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Q: Pardon my ignorance, but another question has come to mind: Whose idea was it to send Boromir to Rivendell?

By Boromir's account at the Council of Elrond, he went there of his own free will, and Denethor did not want him to go. "Loth was my father to give me leave..." Did I misinterpret that? Peter Jackson's movies suggest otherwise, that Denethor had ordered Boromir to go to Rivendell against Boromir's will.

In chapter 4 of book 5, "The Siege of Gondor," Faramir says something that would make more sense if the latter were true: "…remember why it was that I, not [Boromir], was in Ithilien. On one occasion at least your counsel had prevailed, not long ago. It was the Lord of the City that gave the errand to him."

Had Boromir gone to Rivendell of his own free will, or had Denethor sent him?

– Paul Chapman

A: Having read the passages you mention, you're right that they seem to contradict each other at face value. But perhaps they can be interpreted so as to remove the conflict. At the Council, Boromir says that Faramir was eager to take on the challenge of the dream himself, but that since the way was dangerous, Boromir claimed the right to go instead. I would guess that if there was a conflict between them on it, they may have appealed to Denethor, who would have wanted to give Boromir his way because he was his father's favorite, and yet still have not wanted him to go. So it may have been like a catch-22 for Denethor; he judged in Boromir's favor because he wanted to make him happy, but was still "loth" to let him go at all.


Q: Something that's always bothered me is the poem that Treebeard sings to the hobbits about all the free peoples and the animals. On the upper tier are elves, men, dwarves, ents, and eventually hobbits. My first question is, why is it not just men and elves, not dwarves? Men and elves were the only ones intended to live in Arda and the dwarves were just thrown in after Aule made them. Second, if you're going to throw Ents into the list of free peoples, why aren't the eagles there too? I thought that they were created by Manwe and Yavanna at about the same time for about the same purpose.

– Eol the Dark One

A: Just because the Dwarves were not in Eru's original plan does not mean that he did not make plans for them once they came into existence. Though Aule "created" them, he could not give them true life and freedom; this was granted by Eru, and once done, they would then count among the free peoples.

As for Ents and Eagles, well, Eagles are animals, however intelligent. Remember that JRRT gives speech to other animals than the Eagles but does not include them as "people"; the fox in the Shire, for example, as well as Smaug, and Shadowfax, though he did not speak, certainly possessed intelligence out of the ordinary for his kind. Lastly, remember who's making the list! The Ents certainly would not consider themselves animals, and though they may not be "people" from our perspective, they are free and intelligent and sentient, and therefore it's not surprising that they include themselves in a list like that. We've not seen a list made by the Eagles; who knows how their list would start? ;)


Q: Hello, I have a few questions:

1) It's apparent that the "blood of Westernesse" became "diluted" over time, both in Arnor and Gondor, although this happened at different rates. In Arnor and the north, it seems like most of what was left of the Dunedain remained more or less pure-blooded Numenorean. On the other hand, it seems like only a small elite nobility of Gondor remained so. Why is that?

2) Gandalf mentions in RotK that Denethor and Faramir had mostly Numenorean blood but Boromir didn't. How can this be possible if Boromir and Faramir had the same parents?

– Patrick

A: Arnor dwindled swiftly, apparently before there was time for the Numenorean bloodlines to be mixed with that of humans who had stayed in Middle-earth all along. Gondor, on the other hand, was a prosperous, bustling nation for a long time. "The townlands were rich, with wide tilth and many orchards … yet the herdsmen and husbandmen that dwelt there were not many, and the most part of the people of Gondor lived in the seven circles of the City, or in the high vales of the mountain-borders, in Lossarnach, or further south in fair Lebennin with its five swift streams. There dwelt a hardy folk between the mountains and the sea. They were reckoned men of Gondor, yet their blood was mingled, and there were short and swarthy folk among them whose sires came more from the forgotten men who housed in the shadow of the hills in the Dark Years ere the coming of the kings." In essence, there were lots of people down there who didn't come from Numenor, and as time went on, things happened naturally and these people's lineage became mixed with that of the Numenoreans.

As for Denethor, Faramir, and Boromir--I have always thought that Tolkien was using a little poetic license here, mixed with only a little biology. Yes, they had the same parents, but that doesn't mean they had to look or act anything alike; it may be that Denethor or his wife carried genetic material from some of these "native Middle-earth dwellers" and not Numenoreans, and that that material was more strongly expressed in Boromir than in Faramir, whose genes thus retained more of the "pure" Numenorean strands. Poetically speaking, however, I have always thought it just meant that Faramir and Denethor, through whatever quirks of nature, looked and acted more like their Numenorean forefathers while Boromir bore a stronger resemblance to some of these other strains of folk.


Q: Just finished reading the appendices to LotR. One thing noted was the fact that Cirdan gave Gandalf the Elven ring Narya when the Istari came to Middle-earth.

Now it is clearly noted that Saruman was the head of the Istari and Gandalf's superior in that order. If I recall correctly, Saruman was also head of the White Council.

But I wonder how Saruman would be able to overcome Gandalf enough to imprison him in Orthanc in 3018 TA? As one of the Istari, Gandalf certainly had some inherent magical powers without the ring Narya. Not really knowing too much about the magical properties of Narya, one would think it would help Gandalf at least equal, if not surpass, Saruman's powers. Gandalf had a ring of power; Saruman did not. Advantage Gandalf!

It does not seem consistent that Saruman, although very learned and powerful, would be able to best another Istari who also possessed a ring of power.

– Patrick

A: A mistaken concept about these rings is that one of their purposes is advantage in a fight. We clearly see time and time again that this is not the case. Cirdan even says flat out to Gandalf that with Narya, he may "rekindle hearts in a world that grows chill." Given that Gandalf and Saruman were both Istari/Maiar, as you say, the advantage would likely lie with Saruman as Gandalf's "superior," until Gandalf was remade.

Besides, we are not told exactly how Saruman restrained Gandalf. Fellowship does not even say there was a fight! It simply says "They took me and they set me alone on the pinnacle of Orthanc…" Either Gandalf thought that it was not an appropriate time for fighting, or he was outnumbered by Saruman's thugs and perhaps knew what power Saruman might bring to bear if he did attempt resistence. We're simply not told. Gandalf says, "I had no chance of escape, and my days were bitter." Even Gandalf, obviously, cannot fly off towers…at least not under his own steam.


Q: Hello!

I am wondering how J R R Tolkien's monogram can be interpreted. Obviously his initials are in there, but what about the additional symbols in it and the shape of the letters?

Thank you

– Daniel Chouinard
St-Honore, Quebec, Canada

A: The monogram, which is now a Trademark registered by the Tolkien Estate (and their licensees), is discussed a bit in Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull's "J.R.R. Tolkien, Artist and Illustrator". That book shows an early version of the monogram used as a signature in a sketch of Lyme Regis harbour (plate 8 in that book), dated August 1906 -- Tolkien would have been 14 years old at that time. It differs from the final version primarily in that the second (reversed) 'R' is not yet present, and the lettering style is quite plain. By 1914, in the watercolour entitled "Eeriness" (plate 40), the monogram is in substantially in its final form. Of course, its exact appearance would vary somewhat depending on his writing implement, calligraphic style, and so on. A good example of the final version would be as the signature to the watercolour illustration of The Hill from "The Hobbit" (reproduced as plate 98).


Q: Greetings,

I've always been curious about the date in which the Fellowship left Rivendell on the Quest -- December 25. Do you believe this to be of any significance given that Tolkien was a Roman Catholic, and if so how?

Thanks, Love your site,

– Mark Bednarowski

A: In a 1953 letter (#128 in Letters), Tolkien wrote that "The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision." Not only does the Quest begins on December 25, but it reaches its fulfillment on March 25, in medieval England considered the date of the original Good Friday, and celebrated by the Church as the Feast of the Annunciation, the conceiving of Jesus in the womb of the Virgin Mary. There can be no doubt that this is part of the "conscious revision".


Q: Greetings,

How would Tolkein have pronounced the name "Beren"? I'm thinking of using the name for my son.

Bear-in; bir-in; beer-in; or is "'en" pronounced like "un"? Which syllable would be accented? I don't believe any of my Tolkein books show pronunciations. Sorry for the odd question.

Thanks for your help,

– Robert

A: Beren is derived from the Sindarin family of Elvish languages, and so should be pronounced according to the pronunciation rules set out by Tolkien in Appendix E. Unfortunately, Tolkien's model word for the vowel 'e' is 'were', which isn't much help for most of us until you think of the e in 'werewolf' (notice that 'were' rhymes with 'hair' in Bilbo's song in Rivendell). So the vowel is just the same vowel as in 'get' and 'werewolf', and "Beren" should be pronounced as "BEH-renn", with full pronunciation of both vowels (and a trilled 'r' if you are being quite correct about it).

On a personal note, while I am generally skeptical of giving unusual Tolkien names to children, "Beren" has always struck me as less problematic than most, echoing "baron" (which most Americans would pronounce nearly identically) and allowing "Barry" (pronounced as "berry") as a familiar form.


Q: I've been wondering, if Sam learned the bits of verse from Bilbo concerning Gil-Galad (Gil-Galad was an elven king/Of him the harpers sadly sing) you know the one. If he learned that from Bilbo, then plausibly there's more to be heard. If so, was it ever completed, and can it be found?

Thanks for your time!

– Lacey Maynes

A: No; the short piece of The Fall of Gil-galad is all that was ever written. The suggestion that it is a fragment of a longer work is nothing more than a dramatic device to give a sense of historic depth. The verse itself entered the text in what Christopher Tolkien labels the "fourth phase" of the writing of The Fellowship of the Ring as described in The Treason of Isengard (History of Middle-earth VII). Although Christopher Tolkien implies that the original form of the poem was slightly different, it is apparently so close to the final form that he did not see any need to reproduce it in that volume.


Q: Since the balrog of Moria was destroyed by Gandalf, why didn't the dwarves reinhabit the mine after the war of the ring? Wasn't there still mithril to be had there?

– Kennedy Family

A: This has been the subject of much speculation. Robert Foster's encyclopedic Guide points out that Tolkien never mentions such an activity. Fantasy author Dennis McKiernan began his career by writing a Lord of the Rings sequel recounting the Dwarves' attempt to re-occupy Moria; it was legally unpublishable, and was eventually rewritten into a different, but congruent, fantasy world of McKiernan's own, and published as the "Silver Call" duology (I do not personally care for McKiernan's writing, but you may be interested in seeing his 'take' on the subject).

In any case, it now seems likely that the Dwarves did eventually re-inhabit Moria. In the genealogy of Durin's house that appears in Appendix A, we see an undated reference to "Durin VII & Last". This would hint of the fulfillment of the prophecy of the re-awakening of Durin to once again be Lord of Khazad-dûm. It is given, perhaps, greater weight by a passage that Tolkien wrote for Appendix A, but did not appear in the published version; it can be found in "The Peoples of Middle-earth" (History of Middle-earth XII):

"And the line of Dáin prospered, and the wealth and renown of the kingship was renewed, until there arose again for the last time an heir of that House that bore the name of Durin, and he returned to Moria; and there was light again in deep places, and the ringing of hammers and the harping of harps, until the world grew old and the Dwarves failed and the days of Durin's race were ended."

Christopher Tolkien notes, "It is impossible to discover whether my father did in fact reject this idea, or whether it simply became 'lost' in the haste with which the Appendices were finally prepared for publication. The fact that he made no reference to 'Durin VII and Last', though he appears in the genealogy in Appendix A, is possibly a pointer to the latter supposition."

For my part, I like to think of this passage as "true", a joyful finish to the story of the Dwarves, mixed, as always with Tolkien, with that melancholy for things that must pass from the world.


Q: Do you all have any thoughts on how many hands Beren had after he was restored to life? I know he went to war (against Dwarves bearing a Silmaril away from Doriath) one time after his reincarnation and was very successful at it (he himself slew the Dwarf-lord), but I can't seem to find any direct statement on the issue. Thanks for your help.

– A Curious Fan

A: Unfortunately, we do not really have a "direct statement" to turn to for an absolute clarification. I can only assume that he was restored in a physical body that was similar, if not exact, to the first one. Ostadan agrees with me that Beren was known forever after as "Beren One Hand" which supports the idea that he truly had just one hand; even in his reincarnated form. He also points out that after Sauron lost his finger to Isildur, when he eventually took shape again, he could not manage to manufacture a new finger -- for much later Gollum would be in his presence and would report to Frodo that there was indeed a finger missing.


Q: Hi, I was just wondering how Bilbo was able to resist the power of the Ring like no one else could? Thanks!!

– Katie

A: Well, the first (rather cynical) answer to this dilemma is that Tolkien himself did not understand the power of the One Ring at the time he wrote The Hobbit. He had not yet thought out the process of connecting Bilbo's magic ring of invisibility to the greater canvas on which he would eventually paint The Lord of the Rings. It wasn't even Sauron's ring in the first place (not in the author's mind). That first ring was quite harmless, I expect. Later on, Tolkien devised that the Ring would become far more terrible, and would connect the first story to the newer one he was drafting. And he knew he had the responsibility as author to explain all this. The other answer that Tolkien presents in the story itself is logically cleared up by the issue of "intent." Bilbo had no intent to use the Ring for evil, and never understood its true power. Basically, he was able to steer clear of the Ring's insidious evil because to him it was just a beautiful, fun, and convenient "escape device" to avoid pesky relatives. However, with foreknowledge of the Ring's power and intent to use it full on, things with Bilbo would have worked out very differently -- all the worse for him. It is also worth noting that Gandalf noticed something changing about the old hobbit, or rather, things *not* changing; for of course Bilbo was not showing signs of his advancing age. Gandalf knew that the Ring was slowly "getting control" (see "The Shadow of the Past" chapter) and that it was time for Bilbo to give the thing up.


Q: What is the difference between a wizard and a sorcerer? In The Silmarillion and other places it references the men "who used the Nine Rings became mighty in their day, kings, sorcerers, and warriors of old." All other references I can find to sorcery and wizardry relate only to the Maiar. Were there Men who became wizards or sorcerers, or were there defining differences between the two? Thanks for help in explaining.

– Mormegil The Black Sword

A: The first distinction that must be made is that Tolkien intended the word "wizard" to apply only to the Five Istari that were sent as emissaries of the Valar. They were indeed Maiar spirits given a physical incarnation. The idea is linguistic, as with most everything in Tolkien's world. The translation of "Istar" into the common tongue gives you a word that sounds very much like "Istar" -- "Wizard" Just say it out loud to yourself several times and you'll see what I mean. The words "sorcerer" and "sorcery" do not apply to these five Maiar, but rather to any other creature, Maia, or mortal, that attempts to practice magical arts. So if a man attempted to learn and execute the power of the Unseen world, practicing sorcery or black magic, Tolkien would never refer to him as a "wizard" (not in the Hogwarts sense of the word). Some of the Black Numenoreans that Sauron seduced with the power of the Nine Rings were supposedly practitioners of such sorcery. Sauron himself was once referred to as a Sorcerer.


Q: After having finished reading The Lord of the Rings yet again, and watching "The Two Towers" on DVD (again!) I was wondering: When Gandalf gets 'reborn', how come he comes back as an old man again, and not a younger (perhaps stronger?) man? Did Eru decide his physical form had to stay the same (like a continue in a video game), or could he have been given the form of something stronger, i.e., a Balrog or something?

– whichonesp1nk

A: It seems that Tolkien wanted Gandalf to still be the same, recognizable Gandalf (in a human form) that had already existed for so long. After all, how does one continue to build such strong relationships with the denizens of Middle-earth, if you show up again with a completely different physical form? You couldn't pick up with your friends right off the bat, for they wouldn't recognize you at all. You can't build allegiances with kings if you're a completely different physical person "claiming" to be Gandalf. How could one prove that declaration if he was a physically different individual? I don't see it working out that way, personally. Much more can be learned (beyond my subjective musings) in Tolkien's Letters, No. 156, where the Professor explains that Gandalf's purpose, as with all the Istari, was to be an old man, and do the things an "old man" would be able to do without exhibiting too much power. There was a very specific limitation on the Wizards' power, as most of you will know -- they were never allowed to run around challenging Sauron with greater force or power than he. Their job was to "train, advise, instruct, arouse the hearts and minds of those threatened by Sauron to a resistance with THEIR OWN STRENGTHS (emphasis mine); and not just to do the job for them." So you see, Gandalf would never have come back as a giant, mega-powerful, shape-changing, ball-busting, super warrior with Balrog powers. Instead, Tolkien sought to serve his story with the new Gandalf providing careful and persistent encouragement, as a sage old man, with his powers actually "enhanced" just enough to deal with the situations that had worsened since Saruman's unexpected corruption.


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Questions 03/04
Quick navigation for questions asked this month.
 • Who sent Boromir to Rivendell?
 • Why are dwarves not 'free people'?
 • Why is the blood of Westernesse diluted?
 • If Gandalf had Narya, why'd Saruman defeat him?
 • Interpreting JRRT's monogram.
 • Was Dec 25 significant?
 • How do I pronounce Beren?
 • Is there more 'Gil-galad'?
 • Why didn't dwarves reinhabit Moria?
 • Did Beren have one hand after returning to life?
 • How did Bilbo resist the Ring?
 • What's the difference between wizard and sorcerer?
 • Why didn't Gandalf return as a young man?


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03/01/05 question three

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