Tolkien Geek

Blogging J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" and other aimless pursuits.


Questions and Answers...

Throughout the course of making these entries, I've received quite a few questions about the comments I've made as well as subjects that I hadn't covered. I made an effort to address every one of them and have included all of them (with my answers) here in the order that I got them:

Lord Floppington asks:
Back in Chapter 2, you noted how the personality, or qualities, of an individual may be a factor in how the Ring affects that individual, along with several examples from Tom Shippey. This might square with your notion of Tom [Bombadil] as an infallible ideal type who doesn't have weaknesses to be exploited by the Ring. Therefore, to him it remains just a pretty trinket without any magical powers.

Tom's immunity to the Ring begs the question of why he didn't just keep it or destroy it himself, and put an end to all the suffering that follows. Of course, then we wouldn't have the books to enjoy, but do you have thoughts on other reasons?

Tolkien Geek:
That's a very good question. First, because he has no desire for power I don't think it holds any attraction for it. And Tom seems to care little for ornate things like jewelry - seeing them merely as trinkets. He probably understands - as Gandalf does - that he can't just take it from Frodo. And Frodo never offers it to him. Tom seems to have his focus on things of the natural world - like his water lillies for Goldberry.

It did come up at "The Council of Elrond" as an idea to give the ring to Tom for safekeeping, but Gandalf expressed his concern that Tom would not understand the need to guard it safely and he wouldn't be able to withstand an attack by the forces of Sauron.

As for destroying it, he had no means to do so - save throwing it into the fires of Mt. Doom. It is unlikely that he - even with his powers - would be able to accomplish this.

Glorfindel also remarks that "I think that in the end, if all else in conquered, Bombadil will fall, Last as he was First; and then night will come (FOTR, p. 279).

No, the irony is that despite Tom's seeming to be superfluous to the whole story, his presence does make a significant difference in the end. As we see in Chapter 8.

Lord Floppington asks:
At that time of one of the Nazgul coming to Dain, had Sauron already captured Gollum? Hadn't he learned about the involvement of a hobbit that way? Or I guess if I read more carefully, was it that the Nazgul/Sauron already knew a hobbit was involved, and were asking instead, with hobbits in mind, if the dwarves knew any. I don't recall if Gollum knew Bilbo had been traveling with dwarves, or how long after Bilbo made off with the ring Gollum managed to leave his caves to search for it.

Also, the info from Elrond, involving the Witch-king defeating Arnor, gathering the other Nazgul, taking them south to Mordor, capturing those cities and killing the king of Gondor in that challenge, was all of that stuff in the chapter and I missed it, or is that information from other materials that you're using to help us fill in the blanks with a little more detail?

Tolkien Geek:
In Book 1, Chapter 2 (The Shadow of the Past) Gandalf recounts his encounter with Gollum and how he sweated out of him as much as he could concerning his finding of the Ring. He doesn't say how long Gollum waited before looking for the it after Bilbo "acquired" it. But remember it is a period of seventeen years between Chapters 1 and 2. It seems Gollum searched far and wide but was ultimately drawn to Mordor where - under duress - he revealed his encounter with a "Baggins". Sauron now knew for sure that the Ring has been found and somehow learned that this Baggins was a hobbit - a race which he was not yet at all familiar. Gollum did not know of Bilbo's association with the dwarves, (see update) but Sauron likely puts Gollum's info together with other bits and pieces that he had learned from Orcs, perhaps. Then he sends out a Ringwraith to make some inquiries.

[UPDATE: P.A. Beault points out the following regarding Gollum's knowledge of Bilbo's association with the Dwarves:

"In Chapter 5 of The Hobbit, Bilbo mentions the dwarves and Gandalf (though not by name) when he first encounters Gollum:

'What iss he, my precious?' whispered Gollum...

'I am Mister Bilbo Baggins. I have lost the dwarves and I have lost the wizard, and I don't know where I am; and I don't want to know, if only I can get away.'"

Good call! - END UPDATE]

From The Tale of Years (Appendix B):
- all dates Third Age -
2941 - Bilbo meets Gollum, leaves Misty Mountains with Ring
2944 - Gollum leaves the Misty Mountains to search for "Baggins", the "thief"(so he held out for three years)
2951 - Gollum turns toward Mordor
2980 - Gollum reaches the outskirts of Mordor, becomes acquainted with Shelob
3001 - Bilbo's farewell party
3009 - Gollum actually enters Mordor
3017 - Gollum is released from Mordor
3017 - 3018 - At some point not specified, a messenger from Sauron contacts Dain and the Dwarves
October 25, 3018 - Council of Elrond

With regard to the fall of Arnor and Gondor, Elrond gives a general overview at the council but not much as much detail as I wrote. That is stuff from Appendices A & B (as well as other resources).

Anonymous asks:
At the end of [Chapter Six], Aragorn says something like: "Arwen vanimelda, namarie!" (I don't have the text in front of me). I know who Arwen is, and I have namarie figured out- what does "vanimelda" mean?

Tolkien Geek:
According to this website:, "vanimelda" means Lady Beloved, dear.

On this site:, if you scroll down to common adjectives - vanima means "beautiful, fair", so I would take the first translation as pretty much right on.

P.A. Breault asks:
It's been a while since I've read those books, but weren't the Undying Lands sundered from the world because the Numenoreans (counseled by Sauron)defied the Valar's ban and set foot on the Land?

Tolkien Geek:
Yes, you're right. During the Second Age, the Numenoreans grew jealous of the Elves immortality and were "seduced" by Sauron into rebelling against the ban that the Valar imposed on them going to Valinor. Sauron assumed a much more pleasing form back then.

Lord Floppington asks:
Could/did Galadriel foresee Boromir's falling to the lust for the Ring? Did she suspect him? You would think she would take action if she did, but a lot of store seems to be placed in fate or doom or destiny, such as in the case of pity for Gollum leaving him alive to finish the Ring at the end. I guess I wonder if she knew or suspected, but as the wisest also knew that it would be better to let things play out.

Tolkien Geek:
Tolkien never explicitly states the Galadriel "knows" whether or not Boromir will try and take the Ring. Although Peter Jackson certainly believed that to be that case. In the film, Galadriel says to Frodo "He will try to take the Ring. You know of whom I speak."

I think we can assume that because Galadriel is able to read the minds of the Fellowship, she certainly knows that the idea of taking the Ring has entered Boromir's mind. His mind is focused on it. But perhaps even Boromir does not yet suspect that he will go to such lengths. Boromir, I believe, is a good man at heart and rationalizes to himself that he can yet persuade Frodo to come with him to Gondor.

Clint asks:
So, what's going on here with Sam and the Ring??

(1) After all of Frodo's unwillingness to use it, and Sauron's attention being drawn accurately enough to send orcs and the Nazgul when Frodo puts it on briefly after the confrontation with Boromir, I would have thought that wearing it this close to Sauron would, at least, give the game away -- sending all the hordes of Mordor marching for Cirith Ungol.

(2) What's with understanding orcish? Part of the Ring's (unused) power of Command? Some sort of affinity with Sauron? Something to do with how he twisted elves into orcs (did he use the Ring for that?)?

(3) If Sam had simply spoken and commanded the orcs to do something, while wearing the ring, what would have happened??

Tolkien Geek:
There's an especially good website that fields particularly difficult questions such as this. With regard to Sam's wearing of the Ring in such close proximity to Mordor, this is their take on it:
"Frodo had grown, and his wearing the Ring was a *Significant Event* in Sauron's eye. By contrast, Sam, who had never been tempted by the Ring, was humble and seemingly nearly immune to the Ring's corruption. He is almost like Bombadil, in the sense that both are uninterested in Power – Sam dismisses his brief daydream of Samwise the Strong with little effort, and yields the Ring relatively easily to Frodo, hesitating only because he is unwilling to burden Frodo with it again. So Sam probably was no more visible to Sauron than if a rabbit had accidentally eaten the Ring."
The link
is here.

As far as the ability to understand Orcish by wearing the Ring, it's not out of the realm of possibility that this is part of it's power. Remember, putting on the Ring puts you in the "wraith" world where your sense's are altered. Here Sam's hearing is intensified and as is his ability to "see" what is around him. Tolkien does not address this topic in any of his letters or writing notes, so we can only speculate. If you want my personal opinion, I think Tolkien created this ability out of necessity. How else would Sam find out that Frodo is still alive and that they are taking him to the top of the tower?

Anonymous asks:
How is it that Sauron could show Denethor Frodo trapped in the tower, yet not find the ring? It would seem that if he knew Frodo was trapped, he would have sent the Nazgul there right away, and when they did not find the ring on Frodo, would have found Sam eventually...just seems impression was that Sauron did not know about Frodo/Sam until it was much too late.

Tolkien Geek:
Why should Sauron send a Nazgul to Cirith Ungol to find the Ring? It never occured to him that the captured hobbit would have it. The idea of someone bringing the Ring to Mordor and destroying it never entered his mind. When the Orcs captured Frodo, they were looking for "spies" that may have secretly entered Mordor, not a hobbit who might have the Ring.

When Sauron showed this vision to Denethor (among all the others), he thought he was showing him that one of his "spies" had been captured. It was just another in a series of visions designed to drive the Steward of Gondor to despair. Denethor assumed that Sauron now had the Ring because he knew of his quest. But Sauron didn't.

Lyndsey asks:
Tolkien Geek, you seem to know the film versions of this book pretty well too, so I wonder if you could help me? I've been trying for ages to notice if anyone in the new line films has eyes that are not blue or green (I've been looking but always get distracted) if they are all blue can you tell me if this is something that occurs in the books? I've not read them of late and I don't have the time at present. You'd be solving a great puzzle for me and possibly providing me a topic for my Master's dissertation... thank you very much. :) Lyndsey

Tolkien Geek:
Lyndsey, it does seem odd that so many of the actors in the films have "fair" eyes. Not all do, however. Christopher Lee (Saruman) and John Rys-Davies (Gimli) have brown eyes (to name two off the top of my head). I'm sure there are others.

I think part of the explanation has to do with the fact that most of the actors hail from Great Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. Each of these countries are highly populated by people of Northern European stock. As such, there is naturally an over representation of green and blue eyes among the inhabitants. As I recall, in the commentaries of one of the films, either Peter Jackson or Phillipa Boyens made reference to this but only in that it was a coincidence.

To my knowledge there is no mention of particular eye color for any specific characters in the books - though Elves in general are mentioned as having grey eyes (see next question below). As a topic for a dissertation, I'm afraid that this would be fruitless. Sorry

Anonymous asks:
Does any canonical book about the middle earth say anything about elves having pointy ears?

Tolkien Geek:
It seems the only place that Tolkien describes the physicality of Elves in general is in Appendix F towards the end:
"They were a race high and beautiful, the older Children of the world, and among them the Eldar were as kings, who now are gone: the people of the Great Journey, the People of the Stars. They were tall, fair of skin and grey-eyed, though their locks were dark, save in the golden house of Finarfin; and their voices had more melodies than any mortal voice that now is heard."

Nary a word about the ears.

However, Tolkien does have a passage in Letter No. 27 of "The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien" (page 35 of the paperback edition). In the second paragraph, Tolkien says in describing Hobbits:

"A round, jovial face; ears only slightly pointed and 'elvish'..."

Now the questions remains if his description of Hobbit ears as "elvish" related to Elves as they have been generally accepted or "elvish" as it relates to the Elves of Middle-Earth.

Most of the more famous illustrators drew Elves with pointed ears but this was after Tolkien's death in 1973. My instincts tell me that when he conceived of Elves he was thinking in terms that resembled humans. But you'd think he would ascribe some specific quality that distinguished them from the race of Men. Seeing as he clearly envisioned hobbits with "slighty pointed" ears, it stands to reason that if he did not intend his Elves to have pointed ears then he would have explicitly "pointed" that out (pun intended).

So the short answer is no there is no specific canonical reference to pointy ears for Elves. But by the same token I see no reason to think that he didn't see Elves as pointy eared in his own vision of that race.

Rob asks:
Why can't Sauron and the Nazgul detect Bilbo's use of the ring? I have not read the books in quite a while--can they even do this at all in the books? I remember them being able to but perhaps I am mistaken.

Tolkien Geek:
I take your question to mean why can't Sauron or the Nazgul tell when Bilbo puts the Ring on at his birthday party (or even prior to this event). It's a simple question that can only have a complicated answer.

In neither Tolkien's "Fellowship of the Ring" nor Peter Jackson's film version is there an explicit indication to the reader/audience that Bilbo's brief use of the Ring at the party was detected by Mordor. That doesn't necessarily mean that this went unnoticed. In both cases, it was more of a case of effective story-telling.

First, the book. One major deviation between Tolkien's and Jackson's version is the beginning of "Fellowship". In the book, Bilbo's party takes place seventeen years prior to Frodo's striking out for Rivendell with the Ring. In Appendix B, the date of the party is September 22nd in the year 3001, Third Age. Frodo begins his journey exactly seventeen years later in September 3018. Now let's consider what happens in the gap.

In 3001, though Sauron had regained much of his former strength and it had become common knowledge that he had reoccupied Mordor and was rebuilding Barad-Dur, he still had no real knowledge of the Ring's fate since it had been cut from his hand by Isildur. He had no reason to believe for sure that the Ring still existed. When Bilbo slipped on the Ring at his party and removed It upon entering Bag End (a span of only a few minutes), it is likely that Sauron stirred and thought "Oh my, is that my Ring I detect...or is it just gas?". It certainly would have caught him off guard. But then, Tolkien could not report on anything like this because in Chapter One we still do not yet realize the Ring's true importance. All the details of Its history would come in Chapter Two "Shadows of the Past".

It was only some years later, when Gollum entered Mordor (around 3009, according to Appendix B), that Sauron was able to confirm that the Ring had in fact been found and was in the possession of someone named "Baggins". Not until the summer of 3018 did Sauron release the Nazgul on a reconaissance mission to find the Ring's whereabouts. Tolkien was big on dragging things out over years and even decades.

Now, the film. For cinematic purposes, it was necessary for Jackson to yank that seventeen year gap out of the story. But again, our first hint that Sauron is aware of the Ring is when Gandalf discusses with Frodo the fact that Gollum had knowledge of Its existence and likely spilled the beans to Sauron under conditions of extreme duress - the whole "Shire" "Baggins" routine. So, again, if Sauron had detected Bilbo's wearing of the Ring at his party it would have seemed strange without having all the other info. It would have seemed kind of incongruous.

Actually, Peter Jackson introduced the whole concept of Sauron's awareness of the Ring much earlier in the story than Tolkien did. In the movie version, Frodo falls into the "wraith world" at the Prancing Pony in Bree and we see the great Eye staring at Frodo with a disembodied voice saying "I see you". In the book, Tolkien makes no mention of this. Frodo simply disappears (unintentionally) and then reappears. Tolkien implies in the book that Frodo's putting on the Ring attracted the Nazgul to Bree but he doesn't really go into the details. He never had a Frodo/Sauron moment until Frodo puts on the Ring to escape from Boromir and climbs to the top of Amon Hen. This is described in Chapter Ten of Book Two "The Breaking of the Fellowship":

"And suddenly he felt the Eye. There was an eye in the Dark Tower that did not sleep. He knew that it had become aware of this gaze. A fierce eager will was there. It leaped towards him; almost like a finger he felt it, searching for him. Very soon it would nail him down, know just exactly where he was."

Keep in mind, at this point he is much closer geographically to Mordor than Bilbo was when he was in the Shire - a land of beings (hobbits) that was virtually unknown to the outside world.
So now the short answer: Sauron and/or the Nazgul may very well have been aware of Bilbo's use of the Ring. We just don't read about it or see it because it wouldn't have been the right time to introduce Sauron. Or it could well have been that because the existence of the Ring was still unknown to the Dark Lord and his minions that It was not so easily detectable. I'll let you be the judge.

Next Question...


At 3:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was wondering... where in the appendix is there mention of gandalf being given a ring of power

At 11:17 PM, Blogger Gary said...

Actually, the reference to Gandalf's possession of Narya, the Ring of Fire is located in Chapter Nine of "The Return of the King":
"As he turned and came towards them Frodo saw that Gandalf now wore openly on his hand the Third Ring, Narya the Great, and the stone upon it was red as fire."

The other reference can be found in "The Silmarillion" in the chapter "Of The Rings of Power and The Third Age":
"At the first that [Red] Ring had been entrusted to Cirdan, Lord of the Havans; but he had surrendered it to Mithrandir, for he knew whence he came and whither at last he would return. 'Take now this Ring,' he said; 'for thy labours and thy cares will be heavy, but in all it will support thee and defend thee from weariness.'"

At 7:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said... is my first time reading the lotr books and tolkein has totally confused me. I keep forgetting most of the places, where they were situated and such. I can only remmeber names like Minas Tirith (pardon me if my spelling is incorrect but they only made refernece of the name, I think). I have no trouble with Moria or Lothloriel but that maybe because I only just read those parts. Did this happen to anyone before, this difficulty in remembering these names of places? I mean, I cant read far enough into the book if Frodo says, "We must go to Mordor," and all the characters shudder while I wonder what Mordor meant. Which reminds me, what is Gondor? I REALLy want to be able to spout passages from the Lord of the Rings but from my state, I dont think thats happening...unless someone helps??

At 8:38 PM, Blogger Gary said...

First, it's a little difficult for me to tell where you are in the story based on your description. In any case, Middle-earth is full of place names - lands, cities, monuments, etc - and it is easy to get confused. In Book I of The Fellowship of the Ring the story stays pretty much West of the Misty Mountains (the Shire, parts of Eriador and Rivendell). Once you get into Book II not only are a bunch of places discussed but we are introduced to a whole new bunch of characters.

I recommend paying close attention to the significance of a particular placed when it is brought up and constantly referring to the maps included at the end of the text. Repetition might help reinforce your understanding of the layout of the geography as you get more used to it.

Other than that, I'm at a loss to advise any way to make in easier on you.

You can always follow my chapter by chapter posts to help clarify things.

Good luck.

- Gary

At 2:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alright, i just finished reading the Lord of the RIngs yesterday and I am stunned at its brillliance now that my mind keeps wandering back to it, but many things are not yet clear to me. For instance, it seems that the book is a continuation. It seems to have flowed on from some other book because it uses every name, place, character with familiarity as though the reader has already met them. Does the LOTR have some roots in the HOBBIT? Because if it does, then i shall have to start my regretting a lot too early for reading a book without reading its prequel. Also, I have watched the movies and there seems to be lots of changes. For example, the Aragorn and Arwen relationship is shown much more clearly although in the book, one could just see a mysterious Elf in love and loved by a the mighty Aragorn. So where did the movie get the ideas for all those scenes that it created? After all, from what I have read and understood, very little is expressed of Aragorn's love for Arwen in the books and if I hadnt watched a little of the movies before reading the great books, I would wonder if my book lacked any pages for there is little history to be found of Arwen and Aragorn and Elrond's thoughts on the blessed lovers. Oh and thanks for the help ^ I at last know all the names of ALL the places of Middle Earth but of course, having never excelled in the geography of my own Earth, some confusion still lie. But the mapwork helped beyond belief, really :)


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