the ring of barahir

Concerning Hobbits (of Color)

Okay it’s been a whole day and I’m still angry about that hobbit casting thing, so let’s lay down some Tolkien canon here.

Fact 1: Per Tolkien, there were originally three races of hobbit. The Stoors were a small group, they were broad and stocky, they grew facial hair, they liked rivers, and their skin color is not specified, so Tolkien probably meant them to be white (but there’s no reason they have to be, since again, not specified). The Fallohides were a tiny group, they were thin, pale and tall, they were bold and good with languages, and they like trees. The Harfoots were the distinct majority, they lived in holes, they had hairy feet, and they were brown. Tolkien is super clear on this. He explicitly calls out Harfoots as having browner skin than other hobbits when describing the races and he uses phrases like “nut-brown skin” and “long brown fingers” when describing specific hobbits to back it up.

Fact 2: Britain planted its ravenous imperial flag firmly in the soil of India three centuries before Tolkien wrote The Hobbit. He knew what a brown person looked like. He would know he was not evoking a slightly darker shade of Caucasian when he said a person had brown skin.

Fact 3: Bilbo, Frodo, and all of their friends are aristocracy. Sam is the only hobbit we ever meet who is an actual laborer. In Tolkien’s time, laborers worked in the sun and middle class and aristocracy stayed inside where there was something resembling temperature control. Apart from Sam and Aragorn, no one in the Fellowship (or Company) ever voluntarily got a sunburn. If Tolkien talks about brown skin he’s talking about brown skin, not a farmer’s tan.

Where does this leave us?

Well, Tolkien says that after colonizing the Shire, the three hobbit races mingled more closely and became one. This leaves us with two options.

Option A: He’s talking about that thing that sci-fi writers sometimes do where “everyone is mixed race.” So all three races would have smeared together into a single uniform color. What color? Mostly Harfoot, aka brown. The “strong strain of Fallohide” in the Tookish and Brandybuck lines means maybe they’re white-passing, but in this scenario all hobbits are brown.

Option B: He’s talking about a more melting-pot scenario where visual racial distinctions still exist but everyone lives side-by-side in a fairly uniform culure. The Tooks/Brandybucks having a “strong strain of Fallohide” means that they are themselves remaining strains of Fallohide, and are straight-up white. Merry, half Took and half Brandybuck, is thus white (possibly part Stoor, given Brandybuck comfort with water); Pippin, half Took and half Banks, is either white or biracial. The Baggins family, sensible owners of the oldest and most venerable hobbit-hole anyone knows of, are blatantly Harfoot, making Bilbo and Frodo (half Took and half Brandybuck respectively) also biracial. Fallohides being exclusively adventurous high-class types, and the Gamgees being staid low-class homebodies with a distrust of moving water, Sam is obviously Harfoot and thus completely brown. (Smeagol, a Stoor, is probably white, but as discussed above, doesn’t have to be.) In this scenario, a minimum of three of five heroic hobbits are various shades of brown, four out of five of them could be, and most background hobbits are brown.

In conclusion, if you think all hobbits are white, you are canonically wrong. If you geek out over Aragorn wearing the Ring of Barahir, rage about Faramir trying to take the Ring, and do not even notice, much less complain, that Sam, Bilbo and Frodo are being erroneously portrayed by white guys, you need to reexamine the focus of your nerdery.

Silmarien was the firstborn child of King Tar-Elendil. As Númenorean succession laws of the time did not allow her to inherit the crown, she married Elatan of Andúnië and establihed the royal line of the Lords of Andúnië. She inherited the Ring of Barahir, and passing it down the generations it eventually escaped its destruction the Downfall of Númenor. 

  The sons of Finarfin bore most heavily the brunt of the assault, and Angrod and Aegnor were slain; beside them fell Bregolas lord of the house of Bëor, and a great part of the warriors of that people. But Barahir the brother of Bregolas was in the fighting further westward, near to the Pass of Sirion. There King Finrod Felagund, hastening from the south, was cut off from his people and surrounded with small company in the Fen of Serech; and he would have been slain or taken, but Barahir came up with the bravest of his men and rescued him, and made a wall of spears about him; and they cut their way out of the battle with great loss. Thus Felagund escaped, and returned to his deep fortress of Nargothrond; but he swore an oath of abiding friendship and aid in every need to Barahir and all his kin, and in token of his vow he gave to Barahir his ring.

“Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin” - The Silmarillion - J.R.R. Tolkien

Of the forging of the ring of Barahir

“Proud are the words, and all there turned,

to see the jewels green that burned

in Beren’s ring. These Gnomes had set 

as eyes of serpents twined that met

beneath a golden crown of flowers,

that one upholds and one devours:

The badge that Finrod made of yore

and Felagund his son now bore”

                                                          The Lay of Leithian

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Nargothrond - King Finrod’s Realm

Fell in 495 FA - Battle of Tumhalad

(Source: X)

  • Right side: King Finrod with his nephew and successor Orodreth
  • Top Row - Prince Finrod befriending the Secondborn & wounded Finrod in battle rescued by the House of Bëor
    • Central - The Ring of Barahir, which was given to the House of Bëor as a token of King Finrod’s oath to aid them in kind for saving his life in battle. 
      • The Men he had befriended rallied to and surrounded the Elvenking and bravely cut their way out of their enemies to rescue him.
    • Top Center: The ring of Barahir was once lost, briefly, but reclaimed by Beren.
      • This ring later passes down the line to Aragorn who stands against Sauron in the Third Age.
        • He used it as his engagement ring with Arwen.
  • In Flames - Finrod being revealed from his song-spun illusion and falling before the throne of Sauron during their song of battle.  He and his companions are taken prisoner.
    • Below: Elves in the dungeon of Sauron with Beren, attacked by werewolves and killed one by one, but none would betray their purpose. 
      • Finrod slew the werewolf sent for Beren with the last of his strength and died, thus keeping his oath.
  • Beneath the Ring - Finrod’s successor Orodreth, who was given advice from Ulmo, the Lord of Waters, to cast down Narog’s bridge. 
    • Ulmo is symbolized by the ocean and island to the right.
  • Center: Orodreth was rashly advised by Turin Mormegil (black sword) to not heed this message and continue in open war against Morgoth, which revealed the hidden city.
  • Lower left - Glaurung sacking Nargothrond and hoarding its gold.  
    • Center: Fair Finduilas, who loved Turin and could have saved him from his grim fate, was speared to a tree and left to die.

This series of First Age illustrations by ChoiStar for Nargothrond, Doriath, and Gondolin is absolutely excellent for helping people understand three major events and important characters of The Silmarillion.  I briefly explained the images so that people who are not wholly familiar with the text will be able to identify the reference of each scene.  Art really opens the door to Tolkien’s complex work.

(If I missed something or made a mistake, please drop me a note.  Thanks!)

[Part 1 of 3] [Part 2 of 3] [Part 3 of 3]

Famous Jewelry of Middle Earth

There is actually a lot of really important jewelry in Middle Earth’s history. I’m just going to list the pieces below, in no particular order:

  • The Rings of Power: 19 rings of power were made by Celebrimbor and the elves of Eregion during the Second Age. The rings had the (general) ability to bring about what its wearer most wanted - in men, this meant an extended life. In dwarves, this meant increased gold and jewels. And in elves, this meant the preservation of the land (less death and decay.) Only the three most powerful of the rings were given names (that we know of) - Nenya, Narya, and Vilya, and all but these three rings were lost to Sauron or dragons by the end of the Third Age.
  • The Nauglamir: A fabulous necklace made dwarvish smiths in the First Age, using mainly gems and jewels brought to Middle Earth from Valinor by the Noldor. Later, one of the silmarils was also added to the necklace. The Nauglamir’s fate after the First Age is unknown.
  • The Ring of Barahir: This ring was originally given to Barahir, lord of the House of Beor, by Finrod, prince of the Noldor, after Barahir saved Finrod’s life in battle. The ring became an heirloom of Barahir’s house, and eventually found its way into the hands of Aragorn in the late Third Age.
  • The Elfstone: Tolkien wrote a couple versions of this, so the Elfstone (also called the Elessar) might be one gem or two different ones by the same name. But it was a brooch with a large green stone that was said to make its wearer feel young again, and even apparently had some healing power. It was made in Gondolin in the First Age (and, if you believe in the version in which there were two Elfstones, the second one was made by Celebrimbor in Eregion during the Second Age.) The later stone was given by Galadriel to Aragorn.
  • Necklace of Girion: This was an emrald necklace found in Smaug’s horde in Erebor and given by Bard to Thranduil as thanks for his help. The necklace had originally belonged to Bard’s ancestor Girion, who traded it with the dwarves of Erebor years ago.
  • Arwen’s Necklace: This was a white necklace that Arwen gave to Frodo to comfort him when his old wounds haunted him.
  • Star of the Dunedain: This wasn’t one specific piece of jewelry. Rather, it was a type of brooch that the Dunedain Rangers of the north wore on their cloaks to identify themselves to other rangers. It was silver and in the shape of a many-pointed star. Later the symbol was used by Sam Gamgee.
  • Star of Elendil: This was a crystal white gem set on a circlet made by the Noldor and originally worn by Silmarien, daughter of King Tar-Elendil of Numenor. The stone was taken from Numenor by Elendil (a different Elendil) before the island’s destruction, and it became an heirloom of his house. It was lost when Isildur was killed, and a replica was made and worn by the kings of Arnor, all the way down to Aragorn. (Eventually the original was found hidden in Isengard.)

I think I got everything!

SOURCES: LOTR, LOTR Appendices, The Silmarillion, The Unfinished Tales

Canonical Supernatural Abilities of Tolkien's Elves

Note: This reference is probably incomplete. Tolkien’s concept of his world evolved over time, so references which are bolded(from works written before 1937, when the Hobbit was published) shouldn’t be taken as the author’s final intent. 

Elven musicians “can make the things of which they sing appear before the eyes of those that listen.” (Appendix A, Return of the King).

At least one Elf learned to speak the tongues of ‘birds and beasts’ (Celegorm, The Silmarillion, Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalie).

Elves can count the number of people riding in a close formation, and notice their hair color and height, from a distance of at least seventeen miles(28 km). (Legolas in The Two Towers, The Riders of Rohan).

Elves who have been to Valinor glow (Glorfindel, Fellowship of the Ring “Flight to the Ford”, Galadriel, Return of the King “The Gray Havens”, Gildor, Fellowship of the Ring “Three is Company”).

Elves can walk atop the snow (Legolas, Fellowship of the Ring) and have remarkable cold tolerance (Legolas, Fellowship of the Ring, and the host of Fingolfin, The Silmarillion).

At least one Elf could influence by magic the direction paths take within his kingdom, so as to trap someone there. (Eöl, The Silmarillion, Of Maeglin).

Elves can read minds and communicate with each other telepathically (briefly referenced in Return of the King, “Many Partings”, expanded on in ’Osanwe-kenta’ in Vinyar Tengwar)

Elves can duel with song and knock down buildings with song (Finrod in The Silmarillion, Of Beren and Lúthien, Galadriel in Of The Rings of Power and the Third Age.)

Elves can heal with song (Lays of Beleriand, which credits Lúthien’s healing song as one “that Elvish wives long years had sung in those sad lives of war and weapons”)

Elves can conceal/temporarily cause to disappear possessions of theirs which they want to disguise (Lays of Beleriand, where Finrod uses magic to conceal the Ring of Barahir and other items which might identify his party, and to conceal them as Orcs).

Elves can create magical items: rope that unties itself when no longer needed, cloaks that make the wearer nearly invisible, rings that make mortal bearers immortal (though not spiritually and at a spiritual cost), the palantiri, gems that emit light, swords that glow in the presence of enemies and swords which are sentient and can talk. It’s unclear if Galadriel’s mirror is a magic item or if she has a magic ability to see distant and future things in it; she herself cautions the Hobbits that thinking about Elven abilities as magic is a mistake (The Fellowship of the Ring, “The Mirror of Galadriel”).

Barahir Hunted

“Their bed was the heather and their roof the cloudy sky.”
-J. R. R. Tolkien, pg 181 of the Silmarillion

Clad in the Green of the East and the Grey of the West,
the long passes over the moors of the highlands
ranged above the dark forests, of twisted root,
the evil did chase, the monster did rage,
the dun hosts follow and the Dark Lord hate,
after the score less seven; the last of Dorthonion.

Against a biting cold and moonless dark
did the watch and guard wane.
To the holds of the North, came the blanket of the season
and drove them to their hall
all but forsaking the watch on the deathly plains,
to which the evil god did make malice.

Hot pain issued from the Iron Hill to ruin in the North,
the deaths of their allies and of men,
was cold of that Winter forever bound to their souls,
bitter as that moonless frost, in the face of evil’s hordes,
brought in part the doom on Noldor
with whom their lot was tied.

The Sudden Flame sundered them from home,
sundered them from the love of kin
and all the while, in now dark Dorthonoin
this unsung song of little told tales ring out here,
of the dauntless last men of Barahir,
of how they fought on.

The Ring of Barahir

The Ring of Barahir actually has a really interesting history!  It starts way, way back in the First Age, with Finrod Felagund, King of Nargothrond.  The ring was originally his, and he gave it to Barahir, Lord of the House of Beor.  They had fought together in the Dagor Bragollach, and Finrod was surrounded by enemies, but:

Barahir came up with the bravest of his men and rescued him, and made a wall of spears about him; and they cut their way out of the battle with great loss.  Thus Felagund escaped, and returned to his deep fortress of Nargothrond; but he swore an oath of abiding friendship and aid in every need to Barahir and all his kin, and in token of his vow he gave to Barahir his ring.

Barahir wore the ring until he died (he was killed by orcs who actually cut off his had to get the ring as proof of his death to Morgoth, but Beren retrieved it and took the ring).  When Beren met Luthien and was assigned his quest by Thingol, he found Finrod and asked him to help him in his quest which Finrod agreed to, paying his debt to Barahir.  The ring then past to Beren’s son Dior, then to Elwing, then to Elros and the kings of Numenor.  Tar-Elendil gave the ring to his oldest daughter Silmarien (you can read about that more in this post) and eventually ended up with Elendil in Middle Earth.  The ring became an heirloom to the kings of Arnor.  

The last king of Arnor, Arvedui, was wearing the ring when his kingdom fell to the Witch King.  He fled north to Forochel, and gave the ring to the leader of the Lossoth in gratitude to their hospitality, saying: 

This is a thing of worth beyond your reckoning.  For its ancestry alone.  It has no power, save the esteem in which those hold it who love my house.  It will not help you, if ever you are need, my kin will ransom it with great store of all that you desire.

The ring eventually returned to the Dunedain, but Tolkien doesn’t write any more about that event.  Centuries later, when Elrond tell young Aragorn about his heritage, he gives him the ring.  Finally, Aragorn gave the ring to Arwen to seal their betrothal.  

SOURCES: The Silmarilion, LotR Appendices 

Oaths and Doom and all that: The Beren and Finrod Edition

I said I wanted to produce more Beren content, so here you go.

During my time in the tumblr Silm famdom, I’ve seen a lot of posts about Finrod’s oath and his decision to join Beren’s quest, and I think most of them have been pretty inconsistent with what actually happens in canon. So here’s my take on that, first with quotes, then with a little headcanon/speculation of my own. 

It is told in the Lay of Leithian that Beren passed through Doriath unhindered, and came at length to the region of the Twilight Meres, and the Fens of Sirion; and leaving Thingol’s land he climbed the hills above the Falls of Sirion, where the river plunged underground with great noise. Thence he looked westward, and through the mist and rains that lay upon those hills he saw Talath Dirnen, the Guarded Plain, stretching between Sirion and Narog; and beyond he descried afar the highlands of Taur-en-Faroth that rose above Nargothrond. And being destitute, without hope or counsel, he turned his feet thither.

That’s it, folks. That’s Beren’s big plan when he goes to Nargothrond. He’s got nothing except for the clothes on his back and some ring he took off his dead dad’s severed hand so he would have something to remember Barahir by. With no other options, he decides to use the ring to get into Nargothrond, because at the very least he could use a good meal and maybe some better gear.

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