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Q: Along the same lines as "Why do the eagles only show up at the end" I want to know why the Ents didn't offer additional help in the War of the Ring. They cleaned house at Isengard, but the "good guys" sure could have used their help in the East. What's up with that?

–Garrett Brown

A: This is strictly my opinion and conjecture, but I would think it falls under the lines of "Everybody has their own part." As you pointed out, they very capably handled the situation at Isengard, but to march to the East would have been an even bigger stretch for them, and one that was ultimately unnecessary. Their strength was not in the kind of battle that took place on the Pelennor Fields or before the Black Gate; all of Isengard's armies were gone when they went to tear the place down… literally. I don't think the walls of Mordor would have been quite as susceptible, and at any rate, it wouldn't have helped the Armies of the West much to have the wall torn down if what was waiting for them on the other side were the unbeatable Hosts of Sauron.

- Anwyn


Thanks to alert readers Tai Truesdell, Anthony Perez-Miller and John Mietus, who pointed out some more information on Ents' roles in the War of the Ring. We know about their sending the Huorns to deal with the orcs at Helm's Deep, and about their tearing down Isengard around Saruman's ears. In addition, however, they stopped an invading force of orcs coming down from the mountains with intention of invading Rohan while her armies were away in Gondor.

"...Ents have layed their part...there was a great inrush of those...vermin of orcs; and they came over the River and down from the North...if they had not met us, then the king of the grassland would not have ridden far, and if he had there would have been no home to return to."

Along the same subject, while I'm here, several people have written to point out that although Elrond, Celeborn & Galadriel, and Dain of Erebor did not send armies south, they were dealing with armies who were invading lands of the north. Dain was slain in one of these battles, and the elves dealt with forces issuing from Dol Guldur. Thanks all!

- Anwyn

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Q: Reading the LOTR movie info, it seems that much is being made of Arwen and her relationship with Aragorn. New Line even has a big time star to portray her. Did I miss something? She makes an appearance early on in Fellowship, and then shows up in Return, they get hitched, and that's that. Is there a back-story on their relationship?

–Garrett Brown

A: There are two questions here. #1: Why, if Arwen has such a small part, does the studio have a big-name star to play her and why are they making much of her character? The answer bodes ill for all Tolkien purists. Rumor is that her part is going to be "beefed up" substantially, that she will become a "warrior princess" who goes to battle with Aragorn. We'll just have to wait and see.

#2: Is there a back-story on their relationship? Of course! :-)

If you'll look in your Appendices at the end of Return, Appendix A, Part I, The Numenorean Kings, Section (v), ‘Here Follows a Part of the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen,’ Tolkien lays out for us not only the very end of the story but also the very beginning. Whether or not any of this material will be included in the movies remains to be seen.

- Anwyn

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Q: We know that Tolkien intended his tales to be the origin myths of England, akin to that of the Norse and the Romans. Where, then, did England fit into the geography of Middle-earth? Assuming another sundering by Iluvatar, could England have been the Shire or Gondor?


A: I get the feeling that most of Middle-earth was something of a broad representation of Europe in ages past, not exclusively that of England. The Shire is a clear connection to Tolkien’s rural England where he grew up as a child. Rohan seems to have strong flavors of Norse lore and mannerisms. The great forests of Mirkwood, Lórien, and Fangorn suggest other mighty forests of mainland Europe, like those found in France and Germany. The vast deserts of Harad lie to the south, as the great Sahara is found just south of Europe.

So you can look for as many connections to modern geography as you like, through cultural, linguistic, or topographical criteria. You may see links in our world that inspired Tolkien’s imagination for landscapes in Middle-earth. The lingering suggestion that Arda is the very same planet that we walk on today is a fanciful one. I like the notion, personally, but I’d rather not look too closely at it, prefering to let it float in my head as a daydream. It certainly carries more power that way.

- Quickbeam

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Q: Hello, I have a question that perhaps you can answer. I am curious about how Gandalf was able to conceal the fact that he possessed one of the three Elven rings during his imprisonment by the Necromancer. It would seem to me that at that proximity, Sauron would know what had fallen into his hands. Is any of this discussed in any of the History of Middle Earth volumes? I have just re-read LOTR and Silmarillion for the first time in almost 10 years, and am looking forward to plunging into those works next, as I have never read them. Thanks a lot.

–Patrick Brennan

A: First let me clarify one important thing: Gandalf was never held prisoner in Dol Guldur, rather he paid visit in secret there, more than once throughout the Third Age. If Sauron had ever captured our dear Gandalf, that would have been the end of him and the end of the War of the Ring (before it even started)! It was actually Thráin II who was imprisoned by the Necromancer, later discovered by Gandalf during one of his covert visits.

‘Whatever were you doing there?’ asked Thorin with a shudder, and all the dwarves shivered.

‘Never you mind. I was finding things out, as usual; and a nasty dangerous business it was. Even I, Gandalf, only just escaped. I tried to save your father, but it was too late.’

As for Sauron not perceiving Narya, the Ring of Fire… well, it seems unlikely he would have such prescience without himself bearing the One Ring. Even though his influence upon the lesser rings was great, he still did not possess the One while Gandalf wielded Narya. Also remember Sauron’s ability was greatly diminished wherever the Three Rings were concerned, as he had never touched them and had no part in their making. I assume it was forever kept secret from him their whereabouts. He likewise knew nothing of Galadriel having Nenya or Elrond holding Vilya, and for good reason.

- Quickbeam

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Q: When Gandalf figured out that Frodo had the One Ring, why didn't he promptly escort Frodo to Rivendell, or get Strider to take him there? Why does he instead go south to Orthanc and risk the entire world?

–Steve Lopez

A: I've wondered this myself. My disclaimer, first of all, is that this question can be asked of almost any drama: If so-and-so had only done thus-and-such, this whole problem could have been avoided. I find it's better to accept the actions of the characters and roll with the story than to ask the question, but if I were to attempt an answer, it would be: A) Gandalf did not have a clear purpose in mind. If Frodo was willing to go to Rivendell, that was enough for the time being; Elrond and the others would have counsel on what should be attempted next. At this stage Frodo's taking the Ring to the fire was not contemplated. B) Gandalf did not have a clear idea of what Saruman was up to. His trip to and imprisonment in Orthanc laid bare all of Saruman's schemes and prevented Saruman from pulling the wool over his eyes any more. I believe that Gandalf went to Orthanc to gain help and certainly to gain more knowledge about the One Ring and what Saruman knew about the possibilities of its destruction. So I believe Gandalf found it necessary to go to Orthanc, but he also kept enough wisdom to know that bringing the Ring to Saruman would be foolish.

Lastly, Gandalf himself states that he has made mistakes in the management of the whole affair. In leaving off the pursuit of Golllum, in waiting too long to determine if Frodo's Ring was indeed the One, in making certain that Frodo left the Shire in a timely manner. It is proof of his fallibility, and these are failings that I find very natural and acceptable.

- Anwyn

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Q: Of all the questions I have about Tolkien's works, one has bemused me the most. Towards the end of The Return of the King (when Gandalf and the hobbits are travelling back to the Shire), Gandalf stops and tells the hobbits that he wanted to go and talk to Tom Bombadil about an important matter. What was old Gandalf talking about?


A: Interesting question, and one that I can only guess at. Bombadil is a presence in Middle-earth that Tolkien intended to be anomalous to the many other beings in his legendarium. He lives outside of time; outside of the woes and concerns of the other Races. More can be said on the character’s unique place in the story, and his thematic weight, but let’s stick with your original question. Maybe Gandalf just wanted to talk about current events. Perhaps he knew this period of time was the last he would have in Middle-earth before leaving from the Grey Havens… and this would be his last chance to commune with Tom. Gandalf states that Tom had no real interest in all of their activities and the War going on in the wide world outside the Old Forest. But still, after all, I think it seemly that Gandalf would share with him some essential details: the Ring unmade, Sauron destroyed, Elessar crowned, and the remaining powers of the High Elves passing into the West, to name a few. Personally, I wish I were a fly on the wall to have heard their conversation! Tolkien prudently kept their last meeting out of the narrative, leaving us to ponder the great mysteries they would discuss. Wouldn’t we all like to be privy to the counsels of the great and the wise?

- Quickbeam

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Q: Hi Staff: Another one, which might be going into the same direction as the ‘do not use it again’ thing… When Frodo and Sam are approaching the Cracks of Doom, Gollum attacked them. During the fight with Sam he knows that the Ring is going to be destroyed (hissing something like ‘Wicked master shouldn't hurt precious…’). Now how does he know? Frodo never told him… Sam didn't either… Gandalf knows the Ring can only be destroyed in the Cracks of Doom (chapter 2), having this knowledge most likely from Saruman, and since Gollum never visited the White Council…

I don't think that the fact that Gollum wore the Ring gives him this insight. In that case Sauron should have known his danger before Frodo claimed the Ring as well… Furthermore, Frodo, while possessing (but not wearing) the Ring, didn't even know where to find the Cracks, also arguing against a Ring-related insight in matters concerning the ring. So how DID Gollum know?

BTW Great Site!

–Peter Hohenstein

A: Here we are in the land of blind guessing I’m afraid. I can’t give a definite answer, but I’ll take a shot anyway.

If you recall, Gollum was held captive in Barad-dûr for some time. He was probably the most helpful informant the Dark Lord could have had, period. I would also venture that Gollum learned a thing or two on his end of the ordeal. He was captured by Orcs, led through the Black Gate, and interrogated cruelly. After meeting Sauron’s satisfaction and "making new friends" he was led across Gorgoroth, right past Mt. Doom, and was released at Cirith Ungol. Gollum discovered Shelob on his way out of Mordor, too. Gandalf actually said of him:

‘Wretched fool! In that land he would learn much, too much for his comfort.’

So maybe it was the many, many years of wearing the Ring that gave Gollum an instinctual, organic knowledge of Ring lore. His body and mind was twisted, even unto Sauron’s will; so it’s not a stretch to think that some "inner-knowledge" would rub off. I tend to think while Gollum was in Mordor he just paid attention to what was going on and learned enough to piece it together.

- Quickbeam

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Q: If Gollum only had six teeth (at least as of The Hobbit… perhaps he lost even more in the century since) how did he manage to bite off Frodo's finger?

–T. Devon Sharkey

A: Well, if you have three on top, three on bottom, and they're all sharp… I don't see the difficulty!!

- Anwyn

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Q: If I understand the whole thing right, Pippin and Merry grew large because they drank the Ents' water. Is this possible for all races? I mean, do all races grow? Are there any other stories that speak of men who drank the water to become larger? From where comes the source of the water? And finally not so seriously, did Shelob or the first spider-like creature Ungoliant gobble up a river of Ent water and grew huge?


A: It doesn't speak of any other race growing larger on Ent-draughts, but I speculate that any being who drank of the waters of the Ents would find themselves in better health and perhaps growing a bit. The only reference the story makes to anybody besides Merry and Pippin drinking the stuff is when one of the hobbits says, "But I hope the Ents have found time to brew some of their draughts from the mountain-springs, and we shall see Gandalf's beard curling when he returns." So most likely anybody who drinks these brews will be glowing with vitality. The source of the drink is river-water plus Entish secret formula!! No, seriously, it's all there in the quote. The drink is river-water that the Ents have done something special to. And no, I seriously doubt that Ungoliant's and Shelob's great girths were caused by Ent-draughts. Tolkien speaks of them gorging themselves on everything they could find; in the end even Light itself, spewing it out again in huge webs of darkness… and in all that gorging, they grew larger, but I'm thinkin' they were pretty huge to begin with. For spiders.

- Anwyn

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Q: It has been stated that Orcs originally were Elves whom Melkor twisted and marred in the deep torturous pits of Utumno. Now were these dark Orc/elves still immortal or did Melkor's malice shorten their lives? I have never read anywhere what the common life span of Orcs actually is (usually not long I gather due to their warlike ways, but I'm talking about natural death) would they live forever like elves if they were to never go to war? Are there still somewhere in the vast mountains the ORIGINAL Orcs, elves that are twisted and black and yet still full of the strength that the Original Eldar possessed? I wonder what your thoughts might be on these questions?


A: Wow, this is a real thought-provoker. I'm going solely on speculation here, but my gut feeling is that in all probability they would have huge life-spans if not cut short by an arrow or a sword from a foe OR a "friend," but that in all probability they would not be immortal. Now that I think of it, Darwin would have a field day with this… what could Melkor do to Elves that would create characteristics that would breed down through generations? We don't know. But regardless, I think it's safe to say that the process was not kind to the physical body, and perhaps the original twisted Elves eventually died. I would go one step farther and say that once they had been ruined, changed into Orcs, it would be improbable that the immortality of Elves would breed down. I would guess that although they can probably live to be quite old, in the end they will die, and really die, not just send their spirits to Mandos. I sometimes wonder if perhaps the original twisted Elves' souls went to Mandos, but I have to believe that their descendants' spirits, those of the "bred Orcs," bred not made, wouldn't.

- Anwyn

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Q: Why does everyone refer to the series as The Lord of the Rings? Tolkien calls it "the War of the Ring" at the end of his books… and the books are basically about Frodo, not Sauron, who is the ‘lord of the rings.’

–Lindsay Barker

A: To make a long answer short, the book is referred to as The Lord of the Rings because that is its title. Nothing I've ever read suggests that Tolkien did not title it that himself. It was written as one long book, and not as three, and therefore is not a "series," but one book under the one title. The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King were suggested by the editors, whose idea it also was to break the book up into three volumes, although it seems that Tolkien himself broke it up into "books," the Book I, Book II, etc. divisions you will find within the three volumes, and now published as separate volumes in the Millenium Edition.

As to why Tolkien gave the book this title, well, yes, the war that was fought was the war of the Ring, but the whole book was not entirely about the war, and everything that was done by Frodo, Aragorn, et. al., was done to circumvent or prevent the actions of Sauron, the lord of the Ring. I cannot claim to know what inspired him with this title, but to me it does not seem inappropriate or unapplicable.

- Anwyn

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Q: When Gandalf was jailed by Saruman, Gandalf noticed that Saruman had a ring. I assume this is a ring that Saruman made himself in the fires of Orthanc but maybe it was one of the Seven which Sauron gave to him for his services. Which is it? Secondly when Gandalf breaks the staff of Saruman why does he not also take the ring? For that matter why does Saruman not break the staff of Gandalf when he realizes Gandalf will not join him?

–Trevor Price

A: I have only speculation to offer on this one. True, Saruman’s ring is mentioned in Gandalf’s anecdote at the Council of Elrond, but not anywhere else in the books. The Seven had all been destroyed or reclaimed by Sauron. I would guess as you have done, that this ring was an example of Saruman’s tinkering with Ring Lore. I’m sure he had spent countless years searching through the secrets of Ring-making, and the results of his efforts may have been one or two trifles with some unique powers. However, not being a master as the original Elves of Hollin were, this ring Saruman bore was not considerable in quality or power. If it were, we would have heard more about it during the Scouring of the Shire.

Saruman’s staff, however, was definitely an implement of power and a symbol of his high station in the White Council. The ring Gandalf had noticed earlier on Saruman was not taken later because A) it wasn’t as important as the Staff, and B) he really didn’t get close enough to Saruman, as the treacherous old goat refused to come down from Orthanc. Breaking Saruman’s Staff was symbolic of him being cast out of the Council forever. His power relinquished; his effectiveness thus forfeit.

Honestly, I don’t think Saruman ever wanted to cast Gandalf out of the Order of Istari. He was still hoping, somewhere down the road, to convince Gandalf to join him. Or, in another light, Saruman never really had the true means to kick Gandalf out. He had betrayed his Order, and after that decision he could not redeem himself (see also the excellent Counterpoint where Anwyn explores this subject, "Justice, Mercy, and Redemption"). It was then Gandalf who became "the White" and had authority over all of the other Istari.

- Quickbeam

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Q: Why, since the One ring had no control over the Three given to the Elves (these being the only rings with no taint of evil in them), is the power of these rings undone when the One is destroyed? Along this line of thought, it doesn't make sense that the remaining great Elves of Middle-earth should decide to leave right after Sauron is defeated—you'd think they'd want to stick around, maybe start repopulating.

–Todd Aglialoro

A: Ah, but look carefully. Tolkien very clearly states that the One Ring DOES have control over the Three. The Three were not given to the Elves, they made them, and Sauron was deep in their councils when they were made. Once he saw how they were being made, he aided and advised in the making of the Seven and the Nine, and then, as we know, forged the One all on his own, allowing a large part of his own power to pass into it with the specific purpose of controlling all the others. I'm not going to quote the passage, but it's there. Sauron used his own life force, channeled into the Ring so that its force would be made similar to the forces of the Three, Seven and Nine in order to control them and their users. The Elves did the best they could; they hid the Three from him, and I believe this lessened his power over them, but what the rest of the story says to me is that even though the Three were made separate from the One, the One had a part in the doings of ALL the Rings, that it lent a part of its power, perhaps the part that was forged with the knowledge and skill Sauron gleaned from the Elves, to the creating/guarding of the Elves' works, and thus, when the power of the One passed away, the things created with the Three would fade, because they didn't have that "extra power" to draw on. Now don't write me irate letters stating that the One was evil and nothing good could be done with it. I know this. I'm simply theorizing that perhaps the life-force of Sauron was a sustaining factor behind the power of ALL the Rings, and that because the wielders of the Three were purely good, they were able to use their power for good, but that when the One was gone, the Three would fade. Now, for the second part of your question: I believe that without the power of the Three, the power of the Elves in Middle-earth was greatly lessened. Power to make their realms special places where evil did not enter. The deciding factor on this, though, is that Tolkien clearly states that there would be a time of the Firstborn and a time of the Followers. That is, when the power of the Three passed away, that signaled an end to the dominion of Elves in Middle-earth, and with the reclaiming of the throne by Aragorn, the dominion of Men was at hand. They were simply "going with the flow," as Elves generally do.

- Anwyn

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Q: I was wondering, how could the Northern Kingdom have been re-established by King Elessar? In Eriador to my knowledge there were only some few Rangers (and perhaps a few hidden villages so as to continue the begetting of rangers). As to a migration from the south; Minas-Tirith was underpopulated and the measly troops sent in from the neighboring regions are a tithe of what was expected (even added up it does not amount to very much). So if Minas Anor were returned into a state of glory Ithilien repopulated (at least enough for Emyn Arnen), I can't quite figure how Arnor could be considered as being restored and Annúminas rebuilt (and with what resources)?


A: Good question, but one has to remember the factor of time when considering these events. The Ring was destroyed March 25, Shire Reckoning 1419. Seventeen years later in S.R. 1436, we learn that King Elessar went north to visit Lake Evendim (see Appendix B, The Tale of Years, in The Return of the King). We assume he was there to survey the ruins of Annúminas and assess the land, making plans for it to be restored. I can only guess that the process of breaking new ground and ordering the new City’s plans started at that time.

In S.R. 1541 Elessar died. That’s 105 long years between his 1st visit to restore the North Kingom and his final hour as King… and a lot can happen in a century! Just compare with a century of American history, let’s say from 1800 to 1900.

  • 1803: Jefferson makes the "Louisiana Purchase"
  • 1804-05: Lewis and Clark’s expedition to the Pacific
  • 1819: Florida acquired from Spain
  • 1836: Texas wins independence from Mexico
  • 1861-65: American Civil War is fought
  • 1862: Emancipation Proclamation
  • 1867: Purchase of Alaska
  • 1898: Spanish-American War
  • 1898: Hawaii annexed

Thinking along those lines, within a hundred years power can shift, cities can be destroyed and rebuilt, great territories can be expanded, and freed slaves can become part of the populace. Even in Middle-earth.

Elessar gave the lands of Nurn to the freed slaves of Mordor, and peace was made with the Easterlings and Haradrim. It’s doubtful that these thousands of people stayed locked away within their native lands, even though they were once enemies. Movement, migration, and new settlements would certainly come to pass throughout Gondor and Ithilien. In peacetime there would likely be a terrific baby boom in all of Middle-earth! With no wars to fight and young soldiers staying at home, what else are they going to do but thrive, make babies, and rebuild their civilization? People were no longer afraid to travel in the open country, so agricultural and mining trade probably flourished in Eriador. With trade routes re-invigorated and safe to traverse, Arnor would have been readily connected to her neighbor the Shire and with her sister in the south.

I think the restoration of the Reunited Kingdom continued actively for many centuries into the Fourth Age, long after Elessar’s death. Given enough time, there would be plenty of resources and migration of people to accomplish this.

- Quickbeam

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Q: Was that old guy in Fangorn really Saruman? What was he doing? Why did the horses seem happy to see him? Why was he wearing a hat?

–Jacob Vaccaro

A: Yes that was actually Saruman. From The Two Towers, Chapter 5, "The White Rider," we follow Gandalf speaking to Gimli:

‘You certainly did not see me,’ answered Gandalf, ‘therefore I must guess that you saw Saruman. Evidently we look so much alike that your desire to make an incurable dent in my hat must be excused.’

What the treacherous man was doing in that part of the country is something I can only speculate at. I assume that the mighty Uruk-hai were going to rendezvous with another battalion of orcs outside the eaves of Fangorn Forest. Uglúk has this to say from Chapter 3, "The Uruk-hai":

‘Still there’s one thing the fine fellows don’t know: Mauhúr and his lads are in the forest, and they should turn up any time now.’

I imagine Saruman was very eager to meet with Mauhúr’s band and Uglúk’s returning troops at this designated spot, just to see if they had captured any hobbits. As we all know, things did not turn out quite as he planned them. In the middle of the night, Saruman would have discovered where the Riders charged and slew his Orcs, and he probably went searching through the darkness for further signs. Imagine his chagrin: all his best Orcs dead, no survivors, and no hobbit-captives to claim. So much for the White Hand.

But it is clear that the horses were not happy to see Saruman. Arod and Hasufel broke from their pickets and ran at Saruman’s appearance. Or perhaps the wizard meant to inconvenience the Three Friends by spooking the horses deliberately. All things being equal, it was Shadowfax that made them whinny in delight. It is explained later in "The White Rider":

‘Now I understand a part of last night’s riddle,’ said Legolas as he sprang lightly on Arod’s back. ‘Whether they fled at first in fear, or not, our horses met Shadowfax, their chieftain, and greeted him with joy. Did you know that he was at hand, Gandalf?’

‘Yes, I knew,’ said the wizard. ‘I bent my thought upon him, bidding him to make haste…’

As to Saruman wearing a hat: well, why not? Who says a wizard wouldn’t know how to accessorize?

- Quickbeam

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Q: Here is a question I have always wondered about: Would the Balrog of Moria be under the control of Sauron, or would the Balrog be too powerful to be controlled by Sauron? I would assume that the Balrog would have felt the presence of Sauron on Middle-earth, and would have gone to him in Mordor. So why didn't he?


A: Well, I’m curious about this too. Creatures that were used by Morgoth in the First Age mostly died at the time of his fall. Allow me to quote from Karen Wynn Fonstad’s splendid volume The Atlas of Middle Earth:

Of his vast hosts, few outlived the battle and destruction… The evil servants that had been bred or twisted by Morgoth were mostly destroyed: Balrogs, dragons, Trolls, Orcs, and wolves. They were all creatures of deep, dark places, and those that remained sought such abodes thereafter… Later they may have found unoccupied caves… The only Balrog mentioned in later times was the one that fled to Moria and was found in the early Third Age by the deep-delving Dwarves.

From this we assume that the demonic thing only fled for its life when the Host of the West cast down Thangorodrim… thinking nothing but to find a safe hole. But let’s also look at The Return of the King, Appendix A, Part III, "Durin’s Folk":

The Dwarves delved deep at that time, seeking beneath Barazinbar for mithril… Thus they roused from sleep a thing of terror… a Balrog of Morgoth.

Then there’s a footnote that says:

Or released it from prison; it may well be that it had already been awakened by the malice of Sauron.

So there you have it. The Balrog fled to the East and lay completely dormant, like an egg not yet hatched, until the Dwarves stumbled upon it. Maybe it had recently awakened, maybe not. Perhaps Sauron was content to let it reside in Moria, destroying the Dwarves for him, without him having to lift a finger.

I honestly don’t think Sauron could control the Balrog, not as he specifically would control armies or slaves. They were both servants of Morgoth, ‘peers’ in their original relationship to him, though Sauron was certainly a greater power than a Balrog, in several respects. It’s fun to speculate what would have happened if the Balrog responded to Sauron as it had it’s original master so many centuries earlier.

- Quickbeam

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Q: Are there any direct or indirect references to actual sightings of Entwives anywhere in LOTR?

–Dave Davis

Q: Did JRRT ever give any hints as to what happened to the Entwives?

–Garrett Brown

A: To be blunt and brief, no. Nobody in Lord of the Rings is said to have seen an Entwife; Treebeard asks the Hobbits if they know anything about the Entwives, but they answer him in the negative, and that is virtually all that is said of them.

- Anwyn

However, there is an interesting passage in The Fellowship that suggests… only suggests mind you, something Ent-ish. Look in Chapter 2, "The Shadow of the Past" and read the dialogue between Samwise and Ted Sandyman as they debate the merit of recent rumors. Seems somebody saw a giant Tree-man away beyond the North Moors "walking seven yards to a stride…" Take a look and decide for yourself.

- Quickbeam

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Q: Here is one that has bothered me for some time. In The Hobbit Gandalf and the dwarves use the High Pass which is just a little north of Rivendell to cross the Misty Mountains. In The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship goes far south and first tries the Redhorn Pass, and after their failure to use that pass they feel their only choice is to go through Moria.

My question is why did they not try the High Pass first, and then travel south on the east side of the mountains? (They could have even traveled faster by using boats on the Anduin at this point, and floated right to the east side of Lothlorien.) At the end of the Hobbit they state: "The goblins of the Misty Mountains were now few and terrified, and hidden in the deepest holes they could find." Had Goblin Town on the High Pass been repopulated during the time between the Battle of the Five Armies and the time of the Fellowship? I could never find any reference to this.

–Dennis P. Green

A: The plans of the Fellowship were probably debated at length behind closed doors in Rivendell. The plans were made in secret, I suspect, to keep as few people as possible aware of the Ring. Secrecy was also the reason they went south along the western side of the Misty Mountains. Let’s look at Chapter 3, "The Ring Goes South" to learn more:

Their purpose was to hold this course west of the Mountains for many miles and days …they hoped in this way to escape the notice of unfriendly eyes. The spies of Sauron had hitherto seldom been seen in this empty country, and the paths were little known except to the people of Rivendell.

I have no notion of the Orcs re-populating Goblin Town, rather I think the High Pass was one of the most frequently used routes over the Mountains. Better to avoid areas that were commonly trafficked, Gandalf was thinking.

- Quickbeam

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Q: I have read The Hobbit and the LotR books, but no other Tolkien works. I was reading the Q&A and I couldn't help wondering what a Maiar is. Could you help me out with that?

–Seth Haesecke

A: Tolkien states in The Silmarillion:

With the Valar came other spirits whose being also began before the World, of the same order as the Valar, but of less degree. These are the Maiar, the people of the Valar, and their servants and helpers.

The Valar and Maiar are both created beings, but beings of spirit and of great power. The Valar had a part in creating the world with Iluvatar, and the Maiar are their helpers and servants. Gandalf, Saruman, the Balrog, and Sauron himself are all examples of Maiar in Middle-earth, and that alone should make it clear that not all Maiar are created equal in power and influence, that among their ranks there are some lesser and some greater. It has also been argued that Tom Bombadil belongs in the list of Maiar.

- Anwyn

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Q: LOTR wrestles with the timeless struggle of Good and Evil, there are spiritual entities akin to a Creator—God, angels, etc..; but is there any indication in Tolkien's works of specific theological understanding of the peoples of Middle-earth? Was there a form of worship or prayer, or a knowledge and service to an Absolute Authority?

–Garrett Brown

A: Good question. It all depends on your definition of "specific theological understanding" and "worship." First of all, The Silmarillion makes clear the hierarchy of supernatural beings: There was Eru, the One, Iluvatar, Creator of All. Beneath him were his created servants, the Ainur, some of whom became the Valar, the Powers of the World, who went down into Middle-earth to help in its creation, each doing the part that he/she was best at, and staying to guard it, to fight off Melkor (or Morgoth), and to defend and guide the Children of Iluvatar, Elves and Men. There is even a sentence in Sil that states that men afterwards considered them gods, but it is equally clear that the true Power rested with Iluvatar. Now, as far as worship or prayer, what there was of it seems to me to be manifested in the songs of the Elves. "Snow White, Snow White, O Lady Clear! …Ah Elbereth, Gilthoniel…" etc. These songs refer to Varda, queen of the stars, companion of Manwe, who was chief among the Valar. So it seems to me that if you're talking about an orthodox church structure, obviously there was none. But the Elves, at least, were very conscious of the Powers, the Valar, and through them the Creator, and made this clear in their songs.

Another interesting thing to me, on my re-reading The Silmarillion, when it talks about the gifts bestowed upon Man, it seems that Men were provided with more free will than were Elves. Elves seem to be able to go and come as they please, and to affect their own destinies, but men as a group are capable of causing much more chaos, simply because most Elves innately will just "go with the flow," so to speak, while the men are making waves. So perhaps the Elves had less need of structured worship, since they tend towards the good already. Worship/prayer among the men, well, they seem to have far less overt knowledge of the Valar and Eru than the Elves. The only worship I can remember being spoken of is when it speaks of the Sleepless Dead of Erech having been men who worshipped Sauron in the Dark Years. Beyond that, I think Tolkien was projecting the fact that most men knew the difference between good and evil, and made various choices in various situations. It doesn't speak much of what happens to them after they're dead; no system of heaven and hell such as Christians have in our world. That's another very interesting thing to me about the way Tolkien sets it up: death is the Doom/Gift of Men, and NOBODY but Iluvatar knows what happens to the souls of men when they've died. Not the Valar, and not the Elves.

- Anwyn


MANY readers, too numerous to name here, have written to point out what I have overlooked; essentially that in Numenor, there very definitely was an established form of worship and that the Numenorean Kings made pilgrimages to the top of the Meneltarma, the highest mountain, which was sacred to Eru. I need to brush up on my Numenorean history!! However, in Lord of the Rings itself, there is no mention of formal worship in Middle-earth. Songs of praise from the Elves to the Valar are clearly in evidence; beyond that is speculation and interpretation. Thanks, all.

- Anwyn

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Questions 12/07/99
Quick navigation for questions asked this month.
 • Additional Help from the Ents
 • Arwen's Back-Story
 • England and ME?
 • Gandalf concealing Narya?
 • Gandalf's Fallibility?
 • Gandalf visits Bombadil
 • Gollum's knowledge of Ring Lore
 • Gollum's Teeth
 • Growing from Ent Draught
 • Immortal Orcs?
 • Why Lord of the Rings?
 • Power of Saruman's Ring
 • Power of the 3 Rings
 • Re-establishing the North
 • Saruman really in Fangorn?
 • Sauron controls the Balrog?
 • Sightings of Entwives
 • Why not High Pass?
 • What exactly are Maiar?
 • Worship or prayer in ME?


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