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Q: I think its in The Lost Tales Part II, there is a great battle for a city (I can't remember the name). Anyway, in the battle several people kill Balrogs, I think one kills five and another three or something like that. But it takes all of Gandalf's strength to kill the Balrog in Moria. How is it that a man can kill several when Gandalf, an Istari, can barely kill one?

– Josiah

A: The Book of Lost Tales is an early version of the mythology, and may be thought of as taking place in an "alternate universe" version of the world of The Lord of the Rings. Here the Balrogs are not primeval creatures but the creations of Melko, like the dragons; they seem indeed to be less mighty than the Balrog of Moria. But also remember that Gandalf was incarnated in the form of a man, and was limited in his power by this incarnation. We might also conjecture that any Balrog that managed to survive the wreck of Beleriand, and had conserved and built his strength in the intervening millenia, must be a particularly powerful Balrog indeed!


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Q: The Silmarillion says Arien was a spirit of fire uncorrupted by Morgoth. Could some of the Balrogs be female?

– Brandon

A: The Valar (and, one supposes, the Maiar) took on male and female forms that reflected an intrinsic nature: "for that difference of temper they had even from their beginning, and it is but bodied forth in the choice of each, not made by the choice." Whether a spirit that is female in temper would embody itself as a violent creature of dark flame wielding a flaming whip must remain a matter of your own judgment and, perhaps, predilections. One does not easily suppose that Tolkien would have thought so.


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Q: Stupid question perhaps. In the Battle of the Hornburg, Legolas kills a great many orcs with is arrows, how does he replenish? Does he have a huge supply at his feet before every battle and just stoops down and refills once he's run out? Also, given that he uses special elf arrows, does he then walk around post-battle and pull arrows out of Orcs?

– Santo

A: "'Two?' said Legolas. 'I have done better, though now I must grope for spent arrows; all mine are gone. Yet I make my tale twenty at the least…'" I do not know how many arrows Legolas's quiver holds, but the number need not be much more than twenty; 'keen are the eyes of the Elves' and one can suppose that Legolas rarely missed.


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Q: How knowledgeable was Aragorn regarding the Palantíri and the will power of Sauron? How did Aragorn know that Sauron would not be able to read his mind if he used the Palantíri, at least enough to learn of the Fellowship's quest to destroy the Ring in Mt. Doom (try not to visualize a purple polka dotted horse)? After all, his ancestor Isildur was corrupted. Denethor was corrupted by Sauron through the Palantíri, as was perhaps Saruman, and Gandalf feared using it. Who does this Aragorn fella think he is, anyway? Very respectfully,

– Tom D.

A: He is the heir to Elendil and Isildur. The Palantíri are his by right. As Tolkien wrote in the essay on the palantíri (in Unfinished Tales): "In the case of Denethor, the Steward was strengthened, even against Sauron himself, by the fact that the Stones were far more amenable to legitimate users: most of all to true 'Heirs of Elendil' (as Aragorn), but also to one with inherited authority (as Denethor) as compared to Saruman, or Sauron." Aragorn was 'naturally' stronger than Sauron in the use of the Stones. In the same paragraph, he clarifies that Denethor was not corrupted: "Denethor remained steadfast in his rejection of Sauron, but was made to believe that his victory was inevitable, and so fell into despair."


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Q: Who is the narrator of The Hobbit? I always thought it was Bilbo writing in third person about his own adventures. In the prologue to The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien writes the following: "…Further information (concerning hobbits) will also be found in the selection from the Red Book of Westmarch that has already been published, under the title of The Hobbit. That story was derived from the earlier chapters of the Red Book, composed by Bilbo himself…" That implies that Bilbo wrote the story. However, in Chapter 1 of The Hobbit, Tolkien writes this: "…I suppose hobbits need some description nowadays, since they have become rare and shy of the Big People, as they call us…." That implies that the story isn't written by Bilbo. Of course, that leads to my second question, which is who is the narrator of The Lord of the Rings? Thank you for any insight you can offer.

– Gregg

A: The conceit is that The Hobbit is based on Bilbo's writings, but Tolkien's "editorial hand" was much stronger in that book than in the later "translation" from the Red Book that is the basis for The Lord of the Rings. When Tolkien rewrote the "Riddles in the Dark" chapter to agree with The Lord of the Rings, he took pains to distinguish the original version as being based on Bilbo's own journal from the present text derived from the Red Book.

Incidentally, it also appears that the first Book of The Fellowship of the Ring is also conceived to have been based largely on Bilbo's writing, perhaps to account for its lighter tone than the rest of the book. In a late essay on Dwarves and Men (in The History of Middle-earth: Volume XII) he specifically attributes to Bilbo the statement in Lord of the Rings about the cohabitation of Big Folk and Little Folk in Bree being unique.


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Q: I have a question about this passage: "She held up a small crystal phial: it glittered as she moved it, and rays of white light sprang from her hand. 'In this phial,' she said, 'is caught the light of Eärendil's star, set amid the waters of my fountain. How does the Phial of Galadriel contain the light of Eärendil -- is it a faux imitation wrought by Galadriel or some other Elf? I thought the only one to capture Eärendil's light (i.e. the Two Trees) was Fëanor. Is the light of the star shining down to Galadriel somehow different than the light of Eärendil's Silmaril? Thanks.

– Jimmy P

A: The light of Galadriel's phial, captured in water (doubtless through the agency of Nenya, the Ring of Water) is a mere reflection of the Silmaril's light. Unlike the light of the Silmaril, it is quenched in the Sammath Naur; nor does it burn a mortal's hand. Galadriel could not have captured the Two Trees' original light within her phial; she only can preserve a small fraction of that light.


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Q: Dear Lovely Staff Members: Among the many questions my little brain has in it is this one: Was Elrond so far-seeing that he could know that the One Ring resided in Hobbiton with Bilbo Baggins? If he was not, then his admonition to Aragorn was false, for how else could Aragorn claim his rightful throne unless the Ring had been found and he defeated Sauron and the other forces of evil? If that was the case, then Elrond never meant to give his permission for Aragorn and Arwen to wed. Which could mean that Elrond's motives were, shall we say, less than noble. Understandable that a father who is immortal would not want his daughter to suffer the Doom of Man but if this is a logical conclusion, would it not say something about Elrond's character that we had not previously known? Sincerely,

– IMFrodo51

A: Elrond was, like Thingol his ancestor, setting a high price indeed upon his daughter's hand; but he knew that Beren had indeed fulfilled the quest of the Silmaril against all hope, and knew that Aragorn (whose childhood name was Estel, 'hope') might indeed achieve what Elrond required of him. Certainly Arwen foresaw this: "Dark is the Shadow, and yet my heart rejoices; for you, Estel, shall be among the great whose valour will destroy it."


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Q: Hi! I have been asked why Aragorn's mother, Gilraen, was buried in Lothlórien and I haven't been able to find the answer. I love your site….thank you for your help.

– Lynda

A: In Jackson's movie, we see a monument to Gilraen, presumed to be her grave, in Rivendell (not Lothlórien). However, in the book, we are told (in the tale of Aragorn and Arwen in Appendix A) that she passed away after she 'returned to her own people in Eriador, and lived alone', not long after Aragorn's last visit to her. One supposes that she was buried there as well.

In general, the Green Books questions are assumed to be about the books, not the movies. Questions about the movie 'back story' can only be answered by the screenwriters and editors.


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Q: Why is it that Tolkien describes Legolas as "a strange Elf" when Frodo first sees him at the Council of Elrond?

– Jess S

A: Because Frodo doesn't know him. He is a stranger. "Strange" does not simply mean 'unusual' or 'bizarre', but also 'unknown'.


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Q: With Hobbits representing pre-industrial age Englishmen, and the Rohirrim being basically Anglo-Saxons, did any of the other races of men (or their countries) represent England at other periods?

– K Qswst104

A: Rohan does not 'represent' the Anglo-Saxons; Tolkien expressed irritation at the idea in a letter, pointing out that they are culturally quite different. He represents their language as Anglo-Saxon, which is not quite the same thing. There is no reason to suppose that any other parts of Middle-earth 'represent' any particular historic nations or peoples, and one imagines that the suggestion would have smacked of 'allegory' to Tolkien.


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Q: Both Hildifons and Isengar Took, ancestors of Bilbo I believe, were known as adventurers long before Bilbo ran off with those Dwarves. Are we to assume that Gandalf had a hand in this? Did Tolkien write any specifics about their adventures?

– Paul Scanlon

A: Bilbo refers to Gandalf being responsible for 'young lads and lasses' having such adventures as climbing trees and sailing in ships; the last time he had seen Gandalf was when Hildifons and Isengar's father, the Old Took (described as Gandalf's friend) died, some 20 or so years before, when Bilbo was about the age of 30. Isengar was said to have "gone to sea" in his youth, but he was almost 30 years Bilbo's senior, hardly someone he could describe as a 'young lad'. Hildifons, who never returned from a journey, was older still. It is possible that Bilbo was referring to stories he had heard about Gandalf's earlier visits to the Shire (perhaps grumbled to him by the Old Took himself); we have no way of knowing. In any case, the Tooks always had a reputation for being more adventurous, even without Gandalf's presence, as in the case of Bandobras ("Bullroarer") Took, so it is possible that Hildifons and his brother Isengar were just being their "Tookish" selves.


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Questions 10/03
Quick navigation for questions asked this month.
 • How powerful were those Balrogs?
 • Are there female Balrogs?
 • How does Legolas replenish his arrows?
 • How can Aragorn use the Palantir?
 • Who is the narrator of The Hobbit?
 • Capturing the light of Earendil
 • Was Elrond unfair to Aragorn?
 • Where was Gilraen buried?
 • Is Legolas a strange Elf?
 • Do the Races represent the English?
 • What of Bilbo's Tookish ancestors?


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03/01/05 question three

03/01/05 question five

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