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Swans

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Excerpt from Tuor and Vinyamar by Ted Nasmith

"...the proudest of all these birds were the swans"[1]

Swans were waterfowl of either black or white color,[2] though usually the latter. It said that swans were especially abundant in the Nîn-in-Eilph (Swanfleet), a wetland region in Eriador.[3][4]

Contents

[edit] Swans and the Free peoples

The swan was an important bird in the tales of the Elder Days. The Maia Ossë sent "many strong-winged swans" to draw the ships of the Teleri over Belegaer to Aman without help of the winds. The Teleri (later being called by the epithet the Swanherds)[5] thus especially came to revere swans, and named their city Alqualondë (the Swanhaven) and built their ships in swan-form.[6][7][8]

Farewell to Lórien by Ted Nasmith

Ossë's master Ulmo, the Vala, sent seven great swans to guide Tuor to Vinyamar, where he found a shield which had "an emblem of a white swan's wing". Tuor already loved these birds, having been fostered at Mithrim, where swans seem to have been plentiful (and Tuor's foster-father, Annael and his folk, had the swan as a symbol). Departing from Vinyamar, Ulmo's seven swans approached Tuor and offered him one feather each, which Tuor set in the crest of his helm.[9][10]

The Teleri were not alone in using the swan-form in ship-building: the prow of Eärendil's ship Vingilótë "was fashioned like a swan", [11] and the Elves of Lothlórien made a Swan-ship, so well crafted that it resembled a real, giant swan.[12]

In the Third Age, the symbol of the Swan-knights of Dol Amroth was a banner, silver upon blue, bearing a "token of the Ship and the Silver Swan", and their mariners used swan-prowed ships.[13][14][15]

[edit] Names

In Sindarin, the name for "swan" was alph (pl. eilph), as in Nîn-in-Eilph. The Quenya cognate was alqua, as in Alqualondë, and the Telerin was alpa.[16]

In Tolkien's early tongues Ilkorin and Danian, the name for "swan" was alch and ealc, respectively.[17] Other early conceptions include Gnomish alfa or alfuil and Qenya alqe.[18]

[edit] Other Versions of the Legendarium

A late manuscript concerning Númenor tells about the legendary great Swans of Gorbelgod.[19]

In an early versions of the Legendarium, more details about the use of swans in symbolism and crafting are given:

  • Reminding of the Elven Swan-ships, Aulë seems to have been the first to make "great vessels like to the bodies of swans".[1]
  • It is also said Tuor used a "boat with a prow fashioned like to the neck of a swan" on Lake Mithrim, and that Ulmo apparently sent three swans to guide him out of Mithrim (much reminding of the later device of the "seven swans"). Later, the wing of a white swan become the symbol for Tuor and his company (House of the Wing) in Gondolin.[20]
  • See also House of the Swan

[edit] Inspiration

In a poem about Tom Bombadil, it is said that "he wore in his tall hat a swan-wing feather".[21] J.R.R. Tolkien explained in a letter to Pauline Baynes that the swan, (traditionally the property of the King), indicated a "special friendship with Tom", the swans being among the creatures "who looked for the return of their rightful Lord, the true King".[22] Perhaps this perceived nobility of the swans explains why Tolkien used the bird as a symbol for the princely line of Dol Amroth, and why the swans were described as allies of the Ainur and Elves.

A glimpse of Tolkien's childhood experience of swans has also been described:

"...they [Ronald and Hilary] would scamper away from the yard, and run round to a place behind the mill [at Sarehole] where there was a silent pool with swans swimming on it."
Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography

[edit] Portrayal in Adaptations

Middle-earth Role Playing:

Black Swans are conceived as quite ill-meaning creatures "known to mob and overturn boats", and being larger than normal swans. Another type of swans, the Pied Swans (given the name Elph Tithen in Sindarin), are described as "creamy white in color, liberally splotched and speckled with black and grey", and said to be intelligent and friendly to travellers.[23][24][25]

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] References

  1. 1.0 1.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part One, "The Coming of the Elves and the Making of Kôr", p. 124
  2. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Great River"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "Many Partings"
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn", "Appendix D: The Port of Lond Daer" (discussion of the name Glanduin)
  5. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring, "Part Three. The Later Quenta Silmarillion: (I) The First Phase: 3. Of the Coming of the Elves" (§30)
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalië"
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Shaping of Middle-earth, "III. The Quenta: [Section] 3"
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Morgoth's Ring, "Part Three. The Later Quenta Silmarillion: (I) The First Phase: 5. Of Eldanor and the Princes of the Eldalië"
  9. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Quenta Silmarillion: Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin"
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin"
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Many Meetings", "Song of Eärendil"
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "Farewell to Lórien"
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "Minas Tirith"
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Siege of Gondor"
  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.), Unfinished Tales, "The History of Galadriel and Celeborn", "Appendix D: The Port of Lond Daer" (Note to discussion of the name Glanduin)
  17. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Lost Road and Other Writings, "Part Three: The Etymologies" (entry ÁLAK-)
  18. J.R.R. Tolkien, "I-Lam na-Ngoldathon: The Grammar and Lexicon of the Gnomish Tongue", in Parma Eldalamberon XI (edited by Christopher Gilson, Arden R. Smith, and Patrick H. Wynne), pp. 18-19
  19. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "Tal-Elmar", p. 426
  20. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Book of Lost Tales Part Two, "The Fall of Gondolin"
  21. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, "The Adventures of Tom Bombadil"
  22. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 240, (dated 1 August 1962)
  23. Ruth Sochard Pitt, Jeff O'Hare, Peter C. Fenlon, Jr. (1988), Creatures of Middle-earth (#8005)
  24. Ruth Sochard Pitt, Jeff O'Hare, Peter C. Fenlon, Jr. (1994), Creatures of Middle-earth (2nd edition) (#2012)
  25. Ruth Sochard (1984), Dagorlad and the Dead Marshes (#8020)