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Misconceptions

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Misconceptions have arisen and circulated over numerous concepts within J.R.R. Tolkien's legendarium as a result of mistakes made by secondary authors and of changes made by adaptations.

Contents

[edit] Book Misconceptions

The following are misconceptions that have arisen independenly of adaptations, though adaptations may contribute to furthering them.

[edit] The Arkenstone was a Silmaril

The Arkenstone was a Silmaril, probably the one thrown into a fiery pit by Maedhros, and found its way (geologically?) to the north, to be rediscovered by the Khazad of Erebor.
  • Cause: There are several possible reasons for this assumption.
    • One reason is the presence of surface level similarities betweenn the Arkenstone and the Silmarils. Both are great jewels with the ability to produce their own light.
    • Furthermore, one of the Silmarils was said to have been thrown into a firey pit. It is possible to interpret the Lonely Mountain as being an inactive volcano, and the Arkenstone as being said Silmaril.
    • A final reason is the appeal of connecting two parts of the Legendarium in a way that is emotionally satisfying, as the focal point of one story becomes the focal point of another.
      • In an interesting piece of trivia, Tolkien himself may have seen some parallels between the two concepts. In a partial translation of early Silmarillion texts into Old English Tolkien used the etymologically related term 'Eorclanstanas' ('holy stones') to translate 'Silmarils' - suggesting that he may have borrowed the name and other concepts from the Silmarils in describing the Arkenstone.
  • Reality: The Arkenstone is not a Silmaril. There are several reasons why this theory is incorrect.
    • First, Tolkien wrote that the two lost Silmarils would remain lost until the end of Arda. One of them being found by the Dwarves would contradict this.
    • Second, a Silmaril is a gemstone hallowed by Varda which would not suffer the touch of mortal or evil hands.[1] Many mortals handled the Arkenstone without a consequence, and they did not all have good intent. It would have burned them and possibly burned Smaug as well if it were truly a Silmaril. Only once was a full mortal allowed to touch a Silmaril: Beren, when he cut a Silmaril from the Iron Crown of Morgoth. And he was not allowed to do so without cost, as he would soon lose the hand that held it.
    • Third, it should be noted that Maedhros throws himself into a fiery pit with his Silmaril, while the Arkenstone was found deep within a mountain. Therefore, unless Erebor was of volcanic origin, it is practically impossible for the Arkenstone to be a Silmaril. There is no evidence given that Erebor was ever volcanic. In addition, while a volcano is the most likely place for a "firey pit" to appear, it is not explicitly stated that said pit is even anywhere near a volcano.

[edit] Arwen, the Lastborn of the Elves

Arwen was the last Elf born in Middle-earth.
  • Cause: This concept derives from being the youngest Elf whose birth is mentioned in the Tale of Years, and perhaps from publicity for the films.
  • Reality: There is no indication in any of Tolkien's works that Arwen is the lastborn elf, nor any indication that Elves had stopped having children after her birth.

[edit] Buckland Merges With the Shire

When King Elessar gave the Westmarch to the Shire in the Fourth Age, Buckland, an independent sliver of land, was also given to the Shire and was renamed "Eastmarch" to mirror the former.*
  • Cause: This misconception originates from the Prologue to the Lord of the Rings, and is repeated in several reference books, such as Robert Foster's Guide[2] and Fonstad's Atlas.[3]
  • Reality: Tolkien's actual quote in the Prologue speaks about "the East and West Marches: the Buckland; and the Westmarch added to the Shire".[4] The semi-colon here serves to show that the "addition to the Shire" refers only to the Westmarch. This is further supported by the Tale of Years, where the creation of the Westmarch is mentioned, but not the addition of Buckland.[5]

[edit] Déagol/Sméagol Relationship

Déagol is Sméagol's cousin.
  • Reality: Tolkien only calls him Sméagol's friend in The Lord of the Rings, though in The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien he writes that Déagol was "evidently a relative (as no doubt all the members of the small community were)" of Sméagol’s.[6]

[edit] Dorwinion

Dorwinion was only mentioned in passing until it appeared on Pauline Baynes' A Map of Middle-earth (1969), where it was placed on the western shore of the Sea of Rhûn. According to popular belief, its location was not decided by Tolkien, but by Baynes at random.
Dorwinion is marked on the decorated map by Pauline Baynes, as a region on the North-western shores of the Sea of Rhun. It must be presumed that this, like other names on that map, was communicated to her by my father, but its placing seems surprising.
The Lays of Beleriand, "The Lay of the Children of Húrin"
  • Reality: Tolkien himself decided the final location of Dorwinion, not Baynes. Evidence that Tolkien worked with Baynes on the map may be found in the transcribed map discovered in 2015.[8] On said map, Dorwinion's name was written down by Tolkien and not Baynes.

[edit] Buckland Renamed to Eastmarch

Sometimes Buckland is given the name of "Eastmarch" in various fan works.
  • Cause: This phenomenon likely arises from the name of "Westmarch" that Tolkien gave to the part of the Shire added by King Elessar in the Fourth Age.
  • Reality: This name is never used within the works of Tolkien, nor is Buckland ever renamed.

[edit] Gil-galad's father

Fingon was Gil-galad's father
  • Cause: This is in truth not quite a misconception so much as an editorial mistake by Christopher Tolkien. JRR Tolkien indeed once considered Gil-galad to be the son of Fingon., as in The Grey Annals, and it is mentioned so in The Silmarillion.
  • Reality: Christopher Tolkien admitted that it was a rushed choice as in his father's final scripts Orodreth was Gil-galad's father, and Fingon had no wife: even in The Silmarillion, Fingon was succeeded by Turgon as High King of the Noldor instead of his "son".

[edit] Gwaihir is the Great Eagle

The (unnamed) Lord of the Eagles from The Hobbit is identified in the Lord of the Rings as Gwaihir, as they are the same person.
  • Cause: This interpretation is stated by Robert Foster[9] and perhaps originates from the meaning of Gwaihir's name, which translates as "Windlord".
  • Reality: Tolkien never states that Gwaihir was the Lord of the Eagles and King of All Birds. Furthermore there are some problems with conflating the two characters:
    • The Great Eagle of The Hobbit is said to wear a golden crown[10] after the end of the book, but Gwaihir is not wearing one.
    • Near the end of Lord of the Rings Gandalf mentions that Gwaihir has carried him twice [11] (once from Orthanc and once from Celebdil); if Gwaihir was the Great Eagle, that would make it at least three times.

[edit] Ingwë, Finwë, Elwë, and/or Círdan awoke at Cuiviénen

Ingwë, Finwë and Elwë, the three ambassadors of the Elves to Aman, and later Kings of their people, were among the first 144 unbegotten Elves who awoke at Cuiviénen. Círdan the Shipwright is sometimes thought to be among that number as well.
  • Cause: The three ambassadors are among the first Elves named in The Silmarillion. Círdan is by far the oldest Elf to appear in The Lord of the Rings. Thingol (Elwë) makes an ambiguous reference to his origins at Cuiviénen when confronting the Dwarves over the Nauglamir:
"How do ye of uncouth race dare to demand aught of me, Elu Thingol, Lord of Beleriand, whose life began by the waters of Cuiviénen years uncounted ere the fathers of the stunted people awoke?"
The Silmarillion, "Of the Ruin of Doriath"
  • Reality: The Silmarillion does not conclusively identify any named Elf as one of the Unbegotten. The only Unbegotten Elves who are named anywhere in the Legendarium are the three founding couples: Imin and Iminyë, Tata and Tatië, and Enel and Enelyë. The Grey Annals state that Oromë found the Elves 500 years after the Awakening, which leaves ample time for the births of multiple generations of Elves. We also have specific reasons for identifying each of these four Elves as having been begotten in the usual manner.
    • Elwë
      • The Last Writings state that Elwë was the elder brother of Olwë, and Unfinished Tales includes another younger brother, Elmo. Though it is possible for unbegotten persons to be brothers, as the Ainulindalë states "Manwë was the brother of Melkor in the mind of Ilúvatar," it would be strange for Unbegotten Elves who were brothers "in the mind of Ilúvatar" to be of differing ages.
      • All the Unbegotten Elves awakened alongside their spouses. Elwë did not meet his wife Melian until reaching Beleriand, so he cannot have been among the Unbegotten.
    • Finwë
      • Finwë's wife Míriel bore the mother-name "Serindë," meaning she had a mother. Therefore, neither she nor her husband could have been Unbegotten.
    • Ingwë
      • If Indis was the sister of Ingwë, as in the genealogy given in Later versions of the Story of Finwë and Míriel, neither can be Unbegotten, as Indis was the second wife of Finwë.
      • However, Indis' relation to Ingwë is not consistent in all material. The genealogy given in The Shibboleth of Fëanor states that Indis was niece of Ingwë through her unnamed mother, his sister. In this case it is possible for Ingwë and his unnamed sister to have been Unbegotten and yet siblings "in the mind of Ilúvatar," but this situation would be without precedent and unique among all known Elves.
    • Círdan
      • Círdan is never said to have a spouse, so he cannot be one of the Unbegotten.
      • Círdan is said to be kin to Elwë in The Silmarillion. There are only two ways for Elwë, who we know to have been begotten (see above), to be kin to an Unbegotten Elf:
      • First, for Elwë to be directly descended from Círdan. We can rule this out because Círdan is never said to have a spouse, let alone offspring.
      • Second, for Elwë to be descended from a sibling "in the mind of Ilúvatar" of Círdan. This requires the assumption of many facts not in evidence, including a spouse for Círdan.

[edit] Middle-earth is an underground world

Middle-earth is a world that exists inside the Earth, similar to the concept of "Hollow-Earth". Tolkien's stories are a kind of Subterranean fiction as they happen underground, at the center of the Hollow Earth.[12]
  • Cause: The misconception circulates mainly among the Greek audience and is explained by the Greek translation "Μέση-γη". Although the translation is accurate, the stem "μέσ-" can also be understood as inside by the occasional reader. The notion was popularised mainly by the Greek press, especially concerned with the occult or the paranormal. Those sources leave open the possibility that Tolkien possessed some esoteric or occult knowledge, whereas the fantasy races of Middle-earth are identified as the beings said to populate Agartha.
  • Reality: It is made clear in the Silmarillion that the Earth is called Arda floating in space with atmospheric layers such as Ilmen, Vaiya and Vista; and Middle-earth is a continent.[13] The term Middle-earth refers to "our earth" and is explained geographically as "surrounded by the ocean"[14] and not being inside something.

[edit] No Money

It is thought that Middle-earth is a utopia with no finance based economy.

[edit] Rings of Power for Non-Elves

The Elves of Eregion made specifically Seven Rings especially for the Dwarves, and Nine Rings for the Men. Occasionally it is believed that each group had its own powers to be used accordingly by Elves, Dwarves and Men. The Ring Verse ("...for the Elven-kings, ...for the Dwarf-Lords") indicates their purpose and destination as when Celebrimbor himself gave a ring to King Durin III[16].
  • Cause: This misconception likely arises from the wording of the Ring verse, as well as the way that the Rings of Power are referred to in distinct groups (i.e. Gandalf talking about the Seven, the Three, and the Nine at the Council of Elrond)
  • Reality: Nowhere in Tolkien's books is mentioned that the Seven and the Nine were different from each others nor that they were made for the Dwarves and Men. Everything shows that the Rings were produced massively and were designed by the Elves for themselves. In addition, the Silmarillion states that it was Sauron who distributed the Seven and the Nine, not the Elves. The Ring that Celebrimbor gave to Durin was a notable exception, being the only one of the Seven or the Nine purposely intended for a non-Elf. Of the 19 great rings of power, only the Three Rings were made distinctly. The other 16 rings were likely intended for general use among various Elves.[17]

[edit] Misconceptions Caused by Adaptations

The following are misconceptions which have arisen primarly as a result of various adaptations of Tolkien's work, such as the movies created by Peter Jackson or the many games centered around Middle-earth.

[edit] Elves' long hair

Elves have long hair, both males and females.
  • Cause: Many elves depicted in adaptations such as Peter Jackson's movies have long hair, and other works of fantasy have likely contributed to this image.
  • Reality: Though it's safe to assume that female Elves had long hair on average, there's no clear indication that this was the same for males as well. Both Elwë and Olwë had long hair, as had Fingon.[18] In early stages of writing, Celegorm was also described as having long blond hair,[19] though that passage was removed in the published book.[20] It is never made clear if long hair was a common feature for all male Elves, or that these were an exception.
    • Although there is a note that, "all the Eldar had beautiful hair (and were especially attracted by hair of exceptional loveliness)"[18], it does not mean their beautiful hair was necessarily long. The fact that Glorfindel of Gondolin died because the Balrog grabbed him by the hair to pull him over the cliff leads one to believe that he also wore his hair long.[21] Though not explicitly stated, as Tolkien rarely described his characters in detail, it is implied as short hair is more difficult to grab. Glorfindel of Rivendell clearly had long hair, "his golden hair flowed shimmering in the wind of his speed."[22]

[edit] The Eye of Sauron

After being separated from the Ring, Sauron lost his humanoid shape and turned into a great eye.
  • Cause: Sauron was portrayed as a giant eye wreathed in flame in the movies made by Peter Jackson. He was portrayed similarly in other adaptations such as the Fellowship of the Ring game for Playstation 2 and the 1980 Return of the King special by Rankin-Bass.
  • Reality: In Letter 246 Tolkien explained that "Sauron had a humanoid form, large, but not gigantic", and in Lord of the Rings Gollum comments how Sauron had only four fingers on the Black Hand, which implies that he retained some of his previous physical form.

[edit] Gollum's age

Sméagol was born in the year 2430 of the Third Age, found the Ring on his 33rd birthday in 2463, and thus was 589 years old when he died in 3019.
  • Cause: 33 is the age a Shire Hobbit becomes officially an adult. Sméagol "found" the Ring on his birthday. The filmmakers evidently decided that the day Sméagol found the Ring was his 33rd birthday.
  • Reality: Sméagol was not a Shire Hobbit, but a Stoor, and these had different customs - Tolkien states that the Stoors of Rhovanion received, and did not give gifts on their birthdays (in Unfinished Tales, The History of Middle-earth and Letters); and T.A. 2463 as the date of the discovery of the Ring is an approximate, not a precise date. Thus, there is no exact indication of Gollum's age in Tolkien's books. See http://www.theonering.net/movie/char/smeagol.html

[edit] Hobbit feet

Hobbits have comparatively large, hairy feet.
  • Cause: Hobbit feet are portrayed so in several adaptations, such as illustrations by the Brothers Hildebrandt and the movies, where the feet are actually prosthetics.
  • Reality: Tolkien wrote: "their feet had tough leathery soles and were clad in a thick curling hair, much like the hair of their heads". However, Tolkien does not mention that the size of their feet is disproportionately large.

[edit] Legolas' age

Legolas is 2931 years old during the War of the Ring, and thus was born in T.A. 87.
  • Cause: This information also comes from film publicity and is never stated in the films or books. It may derive from the fact that Aragorn was born in the year T.A. 2931. The date of T.A. 87 for Legolas' birth agrees with another common fan theory, namely that Legolas was born during the period of peace at the beginning of the Third Age.
  • Reality: Tolkien never supplied a birthdate for Legolas.

[edit] Legolas' hair color

Legolas is blond.
  • Reality: Tolkien never specifies Legolas' hair color (although The Hobbit mentions that Thranduil, Legolas' father, was blond). Legolas' hair color is one of the most enduring controversies in Tolkien fandom.

[edit] Names of the Nazgûl

The names of all nine Nazgûl are known: Er-Murazor (the Witch-king of Angmar), Khamûl, Dwar of Waw, Ji Indur Dawndeath, Akhorahil, Hoarmurath, Adunaphel the Quiet (female), Ren the Unclean and Uvatha the Horseman.
  • Further: It should be also noted that Tolkien's texts seemingly contradict the idea that one of the Nazgûl was a woman, with their consistent references as "Men" and "kings", although it could be argued that "Men" includes women and "kings" includes queens. This is supported by the ring verse speaking of three rings for the elven "kings" and Galadriel, an elven woman being the bearer of one of the rings for the elven "kings". In the Silmarillion in Of the Rings of Power and The Third Age Tolkien says "Men proved easier to ensnare. Those who used the Nine Rings became mighty in their day, kings, sorcerers and warriors of old." The sentences before those two sentences talk about the affect of the rings on dwarves, so "Men" is probably used to mean humans and does not only mean males. Since Tar-Aldarion changed the law of succession so that daughters could become ruling queens of Númenor, it is possible that women in Númenor could rise to positions of power, so it cannot be excluded that a Númenórean woman could be one of the three "great Lords of Númenórean race" that were among the ringwraiths. Unsurprisingly, the film version of The Fellowship of the Ring shows all nine Nazgûl as men when they received their Rings of Power.

[edit] Saruman, creator of Uruk-hai

Saruman is believed to be the creator of the race of Uruk-hai (Uruks), the larger, stronger breed of Orcs.
  • Cause: The misconception originates from the fact that Saruman perhaps created a race of Orc-men or Men-Orcs in his service[23]. This is visualized in The Lord of the Rings (film series) which further established this view. However the Orc-men are not the same as the Uruk-hai, which are instead the elite fighting force used by Saruman. The movie also established wrongly that "Uruk-hai" are a stronger race of Orcs, while in reality it is simply a Black Speech term for the Orcs proper themselves (excluding the Snaga).

[edit] Tengwar on Sting

The Sindarin words Maegnas aen estar nin dagnir in yngyl im are engraved on the blade of Sting. The words translate as "Maegnas (Sharp-point) is my name, I am the spider's bane".
  • Cause: The origin of this inscription is the depiction in the movies, where Sting is depicted as being engraved.
  • Reality: In the books, Tolkien describes Sting as a rather plain weapon with a simple leather sheath. Unlike Glamdring and Orcrist, it bears no runes for Elrond to translate in The Hobbit. It first receives a name from Bilbo Baggins after he uses it against the giant spiders of Mirkwood

[edit] The War in the North

The War of the Ring included a "War in the North", which involved fighting in Eriador and around Rivendell.

References

  1. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor"
  2. Robert Foster, The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, entry "Buckland"
  3. Karen Wynn Fonstad, The Atlas of Middle-earth, "the Shire"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, "Prologue", "Of the Ordering of the Shire"
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "Later Events Concerning the Members of the Fellowship of the Ring"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 214, (undated, written late 1958 or early 1959)
  7. Did Pauline Baynes Choose the Location of Dorwinion?
  8. https://www.tolkiensociety.org/2015/11/tolkiens-annotated-map-of-middle-earth-transcribed/
  9. The Complete Guide to Middle-earth entry "Gwaihir"
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Queer Lodgings"
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Field of Cormallen"
  12. Example article in a Greek occult forum
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Ainulindalë: The Music of the Ainur"
  14. Dennis Gerrolt, Tolkien's interview to BBC, 1971
  15. The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, entry "Money"
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age"
  17. FAQ of the Rings: How did the Seven and the Nine differ? and Were the Seven and Nine Rings originally intended for Dwarves and Men?
  18. 18.0 18.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "XI. The Shibboleth of Fëanor"
  19. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Part Two: Valinor and Middle-earth before The Lord of the Rings, VI. Quenta Silmarillion"
  20. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Beren and Lúthien"
  21. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "III. The Fall of Gondolin"
  22. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Flight to the Ford"
  23. http://tolkien.slimy.com/faq/Creatures.html#Urukhai
  24. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A