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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

Definition of First Age; Third Age "of the Sun"

  • The First Age began with the first sunrise over Middle-earth and the events of The Lord of the Rings took place in the Third Age of the Sun.
    • Although at some points referred to the "Years of the Sun", Tolkien never described the Four Ages as being linked to the Sun; or the First Age beginning with the first rising of the Sun. As Robert Foster observes, The Silmarillion is not clear about when the First Age begun, which could have been at the Awakening of the Elves or the creation of Arda.[1]
      The misconception must have originated with the fanon dating of the First Age from the rising of the Sun onwards, although Foster admitted it was only a convention, as before that point the years can't be calculated.[2] The "Ages of the Sun" has been repeated often in reference works such as in Tolkien: The Illustrated Encyclopedia by David Day, whose books are generally considered unreliable (as by Conrad Dunkerson and Steuard Jensen[3]) while Michael Martinez refers to the "First Age of the Sun" in Parma Endorion.

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. Tolkien wrote that the two lost Silmarils would remain lost until the end of Arda. However, 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.

Arwen, the lastborn of the Elves

  • Arwen was the last Elf born in Middle-earth.
    • This concept derives from being the youngest Elf whose birth is mentioned in the Tale of Years, and perhaps from publicity for the films; but is never stated in the films or the books.

Legolas' age

  • Legolas is 2931 years old during the War of the Ring, and thus was born in T.A. 87.
    • 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. Tolkien never wrote about Legolas' birthdate.

Legolas' hair color

  • Legolas is blond.
    • This is a visual tradition dating back to the works of the Brothers Hildebrandt in the 1970s and followed in both the animated and live action LotR films. However, 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.

Elves' long hair

  • Elves have long hair, both males and females.
    • 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.[4] In early stages of writing, Celegorm was also described as having long blonde hair,[5] though that passage was removed in the published book.[6] It is never made clear if long hair was a common feature for all male Elves, or that these were an exception.

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.

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. Unsurprisingly, the film version of The Fellowship of the Ring shows all nine Nazgûl as men when they received their Rings of Power.

The War in the North

Hobbit feet

  • Hobbits have comparatively large, hairy feet.
    • Tolkien wrote: "their feet had tough leathery soles and were clad in a thick curling hair, much like the hair of their heads". Besides the hair, Tolkien doesn't mention that the size of their feet is disproportionally large; they are portrayed so in several adaptations, such as illustrations by the Brothers Hildebrandt and the movies, where the feet are actually prosthetics.

Déagol/Sméagol relationship

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.
    • 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. However: 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

Tengwar on Sting

  • The Sindarin words Maegnas aen estar nin dagnir in yngyl im are engraved on the blade of Sting. The worlds translate as "Maegnas (Sharp-point) is my name, I am the spider's bane".
  • The origin of this inscription is the depiction in the movies. 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.

Saruman, the creator of Uruk-hai

Saruman is believed to be the creator of the race of Uruk-hai (Uruks), the larger, stronger breed of Orcs. This is visualized in The Lord of the Rings (film series) which further established this view. 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).

In reality, the Uruks first appeared out of Mordor in the last years of Steward Denethor I, before T.A. 2475 and before Saruman settles in Orthanc[8].

The misconception originates from the fact that Saruman perhaps created a race of Orc-men or Men-Orcs in his service[9]. However these aren't the same as the Uruk-hai.

Dorwinion

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.
[11]

Money

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.
    • This interpretation is stated by Robert Foster[13] and perhaps originates from the meaning of Gwaihir's name, which translates as "Windlord". However 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[14] 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 [15] (once from Orthanc and once from Celebdil); if Gwaihir was the Great Eagle, that would make it at least three times.

Gil-galad's father


Ingwë, Finwë and Elwë 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 Elves who awoke at Cuiviénen.
    • The Silmarillion only says that Oromë visited the Elves at Cuiviénen but does not clarify whether the Three Ambassadors were indeed firstborn. According to the Grey Annals, Oromë found the Elves 500 years after the Awakening, a gap which would leave ample time for the firstborn Elves to procreate and for Elven children to be born and grow. Nothing states that the three Ambassadors could not have been born during that time, thus belonging to a second or third generation of Elves.
    • Furthermore, the Silmarillion is clear that Elwë, Olwë (and Elmo) were brothers, and that Olwë was younger than Elwë. This can't be easily understood if Elwe was a Firstborn (i.e. without parents). The Cuivienyarna mentions that Elwe was born at Cuiviénen.[16]

Middle-earth is an underground world similar to the Hollow Earth

  • Middle-earth is a world that exists inside the Earth. Tolkien's stories are a kind of Subterranean fiction as they happen underground, at the center of the Hollow Earth.[17]
    • 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.
    • 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.[18] The term Middle-earth refers to "our earth" and is explained geographically as "surrounded by the ocean"[19] and not being inside something.

The Seven Rings were made for the Dwarves and the Nine Rings for Men

  • 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[20].
  • Some adaptations, such as Ralph Bakshi's Lord of the Rings and Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring show a similar notion: in both movies the prologue shows that the Elf smiths made the Rings for the Elves, Dwarves and Men, before Sauron makes war to seize them. Furthermore, in Jackson's adaptation, each group has a distinct visual style (eg. the Seven have a definite "Dwarvish" design).
    • 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. The Ring that Celebrimbor gave to Durin was a notable exception. Only the Three were created distinctly outside the other 16.[21]
The Silmarillion mentions that (besides Durin's Ring) it was Sauron who gave the Rings to the Dwarves and Men, and that was only after the Elves repented.

Buckland eventually became part of 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.
    • 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[22] and Fonstad's Atlas.[23] A second misconception is the name "Eastmarch" which is never mentioned as such in the narrative.
Tolkien's actual quote in the Prologue speaks about "the East and West Marches: the Buckland; and the Westmarch added to the Shire".[24] 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 or its renaming to Eastmarch.[25]

References

  1. Robert Foster, The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, entry "First Age"
  2. Foster, Guide, Appendix A
  3. Steuard Jensen, "Notes on David Day's Tolkien Books" , Tolkien metaFAQ (accessed 22 August 2014)
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "The Shibboleth of Fëanor"
  5. 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"
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Beren and Lúthien"
  7. [1]
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A
  9. http://tolkien.slimy.com/faq/Creatures.html#Urukhai
  10. Did Pauline Baynes Choose the Location of Dorwinion?
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lays of Beleriand, "I. The Lay of the Children of Húrin"
  12. The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, entry "Money"
  13. The Complete Guide to Middle-earth entry "Gwaihir"
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, "Queer Lodgings"
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Field of Cormallen"
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Jewels, "Part Four. Quendi and Eldar: Appendix: The legend of the Awaking of the Quendi (Cuivienyarna)"
  17. Example article in a Greek occult forum
  18. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Ainulindalë: The Music of the Ainur"
  19. Dennis Gerrolt, Tolkien's interview to BBC, 1971
  20. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age"
  21. 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?
  22. Robert Foster, The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, entry "Buckland"
  23. Karen Wynn Fonstad, The Atlas of Middle-earth, "the Shire"
  24. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, "Prologue", "Of the Ordering of the Shire"
  25. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "Later Events Concerning the Members of the Fellowship of the Ring"