native if you will. A lone spirit of nature left in a world of men. It is also speculated by some that Radagast became the basis for the many earth spirits that were conjured up after Middle Earth’s time, and that he was in fact left there on purpose as a watcher of the world, a last guardian of the Valar. So maybe he is still wandering in the ancient woods of the world?
Balrogs – did they have wings?
Another character that we have encountered so far is a balrog, more specifically Durin’s Bane. Despite most people assuming that balrogs have wings, this is actually down to the art influence of John Howe, and therefore the movies as well, who popularised the fiery bull-like demon on Moria.
Firstly let me introduce you to four quotes, one from the early Tolkien writings, one from the appendices, and two from the chapter The Bridge of Khazad Dum.
1."Swiftly they arose, and they passed with winged speed over Hithlum, and they came to Lammoth as a tempest of fire."
2."Thus they roused from sleep of 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"
3."His enemy halted again, facing him, and the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings."
4."...suddenly it drew itself up to a great height, and its wings were spread from wall to wall..."
Now on the face of it these seem pretty conclusive. These would strongly imply that the balrogs had vast wings, as it is said so and were able to fly. Now if we take each quote and break them down:
Quote 1.Tolkien, like most writers, is known for his love of metaphors, therefore it has been argued that winged speed refers to extreme speed.
Quote 2. Flying is the key word here, however often Tolkien uses fly to mean retreat ie flee. ‘fly you fools!’
Quotes 3/4. The problem here is this: firstly the 3 quote comes before the 4 in the chapter. This is important as we are given the word like, and therefore must apply it to every other description that comes after it. So then we can re-read it like so-
His enemy halted again, facing him, and the shadow about it was like two vast wings.
Then we can take the second quote and assume that it also is making a like comparison, so that when it says its wings were spread from wall to wall, we can take that as its shadow spread from wall to wall, as this is what Tolkien was originally implying.
Therefore these apparently two conclusive quotes can be quite easily broken down to mean the opposite of what is usually read from them. That the wings were its shadow, that we know for a fact that it was cloaked in.
Staying with disproving the wing theory, we also have another point. If balrogs have wings, then why do they twice fall to their eventual deaths when they could have flown?
"Many are the songs that have been sung of the duel of Glorfindel with the Balrog upon a pinnacle of rock in that high place; and both fell to ruin in the abyss."
"I threw down my enemy, and he fell from the high place, and broke the mountain-side where he smote it in his ruin."
And why didn’t the Moria balrog simply fly over the gap after the bridge’s ruin?
Another point that backs this up is in an earlier version of Tolkien’s writings, balrogs are said to have rode to battle up dragon’s backs. Firstly the image of this is terrifying, but more importantly this again shows that Tolkien at some point decided that they couldn’t fly (though admittedly he changed his idea of balrogs over time). Finally we can take a balrog’s size (which is not gigantic as in the film, no more than around 12/13ft) and compare the apparent wing span, which is said to reach from wall to wall (assuming how vast the space is in the bridge area) and we see that its wings would have to be vastly larger than its body. And by this I don’t mean like a Condor’s wing span, which is of course massive, but I mean it would have to be daftly out of proportion, especially for a non-bird creature.
So it can be said that there is certainly no hard evidence for balrog’s having wings, but the arguments against it all depends on how literally you read the given quotes.
How did Gandalf intend to enter Mordor?
This is an interesting one, as it is even debated by the characters of the book, notably Frodo and Aragorn, both of which have no idea to the answer as Gandalf never shared his plans beyond crossing the Misty Mountains and journeying south before he fell to his death in Moria.
Looking at the possible options on how to enter Mordor we have:
-The Black Gate
-A huge round trip of hundreds of miles into enemy lands to skirt round the 3 walls of mountains and enter from the east.
-Some way we don’t know about
So which is most likely?
-The Black Gate: Unlikely. Gandalf would have known how impenetrable the gate was, and if two hobbits and Gollum couldn’t enter unnoticed, I don’t think the fellowship could have. Its been argued the Gandalf could have ‘magiced’ them all in, by invisibility or other means, however this has one main flaw- Gandalf was unwilling to use his powers on Caradhras, hundreds of miles from Mordor, incase of attracting attention. He would therefore not want to use his powers, even if he had such powers, on the front door step of Sauron.
-Cirith Ungol: Again unlikely, but slightly better than the gate. Gandalf is not happy when he finds out Frodo is taking the stair to Cirith Ungol (Shelob’s pass). Therefore it is unlikely it would have been his plan to take that path all along. It is likely he knew of Shelob, or that some evil guarded it, and he would obviously know of Minas Morgul. So no, I don’t think this is a choice. Remember Minas Morgul was known for its watchfulness, the tower rotated, and it was said that non passed before it without them being known. Now obviously Frodo and Sam do, but I think again the fellowship would have a harder time concealing themselves (especially with Gimli in tow, huffing and puffing about having to walk all that way). Remember that hobbits were said to have an almost magical ability to hide themselves (probably given more to their size and lack of shoes).
-The round trip. No. Just not anywhere near feasible. Firstly Gandalf didn’t like the idea of a delay when planning their trip in Rivendell. Secondly it would mean either going south of Mordor, meaning they would have to cross the desertof Harad and Khand- a desert filled with enemies- doesn’t sound nice. Or it would mean going north of Mordor and into Rhun (again enemy territory) then dropping south then west and travel for several hundred miles through the plains of Mordor to get to Mnt Doom. Not nice again.
So where does that leave us? Either, Gandalf knew of an alternate way in to Mordor, or he just plainly hadn’t decided at that time.
-Gandalf knew of an alternate way. Maybe. I wouldn’t say likely. Not by a long shot, but it is possible. Though it raises the question of why would wise old Gandalf not tell another member i.e. Aragorn, of this way incase he fell? Doesn’t seem to fit to me. Also where would this place be? The moutains of Mordor are said to be an impassible fence, with only two entrances as stated. People have argued that all mountains can be climbed or passed at easy places, and that the mountains which range for hundreds of miles must have had more accessible places at some point. The flaw? Sauron would know every inch of his domain. He had had thousands of years to do so, find the weak places, and fortify them.
Here we can maybe take a hint from this though. Apart from Barad Dur, which is Sauron’s base so doesn’t count here, we know of 3 other fortifications in Mordor. The first is The Black Gate, which guards an entrance. The second is Minas Morgul, which again guards an entrance, and the third is the castle Durthang. Perhaps this also guarded an alternate entrance? Perhaps underneath its foundations? It is never stated either way so it remains a possibility, and it follows logic to place a castle near a path into your domain. The rule of odds would certainly agree with this, with 2/3 named defences guarding an entrance. The argument to this is that Durthang was near The Black Gate, so thus acted as an extra garrison to that entrance.
-Gandalf didn’t know. Likely. Perhaps the most likely here. Gandalf knew that the task of the fellowship had little hope. He also knew that they either tried, or they would all die. So it is no stretch to presume that even the wise wizard was stumped on how to get in, but knew he had to go and find out. This would explain him never talking about it to the other members. He probably wouldn’t want to dishearten them- especially the hobbits.
Finally there is another option that I don’t think is likely, but none the less has a stong following: Gandalf didn’t intend to go with Frodo, or let any of the others, so it was up to Frodo to find out. Remember that, unlike in the film, the fellowship was not bound to stay to one another. Several members had plans to go other ways at some point- Boromir and Aragorn intended to go to Minas Tirith, Legolas and Gimli made no promise to enter Mordor in Rivendell. The main argument used alongside this is that Gandalf wouldn’t want to raise attention to the ring bearer in Mordor, him being the enemy’s main foe.
Taking the last point, I don’t think this has any base. We know Gandalf had entered Sauron’s previous base Dol Guldur twice, in disguise, right under his nose. So Gandalf, powers aside, must have had some way of hiding himself from Sauron. So this just leaves abandonment. Again we must not take note from the films here. Aragorn did not let Frodo go in the book as he didn’t realise till it was too late. Despite this, we do know that Aragorn understood the danger of the ring on mortal men, and unlike Boromir, would probably have known it would drive him to take it in the end, so it can be said that even though he let Frodo go so that he could pursue Merry and Pippin, he also did so for Frodo’s own good.
So can we apply the same to Gandalf? There is no question of him knowing its effects. But remember Gandalf was not a mortal man. He had better powers of resistance, as did Gimli and Legolas, and the other hobbits for that matter (arguably hobbits more so than any other). And Gandalf did not have any plans to go to other lands, unlike Aragorn and Boromir. Lastly I just cannot see Gandalf, had he not fallen in Moria, abandoning the hobbits to go through Mordor alone. If anyone would have stayed, it would have been him.
Of course all this leads to another question, a ‘what if’ scenario of what would have happened had Gandalf not fallen in Moria. But that’s could fill a chapter all by itself
Ok if you’re still here after all that massive wall of text well done! And thank you!
Of course to all of these there are no right answers, so if you have your own, please post them.
Let me introduce you to Tolkienology- a series that takes a look at the many fascinating people and places that we have encountered in the game so far. I don’t claim to be a Tolkien expert, however I have had a rather unhealthy obsession with Middle Earth since I was around 11, so hopefully I can make this interesting and informative to those who have little or a casual knowledge in Middle Earth, and still an entertaining read to those who are better versed in Tolkien lore. Its also a chance for me to brush up on characters/events i dont have as much knowledge as id like on.
The first chapter takes a look at whats currently flying round the forum discussions- Elladan and Elrohir.
Elladan and Elrohir are the identical twin brothers (though it is never said they were twins outright, it is heavily suggested given Elf reproductive cycles cannot allow for 2 non-twin births in the same year) and sons of Elrond of Rivendell and Celebrian of Lothlorien (who was Celeborn and Galadriel's daughter). They are also therefore Arwen's siblings as well, and seeing as Elrond fostered Aragorn, then he can be seen as a sort of non-blood relative. They were born in the year 130 of the Third Age (though i have seen it as 130 and 139 in various encyclopedias, but the appendices in the book tops), and it is indicated that they were inseparable. Elladan means Elf-Man, or as Tolkien states in his letters, more specifiacally Elf-Numenorean, showing his dual decent, and Elrohir means Elf-Knight, though rohir’s literal translation is horse-lord (rohirrim for istance), though Tolkien specifically stated that it meant the former.
Despite being elves of high birth, the brothers both sought a life more akin to that of the Dunedain- the Rangers of the North, often helping them in protecting the remnants of Arnor in the north. This was in no small part due to the fact that their mother, Celebrian, was ambushed by orcs in the year 2509, whilst crossing the High Pass of the Misty Mountains (the same pass that Thorin and co. are attacked in in The Hobbit). She was wounded with a poisoned arrow, and despite her rescue, she departed Middle Earth to the Undying Lands. From then on the brothers kept a special grudge against orcs, and hunted them wherever they could find them.
During The War of the Ring and the events of the trilogy, the brothers aid Aragorn alongside the other members of the Grey Company- a small group of rangers who travel towards rohan and accompany Aragorn through the Paths of the Dead and onto the epic battle of The Pelennor Fields, and then presumably onto the battle before the Morannon (the battle before the black gate).
After the fall of Sauron and the departing of their father from the Grey Havens, they are said to remain in Rivendell for some time, as they, like their sister Arwen, were given the choice to remain in Middle Earth or depart to the Undying Lands. It is never said by Tolkien that they chose either way, but given the delay, many think they chose the life of mortal men, though either way, it can be said with certainty, that they both chose the same fate.
Well that's it for chapter 1...a little short seeing as they arent really central characters, but i couldnt resist the obvious choice given the hype around their synergy. So, post if you have any input, or if ive made any mistakes.