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Found an old FAQ from the Tolkien Newsgroup

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 25, 2013 1:03 am    Post subject: Found an old FAQ from the Tolkien Newsgroup Reply with quote

Anyone remember Newsgroups? Usenet?
I used to live on those forums.

Here's something I saved in it's entirety.


From: "Steuard Jensen" <>
Subject: Tolkien Newsgroups FAQ
Date: Wednesday, October 09, 2002 12:28 PM

Posted-By: auto-faq 3.3 (Perl 5.005)
Archive-name: tolkien/newsgroups
Posting-Frequency: 28 days (WWW pointer posted every 4 days)


(Created 17 Aug 1999)
(Last updated 11 Sep 2002)

For many years, the Tolkien newsgroups have been home to a pair of
excellent Frequently Asked Questions lists compiled by William D.B.
Loos. These sources contain a wealth of information, but are no longer
maintained (the last update seems to have been in July 1996). This
means that quite a few issues of current interest to the groups are not
fully addressed in those documents.

This FAQ addresses part of this problem by providing information
that is useful to new participants in the group. It contains general
information about the Tolkien newsgroups and netiquette, references to
the earlier FAQs, and brief overviews of many of the debates and
discussions that arise here frequently. The official HTML version of
the FAQ is on the web at

The plain text version is posted to Usenet every four weeks and is also
available on the web, at

I would like to give my sincere thanks to the many, many people on
the newsgroups who have given criticism, suggestions, and encouragement
as I wrote this FAQ. This project would never have succeeded without
their wonderful support.

Steuard Jensen

Table of Contents

Sections/questions marked: * have been revised since the last release
** are new since the last release

I. Changes Since the Last Release *

II. Newsgroups and Netiquette

A. Information on the Tolkien Newsgroups
1. What newsgroups are we talking about again?
2. Why are there two groups?

3. Do I have to have a Ph.D. in Tolkienology to post?
4. What questions and topics are appropriate?
5. What does a tilde (~) in the subject mean? and
Is it acceptable to post messages with sexual content?

6. What common mistakes should I try to avoid?
7. What do all the abbreviations used on the groups mean?

B. The Basics of Netiquette
1. What is the proper subject line for my post?
2. What should I do when replying to an earlier article?
3. When should I "cross-post" to multiple newsgroups?
4. I am able to post my messages with HTML formatting. Should I?
5. If someone insults me or otherwise makes me upset, should I
flame them back?
6. Even if my reputation and honor are at stake?

7. Where can I go for more information on netiquette, and on
Usenet in general?

III. Debates and Discussion

A. Story External Questions
1. What is the best order in which to read the books?
2. What books about Middle-earth are considered "canonical"? *
3. Which are "The Two Towers"?
4. Which books _about_ Tolkien are good, and which aren't? **
5. Is Middle-earth Medieval?
6. Was Tolkien racist? Were his works?

7. Are there electronic versions of Tolkien's books?
8. Where can I report copyright violations that I observe?

B. Story Internal Questions: Creatures and Characters
1. Did Balrogs have wings?
2. Could Balrogs fly?
3. What was Tom Bombadil? *
4. Did Elves have pointed ears?
5. What happened to Elves after they died?
6. Was Glorfindel of Rivendell the same as Glorfindel of Gondolin? *
7. Did Dwarf women have beards?
8. Was there "telepathy" in Middle-earth? **

9. Did Sauron have a physical form during LotR?
10. What were the names of the Nazgul?
11. What was Gothmog (the lieutenant of Morgul)?
12. What was the origin of Orcs? *
13. What was the origin of Saruman's Uruk-hai? *
14. What was the origin of Trolls?
15. What were the giants (seen by Bilbo in _The Hobbit_)?

C. Story Internal Questions: History and Happenings
1. Why didn't they just have an Eagle fly the Ring to Mt. Doom?
2. Were the barrow blades magical? In what way?
3. Why didn't the Nazgul take the Ring at Weathertop?
4. Who killed the Witch-king, Merry or Eowyn?
5. Did Sam follow Frodo into the West?
6. What is known about the Blue Wizards?

7. Who was aware that a Balrog lived in Moria?
8. Did Elves and Dwarves generally get along?
9. Where was the Ring when Numenor was destroyed?
10. Who was the oldest inhabitant of Middle-earth?

IV. External Resources

A. Where else can I find general information about Middle-earth?
1. The Tolkien Meta-FAQ
2. The Tolkien FAQ and LessFAQ
3. The "FAQ of the Rings"
4. The Letters FAQ
5. Google's Usenet archive

B. Where can I learn more about Tolkien's languages?

C. Stories of Middle-earth in many forms
1. What editions of Tolkien's books in the US are best? *
2. What is known the current _Lord of the Rings_ movies?
3. Where can I find out about music related to Middle-earth?



Two new questions have been added, one on secondary works and the
other on "telepathy" in Middle-earth. Just as significant, the
discussion of Saruman's Uruk-hai has been rewritten almost from
scratch. A passing comment about female Orcs has been added into the
question on Orc origins. The Bombadil question now more firmly rejects
the Eru theory. The Glorfindel question now includes a reference to
the question on Elves' fate after death. A comment about _Artist and
Illustrator_ has been added to the section on canonical texts.

Since the last release, a comment on _The Annotated Hobbit_ has been
added to the question on which edition is best, and _Artist and
Illustrator_ has been added to the list of secondary works.



When discussing Tolkien (or anything else) online, it is important
to know at least a little about the "culture" of the discussion forum
that you are participating in. The information in this section is
intended to give an idea of "appropriate" behavior on the Tolkien
Usenet newsgroups. To make our discussions as enjoyable as possible,
every participant should try to be familiar with what follows.



1. What newsgroups are we talking about again?

Usenet is home to quite a few newsgroups discussing Tolkien and his
works. However, the two most widely read and distributed of these are
rec.arts.books.tolkien and, commonly abbreviated either
r.a.b.t or RABT and a.f.t or AFT, respectively.

The official rec.arts.books.tolkien charter can be found at does not have a formal charter.

2. Why are there two groups?

Originally, AFT was the only Tolkien newsgroup on Usenet. RABT was
created (when the approval vote passed on 26 Mar 1993) as a replacement
for AFT which would be carried by a larger fraction of news servers.
However, AFT was never removed, and both groups currently enjoy
substantial readership. While only RABT has a formal charter (see
question II.A.1 for reference), the two groups are virtually identical
in intended content.

Many participants see a tendency for RABT to be somewhat more
"scholarly" in tone while AFT is a bit more "conversational", and some
suggest that this distinction is useful and should be encouraged.
Other participants draw less of a distinction between the two groups,
and often believe that a difference in focus would be both undesirable
and impossible to achieve. In practice, everyone decides for
themselves how they want to treat the two groups, and most people
generally don't complain one way or the other.

3. Do I have to have a Ph.D. in Tolkienology to post?

By no means! People with any amount of Tolkien "lore" are welcome
to participate. It is advisable, however, to have read _The Hobbit_
and _The Lord of the Rings_ before spending much time here, as
otherwise you run the risk of many, many spoilers for both books.

When you do participate in discussions, just use whatever Tolkien
knowledge you have. Occasionally, others will cite sources (often
obscure but just as often authoritative) that weaken or disprove your
arguments. When this happens (as it does to every one of us), nobody
will think less of you for not knowing the reference; treat it as a
chance to learn something new about Middle-earth.

4. What questions and topics are appropriate?

Virtually any topic related (even distantly) to Tolkien and his
works is fair game. If you post a purely "factual" question (like "How
many Ringwraiths were there?"), it's a good idea to explain why you're
asking: we periodically see questions from students who want us to do
their quizzes or homework for them, and the last thing we want to do is
help people to avoid reading the books!

It is generally appreciated if articles that have absolutely nothing
to do with Tolkien have subject lines beginning with "OT:" ("Off
Topic"). The Tolkien newsgroups are a sufficiently social community
that threads often do drift away from their initial topics, and while
this should in no way be discouraged, it is polite to label it when it

Binary files, such as images or sounds, are NEVER appropriate in a
non-binaries newsgroup. If you wish to share a binary file with other
participants in the Tolkien groups, you have two main options. One is
to find an appropriate newsgroup in the alt.binaries.* hierarchy, post
the file there, and then post a message here telling us where to look.
Another (more common) method is to put the file on the World Wide Web
and post the URL on the newsgroups.

5. What does a tilde (~) in the subject mean? and
Is it acceptable to post messages with sexual content?

Articles posted to these newsgroups occasionally contain comments
that some participants consider inappropriate for younger readers.
After much discussion, most of the participants agreed that messages
with _sexual_ content would be marked with a tilde in the subject line.
Individual participants can then create killfiles to screen out such
messages as desired. While not everyone agrees that such a system is
beneficial, following this convention is the polite thing to do. The
newsgroup charter recommends the use of ROT-13 "encryption" for this
purpose, but this has become less common.

6. What common mistakes should I try to avoid?

By and large, the participants in the Tolkien newsgroups try to
judge others based on their ideas rather than on details of grammar and
posting style. However, there are a few types of simple mistakes that
tend to cause some level of bias and annoyance among many group
members, which in turn can distract them from your real message. Most
of these are covered in the "Netiquette" section below.

One common mistake of this type that is not related to netiquette is
confusing the singular and plural forms of common Elvish words. On the
Tolkien newsgroups, these words are so familiar that the phrase "Manwe
is a Valar" sounds just as jarring and strange as "Finrod is an Elves."
To reduce this problem, a list of some of the most commonly confused
singular/plural pairs is given below. Note the patterns!

Singular: Vala Maia Elda Noldo Sinda Teler Istar Adan
Plural: Valar Maiar Eldar Noldor Sindar Teleri Istari Edain

Another issue that arises periodically is whether or not _The Lord
of the Rings_ should be referred to as a "trilogy". Tolkien said quite
clearly in Letter #165 that "The book is _not_ of course a 'trilogy'",
and some people make a point of correcting those who use the term.
However, in Letter #252, Tolkien himself refers to "my trilogy", so
most of us agree that using the term is an acceptable shorthand, if
nothing else.

7. What do all the abbreviations used on the groups mean?

Some names and phrases come up so frequently on the Tolkien
newsgroups that they are often abbreviated for convenience. A few of
the very most common are defined below; these definitions are excerpted
from Sir Confused-a-Lot's AFT Glossary, at:

JRRT: John Ronald Reuel Tolkien
ME: Middle-earth
LotR: _The Lord of the Rings_
FotR: _The Fellowship of the Ring_
TT: _The Two Towers_
RotK: _The Return of the King_
Silm.: _The Silmarillion_
UT: _Unfinished Tales_
HoMe: the "History of Middle-earth" series
BoLT: _The Book of Lost Tales_
Letters: _The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien_

NG: Newsgroup
TEUNC: Tolkien Eccentric Unusual Nut Cases, an eGroup of
Tolkien fans, some of whom frequent the newsgroups
LOL: Laughing Out Loud
ROTFL: Rolling On The Floor Laughing



1. What is the proper subject line for my post?

Make sure that the "Subject:" line of your post matches the topic
that you are discussing. Be concise, yet specific: subject lines such
as "The Lord of the Rings" or "Tolkien" give the groups no useful
information about the contents of your post. Note that this does not
only apply to the first post in a thread: if you see that the subject
line no longer matches the topic of a thread, change it when you reply!
Also, follow the "OT:" convention for off-topic posts (mentioned in
question II.A.4 above).

When you do change the subject line, it is polite to indicate the
subject of the previous post. For example, "Balrog Wings" might become
"Balrog Flight (was Balrog Wings)" and then "Eagles (was Balrog
Flight)". This helps people follow the history of the thread.

2. What should I do when replying to an earlier article?

First and foremost, make sure to retain the attribution of any
quoted text, so others know who said the things you are replying to.
Almost equally important, make sure that you trim the previous post as
much as possible:

* If you are replying to one specific comment in the previous
article, delete all of the previous text except that comment. If
the comment is at all long, try to trim it down to its essence.
Type your reply directly beneath the quoted comment.

* If you are replying to several distinct points individually, quote
each one as above and type your reply immediately below it (but
above the next point).

* If you are replying to a long section that cannot be easily
trimmed down (for example, an original poem or story), quote only
its first and last lines (and perhaps put "[snip]" or "..." on a
line in between the two). If there are particular pieces that
you want to respond to individually, do so as described above.

There are two general rules of thumb to follow in connection with
the above guidelines:

* Any article you post should have more lines of new text than lines
of quoted text. It is generally acceptable to ignore this rule
if the entire post (including basic headers and any signature) is
short enough to fit on a single 24 line screen.

* Any comments specifically replying to the previous article should
come _below_ the relevant part of the previous article. This
makes reading the article more like reading a conversation, and
therefore much easier to follow.

Finally, make sure to keep the subject line up to date, as discussed
in question II.B.1.

3. When should I "cross-post" to multiple newsgroups?

Generally, you should post an article to the single most appropriate
group: a question about _The Hobbit_ is more appropriate on
rec.arts.books.tolkien than on rec.arts.books. However, there are
cases when several groups are appropriate: a discussion of the
influence of Tolkien's faith on his writings could be interesting to
readers of either soc.religion.christian.roman-catholic or
rec.arts.books.tolkien. (Cases in which more than two or three groups
are truly appropriate are extremely rare!)

In such cases, it is almost always better to "cross-post" the
article to multiple groups than to post separately to each. To do
this, list all of the relevant groups together on the "Newsgroups:"
line, separated by commas but _no_ spaces (many posts here list
"Newsgroups:,rec.arts.books.tolkien"). Cross-posting
has several advantages, the most important being that responses to a
cross-posted article are also cross-posted. That ensures that everyone
involved in the discussion sees every reply.

Some internet service providers (notably AOL) misguidedly forbid
cross-posting, probably because _inappropriate_ cross-posting is very
bad netiquette and is often used to "spam" many groups at once. If you
have this problem, it may be better to choose just one "best" group for
your post than to post separate copies to multiple groups.

4. I am able to post my messages with HTML formatting. Should I?

Generally, no. Many of us use simple text-based programs to read
news, and posts with HTML formatting can be very difficult to read.
You can generally turn off this behavior from the "Preferences" or
"Options" section of your newsreader. For some newsreaders, you will
need to change more than one setting to completely eliminate this

5. If someone insults me or otherwise makes me upset, should I flame
them back?


6. Even if my reputation and honor are at stake?

Feel free to post any corrections or differences in opinion that you
feel are necessary. Feel free to indicate that you are hurt, unhappy,
or insulted because of their comments. But by no means escalate the
budding flame war, and try your hardest to be polite in your response:
this tends to get the group's sentiments on your side far better than
any exchange of name-calling ever could. People are usually fairly
good at recognizing when someone is being terribly unfair. Yes, it is
undoubtedly your right to flame if you want to, but the vast majority
of the group would be happier if you did not.

In general, try to give others the benefit of the doubt: with only
text to go on, it's hard to judge their real intent. Could you have
misread the insulting lines in their post? Could they have been
speaking tongue in cheek? Maybe they only meant to tease you, not
realizing that you would really be insulted. Assuming the worst is a
depressing way to live one's life.

Finally, be particularly careful not to reply to a "troll", someone
who intentionally fishes for arguments and flames. These people seem
to take great personal delight in inspiring people to anger or
indignation; the best reaction to them is generally to ignore them

7. Where can I go for more information on netiquette, and on Usenet in

One of the best places to start has always been the newsgroup
news.announce.newusers. This group is home to a wide range of articles
that provide introductory information about many aspects of Usenet
news. Unfortunately, most of these articles are no longer being posted
regularly to the group. It may be more effective to read archived
copies of them at

Read the "Welcome to Usenet!" article there first.

The information on netiquette and on Usenet in general in the
news.announce.newusers articles remains very relevant today, but those
articles are several years old. More recent information on similar
topics can be found at the web sites associated with the
news.newusers.questions newsgroup. A list of these sites around the
world can be found at

(among many other places).



A great many questions about Tolkien and his books arise repeatedly
on the Tolkien newsgroups. In general, the starting point of each
debate is the same every time, and it takes a long time for the
discussion to reach "new material." In the worst cases, bitter and
longstanding arguments about the basics get in the way before new
progress can be made at all.

The purpose of a FAQ is generally to avoid this problem, by setting
down the basics in a common place so that the discussion can deal with
new issues from the start. However, it is very difficult to balance
the need for conciseness with the need for completeness: many debates
that repeatedly appear on the Tolkien newsgroups have generated very
large amounts of "known territory."

This FAQ provides only brief summaries of these debates, which means
that many of their subtleties will be omitted for the sake of brevity.
Most of these topics have generated a great deal of discussion between
many intelligent people, but there are still cases where we do not
agree on the answer. In these cases, it is extremely unlikely that any
unambiguous "proof" of one position exists. With this in mind, try to
be respectful toward those who disagree with you. To get more
information on the usual content of common discussions, it is often
helpful to browse those discussions themselves at the Google Groups
Usenet archive (see question IV.A.5 for more information).

Finally, be sure to read question III.A.2, dealing with "canonical"
texts. This FAQ addresses only the state of Middle-earth after LotR
was written, which corresponds roughly to the material included in the
published _Silmarillion_. Details from earlier versions of the
mythology will not be discussed in this document (and are generally
given very limited weight in debates about the later state of the



1. What is the best order in which to read the books?

This depends on each person's personal preferences. Unless you
strongly dislike stories written for children, most recommend reading
_The Hobbit_ first. _The Lord of the Rings_ is certainly next. If you
enjoy any part of the Appendices to LotR, there will be things in
Tolkien's other books that you will appreciate; most would suggest
reading _The Silmarillion_ and _Unfinished Tales_ next, in some order.
For more details (and more books), you may want to look at the Custom
Tolkien Book List, on the web at

(This URL redirects to the longer and messier URL of the actual list.)

2. What books about Middle-earth are considered "canonical"?

A "canonical" text is one which is believed to provide authoritative
information about Middle-earth. By and large, all agree that _The Lord
of the Rings_ is a canonical text, and most assign equal or near equal
weight to _The Hobbit_ (the other books about Middle-earth published in
Tolkien's lifetime are treated similarly). However, due to heavy and
unmarked posthumous editing, _The Silmarillion_ is considered by many
_not_ to be canonical.

People put various amounts of trust in the many drafts and essays in
_Unfinished Tales_ and the "History of Middle-earth" series. In cases
where Tolkien's intent seems particularly stable and clear, some trust
these sources almost as much as _The Hobbit_ and LotR themselves. In
practice, this means that most of the more trustworthy material is
found in _Unfinished Tales_ and in volumes X-XII of the HoMe series.
Opinions on how much to trust _The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien_ are
mixed, but its contents are generally respected as long as they are not
contradicted by other (more canonical) texts. The pictures in _J.R.R.
Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator_ by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull
may also be considered somewhat canonical.

It is important to note that many aspects of Middle-earth changed
substantially over the course of Tolkien's life. Because of this,
facts taken from the early versions of the mythology can be misleading
or just plain wrong when used to draw conclusions about LotR or later
versions of the mythology. This means that while the early versions
can provide valuable hints about Tolkien's thoughts on an issue, they
are rarely considered to provide definitive evidence for any position.

3. Which are "The Two Towers"?

Tolkien was never very happy with the title. In Letters #140 and
#143 he considers many interpretations of it, each with its own
rationale, and even comments that it could be left ambiguous. It
seems, however, that he eventually settled on one interpretation.

_J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator_ includes Tolkien's own
final drawing for the cover of _The Two Towers_, which clearly shows
Minas Morgul and Orthanc. These names are also given in the note at
the end of _The Fellowship of the Ring_ in three-volume editions of
LotR. Even if Tolkien did not write that note himself, he did see and
approve it before it was published (as documented in Wayne Hammond's
_J.R.R. Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography_).

4. Which books _about_ Tolkien are good, and which aren't?

A few disclaimers. First, this is naturally a very subjective
question, and what follows is largely a matter of individual opinion.
This list was gleaned from discussions on the newsgroups and it
reflects some level of consensus, but no verdict was unanimous. Second,
this list is _very_ incomplete, but there simply isn't space to list
all of the excellent scholarship on Tolkien that has been produced.
Unfortunately, this means that only books will be included, and I will
focus on only the best known of those (and even then, I'm sure some are

With that being said, these are some of the best secondary works
about Tolkien, in no particular order. I have included general
descriptions for books whose titles do not make their content clear.

* _The Complete Guide to Middle-earth_, by Robert Foster. A
detailed and very trustworthy glossary of people, places, and
things in _The Hobbit_, LotR, and _The Silmarillion_, including
page references to the original texts.

* _[J.R.R.] Tolkien: A Biography_, by Humphrey Carpenter. (The
initials are not part of the title in the USA.)

* _The Annotated Hobbit_, by J.R.R. Tolkien, annotated by Douglas A.
Anderson. Textual history and general comments (be sure to get
the recent second edition).

* _J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator_ by Wayne Hammond and
Christina Scull. Pictures by Tolkien and accompanying

* _The Road to Middle-earth_ and _J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the
Century_, by Tom Shippey. Literary analysis and criticism.

* _Splintered Light_ and _A Question of Time_, by Verlyn Flieger.
Literary analysis and criticism.

* _Tolkien's Legendarium_, ed. Verlyn Flieger and Carl F. Hostetter.
Literary analysis and criticism related to the "History of
Middle-earth" series (and Tolkien's other works). Some find
parts of this book to be a good introduction to those books.

A notable book whose status is ambiguous is _The Atlas of
Middle-earth_, by Karen Wynn Fonstad. It is the best general Tolkien
atlas available, covering the full history of Middle-earth, and in most
cases Fonstad has done well in extrapolating detailed topographic maps
from Tolkien's texts and rougher originals. However, there are a fair
number of minor errors in her research, and it can sometimes be
difficult to tell what level of justification exists for her maps'

Finally, what follow are a few books that many Tolkien scholars
avoid. All of them can be enjoyable to read when taken on their own,
but they are not entirely trustworthy guides to Tolkien's Middle-earth
and are generally ignored in scholarly debates. Because I am not
comfortable speaking poorly of others' work without justification, I
have provided links to further discussion for each of these titles.

* _A Tolkien Bestiary_, by David Day.

* _The Tolkien Companion_, by J.E.A. Tyler.

* _The Languages of Tolkien's Middle-earth_, by Ruth Noel.

5. Is Middle-earth Medieval?

Tolkien's works draw from quite a few periods of human history, and
many aspects of Middle-earth distinctly resemble their real-world
counterparts in the Middle-ages. However, there are substantial
discrepancies in society and culture that indicate that other periods
in history also made large contributions (as one example, in Letter
#211 Tolkien compared some aspects of the society of Gondor to that of
ancient Egypt). The relative influence of Medieval and other periods
has been hotly contested.

6. Was Tolkien racist? Were his works?

Some people find what they consider clear indications of racist
attitudes in Tolkien's works. Others argue that those attitudes are
not so clear, or that they do not exist at all. There are indications
that in his everyday life, Tolkien was if anything less racist than

7. Are there electronic versions of Tolkien's books?

For many aspects of Tolkien scholarship, it would be convenient to
have an electronic version of the books (this would make full text
searches feasible, for example). However, the Tolkien Estate has not
chosen to authorize any electronic versions, probably because of the
ease with which electronic versions can be copied and distributed
(legally or illegally). Therefore, there are no legal electronic
copies of Tolkien's writings. The moral issues involved are less clear
(they seem to depend on one's economic philosophy), but the general
culture of the newsgroups is pretty firmly against these unauthorized

8. Where can I report copyright violations that I observe?

If you do find an unauthorized copy of any of Tolkien's works on the
Internet, you may want to take some action to support the rights of the
Tolkien Estate. It is generally best to begin with a polite request
that the texts be taken offline, and only if that fails to take more
drastic action such as contacting the hosting Internet service
provider. If all else fails, you can send a brief letter to the
Estate's legal representative informing her of the situation, although
this should be considered a last resort:

Mrs. Cathleen Blackburn
Manches & Co.
3 Worcester Street
Oxford OX1 2PZ



1. Did Balrogs have wings?

Most but not all participants in these debates agree on the

* The Balrog in Moria had "wings" of some sort, or if you prefer, a
"shadow" shaped like wings.

* Those "wings" were probably not made of flesh and blood, but
rather of some sort of "dark emanation" or "palpable darkness".

The most intense arguments about Balrog wings seem often to have
resulted largely from different uses of the word "wing", so be clear!
In this consensus statement, the (quoted) word "wing" is used only as a
convenient symbol for the feature of the Balrog under discussion,
without reference to any of the word's usual definitions.

This consensus was not reached quickly, and to some it appears that
a simple "yes" or "no" is clear from the description of the Balrog in
"The Bridge of Khazad-dum". The debates generally begin as follows:

* "Pro-wingers" point out that when the Balrog steps onto the
Bridge, "its wings were spread from wall to wall".

* "No-wingers" point out that the word "wings" was first used in the
phrase "the shadow about it reached out like two vast wings", and
deduce that the word "wings" refers to the "shadow" itself. (The
"shadow" was seen when the Balrog first appeared: "it was like a
great shadow, in the middle of which was a dark form...", and it
is probably the "cloud" in the phrase "It came to the edge of the
fire and the light faded as if a cloud had bent over it".)

* "Pro-wingers" claim that as the Balrog came closer to the
Fellowship, its uncertain appearance became clearer, so what
first looked like a "shadow" or "cloud" and later "like wings"
was finally recognized as "wings" once the Balrog was nearby.
"No-wingers" do not agree with this interpretation.

Progress beyond this point is difficult. However, most of those on
both sides of the debate do agree with the consensus statement above.
The largest remaining point of disagreement is whether the "wings"
always had a wing-like shape or if their form was variable, and there
is no firm evidence known for either position.

2. Could Balrogs fly?

There is considerable disagreement on this point. Most agree that
the Moria passage does not provide convincing evidence for or against
Balrogs' ability to fly. (For example, while the Balrog does not fly
out of the chasm, it may not have had enough room to use its wings, or
its highest priority may have been the destruction of a rival Maia in
its domain.) Most also agree that as Maiar, Balrogs could conceivably
be able to fly even if they had no wings, or that they could have had
wings but remained flightless. Still, the two issues are certainly
related to some degree.

A number of facts have been taken as indirect evidence that Balrogs
could not fly (e.g. they never flew over the mountains to discover
Gondolin; at least two died falling from cliffs), but counterarguments
have always been found (the eagles defended Gondolin; the Balrogs fell
only after being injured). Clearer evidence comes from "Of Tuor and
his Coming to Gondolin" in _Unfinished Tales_, when Voronwe says, "as
yet no servant of the Enemy has dared to fly into the high airs". Even
if Voronwe's information was complete, however, this still leaves room
for Balrogs to be able to fly at low altitudes.

The only place where Tolkien may have made a direct statement on
Balrogs' ability to fly can be found in "The Later Quenta Silmarillion
(II)" in _Morgoth's Ring_:

Far beneath the halls of Angband... the Balrogs lurked still....
Swiftly they arose, and they passed with winged speed over Hithlum,
and they came to Lammoth as a tempest of fire.

Some believe that this passage clearly describes Balrogs flying, others
do not, and still others believe it to be ambiguous.

3. What was Tom Bombadil?

[This supplements question V.G.1 of the Tolkien FAQ.]

[I have written a much more detailed analysis of this question; it is
on the web at:]

Theories on Bombadil's nature abound. Many people believe that Tom
was a Maia: if we assume he is one of the types of entities we know of
from the Silmarillion, this seems to be the best fit. (A closely
related suggestion is that Tom was one of the Ainur who never took a
place in the usual hierarchy of Arda). Other popular views make Tom a
nature spirit of a kind never explicitly described, either one of many,
or the incarnation of Arda itself. These theories are inspired by
comments at the Council of Elrond and in _Letters_.

Many other possibilities still arise regularly (for example, that he
is some particular Vala or even Eru himself), but there are fairly
strong arguments against them. (For example, Tolkien said in several
Letters that Eru did not physically inhabit Middle-earth.) Some people
argue that Tolkien intentionally left Bombadil an enigma even to
himself, and that therefore any attempt to find out what he was is
doomed to fail. A truly satisfying explanation of Bombadil's nature
would explain Goldberry as well.

4. Did Elves have pointed ears?

[This supplements question V.C.1 of the Tolkien FAQ.]

There is no known text in which Tolkien makes an unambiguous
statement about the shape of Elvish ears. Those who argue in favor of
pointed ears generally cite a remark which seems to support that
position found in the "Etymologies" (part of _The Lost Road_). That
document was written in the period immediately before the composition
of LotR, so it is unclear to what extent it should be treated as a
canonical source. Those who argue against pointed ears focus on
Tolkien's statements that Elves and humans were sufficiently similar
that they could be mistaken for each other. There is no consensus on
this issue.

5. What happened to Elves after they died?

[This updates question V.D.1 of the Tolkien LessFAQ.]

A great deal of information on this topic can be found in _Morgoth's
Ring_ (HoMe X). Tolkien's latest thoughts on the issue can be found in
"Note 3" to the "Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth" and in the Appendix to
that text. In brief, when Elves died, they were summoned to Mandos.
Once the Valar deemed them to be ready, they could (if they wished) be
directly re-embodied (with the aid of the Valar) in a body identical to
the one they had lost. Tolkien clearly abandoned the idea that the
Elves could be re-born as children.

"Note 3" says that Elven spirits "could refuse the summons [to
Mandos], but this would imply that they were in some way tainted".
Details of such refusals are not given in the text above, but are
discussed in an earlier essay: "Laws and Customs among the Eldar", part
of "The Later Quenta Silmarillion (II)" in _Morgoth's Ring_. Those who
refused "then had little power to resist the counter-summons of
Morgoth." The reason for this "counter-summons" is not explained, nor
is it clear what became of them after Morgoth's defeat, but the text
mentions that some of the living sought to speak with the "Unbodied" or
even to control them, and that "Such practices are of Morgoth; and the
necromancers are of the host of Sauron his servant."

6. Was Glorfindel of Rivendell the same as Glorfindel of Gondolin?

[This updates question V.D.2 of the Tolkien LessFAQ.]

Yes. With the publication of _The Peoples of Middle-earth_,
certainty has become possible: the first essays in the section "Last
Writings" of that book discuss Glorfindel and his history. Those texts
make it very clear that after his death in the flight from Gondolin,
Glorfindel was re-embodied in Aman (see question III.B.5) and was later
sent back to Middle-earth as an aid or an emissary. Tolkien seems to
have been uncertain as to whether he returned in the Second Age by way
of Numenor or in the Third Age as a companion of Gandalf.

7. Did Dwarf women have beards?

[This updates question V.D.1 of the Tolkien FAQ.]

Yes. The most canonical evidence for this comes in Appendix A,
where it is said of Dwarf women that

They are in voice and appearance, and in garb if they must go on a
journey, so like to the dwarf-men that the eyes and ears of other
peoples cannot tell them apart.

It seems that (male) Dwarves in Middle-earth all have beards: among
other evidence, as Bilbo sets out on his adventure in _The Hobbit_, we
read that "His only comfort was that he couldn't be mistaken for a
dwarf, as he had no beard." Given that, the quote above must imply
that Dwarf women were bearded as well.

However, we do not need to rely on such implications: Tolkien
answered this question explicitly in other texts. In _The War of the
Jewels_ ("The Later _Quenta Silmarillion_: Of the Naugrim and the
Edain", written ~1951), Tolkien wrote that

no Man nor Elf has ever seen a beardless Dwarf - unless he were
shaven in mockery, and would then be more like to die of shame...
For the Naugrim have beards from the beginning of their lives, male
and female alike...

In _The Peoples of Middle-earth_, Christopher Tolkien says that a
similar statement was present in an earlier draft of Appendix A as
well. As these statements are entirely in agreement with the canonical
evidence cited above, the conclusion that Dwarf women had beards seems

8. Was there "telepathy" in Middle-earth?

Although it is not emphasized in the books, direct communication of
thought from mind to mind was certainly part of Middle-earth. This is
stated directly in the chapter "Many Partings" of LotR, when Celeborn,
Galadriel, Gandalf, and Elrond lingered before parting:

...they did not move or speak with mouth, looking from mind to mind;
and only their shining eyes stirred and kindled as their thoughts
went to and fro.

Another likely example is the voice Frodo hears in his mind on Amon
Hen, saying, "Take off the Ring!", which was probably Gandalf as he
"sat in a high place, and... strove with the Dark Tower" ("The White

Tolkien discusses the details of this "telepathy" at length in the
essay "_Osanwe-kenta_: Enquiry into the Communication of Thought",
which was published in the journal _Vinyar Tengwar_ #39 (available from It seems that all minds had this ability, but
that it was "dimmed" whenever it passed through a physical body. Elves
could therefore use it more easily than humans, as their wills had
greater control over their bodies. The essay contains many more
fascinating details, but there is not space even to summarize them

9. Did Sauron have a physical form during LotR?

There is fairly strong evidence that Sauron did have a humanoid
physical body at the time of LotR. In "The Black Gate is Closed", we
read, "'He has only four [fingers] on the Black Hand, but they are
enough', said Gollum shuddering." Gollum was tortured in Barad-dur,
and this statement sounds as if it comes from personal experience.

More direct evidence can be found near the end of Letter #246, where
Tolkien discusses the possibility of a direct confrontation between
Sauron and a Ring-wielder such as Aragorn or Gandalf at the end of the
Third Age. He says,

in a tale which allows the incarnation of great spirits in a
physical and destructible form their power must be far greater when
actually physically present. ... The form that he took was that of a
man of more than human stature, but not gigantic.

As no statements by Tolkien contradicting this description are known,
it seems safe to assume that it is accurate.

10. What were the names of the Nazgul?

The only known text to name any of the Nazgul is "The Hunt for the
Ring" in _Unfinished Tales_. It names "the second to the Chief, Khamul
the Shadow of the East" as Sauron's lieutenent in Dol Guldur; in a
previous draft, he was called "the Second Chief (the Black
Easterling)". Some believe that Gothmog, the lieutenant of Morgul, was
also a Nazgul; see question III.B.11 for further discussion.

Some people have used the name "Angmar" to refer to the Witch King.
We know of no instance in which Tolkien used "Angmar" as a personal
name; in his writings it always refers to the Witch King's country.
Some still defend the use of "Angmar" as a convenient nickname, but as
others find this irritating it is probably best avoided.

11. What was Gothmog (the lieutenant of Morgul)?

Gothmog (who shares his name with the Lord of Balrogs in the First
Age) took command of Sauron's forces after the Witch-king was
destroyed. Some believe that like the Mouth of Sauron he was human,
while others claim that so responsible a position in Minas Morgul would
only be given to another Nazgul. Several other possibilities also
arise repeatedly. There seems to be no explicit evidence for any
particular answer.

12. What was the origin of Orcs?

[This updates question V.G.1 of the Tolkien LessFAQ.]

Tolkien never seems to have firmly resolved this question in his own
mind, let alone on paper. While _The Silmarillion_ as published states
fairly clearly that Orcs were corrupted Elves, _Unfinished Tales_ hints
that some strains of Orcs may have been bred from the Druedain.
Tolkien's latest writings on the issue (found in Texts VIII-X of the
"Myths Transformed" section in _Morgoth's Ring_) show him considering
many possible origins: corrupted Elves, corrupted Men, very minor Maiar
(a small number of original Orcish leaders only), or even beasts given
fragments of Morgoth's own will so they would have some measure of
independence. Some combination of these origins seems most likely from
the texts, though the last of them was probably rejected.

All of these suggested origins still support the notion that Orcs
reproduced in the same manner as other races (and therefore that there
were female Orcs). This is explicitly discussed in Text X of "Myths
Transformed", which states that

Men could under the domination of Morgoth or his agents in a few
generations be reduced almost to the Orc-level of mind and habits;
and then they would or could be made to mate with Orcs, producing
new breeds, often larger and more cunning.

That text also states that "they appear to have been by nature
short-lived compared with the span of Men of higher race, such as the
Edain". As for their fate after death, this would depend very much on
their origins. Beasts would presumably not _have_ a fate after death,
and it seems likely that creatures descended even in part from Men
would share their fate. Near the end of Text VIII, Tolkien comments
that if there were an Elvish strain among Orcs (possibly cross-bred
with beasts or Men), "dying they would go to Mandos and be held in
prison till the End." It also seems possible that Orcish spirits would
refuse the summons to Mandos, as discussed in question III.B.5 of this

13. What was the origin of Saruman's Uruk-hai?

Whatever the details of their origins, all evidence indicates that
like all Orcs, Saruman's Uruk-hai were bred "naturally" by mating
humanoid creatures who then bore live young. The real questions are
whether it was Sauron or Saruman who planned that breeding, and what
stock they were bred from.

It is important that the meaning of "Uruk-hai" be clear from the
start. Appendix F says that "the word _uruk_ of the Black Speech...
was applied as a rule only to the great soldier-orcs that at this time
issued from Mordor and Isengard." As for the plural, the index of
_Unfinished Tales_ says that "Uruks" is an "Anglicized form of
_Uruk-hai_ of the Black Speech", and Tolkien seems to have used the
terms "Uruks" and "Uruk-hai" interchangeably. However, it is not clear
whether, at the end of the Third Age, the term "Uruk" referred to a
specific breed or to all "great soldier-orcs".

According to Appendix A, the race of Uruks first appeared out of
Mordor in the last years of Steward Denethor I, before TA 2475. If
"Uruk" is the name of a specific orc breed, then this proves that
Saruman had no hand in their creation. However, by the time of LotR
there is some evidence that several breeds had that name: the companies
of Ugluk, Grishnakh (maybe), Shagrat, and Gorbag were all Uruks, and
they differed noticeably in size and appearance. Still, this evidence
is not conclusive; it seems that we cannot determine the meaning of the
word _Uruk_ itself without answering the larger question.

As for Saruman, it is well established that he conducted a breeding
program crossing Orcs (quite possibly Uruks) with humans. Immediately
following the quotation from _Morgoth's Ring_ cited in question
III.B.12 (Text X of "Myths Transformed") which describes Morgoth's
technique of mating Orcs with Men, Tolkien says that

There is no doubt that long afterwards, in the Third Age, Saruman
rediscovered this, or learned of it in lore, and in his lust for
mastery committed this, his wickedest deed: the interbreeding of
Orcs and Men, producing both Men-orcs large and cunning, and Orc-men
treacherous and vile.

While this is the only explicit statement of Saruman's deeds, there are
numerous comments in LotR about Orclike Men and Manlike Orcs associated
with Isengard. The most direct comments come from the chapter
"Treebeard", where Treebeard ponders Saruman's Orcs:

For these Isengarders are more like wicked Men. It is a mark of
evil things that came in the Great Darkness that they cannot abide
the Sun, but Saruman's Orcs can endure it, even if they hate it. I
wonder what he has done? Are they Men he has ruined, or has he
blended the races of Orcs and Men? That would be a black evil!

The close agreement between Treebeard's thoughts here and the explicit
statement in _Morgoth's Ring_ makes it seem very likely that this was
Tolkien's intent.

The remaining question is whether Saruman's Uruk-hai were the
"Men-orcs" from his breeding program. This seems very likely, but it
is difficult to find absolute proof. (Treebeard's comments suggest
that the Isengarders' tolerance of sunlight might make this clear, but
it is hard to prove that Uruks of Mordor lacked that tolerance.)

14. What was the origin of Trolls?

[This updates question V.G.2 of the Tolkien LessFAQ.]

Nobody knows. One piece of information comes from Treebeard's
statement (in the chapter "Treebeard") that Trolls were made "in
mockery of Ents, as Orcs were of Elves". However, this probably only
means that Ents gave Morgoth the idea for Trolls, not that the two
races are actually related: the two races have almost nothing in common
except great strength. (Also, in Letter #153, Tolkien discusses this
very quote and says that "Treebeard is a _character_ in my story, not
me... and there is quite a lot he does not know or understand.")

One direct statement about Trolls can be found at the end of Text IX
of the "Myths Transformed" section of _Morgoth's Ring_:

The Elves would have classed the creatures called 'trolls' (in _The
Hobbit_ and _The Lord of the Rings_) as Orcs - in character and
origin - but they were larger and slower. It would seem evident
that they were corrputions of primitive human types.

Christopher comments that "he seems to have been thinking...
specifically of the _Olog-hai_, the great Trolls who appeared at the
end of the Third Age (as stated in Appendix F)", but Tolkien's
reference to _The Hobbit_ in the quote above may suggest that all types
of trolls were to be included. On the other hand, Tolkien's indecision
about the origin of Orcs in this text and the others referred to in
question III.B.12 almost certainly applies even more strongly to this
passing comment regarding Trolls.

15. What were the giants (seen by Bilbo in _The Hobbit_)?

Nobody knows. Among texts considered to be at all canonical (see
question III.A.2), giants are mentioned directly only in _The Hobbit_.
This has led some to doubt their literal existence entirely, but they
do seem to have a firm place in that book: giants (and the destruction
they caused) were seen and heard by everyone, and both Thorin and
Gandalf were worried about them. Later, Gandalf says "I must see if I
can't find a more or less decent giant" to block up the goblins' new
gate (where the group was captured). He also mentions them to Beorn.
It would be difficult to reject giants without rejecting _The Hobbit_
as a canonical source entirely, which Tolkien clearly did not do. Some
believe that the voices heard by the Fellowship on the Redhorn pass
were giants, or even that Caradhras itself was a "giant" in some sense.

Three explanations for giants are relatively common. Perhaps the
most natural is that they are an exceptionally large race of humans.
Another is that they are a very large breed of troll, which could
explain why they are not seen away from the mountains: they would need
very large caves in which to hide from the sun. Finally, they could be
"nature spirits" associated with mountains (and possibly with storms);
this, too, would explain why they were only seen there. (Some
discussion of this can be found in my essay on Tom Bombadil, mentioned
in question III.B.3) There is no clear evidence for or against any of
these possibilities.



1. Why didn't they just have an Eagle fly the Ring to Mt. Doom?

This debate is most interesting when limited to "story internal"
arguments (i.e. "Otherwise it would be a dull book" is a cop-out). One
possibility is that there were no Eagles available when they were
needed. Another common argument is that Mordor was well defended,
while the Eagles were wary even of shepherds with bows. It may have
been an issue of secrecy: a group of Eagles far from the Misty
Mountains flying toward Mordor might well have drawn Sauron's
attention, and might have even hinted at the plan to destroy the Ring.
Some suggest that like the Istari, the Eagles were forbidden by the
Valar to help so directly. Another suggestion is that Frodo may have
needed the long journey to (hopefully) develop enough strength of will
to cast the Ring into the Fire. Many other explanations are seen
repeatedly as well. The question is quite open, and some people don't
think that there is any truly convincing explanation.

2. Were the barrow blades magical? In what way?

The swords that the Hobbits got from the Barrow Downs were
apparently magical in some way: in "The Departure of Boromir", Aragorn
says this of Merry and Pippin's blades:

Doubtless the Orcs despoiled them, but feared to keep the knives,
knowing them for what they are: work of Westernesse, wound about
with spells for the bane of Mordor.

Some have objected that Men could not use magic "spells", as Tolkien
discusses in Letter #155: "'magic' in this story... is an inherent
power not possessed or attainable by Men as such." However, against
this in the margin Tolkien wrote, "But the Numenoreans used 'spells' in
making swords?" (and he omitted the whole discussion of magic from the
final version of the letter).

Some see the question mark in that margin note as an indication that
Tolkien was uncertain of this conclusion and look for non-magical
explanations for Aragorn's comment. However, most accept Aragorn's
statement as proof that the blades were magical (which we will assume
for the remainder of this discussion), and the remaining debate
concerns the nature of that magic.

There are several reasons to believe that the barrow blades were
particularly harmful to the Nazgul. A major piece of evidence is the
effect of Merry's blade on the Witch King, as discussed in question
III.C.4 (which should be read as part of this entry). A related quote
comes from Letter #210, where Tolkien compares that case to what would
have happened if Sam had "[sunk] his blade into the Ringwraith's thigh"
on Weathertop: "the result would have been much the same...: the Wraith
would have fallen down and the sword would have been destroyed." It
may be significant that Tolkien says "fallen down": he seems to think
that any stab would have that effect (without slaying the wraith

In earlier drafts of LotR, it was explicit that the Nazgul feared
the barrow blades: in the chapter "At Rivendell" of _The Return of the
Shadow_, Gandalf refers to them as "the one kind of sword the Riders
fear." Although no such statement survived into the final text, some
believe that the Nazgul's fear of the barrow blades did remain.
Question III.C.3 discusses the possibility that the barrow blades were
part of the reason the Nazgul did not take the Ring at Weathertop (and
should also be read as part of this entry).

We know almost nothing about whether the barrow blades had any
special effect on other evil creatures. In "Flotsam and Jetsam", Merry
says that Ugluk (leader of the Uruk-hai band) took the swords but then
"threw the things away as if they burned him." However, this may just
be a poetic description of the normal fear mentioned by Aragorn in the
first quote above. In the end, no aspect of the barrow blades' magic
is well understood.

3. Why didn't the Nazgul take the Ring at Weathertop?

The Nazgul withdrew from Weathertop despite a five-against-one
fighting advantage and with the One Ring almost within their grasp.
Many share Aragorn's confusion about this: "I cannot think why they
have gone and do not attack again." There are many possible reasons,
and the true answer is likely to be a combination of them.

Most agree that Aragorn's analysis in "Flight to the Ford" is at
least in part accurate:

I don't think they expected to be resisted... They will come again
another night, if we cannot escape. They are only waiting, because
they think that their purpose is almost accomplished, and that the
Ring cannot fly much further.

Many see this explanation as inadequate: the Ring seems like too great
a prize for the Nazgul to take such foolish caution. Some quote Letter
#210 where Tolkien says that "They have no great physical power against
the fearless", arguing that Aragorn was able to drive the Nazgul away.
However, this quote does not preclude them from having "normal"
physical power, and the Witch King was willing to do battle with
skilled warriors at other times.

Some believe that Frodo's cry of "Elbereth" helped drive the Nazgul
away: after remarking that Frodo's sword had not harmed the Witch King,
Aragorn says, "More deadly to [the Witch King] was the name of
Elbereth." This idea is clearer in an early draft: in _The Return of
the Shadow_ ("At Rivendell"), a fragment includes Gandalf saying, "Not
to mention courage - and also swords and a strange and ancient name.
Later on I must be told about that curious sword of yours, and how you
knew the name of Elbereth." (Presumably Gandalf is discussing this
very question.) However, in the final text, it is Aragorn who comments
on the name, but he never used it himself. Because of this, some
interpret Aragorn's comment as nothing more than a statement of just
how ineffective Frodo's sword slash had been.

A final factor which some believe led the Nazgul to turn away was
Frodo's sword from the Barrow Downs. As discussed in question III.C.2,
many believe that the Nazgul were afraid of the barrow blades. The
description of the attack on Weathertop is at least consistent with
this theory: after Frodo put on the Ring, three of the wraiths

rushed towards him. Desperate, he drew his own sword, and it seemed
to him that it flickered red, as if it was a firebrand. Two of the
figures halted. The third... sprang forward and bore down on Frodo.

All of the wraiths seem to have left immediately after the Witch King
stabbed Frodo. As Frodo was seeing into the "wraith world" with the
Ring on, some read the description of his sword flickering red as an
indication that it had some overt magical power there.

On the other hand, the red flicker could have been just reflected
firelight, which often remained bright even to one wearing the Ring. In
fact, there is no clear evidence that the attack did not go just as the
Nazgul planned. Some also object that the Nazgul would not have feared
Frodo's sword because the Witch King was able to break it from a
distance in "Flight to the Ford". Others counter that such a spell may
have taken some time to prepare, and that Tolkien seems not to have
considered this a problem in the first draft of the text (when the
Nazgul's fear of the swords was explicit).

4. Who killed the Witch-king, Merry or Eowyn?

Most agree that Eowyn's stroke was the immediate cause of the
Witch-king's death: she certainly struck _something_, and his death cry
and disappearance followed immediately after her blow. The primary
debate is whether Merry's role was simply to provide a distraction, or
whether his sword (taken from the Barrow Downs) was necessary to break
some "spell of protection" that would otherwise have guarded the
Witch-king from harm.

Question III.C.2 discusses the (possible) magical nature of the
hobbits' barrow blades and their effect on the Nazgul. In the context
of Merry's encounter with the Witch King in "The Battle of the Pelennor
Fields", the crucial statement is that

No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have
dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh,
breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will.

(See question III.C.2 for a related quote and further discussion.)
Most (but not all) read this quote as a direct statement that Merry's
sword was especially harmful to the Nazgul. It is less clear what
"spell" is being broken: some read this as a poetic description of a
(nonmagical) collapse due to (possibly magical) great pain, while
others take it to mean that the Nazgul had only indirect, magical
control over their physical bodies. Based in part on this quote, some
go even farther and suggest that the Witch King was immune to physical
weapons before being hit by the barrow blade. No clear answer is

5. Did Sam follow Frodo into the West?

While LotR strongly implies that Sam eventually sailed West, it
never says so explicitly. In "The Grey Havens", Frodo says to Sam,
"Your time may come." Appendix B says that in S.Y. 1482, Sam was last
seen by Elanor in the Tower Hills, and that "the tradition [was] handed
down from Elanor that Samwise passed the Towers, and went to the Grey
Havens, and passed over Sea". However, Letter #154 makes Tolkien's
intent clear. In it

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Joker: I swear by all that's funny never to be taken in by that unconstitutional device again!
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 29, 2013 1:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In it, he writes that

certain 'mortals'... may pass with the Elves to Elvenhome. Thus
Frodo ... and Bilbo, and eventually Sam.

Whether Frodo was still alive when Sam reached Elvenhome is uncertain,
but it does seem possible: in the same letter, Tolkien says that
mortals in the West "can and will 'die' - of free will", so Frodo may
have waited to pass on until Sam arrived.

6. What is known about the Blue Wizards?

[This supplements question V.E.2 of the Tolkien FAQ.]

The Tolkien FAQ discusses most of what is known about the other two
Istari (out of five). As explained there, the essay on the Istari in
_Unfinished Tales_ tells us that their names in Valinor were Alatar and
Pallando, and that they went into the east of Middle-earth and did not
return. In that essay and in Letter #211, Tolkien suggests that they
may have failed in their missions, though he never said that was

A small amount of new information on the Blue Wizards appeared in
the "Last Writings" section of _The Peoples of Middle-earth_. One
interesting point is that Tolkien seems to have considered the idea
that Saruman "was letting out a piece of private information" when he
revealed their existence by mentioning "the rods of the Five Wizards"
in _The Two Towers_.

In another passage, Tolkien gives other names for the Blue Wizards,
"Morinehtar" and "Romestamo" ("Darkness-slayer" and "East-helper"), and
suggests that the Blue Wizards came to Middle-earth in the Second Age
(much earlier than the other Istari) in the company of Glorfindel (for
which possibility see question III.B.6). In this writing, he is
considerably more optimistic about their success:

They must have had very great influence on the history of the Second
Age and Third Age in weakening and disarraying the forces of East
... who would both in the Second Age and Third Age otherwise have
... outnumbered the West.

7. Who was aware that a Balrog lived in Moria?

Sauron almost certainly knew of the Balrog, at least through his
Orcs and very possibly more directly. The Dwarves knew that "Durin's
Bane" was still in Moria when Dain saw it inside the gate at the battle
of Azanulbizar, but they may not have known what it was: at the Council
of Elrond, Gloin calls it simply "the nameless fear."

In "Lothlorien", Celeborn tells the Fellowship, "We long have feared
that under Caradhras a terror slept." This indicates that he wasn't
sure anything was there, and suggests that he did not know the nature
of the "terror". Similarly, in "The Bridge of Khazad-dum", Gandalf
clearly does not know what to expect: after confronting the Balrog
through the door of the Chamber of Mazarbul, he says, "what it was I
cannot guess". When the company finally sees it, he says, "A Balrog.
Now I understand." If neither Gandalf nor Celeborn knew of its
presence, it seems unlikely that any of the White Council did.

8. Did Elves and Dwarves generally get along?

In general, Elves and Dwarves were allies against Morgoth and
Sauron. However, their attitudes toward each other seem to have varied
substantially at different times and places. In some cases, they were
great friends, while in others they viewed each other with substantial
mistrust. There are indications of the latter in the Sindarin/Silvan
kingdoms at the time of the War of the Ring, while something
approaching the former held in Rivendell, where Gloin and Gimli were
warmly welcomed. Opinions on the frequency of each attitude cover the
entire spectrum.

9. Where was the Ring when Numenor was destroyed?

[This supplements question V.E.3 of the Tolkien LessFAQ.]

This question is answered in detail in Letter #211. Tolkien says
that when Sauron was taken to Numenor as a prisoner, "he naturally had
the One Ring". He goes on to say that at the time of the Akallabeth,
"Though reduced to 'a spirit of hatred borne on a dark wind', I do not
think one need boggle at this spirit carrying off the One Ring, upon
which his power of dominating minds now largely depended."

A passage from "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age" in _The
Silmarillion_ is sometimes cited as evidence that, contrary to the
statements above, Sauron left the Ring in Mordor before going to
Numenor. In that essay, after Sauron returned to Middle-earth and
rebuilt his body, "He took up again the great Ring". However, this is
not a contradiction: according to the Oxford English Dictionary, one
definition of "take up" is

c. With special obj., implying a purpose of using in some way: as,
to take up one's pen, to proceed or begin to write; to take up a
book (i.e. with the purpose to read); to take up the (or one's)
cross (see CROSS n. 4, 10): to take up ARMS, [etc.]

Some have also argued that Ar-Pharazon would have demanded that Sauron
give him the Ring, but (again in Letter #211) Tolkien says that "I do
not think Ar-Pharazon knew anything about the One Ring."

10. Who was the oldest inhabitant of Middle-earth?

The answer depends on exactly what the question means. Below are
listed a number of possible answers (as of the end of the Third Age),
starting from the oldest.

1. Eru Iluvatar, the Creator... but he never inhabited Ea itself.

2. The Ainur (including Sauron, Gandalf, etc.): they existed before
the Music that gave Middle-earth form.

3. Tom Bombadil. In addition to his direct claim that he is
"Eldest" (confirmed at the Council of Elrond), he says that he
"was here before the river and the trees", and that he
"remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn". If he is
one of the Ainur, this implies that he was the first of them to
enter Middle-earth; if not, it probably means he was the first
"native" inhabitant.

4. Some trees in Fangorn (and maybe elsewhere): Treebeard says that
in some parts of his forest, "the trees are older than I am."

5. Treebeard. Gandalf tells Theoden that he is "the eldest and
chief of the Ents, and when you speak with him you will hear the
speech of the oldest of all living things." (Given #4, Gandalf
must actually mean something like "speaking living things", and
given #2 and #3 he must be using a specific definition of

If any of the Fathers of the Dwarves were alive (having been
"reincarnated"), they might fall between #4 and #5. As any living Elf
would certainly be one of Gandalf's "living things", all of them must
be younger than Treebeard. (Although the Ents awoke only after the
Elves, this does not prove that none of the "First Elves" remained
alive: Treebeard could conceivably have existed as a normal tree before
awakening as an Ent.)



While this FAQ is intended to provide a complete introduction to
discussions of Tolkien and his works online, there is clearly far more
information available than could be recorded in a single document.
Some frequently asked questions require a more substantial answer that
could possibly be given here. In this section are collected a few
resources that address such questions. (Only resources that address
specific questions asked frequently in the newsgroups are included
here: this is not an attempt to list all of the excellent Tolkien web
sites in existence.)

Because most of these resources are located on the World Wide Web
rather than on Usenet, it is always possible that they could move or
disappear without notice. A reasonable effort will be made to ensure
that the addresses here remain valid, but if these resources go away
there really isn't much that we can do about it. (Please do let me
know if a link here is broken.)



1. The Tolkien Meta-FAQ

The Tolkien Meta-FAQ is not a resource of its own, but a unified
index to this FAQ the other FAQs listed in this section. By organizing
all of their content in a consistent way, it will hopefully make
finding the answers you want faster and easier. It is on the web at

2. The Tolkien FAQ and LessFAQ

Years ago, William D. B. Loos compiled two superb lists of
frequently asked questions and answers. They are well written and well
documented, and the conclusions that they reach have all stood the test
of time (although some of the arguments are strengthened by new
information that has been published since these FAQs were written).
They are generally posted to the newsgroups on or near the same day
that this FAQ is. For convenience, they are also available in HTML
form; the web addresses follow, along with each FAQ's summary.

The Tolkien FAQ consists of "Frequently Asked Questions about the
author J.R.R. Tolkien: questions commonly raised by the first reading
of _The Hobbit_ or _The Lord of the Rings_; details of the background
mythology and invented history which relate directly to the stories;
biographical matters." It is on the web at

The Tolkien LessFAQ consists of "Less Frequently Asked Questions
about the author J.R.R. Tolkien: questions on his lesser known works;
questions on deeper and/or more obscure details of the invented
history, background mythology, and matters philological and
theological." It is on the web at

3. The "FAQ of the Rings"

Questions about the Rings of Power arise quite frequently in
discussions of Tolkien's work, and it would be difficult to do them all
justice in a general FAQ like this one. Because of this, Stan Brown
has created a "FAQ of the Rings" addressing many such questions in
depth. It can be found at

4. The Letters FAQ

Quite a few of the questions that arise in discussions of Tolkien's
works are addressed in his letters, collected in _The Letters of J.R.R.
Tolkien_. As it can be difficult to find the letters that relate to a
given topic, Mike Brinza has compiled a list of common questions and
where to look for their answers. This can be found at

5. Google's Usenet archive

Probably the best way to learn about the positions in any debate on
the newsgroups is to read the debates themselves. The best Usenet
archive currently available is hosted by Google, which contains posts
all the way back to the founding of Usenet in the 1980's. Google's
advanced newsgroup search page is at

To search specifically on the Tolkien groups, enter "*tolkien" in the
"Newsgroup" field (without the quotes, of course). The main interface
on this page is mostly self-explanatory, and should be familiar to
anyone who has used a web search engine.



One of Tolkien's primary motivations for creating Middle-earth and
its history was to provide a home for the languages that he invented.
The interest in those languages among his readers has given rise to a
great many books, journals, web sites, and other resources for those
who wish to learn them, and we could not even begin to list them here.

Perhaps the best list of such resources can be found at the Elvish
Linguistic Fellowship web site:

For actual details regarding the languages themselves, one of the best
web sites is Ardalambion, located at

A group of excellent Truetype fonts for writing in Tengwar and Cirth
can be found at Dan Smith's Fantasy Fonts for Windows page:



1. What editions of Tolkien's books in the US are best?

Every edition of Tolkien's books is different, and before you buy a
copy it's worth knowing what those differences are. Mike Brinza has
created an excellent guide to the editions of Tolkien's books currently
available in the United States, which is on the web at

One book that deserves its own mention is _The Hobbit_: many find
that _The Annotated Hobbit_, edited by Douglas A. Anderson, is the most
satisfying edition of the story. It contains illustrations from many
other editions, as well as detailed commentary on the text (which can,
of course, be ignored if you're not interested).

2. What is known the current _Lord of the Rings_ movies?

New Line Cinema is producing a movie trilogy based on _The Lord of
the Rings_ and directed by Peter Jackson. All three movies were filmed
at once in New Zeland with a very substantial budget. The first film
was released last December, and the following two are expected in
December of 2002 and 2003. Unlike previous adaptations, these are live
action movies, but they make substantial use of computer effects.

There is far more information available on this project than this
FAQ could hope to contain. To learn more, visit the many web sites
dedicated to sharing information about the project. One good place to
start is

Tolkien fans' opinions on the movies vary enormously. Most (but
certainly not all) of those on the Tolkien newsgroups who have seen the
first film seem to have enjoyed the experience, but most found at least
some aspects of it quite disappointing, too. This is obviously a
matter of personal taste, so it is important to be polite to those
whose reaction was different than yours. In the end, Peter Jackson's
own words are as good a description as any: "Sure, it's not really THE
LORD OF THE RINGS ... but it could still be a pretty damn cool movie."

[A few movie spoilers, as examples:] Changes made in translating
from the book to the screen range from cosmetic (there is no tent over
Bilbo's Party Tree) to drastic (everything from "A Conspiracy Unmasked"
through "Fog on the Barrow Downs" has been cut) to distorted (Aragorn
singlehandedly fights off all five Nazgul at Weathertop by lighting
them on fire). Some people are seriously upset by all of these
changes, some people aren't bothered by any of them, and most people
fall somewhere in between.

3. Where can I find out about music related to Middle-earth?

Over the years, many musicians have been inspired by Tolkien's
books. There have been so many, in fact, that this FAQ could not hope
to list them. Instead, we refer you to the Tolkien Music List by Chris
Seeman and Morgueldar Dragonseye, at

Be warned that this very long list (well over half a megabyte) is
contained on a single HTML page, and can thus be slow to load.

[Defeated by a gizmo from Batman's utility belt]
Joker: I swear by all that's funny never to be taken in by that unconstitutional device again!
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 29, 2013 4:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sneaky HLT, very sneaky. Laughing

I forgot you were the mod here. LOL

Don't believe everything you think.

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Immanentizing The Eschaton

Joined: 02 Aug 2004
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Thanked 165 Times in 161 Posts

Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
24108 White Gold Dollars

User Items:
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 30, 2013 5:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You can delete these posts if you want.

Some nice info in there thanks. Very Happy

Don't believe everything you think.

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