[ 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: I am sure that this has been covered somewhere, but when the Witch-king says "No living man may hinder me," what was the signifigance of "no living man" as opposed to "no living person"? If "Dernhelm" had been male, would the outcome have potentially been different, and what might have Tolkien been trying to say?

– Trink103

A: Clearly the Witch-king is aware of the prophecy that says that he will not fall by the hand of man. We later see this is proven to mean "by the hand of woman and hobbit," but perhaps in his arrogance, the Witch-king takes it to mean "not by the hand of any member of mankind" or even "by any living sentient being." There's really not much meaning to the question of what if Dernhelm was male; Dernhelm's existence was founded on "his" identity as Eowyn. Essentially, only Eowyn and Merry, in that time and place, could have dealt the Witch-king his death blow.


Q: I have a question regarding the death of the Witch-king. Even though he seemed physically slain by Eowyn, is it possible that, if the ring wasn't destroyed so soon after, he could have been resurrected by Sauron's will? It seems that was exactly what happened when all nine Nazgul were drowned in Fellowship, but they were given new bodies and new animals to ride. What is the Green Gooks' opinion?

– Ktacey2003

A: Ah, but they weren't killed in the river in Fellowship. Gandalf clearly says that you can't kill Nazgul as easily as all that; that it was only their forms (their robes) and their horses that were swept away and destroyed. In the killing performed by Eowyn and Merry, however, the spiritual center of the Witch-king's power is clearly destroyed beyond any resurrection.


Q: In the line "Bilbo was meant to find the ring, in which case you also were meant to have it," I think we see this idea recurring a lot throughout LotR, that things are just meant to happen. Right? So Bilbo was meant to stumble upon this ring, just as Déagol was meant to find it in the river and be murdered. Then how is it that Gandalf comes to Bilbo in the beginning of The Hobbit? From what I understand, they didn't know each other prior to that. Was Gandalf just using his wizard's sixth sense or foresight, knowing that Bilbo and his relative were destined for great things, and that's why he was compelled to come to him at Bag End? Like he was just doing his job as an Istar to make sure some lazy hobbit gets out the door on time without a handkerchief so that the world will be saved?

– CheeseNmuffins17

A: Personally, I think that destiny is largely a matter of hindsight. Gandalf is wise and gifted with a certain amount of foresight, but if he knew where the Ring was, he could have gone into the tunnels himself at any time. No, I believe Gandalf realizes that he himself, like other created beings, is an instrument in the hands of Iluvatar, and that if Bilbo was "meant" to find the Ring, then Gandalf was "meant" to help him along the way.


Q: My question concerns the palantiri and the fact that both Sauron and Saruman possessed one, and wielded them with ease. Why didn't Sauron know of the Fellowship's journey, their intention, and their location? Even if we concede that he needed to target a specific location before using the palantir (as opposed to just letting its view roam over the countryside), he had that once his Nazgul had chased the One Ring to Rivendell. Later, Saruman actually wanders in Fangorn (Aragorn & Co. see him at night when he frightens the horses away) looking for news of what became of his orcs, and Gandalf is pleased with the fact that Saruman will be beside himself with anxiety over whether or not the hobbits his orcs had been carrying had the ring or not. As with Sauron, couldn't Saruman have just used his palantir and saved himself some stress and a long walk? I don't think the palantiri had the ability to look through time as well as space (did they?), so maybe Saruman's orcs were attacked while he was taking a nap or something, so he missed the whole thing and had to rely on more traditional methods to figure out why they were suddenly no longer breathing. But that wouldn't explain Sauron's ignorance of the Fellowship; he already knew the Ring was headed south, for he fully expected someone to claim it for his own and openly challenge him. He had lots of spies, months to learn their precise location at any point along the journey (and he did know it precisely when they were in Rivendell), a palantir to play with, and he never slept.

Thanks very much,

– Doug

A: Tolkien probably had some of these difficulties in mind when he wrote the essay on the Palantíri that appears in "Unfinished Tales". Remember, Tolkien himself did not learn of the Palantíri until Wormtongue lobbed one out from Orthanc, and it was initially seen as a device to establish the link between Isengard and Barad-dr. As a tool for intelligence gathering, a too powerful palantír would indeed spoil the story. In an early outline of the chapter on The Palantír, JRRT wrote that it "kept watch on movements in neighbourhood but its range was limited to some 100 leagues?"

Certainly for the purposes of the story, and indeed in the Unfinished Tales essay, the primary purpose of the Stones seems to be communication rather than observation, their usefulness for the latter purpose is limited. Gandalf says of the Orthanc-stone that "alone it could do nothing but see small images of things far off and days remote." And, by the time of the War of the Ring, it was no longer useful to Saruman for spying: "I wonder, has he been constrained to come often to his glass for inspection and instruction, and the Orthanc-stone so bent towards Barad-dr that, if any save a will of adamant now looks into it, it will bear his mind and sight swiftly thither?"

In the essay, we learn that the stones have an optimum distance for clear sight (in both time and space, for they can see into the past, but only the distant past with clarity); the range of the stones of Orthanc and Minas Ithil is about 500 miles. This is considerably less than the distance from Mordor to Rivendell; more like the range to Lórien. In a way, they are like a telescope (a Greek word whose meaning, 'that which looks far away', is identical with 'palantír', a fact that Tolkien would have known very well). You can focus quite closely on a subject in a telescope or palantír; but you have to know very precisely the direction and distance on which to focus.


Q: I was wondering what exactly do the seven stars on Gondor's flag represent? I have heard that they may represent the seven palantiri, or the seven ships that bore a palantir to Middle-earth. Also, are these stars the same stars that are mentioned in the Rhyme of Lore by Gandalf where it mentions that the Numenoreans brought "seven stars and seven stones"? The stones, I assume, would be the palantiri, but what about the stars?

Thanks very much for your help!

– Rachel

A: The answer, unusually enough, is to be found in the Index to the Lord of the Rings that was prepared for the second edition. Under "Star, as emblem" we read of the "Seven stars, of Elendil and his captains," further clarified: "originally represented the single stars on the banners of each of the seven ships (of 9) that bore a palantir; in Gondor the seven stars were set about a white-flowered tree, over which the Kings set a winged crown."


Q: In The Fellowship of the Ring-The Ring goes south…

"The sons of Elrond, Elladan and Elrohir, were the last to return; they had made a great journey, passing down the Silverlode into a strange country, but of their errand they would not speak to any save to Elrond."

Where did they do and why???


A: If you pass down the Silverlode, you end up in that strangest of countries, Lórien. It is never said what their errand was, but it may be inferred that they brought tidings of the Council of Elrond to Celeborn and Galadriel; and may have returned bearing messages from them as well. The message that Haldir received in the Naith is interesting: "They bring me a message from the Lord and Lady of the Galadhrim. You are all to walk free, even the dwarf Gimli. It seems that the Lady knows who and what is each member of your Company. New messages have come from Rivendell perhaps." It suggests that Haldir knew of previous messages from Rivendell, those from the sons of Elrond; how Galadriel learned more details of the company's composition is not told. She also knew that Gandalf the Grey had set out with the Company. Whether she had been already known of Elrond's intention to send Gandalf from his sons, or whether Elrond chose Gandalf (and a representative of each of the Free Peoples) in whole or in part based on her advice, none can say.


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

Questions 05/04
Quick navigation for questions asked this month.
 • What was the significance of "No living man"?
 • Could Sauron have resurrected the Witch-king?
 • Did Gandalf use wizardly foresight?
 • Why didn't Sauron see the Fellowship in his Palantír?
 • What are the seven stars of Gondor?
 • What were Elladan and Elrohir up to?


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 ™.