Okay everyone, sit tight, because I’m going to unleash a year’s worth of headcanons.
General Headcanon about Elves
Since Tolkien did say that Middle Earth was our Earth in the distant past, the geographies should roughly line up. the twilit mere of Cuivienen would roughly be situated around the Caspian Sea area in Central Asia. Thus, I’d imagine that the earliest elves as well as the Avari who refused to depart from Cuivienen to have more Asian features, with slanted eyes and darker hair.
Following the same logic, the Silvan elves who settled east of the Misty Mountains, and that area would roughly correspond to Central Europe, which is dominated by, you guessed it, temperate forests. The Sindar elves who settled in Beleriand would occupy Western Europe.
The argument becomes a little more tenuous for the Vanyar and Noldor, most of whom (or in the case of the Vanyar, all) sailed to the West, which, pre-eleventh century, was considered the Great Unknown.
Though blonde hair is not particularly prevalent in Central Asia, it does occur, and I’d like to think that the Vanyar were a group of elves who had such genetic predispositions.
As for the strain of silver hair that runs in Telerin royal houses, that might just be due to a genetic lack of pigmentation.
Regarding Thranduil’s golden hair, he might have had an ancestor who was a Vanya (we can assume that elves married outside of their clans with the case of Indis and Finwe, a Vanyarin lady who married the High King of the Noldor).
If only I put this much effort into my actual research.
Okay, so this brings us to the main topic of this post: Thranduil’s queen.
I think this is the first time I’ve read ‘The Council of Elrond’ and properly realized that Boromir is essentially playing the devil’s advocate, countering not only claims about Gondor, but also supposed news from Rohan and the authenticity of both the Sword that was Broken and the One Ring itself. (And yes, I’m slow, since this reread has a number well in the double digits, but better late than never.)
To start with, it could be easily labelled patriotic pride; when Elrond laments how ’the blood of the Númenóreans became mingled with that of lesser men’ – and implies this is why their watch on Mordor slackened – Boromir is quick to retort, claiming the blood of Númenor is hardly spent – it is, after all, his line Elrond is belittling – and claiming Gondor should be thanked for holding back both the Easterlings and the troops of Morgul. But to say ’thus alone are peace and freedom maintained in the lands behind us, bulwark of the West’ might be going a bit too far, and Aragorn will take issue with this particular statement. Later in the chapter, Boromir gives a very similar reply when Galdor calls the (military) might of Gondor ‘waning’.
Boromir is also quick to defend the folk of Rohan, whom he calls ‘true and valiant’ allies of Gondor, when Gandalf relays the words of Gwaihir the Eagle about Rohan sending horses in tribute to Mordor. He refutes such claims as lies of the Enemy, and is not swayed from his conviction even when Aragorn reminds him it’s been months since he had any first-hand information of the situation.
However, there are also others who are touchy about their line and the perceived prowess and honour of their people; when Boromir, quite reasonably, does not take the authenticity of Narsil at face value, it’s Aragorn who bristles, and he doesn’t do so gracefully:
’If Gondor, Boromir, has been a stalwart tower, we have played another part. Many evil things there are that your strong walls and bright swords do not stay. You know little of the lands beyond your bounds. Peace and freedom, do you say? The North would have known them little but for us. Fear would have destroyed them.’
Basically, this is Aragorn saying ‘You know nothing, Boromir of Gondor. I have fought bogeymen scarier than you can imagine.’ At least Bilbo has the good grace to couch his reproach in poetry.
Boromir retorts by doubting the claim that Frodo’s ring is indeed the famed Isildur’s Bane. In fact, he’s interrupting Gandalf’s telling by boasting that Isildur’s true tale (that he returned to Minas Anor before riding North and his doom on the Gladden Fields) is something ‘all know in Gondor’. In his defence this comes after Gandalf claims to have found something forgotten by all the living lore-masters of the White City, one of whom is Boromir’s own father.
But before this, there is an interesting little detail: when quoting Saruman on the One Ring, Gandalf describes it as ‘round and unadorned, as it were one of the lesser rings’ (my emphasis). Now what lesser rings, one might wonder. In ‘The Shadow of the Past’, Gandalf gives a partial explanation:
’In Eregion long ago many Elven-rings were made, magic rings as you call them, and they were, of course, of various kinds: some more potent and some less. The lesser rings were only essays in the craft before it was full-grown, and to the Elven-smiths they were but trifles–’
Quite obviously, this is an attempt to explain away the fact Gandalf waited years, decades even, without doing anything about a magical object he was concerned about; he believed – or wanted to believe – it to be one of Celebrimbor’s practice pieces, left over from ‘the old days when such rings were still at large in the world’. (The Hobbit, ‘Riddles in the Dark’.)
Another reason to mention the lesser rings is world-building: one can’t help but think of the trove of stories that must be there: what exactly were these rings, some more potent than others, and what eventually became of them. Once again, Tolkien gives an intriguing glimpse into a reality vaster and deeper, and above else, older than what is explicitly told out in the story.
I have always been feeling a little weird about Aragorn taking the
Throne of Gondor after the War of the Ring, and even though surely he is
a good King (who probably has to learn a lot, but still), his claim to
the throne looked a little weird to me.
However, I am aware that things in Middle-earth work somewhat differently. Different life spans, for example, and surely Aragorn’s deeds during the War of the Ring and some old prophecies did play a huge part in the legitimisation of his reign. Plus there were Elves and Gandalf who were generally trusted by the population, mainly because they were old. Still the time spans during the events of the Third Age just seemed incredibly long, so I decided to put things into perspective.
Aragorn used the fact that he was the heir to Isildur to legitimate his claim to the throne, and since it is mentioned ridiculously often in the books, so I did some research. Isildur, last king of the United Kingdom, died in the year 2 T.A. in the Battle of the Gladden Fields. Aragorn Elessar becomes king of the Reunited Kingdom in 3019 T.A. That’s 3017 years. If Aragorn had been crowned in 2015, Isildur would have lived in 1002 BC.
So, let’s have a small look at the world back then:
Rome had not yet been founded
No one on this side of the pond had any idea that America existed. Not even the Vikings!
humanity had just discovered that Iron is actually useful to make tools
Or, in other words it is like someone would come to Egypt, claim to be the heir of pharaoh Psusennes I. and demand to be made king.
But who can actually tell if Aragorn is Isildur’s heir? The Kingdom of Arnor split into three parts in 891 T.A., and Aragorn is heir of the Kingdom of Arthedain, the longest surviving of those three. The line continues until the kingdom fails in 1974 T.A. and it’s last king, Arvendui, dies in 1975 T.A. due to his incapability to take advice. That’s still 1044 years to go which is, looking back from today, 971 AD when:
The Vikings had just discovered America
The world’s human population was 200-300 MILLION. This is less than 1/5 of today’s population of China alone!
Otto II was Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire
In Europe this period is called Early Middle Ages
So, now imagine an heir of Otto II would come to Germany and demand to be king - even if someone would do that (because they had no one else and wanted a monarchy), how could that fictional heir of Otto II support his claim? Would anyone believe him? Even if he wanted to solve one of the many crises in this country he would have a hard time to get into that position to begin with, so I think not.
Anyway, surely the life spans of the race of men, especially of the Dúnedain were somewhat longer than those in our world, but even for them 1000 years is quite some time. I do believe that no one would have made Aragorn king of Gondor if he hadn’t led them well and saved their asses during the War of the Ring.
I hope you’re ready for a massive lesson on First Age Sindarin politics.
My immense thanks to the wonderful @dawnfelagund for giving me online sources!
To answer your question: pretty negatively and the feeling is mutual. It’s because Oropher, and Thranduil after him did NOT like Galadriel AT ALL. The word Tolkien uses is that they “resented” Galadriel. More than that, they resented what she represented. Legolas does not seem to have the same feelings on this subject as his father and grandfather.
A Political History of the Sindar
Table of Contents
1. Sindar come in 3 varieties (spicy, cool ranch, & nacho cheese)
The Lathrim The Falathrim The Mithrim
2.The fall of Rome Doriath
The Right Wingers The Moderates Noldor n’ Friends™
3. Baby, now we got bad blood
Celeborn & Galadriel and Thranduil & Oropher are not friends. Here’s why. Rings of power are against literally everything Thranduil believes and values
Sindar come in 3 varieties (spicy, cool ranch, & nacho cheese)
The big three are the Lathrim, the Mithrim, and the Falathrim (who identified more with their departed Telerin kin than the inland Sindar).(1.) They all have different political agendas, to an extent, but they all also recognized Thingol as their king.
The Lathrim (which includes the elves of Doriath proper) are the most isolationist and have the most hostile attidude towards the Noldor. They also had very little contact with the Noldor. These elves were outraged when they found out about the kinslaying and also viewed the Noldorin princes as colonialists (much like many first world peoples viewed the arrival of Columbus, Jamestown, etc.) The Falathrim (Cirdan’s people) aren’t nearly as isolationistic. They have a pretty positive (for Sindar) attitude towards the Noldor and there were many intermarriages between Falathrim Sindar and exilic Noldor. The Noldor helped them build cities, etc. The Mithrim These are the elves who lived in the northwest of Beleriand and they intermingled pretty freely with the Noldor so it seems they had a decent relationship with them although there aren’t really any strong indicators either way.
Summary: At best, fans and scholars view Thranduil as a cautious isolationist; at worst, he is seen as a greedy dwarf-hater beset by paranoia. In fact, he is not an isolationist at all.
Thranduil’s Not-So-Isolationist Policies
Thranduil would not risk the lives of his kin against the wrath of the dragon. No help came from the elves that day, or any day since. (1)
The narrator presents a clear picture of Thranduil’s policy toward the Dwarves. This scene has just one problem: Tolkien did not write it. It is Peter Jackson’s interpretation. Tolkien did not tell us anything about the Woodland Realm’s reaction to Smaug’s attack on Dale and the Dwarves. At best, we have a snippet describing Thranduil’s realm, which
…extended into the woods surrounding the Lonely Mountain and growing along the west shores of the Long Lake, before the coming of the Dwarves exiled from Moria and the invasion of the Dragon. (2)
Lord of the Rings reread one picspam per chapter: The Shadow of the Past “Gandalf paused. ‘And there in the dark pools amid the Gladden Fields,’ he said, 'the Ring passed out of knowledge and legend; and even so much of its history is known now only to a few, and the Council of the Wise could discover no more. But at last I can carry on the story, I think.’”
First of all, I should say that I’m very hesitant to disagree with anything Christopher Lee says about Middle Earth - while you guys love talking about Stephen Colbert, he’s small change in comparison to Christopher Lee as far as Tolkien know-how goes. But, I really do have to disagree with him on this point. In a couple different Christmas videos (that’s right, he does an annual Christmas Youtube video, go watch them all now), he’s addressed his role as Saruman in The Hobbit movies. And in those videos he’s said things like:
“He is a good and noble man, and the head of the council of wizards, as he always was.”
“This is Saruman the good, the noble, the White.”
“Everything he says, and everything he does, is for the right reasons.”
Now, it’s true that Saruman was believed to be good at this point in history (and it might even be true that, for the movie, Peter Jackson and company are characterizing Saruman as good. But Tolkien makes it pretty clear that this wasn’t really the case by this point in history.
At one point, of course, Saruman was good. And when he came to Middle Earth, it seems he had the best of intentions (and had good intentions for much of his time in Middle Earth.) But, as is so often the case with Tolkien’s characters, Saruman was done in by his pride. He started studying the rings of power, which led to studying the One Ring, which led to studying Sauron. He began to think that, if he had a (or even the) ring of power himself, he would be able to defeat Sauron once and for all. And, eventually, this desire to beat Sauron sort of morphed into a desire to beat him at his own game.
Which brings us to the events of The Hobbit. We learn in the LotR Appendices that, during Bilbo’s adventure, Gandalf is busy convincing the White Council (led by Saruman) to drive the Necromancer (Sauron) out of Dol Goldur. And, in fact, he’d been trying to convince them to do this for nearly a century. But he was repeatedly blocked by Saruman. Even after Gandalf had discovered that the Necromancer was Sauron, Saruman resisted taking action. And, in a footnote to that mark in the timeline, Tolkien adds “It afterwards became clear that Saruman had then begun to desire to possess the One Ring himself, and he hoped that it might reveal itself, seeking its master, if Sauron were let be for a time.”, and that he started searching the Gladden Fields himself soon after this meeting, obviously hoping to find the One Ring before Sauron (or Gandalf.)
In the version of this account that appears in The Silmarillion, Tolkien says that Saruman “had turned to dark thoughts and was already a traitor in heart: for he desired that he and no other should find the Great Ring, so that he might wield it himself and order all the world to his will.” And, in fact, the only reason Saruman did eventually agree to drive Sauron from Dol Guldur was that he’d realized that Sauron also knew that Isildur had died in the Gladden Fields, which meant he would start searching there as well - so, really, Saruman was just using the White Council to drive away his competition in the search for the Ring.
Now, as I mentioned, Saruman’s transition to evil was very gradual. In another work, Tolkien says "The use, and possibly special breeding, of Orcs was kept secret, and cannot have begun much before 2990 at earliest… Had the Council known of this they would, of course, at once have realized that Saruman had become evil.“ So the major part of his transformation takes place before 2990. But he certainly wasn’t completely good during the events of The Hobbit (which happened in 2941, by the way.)
SOURCES: LOTR, LOTR Appendices, The Unfinished Tales ("Disaster at the Gladden Fields”, “The Istari”), The Silmarillion
I am a huge fan of the Unfinished Tales, so I’m going to say absolutely yes. The book is made up of four individual chapters/essays, which honestly include something for every type of Tolkien fan. Here’s an idea of what you get with this book:
“Of Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin” If you’re already familiar with The Silmarillion, you know the basic story of Tuor and Gondolin. This first part is a much more detailed description of Tuor’s early life, his meeting with Ulmo, and his journey to Gondolin with Voronwe. It’s written in narrative form, so it’s basically a short story.
“Narn i Hin Hurin (The Children of Hurin)” Again, for those who’ve already read The Silmarillion, the full story of the children of Hurin is already familiar. This is a more detailed version (which later was written in an even more detailed version and published as The Children of Hurin.) So Turin fans, this one’s for you!
“A Description of the Island of Numenor” The title is pretty self-explanatory. But if you were ever curious about Numenor, it’s a must-read.
“Aldarion and Erendis: The Mariner’s Wife” I love this story. Love it. Not only is it a good story in it’s own right, but it’s probably the closest we’ll ever get to a “normal” “every-day” love story in Middle Earth. Also, it includes tons of interesting information about Numenor, its customs, and its rulers.
“The Line of Elros: Kings of Numenor” This is basically a glossary of Numenor’s rulers - an invaluable resource for any Numenor fans out there.
“The History of Galadriel and Celeborn” This chapter is definitely the book’s heavy hitter. Despite the title, this essay will actually give you tons of new information on all sorts of elves - especially Eregion and the Sindarin elves of Mirkwood and Lorien (any Thranduil fans out there? Yeah, this is for you.)
“The Disaster of the Gladden Fields” In this short narrative, Tolkien goes into the story of Isildur’s death in more detail. Great for anyone interested in Gondor’s early history, or in Isildur in general.
“Cirion and Eorl and the Friendship of Gondor and Rohan” Are you a fan of Rohan? Or of Gondor? Or of the friendship between Rohan and Gondor? This is the story of Eorl, the first king of Rohan, and how he became the first king of Rohan. It also includes some fascinating information about mid-Third Age Gondor.
“The Quest of Erebor” Hobbit fans! Gandalf fans! Listen up - this section is another narrative. It’s Gandalf talking to a few members of the fellowship after the quest (while they’re all relaxing in Minas Tirith.) He ends up telling them his version of the beginning of The Hobbit - fascinating, and kind of funny. Because, you know, Gandalf.
“The Hunt for the Ring” Interested in what the nazgul were up to during the early chapters of Fellowship of the Ring? This account followers their actions (including some interesting information on the relationship between Saruman and Mordor.)
“The Battles of the Fords of Isen” For anyone wanting more information on what was happening in Rohan just before we arrive there in Two Towers, this section is for you. It focuses on Rohan’s early battles with Saruman, before Gandalf and the others arrive, and the Battle of Helm’s Deep, etc.
“The Druedain” For anyone interested in the men of the First Age, or looking to learn more about (in my opinion) the most mysterious and fascinating mannish culture of Middle Earth. The Druedain is part essay on this strange sub-culture, and part short story about the friendship between a man of the Druedain and a man of the House of Haleth.
“The Istari” Have you been wondering just what the wizards are? Where they came from, when and why? Or how they were chosen in the first place? Then this short essay is definitely for you!
“The Palantiri” The Palantir seeing-stones are a mysterious part of Lord of the Rings. This essay tells us all about the stones themselves - their abilities and history.
Anyway, the book is really fantastic, and I’d highly recommend it to a Tolkien fan looking to learn more about Middle Earth (and the mix of narratives and essays makes it especially great for anyone who’s not necessarily looking to “study” Middle Earth, and would prefer to learn things in story-form.)
For the purpose of narrowing down this post, I’m only listing short stories actually written by Tolkien himself. Even so, Tolkien wrote several “short stories” (basically short narratives that didn’t make it into any of the major published works) that are both enjoyable and informative:
“Of Tuor and His Coming to Gondolin” (The Unfinished Tales) This is a sort of prequel/expansion of the beginning of “Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin” from The Silmarillion. It basically goes into much greater detail of Tuor’s youth and journey to Gondolin with Voronwe.
“Aldarion and Erendis: The Mariner’s Wife” (The Unfinished Tales) This is a must-read for anyone who wishes we saw more “everyday” stories about Middle Earth. The main focus of the story is the romantic/personal drama between Aldarion, heir of Numenor, and his wife Erendis.
“The Disaster of the Gladden Fields” (The Unfinished Tales) This narrative tells the story of Isildur’s death, in much much more detail than the mentions we get from Lord of the Rings. It also offers a sort of “deleted scene” of Aragorn and his friends looking through Orthanc after the War of the Ring.
“Cirion and Eorl and the Friendship of Gondor and Rohan” (The Unfinished Tales) Just as it sounds, this is the story of Cirion (steward of Gondor) and Eorl (first king of Rohan), and how Rohan came to be, and how the friendship between their two countries formed.
“The Quest of Erebor” (The Unfinished Tales) This short narrative is Gandalf talking to the hobbits in Minas Tirith after the War of the Ring, and reflecting on his point of view of the beginning of The Hobbit (meeting Thorin and convincing him to take Bilbo on the quest.)
“The Hunt for the Ring” (The Unfinished Tales) This short narrative is really a description of what Gollum and the nazgul were up to during the early chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring.
“The Battle of the Fords of Isen” (The Unfinished Tales) This piece falls somewhere between narrative and essay, to be honest - it kind of reads like a chapter from a history textbook, since it’s really Tolkien giving a historical account of the war in Rohan up until Aragorn and the others arrived on the scene.
“The Druedain: The Faithful Stone” (The Unfinished Tales) Included as an appendix to an essay on the Druedain, this short story is a folktale surviving from the First Age. It tells the story of the friendship between Aghan and Barach, and some of the magic that Aghan used to protect his friends.
“The Lost Road” (Histories of Middle Earth vol. 5) This one’s interesting - it’s actually the beginning of a time-traveling story that Tolkien wrote as part of a science-fiction challenge with C.S. Lewis. Though the story isn’t complete, the premise was connecting Numenor with the “real world” through a series of father/son duos with similar names (seriously, Tolkien is such a linguistics nerd.)
“The Epilogue” (Histories of Middle Earth vol. 9) An epilogue to Lord of the Rings that Tolkien ultimately abandoned, this short story is a conversation between Sam and his children, as they ask questions about the story.
“Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth” (Histories of Middle Earth vol. 10) Though it’s not really short (and it’s not really a story), this narrative is a long philosophical debate between Finrod, a Noldorin prince, and Andreth, a wise-woman of the Edain. It includes, among other things, an account of the early days of men, and Andreth’s romance with Finrod’s brother Aegnor.
“The Cuivienyarna” (Histories of Middle Earth vol. 11) This short legend (technically an appendix to a long linguistic essay), tells the folktale-ish version of the awakening of the elves, and how the three great cultural groups (Vanyar, Noldor, and Teleri) were formed.
“The Shibboleth of Feanor” (Histories of Middle Earth vol. 12) This is another story hidden inside a linguistic essay. But it basically gives a much ore detailed account of the dramatic story of the death of Miriel, Finwe’s first wife, and his marriage to Indis, his second wife, and the many negative feelings his son Feanor had about the whole situation.
“The New Shadow” (Histories of Middle Earth vol. 12) This is the beginnings of a sequel to Lord of the Rings that Tolkien abandoned after writing only 6 pages. While you can’t really get a sense of the plot, though, those 6 pages do provide an interesting look at “everyday” Gondor in the Fourth Age.
Many of Tolkien’s other writings (the more scholarly/essay-type writings) also include bits of narratives, or summaries of stories, that I think are very interesting. But if I were to create an anthology of Tolkien’s “short stories”, these are the ones I would include.
SOURCES: The Unfinished Tales, The Histories of Middle Earth vol. 5, 9, 10, 11, and 12