[ 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 have read that corrections to the text have occurred through various printings, so I don't know if this is simply a problem in the printing I own, or overall.

Considering how much power the ring gave to Sam in Cirith Ungol, simply by clutching it, it would seem to me that if Sam were wearing the ring, he would have been able to deal with the door in the tunnel below Cirith Ungol. At the very least, he should not have been knocked unconscious by running into the door. When Sam puts on the ring, all the various text about hearing and sight make me think he was wearing the ring prior to knocking himself out on the door. When he awakes he stumbles around blind in the tunnels, then puts the ring on a second time. But I can find nothing that says when he took off the ring. Do you believe he was still wearing the ring when he knocked himself out? If he was, would wearing the ring for hours (even unconscious) help Sauron locate the ring? I have not read the professor's letters or supplemental writing, so I don't know if this was ever addressed. Thank you in advance.

– Michael Cote

A: The Ring was not an all-powerful weapon, certainly not in the sense that it could blast down doors or keep harm from the wearer. If that were the case, Frodo never would have been stabbed by the troll in Moria, he could have put on the Ring to blast a way into Moria … etc. etc. It conferred sharpened senses and all that Tolkien describes upon Sam, but it didn't keep Gollum from falling into the Cracks of Doom. I saw nothing to indicate that Sam took off the Ring before he knocked himself out, no, but I also find it reasonable that he still was knocked out, even while wearing it.

As for why Sam wearing the Ring didn't help the Ringwraiths or Sauron locate it, see Ostadan's excellent answer to that, here.


Q: I'm confused about whether or not you can kill a wizard. I know of what happens to Saruman. The book says that his spirit leaves his body and disappears with the wind. Does this mean that he actually dies, or is it more of a reference to just his soul ending life in Middle Earth?

– Robyn Willson

A: This is a confusing issue. There are references that seem to state the spirit (of Sauron) was "rejected" by the Valar, and one would assume that what's sauce for the goose would be sauce for the gander--that Saruman, being the same kind of spirit, would be subject to the same treatment. But the question then becomes, "What happens to a spirit when it is 'rejected?'" It either continues to exist as itself or it does not. If it continues to exist, then clearly it is formless and powerless for all the time it remains in Middle-earth. Personally, I believe that it's plausible that with this "rejection" comes dissipation--that when the wind took the spirits of Sauron and Saruman, that it scattered their essence to the four corners of the earth.


Q: Gandalf at least, if not Elrond and others, believed that Bilbo was "meant" to find the Ring, meaning that Eru was willing to intervene in Middle Earth in order to aid in the destruction of the Ring. Gandalf says that this is "encouraging." After Gandalf falls in battle with the Balrog, Eru again intervenes. It seems plausible that Gandalf met Eru or saw him and received some personal message or grace or something along those lines. But even if this didn't happen, if I were Gandalf, I would have been pretty certain that Eru was not going to let the quest to destroy the Ring fail, and was not going to allow Sauron to regain control of Middle Earth. If Eru meant to allow the battle with Sauron take its own course, why intervene at all? Why didn't Gandalf seem to realize that their success was, more or less, guaranteed?

– Dylan

A: There is a difference between intervening to allow the chosen warriors to continue their quest and intervening directly with your own hand. In other words, the fight with the Balrog was deemed by Eru to be an important but still secondary event--that he was not going to let that event stop Gandalf's helping the Quest. The very sacrifice that Gandalf was willing to make may have led to this grace for him, that he could return to continue helping. However, there were still other opportunities for him to fall or fail--he confronted the Witch-king in the Gate of Minas Tirith, he confronted the Mouth of Sauron at the Gate of Mordor, he saved Faramir from premature cremation, he ordered the Eagles to save Sam and Frodo … there were plenty of other opportunities for him to miss a step and fall, and perhaps if he had failed at any of these tasks, the quest would not have been accomplished. We don't really know. But giving Gandalf a "second chance," earned through his valor in sacrificing himself on his first one, is different from Eru sticking out his hand and squashing Sauron like a bug. If that was his pattern, he would have been showing it way back when Morgoth first stepped onto the scene. Free will is the grace allowed to all created beings by Eru, and he leaves the created beings, most times, to slug it out amongst themselves. Giving Gandalf back to Middle-earth was an act of pure grace on Eru's part, not in his usual pattern of non-intervention.


Q: What was so special about the Arkenstone?

– Turambar

A: But fairest of all was the great white gem, which the dwarves had found beneath the roots of the Mountain, the Heart of the Mountain, the Arkenstone of Thrain.

"The Arkenstone! The Arkenstone!" murmured Thorin in the dark, half dreaming with his chin upon his knees. "It was like a globe with a thousand facets; it shone like silver in the firelight, like water in the sun, like snow under the stars, like rain upon the Moon!"

Though the dwarves did not make this wonderful gem, only found it and shaped and cut and polished it, still it may be perceived that proportionally speaking, the Arkenstone was to the dwarves of the Mountain what the Silmarils were to Feanor and the Noldor. Clearly it was prized beyond all other treasure, and for reasons that are not hard to relate to--it was unique, it was indigenous to the Lonely Mountain, their home, and it was their greatest treasure there. Because it was unique, presumably it was the symbol of the rulers of the Mountain, another good reason why Thorin would have valued it so highly.


Q: My question is sort of a complicated one. First off, when Aragorn and crew met Gandalf the White in Fangorn, he couldn't remember who he was. I've heard that's because he died fighting the Balrog and Manwë gave him a stronger body, but that caused him to kind of forget his past to a degree. But also, when Frodo ran from Boromir and put on the Ring, he heard Sauron's voice telling him to keep it on while the Eye searched for him, then suddenly he heard Gandalf's voice saying, "take it off you fool!" Now I've also heard that Gandalf's mind was wiped clean because he openly challenged the will of Sauron. Are either of the theories true? Your wise counsel would be greatly appreciated.

– Opapanyx

A: Hmmm, now that is something to chew on. I have looked through almost all of the Letters searching for any small bit that would shed light on this "theory." I am now left to speculate having found little to address your query. Apart from the other Istari, Gandalf would eventually become the only wizard to actually succeed at the tasks for which he was sent. Tolkien also felt that Gandalf's rebirth was something of a "literary cheating" and he apologized for it in Letter No. 156. But through all the reasons and explanations he gives (that go a long way toward illustrating the complexity of his work) he does not declare that Gandalf's memory was "traded off" when he died. It is a sensible assumption, I admit. However, Tolkien does say that Gandalf functioned in a strict sense as Sauron's opposite. And the moment you speak of, where Gandalf contests the will of Sauron, may truly have been a defining moment! At that exact juncture, perhaps Gandalf was crossing the line and doing what he was forbidden from doing. We also have this quote from the same Letter, discussing the general failure of the whole "Istari" plan that was set forth by the Valar, and how Tolkien was certain that Ilúvatar (the greater Authority) had stepped in to help things along: "[Gandalf] was sent by a mere prudent plan of the angelic Valar or governors; but Authority had taken up this plan and enlarged it, at the moment of its failure." We can assume part of that exchange, where Gandalf was given a new form, a new incarnate shell, in exchange for his sacrifice in Moria, also included him starting with a new brain and a new consciousness. Yet he was the new "enhanced" spirit of Olórin that he always was. This is entirely speculative, but it seems to make sense it would take a bit for him to get his memories back.


Q: I know that Elves have children so they must "get together" at some point, but they don't seem like the 'till death do us part' kind of race. Do Elves stay with the same partner forever?

– Amanda Gilbertson

A: There is nothing I can find that covers the specifics and formality of "marriage" between Elves (though perhaps I am just not looking in the right place). In The Silmarillion you see that Fëanor's wife, the lovely Nerdanel, became "estranged" from him in due time. This is not the kind of legal term we normally understand as "divorce" but it's close to what Tolkien intends in this circumstance. We also see that after the War of the Ring, Galadriel doesn't seem all that interested in staying put with her other half, Celeborn. He stays behind while she sails away. These are the only two circumstances I can immediately quote where Elves seem to separate from their "spouses." Tolkien states very clearly in his published Letters that Elves did not observe any religious practices in Middle-earth. Maybe we can take this to mean they did not have formal weddings? Or divorces? I am left to assume that Elves made life-long commitments, and were "betrothed" to each other when they found the partner they wanted to be with, till the end of Arda. Now that really is a long time, and brings up another separate subject that Tolkien wanted us to consider: that deathlessness could become a burden over time. But before I digress into THAT subject too much, let me conclude by saying that this marriage and relationship business between Elves was something that Tolkien only loosely defined, apparently.


Q: Did the Valar choose their own spouses or were they created with them? I seem to remember reading that Varda rejected Morgoth but am not sure.

– Brandon

A: I don't have any recollection of Morgoth presenting himself to Varda as a possible mate. Perish the thought! The Silmarillion presents the Valar in the section called Valaquenta as if certain pairs were already matched one to another. Tolkien describes his angelic deities thusly: "The spouse of Aulë is Yavanna, the Giver of Fruits." There are passages that remind me very much of Edith Hamilton's Mythology, where you get a sense that most of the great Norse deities had their partners by default. Of course, sometimes mythological Gods fall in love with mortals and all kinds of plot twists follow. We see this happen with Melian and Thingol. So there is some precedent where Maiar spirits in their incarnate forms can pursue and be matched with other physical beings. Maybe that could happen with Maiar -- but where the Valar are concerned, their relationships seem concretely established by Tolkien from the beginning, without any courtship or preamble.


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

Questions 09/03
Quick navigation for questions asked this month.
 • Why didn't the Ring keep Sam safe?
 • Can you kill a wizard?
 • Why didn't Gandalf know the quest would succeed?
 • What's so special about the Arkenstone?
 • Did Gandalf lose all memory?
 • Is elf marriage a forever thing?
 • What about Valar relationships?


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 ™.