[ Green Books ] [ Horizontal Rule ]
[ Horizontal Rule ]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]
[ Green Books ]
[ Green Books - Exploring the Words and Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien ] [ Green Books ]


Q: It’s mentioned in The Fellowship of the Ring that Merry, Pippin, and Sam dream about the battles of Angmar when captured by the Barrow Wight. Now, Tom Bombadil is one of the oldest living beings in Middle-earth, so if the Battles of Angmar took place on his land, wouldn’t he have been there? And if he was, did he take part in the battles?

– Kevin Pugliese

A: Actually, the great conflicts between the North Kingdom and the Witch-king took place at Amon Sûl and Annúminas, outside the borders of Tom’s realm. He seemed quite content to keep out of the affairs of Men and Elves, concerning himself with his microcosm of the Old Forest. He did not take part in any of those battles, and along those lines he also kept himself out of The War of the Ring centuries later.

Click here to see my answer from December 7, 1999, regarding Gandalf’s final conversation with Tom Bombadil. You may also click here for more insight into this character from my friend Turgon.

- Quickbeam

back to top

Q: Can you tell me what an Elf is supposed to look like and where you can find a good description of one in Tolkien’s work? I ask because I’ve seen a good deal of correspondence in Q&A regarding elves (their height, whether they had pointed ears, etc.) But I’ve never read anything but vague physical descriptions of elves in The Hobbit and LOTR. Same goes for Orcs, too. Tolkien made references to Elves being fair and having some sort of glow, but that’s about it. They also didn’t physically age. And here’s something else to consider: when Faramir and his crew discover Sam and Frodo hiding in the bushes, they initially mistake them for elves. Shouldn’t it have been obvious they weren’t? It seems like it would have been akin to mistaking an Ent for a Dwarf. I find it rather frustrating that Tolkien would have been so specific in describing some creatures and so vague in describing others. But I guess it adds to the allure of his writings in a way.

–Nate Reeves

A: Perhaps the best single description of Elves in Tolkien occurs at the end of Appendix F in The Lord of the Rings:

They were a race high and beautiful, the older Children of the world, and among them the Eldar were as kings, who now are gone: the people of the Great Journey, the People of the Stars. They were tall, fair of skin and grey-eyed, though their locks were dark, save in the golden house of Finarfin; and their voices had more melodies than any mortal voice that now is heard.

That Faramir might mistake hobbits for elves is probably due to curious traditions of mankind, who, having lost touch with the elves, had no reliable information, and various false legends had sprung up. Consider too the Victorian traditions of diminutive fairies which Tolkien was countering.

- Turgon

back to top

Q: There have been several questions about Tom Bombadil so far, but what about Goldberry? I assume that she is immortal, or else Tom who is so old probably wouldn't have hooked up with her. Then, is she an Elf or another of the lesser Maia? Tom says that she is the "River's Daughter." Is this somehow connected with Ulmo? Do they have any kids?


A: All right, let’s start at the beginning. "I am Goldberry, daughter of the River." She says this herself when she welcomes Frodo and Company into her home. Later Tom, in verse, adds, "By that pool long ago I found the River-daughter, fair young Goldberry sitting in the rushes. Sweet was her singing then, and her heart was beating!"

Going off of sheer extrapolation from these statements, it would seem that Goldberry is a being somehow connected with whatever spirits inhabit the River (and we’re talking here about the weird Withywindle), whether they be Maia in the service of Ulmo, Ulmo himself, or some nature-spirit we have no knowledge of. By the fact that Tom says she was young and her heart was beating, she was definitely in a physical form, but that by itself means little; Gandalf, Saruman, Tom himself, et. Al., also have physical forms. David Day, in his excellent reference A–Z of Tolkien, has the following to say:

"Goldberry: River-daughter of Old Forest. Goldberry was the daughter of the River-woman of the Withywindle River, and the spouse of Tom Bombadil. She was a golden-haired and beautiful nature spirit who may have been a Maia. Whatever her origin, like Tom Bombadil, her concerns were with the natural world of forest and stream. During the Quest of the Ring, the Hobbits were rescued and sheltered by Bombadil and Goldberry. Compared to an Elf-queen in her radiance, Goldberry wore flowers in her hair and belt. She wore garments of silver and gold, and shoes that shimmered like fish-mail. The sound of her singing was said to resemble a bird song."

All very well as far as it goes, and very similar to the extrapolation above except for one thing: What/who are River-women, and where does Tolkien mention them? Day continues:

"River-women: In the histories and writings of Middle-earth, mention is made of the River-women. Whether, like Ossë and Uinen, these were Maiar of Ulmo, Lord of the Waters, or whether they were spirits who came into the World like Ents, is not told, but it is certain they were chiefly concerned with the Kelvar (animals) and Olvar (plants) of the world. The Red Book of Westmarch tells how the River-woman of the Withywindle had a daughter named Goldberry, who was the wife of Tom Bombadil."

I don’t have any other reference to "River-women," but I can trust Day’s sources for the time being. It still does not answer the question of whether she was Maia, but presumably she was immortal, a spirit being with a physical form. It makes me wonder, since these other "River-women" presumably do not all take physical form, whether she took the form for love of Tom or some other reason. It makes for interesting speculation, as well as does the question "Did they have any kids?" It’s just not known.

- Anwyn

back to top

Q: What’s the relationship between C.S. Lewis’ Perelandra Trilogy (and the worlds in them) and Númenor? I remember reading something about it in Lewis’ foreword, but I don’t remember the connection.

–Alex Hesser

A: In the Preface (published only in the American edition) to That Hideous Strength (1945), the third volume of C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy, Lewis wrote that:

Those who wish to learn further about Numinor [sic] and the True West must (alas!) await the publication of much that still exists only in the MSS. of my friend, Professor J.R.R. Tolkien.

The Preface is dated Christmas Eve, 1943, so by that time Lewis must have had some of Tolkien’s Númenor legends read to him. (Lewis preferred having such things read aloud to him, which also accounts for his misspelling of "Numinor".) Lewis would probably have known Tolkien’s unfinished novel, "The Lost Road," (eventually published in 1987 in The Lost Road and Other Writings), which introduced the story of the fall of Númenor, which was Tolkien’s version of the Atlantis legend. Tolkien also felt that Lewis’ "eldils" were derived from his own Eldar, and that Tor and Tinidril, the king and queen of Perelandra, were influenced by two characters in his Silmarillion, Tuor and Idril.

- Turgon

back to top

Q: I hate to ask this because I know you must have been asked this same question numerous times, but here goes anyway: Do Balrogs have wings or not? I ask this because the passage in question is ambiguous and because the artwork I’ve seen is contradictory. Is this perhaps along the same line as whether or not elves have pointed ears?

–Beau McAllister

A: Yup, the passage in question in The Lord of the Rings is ambiguous, for Tolkien describes the Balrog facing Gandalf, while "the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings." Shortly thereafter, "it stepped forward slowly on to the bridge, and suddenly it drew itself up to a great height, and its wings were spread from wall to wall." These wings appear to be metaphoric, not literal–in that the wings are like shadows. In Tolkien’s earliest writings (specifically in "The Fall of Gondolin" in The Book of Lost Tales), in the passages leading up to Glorfindel’s fight with a Balrog in Gondolin, we do not see any mentions of wings at all. This Balrog is large, twice Glorfindel’s stature, but the Balrogs are described as "demons of power" who wear iron armour, have whips of flame and claws of steel. At one point it is mentioned that the Balrogs "might ride upon the dragons of flame." So it seems that in Tolkien’s conception, Balrogs might not have had wings.

- Turgon


Okay, I opened up a can of worms with my answer to this question. There are quite a number of hard-core wingers (and some no-wingers) out there! I had a very interesting interchange with Michael Martinez, who passed on a Balrog Wings FAQ, and gave us permission to use some of it, and I have followed below excerpts with some further comments he sent in an email:

Q) What about the word "like" in THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING? Doesn't it prove that the wings were just a metaphor?
The wings were seen by the members of the Fellowship. They were hardly metaphorical (metaphors are used in narrative or to convey ideas in character-to-character discussions). That Tolkien used the word "like" in the clause "and the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings" doesn't itself indicate the wings were not there. This is only the first indication that there were indeed wings. If "like" means there were no wings, then it means there was no shadow to begin with, as the shadow is introduced with "like": "What it was could not be seen: it was like a great shadow...." And since the "shadow" is referred to, it must have existed, just as since the wings were referred to they must have existed.
Q) What were the wings made of?
We don't know. Quite probably "shadow-stuff", whatever it was which the Balrogs used to cloak themselves in darkness. They probably were not made of flesh and blood, or feathers, and need not have been membraneous (skin stretched across appendages).
Q) Did Balrogs fly?
Not in the 1916 story "The Fall of Gondolin". However, in a passage of "Quenta Silmarillion" which was not completely included in the published SILMARILLION, Tolkien wrote the following sentence: "Swiftly they arose, and they passed with winged speed over Hithlum, and they came to Lammoth as a tempest of fire." To date, all attempts to show that this passage can mean something other than that the Balrogs were flying have been unsuccessful. The sentence indicates the Balrogs were travelling very fast ("swiftly", "winged speed"), but their arrival in Lammoth indicates they came out of the sky (as a "storm of fire"). "Tempest" can mean something other than "storm", most notably "tumult", but a tumult is a great noise or confusion, and the sentence makes no sense if you substitute "tumult" (or great noise) for "tempest". Since the Balrogs were flying, "winged speed" may be more literal than figurative. Hence, Tolkien's use of the phrase here is another indication of the wings on the Balrogs.
There are just so many questions and counter questions. The issue will never be settled if for no other reason than that someone CAN always produce a new question. I don't think most people see the passage as ambiguous at all until they find out someone disagrees with their perception of the Balrog. And I would say that holds equally true for both hard-core camps...But in every poll I've seen, the majority of people favor wings of some sort. Not that facts are democratically determined. :)

Turgon back here. I’m still not sure I find Michael’s pro-wing arguments convincing. But I'm not really a hard-core no-winger either. I think it's an inconclusive point, though I lean towards no wings because the evidence **seems** to lean in that direction, as I see it. (And even the point on "winged speed" is not really conclusive-- a person riding a horse could be moving at winged speed.) Unless Christopher Tolkien turns up a drawing by his father of a Balrog, we might never know (though wouldn't that be nice!).

- Turgon

P.S. The reader who sent in the original question also wrote in with some further pertinent comments:

This is a follow up to my question concerning whether Balrogs have literal wings. In Appendix A, in the section entitled "Durin's Folk," there is this sentence: "Thus they roused from sleep a 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." The key word here is "flying." There are two definitions for the word "fly" which are of interest. The first is "to move through the air by using wings, as a bird." The second is "to flee." The Balrog was fleeing Thangorodrim, but the question is: "Could it have also been literally flying through the air on literal wings?" Since both of these definitions are applicable to the Balrog's actions during his "flight" from Thangorodrim, the sentence really doesn't shed any light on the subject. However, the use of the word "flying" just may indicate that Balrogs do have literal wings which they use to fly through the air. It is also possible that Balrogs have the supernatural ability to fly without wings. And it is also possible that both the Balrogs "wings" and his "flight" are merely figurative and all Tolkien meant was that the Balrog was escaping from danger. After all, when Gandalf said: "Fly you fools!" he didn't really mean for the Fellowship to grow wings and flutter away. Ultimately, there is really no way of knowing any of this for certain. It's all a matter of interpretation.

Update to Update

Matt Kearns wrote in with a short observation which provides more food for thought:

"Can Balrogs fly? No I don't believe so because if they could, why didn't the one in Moria just start flying instead of falling when Gandalf broke the bridge?"

back to top

Q: One thing has often bothered me about the Grey Havens and the end of the Third age. In The Silmarillion, it seems almost impossible to enter Aman. Even the great mariners on world-saving quests are only permitted entry to the blessed realm reluctantly–if at all. Why the sudden "relaxation" of the entry requirements for Fellowship members? This seems especially apparent given Aman was not even within the confines of the world at this time. Frodo and Sam? Gimli? Sauron’s Ring wasn’t THAT important or powerful compared (I guess there could be a relativity argument here) to the deeds of the First and Second Ages, was it?

–Curtis Walker

A: It needs to be remembered that by being allowed to enter Aman, the life spans of the hobbits (and the dwarf) were not affected. They were allowed to dwell in Aman for their remaining days. But that they were allowed in Aman is unusual. Probably Galadriel strongly supported admitting Gimli and perhaps even Sam, and it might be that her voice, with support from Elrond and Gandalf, and with sympathy towards Frodo and others, that the exceptions were made. But this is mere speculation.

- Turgon

back to top

Q: Why is Samwise Gamgee Frodo's servant throughout The Lord of the Rings? It doesn't seem that he's of lower status than Frodo according to some reference. For example, near the end of the chapter "The Window" on the West of The Two Towers, Faramir says:

"Your land must be a realm of peace and content, and there must gardeners be in high honour." Then Frodo responded: "Not all is well there, but certainly gardeners are honoured."

Despite all this, Sam calls Frodo Master. However, Pippin and Merry never call him Master. Is it because they are of higher social status and even though gardeners are honoured in the Shire, he is nonetheless of lower status out of the other three hobbits?

–Sara Lynch

A: In a word, yes. J "Baggins," "Brandybuck," and "Took," are three of the highest-regarded names in the Shire. The office of Thane has been in the Took family for time out of mind, and they have their own little patch within the Shire, the Great Smials. Brandybucks the same; they founded Buckland and keep a seat at their Brandy Hall. Baggins is described in the very beginning of The Hobbit as being a greatly respected (not to mention rich) name. Now take it back further, to Tolkien’s own time and country. Being a servant in somebody’s house or garden was a widely-held occupation. In England around the turn of the last century, rich people’s money came not from working hard and building an empire, usually, but from money that had been invested by parents, or some such arrangement. These people had land, houses, horses, carriages, gardens, and servants to look after it all–people who did not come from money and had to work for a living. Money confers power through employment of those who don’t have as much. Read Quickbeam’s excellent "Out On A Limb" for an example of an exchange between Tolkien, as a college Professor, and a gardener at the college. Servants addressed their employers and their employers’ peers as "sir."

Now, take all this back to Middle-earth. It’s as if Bilbo was a Carnegie, the Brandybucks were Vanderbilts, and the Tooks were the Rockefellers. Sam’s father Ham Gamgee was directly employed by Bilbo as Bag-end’s gardener and was training his son to take over in the same job, so when Gandalf basically orders Sam to go with Frodo, it’s as if the son of the castle gardener had been directed to be the personal plant-keeper of the crown prince. (That’s too extreme of an example, but you get my drift.) There were social strata in England, so too in the Shire, where the image of "country squire" with his children and servants was alive and well. This is why we later see Sam addressing Pippin and Merry as "sir," and Pippin rather cavalierly ordering him around near the beginning of the journey in the matter of bath-water and breakfast preparation. He was of the "servant class," where as Pippin, Merry, and Frodo were of the "gentry." The fact that in the Shire, people in general were treated better than in our modern world and that these people were friends across the social lines just speaks to Tolkien’s love of "the way things ought to be." J And, conversely, Sam took very seriously his assigned duty to "watch out for Mr. Frodo," again an example of "the way things ought to be," people taking their tasks seriously, with a zeal that was born of true affection for his employer, which we later see turned to love between friends on equal footing.

- Anwyn

back to top

Q: How did Morgoth escape the Door of Night to fight the final battle after being imprisoned there for so long?


A: Perhaps a little clarification is needed here. During the Spring of Arda, before the Two Lamps were created, Melkor (Morgoth) willingly withdrew beyond the Door of Night and harbored himself there, nursing his malice in the darkness. At this time he was not held captive, rather he had voluntarily withdrawn from Arda. When he found a time that was comfortable for him he returned with a host of spirits and began to build his secret refuge of Utumno.

Later, after the first Children of Ilúvatar appeared, the Second Great Battle commenced. This was the point when the Valar successfully unroofed the hidden pits of Utumno and took Melkor captive. Back in Valinor he was chained within the fastness of Mandos for three ages until Manwë pardoned him and let him loose. So in this instance, Melkor’s freedom came not by "escape" but by the grace of Manwë, who did not conceptualize the true depth of Melkor’s evil.

So lastly, at the end of the First Age, we have the War of Wrath, also called The Great Battle, wherein the host of Valinor shattered Thangorodrim and all of Morgoth’s might was obliterated. I assume this is the ‘final battle’ you refer to in your query. Now Manwë was to show no leniency, and he:

"… put forth Morgoth and shut him beyond the World in the Void that is without; and he cannot himself return again into the World, present and visible, while the Lords of the West are still enthroned."

Actually, this was only the second time in Tolkien’s record that Morgoth physically left the realm of Arda – "thrust through the Door of Night." He was not killed and did not escape again. That means Morgoth is still out there even as I type this, perhaps waiting for a chance to come back to the modern world and wreak havoc upon mortal Men.

There is something called the "Second Prophecy of Mandos" that refers to this very probability. You may click here to learn the fascinating details from Turgon.

- Quickbeam

back to top

Q: Envinyatar and Telcontar. Yes, I know they’re the same person, and that they translate to "The Renewer" and "Strider" in Quenya. But what is the actual structure of these words (prefixes, suffixes, roots)?


A: Envinyatar is evidently a form of the unattested verb *envinyata, "to renew", with the ending (-tar) giving it the meaning of "one who". Telcontar is a bit more difficult. It evidently contains the same stem télek- "stalk, stem, leg," as appears in Quenya telko "leg," with the ending similar to that in envinyatar. The verb form could possibly be *telconta, "to stride", but this too is unattested.

- Turgon

back to top

Q: I heard a rumor that it was Radagast who told the Eagles where to be and helped to ultimately win the battles. For example, in The Hobbit when the Eagles come to the aid, and in the final battle in front of Mordor's gates. Just wondering if there is any credibility there.



Q: To put it simply, what is the deal with Radagast the Brown? How involved was he with the fight against Sauron? Where was he during the War of the Ring? Did he do anything other than send all the birds and animals he was friendly with out to gather news? Was he part of the White Council that drove the Necromancer out of Dol Guldur? Why wasn't he at the Council of Elrond? And why didn't he leave Middle-earth on the same ship Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel, Bilbo, and Frodo did? Is it even correct to consider him one of the Istari, or is he a lesser kind of wizard? Considering that Radagast is only mentioned once in The Hobbit and once, as far as I remember, in Lord of the Rings, I realize that any information on him is skimpy, but did Tolkien say any more about Radagast in other writings?

–Steve Bates

A: These beg a lot of questions on top of the ones they ask themselves! Firstly, since we know that the Eagles were agents in Middle-earth of Manwë, is it possible that Radagast acted as a messenger to the Eagles? Here we enter the realm of sheer speculation. I would say that although it is certainly possible, it is by no means likelier than any other explanation. Not only were the Eagles Manwë’s vassals, but they spoke the language of Men and Elves, so it did not take a Wizard to communicate with them, specifically. I would have to say that the Eagles had many means of receiving news, from Manwë himself, from Elves (remember Galadriel sent the Lord of the Eagles to look for Gandalf after the battle with the Balrog), and from their own eyes and messengers.

Next, Radagast himself. David Day has this to say of him:

"Radagast: Istari, Wizard of Middle-earth. Radagast the Brown was originally a Maia spirit of Yavanna the Fruitful called Aiwendil, meaning "lover of birds." Chosen as one of the Istari, the order of Wizards, he came to Middle-earth in the year 1000 of the Third Age of the Sun. He seemed little concerned with the affairs of Elves and Men, but was extremely knowledgeable about herbs, plants, birds, and beasts."

He is an Istari and he was part of the White Council. There is no doubt in my mind that he participated in the sacking of Dol Guldur; Gandalf says that the entire Council put forth its strength to drive the Necromancer out, and whatever else may have happened, Radagast actually lives in Mirkwood, so the inhabitants of Dol Guldur were no small matter to him. Did he do anything in the War? Obviously, not that we saw, but that doesn’t mean he did not have his own tasks appointed to him. Gandalf’s task is to be the Enemy of Sauron and to coordinate the fight against the Dark Power. Radagast, I’m sure, had other duties. Getting birds and beasts to play messenger is no small feat. Why did he not leave on the ship? Perhaps his tasks were not finished. Gandalf’s were. For all we know, Aragorn in his wanderings may have stayed a time or two with Radagast the Brown and learned from him his plant- and animal-lore–not a small stock of knowledge, as we know later by his use of athelas and his knowledge of the natural world in general. I like to think that could have been part of his task, and part of the reason he was in Middle-earth, to facilitate the Return of the King. And lastly, I also would like to throw out the possibility that when Galadriel led the fight against the evil that still inhabited Dol Guldur, in the last days of the War, that Radagast was there, helping to protect his homeland once again.

- Anwyn

back to top

Q: Several times in LOTR there is mention of an underworld. Why? Tolkien refers to something coming from an underworld, I am not sure when but I think it is in ROTK. I doubt it’s the halls of Mandos seeing that that is not under anything (I don’t think). It’s named Middle-earth because it was between Aman and the Lands of the Sun, not because it is between a upper world (the Void??) and a lower world. When Valinor left earth I guess it could be considered an upperworld but then Middle-earth would be the underworld, therefore an underworld cannot have another underworld (sub-basement or something, no?). The only thing I can think of would be perhaps submerged Númenor or Beleriand, or the deep pits under Mordor or previous Thangorodrim.

It would help me so much if you could assist with this problem because my brain has been hurting for at least six days now from when I read it. I really didn’t want to have to ask for help but I can’t find anything on the subject. It is probably quite obvious but I am just not seeing it.


A: I haven’t found any instances in The Lord of the Rings in which Tolkien used the phrase "underworld", but I think I know what you mean. Perhaps the most representative description can be found in the passage where Gandalf describes his fight with the Balrog:

"We fought far under the living earth, where time is not counted … Far, far below the deepest delvings of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Sauron knows them not. They are older than he. Now I have walked there, but I will bring no report to darken the light of day." (The Two Towers, p. 105)

These places far below Middle-earth do not seem to be necessarily outside of Middle-earth, but just very much in its depths.

Tolkien’s conception of the relationship between Arda and Aman is not a simple one. I recommend Tolkien’s own account, probably from the 1930s, "The Ambarkanta: The Shape of the World", which appears in ‘The Shaping of Middle-earth" (Volume IV of The History of Middle-earth), including maps and drawings and a descriptive text.

- Turgon


A reader pointed out to me that there is an instance of the phrase underworld being used in The Lord of the Rings. Specifically, in The Return of the King, near the end of the chapter "The Siege of Gondor", the orcs use a battering ram: "Grond they name it, in memory of the Hammer of the Underworld of old."

- Turgon

back to top

Q: Do the women hobbits have furry feet like the men hobbits? I don’t think there is any reference for this in The Hobbit nor The Lord of the Rings, but I’m curious and would also like to know your opinion.

–Sara Lynch

A: In the Prologue to The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien wrote: "As for the Hobbits of the Shire … they seldom wore shoes, since their feet had tough leathery soles and were clad in a thick curling hair, much like the hair of their heads, which was commonly brown." There is no reason to think that this description refers only to one sex of the hobbit-folk, so I would say that hobbit-women have hairy feet, just like their male counterparts.

- Turgon

back to top

Q: Hi. Here’s my question. When Cirdan gives Gandalf the Ring of Fire when he arrives in Middle-earth, he says, "...I will dwell by the grey shores until the last ship sails. I will await you." Did Cirdan sail with the Ring-Bearers? Was that the last ship he referred to or, as I like to think, would he remain till the last Elf forsook Middle-earth? Thanks.

–Scott McLean

A: Well, we know that Cirdan definitely sailed with Gandalf and Company. (He’s in charge of the ship.) Did he come back?

David Day states that "Cirdan himself remained [at the Havens] long into the Fourth Age, until the last Elves departed." We are clearly told in Tale of Years that Legolas builds his own boat in Ithilien and takes Gimli with him. If there were still ships available at the Havens, why would he build his own? Also, we are never clearly told of Elves who sailed after Legolas. (See also questions about Celeborn and the Sons of Elrond.) We are told that tradition has it that Sam sought passage at the Havens and was granted it. Was Cirdan still there for that? Presumably, since he was Lord of those Havens. In that case, although it carries a lot of grandeur to think of the ship Elrond, Galadriel, Gandalf, and the Hobbits sailed on as the last, it wouldn’t be possible if Cirdan came back and was there when Sam arrived.

I am of a couple of minds on this. I don’t like to think that Cirdan was destined to stay at his post until the very last solitary Elf made up his mind to sail, but on the other hand, there have been duties more stern than that, and what are a couple of ages to an immortal being? I think it’s very likely that Day is correct (I don’t know what his sources are) and that Cirdan’s task was to be in charge of the Havens and its ships until an end was come of the First-born in Middle-earth.

- Anwyn

back to top

Q: In the beginning of time when the Elves awoke — the Eldar peoples all had their high kings. The Vanyar—Ingwë, The Noldor—Finwë and the Teleri—Elwë (Thingol). But the vast majority of elves remained in the east of Middle-earth and were called Avari. Did they also have a high king? What was his name and where did he live?

–Mikael Eriksson

A: Most of the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien concern the High Elves and their relations with the other peoples of Middle-earth. The Avari do not enter into such tales very much, but we do have some tidbits of information on them, gleaned from various sources. Whether they had a high king as such, I have not discovered, but Thranduil was the King of such elves in the Woodland Realm in Greenwood the Great, or Mirkwood (and he figures in The Hobbit as the Elvenking). There were, perhaps, other populations of the Avari in various parts of Middle-earth with their own kings, but they do not seem to have come into the tales as we have them.

- Turgon


Yes, I got a bunch of the distinctions between the various types of elves confused here. Anthony Perez-Miller elaborated as follows:

"The Elves of the Greenwood (and the non-Eldarin elves of Lothlorien) were -not- Avari. When the Vanyar, Eldar, and Teleri departed on the Great Journey, either the Teleri were the most numerous of the three branches, or they simply wandered more than the other tribes. Some of the Teleri remained in the Vales of Anduin and the Greenwood during the First Age, some crossed the Hithaeglir and Ered Luin into Beleriand, and some departed across Belegaer into Aman.
"The first group of Teleri--those that remained east of the Misty Mountains--were the ancestors of the Silvan elves, who are considered neither Eldar nor Avari. The Teleri of Beleriand were the Sindarin elves; although not Eldar in the true sense (i.e., they never saw the light of the Trees in Aman), they were nobler in spirit and bearing because of their association with Melian during the First Age. Of course, the Teleri of Alqualonde are Eldar in the strict sense. . . .
"The wood-elves of Greenwood were silvan; consider Legolas' words in "The Ring Goes South", while the Company travelled through Eregion: "But the Elves of this land were of a race strange to us of the silvan folk..." "Silvan" is not a word invented by JRRT; this is an excerpt from the Oxford English Dictionary: One who (or something that) inhabits a wood or forest; a being of the woods. . . .An imaginary being supposed to haunt woods or groves; a deity or spirit of the woods. [Clearly here the word is used as a noun, not an adjective.]
"It seems safe to say that silvan elf = wood-elf, as you already said; certainly they are equivalent in Westron, at least. Although it's probably possible to find evidence in the corpus to the contrary, it's a good bet to maintain the distinction between silvan Elves and the Avari, because of the difference between those Quendi who eventually sailed into the west, and those who never even began the journey. Also, the language of the wood-elves is a dialect of Sindarin, while that of the Avari is largely unknown."

back to top

Q: While reading the appendices for the LOTR, I noticed two references to The Silmarillion (in Appendices A and F). This raises a few questions. Wasn’t Sil unfinished by the time of Tolkien’s death? If it weren’t for Christopher Tolkien wouldn’t we all be like: "What’s The Silmarillion?" Could Tolkien have been simply referring to a book that he never intended to publish, as yet another way to add "depth" do his book? Or is this proof that he definitely intended to publish Sil (along with proof of what he intended to call the book)? Leaving these references behind makes me think that it was definitely Tolkien’s intention to eventually publish this book (although I understand that many critics believe Christopher T. was wrong to publish it posthumously). What do you guys think?

–Beau McAllister

A: Christopher Tolkien’s twelve-volume series, The History of Middle-earth, shows in great detail the writings his father had made, ranging from the late 1910s up to the time of his death in 1973, as regards The Silmarillion. There is really no question at all that Tolkien himself wanted to publish The Silmarillion, in some form, and it was his expressed wish that if he died before completing it, the job would pass to his son. I think Christopher Tolkien has done an exemplary job in publishing both The Silmarillion (1977) as we know it, and in showing the development of these "Silmarillion materials" over the span of his father’s life in The History of Middle-earth series. Personally I’m very pleased that Christopher Tolkien has devoted twenty-five years of his life to sharing these remarkable creations with the public, but I am aware that there are some critics who do think that it was wrong for him to have published such unfinished and unpolished materials. My view is that these critics need not read these books if they don’t want to. But I (and many others) have wanted to read them, and I think that such materials should be made available for those who want to read them. A complete proscription on the publication of such materials, as some of these critics have wanted, seems to me an outlandish and indefensible position. Over the years such questions of posthumous publication have been raised about the writings of many authors, not just Tolkien. It’s a question that will always be raised, but I stand firmly on the side in favor of such publications.

- Turgon

A reader Mason Proulx commented: "You perfectly answer the questions about whether or not it should have been published (that Tolkien truly wanted it published and at one point even he fully intended it to be published together with LOTR), but the person here also seems to be asking something more which I hope you can still address. Although he doesn't ask it directly, he seems to be inquiring about why Tolkien would often mention The Silmarillion in his writing as if other people should know what he was talking about? If so, how is it that other people (not related to the publishing business) were aware of its existance?"

Tolkien gave a number of interviews in the mid-1960s, as The Lord of the Rings appeared on bestseller lists after the paperback edition had appeared. In articles written at that time there was frequently a mention of Tolkien working on The Silmarillion. So from the mid-1960s on, we can see how fans would have known about The Silmarillion. Plus, as can be seen in Letters, Tolkien himself frequently mentioned it in his correspondence, so some word of the book must have gotten round that way too.

- Turgon

back to top

Q: Why did Frodo’s party never encounter or even hear anything from Moria’s inhabitants until the Chamber of Mazarbul? Frodo even spent a night listening intensely in the darkness, with the enhanced hearing that the one ring gave him. But he did not hear anything at all–no faint orc cry from the deep chasms, no distant troll-roar, nothing (except Gollum’s steps). And then suddenly, when they have crossed almost the entire cave system, hundreds of orcs, trolls and the Balrog himself suddenly appear outside of the Chamber of Mazarbul. Can orcs be silent? Why did they not hear anything before?

–Mikael Eriksson

A: It appears that most of the underground realm of the Dwarves was towards the east end of the Mountains. All of the many chambers and deeps seem on the Lórien side, and it may have been only little-used passages that stretched out west so far as to the West-gate, opening out to Eregion. By the time of The Lord of the Rings, the orcs seems to have been concentrated towards the eastern end. And Gollum, who had entered through the east end, was trying to find his way to the West-gate when he encountered the Fellowship, and began to follow it back eastwards. Once the orcs became aware of the Fellowship, they watched them and were trying to lure them into an ambush.

- Turgon

back to top

Q: Gandalf explains to Frodo in "The Shadow of the Past" that Sauron has learned from Gollum that the Ring still exists. However, if Sauron's continued existence depends on the continued existence of the Ring, shouldn't he know that the Ring still exists just by the fact that he's still alive?


A: Ack! Okay, let’s start with the facts as we know them. Gandalf states: "He believed that the One had perished; that the Elves had destroyed it, as should have been done. But he knows now that it has not perished, that it has been found." He goes on to recount how the Ring was cut from Sauron’s hand, his spirit was "vanquished" and fled until taking shape again in Dol Guldur. So far so good, Sauron did indeed think that the Ring was destroyed. But did he know that if it was destroyed he would lose his spiritual cohesion, be, in essence, destroyed? I don’t think so.

Firstly, I do not recall any passage in the book that tells of this knowledge. The Council of Elrond discusses what would happen to the other Rings if the One were destroyed, and they talk about Sauron losing his grip over his slaves and lands, but looking at this with logic, if Sauron knew that if the Ring were destroyed, he would be, then he never would have supposed that it had been destroyed. As Holmes used to say, "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." Sauron thought the Ring had perished, therefore he was not under the belief that his own existence was connected with the continued existence of the Ring. I like to think that it came as a shockingly nasty surprise for old Sauron, that once the Ring was melted, he was toast! J This, of course, merely begs the question of whether or not Sauron or any other spiritual being with a soul, however twisted, could actually be destroyed or whether he was merely rendered innoccuous or imprisoned in a particular form of Hell or chained in the Void with his mentor. In my understanding of Tolkien so far, he really does not say.

- Anwyn

back to top

Q: Is there a mention of the Mirror of Galadriel anywhere other than in the LOTR? What is its origin? Do other high elves have one? Did she create it? What would have happened to Sam and Frodo or their visions if they HAD touched the Mirror? Galadriel makes a clear point to both of them not to touch it.

–Jim Miller

A: There are no other unique details about the Mirror other than what we experience through Frodo and Sam’s point of view. Of its origin and history we know nothing. I would not assume that other high elves had their own ‘Mirror’ but perhaps similar methods of scrying were still within the power of certain elves.

I find many instances in occult lore and folk tales where the scrying object may not be touched or disturbed. Traditionally, it is most important for the scryer to concentrate on the visions within the water (or crystals), and any disturbance of the water would certainly break down the process.

I believe too much disclosure would have destroyed this artifact’s enigmatic hold on our imaginations. It was wise of Tolkien to shy away from such.

- Quickbeam

back to top

Q: Just recently I have purchased the Illustrated Encyclopedia of Middle-earth and found a time chart of Middle-earth and the Undying Lands. In the chart concerning ME it says "Sauron’s spirit vanishes" but in the chart of the UL it says "Valar reject Sauron’s spirit." Do you know anything about that, and where is the source? ‘Cause I think it is a real interesting fact that the Valar are not once again fooled by Sauron and do not give him a second chance like they did before with him and Morgoth.


A: It is possible that the statement that the "Valar reject Sauron’s spirit" is an interpolation of the events at the Field of Cormallen, where Gandalf announces that the realm of Sauron has ended:

And as the Captains gazed south to the Land of Mordor, it seemed to them that, black against the pall of cloud, there rose a huge shape of shadow, impenetrable, lightning-crowned, filling all the sky. Enormous it reared above the world, and stretched out towards them a vast threatening hand, terrible but impotent: for even as it leaned over them, a great wind took it, and it was all blown away, and passed.

Compare this passage with the death of Saruman, as described in ‘The Scouring of the Shire’:

About the body of Saruman a grey mist gathered, and rising slowly to a great height like smoke from a fire, as a pale shrouded figure it loomed over the Hill. For a moment it wavered, looking to the West; but out of the West came a cold wind, and it bent away, and with a sigh dissolved into nothing.

The spirit of Saruman seems very clearly to have been rejected by the Valar, with the cold wind from the West. And though the passage about Sauron is not as explicit, it seems likely that his spirit too was rejected in a similar manner.

- Turgon

back to top

Q: If I’m not mistaken, Durin the Deathless founded Khazad-dûm some time predating the First Age. However, Morgoth was defeated at the very end of the First Age. At the time of Morgoth’s defeat dragons, Orcs, Balrogs, etc. fled from the destruction of Angband. And according to LOTR, the Balrog of Moria escaped the destruction of his master’s realm by hiding beneath the mountains of Moria! How could the dwarves not notice a Balrog of all things entering the Halls of Khazad-dûm!? Could the Balrog tunnel underground somehow? How could he have hidden himself under the mansions of Moria without the Dwarves knowing it?


A: We don’t really know the answer to this, but I suspect a clue lies in Gandalf’s description of his fight with the Balrog. They fought far below the earth, "far, far below the deepest delvings of the Dwarves" where "the world is gnawed by nameless things". Clearly the Balrog knew these underworld denizens and their secret passages (and Gandalf himself recognized this, knowing that his enemy was also his only hope out of there), and it may be that in fleeing Morgoth’s defeat at the end of the First Age, the Balrog approached Khazad-dûm from below. But this is speculation.

- Turgon

back to top

Q: Daeron was the finest singer in all of Middle-earth and the personal bard of Lúthien. Correct me if I am wrong. From what I remember he wandered off in sorrow after Lúthien died. Does that mean that he is still walking around in the late Third Age?

–Mikael Eriksson

A: Actually Daeron was in the service of Thingol, Lúthien’s overbearing father, and was considered the greatest loremaster within the kingdom. Within his time of service, Daeron was so smitten with Lúthien that he "set all his thought of her in his music." The downside of this, of course, was that he played an integral part in the tragedy that befell Beren and Lúthien. He was so jealous of Beren that he betrayed Lúthien’s trust on two occasions, creating an opening for Thingol to counter her efforts to be with her true love.

What ultimately became of Daeron is unknown. There is no record of his deeds in the Second or Third Ages. If he did not fall in some battle or decide to return to Valinor, then it’s possible he was still wandering across the East of Middle-earth in his ongoing lament.

- Quickbeam

back to top

Q: Is there a detailed description in any of Tolkien’s works (father or son) of the fight between Sauron, Gil-galad and Elendil on the slopes of Orodruin other than the one in the LOTR, which is not detailed at all?


A: This great battle is referred to as The Last Alliance and was masterminded by Gil-galad, Elendil, Isildur, and Círdan. Ultimately, their armies laid siege to Barad-dûr for seven years and forced Sauron to come forth. Elrond was there himself and discusses it during the great Council in The Fellowship of the Ring on page 256. Look also in The Silmarillion on pages 293-294. Not much, admittedly, but there you are.

You can find maps and more details in Karen Wynn Fonstad’s The Atlas of Middle-earth on page 47.

I understand our favorite director Peter Jackson will include scenes of The Last Alliance vs. Sauron during the opening minutes of his first film installment.

- Quickbeam

back to top

Q: I have heard that LOTR was based on World War II, and that the different races represent different countries and so on. If this is true, which races represent which countries? Also, are there any main characters who represent important historical figures, such as Sauron (Hitler perhaps), or Aragorn (Churchill)?


A: Tolkien himself responded to this line of questioning in the "Foreword to the Second Edition" of The Lord of the Rings (1966). He wrote:

The real war does not resemble the legendary war in its process or its conclusion. If it had inspired or directed the development of the legend, then certainly the Ring would have been seized and used against Sauron; he would not have been annihilated but enslaved, and Barad-dûr would not have been destroyed but occupied. Saruman, failing to get possession of the Ring, would in the confusion and treacheries of the time have found in Mordor the missing links in his own researches into Ring-lore, and before long, he would have made a Great Ring of his own with which to challenge the self-styled Ruler of Middle-earth. In that conflict both sides would have held hobbits in hatred and contempt: they would not long have survived even as slaves…

I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.

There are indeed some critics who discount Tolkien’s own statements, and maintain in spite of his protest that The Lord of the Rings is some sort of allegory of World War II. I think that, like Tolkien says, they confuse "applicability" with "allegory". Certainly Tolkien wrote about a great war; and the great war in the collective memory of the 1960s and 1970s was W.W.II. But Tolkien’s own earlier writings, including The Book of Lost Tales from the teens, and The Silmarillion from the twenties and thirties, show that legendary history, including major wars, was a predominant aspect of his imagination, and The Lord of the Rings is a very representative development of his earlier literary interests. Still, critics will be critics, and will continue to make their own critical fantasies. This line of pursuit holds no interest for me.

- Turgon

back to top

Q: In Fellowship, Frodo asks Gandalf why the Ring has only served to make him invisible, and not given him any knowledge of, let alone power over, the other Great Rings. Gandalf counsels him (sensibly) not to try, saying that to do so "You must first accustom your will to the domination of others," etc. Yet, standing before the Crack of Doom, Frodo doesn't just put on the Ring -- he wields it, claiming its full power of command and defying Sauron. How? By what has he "accustomed his will to the domination of others?"

My answer: Gollum. When he and Sam catch Gollum trailing them out of the Emyn Muil, Frodo asks Gollum for a promise he can trust that Gollum will not betray them. Gollum offers only one promise -- he will swear on the Precious, the One Ring. Frodo sternly bids him swear by the Ring and not on it, yet swear he does -- "I will serve the master of the Precious." So now Frodo commands the wretched Gollum -- commands him by virtue of holding the Ring, whom that same Ring made wretched. This is Frodo's practice at the use of the Ring to bend others to his will, that makes him able to wield its full power, and ultimately makes the Ring his master. Of course, it is foolish to ask "if?" of such a well crafted tale, yet I must ask: If Frodo had not subjugated Gollum, and yet had come to the Crack of Doom, might he have still been uncorrupted enough as to just toss the Ring in?

–Ben Newman

A: Wow. I’m pretty sure you’ve answered your own question here, but it’s such a fascinating argument I had to print it. I think you’re absolutely right in that by being "forced" by Gollum to use the Ring to command Gollum, Frodo came even more under the control of the Ring. He had to do this, or else the success of the whole mission would be imperiled by Gollum. What an unbelievable irony! However, I can’t help wondering how the whole Shelob episode plays into this. It was, after all, Gollum who betrayed them to the monstrous thing. I wonder if, having sworn by the Precious, he was not still at least a little bit under the sway of the Maker of the Precious, as well as under that of its current Master? Another interesting speculation. I find I lean powerfully towards an affirmative answer to your speculation about Frodo’s willpower, although I objectively know that Frodo’s will was not entirely his own from the moment he first took the Ring under his responsibility. He had trouble handing it to Gandalf for testing, and cried out when it was thrown into his hearth-fire, and did not want to get it out to show Bilbo, and so on. So no, he would not have just "tossed it in," although that image makes me want to cheer a bit. J I do think, however, that if he had not accustomed himself to the power the Ring wields over others through his hold over Gollum, he might have been persuaded by Sam or some other device to give it up. I think you’re on the right track. I find it interesting, though, that in the end, the difference between swearing by the Precious or on it made no difference to Gollum whatsoever. He was sworn to serve the master of the Precious, but in the end when it came down to the Precious OR the master, he, of course, chose the Precious. And it was Frodo’s salvation that he did so.

- Anwyn

back to top

Q: I was just wondering what really happened to Nimrodel? She was supposed to sail over the seas with Amroth, but never reached the sea. From the story I assumed that she perished on the road. However, in The Return of the King I read "It is long since the people of Nimrodel left the woodlands of Lórien, and yet still one may see that not all sailed from Amroth’s haven west over water" (p. 148). What happened, and why was she delayed?

–Iris Fleming

A: According to "The Tale of Years" in Appendix B of The Lord of the Rings, Amroth and Nimrodel were lost in the year 1981 of the Third Age, the year after the Balrog appeared in Moria and slayed Durin VI, after which time the Dwarves fled from Moria and many of the Silvan Elves of Lórien fled south. A short text by Tolkien entitled "Part of the Legend of Amroth and Nimrodel recounted in brief" appears in Unfinished Tales, but in this text it states "of what befell Nimrodel nothing is said here, though there were many legends concerning her fate." One of these legends appears in another text quoted in Unfinished Tales:

When Nimrodel fled from Lórien it is said that seeking for the sea she became lost in the White Mountains, until at last (by what road or pass is not known) she came to a river that reminded her of her own stream in Lórien. Her heart was lightened, and she sat by a mere, seeing the stars reflected in its dim waters, and listening to the waterfalls by which the river went again on its journey down to the sea. There she fell into a deep sleep of weariness, and so long she slept that she did not come down into Belfalas until Amroth’s ship had been blown out to sea, and he was lost trying to swim back to Belfalas.

One of Nimrodel’s companions, Mithrellas, was harboured by Imrazor, a Númenorean dwelling in Belfalas, who married her. From their union, the strain of Elven blood entered the line of Dol Amroth. (See The Peoples of Middle-earth, pp. 220-224.)

- Turgon

back to top

Q: When Finrod dies, it says that he "walks with Finarfin his father beneath the trees in Eldamar." Now, I’ve never understood the whole Mandos thing very well, but I could have sworn that when elves die, they remain in the Halls of Mandos until the End. Is this not true? Or did Felagund get a ‘get outta jail’ free card or something cause he did good or was so damn cool or something?



Q: When elves "die," their spirits go back to Mandos where they can be healed and released again. So explain the Dead Marshes. Were there elf spirits in the mere? Surely Sauron couldn’t interfere with Ilúvatar’s plan. So what do you guys think?


A: According to The Silmarillion:

Whereas the Elves remain until the end of days … For the Elves die not till the world dies, unless they are slain or waste in grief (and to both these seeming deaths they are subject); neither does age subdue their strength, unless one grow weary of ten thousand centuries; and dying they are gathered to the halls of Mandos in Valinor, whence they may in time return.

This is the text I pretty much follow to the letter for my interpretation of the elves’ afterlife. Tolkien is quite clear that the Elves are immortal in that their relationship to death is completely different than that of Men. Elves may die at the hands of other creatures or die of grief; they may even choose to forsake their defining aspect of spiritual rejuvenation and become like Men (i.e., mortal as we know it).

The Professor also clearly states the Fate of the Elves is bound to the world. In his Letters he usually wrote of Elves being ‘immortal’–that is, immortal within quotation marks (i.e., Letters, p. 146: "The ‘Elves’ are ‘immortal’, at least as far as this world goes"; or look on p. 285: "In this mythical ‘prehistory’ immortality, strictly longevity co-extensive with the life of Arda, was part of the given nature of the Elves.").

Also consider this from Letters, p. 286:

The Elves were not subject to disease, but they could be ‘slain’: that is there bodies could be destroyed, or mutilated so as to be unfit to sustain life. But this did not lead naturally to ‘death’: they were rehabilitated and reborn and eventually recovered memory of all of their past: they remained ‘identical’.

So when an elf dies his physical shell is empty and his spirit is "gathered" or reincarnated in the halls of Mandos (or the Halls of Waiting). If Tolkien says "whence they may in time return" that means after an indeterminate period of time they may leave the halls and return to Valinor (not far to go, since the halls of Mandos are already in Valinor, placed in the west of West). Based on the excerpt above, I feel that elves did not have to wait until the End to come forth again. Glorfindel is an example of an Elf dying, being reborn, and returning to Middle-earth (though the latter part is unusual). However, I do not know what the deciding factor was that released them from the time of waiting. The statement of Finrod Felagund walking around Eldamar supports my view. Of course, there is plenty of room for speculation both pro and con.

Turgon, my fellow Green Booker, found something dealing with this subject in The History of Middle-earth series:

There is a fascinating text in Volume 10 of The History, Morgoth’s Ring, entitled "Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth," or the Debate of Finrod and Andreth, which concerns an Elf (Finrod) and a wise-woman (Andreth) discussing their beliefs on the natures of souls in Men and Elves. This deals in some extent with what happens to the Elves when they die, and things get a bit complicated (like everywhere else in Tolkien).

As for the Dead Marshes, well, here you get into a technical discussion of what makes a haunting. The area was originally the vast graves from the Battle of Dagorlad, heaped with many thousands of bodies. I don’t believe any spirits of Men, Elves, or Orcs haunted the Marshes but the bodies remained. No, the spirits were long gone to other destinations; but Tolkien created a haunted place that was filled with memories, grief, and some furtive menace of Sauron. Even Sam asks:

The Dead can’t be really there! Is it some devilry hatched in the Dark Land?

It seems to me the great sorrows of that Battle were never washed away. The power of those memories–the compounded unrest of thousands–would be ample enough haunting for my taste sans the spirits. So it begs the question: Is a haunting qualified by a ghostly apparition or can it be a focused impression of the deceased’s memory, a lingering imprint of the former self? You may reach your own conclusion.

- Quickbeam and Turgon

back to top

Q: Why did Morgoth fear Gondolin? Even at the battle of Unnumbered Tears the united might of the Noldor was not great enough to break his power, so why did he have to worry about Turgon? What could the Gondolithrim have done to seriously hurt Morgoth’s power, even if they had not been laid under a doom of failure?

–Juho Savolainen

A: Morgoth especially feared Gondolin because he did not know it. For a long time he knew nothing of its location, or its strengths, but only that Turgon had amassed a stronghold to resist him. This lack of specific information evidently caused Morgoth to fear how powerful Gondolin might be, rather than the more limited power it in fact turned out to be.

- Turgon


Tim from New Zealand pointed out a very pertinent passage that I missed. In Chapter 20 of The Silmarillion ("Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad"), it reads:

"Morgot feared Turgon; for of old in Valinor his eye had lighted upon him, and whenever he drew near a shadow had fallen on his spirit, foreboding that in some time that yet lay hidden, from Turgon ruin should come to him."

Update to Update!

A few readers have written in to point out that Morgoth was correct to fear Gondolin, as it was the ultimate source of his downfall. Earendil, son of Tuor and Idril, daughter of Turgon, successfully navigated to Valinor and sued for the pardon of the Noldor. Thus was Morgoth finally defeated.

- Turgon

back to top

Q: What made Gandalf decide that the position of burglar in the party of Thorin Oakenshield and Co. needed to be filled by a short, portly, timid, unworldly, inexperienced homebody named Bilbo (other than because there would not be a story otherwise)? I know that Gandalf persuades Bilbo that the adventure is good for him, but he could have given Bilbo a nice adventure by taking him to Bree and back. What was in it for Gandalf and the Dwarves?


A: There is a very curious text by Tolkien called "The Quest of Erebor," published in Unfinished Tales. In this text, which is set in Minas Tirith, Gandalf tells the story of how he came to arrange Bilbo’s adventure. It’s a fascinating perspective, and I recommend that you read it, for it will answer most if not all of your questions.

- Turgon

note: Please see further details from our first Q&A of September 5, 1999, by clicking here.

- Quickbeam

[ Email this Page to a Friend ] Email this page to a friend!

Questions 05/00
Quick navigation for questions asked this month.
 • Bombadil vs Angmar
 • Clear Description of Elves
 • Who is Goldberry?
 • CS Lewis and Numenor
 • Do Balrogs have WINGS?
 • Entry into Aman
 • Sam's Status
 • Escaping the Doors of Night
 • Etymology of Strider
 • How did Radagast help?
 • Existence of an Underworld?
 • Female Hobbits have Furry Feet
 • Cirdan and the Last Ship
 • High Kings of the Avari
 • JRRT Published Posthumously
 • Moria too Silent
 • The Shadow of the Past
 • Origin of Galadriel's Mirror
 • Sauron's Spirit Rejected
 • The Balrog enters Moria
 • Fate of Daeron
 • The Last Alliance
 • The World War II Allegory
 • The One Ring's True Power
 • What happened to Nimrodel?
 • What happens when Elves die?
 • Why does Morgoth fear Gondolin?
 • Why take Bilbo along?


Search the Q&A

Enter a keyword

Updates for 05/05

Recent Updates

03/01/05 question three

03/01/05 question five

Ask Greenbooks

Do you have a nagging question about J.R.R. Tolkien or Middle-earth? Ask the Green Books staff and look for the answer in the next Questions & Answers section. Send an email to:

home | contact us | back to top | site map |search | join list | review this site

This site is maintained and updated by fans of The Lord of the Rings. We in no way claim the artwork displayed to be our own. Copyrights and trademarks for the books, films, and related properties mentioned herein are held by their respective owners and are used solely for promotional purposes of said properties. Design and original photography however are copyright © 2000 TheOneRing.net ™.