We receive a number of queries from people who visit this site. Here are some typical questions, with answers. This collection is intended to grow as we collate our collection of questions and answers.
Difficult question. We are really talking about The Lord of the Rings (and The Hobbit). We have three awards given to LotR in the UK in 1998 as best book of all time, by bookshops and book clubs. He's a good writer, people find they can take him seriously even though he writes about dwarves and elves, he has a lot of background to what he writes, people find that the story of The Lord of the Rings echoes all sorts of dilemmas that belong to the present day as well as the world of the imagination. Borrow a copy, read it and see what you think. It's a big question. You have to start somewhere. My granny thought it was awful, but then she couldn't stand hobbits.
One of my colleagues says:
'About Tolkien's popularity: If I knew that I'd be a successful publisher!'
People wonder whether to read Tolkien in Middle-earth time or in the order published. People who know the works recommend reading in order of publication, as this reflects Tolkien's finished and partly-finished ideas in order.
The order is The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, [The Adventures of Tom Bombadil if you wish to read the poems], The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales (you can swap those two over if you want to read the longer Numenor tales before the whole history of The Silmarillion) and then the Histories.
There is no disgrace in giving up any time you've had enough. Tolkien only finished The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (and the Tom Bombadil poems) for publication. The stories of The Simarillion were largely written, but not completed as a single work. Christopher Tolkien edited the manuscripts for publication, in accordance with his father's wishes, after Tolkien's death.
The Histories, which comprise earlier drafts, working notes, items such as language essays and draft maps, and some complete excerpts or tales written in detail, are published in order of the original writing. The began around 1917 with the 'Books of Lost Tales', working through the genesis of The Silmarillion and LotR, to Tolkien's ideas in the 1970s at the end of his life. The Histories will be of great interest if you don't mind variant versions and pages of notes.
To integrate the Histories in the order of Middle-earth time, roughly, read HoME 1-5 (omitting HoME 3 if you are not keen on epic blank verse), then 10-12, then 6-8 and the first half of 9, then The Lord of the Rings and then the second half of HoME 9. This will take a long time and a good memory. You should insert The Silmarillion after books 1-5, Unfinished Tales before books 6-8 and The Hobbit somewhere in the middle of Unfinished Tales. Complicated! This is why people recommend reading Tolkien's books in order of publication.
There have been some queries about which "versions" of the stories are "most authoriative". This is odd, as there are no textual variants (other than the occasional typo) of any of the stories other than The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Further, the textual variants of these two books, marked by the Second Editions, were made in 1951 and 1966 respectively and are long out of print. So, unless you are an antiquarian book collector, there is no purchasing decision to be made. The updates to The Lord of the Rings were very minor. The alterations to The Hobbit were more substatial, mainly adaprting Bilbo's relationship with Gollum to dovetail better with the plot of LotR. These are listed in The Annotated Hobbit by Douglas A. Anderson (updated and reprinted in the USA in 2002 and UK in 2003). (And Bilbo apologises for them at the Council of Elrond.)
The text of LotR has periodically been re-set for size reformatting and typo correction (usually managing to introduce some new typos at the typesetting stage, as is traditional). The text carefully corrected by Douglas A. Anderson, which is in most recent editions, is currently held to be authorative. Please note that this text does not alter the story in any way - it just fixes minor type errors.
Sadly, despite some good new cover variations, nearly all the standard format paperbacks seem to be inferior in paper quality, print clarity and in some cases spine stability to the equivalent larger format ("trade paperback") issues, and nearly all the newer printings are inferior to older ones, except in spine stability, which has improved somewhat over the years. Same for the hardbacks (although spine strength has never been a problem as far as I know). It has now been many years since the clearly printed fold-out map of Middle-earth has been issued with the standard hardback editions, although the illustrated editions may have a clear version on the endpaper.
There are parts of the languages worked out quite thoroughly, but not a complete grammar. Tolkien himself said that he did not have the urge to converse in Elvish, which was just as well because he did not make enough to converse in, except perhaps about stars, trees and death. However, he wrote poems in various Elvish languages, and recited them for his pleasure, and also some phrases like the Elvish greeting that Frodo greets Gildor with, elen síla lúmenn' omentielvo (a star shines on the hour of our meeting), which is written out in Tengwar at the top of these pages. Some language enthusiasts write short poems in elvish for much the same reason. He made many different dialects of Elvish, and kept changing them (this is what he liked doing). There is less of the other languages, although there is quite a bit of Adûnaic (Númenórean) grammar in History IX (Sauron Defeated). To give you some idea what ordinary users are up against, when our Pat wanted a name for a local smial, the Concrete Cows, she came up with Mundeli Sernieva, which means literally "female bulls made of small stones". We have a feeling this is not what the Elves would have said in similar circumstances.
The first place to start with Tolkien's languages is Appendix E and Appendix F of The Lord of the Rings (The Return of the King), where the languages are described, the Tengwar and Cirth letters are described, and a guide to pronunciation is given. There is some additional information plus Tolkien's own examples of written script in The Road Goes Ever On, an book of music that has recently come back into print, along with a CD of some of Tolkien's songs.
Jim Allen's An Introduction to Elvish is old but still the only substantial book on the subject, and is available from a small number of dealers, including the Sales Page on this website. Ruth Noel's The Languages of Tolkien's Middle-earth is a sketchier and less accurate guide but is a starting point: it has recently come back into print. We have also in our Peter Roe Booklet series a concise Sindarin word list by Ken Chaij, which can be useful as a reference for someone who has already read The Lord of the Rings and its Appendices. Many other small press publications have appeared over the years which we do not offer a guide to here, other than noting that Parma Eldalamberon and Vinyar Tengwar are those produced with some assistance from C R Tolkien and JRR Tolkien's personal papers.
On our links page there are a selection of sites dedicated to Tolkien's languages, including one with fonts and considerable explanation of the meanings of the letters (and numbers, which have otherwise only appeared in specialist publications). If you follow these you will find many other sites.
JRR Tolkien regarded his invented languages as a pleasure, a study and an art all his life. They were his own work, drawn from knowledge that he gradually built up over 70 years. He did not approach his art as an obsession or a battlefield. A man of strong opinions, he nevertheless strove to establish peace and reconciliation in his academic roles. He aimed to understand in depth, and respected the work of others.
Tolkien won few awards during his lifetime. Awards for books were not so commonplace as they are today and, even today, awards rarely spot a classic in the making.
In April 1938, The Hobbit won a prize, awarded by the New York Herald Tribune, as the best juvenile (ie written for children) story of the season. (Letters of JRR Tolkien; letter 28.)
In 1957, The Lord of the Rings won the International Fantasy Award at the 15th World Science Fiction Convention. As a point of historical interest, this award preceded the "boom sales" of the 1960s, and led to film-maker Forrest Ackerman showing an interest in adapting the story for the screen. (Letters of JRR Tolkien; letter 202.) It is not true, as has sometimes been suggested, that the book was obscure until it was released in US paperback.
Tolkien said that he thought the rocket statuette "absurd", but the speeches at the convention "far more intelligent". He kept the statuette, which is still in the family's possession.
The Hobbit was awarded the Keith Barker Millennium Book Award Winner presented in 2000 by the Youth Libraries Group, School Library Association and Library Association Schools Library Group for the most significant children's book published between 1920 and 1939. This medal, a one-off award in memorial of librarian Keith Barker, was awarded under the aegis of CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals, awarders of the UK's prestigious Carnegie Medal. See www.clip.org.uk
The Hobbit did not win the Carnegie in its year of publication, losing narrowly to The Family from One End Street by Eve Garnett. Eve Garnett's book, excellent though it was at the time, is little remembered now.
The Hobbit was also named "Most Important 20th-Century Novel (for Older Readers)" in the Children's Books of the Century poll conducted by the US publication Books for Keeps.
The Silmarillion won the Locus Award for 1997. Locus is a respected US industry publication for Science Fiction and Fantasy publishing.
JRR Tolkien recorded in his essay 'English and Welsh' that " ... the only prize I ever won (there was only one other competitor) [was] the Skeat Prize for English at Exeter College ..." He spent the prize money on books about Medieval Welsh.
On the academic front, Tolkien never "took a Ph.D." was we now sometimes say - he was too busy working professionally on the kind of stuff people normally do Ph.Ds on - but he was awarded a Doctorate of Letters (D. Litt.) and Philosophy by the University of Liege in Belgium in 1954 and similarly a D. Litt by the University of Dublin in Ireland that same year. In both cases this was for his contribution to his field of philology and medieval literature in general, and his services to the universities in particular as a contributing examiner and researcher.
(This was not of course for his fiction. LotR had only just begun to be published, although he noted with some bemusement that in Belgiun he was also welcomed by the faculty as "the creator of Monsieur Bilbo Baggins", as The Hobbit had been out since 1937 and was quite well known.)
In 1972, the year before his death, J R R Tolkien was honoured as a C.B.E. (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) for his contribution to literature, and also (probably even more important to him) awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters by Oxford University for his contribution to philology. To the end of his days, Tolkien never applied for a Ph.D., although he had done work at that level many times over, and held three Professorial chairs in his life.
In Great Britain, the title "Professor" accompanies a specific and senior academic position, or Chair, rather than a regular senior or tenured teaching post.
Many thanks to Wayne Hammond, Andrew Wells, Alan Reynolds, Nigel Evans (for expounding C.B.E. correctly for us), JRR Tolkien: A Biography and The Letters of JRR Tolkien by Humphrey Carpenter and the CILIP website www.clip.org.uk . Additional material and compilation (as most of these items) by Helen Armstrong.
Apart from the maps included in the books, there are currently three fold-out maps (There and Back Again: The Hobbit), Tolkien's Middle-earth (for The Lord of the Rings) and Tolkien's Beleriand (for The Silmarillion), all with artwork by John Howe and a booklet by Brian Sibley) and one poster map, a movie tie-in, which is substantially accurate apart from bits of elvish writing stuck on the English words, and is the only rollable poster map currently in print. Sadly, several earlier maps, including the ICE map incorporating Beleriand and 3rd Age Middle-earth, and Pauline Baynes' illustrated maps of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, are now out of print. Have a look at our sales pages where we try to list those in print. You can also order maps from book or games shops. Occasionally the older maps can be found in second hand dealers or auction sites.
It is generally felt that the fold-out maps in the older hardback editions of The Lord of the Rings are of better quality than more recent printings, and include the original black and red lettering. Older editions are now scarce and expensive, but early hardback editions of Unfinished Tales, which can still be found, also have the red and black map in the back. In general the paperback maps have suffered from their small size, and later ones from smudgy printing, despite careful re-drawing by Stephen Raw to refresh the printing plates.
The book An Atlas of Middle-earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad is an established favourite. She updates it from time to time, and although she does some rather odd things (I'm told - I only have an old edition) like incorporating the Cottage of Lost Play into the same Eressëa as The Silmarillion cycle, she covers more ground than any other Middle-earth map maker. The interesting journey-map book The Journeys of Frodo, by Barbara Strachey, which tracks the participants mile by mile right through LotR, is now back in print as well.
There are no separate maps that show ME east of Mordor or south of the Mouths of Anduin.
Maps are fun. If you've never drawn your own map of Middle-earth, you haven't really been there. We are unlikely to put maps on the website, because the Middle-earth material is copyright material, and we try to avoid running copyright material without permission, but there is no bar to drawing and illustrating your own copy of the map for private use.
It can be hard to track down translated editions if you don't have a large bookseller locally. Try: your regional Amazon (web booksellers); or contact HarperCollins in London to find out who your local language publisher is. HarperCollins' website is www.tolkien.co.uk
Also in London is Grant & Cutler, Foreign Language Booksellers, 55-57 Great Marlborough Street,
London, W1F 7AY Tel 020 7734 2012 fax 020 7734 9272.
Grant and Culter email: email@example.com,
Grant and Cutler website: www.grantandcutler.com
Large booksellers in major cities may be able to obtain both local and overseas versions of the books that smaller shops may find too difficult to track down. However, it is worth asking your "local" first in case they can do it.
University and college bookshops may also know where to source foreign-language editions of fiction books.
We would like to hear about any other reliable sources of non-English Tolkien publications in both English-speaking and other countries.
What you need to start a Tolkien society, mainly, is a way of letting other Tolkien readers in your area know that you want to start a society (or club, or group, or moot, or association etc.). Then make sure you keep in touch by having meetings and (if you wish to) publishing a bulletin now and then. This is how The Tolkien Society started in 1969. Our founder Vera Chapman put a small advertisement in a widely-read literature and current affairs magazine asking people to contact her, and then arranged a meeting at an inn in London. Then someone volunteered to host a meeting in their house, and so it went on.
Sometimes these things start from very small beginnings. We were one of the first, although there was at least one long-lasting Tolkien society in America before us. Many have come after, sometimes out of the blue, sometimes starting as a smial of the Tolkien Society, sometimes as a sub-group of another local group. Our membership fees basically pay for our publications, and the essential administration to run the Society. If you want to start as a Smial of the Tolkien Society, one of you in the Smial must be a member, but the others do not have to be. It is a personal thing. Our members will then get our publications (and perhaps they will show them to their friends!). Our membership details are on the website.
On a very simple level, if you can find three Tolkien readers who are happy to have a meal together and visit the occasional castle, you probably have the core of a Tolkien group.
SO far I have heard only that Christopher Tolkien used to smoke Navy Cut, but has now given up smoking. (!) Wisely, no doubt, for a mortal. Another rumour says that the Tolkien family used to keep nuts and washers in Navy Cut tins, which is a good indication that the brand was in use somewhere nearby. Those who are not old enough to have pipe-smoking grandparents must be told that the little tins were used to store all sorts of odds and ends, and later as cheap cases for building electronic widgets.
The main source books on Tolkien are JRR Tolkien, A Biography, by Humphrey Carpenter, The Letters of JRR Tolkien edited by Humphrey Carpenter and Christopher Tolkien, plus The Road to Middle-earth and JRR Tolkien: Author of the Century by T A Shippey. For the Tolkien's early life and the development of The Silmarillion, there is Tolkien and the Great War by John Garth. There was also The Tolkien Family Album around for a while, with family photos and biographical details. This can now only be found second-hand. The volume JRR Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, by Hammond and Scull, is mainly about his painting, but also has a fair amount about his life and work. For all the in-print volumes, consult your local bookshop, a good mail order source (including TS Trading) or the publishers, HarperCollinsPublishers (Europe and World) and Ballantine/Del Ray (American paperbacks) or Houghton Mifflin (American hardbacks). It's a sad truth that serious books tend to be available only in paperback after the first couple of printings, but at least it keeps the price down.
First look at the books in the previous FAQ. Then Beowulf, the Volsunga Saga, anything in prose by William Morris; George MacDonald's Curdie stories; a harp or guitar if you happen to play one. Red wine, beer and of course a pipe if you are a pipe smoker. English weather. Apples (not the rubbery sort). A friend if you like reading aloud. Bored of the Rings if you have a warped mind. The Road Goes Ever On by Swann and Tolkien (now back in print) if you play piano and can read music. A paint-box and an obsessive desire to draw maps. Firelight and a comfy armchair. Any mountain (the one-volume paperback makes a good camp stool if you are really stuck).
There must be others, but that will do for now.
This is the archetypal example of the within-Middle-earth obsessive debate, and I shall use that an an excuse to take it as an example.
I was relieved a couple of years ago to see that the compilers of the New Tolkien Newsgroups FAQ (enquiries to Steuard Jensen, contact for the New Tolkien Newsgroups FAQ, at firstname.lastname@example.org) had arrived, after much debate and the application of many minds to the subject, at a conclusion not completely different from the one I arrived at after a long and eyeball spinning study of the sources. I quote their conclusions here:
" * The Balrog in Moria had "wings" of some sort, which the company saw stretch from wall to wall.
* Those "wings" were probably not made of flesh and blood, but rather of some sort of "shadow-stuff". (Thus, when the Balrog is in front of the pit of fire, the fire seems dimmed, not just plain blocked.)"
Although this answer is drawn from careful comparative study of Tolkien's writings over a long time,
it was not given to us by Tolkien himself. The final answer remains unknown, not least because Tolkien
died before he could re-write the encounter of Glorfindel and the Balrog from The Fall of Gondolin,
which he intended to do, to take account of his latest views.
The only thing we can be absolutely certain of is that the Company in Moria saw - briefly - something that looked like wings. But wings are never mentioned again, even though Gandalf follows the Balrog closely up miles of winding stair without getting a single leather-burn, and the Balrog (known to junior Balrogs around here as "Uncle Aarrrrrgh" after his last meaningful statement) twice falls off a high place with no apparent attempt to save himself by flapping. But I admit that, since studying the Histories, I, the archetypal snarler of "Balrogs don't have wings", have added optional wings of shadow to my Balrog costumes, and feel quite at home with them after years of trying to look fierce (rather too successfully, according to my colleagues) with nothing to flap.
The question of whether Balrogs could fly is to debating groups an even more vexed one. The passage often quoted as conclusive evidence is in Morgoth's Ring, History 10 (HX) 297-8: "Swiftly they arose, and they passed with winged speed over Hithlum, and they came to Lammoth as a tempest of fire."
Unfortunately, Tolkien uses wings and flight as a metaphor of speed so often that the evidence cannot be conclusive. And fire is famous for the speed with which it runs over the ground. And so on.
Balrogs spent the eons of the Histories, as Uncle Thsssp (a survivor) said: "... being withered by wind, leading orcs, climbing, riding, fleeing, springing, pouring about breaches, being harried about by *lv*s and slaughtered; smiting, going forth, marching, standing, smiting; more leading; being driven and destroyed; rushing, leaping, racing, stepping, bounding, lurking, sleeping and bursting into flames, and, rather, often, falling [no fewer than seven references, far outstripping any other Balrog activity]. ... We can do anything the public wants, except fly ... No servants of Morgoth assailed the air before the winged dragons came, and that was at the end, in the War of Wrath. The dwarf almost mistook a Nazgûl for us, but what does he know? The heart of the Hobbit, curse it, knew better."
And yet, there remains the suspicion that once Tolkien saw in his mind the image of a Balrog clad with wings, he could not forget it. The wings appear, for the first time, in the published version of The Lord of the Rings. In the drafts in The Treason of Isengard (HVII) there are no wings. Only the shadow appears, in a pencilled after-note, as a new stroke to the canvas. It may be that the new conception of a Balrog that could do more than stroll, bound and ride dragons was born at that moment.
But nowhere do we see a Balrog flap his wings, rise up in bat-like glory or swoop upon his stricken foes. The vision was not completed, and we do not know how he would have completed it.
We do know, however, that Balrogs, at least in their developed phase, were Maiarin beings, and that Valarin and Maiarin beings who came into Middle-earth in rebellion (or, in the case of the Istari, voluntarily to become "rational incarnate beings") sooner or later lost their ability to take on new physical forms, and became vulnerable to physical damage. So with Morgoth, so with Sauron, and so with the Balrogs. They seem to have taken a fixed form and become recognisable as a "species" early on (I personally believe that they were originally intended by Tolkien to be a kind of fire-goblin, a type of being that he would know about from his Old Norse philology, and only later were elevated to great spirits). Winged bodies are not natural to rational incarnate creatures in the human form that Eru chose for his "children" and that the Valar, including Morgoth, imitated. But they may, like great spirits in many mythologies, have been heir to wings of the spirit, which they lost in the course of their rebellion and entry into Arda.
Balrogs dream of wings. Balrogs pose in front of the mirror with wings. Alone in the night, wrapped in their wings of shadow, Balrogs remember wings. But no Balrog this side of the walls of Arda has ever been able to fly ...
That is my conclusion. And what this proves, if it proves anything, is that the answer to the riddle of the Balrogs is truly "no and yes", and that the only way to approach such riddles is to study till your eyeballs dry up and your favourite analgesic is running low, argue about it with your friends, and then shut your eyes tight and look at it creatively taking everything into account. There must be an easier way to have fun.
But we can say with absolute certainty that there is nothing in all of Tolkien's writings about Balrogs wearing bulls' heads, cow's heads, buffalo medicine hats, or horns of any kind. Or tails. Horns and tails may be popular with demons, but they never appear on Balrogs.
Tolkien went to some lengths to avoid describing Legolas: in the Pauline Baynes picture of the Fellowship, painted while he was still alive, Legolas is the only one wearing a hood over his hair. This picture is not an absolute reference, as there are certain oversights in it, but there is probably some reason for the deliberate muffling of this well known character.
We know that Legolas's father was blonde. (He is the Woodland King in The Hobbit, who is described, roughly, as having leaves in his golden hair.) Another often-overlooked point is that every single elf described in person in LotR and The Hobbit, apart from the family of Elrond, is fair-haired. And they are all blonde apart from Celeborn, who is silver-haired, and Círdan who, for some unexplained reason, is old and grey.
So why did people start to think that Legolas is dark? The main reason, historically, is Tolkien's note at the end of the Appendices to LotR, where he more or less says that all the Eldar were dark except "the golden house" of Finrod/Finarphir/Finarphin (depending on the edition).
This statement clearly did not fit the immediate evidence in LotR and The Hobbit, but the extent of the mis-match was not fully apparent until The Silmarillion was published. Before that, there was no clear reason to distinguish the Eldar from other elves. You simply never meet a dark one apart from Elrond's relations.
When The Silmarillion came out it quickly became clear that the paragraph perhaps should read "eldar" for "Noldor", or similar; and even that did not stand up well, because of the vigorous crossbreeding of the ruling houses with the fair-haired Vanyar. If you substitute "eldar" with something like "Finwe's immediate offspring" it comes out about right.
Nonetheless, this is why it became canonical among some analysts that Legolas was dark. It's backed by a paragraph in The Great River (LotR I) where Legolas's "dark head" is seen against the sky. Readers who jump on this sentence forget that he was being seen in the dark, against a dark sky, wearing a cloak and hood specifically designed to make him hard to see. Even an albino coated in phosphorescent paint would look "dark" in that situation.
So is Legolas dark or fair? We don't know. Tolkien's oldest elves were fair, and it's not clear why he adopted a "majority dark" policy. Various theories about the origin of elves and dwarves in folklore in the late 19th century may have something to do with it. (They were by some identified with the Picts, a thought-to-be-dark race in Northern Scotland.) Or he may have been trying to make his golden-haired elves special - there's some circumstantial evidence in that direction - although, as we all know, the special dark ones, the house of Lúthien, are very special indeed. Perhaps he hadn't made up his mind which appearance he preferred Legolas to have.
To sum up, Legolas is probably the only elf in the whole of Tolkien's works who can legitimately be issued in two different colourways.
JRR Tolkien tells little about Tom Bombadil. In The Letters of JRR Tolkien, he says:
he represents something that I feel important, though I would not be prepared to analyse the feeling
precisely. More famously, he described him as
the spirit of the (vanishing) Oxford and Berkshire
countryside (bearing in mind that the third age of Middle-earth was set before Oxfordshire
and Berkshire were invented), and later said,
Even in a mythical age there must be some enigmas,
as there always are. Tom Bombadil is one (intentionally).
The world of Arda and everything in it was created by Eru (see The Silmarillion). The great Vala Melkor rebelled and was determined to disrupt the sub-creative work of his fellow Valar. Some of the created beings followed him, and became the evil spirits (including the Balrogs). Other spirits however entered Arda in many forms, as is told in fragments in the Books of Lost Tales and other places. But they do not all belong to named orders, or kindreds that are explained. Tom himself seems to be a one-off, older than living things and not, himself, a living being, but one of the primaeval spirits taking form and setting up home in the World.
Some people have thought that he was a Vala or even Eru himself in disguise, but this does not fit
Tolkien's stated views of Tom very well. In Letter 144, he says:
... but if you have, as it were
taken 'a vow of poverty', renounced control, and take your delight in things for themselves without
reference to yourself, watching, observing, and to some extent knowing, then the question of the
rights and wrongs of power and control might become utterly meaningless to you, and the means of
power quite valueless. It is a natural pacifist view, which always arises in the mind when there
is a war. But the view of Rivendell seems to be that it is an excellent thing to have represented,
but that there are in fact things with which it cannot cope; and upon which its existence nonetheless
depends. Ultimately, only the victory of the West will allow Bombadil to continue, or even to survive.
Nothing would be left for him in the world of Sauron. (Letter 144)
Tom is not affected by the ring, but it seems that this is because he has no desire, even in the depth of his heart, for the power that the ring offers. Maybe Tom is just "more hobbit-like than the Hobbits". Perhaps, if he were left with it long enough, and put into danger, even Tom might begin to feel its pull. But it has also been suggested that Tom's relationship with the world is like that of Adam, the first Man in Judeo-Christian theology, who lived as master of other created things, but in harmony with them, not in domination. Tom never bosses anything around unless it is getting someone else into trouble (and they ask for help). It may be that he is so far beyond temptation because, even if he felt the pull of the ring, he might have an inner reason to reject it that is deeper than we can understand.
There is some interesting further consideration of Tom and Goldberry in Myth & Middle-earth by Leslie Ellen Jones (Cold Spring Press, NY, USA, 2002, ISBN 2002108145) in the chapter 'The Cosmic Couple' (it's better than it sounds), and in The Uncharted Realms of Tolkien by Alex Lewis and Elizabeth Currie (Medea Publishing, Oswestry, UK, 2002, ISBN 0954320700) in the chapter 'An Analysis of Tom Bombadil'. This is less learned than Jones, but has a lengthy and useful look at the early drafts of Tom's story, including the notable point that the Tom of the earlier drafts was more powerful than the Tom of LotR, while the Ringwraiths gained in power. These are largely speculative accounts, but more pertinent on the whole than the notion that Tom "must" be a Vala or a Maia. (Tom's character is about as different from Aule's as it can be and still marry a blonde in a flowery dress.)
However Tom and Goldberry are not a solemn couple. More about their relationship and past can be read in the poems The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Bombadil Goes Boating (In the UK in Tales from the Perilous Realm collection, and in the USA in The Tolkien Reader collection.) There is also a pertinent comment on Tom's relation to water-spirits in JRR Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter, shortly after the beginning of chapter 6, "The Storyteller".
Yes, they do. This has become a minor moot point, as pointed ears are not mentioned in The
Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings anywhere. However, Tolkien mentioned Hobbit
ears in The Letters of JRR Tolkien, letter 27:
... ears only slightly pointed and
'elvish' ... This letter is a good description of Hobbits all round.
Elf-ears are covered in The Lost Road (History of Middle-earth Volume V): The Etymologies,
under LAS-(1) - (*lasse leaf):
The Quendian ears were more pointed and leaf-shaped than
[?human]. This is then related to LAS-(2) 'listen', and words about ears.
It's not clear why Tolkien chose to give his elves and Hobbits pointed ears; still less why people thought so prior to the publication of Letters and the HoME series. Some literary and artistic traditions, going back many centuries, prefer to attribute to non-human beings animal-type ears. This appears to have introduced pointed ears as an artistic tradition for fairy beings. Some of Tolkien's Hobbit illustrations may show Bilbo with pointed ears, though it is very hard to tell through the small detail and curly Hobbit hair.
No, Hobbits don't have big feet. Mr. Proudfoot (and no doubt his family) has large feet (for a Hobbit) (and both were on the table) but no other Hobbit is described as having big feet. The idea that Hobbits have big feet seems to have begun with the Brothers Hildebrant, who did numerous popular illustrations in the 1960s and 1970s. They also showed Dwarves with very large feet. Tolkien did not.
The main description of Hobbits in LotR is in the Prologue:
For they are a little
people, smaller than Dwarves; less stout and stocky, that is, even when they are not actually much
shorter. Their height is variable, ranging between two and four feet of our measure ... Bandobras
Took ... was four foot five and able to ride a horse. He was surpassed in all Hobbit records only
by two famous characters of old. That story is told in LotR. Ironic
then that poor Merry was left behind by the Theoden because he wasn't large enough to ride one
of their war-horses. Merry eventually grew taller than Bandobras (possibly in revenge for being
left behind by Theoden). (No: it was the Entdraught that did it, and Pippin grew too.)
Tolkien goes on:
... they seldom wore shoes, since their feet had tough leathery soles and were
clad in a thick curling hair, much like the hair of their heads ... and further:
were browner of skin, smaller and shorter, and they were beardless and bootless; their hands and
feet were neat and nimble ... the Stoors were broader, heavier in build; their feet and hands were
larger ... the Fallohides were fairer of skin and also of hair, and they were taller and slimmer
than the others ... And he says
The Harfoots ... were the most normal and representative
variety of Hobbit and also the most settled. The four Hobbits of the Fellowship appear to have
been Harfoots with (in the case of Merry, Pippin and Frodo at least) some Fallohide ancestry.
Humans who go barefoot all their lives often develop feet wider and stronger than modern feet, but not feet which are abnormally long (or rubber). The quartermasters of Lord of the Rings movie could have saved the cost, and the fitting time, and the discomfort to the actors of all those rubber feet and invested in some good curly wigs for the actors' feet instead!
As for being stout, Tolkien says often that the Hobbits enjoyed eating and drinking. People who
do hard physical work (like farming) can eat lots without becoming fat. The average Hobbit however
appears to have been at least well-covered.
Fattish in the stomach, shortish in the leg, remarks
Tolkien in Letter 27. But they were not always stout. Like humans, they were inclined to expand as
they got older. In Rivendell ('Many Meetings'), Frodo finds that
Looking in a mirror he was startled
to see a much thinner reflection of himself than he remembered: it looked remarkably like the young
nephew of Bilbo who used to go tramping with his uncle in the Shire ... Frodo, who is middle-aged,
has been getting stout, but he soon thins down again when he starts walking. (And running.)
Pippin says to Bergil son of Beregond in Minas Tirith,
I am nearly twnety-nine ... though I am
but four feet, and not likely to grow any more, save sideways. Pippin is young - somewhat like
a twenty-year-old human - and clearly expects to be broader when older. He was wrong about growing
upwards, though (see above, Entdraught).
It is a tradition among film-makers and some illustrators to make Sam Gamgee fat. In the story,
Sam is never called fat, and as a young Hobbit (and a hard worker) is probably fitter than any of
them. Pauline Baynes's illustration of the Fellowship, done while Tolkien was alive, shows all four
hobbits of much the same build. In the movie The Two Towers, Gollum calls Sam
fat hobbit (which always gets a laugh). In the book, Gollum calls Sam cross, rude, nasty, suspicious,
not nice and Nasssty. And silly (several times), along with
thinking him stupid and slow (wrongly,
as it happens). But never fat.
Why make Sam fat? It could be "Watsonisation". In Sherlock Holmes movies (not in the books), Dr. Watson
is sometimes made into a stout, bumbling fool, apparently for a low-cost laugh. (Sean Astin, who
plays Sam in the movies, was told by his agent to put on weight or the part would go to
guy in England, rumoured to be comedian Johnny Vegas. Fine comedian though Vegas is, it's a scary
thought that Peter Jackson might have seen in him the image of Sam Gamgee. However, Sean dutifully
put on weight and remarked to one interviewer that he stopped when he realised that PJ would be happy
for him to go on getting fatter indefinitely. The movie does not explain why their Sam is more or
less the same size when he leaves Hobbiton and when he reaches Mouth Doom after some weeks of semi-starvation.)
Hoever, the makers of the current Lord of the Rings movies may have made Sam stout,
but at least they haven't made him a fool.
In Letters 309, Tolkien writes:
This was (I believe) the surname of a friend of
my grandfather. The family believed it to be French (which is formally possible); but if so it
is an odd chance that it appears twice in the O[ld] T[estament] as an unexplained other name for
Jethro Moses' father in law. All my children, and my children's children, and their children, have
Tolkien's father Arthur also bore the name, so the grandfather in question was John Benjamin Tolkien, who gave it to him (but did not bear it himself). It is not clear why the family was so attached to the name, and it appears from Tolkien's comments that he had no clear answer, either.
The Oxford Dictionary of First Names by Hanks and Hodges gives
m. Biblical name
(meaning 'friend of God' in Hebrew) borne by a character mentioned in a genealogy. Withycombe
in The Oxford Book of English Christian Names (loosely applied) doesn't mention it
at all, which implies that it was not in historical use as a forename in England. Reaney and Wilson
in A Dictionary of English Surnames (Oxford) lists the form Revel, which is from a
French name Revel(l) and variants (one of which is Reuel), from the Old French for a sportsman,
reveller or rebel, ultimately from the Latin for a rebel.
Therefore the Biblical Reuel (if Hebrew) and the French Revel are two different and unrelated names, and either is a possibility. If a surname, then Revel would be the correct form, and Reuel (from the 11th century) one of those odd spellings which results from writing u as 'v' or vice versa. As Tolkien says nothing about whether his grandfather was Biblically inclined, or had a friend named Revel (or Reuel), possibly whose handwriting wasn't very clear, we are none the wiser about the name.
The family used the pronunciation "ROO-el".
A correpondent to our website who gave the name (independently) to one of her children adds: "the Jewish faith does hold that if you are the namesake of a person, your good deeds are counted to him as well, so it is interesting that perhaps this friend [of Tolkien's grandfather] was special enough to gain the good deeds of the whole Tolkien line!"
The Tolkien family at that time were ordinarily devout Christian Protestants, but the naming of a child for a relative or friend is often intended as a tribute or spiritual tie, so the namesake was probably someone of importance to John Benjamin Tolkien. Beyond this, the reason for this unusual name is a mystery.
The Tolkien Society does not give valuations or recommendations with regard to selling or buying books or memorabilia, as we do not have professional expertise in this area. However we can pass on general information “from the grapevine” which members have mentioned to us. We have been asked if ebay is a good marketplace, or if more specialist outlets should be sought. We have heard that collectors do monitor ebay sites, and other popular auction sites, as well as more specialised outlets. If you are looking to sell, monitoring ebay and other auction sites, as well as searching for second hand and “rare book” dealers and looking at their lists, may help you to get an idea of current pricing. Looking at sales outcomes, or "completed items" lists, where available, can give some idea what prices are actually being achieved, rather than simply hoped-for. The value of a second-hand item is axiomatically what someone will pay for it, and this can vary great deal. While rare and collectable items may rise in price over time, they may also fall with fashion and demand.
Another method of gathering information about market values is to ask a
second hand or antiquarian book dealer, or a reputable auction house, to
give you an opinion, or ask what they might pay for the item, as appropriate.
Bear in mind that professional dealers must buy for a lower price
than they expect to sell for, else they could not make a living. They may
also charge for a valuation, particularly if it is a potentially high-value
item. Bear in mind also that some dealers place items for sale at very high
them on sale for a long time. These books are waiting for the buyer who has
been looking for that particular edition or item, but they may not reflect
normal prices on the general market at the time.
It is usually possible to put an item up for auction at a “reserve price” – if the bids do not reach that price, the item is not sold and the seller can reconsider their pricing policy. The seller may have to pay a fee for the auction service, even if the item is not sold – find out what the policy of the website/auction house is.
If you are selling by post/online remember to include appropriate postal costs so that your expenses are properly covered. Look into the cost of appropriate insurance, and quote the cost of post and insurance if required. Look at some ebay pages and see how different sellers handle the post and insurance costs – there are various ways.
When mailing a book, or if you choose to leave it with anyone for any purpose, use common sense – it is prudent to have evidence that the book is yours, such as photographs, and to get a receipt for the book from the person you are leaving it with. Avoid mailing to a buyer or dealer until you have received cleared payment, and make sure you have appropriate mailing insurance.
The Tolkien Society bulletin Amon Hen will run small ads for non-members for a small fee. This may be helpful if you wish to dispose of a collection, however, bear in mind that members may already have the books they want, and only a proportion of them are collectors. The Tolkien Society itself does not handle sales or purchases for members, and any transactions resulting from ads are at the risk of the persons buying and/or selling.
IF you have a book that you would be happy to give away, consider http://bookmooch.com/ or http://www.bookcrossing.com/ In the UK, most charity shops now only take small numbers of books, and are likely to pulp the surplus, but Oxfam has dedicated book outlets – you can take books to any branch of the shop.
If you have a “spare” of an unusual item or publication, please
consider bringing it to the attention of the Tolkien Society Archive, which
stores a collection of Tolkien-related books and other materials.