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(Split into general Discussion and further down specific Discussion/Questions of adaptations for convenience.)


Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings


Eagles - "The Eagles are a dangerous 'machine'. I have used them sparingly, and that is the absolute limit of their credibility or usefulness." (Letter to F. Ackerman, June 1958)

  • Why didn't Frodo take the ring to Mt. Doom on an eagle? Or, at least have the Fellowship fly all the way to Mordor, if Mordor itself has some air defenses?
    • The Eagles of Manwe are not a taxi service. They refuse to interfere for the same reason that Gandalf, despite being an angelic spirit on par with Sauron, didn't match him "strength for strength" - it was forbidden. As servants of the Elder King, both Gandalf and the Eagles would have to abid by the rules of the Third Age in which neither the Valar nor their servants moved directly against Sauron but instead would empower the peoples of Middle-earth to do so on their own strength.
    • This one has Just Bugged people for years. Personally I think that the evil eye would have spotted them approaching and sent the flying wraiths to intercept. Even worse, seeing the ring being carried towards Mount Doom could have allowed Sauron to realize the heroes planned to destroy it (they were counting on the fact that as an evil creature, he would never expect that).
      • Exactly. The reason for the Fellowship was to sneak into Mordor and arriving with the Air Cavalry would probably have drawn notice.
      • See How Lord Of The Rings Should Have Ended on youtube. "Well, that was surprisingly easy."
      • Also, there was an Epic Thread on the Internets several years ago called "Lord of The Rings By Other Authors". The Tom Clancy, Lensman, and George Lucas versions were hilarious and involved eagles. "You're all clear, kid! Let's blow this joint and go home!"
      • Here. It is indeed, epic.
    • Two reasons. Eagles aren't immune to the Ring and they only work for Manwë. Gandalf can't just whistle up a eagle whenever he likes.
    • None of these reasons make sense to me. Evil eye spot them? Somehow the evil eye never saw Frodo with the ring when he walked, so how is this different? The evil eye is like radar and only sees things in the air? lol. If the evil eye might be keeping a watch on the airspace of Mordor, then they could have flown up to it and gotten off, but no way that the evil eye was keeping watch on all of Middle-earth airspace. As for "Eagles aren't immune", Frodo will still be the ring bearer, he would just be carried by an eagle. As for "Gandalf can't whistle up an eagle", I think that he did when he had the eagles save Frodo and Sam in the end, didn't he? I think he could have visited the king of the eagles and told him the fate of Middle-earth depends on this, please help.
      • Giant flying things are a heck of a lot more noticeable than little orc-sized things on the ground.
        • Exactly. It's instructive to note that the one time Frodo stood on a hill tall enough to have a clear line-of-sight to Barad-Dur, at a time before Sauron was massively distracted by Aragorn's strategic diversion, it took the Eye about half a minute to pick him up. After that little episode on Amon Hen, its not surprising that he'd spend the rest of the books staying low to the ground and keeping some nice solid opaque terrain features between him and Sauron's field of vision.
        • Indeed. There are a lot less flying creatures about than there are walking. Also, Sauron has lots of airborne beings in his service, from birds to Nazgul steeds. They couldn't have crossed the mountains without being molested and as mentioned, Sauron controls the storms in the mountains surrounding Mordor, as well as the fires of Orodruin. Lava flying in your way would be a good deterrent and no, it wouldn't have destroyed the Ring in itself. It needed to happen in Sammath Naur, the Chamber of Fire where it was created.
      • Boromir never touched the Ring, but it still got to him. Any eagle carrying Frodo might well decide to drop him from 2000 feet, and claim the Ring for itself. Also, if Manwë doesn't want his eagles to intervene, they won't, and they are his eagles.
        • Remember the incident in the pass of Caradhras? You know, the horrible snowstorm that nearly buried them alive? While in the book it's not caused directly by Sauron and Saruman but rather by Caradhras itself, they still do point out that Sauron can govern the weather. Do you really want to be in the air in the middle of a magically-conjured thunderstorm, say?
      • The "Evil Eye" almost spotted Frodo at Amon Hen, at the end of the Fellowship of the Ring, and even that very brief flicker of awareness nearly broke him. In the sky, fully exposed, he'd have no escape.
    • The Fellowship was an all-volunteer force. Perhaps the eagles simply did not volunteer?
      • Perhaps the Eagles knew that the Ring's destruction would mark the end of the Age, and the beginning of the next. As giant Eagles have no more place in a world of Men than elves or wizards, they might not have wanted to actively participate in a mission that would banish their kind from Middle Earth and/or reduce their descendents to ordinary (small e) eagles. They did help save Sam and Frodo after the Ring was gone, once their own exile was inevitable, but not before.
    • This is one of those things you can see the author's problem. On the one hand, during the council of Elrond, they bring up and discuss almost every conceivable solution to their problems (even Bombadil). Except for the eagles. Why? Remember that at this time, the Nazgul had just been swept off their horses, which means they soon (or probably did) have their flying fell beasts by this point. Thus, if the Fellowship had used eagles, they'd be delivering the ring straight into Sauron's "hands" as they Nazgûl would just fly in and take it (remember also that the Witch-king was still alive). Not to mention any anti-air forces (archers) that Sauron would have been able to assemble. But of course, logically in the story, no characters would know that the Nazgul are flying now, so I theorize that Tolkien just let the idea slide to avoid writing himself into a corner. You also have the fact that Frodo was only able to get inside Mt Doom because Sauron's attention was elsewhere. If they had flown in with eagles (which would have taken less time), the Sauron's forces would all still be massed within Mordor instead of spread out over Middle-earth attacking everybody. Thus, if they had also taken the eagle route, Sauron could have just put every orc and troll he had in front of Mt Doom's entrance and said "Alright little hobbit: your move." (since, most likely, they would have to land and go into Mt Doom's entrance as any attempt to "fly over" the mouth of the volcano and drop the ring into it would have had too high of a fail chance)
      • At the time of writing (of the Council of Elrond bit), airborne force mobility was a far less understood and far less used military tactic than it is today. The Germans stopped preferring paradrop invasions after the huge casualty rate of their invasion of Crete, and the Allied airdrops for Operations Overlord and Market Garden also suffered high FUBAR rates. Small-scale commando raids were often successful, but most of the time insertion was by boat or submarine, and retrieval was either by the same method, or non-existent - and would have received almost no public exposure until at least late 1945
      • Seconded. Air travel occurs immediately to us because we live in a world of jet travel. Gandalf and the others at the council weren't used to thinking in terms of moving by air(although Gandalf had some experience with eagle airlines) More to the point, Tolkien himself lived in an era before widespread air travel, and was noteably anti-technological. I personally think it just never occurred to him.
        • That's just a silly argument - not only did the Eagles transport Bilbo et all. in The Hobbit, but Tolkien has the Eagles fly Frodo & Sam back out of Mordor. It's ludicrous to assume J.R.R. didn't get the idea to fly them in. This Troper's personnal fanwank is that the Eagles were simply too high profile and would have been spotted, then attacked by the Nazguls before they even got halfway (among other scenarios), but the objective truth is much easier : otherwise there'd be no plot, and slogging through Mordor on foot is integral to Sam and Frodo's characterizations. So... A Wizard Didn't Do It for once ;)
      • {{[[[Conservation of Ninjitsu]] Every orc and troll in mordor would probably be less good}}] than just standing the witch king there with a giant mace. Which Sauron should have done.
    • This troper's take is that the eagles weren't considered, as they were already known to be commited elsewhere (as in the battle of the 5 peoples in The Hobbit). The majority of the eagles were later involved in the battles at Dale and Lothlorien, and any who weren't were already known to be on guard for an attack on Rivendell or the like. When Sauron's armies in the north floundered with the destruction of the ring, the eagles who rescue Sam and Frodo peeled off from Lothlorien to head south to Mordor.
    • Why not have the eagles attack or distract the fell-beasts while soldiers kill the other monsters?
      • Flying Eagles are extremely visible creatures and would likely be noticed from far away, even before they reached Mordor. After the destruction of the Ring it was different as all credible opposition was gone. Sauron could have:
        • sent the Nazgûl on Fell Beasts to attack
        • send any other flying things he may have had, such as bats
        • made a storm (documented ability)
        • used some damaging spell with distance effect, such as lightning (documented ability)
        • used some mental magic, such as illusions or the power of his gaze (documented abilities)
        • made Mount Doom erupt fully at an inconvenient time (documented ability, probably not too effective in this scenario, would have harmed him too)
        • tried to hit with any conventional siege weapons he had handy
        • put quickly a guard on Mount Doom or even gone there himself
      • Some spell choices may have needed several days or more to prepare though, but we just don't know. Also, potentially Eagles could be corrupted by the Ring.
      • In other words, there were excellent reasons to think that Sauron could police the skies of Mordor. Any Eagle-led incursion would've been either a total success or total defeat. Bring the ring-bearing Eagle down, and the odds are 100% that Sauron retrieves the ring. Depending on what the Council knew or inferred about Mordor, it's plausible that this plan would appear doomed to failure.
    • The entire strength of the Company was in secrecy and misdirection: "The number must be few, since your hope is in speed and secrecy." Sauron managed to figure out fairly quickly that the Ring had left Rivendell, and that a hobbit had it. As Gandalf said, he "knows now the number of our Company that set out from Rivendell, and the kind of each of us." But Sauron's mistake was that he thought the Ring was going to Minas Tirith, and that it would then be used against him by some mighty lord. Had the Company left Rivendell on Eagles, Sauron would have noticed... and wondered why the Ring wasn't going towards Minas Tirith, but was instead heading towards Mordor. The notion that someone would try to destroy the Ring had "not yet entered into his darkest dream"... but that was because he had no reason to think that might be a possibility. As soon as he knew the Ring was headed to Mordor instead of some bastion of the Free Peoples, it's entirely likely that he would have realised what they were trying to do. And at that point... everything is pretty much lost, eagles and armies or no. People also forget that the decision to have Nine Walkers, in opposition to the Nine Riders, was deliberate. It wasn't a matter of chance that there were Nine, it was pre-meditated... Merry and Pippin were chosen to fill in the empty slots. Sending eagles along would have completely messed that up.
    • While all of the above are good reasons, and add up to enough of a reason (IMO), the sad fact of the matter is that Tolkien just didn't think of it--it Just Bugged someone who knew him personally, and they asked, and he said, essentially, "Oh."
      • As I recall, in the book Gwaihir actually mentions the possibility to Gandalf, and flatly refuses to fly into Mordor, though he would willingly carry him anywhere else. I believe Gandalf mentions it when the topic is brought up as well. For whatever reason, the eagles are not willing to fly over Mordor while Sauron is alive. Maybe they're just afraid, maybe they know the Nazgul would get them, whatever, but they will not do it.
      • Sauron couldn't see the hobbits in Mordor because his ENTIRE will and attention was focused on Gondor. The reason? Aragorn used his authority over the Palantirs to look into the Orthanc stone and successfully challenge Sauron's will, being able to use his mental victory to trick Sauron into thinking that Aragorn had the Ring, and was heading for Gondor with it. This is why he attacked before his forces were entirely ready, because he believed that if he could wipe out Gondor before Aragorn arrived, he could then easily defeat him and reclaim the Ring. So his entire attention was on Gondor looking out for Aragorn, rather than his own realm, looking for insignificant mortals. Even if Aragorn had tried this gambit while they had the Eagles, Sauron would still have noticed quasi-divine beings entering his realm when they had never dared to before, and would have instantly been aware that they had the Ring. This on top of all the other problems (the possibility of the Eagles being corrupted, the fact that they likely would have refused or been forbidden etc).
  • One more reason is just how far away the Eagles lived. As in "Gandalf's S.O.S while Saruman's prisoner took months to reach them, and for them to show up" far away. Given that Sauron had any number of forces marching on Rivendell and the Nazgul would soon recover, waiting around and hoping the Eagles got the note and were coming soon wouldn't have been a great strategy.
  • I say we decide it's because Sam gets airsick, and leave it at that.
  • This is all fascinating and well-known and fun to think about, but it is important to note that, within the confines of Tolkien's sub-creation, it is Ontologically Impossible to Fly An Eagle To Mount Doom because if you did, there would be No Story and therefore there is no alternate version of Middle-earth in which the heroes, having attempted to take the path of least resistance, would not have run into far more serious consequences, such as (according to Tolkien's Letters) everyone else being killed by the author and Aragorn having to choose between tossing Frodo into the fire or claiming the ring for himself.
    • An alternate, more positive outcome described in Letters: Had Gollum's near-repentance at Cirith Ungol (a scene moved to after the spider attack in the film) not been interrupted by Sam (book) or by Frodo telling Gollum the purpose of the mission (film), Tolkien says that Gollum would have taken the ring and thrown himself into the fire to save Middle-earth to keep Sauron from getting it.
      • I recall, that scenario had Gollum realizing there was no way he would be willing give up the Ring but realizing the Ring was pure evil. I think that too had Gollum saying goodbye to Frodo before he jumped.
    • Tolkien had to present obstacles and a series of Evil Overlord tropes serious enough to justify what would, in Real Life, be an impractical means of delivering a special forces team into enemy lands. See Walk Into Mordor -- the enemy lands are NEVER easy to get into in literature. In Real Life it is quite easy to sneak into, say, Hitler's Germany and a lot harder to get into places like the Sammath Naur (which, on a related note, the places at the heart of the kingdom always seem to be left unguarded...)
    • According to the trope page Walk Into Mordor, "This can be extrapolated to all Road Trip stories, see Scenic Route, Short Cuts Make Long Delays, etc. (Yes, yes, orc archers, whatever)"
  • One thing that hasn't really been addressed is a piece of Fridge Brilliance that Tolkien himself brought up: in the beginning of the book, Tolkien showed Frodo freaking out when Gandalf throws the ring in the fireplace. In a letter to a fan, he pointed out that Frodo was the only person with the strength to resist the ring for so long -- and he couldn't even bring himself to throw it in his own fireplace! much less destroy it, or leave it by the side of the road unclaimed. So dropping it from an eagle two days later, not knowing where it would hit, would be even more difficult. I mean, would you drop that priceless diamond off the side of the Titanic..?
  • Why not just fly all the way around the outside of Mordor and approach Mount Doom from the East side? We don't know how far East the Easterlings were or even if they were directly east, but I doubt Sauron would have had that side guarded, surely they could have just flown in that way. Dropped the ring in from the sky like in that Youtube parody and flown away while Sauron died. Or they would have flown low from the North maybe and used the mountains as cover. Surely even if Sauron detected them entering his realm they would almost have been on top of Mount Doom to chuck it in and scarper before the Nazgul had time to react.
    • Per the above, it doesn't matter in this Troper's opinion but Gandalf did mention approaching Mordor from the East. Or rather, Tolkien mentioned Gandalf mentioning it off-screen in Letters. Long and short of it was, that is the route Gandalf preferred to take on foot, being unguarded, but it would have required Aragorn or Gandalf remain with the party for a long trek thru enemy territory while the two decoy hobbits and surplus warriors proceeded to Gondor. Unfortunately, since the Ring's powers increased, having two walking power beacons to protect them might have been a bad thing, leading the hobbits to get captured, or worse, Aragorn or Gandalf might have been tempted to take the ring to "protect" the helpless and slow-moving Hobbits.
    • Not to mention that this route would make them pass dangerously close to Barad-dur.
  • When the issue was first raised with Tolkien, rather than citing Mordor's defences, he asserted that Eagles are free agents and would not deign to be "Middle-earth's taxi service". He also pointed out if they did, it'd be a Story Breaker. This also assumes the eagles (who are obviously not normal eagles and are more like minor maiar) would not be affected by the ring. There's no good reason they wouldn't be. Tolkien even specifically mentions eagles aren't predisposed to be kind in the Hobbit, a main reason why Bilbo is nervous around them.
    • There are two basic theories as to what the eagles could do, both have huge flaws in them; one they carry someone and have them drop it, or two the eagle itself carries the ring and then drops it. But lets not forget that the ring does not want to be destroyed and that it exerts its force on those near it. So going with the first plan the eagle would carry a person, or hobbit, over the mountain and they would drop the ring in. Well that sounds nice but that completely forgets how hard it is to drop the ring. Those who have read the book should remember Frodo's hesitation to throw it in his fireplace even though he had only recently gotten it. But now it would be destroying the ring, imagine how much harder that would be. Now of course the eagle could just drop the person into the volcano as a backup plan but that relates to the second theory, that the eagle could just carry the ring itself. The ring would also exert its powers on the eagle and make it want to keep the ring just as if it were a person. And as for dropping the ring bearer in as well, the ring would also act on the eagle carrying the persona and may not even take the person to the mountain and will just drop them elsewhere and take the ring for itself. So As you can see adding eagles to the equation does not make the ring destroying process any simpler. Oh yeah and all of that would only happen if the eagles don't get attacked by Nazgul and various other things Sauron would throw at them, sometimes literally, to keep them from destroying the ring.
      • Main reason not to do this: It takes time to destroy the ring. Even if Frodo has had the will to destroy it,[1] it would have taken some time for him to do it. The Nazgul would have been all over him if they had that much warning. In the story as told, the Dark Lord only becomes aware of his danger when the ring is already at the brink of the pit.
      • Then DON'T fly it all the way into Mordor. Have Gandalf call an eagle, and have the eagle fly them as far as the edge of Mordor, so they don't have to walk or ride the whole way. Then the eagle can set them down, be on its merry way, and the hobbits can walk into Mordor.
        • The Eagles are not Automaton Horses. They cannot simply carry people that far, Gwaihir has even trouble getting Gandalf from Isengard to Edoras.
      • The Nazgul were already abroad by then. Really, the only time the Eagles would have made useful carriers is in the 50 year build-up period between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings when Sauron was still smarting from his defeat in Mirkwood and had not yet rebuilt his stronghold in Mordor. And at that point in time, Gandalf didn't yet know what he had. Remember, Saruman was working to obscure the truth; Gandalf wasn't able to confirm the identity of the One Ring for certain until it was far too late.
      • It's also telling that the Eagles DO show up in Mordor shortly after Barad-Dûr falls. This implies that they had excellent reasons for staying out up until that moment.
    • To buttress this theory further, remember that Gandalf himself feared touching the ring and he knew exactly what it was better than anyone save Sauron himself and was the epitome of wisdom on Middle Earth yet he feared it might work at his motives and intentions and eventually corrupt him and (because he's so powerful) would become a great evil of the realm. The Eagles are also quite powerful and any one of them corrupted by the ring would be quite a danger. Only the Hobbits being small, not terribly formidable, and having only the most simple desires, were fit carriers.
    • Remember, Gandalf's job was not to save the world. His job was to get the people of Middle Earth to save the world themselves. The Valar had had enough of meddling directly -- they wanted to be more subtle, and they wanted men to cope on their own. The great eagles were servants of Manwë (or descendants thereof), so they may have been similarly bound.
  • In the end, absolutely none of the alternative methods of travel would have worked. It was specifically stated by Tolkien that Sauron NEVER suspected they were going to destroy the One Ring since he thought it was impossible for everyone to resist its temptation. In fact, he was absolutely correct. Isildur and Frodo, they were there and their wills failed them (even though it was mentioned that Hobbits seemed to have a particularly strong-will against its temptation). The only reason that the One Ring was destroyed in the end was because Gollum intervened and ACCIDENTALLY fell off into the fires of Mount Doom. So, Yeah.
  • I honestly think that most of the reasons above are just excuses for people who think Tolkien loses credibility for not having thought of this. There are more eagles than Nazgul, so taking a platoon would have worked to defeat them. They could have approached from the East side. As far as Sauron guarding Mount Doom--the Men were helpless against the Nazgul, why would Orcs be any different? Tolkien simply didn't think of it--if he had, he would have made up an excuse for why they wouldn't. Fans will just have to deal with that. If you just ignore this aspect, the book is still completely readable.
    • "Tolkien didn't think of it"? Look at the quote on the folder. Which was, like the Bombadil quote, put there to avoid avoidable "what did Tolkien think" edits.
    • Also note, there are only nine Nazgul, but Sauron clearly has a supply of spare flying mounts around, because Legolas shoots one down at some point early on, and we later see all nine with mounts. He presumably can't send his whole brood on air raids unmanned, because his hold on them probably diminishes with distance, but if the Eagles attacked him on his home turf, he could probably send up a couple dozen. Not to mention the fact that Sauron knows about the Eagles, and is pretty technologically innovated, so we have to imagine he'd have some anti-air plan. This would all make for a freaking awesome fight sequence though...
    • Sure it's an "excuse" of sorts, but a justifiable one: finding an in-universe reason to disqualify the Eagles plan helps keep the story internally plausible, thus strengthening it.
  • I hope somebody else didn't already mention this argument; this is a huge discussion so I mostly just read the main topics. The wraiths can sense the rings. It's one thing to be able to hide and dodge on the ground; it's another thing entirely to be out in the open air! I see it going something like this: Gandalf: Okay, Gwahir, give us a lift to Mordor, please. <little while later, however long it takes them to draw near Mordor; the closer they get, the stronger the ring grows. After all, Frodo and Sam didn't dare wear it once actually THERE> Wraith King: I sense something...up there! ATTACK!!! <The wringwraiths being incorporal beings, I doubt they'd have much trouble finding a way to fly even without creepy bird-dino creatures> I'm not that great at picturing fights, but I just keep picturing the eagle Frodo's riding fighting the wraiths and Frodo falling and plummeting to his death. Maybe Gandalf could hold them off for a bit, but holding off all nine would be a bit much even for him! And supposing Frodo's eagle was smart and just dodged the wraiths, I wonder how long he would have been able to avoid them? At least one or two would leave off Gandalf and follow him; it would be a close call at best. What about the rest of the company, you ask? Well, they might be able to hold up for a while, esp. Aragorn, but magic and fire are the best weapons against the wraiths, and it's hard to start a fire in midair! Yes, later on, Merry did deal the Witch King quite the blow, but it took him until The Return of the King to get that kind of strength of will. I don't know, it just seems too risky to me. And maybe the wraiths can't fly without their weird birds, but I suspect the Wise aren't called that for nothing: they'd count on Sauron having contingencies set up for flying enemies.
  • One thing to add to the whole Eagles debate is that they were not as closely allied with the Free Peoples as some would think; the Eagles were closer in nature to the Ents in that both races served Eru in their own way and had no love for Sauron but neither were they active outside there own demenses. There was really no way for Gandalf to 'take a platoon' of Eagles and dive bomb Mt. Doom because they just don't operate that way as a whole. Specific Eagles helped Gandalf because of an old friendship and debt of gratitude; their appearance at the end of both stories can be better attributed to Manwe trying to exert a little influence in the only way he could rather than Gandalf calling in the cavalry. Basically, the Eagles didn't carry the Ring to Mordor for the same reason the Ents never set one foot outside their forests until the attack on Isengard.
    • Exactly, everyone here seems to forget, these aren't just regular eagles that happen to be samrt and big, these are the Eagles of Manwe, they answer only to Manwe himself and are basicly an extension of his will into Middle Earth. They would never agree to do this unless Manwe himself allowed it, and doing so would be involoving the Valar directly with the affairs of mortals, which they have refused to do since the end of the First Age. And even back then, the only thing the Eagles ever did to help people was rescuing them from danger, not helping them attack, only saving them.
      • Not so much the Eagles themselves, but their boss Manwe; and he's not so much a jerk as he is head of the Neglectful Precursors of Middle-Earth. Even then, their neglect is justified: the last time the Valar stepped up to fight evil in Middle Earth themselves, a whole continent sank and plenty of other major geography got catastrophically pushed around. Since then, they've taken the hands-off approach of offering advice (Gandalf), solace (special passage to the Undying Lands for Ring-bearers), and on rare occasions a hand up for heroes who have already accomplished their quest (the Eagles saving Sam and Frodo from Mt. Doom).
    • "It's about the quest."
    • Still, even if, for whatever reason, the Eagles couldn't take the Ring and/or the Fellowship into Mordor, they could've just been used to cross the Misty Mountains and leave the group off at, say, Lothlorien or some other nearby place. Would've saved all the trouble involving Caradhras and Moria and stuff. They were willing to provide somewhat similar services to Bilbo, Gandalf and the Dwarves in The Hobbit, they could've done it again.
  • For those following along at home: the mission depended on secrecy, which could only be achieved by going in on foot; an eagle flying through the clear sky would be a bit more conspicuous than a couple of sneaky hobbits; a flying Nazg ûl or other such creature would be on its way to intercept within seconds. But if it wasn't that, it'd be something else, killer sheep perhaps: Sauron's not dumb enough to let eagles roam his lands at will. All this presuming you could convince the eagles (or their boss Manwe) to help in the first place. Note the plot does depend on the door to Mount Doom being unlocked!
  • One other thing? Birds of prey, even eagles, aren't designed for long-term carrying of heavy things through the air. Yes, they do carry large prey once in a while, but not for hundreds of miles over open country where there's nothing for them to eat and nowhere high enough to be a comfortable perch. I see no reason why the Eagles of Manwe would be somehow exempt from basic laws of nature.
  • Why didn't they use the Eagles? Because Sauron would have seen them flying in plain view through the freaking sky! Honestly, there are multiple times in both the books and movies where Sauron or Saruman use flying spies and it's clearly stated that one of the downsides of using things that fly is that they're easily visible. The reason why Gandalf and Aragorn took such great care in the route they took was so Sauron wouldn't notice them, and in fact the entire point of the fellowship's mission is to sneak by him when he's not looking. Even Radagash the Brown brings up this exact point early in the Fellowship. To further elucidate, the Nazgul are flying killers on wings, Sauron is an all-seeing eye, the mission of the fellowship was to secretly get by past Sauron's gaze because if he did focus his attention on them he's a minor Valar - and considering what happened in the first two ages, this troper has doubts that the entire assembled might of the Ishtari wouldn't be enough to fend him off - and people still go on with "Why didn't they use the eagles?"! Here's a simple answer: Gandalf and Aragorn weren't morons. Why didn't Tolkien use them? Because he wasn't an idiot either.
    • Minor nitpick - Sauron was one of the Maiar like Gandalf and the other wizards, not a Vala. His boss from The Silmarillion was a Vala. And Gandalf couldn't match Sauron strength-for-strength because there were rules he had to obey.
  • A better question is why do the Eagles show up to save them at the end? It's such an obvious Deus Ex Machina. The whole story has been leading up to the fact that this was a suicide mission from the word go. Sam and Frodo were never supposed to come back from Mount Doom. They had clearly accepted long since accepted that they weren't coming back. Why the tacked-on, saccharine happy ending?
    • The eagles save Frodo and Sam because Gandalf called Gwaihir down at the Battle of the Black Gate after the Ring's destruction and asked him for a third favor to maybe carry him for a rescue mission, pretty please? (Lot R Book VI, Ch. 4)
    • The ending is hardly saccharine or happy. The Shire has been enslaved and irrevocably altered; so not only did they have to go through the quest to destroy the ring but they have to continue to fight after they have returned home. Except it is their old home no longer, and never will be again. And Frodo has been scarred for life, physically and psychologically. The choice not to kill them off is more poignant and less...cliched. They did die, in a way. Their old selves died.
  • This troper wrote a comment in a cracked.com article (http://www.cracked.com/article/237_6-lord-rings-characters-who-totally-dropped-ball/#ixzz1nN1pvlRl ), explaining several things in the movie, including the Eagles:
    • Gandalf's Wild Ride- Riding an eagle would have solved everything? You know where one of the hardest places to hide is? The sky. Unless you have clouds, you have no cover. The moment one of Saruman's raven flocks spots an eagle in the distance carrying a few hobbits and a bearded dude, that's going to get reported fairly quick, and tracked.
    • Even worse, though- imagine being at high altitude for extended periods of time. You'd risk hypothermia, decreased oxygen, and if you wanted to make sure to not fall off the eagle, sleep deprivation (or at least being very sore). If getting from Rohan to Minas Tirith takes "3 days ride, as the Nazgul flies" you'd probably need up to a week to get to Mordor [from Rivendell]- it's not an efficient airline, but as least it doesn't have the TSA to feel you up.
    • But then there's the Mount Doom problem- "Toss that b---h in there". Well see, there's a tiny problem when it comes to flying in hot areas- we call them updrafts. That's enough to throw you off balance-wise, but even if you dive-bomb the place, Mordor was notorious for having a f-ckton of air pollution, just from Mount Doom, enough so that you could probably film a summer day in LA and not have to CGI the entire region in. So... no. No horses because they'd be easy to spot and hard as s--t to hide in the hills of Eregion. No eagle airlines because that's not a simple route, either.

Balrog Wings "And the shadow spread out like two vast wings..."

  • The most popular option to remain neutral is to take a definitional approach which emphasizes all the various facets of the problem, for example here. And here for more information.
    • It's worth noting that Balrogs are slippery when wet. They become "a thing of slime".
    • Peter Jackson wanted a Slime Balrog, but hadn't the budget for it.
  • Flightless Balrogs (winged or not, seeing as how they are divine beings) are of course an entirely separate issue over the past 30 years of this debate, not to mention air-speed velocity (laden or unladen)?
    • In the oldest versions of the mythology, it was explicitly stated that the winged dragons were the first of Morgoth's creatures to be able to fly ("until that day [the first appearance of winged dragons] no creatures of his cruel thought had yet assailed the air"). This statement disappeared by the time of the Silmarillion as published.
    • The early drafts also say they "arose and passed with winged speed over Hithlum" to rescue Morgoth from Ungoliant, confusing the issue further.
    • Regarding air-speed velocity, Gandalf is much more streamlined compared to the Balrog which has huge wings to slow it down (Some people think they are wings).
    • Gandalf's sword wasn't shown hitting anything. Balrog density (creature of flame and shadow) is unknown anyway, not to mention its aerodynamic form. Gandalf could easily catch up to that plausibly.

Eru aka God, the Ainur, and Theodicy

  • Sauron, Saruman, Gandalf and the orcs were fallen angels of Eru Ilúvatar, right? Why did Gandalf not beg his God for help?
    • How many ideas did Tolkien steal from Paradise Lost?
      • Because Eru doesn't intervene. If his goal was immediate extermination of evil, he would have blasted Melkor on the spot after the Music. He's an eventualist, not an immediatist -- and he knows that eventually, after Dagor Dagorath, the world will be reformed with the Second Music. (Note also that Eru did intervene when he resurrected Gandalf, but that was it.)
        • Neither Saruman, Gandalf or the Orcs are anything even closely resembling "fallen angels". Saruman and Gandalf might qualify as the non-fallen kind (allegorically), but I don't know where that idea comes from regarding Orcs. If you want to know why Gandalf didn't ask "his god" for help, consider that Gandalf is the help provided to Middle-earth by that god.
          • Note that Eru intervened constantly in the course of LOTR, and Gandalf was well aware of it. That's what "you were meant to find the ring, and I find that very encouraging" and "Gollum still has a part to play" and other such statements are all about. The whole course of the books describes the unfolding of Eru's plan, and the lucky chances are his methods. Its subtle, not flashy
          • There's also the fact that Eru knows that ultimately, no matter what Morgoth and Sauron do, no matter how much they divert the world from his original plans, the fallout ultimately leads to the glory of His work. An example: Melkor tries to disrupt the creation of the world with extreme colds and heats. Eru points out to Ulmo, Vala of Water, that now water's beauty is far greater than Ulmo had planned, for now there are the beautiful manifestations of steam and frost. Eru is an eventualist because he understands that tragedy may occur that nonetheless is good to have happened, even if the Valar themselves both don't quite get it and find themselves unable to accept it because they love the world they've made so much.
            • Eru could also be said to be a Magnificent Bastard who would rather ruin the plans of others indirectly and watch them fail slowly, even going so far as to cripple their ability to make free moral choices or come up with original thoughts.
            • I think it ultimately comes down to free will. Eru made the universe and gave his children free will, meaning that he set a law by which his creations could create and destroy. Then, to set an example, he decided to obey his own laws. Thus, he does not interfere in what everyone else does because he would become a hypocrite by not abiding by the rules he expects everyone else to follow. That said, if there was some majority to ask Eru to do something, he may or may not. I doubt there is any point in The Lord of the Rings where half the world, plus one, actually prays to Eru to do anything.
    • How do you know he wasn't? He might have been praying silently all the time.
  • Why did the Valar not pitch in to help fight Mordor themselves? They had kicked the ass of Morgoth, a guy who was bigger, badder, and had kicked more puppies than Sauron could ever hope to. They could've easily annihilated him and his armies. But nooooooooooooo they just had to send five minor powers and on top of that, told them not to take any direct action! Bastards...
    • Simple enough. The Valar weren't free to act nor all powerful. After all, they had to call upon Eru to beat off the Numeanoreans. So, more than likely it's a Prime Directive Issue. After all, Gandalf himself stated that the wizards' role was not to control Middle-earth or match force with force, but to lead and guide the people against Sauron.
      • They could have done something to help out, like simply show up in force to march on Mordor. They did that exact thing when Morgoth was threatening the world, and thus could have done it again. The fact that they didn't means they are little bastards. If I were a human king then, I would have followed the elves across the sea to meet the Valar... and then brutally killed them all while laughing manically.
    • Uh huh. That worked out great for Ar-Pharazon the Golden. (See also: Fall of Numenor.)
        • And then been crunched pitifully, probably breaking the world again in the process, assuming you could even get there (only the elves know the secret of the Straight Path.) Sauron is Middle-earth's problem; the Valar are not there as a cure-all every time something goes wrong.
          • Crunched. By a guy who could never hope to be as powerful as a guy they had already beaten (Morgoth). Although this was with the elves' help (who were fleeing like spineless ninnies for no apparent reason). And how did they get to Middle-earth to fight Morgoth earlier, if they didn't know how? These bastards refuse to help fight against a guy weaker than the one they had already beaten. If he was only Middle-earth's problem, then why did the show up to fight Morgoth? He was Middle-earth's problem too.
              • Yes, crunched by the Valar, who are, after all, thoroughly destructive and can call upon the One. Remember, the Valar fighting in the final war against Morgoth broke the world from the destruction. They chose not to fight Morgoth because of a complicated series of events that estranged them from the Eldar, and furthermore because they were afraid they would destroy Men by acting. They only intervened at last because Eärendil pleaded for their help. Seriously, have you even read the Silmarillion?
                • And the five Wizards were by no means "minor powers". As stated elsewhere, they were limited by the Valar to not match force with force, which, in my reading and understanding of the Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings they certainly could have done.
    • Part of the plot of Lord of the Rings is that magic is gradually leaving the world (ie, Middle-earth is becoming the Earth we know). That is why the Elves are all leaving, they are being called away, not "fleeing like spineless ninnies." This transition is part of the natural order, and if the Valar, who were powerful magical beings not seen since the beginning of the world, returned and started to act directly again, it probably would have broken the world worse than Sauron could have ever hoped to.
      • Plus, Morgoth had originally been one of the Valar (he was in fact by far the most powerful, back when he was Melkor), but he had suffused his power throughout the fabric of creation, substantially weakening him. The Valar were still willing to fight him directly, but doing so ended up causing untold destruction, and irreparably ruined the beginning of the Elves. When the High Elves left Valinor in exile after Morgoth escaped again, they decided to leave the mortal world to its own devices, until it was thoroughly proven that they were the only ones capable of permanently stopping Morgoth. After this, they were committed to never directly interfering in Middle-earth again, because to do so would finally and completely ruin the world and Eru's plans for it (particularly that it should pass to the dominion of Men). They were however still compassionate to the plight of the mortal world, which is why they sent their greatest and wisest emissaries (appropriately limited) to guide them to victory (a victory which, if you will remember, would not have been achieved without them).
    • 1. Last time the Valar directly assault evil in Middle Earth, an entire continent was shattered. 2. Most of the mortal races could have been seen by them as having lost the right to direct saving, the Noldor and Moriquendi becuase they had been given, and still had, the option to say "screw you guys, I'm going home" to everyone in Middle Earth and head to Valinor, and man for that whole attempted invasion of and take over of their land thing. 3. They only attacked Morgoth after it became absolutely clear that only by their help could he be defeated, and, if not, every living thing not in Valinor would be killed or enslaved, and given Sauron WAS defeated without their direct aid, this clearly wasn't the case. 4, These 'Lesser powers' were Maia of similar standing to what Sauron had before joining Morgoth, Saruman in fact basically being Sauron's replacement as one of Aule's chief aides, and had nearly as much innate power as he did, but were restrained from using it in a direct confrontaion, but were sent to rally the mortal races to fight, and to guide them. And 5. if mommy and daddy always run to help their kids out of every little situation, the kids will never learn to be self-sufficient.
      • 1. Sauron ain't Morgoth. Without the One Ring, most of what power he had left was out of his reach anyway. He couldn't put up nearly such a good fight as Morgoth did. No content destroying escapades for him. Heck, some men and elves stabbed him to death once, though, of course he got better. 2. So, because the elves could've left, they had no right to help? Should victims of hurricanes get no assistence because they could've abandoned the only homes they've ever known? The only men who tried to invade their home were the evil Numenorians, who were corrupted by Sauron. And God already got rid of those guys. Everyone left was wholly innocent of that (excepting Sauron, of course). 3. So? Both Sauron and Morgoth came from among them, and thus were their responsibilty to deal with, not the mortal races'. In the same way, the US can't just dump its criminals in Mexico and then tell the Mexican government "They're your problem now, bucko." 4. And why no direct confrontation? Sauron was weak, his power shattered, and for thousands of years he had to sit around as a shadow, slowly rebuilding his power. That would be the perfect moment to force a direct confrontation and drag him off kicking and screaming. It's not like he could really do anything about that, what with him missing the One Ring and not having a body for thousands of years. 5. A child can hardly be expected to deal with an immortal spirit with a super-duper ring o'evil. This problem would not have been solved at all were it not for incredibly good luck on the good guys' part (comparable to a murderer bursting into a home only to be thwarted by a chandelier falling on his head).
      • The problem with continent-wrecking isn't Sauron (or Morgoth, fo that matter) choosing to do it on his own; rather, it's presented more as a side-effect of the scale of forces being unleashed, and while Sauron may not be as strong as Morgoth, it seems unrealistic to think he wouldn't land at least a couple of good blows before the Valar took him into custody, and that could still cause some pretty major destruction. Also, the Valar are pretty hands-off gods, on the whole. It's not their job to swoop in and save the world unless all other courses of action have been exhausted. Also, keep in mind that it's very heavily implied that destiny is in play during the whole War of the Ring- and it's definitely not the Valar's place to mess with what their boss has planned.
        • Don't forget that the main armies opposing Sauron (and quite a few serving him) are men (and small, hairy-footed man-like creatures explicitly mentioned as an offshoot of men). In the Tolkien legendarium, men are explicitly outside the control of the Valar; when an army of them invaded the Undying Lands, they had to lay down their positions as guardians and call on God to fix things. Not to mention, the sending of the Wizards as emissaries rather than intervening directly falls pretty well into the whole "fading of mythology" theme that undercuts the whole of the War of the Ring.

Sauron and the One Ring

  • Sauron's whole idea of even making the Ring was throughly moronic from the start. I mean, putting your immortality on the line for a chance to mind control, at most, 19 people. What kind of an idiot does that?
    • An idiot who needs to keep his mystical power from fading away to nothingness in the Third Age, as it would have had the Great Rings not been forged. Also, an idiot who remembers that those 19 people, collectively between them, possessed virtually all the political and mystical power in Middle-earth.
    • Exactly. The Rings of Power were a way to preserve might that would otherwise have been lost. And rather than 19 people, it would have meant ruling 19 nations, had the plot been succesful.
      • Quoth the Silmarillion: "And much of the strength and will of Sauron passed into that One Ring; for the power of the Elven-rings was very great, and that which should goven them must be a thing of surpassing potency". The greater part of the strength of the Elves passed into their rings, and to dominate them, the greater part of Sauron's strength had to pass into his. Remember, magic and Elves only left Middle-earth after the destruction of the One. Because the Three were subject to the One, with its destruction, Sauron was diminished, and so were the Elves in much the same manner, no longer able to hold back the effects of decay and time. So really, it's Sauron's fault that the magic went away.
    • Plus, as far as Sauron was concerned, his immortality was never on the line. He believed that it was beyond the will of any being to harm the Ring, and very few would have been able to bring its full power under their control, in which case there remains the possibility of it being reclaimed by its true master. Its worth noting that in the end, Sauron was right about noone being able to willingly destroy the Ring. It was only destroyed because Gollum, a mortal being (who was unable to do anything with the Ring other than fawn over it), had possessed it so long, and had lost it for so long, that when he reclaimed it at the Crack of Doom, all he could do was dance around in jubilation, which led to him losing his footing, destroying the Ring.
      • Also because on the trip up the sides of Mount Doom when Gollum had attempted to jump Sam and Frodo, Frodo had used the ring's powers of command to place a geas on Gollum, that if Gollum ever touched Frodo again, Gollum would throw himself into the volcano. Lo and behold, Gollum did attack Frodo again, and look what happened.
    • And, plus some more, the One Ring didn't just allow him control over the nineteen other Great Rings. It would have allowed him control over everyone. The One Ring's great power was that it gave Sauron the ability to dominate the wills of others, not just those who wore one of the Great Rings. It would be easier to find and dominate those who wore Great Rings, yes, since they would stand out, but the Ring's abilities was not just limited to them. And, it might not seem so idiotic when you realize the only reason Sauron survived into the Third Age was because of the Ring. When Numenor was broken when the Numenorians marched on Valinor, Sauron was broken as well and if not for the fact that he had invested a great deal of power in the Ring, he would have remained an ineffectual spirit for the rest of time.
      • And it is also worth noting that there was no Great Ring corresponding to hobbits ... which may have been part of why hobbits (Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, and Smeagol) were so instrumental in its destruction.
        • 1) Hobbits are said to be more resistant by nature, like the dwarves. 2) The Rings of Power were forged in the Second Age, and the existence of hobbits was first documented in the Third Age.
          • 3.) Hobbits are, for all intents and purposes, an offshoot of Men rather than a new race like elves or dwarves.
        • There wasn't any Great Ring for the ents either, presumably because they weren't active enough for Sauron to have worried about them as opponents. Nor for orcs or trolls, as he was presumably confident that neither race would ever dare to defy him.
    • The 19 Rings themselves are designed to manipulate and control various fundamental forces governing Middle Earth, such as Fire and the like. It's much more than a gmable to control every mind (though t'would) or keep a firm tie to the world (though it did); it basically makes Sauron the new God, or close to it in Middle Earth terms. With all the Rings in his hands and under his power Sauron would have been a Physical God akin to Melkor in his prime, having command of aspects of all the powers of each of the Vala and basically being the baddest mo'fo on the planet, badder even than Morgoth who you'll not was not the Evil Genius Sauron was. His plan was quite the opposite of idiotic- it was one of the most brilliant evil schemes in fantasy literature/
  • If Sauron knew that the only way to defeat him in combat was to remove his Ring, why did he wear it on his finger, thus risking it being cut off (which happened, conveniently)? Would it have made more sense to, I dunno, swallow it?
    • He can't use it if he doesn't wear it.
      • OK, a) why would he design a tool so that it can't be used unless it is on a vulnerable part of him b) where does it say he has to have it on his finger instead of inside him?
        • Ahem. The One Ring was made specifically to control the Elven Rings of Power, so it had to take their form and functionality.
        • Because of the other Rings of Power ("Three Rings for the Elven-kings...", anyone?), which were designed to be given as gifts that were actually baited traps and thus had to appear innocent. The Master Ring was built in secret, to dominate the other rings, and the principle of sympathetic magic would make the best shape for it also be a ring.
        • Between reading "on his finger" and "inside of him", this troper had the awful idea of Sauron wearing the ring on a part that could be protected by a codpiece. Although if the Ring could be small enough to fit a hobbit's thumb/ring finger/middle finger while large enough to be worn by a human, why it couldn't just be worn on his second toe (or first, it's â��One Ring fits all"), where it wouldn't be found so easily. There's the possibility that the sympathtic magic required him to wear it like the other ringbearers would have, on his hand, but it still wasn't explained.
        • Umm... I really doubt that Sauron had "cough" that part that could be protected at the point he lost the ring, and probably never had it at all. Also, I don't think the rings would work unless put on at least a toe or finger. So, don't worry about that thought.
          • Why, thank you very much for that imaginative and vivid depiction that will no doubt give me food for captivating reflections, especcialy in sleep. Now, pass the Brain Bleach please.
    • Keep in mind that in the books, Sauron was wearing the Ring when he was defeated, and Isildur cut off the Ring-finger afterward, to claim the Ring as a trophy and payment for the deaths of his father and brother. The whole "Sauron is invincible while wearing the Ring" thing and Isildur severing his finger with a lucky strike was only in the movies.
    • It occurs to this troper that it would have been smart for Isildur to cut off Sauron's HEAD while he was at it.
      • Sauron was already dead at that point, but would eventually regenerate as long as the Ring existed. Cutting off his head (assuming he still had it) wouldn't have helped at all.
      • As Tolkien said, Sauron, as a Maia, was truly immortal and going to last as long as Arda lasted. Even if his mystical powers had been blown away with the One Ring, he could not die like Elves, Men or Hobbits did, but to be reduced to a powerless immaterial ghost.
  • Sauron's eye could clearly see the entire world. How the Hell did it not see through a rock 100 feet away? Rocks do block energy but his eye clearly created a very powerful beam.
    • How the fuck could Sauron see the entire world? Is Tolkien's Earth flat?
      • It used to be. As one of Tolkien's rare non-Ring stories says: "Westward lay the straight road; now it is bent."
      • The Eye is a metaphysical thing, a manifestation of Sauron's will observed by those he seeks. Making it an actual, physical eye surveying Mordor's surroundings from the top of Barad-dur in the movies was apparently a genuine misunderstanding of the books.
        • On that note actually, how in the hell did they let such a monumental fuck up through? Don't get me wrong, I liked that The Eye became an actual physical thing in the movies, it was a great visual effect, but given that (allegedly) most of the production team read and reread the book constantly and one of the screenwriters is a passionate fan of Tolkien's works, you'd think that some time in the development they would have pulled Jackson aside and said "Umm, actually Pete...". Or am I misunderstanding and it was a mistake that they caught early but just went with anyway because it worked?
          • I've always taken it as a physical entity, just with a little more visual flair thrown in for the movies. On Amon Hen for example: "And suddenly he felt the Eye. There was an eye in the Dark Tower that did not sleep." There's also mention of the top of Barad-dur in the book as consisting of nothing but windows so that Sauron could look out upon his lands and those of his enemies.
        • Like Jackson's version needed more exposition? Film is a visual medium. Showing the Eye as a visible entity was a lot more evocative, in that format, than trying to cram a chilling description of something entirely ephemeral/metaphysical into the dialogue.
    • I'm pretty sure the "Eye" is the palantir. Sauron has one, and that's one of the reasons Saruman became corrupted.
      • I always took it like that too. The actual, physical eye in the film in not intended to be Sauron himself (as evidenced by the scene in the Extended Edition where Aragorn challenges him using the palantir and he's clearly visible as the armour-clad, non-eye-like guy we saw him as in the second age), but rather a physical manifestation of the palantir's powers, combined with Sauron's own. It's the film-makers' way of doing what the book does to make Sauron much scarier than any physical description could be by never showing him.
    • 'Sends out a powerful beam'? Eyes do not work that way!
    • The Eye of Sauron (however you want to take it) can potentially see anywhere. Its gaze can be blocked or redirected by a powerful being (namely the Bearers of the Three Rings (Gandalf, Galadriel, and Elrond), but otherwise it is explicitly stated that he can only focus on one place at a time.
      • Exactly, Sauron may have the ability to see anything unless it's blocked by someone powerful enough, but he still has to be LOOKING at it to see it, which was the whole point of the assault on the Black Gate, make him look at them instead of just wonder around randomly and maybe seeing Frodo.
  • (Maybe this was movie-only? I'm not sure) How was Frodo able to simply walk right up to the Crack of Doom? I understand that Sauron and co. were distracted by Aragorn etc., what I mean is: Why isn't there a door on the side of the mountain? Ya know, like "Here's the Crack of Doom. You can't get in unless you know the secret password", and only Sauron knows the password. It's not like the area had heavy foot-traffic or anything. Imagine Frodo getting all the way to the mountainside and then....there's a big ol' iron door in the way and he doesn't have the key. That would have really screwed the Fellowship. Maybe there was some magical reason why the chamber couldn't be sealed? My best guess is that Sauron was really confident that no one would be coming in this direction. Yeah, I understand that he never expected anyone to attempt to destroy the ring, but you'd think that, with all the time on his hands in all the years since the Last Alliance, he might've built a simple door at some point. Just sayin'.
    • Cracks of Doom. More than one. It. Is. Also. A. Volcano. You try blocking all the shafts of an active volcano.
    • Yeah but, in the movie at least, there was a big friggin' doorway. Maybe the crack(s) can't be blocked up, but did we have to build a giant doorway just to point out the best location for ring-destruction?
      • Why would Sauron be worried about anyone destroying the Ring? Isn't one of the most oft-noted element of the series is that the mere notion destroying the One Ring has never entered his darkest dreams.
      • The movie also had Barad-dur as a lighthouse which could be seen from the edge of Mordor. The Men of the West in the films are also fireproof enough to sprint across a gigantic courtyard while on fire. Don't take the visuals too seriously. The sets for the last two films were made for good cinematography, not for utter realism.
    • Heh heh, "Crack of Doom". (I'm so sorry)
    • in the book it clearly says there is a door into the Cracks of Doom made by Sauron, and kept clear by his slaves whenever the volcano messes it up, but remeber, this door was situated specificly so Sauron had a perfectly clear field of vision from Barad-Dur straight through the door, also he knows no mortal has the will to destroy the ring, he doen't even think any can even seriously think about doing it, let alone follow through. So bascily becuase hes a cocky SoB with a massive self made Idiotball
  • I don't know if this was addressed in the books, but what was the point of making a ring that turns the wearer invisible...unless that wearer is you, the creator?
    • Invisibility's a side-effect. The point of the ring is to serve as a focal point for his power so it wouldn't fade when the other magics did, and to control the other rings of power.
    • This troper's theory is founded on a comment Gandalf made about the Ring, that it "grants power according to its bearer's measure, and that one would have to devote years of study to bending the will of others before being able to control it." It's notable here that Sauron doesn't turn invisible when he has the Ring on (which is rather a pity, seeing as sneak attacking Gil-galad and/or Elendil seems rather a better idea than taking them on in single combat. Anyway, on any of the occasions where the Ring made its wearer invisible, there's an argument that it was accessing some deep, primal need of the current bearer to do so. Isildur was ambushed and put the Ring on, seeking to escape: the Ring granted that request, albeit that it was making a Batman Gambit to betray Isildur in doing so. Frodo, Bilbo, and Gollum are of a similar species in that hobbits try not to be seen by big folk and manage to disappear when they choose. When it's worn by one of these individuals, the Ring -- in service of its own Batman Gambit to get back to Sauron -- grants expression to that primal need and renders the wearer invisible.
      • This gets further wind in its sails by a scene in the book where Sam briefly wears the ring. He wishes that he could comprehend the Orc-speech that's coming from nearby. He then understands Orc-speech. It's best for all concerned that he doesn't dwell on this.
      • Also, don't forget that when the Ring was in Bilbo's possession, it would have been trying to avoid giving away its true nature to Gandalf. He knew it was a magic ring, but not the magic ring; if he'd figured it out sooner, he'd have tried to engineer its destruction long before Sauron was ready to send the wraiths after it or assault the realms of Men. Doing something relatively innocuous, like making its wearer invisible, meant Gandalf wouldn't immediately recognize it as an uberweapon rather than a minor enchanted trinket.
    • Also there is probably the meta-argument: the book The Hobbit, and therefore also the magic ring of invisibility, were not written as part of Middle-earth. After writing the Hobbit he retconned it into taking place in his established Middle-earth universe, and integrated it as a creation of Sauron. He later did make a few changes in the Hobbit to make it fit better with how he wrote things in theLotR, but something like the invisibility would have been hard to delete from both stories.
    • Out of universe, the ring is a reference to the Ring of Gyges, which is stated in Plato's Republic to be a ring that makes you invisible. In the dialogue in which it is mentioned, Plato's brother Glaucon argues that because the ring removes all the consequences from your actions, no one would be able to resist the temptation to use it for their own benefit, even to the harm of others.
      • The One Ring is closer to the Ring of Wagner's Ring Cycle. That's a magic ring that has the power to make its wearer invisible and (edt: that's the Tarnkappe) dominate the minds of others (and also change form), and that infects people with a selifsh desire to possess it. The Ring of Gyges just reveals that people are already naturally selfish; Wagner's Ring actually turns people evil.
    • Because it also changes the way you experience the world (limiting your sight, enhancing your smell and hearing, and letting you see others who are made invisible by similar magic), because the same thing happened to the Nazg ûl, and because everybody seems sure that the ring could be used to conquer the world, I'd guess the invisibility is simply a byproduct of an overall effect. Wearing the ring activates all the raw, corrupt power that Sauron put into it, changing you in some fundamental way, and that change makes you invisible to normal people. It's like a vampire no longer appearing in mirrors, it's hardly the point, just one of many effects.
    • It's mentioned several times that when someone puts on the ring he isn't so much becoming invisable, as being partially shifted to another realm, and that certain people (those that had seen the Light of Valinor being the one example given) are able to exist in both realms at once. Hence why certain people were able to remain visable while wearing it. The best example to describe this is when Frodo first sees Glorfindel (Arwen in the movie). He sees a radiant form of golden light, while the rest only see an elf not unlike anyone else, becuase at that point he is crossing over into the other realm from the Morgul blade, and seeing them as they appear on that side.
  • This might have been just the movie, but at least it is there. This touches the same topic as the one asking "Why does Sauron wear his ring in battle?" So okay, let's just say he needs to wear it to use his powers. I'm fine with that. My question is: Why does he fight in the freaking front line instead of hiding behind his massive army? To raise the morale of the troops (that consist of Orcs, for crying out loud)? Because he got too self-confident (make evil, complicated plans to seize the entire Middle Earth, fail because of one character flaw)? It Just Bugs Me.
    • That was just a dramatic convention of the movie. In the books, the Last Alliance laid siege to Barad-dur for seven years, and Sauron only came out to personally lead his army out of desperation since they were winning.
  • Why does everyone seem to think that Sauron + One Ring = Auto Win? He had it last time, but he still lost when he was beaten in combat and stabbed to death (Isildor then took the Ring off his corpse as a trophy). What exactly would the Ring allow Sauron to do that he couldn't already do? While I understand that destroying it means killing him, and therefore both sides would be on the lookout for it, it's not an instawin button for Sauron. His armies are much more worrisome.
    • Sauron was only defeated by the most powerful leaders of the Second Age, and no one in the Third Age can match them in strength. Gondor and Rohan are just about it, and Sauron nearly defeats them without his ring.
    • By the time of the War for the Ring, Sauron had already won. He possessed an army of hundreds of thousands of troops that he could breed, equip, field, and replace far easier than the armies opposing him could, and said armies were struggling to rally anything in the neighborhood of ten thousand men, far short of the hundreds of thousands that opposed them. Sauron getting the ring isn't auto-win for him, it's auto-lose for everyone else. It is completely impossible for them to win through force of arms at this point; their only win is destroying the ring.
  • Why couldn't they just bury the ring? When Gandalf was fighting the Balrog,why couldn't Frodo throw the ring down into the chasm where Gandalf and the Balrog fell into?It must've been miles deep. Nobody would have found it. Or they could bury it fifty feet deep and put a huge boulder over it.
    • All options of what to to with the Ring are discussed in detail at the Council of Elrond (and in other places) and, one after the other, proven as not a viable option. The only valid use of the Ring with a positive outcome for the Free Peoples is to try and destroy it, thereby destroying Sauron's body, the Tower, and everything else that was built using and is controlled by Sauron and the Ring's power - is the only sure, and only permanent way. Firstly, hiding and thereby keeping the Ring from Sauron won't stop him conquering the world, he can do that by himself (his enemies aren't exactly in the shape they were in last time). Beating him back a little now will just mean he'll come back to bother another generation. Throwing away the Ring and hoping it won't get found again is even worse because it will not stay away, and someone (or something) will find the Ring eventually, and the Ring will make sure it gets found, as is repeatedly stressed. (Did you miss the whole thing about the Ring leaving Isildur, getting found by Gollum, and then getting itself lost and found by Bilbo to finally get out of the fucking caves? And then making itself constantly noticed at inopportune moments while being carried by Frodo?)
    • The Ring wants to be found, as Gandalf stresses in both book and film. Leaving it unattended and going on your merry way, even in a supposedly secure place, is a phenomenally bad idea. Sooner or later it will somehow manage to ensnare a new bearer, and from their it's only a matter of time before Sauron finds out about it. As for throwing it down the chasm- worse idea. What just fell down there? a Balrog- in other words a freaking demon lord! If old Durin's Bane gets his claws on the Ring, it's nearly as bad as if Sauron got it himself (to say nothing of the fact that, according to Gandalf, there's apparently a race of Eldritch Abominations that live at the bottom of the chasm- we don't know enough about them to say what they'd get up to with the Ring, but from the little we do know, it's almost certainly unpleasant). Destroying the Ring is the only way to put it for certain beyond everyone's reach.
  • Assuming the Blue Wizards had the same sort of task as other wizards, and had to go incognito as old men (in as much as Wizards technically look human at all) wouldn't this mean they actually looked like the Southerners mentioned in the books?
  • How was Gollum able to bite Frodo's finger off at the climax? Earlier in the story, when Gollum accidentally hints at getting the Ring back, Frodo threatens, "The Precious mastered you long ago. If I, wearing it, were to command you, you would obey, even if it were to leap from a precipice or cast yourself into the fire. And such would be my command." Frodo didn't need to wrestle with Gollum to keep possession of the Ring; all he had to do was command Gollum to back off. And even if Frodo was mistaken and doesn't really have the ability to control Gollum while wearing the Ring, why doesn't he even try this?
    • Well, Gollum didn't obey him. So he fell from a precipice into a fire. Ironic, really.
    • I double-checked exactly how it went down. When Frodo encounters Gollum on the slopes of Mount Doom, he tells him (while holding the Ring but not wearing it) that if Gollum touches him again, he'll fall into the fires of Doom himself. The "if" implies that Gollum is still permitted to touch Frodo as long as he's willing to accept the consequences. afterward, when Frodo becomes corrupted and he and Gollum are fighting over the Ring at the cracks of Doom, Frodo doesn't say anything. All he had to do was order Gollum to let go, but he didn't, because plot.
    • Frodo likely didn't think of it, mostly because it's hard to stop, think rationally, and remember that you can boss Gollum around when he's on top of you and violently struggling to get the Ring away from you. Frodo was slightly preoccupied by that fact.
  • If no other rings were still around or lost or destroyed by dragons,how is invisibility going to help you?
    • If all you want is to be stealthy, invisibility helps a lot- just ask Gollum or Bilbo. However, it's worth noting that invisibility is the least of the Ring's powers, albeit the only one Gollum and the Hobbits were really capable of accessing. In the hands of someone like Gandalf or Galadriel, it might potentially increase all of your abilities to the point that you could challenge Sauron and win (or at least, so they believe- the risk means it's not worth actually testing that theory).

The Rings of Power

  • (Having not read the books) We know the rings of men turned them into Nazgul, but what happened to the bearers of the other rings? Two of the elf rings' owners appear in the movies none the worse for wear, and the dwarven rings are never seen at all.
    • The seven and the nine were labeled as belonging to Man and Dwarf after the fact. Originally, Sauron's intent was to use them to control the elves and then spread that control outward from there. When the Three were created without his knowledge, he abandoned the idea of slowly corrupting the elves and instead waged war on them in order to collect the rings they had and obliterate everybody that he had taught the art of ring making to. He then later distributed rings to the Nine and the Dwarves. The rings failed against the dwarves due to their extreme differences in the way they were made and so he was only able to successful take control of the nine men and women that he provided rings to. The Three were subject to the One because I suspect that Sauron basically taught the elves a flawed art, reference Jade Empire where the main character's master teaches him a martial art with a very subtle and almost impossible to find flaw which none-the-less allows said master to gank him at will. Basically, from a programming standpoint, each of the Sixteen rings that he successfully recovered (others might have existed and been destroyed) granted power and were built with the same back door with the One acting as a password/security key. The Three were created using the same basics, but they were created by the elves own design and, as such, the back door they held was much harder for Sauron to take advantage of. However, this showed Sauron that the elves of Eregion might just have learned enough to eventually learn how to unmake the One without resorting to massive armies of distraction and clever hobbits. As such, he annihilated them before they could pass that information on. By the time of Lord of the Rings, the large majority of the Dwarven rings are destroyed and some have been recovered by Sauron.
    • Dwarves are explicitly referred to as being incapable of becoming Wraiths; their natural strength of mind and body repels it. The primary corruption of their Rings is to make them insatiably greedy, never satisfied with the wealth their powers bring them. The elvish rings are completely incorrupt; their powers are tied to the One Ring but they themselves do not corrupt. (As the Rings of Power were originally made by elves for elves, this makes sense.)
      • Wait a minute. How can the Three Rings be tied to the One Ring in any important way if the One Ring can't influence or corrupt the ones who wear them? It sounds like the Three Rings aren't rings of power at all; they're just nice Elven magic items that happen to be ring-shaped. Otherwise, the verse should have read "One ring to rule them all, except for three of them, but whatever."
        • The Three are subject to the One, but only when Sauron is actually wearing it. Fortunately, Sauron miscalculated, and the three Elf-lords immediately realized their danger as soon as he put the One on for the first time; they then took theirs off before he could control them, and never used them again until the One was cut off his finger and lost.
      • The Dwarf Rings were said to become the basis of their future treasure hordes. In this case the "corruption" manifests as greed - the Rings increased their natural lust for wealth and this was eventually their undoing when their cities were overrun by Orcs or Dragons who wanted their stuff. Supposedly, many of the Dwarf Rings were therefore consumed by Dragon Fire and the rest were simply lost (one ended up in Dol Guldur, if memory serves, when Thorin's father was held captive and died there).
      • Sauron had four by the start of Fellowship, including the one taken from Thrain in Dol Guldur. The other three were unaccounted for, presumed consumed by dragon fire.
    • All three bearers of the Three Rings show up, actually, but that's not exactly made clear in the films. For the record, the last bearers of the Three Rings were Elrond, Galadriel, and Gandalf.
      • Also for the record, the original bearers were Gil-Galad, Galadriel, and Cirdan the Shipwright, respectively.
    • The Three Rings are governed by the One because all the Rings of Power were made using techniques that Sauron taught the Elves in the first place. The Three were the only Rings Of Power which he did not have a personal hand in making,hence why they didn't corrupt, but they still were governed by the One because of the fact they existed.
      • To clarify in modern terms, the Rings of Power are computer programs. The Nine Rings were loaded down with viruses and other malware that corrupted their users. The Seven Rings came packaged with adware of the Nigerian Bank variety, that the dwarves foolishly clicked on. As for the Three Rings, Sauron gave the elves the code for the program, leaving himself a back door to gain access whenever he wanted. Luckily, the elves' virus protection was up to date.
  • Wasn't it a little daft for Elrond, Galadriel, and Gandalf to keep wearing the Three Rings, even when Frodo had made his way into Mordor and Sauron stood a very good chance of getting the One Ring back? Granted, Middle-earth would be pretty much screwed no matter what if that happened, but by getting rid of the Three Rings they would get the chance to die honorably rather than be corrupted. Did they need to wear them for some reason? What do the Three Rings actually do?
    • If Sauron gets the One Ring back, everybody's pretty much screwed anyway. They can take the Three off immediately after Sauron puts his Ring back on; they can sense it if he attempts to dominate them. The Three Rings have varying, but subtle powers, and only a few are expanded on in the books; Gandalf's ring lets him be inspiring, and Galadriel's preserves Lorien's timelessness. The specific powers of Elrond's ring is never made clear.
      • And the "sensing Sauron's attempts to dominate them and taking the rings off" is exactly what happened after Sauron first forged the One.
      • This time, though, it wouldn't matter. "their minds and hearts will become revealed to Sauron, if he regains the One. It would be better if the Three had never been. That is his purpose." Last time around, they hadn't really been used extensively before Sauron revealed his treachery.
    • Is Gandalf's ring still lying around in a pit in Moria somewhere, or did it come along with him when he was promoted to Gandalf the White?
      • He didn't lose it in Moria. He fought the Balrog in Zirakzigil, the mountain peak above Moria, and died there. When he came back (naked) he probably picked up his ring before he got on the Eagle. The ring is not something he would tell his friends about casually, so it's not surprising he left it out of his account later on.
      • Gandalf did wear Narya when he left at the Grey Havens at the end of the LotR, so he would have either recovered it or never lost it in the first place.
      • I always assumed that Eru simply breathed new life into Gandalf's physical body and healed the damage wrought by the Balrog. Hence, the ring would still be on his finger. As for being naked, that was just a visual effect from the films - I don't recall it happening in the books.
        • "Naked I was sent back -- for a brief time, until my task is done. And naked I lay upon the mountain-top." (LotR III, ch. 5). He gets re-clothed in white in Lothlorien.
        • The naked part is easy enough to explain and still be the body he died in that still wore the ring, he just spent how long in hand to hand combat with a being made pretty much out of pure fire, anything not magicaly protected, like the ring of fire he wore, was problly a pile of char somewhere along the way.
        • "Naked" might not have the most obvious meaning here. Maiar and Valar see their physical bodies as a sort of clothing. Then again, the Istari are apparently unique in being clothed in actual human bodies to mask their true power.
  • Oh, hey that's right, dragonfire. Gandalf did mention that a dragon's fire was enough to destroy a Ring of Power. That doesn't actually bug me, I'm just getting a kick out of imagining his face after confirming that Bilbo's ring was the One Ring. "All right, where's that guy with the Black Arrow? We're going to have words..."
    • You're joking, right? Try rescripting the War of the Ring, only with the addition of Smaug to Sauron's forces. It lasts about half an hour each at the Hornburg and Minas Tirith, plus flight time from Erebor. Do you think it was a coincidence that Gandalf suddenly manipulated an expedition against Smaug into existence shortly after Gandalf's first experience in Dol Guldur had let him know that "the Necromancer" was in fact Sauron? Smaug had to be taken out of the picture before Sauron could get his own operations moving, or else the next thing you know the Witch-king of Angmar would have been out there riding not on a Fell Beast, but on a scaly tactical nuke with wings.
      • Someone at some point mentions the possibility of an alliance between Sauron and Smaug, but it doesn't seem like Smaug would have been entirely Sauron's to control. I certainly can't see him taking orders from a mere Nazgul.
    • Gandalf did say dragonfire was enough to destroy the Seven, but he also said that not even the greatest dragons of legend had fire hot enough to melt the One Ring. The only place in Middle-earth the Ring could be destroyed was Mount Doom. Now, in his notes, Tolkien did say a smith of sufficient skill could unmake the Ring, but only Feanor and Aule are said to be skilled enough. Neither of them were available to help the fellowship, and I wouldn't trust Feanor anywhere near the One Ring anyway.
      • Mind what you say. Feanor can't be tempted by the Ring no more than any other High Elf. Plus, he's much too proud to be dominated by the will of a mere Maia. Remember, this is the guy who slammed the door on Morgoth's face!
      • High Elves can be tempted by the Ring (Galadriel sure was); they just seem to be wise and knowledgeable enough to recognize what's happening and say "no". In any case, I'd think the risk with Feanor is less that the Ring would enslave him and more that he'd reverse-engineer the thing, and Feanor with his very own shiny Ring of Power (which might even be superior to Sauron's- he doesn't have the same raw metaphysical force to charge it with that a Maia would, but Aule aside he's the only artificer known for certain to exceed Sauron's skills and might be able to compensate for that) is the last thing Arda needs.
      • You cannot rob me of my entertaining image of Gandalf's incredulous face. Though I will wonder what exactly Aule was doing at the time. I know, I know, the Valar were staying out of the whole thing, but I'm trying to remember if Aule actually did anything after making the dwarves.
        • Forget Gandalf's Oh Crap face, my favorite mental image of all time is Sauron's, after realising he just got owned BIG TIME!
        • They discuss this during the Council meeting. Even if they had tried sending it to the Valar, it wouldn't have reached them, as anybody they could have sent would likely be corrupted en route, the ring's own malignant nature ensuring that it would fall into the Sea or return to land, and, either way, eventually reach its master.
      • There is that theory that Aule is Tom Bombadil...
  • What, so Mount Doom was the only active volcano in the entire world?
    • The only active volcano in range.
      • Also, if it was said that it could only be destroyed where it was made, that would probably exclude any other volcanoes.
  • What would have eventually happened to Gollum, had he kept the One Ring and stayed under the mountain? The nine kings of men turned into the Nazgul under Sauron's influence, and Gollum had gradually changed from the hobbit-like Smeagol into an immortal, goblin-like creature by its influence. Would he have kept changing under its influence, until he slipped into the realm of shadows and become some sort of miniature ring-wraith (and, at that point, probably fallen under Sauron's direct control and handed the Ring over)? Or had the Ring already done as much as it could do to him?
    • It probably did all that it could to him. When Sauron woke up he started "calling" the Ring back to him, but he couldn't directly control the Ring's holder for whatever reason. Since Gollum hated to leave the caves, the Ring waited for the appropriate opportunity to get itself found by somebody who would pick it up and take it elsewhere.
  • What happened to the nine rings that the Nazgul wore? Did they vanish as soon as they'd worked their effects on the Men who wore them, or are there stray (and hopefully defunct) Rings of Power scattered on the ground at the end of the story, wherever one of the Nine was vanquished?
    • Considering how old the Nazgul were, they probably kept the Rings on them to extend their lifespan and enable them to use all those neat wraith abilities; if they lost them, they'd probably go like Bilbo and wither away. Chances are the rings vanished once Sauron was destroyed, since his malign will was all that was keeping them extant in the half-spirit world that the wraiths existed in.
      • The Nine, along with those of the Seven that were in Sauron's possession, were most likely destroyed along with the One. As far as keeping hold of the Nine, Gandalf at least states that "the Nine the Nazgul keep." Having them attached to the spirits of the Nazgul would make sense, since it means that when they return to Mordor after the debacle at the Ford of Bruinen, they keep their rings with them.
  • What did Sauron do with the Seven Rings for Dwarves? We know he'd collected all or most of the ones that dragons hadn't destroyed, but what did he actually do with them? He put the Nine Rings for Mortal Men to good use by giving them to his lieutenants, but were there any ring-bearing dwarves going around doing Sauron's bidding too?
    • No as the Dwarves could not be enslaved this way. It is explained and told several times in the book itself.
      • Then what did he do with them, then? Did he just keep them in a vault? Did he give them to some dwarfs who, while not mentally dominatable, were still cowed enough by Sauron's power to do what he said? Did he give them to some humans to use (if Gandalf can use an elf ring and hobbits use Sauron's ring, it's possible that humans could use a dwarf ring)?
        • Presumably he wore them himself, to build up his own power.
        • Four of the Dwarf rings were consumed by Dragons (apparently they were easier to destroy than the One Ring). The other three were in Sauron's possession. He offered them to Dain Ironfoot, via a Nazgul messenger, if he could find & return the One Ring to Sauron. The messenger did not identify the One Ring as such, simply saying a hobbit, who Dain and his friends once knew, had stolen "a trifle that Sauron fancies", and Dain would be greatly rewarded if he helped Sauron get it back.
  • The Rings of Power will give you what you desire, and protect you from what you fear, but at a great price:
    • Men (Humans) fear death and desire power over other men; the Nine Rings assured that their wearers do not die (although they aren't really alive any more), and gave them the ability to control and dominate others; it was said that the Nazgul were great kings.
    • Elves fear change and decay; they desire to preserve all beautiful things unstained. The Three Rings enable them to create enclaves in which time and change are slowed. However, they have a tendency to retreat into those enclaves and not engage with the world.
    • Dwarves fear poverty and desire wealth; the Seven Rings increased their natural greed to the point of insanity.
    • No rings were made for Hobbits, but Hobbits being small and weak desire ways to elude their enemies. JRRT says that their natural magic was 'the ordinary sort that enables them to disappear quickly and quietly when large, stupid folk like you and me come blundering along. . ." Thus, the four Hobbits (Smeagol, Bilbo, Frodo, Sam) who got their hands on a Ring of Power used it to become invisible.
      • But the One Ring made Isildur invisible, too.
      • Isildur, at that point, wanted to hide from orcs. That being well within the Ring's power, it obliged him- and then realized that slipping away and revealing him at an inoppurtune moment would be a great way of disposing of an unwanted wielder...
        • The rings work on the level of the physical and the spiritual world (the Wraith world), which exist side by side (Gandalf warns Frodo about this when told about encountering the Nazgul on Weathertop). Elves, because of their semi-divine bodies, exist in both worlds, so when Frodo saw Glorfindel while wearing the ring, he saw him clearly as a mighty Elf-Lord, where everything else was murky. If an elf put on the ring, he probably wouldn't turn invisible. The ring wouldn't work well for the dwarves either, because they are highly resistant to magic. However, humans are fully mortal. As a result, they are partially pulled into the wraith world, making them near invisible (there's still a wavy outline around a mortal ring wearer). It's not that the ring was made to make people invisible, it was a side-effect due to the ring bearer being a mortal.
  • Given how dramatic an effect the One Ring had on Gollum and Frodo (just after bearing it for a relatively short time, he was already being drastically worn down by it), why did the same thing not happen to Bilbo, who had it for considerably longer than Frodo? By that time in Gollum's possession of it, wasn't he already seriously going crazy?
    • Couple of reasons. One, Bilbo rarely used the Ring after his initial adventure, so it didn't have as much of an oppurtunity to corrupt him. Two, Sauron was weaker while Bilbo had the Ring and the Shire is a long distance from Mordor; the Ring's power grows as Sauron's does, and as it gets closer to Mount Doom. Third, Gandalf theorizes that because Bilbo's first act after claiming the Ring was to spare Gollum when he could have killed him, it gave him a degree of insulation from the worst of its effects. Gollum, by contrast, literally murdered for the Ring, while Frodo didn't really do anything noteworthy in a moral sense either way for a while after claiming it, and these things matter.
      • Another note -- According to Tolkien's timeline, Gollum had the ring a lot longer (~ 500 years) than Bilbo (~ 60 years) did. So it had a lot longer to work on him.
  • If someone had all the rings in their possession including the one ring,what would be their abilities be?
    • Presumably, very great (assuming you can actually wield more than one Ring of Power at a time, which is never stated). However, it's worth noting that the One works best when other people have the other Rings, since you can use it to enslave them and get perfectly loyal lieutenants that way a la the Nazgul.

Nazgûl

  • If the Nazgul are invisible except for their clothes, than why not have them strip naked most of the time? It would really help stealth operations if no on could see them. Here is a practical application: during the battle of Minas Tirth, have a fell beast with one visible and one invisible Nazgul fly over the wall. Have the invisible one jump off at a low distance and them quietly sneak up to where the gate wench was. Have him kill the guards with his fists of death (or just strangle them) and then open the gate for the massive orc army that was waiting outside.
    • Because without their robes they are "empty and without shape", as Gandalf explained. They travelled a great deal of their journey towards Shire unclothed, as an invisible aura of fear (they can travel invisible, but not undetected), but in that shape they don't have power to affect the physical world. It would seem that the robes give them the memory of physical body, which allows them to do physical things. Remember that in the book the Nazgul did very little physical fighting. That just isn't their forte; their greatest power is always fear.
      • The Nazgul are incorporeal beings. If a Nazgul takes off his glove, there is no hand inside that can hold objects. He can only wield a sword/ride a horse/walk on the ground indirectly by wearing a suit of armor or clothing.
    • Given that the Nine are apparently so rubbish, why didn't Sauron send more effective agents after "Baggins"?
      • Who would be more effective? You want agents who are intelligent, can cover large distances quickly without being noticed, will know the Ring when they find it and be completely loyal about returning it. The Nazgul are pretty much perfect - the only drawback is that they're not very subtle, but the fear effect is effective for extracting information, and hardly anyone is going to try to fight them. Besides which they aren't the only ones out there, it's often stated that Sauron has many spies, and we know that e.g. Bill Ferny works for Saruman at least.
      • There's also a problem of geography. In order to get to the Shire from Mordor you have to either go through the gap of Rohan, the Mines of Moria, or the pass through the Misty Mountains at Rivendell. The only servants Sauron has capable of surviving any of the above besides the Nazgul are whatever Black Numenoreans might still be serving him, and Sauron would be an absolute idiot to let any of them get a moment alone with the Ring of Power several thousand miles from Barad-Dur.
      • Rubbish, huh? Well, let's see. They were utterly enslaved, meaning they could be trusted to go anywhere (the above already covers the Ring itself). They were rich, powerful men in their lifetimes, and are all 4000+ years old at the time of the War of the Ring, thus combining (when robed) physical strength that would be on the high side for men with about 100 times the experience of even the most grizzled veteran. They have the ability to dispense fear disproportionate to their actual threat level. When unrobed, they can cross hostile territory with impunity even if detected. The Witch King is powerful enough to give Gandalf pause (or a whupping if Jackson is to be believed). They can make you ill or dead just by being around. And, as long as their boss is not utterly broken. They. Cannot. Die. If you ask me, the Nazgul were pretty boss.
  • Why did Sauron enchant nine of the Rings to transform their wearers into Nazgul, in the first place? Giving those Rings to rulers of Men was a ploy to gain control over nine nations of humans, but no king who transforms into a wraith is going to retain political power: his subjects will be scared to even come near him, let alone offer him fealty.
    • The rings weren't specifically enchanted to turn their bearers into wraiths - it's a side effect, and one that takes a very long time to kick in. The bodies of Men simply aren't built for immortality; the rings tie their souls to Middle Earth but can't prevent their physical forms from slowly withering away over the centuries. By the time the Nine showed obvious signs of being wraiths they would have been ruling their kingdoms for generations, long enough for none of their followers to remember a time before their reign. Combine that with their mandating Sauron-worship throughout their realms and the transition from 'Immortal (but physical) King' to 'Supernatural Regent of your true, divine ruler Sauron' should proceed fairly smoothly.
  • Weathertop. I'm somewhat confused as to just how capable the Nazgul are in a stand-up fight. If there were five of them on Weathertop, in darkness, and they were at all powerful warriors, wouldn't that have been the absolute best time for them to press their advantage ruthlessly and take the ring right away? They just had to get through Aragorn and four hobbits, after all. Aragorn would prove a tough nut to crack, of course, but the other four were at this time completely untrained in fighting. If they were at all capable in a straight fight, they should have been able to snatch it away immediately rather than just stabbing Frodo and then pulling back, waiting for him to turn into a wraith.
    • No need to risk fighting a Numenorian Badass and risk their bodies. Just stab the ring-bearer with the Dagger of Death, and wait for him to became a wraith slave, already obedient to them, to surrender, attack the others, or simly throw the ring away for them. The group was miles from help and nobody knew they where there so they could just wait for Frodo to pass to the Shadow, while slowing the others also. Pretty much worked, and I guess the Nazgul where laughhing their dark asses off just a few steps from their camp fire. But when Glorfindel showed up, with the extra fast horse and his powers, then they got desperate, and not only chased them to Riverdell but also even tryed to pass the river when they hated the water. Actually Gandalf saved the day again, because he was who sent the elf prince to save their asses.
      • Actually, the Hobbits were more dangerous in that point then they looked. And in the Books, they weren't complete wusses. Each of them was actually carrying an Anti-Nazgul Blade (Which one of them lead to the Nazgul Leaders defeat) which were essentially the Good version of the Morgul Blade. If that blade hit, their immortality might of actually been lost...a tactical error, since they clearly underestimated the Proto-Fellowship.
      • Actually, Glorfindel had already set out by the time gandalf arrived with his warning. IIRC it was Gildor the Elf who sent warning to Elrond after saving the Hobbits from the Black Rider in the Shire.
    • Peter Jackson had the same riddle to solve: why did they not wrestle the Ring from Frodo before even Aragorn had shown up, or simply stab all Hobbits to death and search their bodies? He designed the movie scene to suggest the Ring somehow had a mystical power over them and they could not take the Ring from a Ringbearer as long as he did not surrender it, either willingly or under torture (the stab of the Morgul blade is made to appear very painful).
  • This one concerns the Nazgul's "fell-steeds": where did they come from? It's been shown that evil can't make creatures, only alter pre-existing ones. They seem too weak and decrepit to have come from the Eagles, and they're sure as hell no fallen spirit like the Balrogs. On top of that, where did the Nazguls get their horses from, if their only steeds are the aforementioned fell-things?
    • The Fell Beasts are speculated in the book to be creatures "of an older world". I always figured they were something natural, but from Middle-earth's prehistory, and Sauron found a clutch of surviving ones and decided to give them to the Nazgul. The horses are explicitly said to be normal horses that were simply raised around the Nazgul so they wouldn't react violently to them the way ordinary animals do.
  • Now, there was only one Nazgul that we ever learned his name, and that was Khamul the Black Easternling, ruler of both Rhun and Harad. Now, I remember the Men of the East and South worshiped Sauron as a God of Fire, right? Well, did he still rule Rhun and Harad until his death? Normally, having a undead wraith ruling your country may be a turn-off for others, but if Sauron is God, I'd guess they'd view Khamul as a Angel, and be more willing to fight for him if he's directly leading them, right?

Orcs and the nature of Evil

  • What exactly is it that makes Orcs irredeemably evil?
    • Orcs were made the Valar Morgoth, and he made them that way. How exacly they were created was a topic Tolkien never could finish in his life, so there are several versions, although the most common seem to be that they were corrupted from existing creatures. Tolkien also had problems with the whole philosophical issue on why or wether orcs were irredeemably evil, but on this too he could never finish on a (for him) satisfactory final decision; see the Always Chaotic Evil page.
    • From what the Silmarillion says, Orcs hate everything- even their creators, because all they have done is make them live in misery. As mockeries of the Elves and Men, Orcs are twisted half-imitations, and thanks to the ultimate impotence of evil in Middle-earth, cosmically denied the ability to create or appreciate beauty. That's putting aside their savage societies and their near-constant state of warfare with the rest of the world. Is it really so surprising they're such hateful, sadistic things?
      • Evil cannot create in Middle-earth. It lacks the Secret Fire- the divine spark, if you will. In fact, strictly speaking, no new thing can exist in Middle-earth without Eru Ilúvatar (God) granting it His blessing- the only reason he allows the creatures of evil to live is the principle that no evil can exist in Middle-earth without in turning greater glorifying His work. As a result, Morgoth had to have bred all of his monsters from warping the originally-intended creatures of Middle-earth, so it's certain orcs are warped versions of something. The Silmarillion says elves- Tolkien wasn't sure about that, but that was his most solid idea.
        • Then how were the Dwarves created? Some blacksmith god made them, not Eru.
          • Because, after he created them, as sort of puppets, extensions of his own will, Eru breathed the divine spark into them, bringing them to life.
          • By the way, trolls are supposed to be warped versions of ents, in case anybody's wondering. It's in the Letters.
            • It's in LotR as well, when they talk to Treebeard. He also mentions that orcs were corrupted from elves.
            • What are dragons, then? They seem to be Always Chaotic Evil in Middle-earth. Are they just really, really corrupted lizards? Or are they originally good creatures who went bad, like the balrogs?
        • Best theroies out there are that the dragons ARE lesser maia that Morgoth crammed into that form and put in Shapeshifter Mode Lock
    • Sounds like Eru has one hell of an Omniscient Morality License.
      • Such is a traditional perk of omnipotent creators of all existence.
      • He's also the god of Fantastic Racism.
      • Eru isn't racist. He didn't create the Orcs to be Always Chaotic Evil. He created Elves who were turned by Morgoth into Orcs. And who says all Orcs are evil? It's quite plausible that there were many dissidents from evil that we never learn about because Sauron and Morgoth would have purged their ranks of any dissenters.
    • Just as an interesting corollary, the Silmarillion mentions that, when the Numenoreans came back to Middle-earth at the end of the Second Age, that all races participated in that huge war. He mentions, briefly, that every general race had members on both sides, excluding the elves, who only fought in the Last Alliance. This rings true when you go down the list:Men, Dwarves, birds (Eagles and crows, for example), beasts (horses or wolves), and others all make sense. But this implies that some Orcs fought on the side of Elendil's banner. It's important to remember that The Silmarillion and most of the lost tales written by Elvish authors, while the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings are told directly from Bilbo, Frodo, and Sam's hand, in the Red Book of the Westmarch. And Tolkien loved to mention just how many unknown and unexplained things existed in Middle-earth (like Tom Bombadil, the Watcher in the Water, etc.)Heroic Orcs could've been an intentional oversight by biased authors. Though they may get acknowledgment, like in the aforementioned line, they would be in no way lauded. This makes sense when you take into consideration in how many letters Tolkien showed sympathy to the Orcs. He said that he regretted painting them in such black and white shades, and added that they were probably misunderstood or misrepresented. As he didn't write himself as an omniscient narrator, this leaves a good backdoor explanation.
      • "All living things were divided in that day, and some of every kind, even of beasts and birds, were found in either host, save the Elves only. They alone were undivided and followed Gil-galad. Of the Dwarves, few fought upon either side; but the kindred of Durin of Moria fought against Sauron."
  • The racism. The racism bugs me. The Orcs, in addition to representing the industrial working class in most readings, are explicitly Asian. Going of of Tolkien's letters and the content of the book, we're told that they're "sallow skinned" and "slant-eyed" and "the least lovely of the mongol type". They look more like Tokio Kid than the Green Tusky Warcraft orcs we know and love. The High orcs are the result of interbreeding between orcs (Asians) and men (Whites, implicitly British or Nothern European Whites depending on whether you're giving creedence to allegory or to linguistics). They're products of miscegenation, which is treated as an abomination. The racial dimension of the book, which is pretty damn explicit, is just totally ignored by 90% of readers despite the fact that anyone who's taken highschool level english should be able to pick up on the racial dimension of the narrative. Personally, this troper puts it down to the prose, which makes any real interpretation beyond the surface level a bit of a chore.
    • Look up your quotes at a reliable source before basing your opinion on them. The quote you apparently read leaves out parts, and without marking it no less. Tolkien once wrote (Letters # 210) about the Orcs: "they are (or were) squat, broad, flat-nosed, sallow-skinned, with wide mouths and slant eyes; in fact degraded and repulsive versions of the (to Europeans) least lovely Mongol-types." Tolkien stated they are like "degraded and repulsive versions" of humans, he did not say 'like Asians'; the reference about the Mongolic appearance explicitly acknowledges that the it is viewed from a subjective European perspective, as cultures have different views of what is beautiful, and a person that might be considered beautiful to some might be ugly to others. The characters and peoples appearing in the stories being alike to north-western Europeans is the result of being written as an artificial myth for that region; it would not make sense to suddenly have a mythical Europe populated by Token Minorities. And Tolkien did not have a time machine at hand to go to the future and steal Blizzard's green Warcraft-Orcs; even if he had, he undoubtedly wouldn't have used them for the Orcs made by Morgoth as his Mooks.
      • All this does not help the fact that in the world of Lord of the Rings, there is a strong connection between physical shape ("beauty" respectively ugliness, subjective or not) and moral quality, or moral complexity at the least. A being that looks "degraded and repulsive" has obviously to be evil. Also note the dimension of xenophobia that lies in likening Orcs to Asians, or any other race really. Would "degraded and repulsive versions" of Europeans not be evil enough? Considering that Lord of the Rings is Serious Business, that's really, really rude towards Easterners actually.
        • Even if so, your quarrel isn't just with Tolkien: it's with epic literature (Western and Eastern alike) throughout human history. There's always been a high correlation between physical beauty and inner goodness, and vice versa--it's a perennially handy shorthand for designating moral qualities and distinguishing sides. There have always been exceptions that played against trope (Odysseus, Milton's Lucifer, Tolkien's own Pukel-Men) ... but the epic correlation between inner/outer beauty has such a precedent that one should cut Tolkien a break for respecting it.
    • See below. Tolkien's story on Pukel-men (Wood-Woses) was his Take That against the idea that dark-skinned, Asiatic barbarian peoples represented Always Chaotic Evil. It's basically a repudiation of the notion (sadly reinforced in the Peter Jackson films when they removed this good guy from the script) since the hunter-gatherer Woses are hunted like animals by the Aryan Rohirrim, but save the heroes' asses on at least one occasion, and are revealed to be Numenoreans themselves. The Numenoreans, on the other hand, are shown to be racist and xenophobic in Unfinished Talesof Numenor and Middleearth, which proved to be their undoing. Also, the hobbits are described as "brown-skinned".
      • Hold on, you're saying the Pukel-men are supposed to represent "good" Asiatic peoples, but they're also revealed to be descendants of Numenoreans. Since Numenoreans are clearly "European", how can their descendants represent Asians? Wouldn't it make more sense to compare them to, say, the Goths or the Vikings, a supposedly "barbaric" people who are nevertheless (according to Tolkien's racist worldview) considered to be essentially good because of their "European" ancestry.
      • According to the LOTR wiki, the Pukel-men were not of the same race as the Dunedain. They were allies of the early Edain during the First Age, and some of them went to Numenor with the first Dunedain, but they do not belong to the same racial group as Aragorn et al- they have their own, entirely seperate history, culture, and traditions, that merely intersected at times with that of the European-equivalents.
      • There's only a connection in the broadest sense. Ents, dwarves, and even hobbits are races that are not "beautiful" to human eyes, and all are firmly good (or when corrupt, generally not Sauron-aligned). The Woses are men who the men of Rohan and Gondor find ugly and savage, but are actually a noble and spiritual people. Elves and Dunedain are beautiful, but can still become easily corrupted under the right circumstances (seriously, read The Silmarillion- there were plenty of nast Elves, and the Black Numenoreans, who despite their name were physically the same race as regular Numenoreans, were probably the most evil people on Middle-earth). Then you've got how Sauron and Morgoth's original forms were beautiful, and powerful evil creatures like dragons and Balrogs are terrible but awe-inspiring. It's more like Mooks are ugly, but there are also ugly things that aren't Mooks at all. And Tolkien's letter only describes how orcs might appear to European eyes, not an objective description of them (and their personalities and culture are much more in line with the worst excesses of the European industrial revolution/WWI era rather than any kind of Asian stereotype, for that matter).
      • Tolkien wasn't trying to create a direct representation of our world, or necessarily directly reflect our prejudices. He "cordially dislike[d] allegory", and was, it seems to me, only trying to create a culture suitably opposed to that of the Edain. The orcs aren't particularly similar to communitarian cultures in SE Asia, it's all looks. Moreover, the emphasis on race and bloodlines that exists in Tolkien's work is justified in-universe, as the Numenoreans, for example, are objectively better - longer-lived, more powerful, etc - because they have Elvish blood in them and have also been blessed by the gods for resisting Morgoth. Put simply: thinking Europeans are superior is racism, because it's based on a lie, thinking the Dunedain are superior isn't, because it is at least to some extent true. As for the fact that many - as mentioned above, not all - of the heroes look like modern Western archetypes, it's hardly fair to constrain that criticism to Tolkien.
  • Tolkien played around with another concept: that the Orcs were really animated by bits of spirit shattered off Morgoth's own. Since he's Chaotic Evil, that follows.
    • He also considered making them descendent from humans instead of elves, as that would make less complications in the manner of "Are orcs immortal?", "where do they go when they die?" (which are very popular debates out there on the net btw). Seeming as he died before changing anything, the elves are established as the ancestors of orcs. Tolkien had a hard time dealing with it.
  • Do orcs have genders? They must be able to reproduce sexually if they can be cross-bred with Men, and the rate at which they multiply is too great to produce by capturing and corrupting individual elves. Also, Azog was explicitly called Bolg's father, though they may have been father and son as elves before becoming corrupted. Are all the female orcs hidden away like the female dwarves? Or perhaps the male and female orcs look and behave exactly the same? In any case, how does an Always Chaotic Evil species keep itself alive, much less spread? It's hard to imagine orcs setting aside attention and resources for the sake of their young, even if they were under orders to do so. Whenever we see orcs interacting with each other, they're always ready and eager to kill each other even when doing very important business for Sauron that requires that they not kill each other. Orc children, being smaller and relatively helpless, would be killed as soon as they posed an inconvenience, and human children are inconvenient enough, so just imagine how difficult orc children would be!
    • Perhaps that is why we do not see other Orcs other than adult males, much like bears they are a threat to the young so the females keep their offspring seperate and only get together with the males for the purpose of reproduction.
    • "There must have been orc-women. But in stories that seldom if ever see the Orcs except as soldiers of armies in the service of the evil lords we naturally would not learn much about their lives. Not much was known." ~JRR Tolkien, 1963
  • Summary of ideas Tolkien had for the origin of Orcs:
    • -They were made by Morgoth, from rock and/or slime. This was the original idea but got discarded when Tolkien decided to make the power of creating truly independent life Iluvatar-only.
    • -They were corrupted Elves. This is the closest thing to a 'canonical' answer as Lo TR at least hints at it and the published Silmarillion goes with this. Later on, though, Tolkien had philosophical issues with this (how Morgoth could have turned Elves with free will into an Always Chaotic Evil race, as well as a bunch of problems raised by Elvish 'reincarnation').
    • -They were corrupted Men. Tolkien leaned this way at one point in his later writings, but it would have required a lot of rewriting, since as written Orcs appeared before Men existed. This solves the reincarnation problem, but not the free will one; but later Tolkien tended to suggest that Orcs weren't entirely without at least the potential for good, though it was buried under ages of evil culture and indoctrination and such.
    • -They were corrupted Maiar, like weaker Balrogs. Again, this was hinted at in later writings; it seems to have applied only to the top-level Orc chieftains.
    • -They were constructs of Morgoth, without any real soul at all. Rather a return to the original 'creations of Morgoth' approach, but this doesn't seem to have lasted long, though it did produce some quotes that appear repeatedly to confuse online discussions of Orc nature.
    • -They were (apelike?) animals bred into humanlike forms and given some intelligence & speech capability by Morgoth, as a mockery of Men and Elves. This solves the free will issue (and the fate-after-death one), but Tolkien ran into problems with it because Shagrat & Gorbag in LoTR seem to be acting like actual people.
    • -They were not Always Chaotic Evil but were merely prone to it through upbringing, which the Shagrat example seem to suggest, coupled with the fact that Orcs are either incredibly long lived enough to have been personally corrupted like Elves (Shagrat seems to remember the "Great War") or incredibly short-lived due to their propensity for violence. Such a lifestyle would not encourage Orcs to protest too much.
  • Tolkien never really resolved it, though he may have been leaning towards a mixed origin (corrupted Men, with maybe some Elves thrown in, and chieftains as corrupted Maiar); Morgoth's Ring (History of Middle Earth 10) contains most of the discussion of this.
  • Now, about the Uruk-Hai. In the movies, it's implied they are a Man/Orc hybrid, but I think Tolken said it was more usually a Orc/Goblin hybird. But, unlike the movie, aren't Goblins not supposed to be a sub-race and is just Hobbit slang for Orcs, and those Orcs that live in the mountains? So, is it like every 1 out of 5 Orc kids has a chance of being a Uruk in this case?
  • A touch of Fridge Brilliance: Lot R and the associated books are ostensibly drawn from Elvish records, or from Mannish records based on same. Perhaps an account of the period written by non-partisan chroniclers might have retained or revealed ambiguities or exceptions to the Orcs' and Trolls' unbroken, monotonous record of wickedness. Impossible to say now.

Power and "Magic"

  • Magic is a term used by the ill-educated people of Middle-Earth in the same way that those people refer to the Valar and Ainur as gods, Sauron included. The elves, or at least old ones like Galadriel, don't really understand what is meant by it. In general, it seems that magic is a combination of Psychic Powers, Sufficiently Advanced Technology and Divine Intervention.
  • Why didn't Saruman use his magic? After turning evil, I doubt he'd care very much of the restrictions the Valar put on him. Why didn't he cut loose and blow and nuke Helm's deep?
    • Those who turn evil begin to lose their power as they have turned away from the path of Eru and he stops providing them power.
    • It's all about how much you can get away with before you attract too much attention. Melkor/Morgoth, the Big Bad before Sauron, trampled Middle-earth freely until the Elves showed up, and then the Valar tied him up and held him captive for a few millenia. And then, after doing some more major destruction, got himself tossed out in the Void. Not cool. Granted the Valar weren't really active at all by Lord of the Ring times, but a confrontation with a suped up Gandalf (dun dun dun daa!! Back From the Dead and in all new white!) probably wasn't high on his "to do" list either.
    • Plus, magic in The Lord of the Rings isn't exactly a powerful force - having Saruman actually zap Gandalf in the Limited Special Collectors Ultimate Edition was, in this troper's opinion, a step too far. Magic in Middle-earth should be subtle.
      • Gandalf's magic wasn't exactly subtle when he fought the Nazgul on Weathertop; Aragorn and the hobbits could see the flashes of light from three days' hike away.
      • It's only subtle because the Wizards were limited by what the Valar let them get away with most of the time. When Gandalf let loose against the Balrog they both made a lightning storm on a mountain top, and Galadriel used her ring to blow up the Necromancer's fortress in the Backstory.
        • I've always been under the impression (and it's some years since I read the Silmarillion) that, even though the various magic-users were capable of some quite impressive stuff, it was still low on pyrotechnics. The "lightning storm" wasn't lightning bolts being thrown from staffs and Galadriel didn't literally "blow up" anything - she just undermined the magic that held the tower in place or whatever. The wizards might have been intentionally limited, but there doesn't seem to be any reason that anyone else doesn't chuck fireballs around, except for the fact that the setting is generally low on the flashy magic that comes up so often in later fantasy.
        • Indeed, there hasn't been "flashy" magic in Middle-earth since the Elder Days, or possibly even the times right after the world's creation. Remember that even the Valar, effectively gods, relied mostly on hand-to-hand combat, although extremely massive and impressive kind, when they went to open battle. Even Morgoth, Sauron's old master never used any nuke 'em all-kind of magic. Gandalf speaks of his own limitations in the books: he can create fire and lightning, but not without something to work with. As he says, "I can't burn snow".
          • That was due to physical limitations, in this case. Recently, Galadriel had used the power of her Ring to blow up the Necromancer's fortress, so nuke'em magic was present.
            • Nowhere at any point was it ever mentioned that Galadriel would have blown up anything at all with magic. She even mentions that she holds no powers of war, that her power while great, acts in more subtle ways - none of the Three Rings holds the power of combat and subjugation of others, in any case. The Council of the Wise drove the Necromancer off from Mirkwood, but the methods were never specified. Magic was undoubtedly involved, but not of blowing stuff up-variety.
              • The quote referred to about Galadriel is from Appendix B: "They took Dol Guldur, and Galadriel threw down its walls and laid bare its pits, and the forest was cleansed." This sure sounds like a blast of some sort, but when Luthien does the same thing to a different stronghold of Sauron, it's explicitly removing the magic holding it together, so this might be a similar case.
                • I always interpreted "Galadriel threw down" to figuratively mean "Galadriel's army lay seige to and destroyed". When we say "Pompey knocked down the Jerusalem temple" we don't mean he literally hit it with his sword until it collapsed.
              • The closest thing to one of the Three giving power in regards to combat is Gandalf, who had the Ring of Fire (and showed an unusual mastery of fire, although his most dramatic use when fighting the Wargs required the use of fire that was already there. And was pretty much limited to setting trees and weapons on fire). Even then, though, the Ring is said to be more for rekindling hearts, and defending Gandalf from weariness.
            • Whatever other magic existed in the world, Saruman's powers were always rooted in deception, manipulation and control, not out and out firepower. Creating a gigantic army of supersoldiers (all the strength and ferocity of orcs, but with the ability to go out in the day) out of nowhere, and unleashing them on his enemies WAS Saruman cutting loose with his powers.
      • Galadriel's power was in no way destructive. She was able to destroy Dol Gulder by using the Ring to cleanse it of the evil power that was holding its rotted and corrupted structure together. The things Sauron was doing there were so atrocious that the building would never have been held together were it not for evil magic. The same goes for Sauron's stronghold in the Silmarillion, and how Luthien was able to destroy that.
        • Magic fire would have the same destructive properties as real fire, but sometimes even stronger, sauron's magic that holds up towers that real rock and metal could not must contain a lot of strength in them and so being able to crumble those buildings is in fact a display of great power, especailly in Middle Earth in which the world was in fact contructed by magic and that magic users in LOTR are just in fact small scale reality warpers or matter manipulators.
      • Galadriel and Luthien certainly had incredible powers, but all magic worked in more subtle ways in the books than depicted in most media. When Sauron battled Luthien, he was defeated in wolf-form by Huan and Luthien only challenged him once he was physically subdued. When Sauron battled Finrod, they did it by "songs of power", since words and music seemed to be the primary forms of magic. Words were also Saruman's primary power.
  • Saruman's title is "Saruman the White." Upon defection, he became "Saruman of many colours." Now, white is every colour combined, so didn't Saruman take a few steps down the ladder, from all colours to many colours?
    • Well, think of it as a mirror shattering in many pieces as symbolic of Saruman's original purpose and intent.
    • Gandalf raises this point after Saruman declares his new title ("I preferred white better"). Saruman is dismissive, saying [paraphrased] "Bah white is a beginning, it may be broken to make something new". Evil's compulsion to break things down in order to 'improve' them is a recurring theme in Tolkien's works, after all.
      • Gandalf's reply in reference to the prism analogy: "He who breaks a thing to find out how it is made has left the path of wisdom." Which leads to a bit of Fridge Logic. Basically, Saruman's ideology is a paraphrase of '"you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs."
        • Now there's a quote I'd love to hear from Christopher Lee!

The Dead Men of Dunharrow

  • Why did Aragorn agree to let the ghosts go after the battle for Minas Tirith was won, instead of just initially negotiating so that he would let them go after they trashed the Witch-king's army and Mordor's?
    • In the book, he didn't even take them to Minas Tirith: he took them to Belfalas on the southern coast of Gondor, which they liberated from the pirates of Umbar, and then released them.
    • He probably didn't think of it until later, and by that time it was too late. A deal is a deal and all that.
    • ...and who's to say Sauron didn't have some "Ghost Repellent Spray" stored away in that eyeball of his? That's the excuse I always used.
    • http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=1249
    • Leading an army of malevolent ghosts into the home turf of the most mystically powerful and utterly evil being on the continent, who at one time was known as 'The Necromancer', and who at one time was worshipped as a god by those very same ghosts... strikes this troper as a great way to get eaten by an army of malevolent ghosts. Especially when the the term of your contract with those ghosts is for only one battle, and you've already used them once.
    • Also, the ghosts didn't really, you know, do anything. Any physical fighting, at least. Their main contribution was just terrifying the ever-loving crap out of their enemies.
    • From what I recall, the dead army was bound by two oaths: the pledge to defend Gondor, and their secret dark bonds to Sauron. They worshiped him, performing rituals and sacrifices in his name. I'm guessing that's a large part of what prevented them from dying in peace. Aragorn summoned them to fight in Gondor's defence, but they probably couldn't actually attack Mordor because they were tied to Sauron as well. After fighting for Gondor, they no longer had two conflicting oaths because they'd fulfilled their duty to the Steward, meaning they could vanish in peace.
    • The ghosts DO do something! They cause the Corsairs to flee their ships in terror, allowing Aragorn and the Grey Company (a group of Northern Rangers) to convince the local armed forces (also Gondorian) to join them in taking the ships, and using them to sail to the Pelennor Fields to reinforce Minas Tirith and the Rohirrim, their support being crucial to the victory. The Dead Men would have been ineffective at the battle, as everyone would have been terrified of them. Aragorn could technically have kept them around, but part of fulfilling his duties as a king (a major theme of the book) was in being true to his own oaths.
    • Oaths clearly have power in this context. Considering what happened to the dead when they broke their oath, what do you think would have happened to Aragorn if he broke his? Not only might he lose all power over them, but they might gain power over HIM.
    • In the book, contrary to the movie, the only weapon the dead men are shown to have is fear. The Corsairs are just ordinary guys, who get scared out of their wits by the ghosts and run away. (The inhabitants of the local towns also ran and hid.) Leading the dead men into a fight with Mordor orcs would have been recklessly stupid: The Mordor orcs were led by ghosts, both in battle and for the last 1000-odd years back in Minas Morgul, and were well and truly used to it. Compare the Mordor horses the Nazgul rode, who were conditioned to the mind numbing fear from birth, with nearly every other horse who meets a Nazgul. Also, fear works better combined with surprise: if Aragorn had been fighting even with normal humans at Minas Tirith, fear might not have worked nearly as well the second time around.
    • Because Aragorn is a man of his word.

The Quendi (Elves) and other peoples

  • Since (in the books at least) it is established that any elves who die eventually end up back on Middle-earth anyway, why would the have lost strength between the ages? What with being immortal and having children, shouldn't their strength have been greater than ever (at least in numbers)?
    • The elves don't return to Middle-earth, they stay in Aman (where the Valar are) in all but one case. (Glorfindel)
      • Two cases. Luthien passed away and was given a choice to leave Mandos and dwell in Valinor, but forget all of her sorrow and be lost of Beren forever; or to be returned to life, with Beren, and live as a mortal in Middle-Earth. It's in The Silmarillion.
    • The elves also weren't ones to just go around and spout out a trillion babies. They understood the "balance of nature" stuff that humans invariably always never understand.
      • True, men are invariably always never better than elves.
        • That has nothing to do with conscious "natural resources presarvation", they just are that way. Elves naturally have few children, and don't keep on procreating all of their married life. Even the Elves who populated Aman and had (for Elven standards) an extraordinary amount of children, as the land was save and empty, only had up to four (Finarfin) or seven (Feanor).
        • Elves only have children when they can be absolutely sure of a safe upbringing for the children in question. Bear in mind that, out of all the high-elves in the Silmarillion (as opposed to Sindar or half-elves), Maeglin is the only one explicitly stated to have been born in Middle-Earth.
  • If the Half-Elven have to choose which race to belong to, which one do they look like before they choose; and what's the deadline and what happens if they don't choose?
    • Half-elves look like regular elves, the choosing of races involves joining the elves and becoming immortal or staying human and be able to live and die a mortal life. The deadline is usually decided by the time they leave for the Gray Havens. This was covered in both the books and the movies.
    • We don't really know what the deadline was for Elrond and Elros though. Interestingly enough, Tolkien mentioned in an early version of the Akallabêth that Elrond always had the possibility to go among Men and die ("yet a grace was added, that [Elrond's] choice was never annulled, and while the world lasted he might return, if he would, to mortal men, and die", Sauron Defeated, HoME9, p333) but struck out that idea pretty quickly. The eventual fate of Dior and his sons is still mysterious as well.
    • They would probably look like elves before and after their choice. It's their souls that are affected by the choice, not their bodies, which are only flesh.
  • Just curious, does Tolkien ever explain why the elves have such long hair, and why dwarves have uber beards? I know lots of people copy off of Tolkien, but is this just how the original legendary races groomed themselves, or did Tolkien think it was a good idea "just because"?
    • Dwarves do traditionally have beards, I think. As for the elves... I'm not sure.
      • Elves have long hair because everyone has long hair (except possibly the Hobbits). Short hair was more of a Greco-Roman thing, whereas LOTR generally draws its inspiration from Northern Europe.
  • I know Elves have an immortal life barring violent death or choosing to pass on, and humans are unique in possessing the Gift of Men when it comes to their lives. What exactly do Hobbits get? They have men-sized lifespans, but no other benefits.
    • As hobbits are said to be a relative of Men, it is probably safe to assume that they have the same fate.
    • Hobbits basically are Men, just a very small variety. Not unlike the Woses.



The place formerly known as Khazad-dûm, aka Moria

  • An elf built Lothlorien's mines and the inscription included an antidwarf slur. Why the Hell would he write such an inscrption? He must have been surrounded by dwarfs and had any recognized this slur the builder would have been lynched!
    • What are you referring to, the fact that the door calls the place Moria instead of Khazad-dûm?
      • That's probably what the OP was referring to, given that Khazad-dûm means "mansion of the dwarves" and Moria means "black pit".
      • The inscription on Moria's west gate reads "Ennyn Durin aran Moria". As Khazad-dûm was not yet named "Moria" at the time the door was inscribed, is is safe to assume that it was a slip on Tolkien's part. (Yes, he did make mistakes and oversights and acknowledged it, and corrected them if he could.) Also, please note: Khazad-dûm aka the Mines of Moria were a Dwarven realm, friendly to the Elves of Eregion. It never belonged to Elves nor had any special connection to Lothlórien.
        • Actually, Khazad-Dum was much older than that. The Dwarrowdelf was on the east side of the mountains, around the main entrance, and was fully carved out thousands of years previously before the West Gate was tunneled to facilitate trade with the newly-arrived Elves of Erigion. Program note: A dwarf and an elf (Narvi and Celebrimbor) collaborated on the West-Gate.
        • An "anti-dwarf" slur? Which was engraved by a dwarf, who probably knew the language, since he signed his name afterwards in the same tongue? It may well be that "Moria" was an affectionate, ironic nickname for Khazad-dûm, which might have been used only by the capricious elves; or, more likely, a name which was used ironically (or at least tolerated) by the dwarves themselves at the time the inscription was engraved. Remember that dwarf-halls are actually very well lit, and Khazad-dûm was considered one of the greatest halls in Middle-earth, so calling it a "black pit" would be ironic indeed.
        • Balin's tomb, even, possesses the inscription "Balin Son of Fundin, Lord of Moria." Gimli's song has the line "In Moria, in Khazad-Dum." In Appendix A, Khazad-Dum is also referred to as Moria even before Eregion was destroyed. Given that it was written using the Feanorian characters, rather than Daeron's runes, using the Elvish name seems reasonable. "Hadhodrond" might have been used, as that was the elvish name before they called it Moria, but by the time the doors were made, it might have already been referred to as Moria.
  • Best explanation: Moria is its name. Dur.
  • More on Moria that bugged me ever since I saw it. The entrance itself. "Speak friend and enter." How the hell did it take Gandalf that long to figure out what that meant? He seems like an intelligent person, and he couldn't figure out that "Speak friend and enter," meant, well, speak the elvish word for friend and you may enter? Not just Gandalf, but everybody else in the group except Frodo couldn't figure it out, and even Frodo took awhile. Did the door have a "make everybody within range too stupid to speak a password" enchantment on it?
    • In the book, Gandalf figures it out, not Frodo. Merry was actually the one who asked what the phrase meant, but Gandalf easily dismissed that line of thought at first, expecting an actual password and not a literal instruction.
    • Gandalf was expecting some cunning password, which dwarves are notorious for by the way, instead of something so simple.
      • Its not that unreasonable to jump to the conclusion that if the door is magically locked, you need some kind of key. The idea of a locked door being openable by a simple password that's written directly on the door for anyone to read is actually counter-intuitive, because if the door's meant to be opened that easily then why have a lock on it at all?
    • Of course, Gandalf suffers from being too bloody clever for his own good in that scene, as he translates the inscription. If he'd simply read what it said (in Elven), the door would have opened right away.
      • Really, that kind of thing happens in real life too. Sometimes we expect certain things to be too difficult, only to facepalm when they were as easy as initially thought.
      • Yeah, I don't see what's unreasonable about it. Imagine you're trying to get into a computer, and the prompt says "Enter Password for access". Would you immediately assume that the password is Password?
  • The Balrog of Moria was accidentally set free by Durin's tribe several hundred years before the events of The Lord of the Rings, right? So why was he still hanging around in Moria after all that time? He couldn't have been trapped there, because he knew an escape route that he used during his fight with Gandalf.
    • He was afraid of the Balrog-killing superelves that wait outside.
    • Superelves? The Balrog made short work of a whole society of dwarves - it seems like the only beings who pose any threat to him have to be Maiar or better. Too bad he chanced across the only Maia who was present and accounted for on the side of good in Middle-earth.
      • Dwarves don't have elven superpowers. And, yes, superelves. Glorfindel, otherwise known as "That Guy Who Gave Frodo A Lift Once", is also known as "That Guy Who Killed A Balrog By Himself But Died In The Process (He came back)".
      • It's probably not the same Glorfindel. Middle-Earth doesn't appear to follow the One Steve Limit.
      • The Elves seem to follow it, and old material from the History of Middle Earth series seems to suggest they are the same. Later material suggests that he did indeed return to Middle-Earth, in the company of the Blue Wizards.
      • Third Age Elven warriors were not the same caliber as some Elven superheroes from the First Age, just like not all Men are equal in physical strength and skill nowadays. If anything, Fëanor and a small company of Elven troopers held at bay all the seven Balrogs together, but died in combat. Fingolfin fought Morgoth hand to hand to a draw. But out of the Elder Days warriors, only Elrond and Glorfindel (too far North to count) and Galadriel survived, and none was too eager to provoke directly a monster whose exact nature they did not even know.
    • Maybe he didn't want to lower himself by cooperating with Sauron, who after all was just a toady of his old boss, but didn't quite have the power to oppose Sauron directly. So he thought he'd just hang around and eat some goblins.
    • At the time the Balrog was freed, Sauron didn't have much power. Minas Morgul was still Minas Ithil, and Sauron would rather flee from his stronghold in Dol Guldur than face even Gandalf. What options did the Balrog have? Leave, and make his presence known to the outside world? As it stood, every other balrog in existence had been destroyed. He was safe where he was, mostly unknown and almost completely unassailable. In fact, if he hadn't bothered trying to attack Gandalf & Co. on the way through, he'd likely still be around. A much better tactic than, say, revealing himself openly when you've got Galadriel (Bearer of a Ring of Power and sister to Finrod Felagund) and Celeborn (Kinsman of Thingol) on your eastern border, and Elrond (Bearer of a Ring of Power, Son of Earendil and Elwing) and Glorfindel (famed Balrog-killing Superelf) on the west. Also, you'd have to deal with whichever side you went to on what is effectively their home turf. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place.
    • Maybe the Balrog just didn't want to go outside. Maybe he figures Moria is his home now, and he's content to stay where he is.
    • Fridge Logic: The 'deep dark places' underneath Moria were the remnants of Morgoth's original underground fastness. The reason there was one Balrog left behind in the ruins of that place when all the others marched out to fight is because it was the seneschal. Damn straight the Balrog isn't leaving Moria; the boss told him 'Wait here and watch over my stuff until I get back' and he's still waiting, like one of those Japanese soldiers stuck on an island who didn't know World War II was over until it was like 1975.
      • That doesn't seem quite right with regards to geography; both Angband and Utumno were originally located far away from the Misty Mountains; there isn't really any record of a dark fortress great enough to warrant a Balrog of its own. My guess is that the Balrog fled the apocalyptic carnage of the War of Wrath and hid in the Misty Mountains.
  • What This Troper has always wondered is: What did all those hordes and hordes of Orcs in Moria, and in the Misty Mountains, eat? Mountain country's notoriously not good at supporting large populations, but apparently Moria held enough Orcs to give the combined Dwarven armies a very nasty tossing around at the Battle of Azanulbizar, and, a few decades later, enough were available to fight four enemy forces at the Battle of Five Armies---and, a few decades after that, Moria was literally crawling with them. Orcs don't strike me as being farmers, and as I've said, mountains aren't prime farming country. What. Did. They. EAT? (The first person who says "Rats, and sawdust bread...and sometimes, each other," will be soundly ignored.)
    • In all likelihood, they would have probably had to till the dwarves' underground fungi farms, fish in the underground lake, and eat the bugs and rats that scavenge the resulting scraps and waste. Really, those goblins were probably on their way to becoming a sedentary society of evil gits.
    • Passing strangers. Why do you think they jump at every noise? Goblins gotta eat!

Arnor and Gondor

  • What's the deal with Minas Tirith? I've heard good explanations about how not all of Mordor is blasted wasteland and the orcs actually do have land to grow food on, but I still don't understand how Minas Tirith can function as a major city. Carrying stuff up and down those seven hundred-foot-tall levels all day, in such an incredibly cramped space, would just be way too difficult. And where do all its food and supplies come from? I'm not sure if it's exactly the same in the book, but in the movie there are no nearby farms or anything as far as the eye can see. Even if everyone retreated to the safety of the city walls during the events of The Return of the King, there would still be at least some evidence that people recently lived outside the walls.
    • In the book, the Pelennor Fields immediately outside Minas Tirith are a vast expanse of farmland.
    • So it's just laziness on the part of the filmmakers that the fields just happen to look like a lot of uncultivated New Zealand scrubland.
      • In the section about location scouting from the extended R Ot K Peter Jackson comments that one of the things about the site that appealed to him was that it looked like it might have been farmland during a better time.
    • It seems likely that most of the city's population and industry is on the lowest levels, while the upper levels are reserved for armories, garrisons, and major civic buildings. In which case most of the goods moving into the city don't have to go up more than a level or two. Still a problem, but not such a big one.
      • A hundred feet is a lot! That's about eight stories, or two 50-Foot Women standing one atop the other. Whether they're using stairs or very steep ramps (and they'd have to be steep with that little area to work with), it would be nigh-impossible to take anything with wheels up even one level. There's a reason why 700-foot-tall structures didn't exactly catch on until the invention of the elevator.
      • The Antiquity and Middle Ages had seen human or animal-powered elevators, and Middle Age cranes in ports could move many tons of supplies if needed. Just because our heroes do not see them, it doesn't mean they don't exist at all.
    • Minas Tirith is built in rich farmland, it is built near a river and goods can travel to it(albeit, this is less valid in Denethor's time because the Enemy controls the East bank). Even if there was no farmland that would not be a problem as long as there was trade and many of the most famous cities are built in deserts. Being built on a mountain isn't a problem; Jerusalem has a vaguely similar arrangement.
    • In any case Minas Tirith was built originally to be a military depot and the rest of the city grew up around it. Naturally it would put millitary considerations first. Which is a good reason to build on a mountain.
    • Because Minas Tirith was originally the summer home of the Kings of Gondor. Osgiliath was the original capital city but that was ruined during a civil war.
    • Valparaiso, Chile reputes your baseless assertion!
    • Truth in Television. Italian hill-towns are like this, as are Ethiopian and Anasazi cliff-top dwellings (some still occupied) and ancient Inca fortress cities (they used the differences in altitude within city limits to grow different crops). It's only modern Westerners that prefer to build on the flat lands, ironically because we have elevators for tall buildings. In ancient times, they needed that land for farming, and the steep hills for defense.
      • Exactly. Not only that, but in mountain villages some fields and orchards are abandoned because modern vehicles can't reach them: too steep, no roads, they won't fit through some passages... Once, good position and workable land were worth the treck and donkeys and mules wouldn't care about road conditions.
  • If Men are supposedly the most susceptible to power-hunger of all the good-guy races, then why did the Stewards of Gondor never once, in five hundred years, say to heck with musty ol' traditions and have themselves proclaimed Gondor's new royals? With humans' short lifespans, it's hard to justify most of Gondor's inhabitants even knowing they'd had a king once, let alone awaiting the royal line's return; it'd be like modern-day British citizens honestly believing in King Arthur and being eager to swear fealty to him. The Stewards had led their people in warfare, ruled like kings, were buried with all the honors due to kings. Plenty of real-world regents have seen fit to usurp power from heirs who were still alive at the time, so why did Gondor's interim rulers bother to maintain a pretense that they were just managing the kingdom for a hypothetical "true king"? Why didn't the first one to beat back an Orc raid declare himself King, by right of military triumph? Or do ambition and political corruption in Tolkien's world only exist if a Dark Lord's whispers put them there?
    • In all aspects, they pretty much were kings. Keep in mind how languages change over centuries- the word "steward" had pretty much come to mean "king" in Gondor, with "king" being the equivalent of the modern "regent". Note how Denethor was reluctant to allow Aragorn the throne, and cited how he and his had ruled for centuries, and he didn't want to stop that now.
    • Boromir once asked his father how long it takes for a Steward to become a King. Denethor's reply was along the lines of, 'a few years in places of less nobility, but a thousand lifetimes isn't long enough in Gondor.' So it was a pride thing.
      • Exact quote: "In places of lesser royalty, maybe a few years. In Gondor, not even ten thousand years is long enough."
    • Yeah, I'm guessing that, after a while, the title of "king" began to carry special, mythic significance in Gondor. Asking why the Stewards didn't crown themselves kings would be like asking why the Pope doesn't call himself the Messiah.
    • For the same reason that for five hundred years, the Roman Emperors never gave in and crowned themselves "king." Although the word "emperor" sounds awesome today, the meaning of Latin imperator was much less lofty--closer to "commander" or "managing executive." The Romans were an independent-minded lot, and one of their cherished founding legends was about kicking out their last king and establishing a Republic. Calling oneself by the royal title rex would be begging for a revolt. Guys like Augustus, Vespasian, and Constantine figured that instead of calling themselves kings, they could live with simply BEING kings in any sense that mattered. Even the most ambitious ruling Steward probably felt the same way.

Geography and Economy of Mordor

  • Walk Into Mordor is a Flanderization of Mordor, which in spite of being the Trope Namer is just not a very good example. Mordor may have formidable natural barriers to entry, but it's by no means an isolated place that nobody visits:
    • Middle Earth has a road network connecting the major locations, though it is badly maintained at some places. You can go from Hobbiton to the Black Tower entirely on road, in spite of some overgrown roads in Eriador and some badly maintained river crossings.
    • Mordor has its own means of food-production. The Plateau of Gorgoroth featured in the story was only a small part of the realm, important only because Sauron required an active volcano to aid him in magic, like forging of the One Ring. To the south of Gorgoroth there was a region where slaves grow food.
    • Mordor has plenty of trade with the kingdoms to the South and East. Since the story is told from the point of view of the good western peoples, who are at eternal war with Mordor, we don't see much of this traffic. But Frodo, Sam and Gollum actually have to avoid several roads that go directly to Mordor because of the risk of getting caught by all the folks who travel on them.
      • Just before tackling the mountain range separating Mordor from Gondor, Frodo and Sam nearly run into a Southron army traveling to the Black Gate of Mordor through the north-south road just outside the mountains. This region, called Ithilien, is a war zone disputed between Gondor and Mordor, both of which regularly mount raids against the other. The land is empty because the Gondorian civilian population has abandoned it because of the war, and neither Mordor nor its allies have tried to settle it.
      • Later in the story, when Gondor and Rohan send an army openly against Mordor, they don't go through the wilderness like Frodo and Sam did; they take the roads. Going from Minas Tirith to the Black Gate isn't a particularly hard trip; it's just very dangerous.
    • The novels explain that the primary purpose of the formidable natural, man-made and supernatural defenses of Mordor isn't to keep the good guys out; it's to keep the bad guys in. Many of the fortresses in the western border of Mordor were actually built by Gondor to keep a watch on Mordor. Sauron's forces later conquered them, but their main function then became to keep his own folks from escaping Mordor.
  • What purpose did the stairs at Cirith Ungol actually serve? I can't imagine it gets much traffic from visitors, and it just seems to make one more route of ingress to be guarded.
    • As mentioned above, most fortifications around Mordor were originally built by Gondor and Cirith Ungol is no exception. The stairs were probably first used by the Gondorian garrison.

Geography and Economy in General

  • Although the late Karen Wynn Fonstad did an excellent job of justifying Middle Earth's geography, economy, population density and so forth in her Atlas of Middle Earth... But after reading Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs And Steel, I can't help but wonder what is it about the Shire that kept Men out, seeing as how it was obviously the best farmland in Eriador and the only place in the known universe where pipeweed was grown and all that.
    • The Shire is not the "only place in the known universe where pipeweed was grown". We know of the Shire and Bree as planting pipeweed and practising smoking, and know that the Dwarves and northern Men have taken over smoking. As for other cultures, why should they cultivate a plant for which they have no use? And who said that the Shire "kept Men out"? In 1601 T.A. Argeleb II gave them the land to settle it, and in 6 F.A. King Elessar issued a law that forbade humans from entering the Shire, but it doesn't seem you refer to that.
      • The Shire is the richest farmland in Eriador, that's established. Because' pipeweed and all these other crops are grown there. In other areas, it was considered, well, a weed.
    • In any realistic model of human behavior, there has to be something keeping men off the land, as there is No Ontological Inertia preventing the "Southern men" from staying there and displacing what is ultimately a society of clan-based, peace-loving pygmies -- no matter what the law says. This Troper is trying to figure out what it is that is keeping men off the land.
    • Jared Diamond argues that the only reason pygmies and other low-yield civilizations guard against encroachment is due to exotic diseases, poor soil, or specialized livestock that provide them with protein and the like.
      On the one hand, we know that the only reason the land is available was because of The Plague. So that fits right into Jared Diamond's thesis. And we know the Dunedain spent many lives protecting the Shire from evil men, despite seemingly having no farmland or homesteads of their own.
      • Now then. What's preventing men with weapons from taking over and squatting the only farmland in Eriador, law or no law? Especially since many of them don't even know the Shire exists, since the Dunedain have kept it a secret, the hobbits are so good at keeping a low profile (pun intended) and are effectively a bunch of utopian anarchists? We didn't bother to determine the boundaries of the Iroquois Confederacy before we annexed their land. Bottom line: Dunedain gotta eat! -- but are for the most part Lawful Good.
    • Clearly someone read not only the Cliff Notes version of not only The Lord of the Rings but Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel. What kept Men out of the Shire back when the Kingdom of Arnor was around? The fact that the kings were willing and able to use armed force to keep people from encrouching on what was essentially a client state. The same thing is true after Aragorn becomes King. As for the long period when there was no Kingdom of Arnor, consider that one of the themes of the geographic and demographic approach to history is that low population density areas tend to get taken over by their high population neighbhors. I don't recall that Tolkien ever said the Shire was the best farm land in Eriador (actually, in real life, tobacco tends to deplete the soil) however it was clear that they had the highest population density in Eriador once a series of wars, plagues and famines wiped out the Kingdom of Arnor. Keep in mind that during the long distance between Bree and Rivendell, even when traveling along a major highway, there is a whole lot of Nothing as far as settlements go. The same is true of the trip south from Rivendell. So the reason that the Men in Eriador never took over the Shire is that such Men as were left were mostly scattered in tiny villages so unimportant that Tolkein never bothered putting them on the map, or were wilderness dwelling Lawful Good Heroes like Aragorns rangers that were more likely to protect the Shire than to invade it. There was Bree, but they and their neighbors were smaller than the Shire, and at any rate close had more to gain from staying in their own reasonably well to do homelands and trading with the Shire than from trying to take over a larger, more populated country over which the folk of Bree enjoyed no military advantage. Finally, there is the Hobbits themselves. Many people are clearly Missing the Point if they think that hobbits are pushovers. The Hobbits have defeated military incursions into the Shire before, to include invasions by orcs, and once they got some good leadership and a bit of motivation they were able to make short work of an ex-wizard and his lackeys.
    • OK, so your thesis, is that the Hobbits are outbreeding their Human competitors, due to their apparent ability to breed like rabbits. And being diminutive, they could survive better in greater numbers off the low-yield, tobacco-depleted soil. Now we're getting somewhere.
  • Because the Men don't need the land. Middle-earth (the Northwest anyway) is underpopulated, after a bunch of plagues and stuff. "The land has not grown less wild with time; rather the reverse." There just aren't enough people to occupy all the land, and the isolated chunks of civilization (Gondor, Lothlorien, the Shire, Rohan) are far enough apart that there needn't be much competition between them. (And I don't think the Shire is necessarily better farmland than anywhere else that's being farmed in Eriador. It works great for the Hobbits, but their population doesn't seem that huge.)
    • According to the suggestions made by Tolkien himself, during the early centuries of the Third Age, Arnor, and not Gondor, had been the economic and military center of the two Kingdoms of Men. A lethal combination of plagues, invasions, poverty and descendancy into barbarism depleted northern half of Middle-Earth from Men, not unlikely the post-Roman Europe of the Dark Ages.
  • Who says that the Shire is the best farmland? Yes it as far as we know it is has the most productive farms compared to any where else in the region, but who said it was becuase of the land itself and not just that Hobbits are that damn good at growing stuff?
  • The Shire and hobbits in general had been ignored for centuries. What would suddenly make it appear on the radar for Men?d
  • Wild Mass Guessing: Some Men tried that once, but they made the mistake of going through the Old Forest on their way there. Between the malevolent trees, the Barrow-Wights, and Tom Bombadil doing random stuff, almost none of them made it back alive, and the few who did told horror tales of monsters and demi-gods; after that, no one dared try it again.
  • Also, IIRC, Eriador outside the Shire was severely depopulated at the end of the Third Age. Bree-land was the only significant settlement of Men in the region.
  • How did Boromir get to Rivendell for the council meeting in the first place? The whole plot seems to turn on just how difficult a journey that is. Where did he cross the Misty Mountains? At the Gap of Rohan, so close to Isengard, and then travel through Dunland? Did he cross at the Gladden or the High Pass, both of which were supposedly closely watched by Sauron? Granted, Boromir was not traveling with the Ring at that time, but he was still the son and heir of the Steward of Gondor, the ruler of the country with which Mordor was at war and which was Mordor's principal military opponent, so he would still be a very high-priority target for Sauron. I think we can assume he did not pass through Moria. I suppose he might have taken the Redhorn Pass, but that wasn't exactly an easy trip either. So how did Boromir even get there in the first place?
    • Rohan. He advises going that way when they head back south, and Saruman's treachery wasn't widely known at the time even in Rohan. He's specifically mentioned as having crossed the Greyflood at the ruined city of Tharbad, which is more or less north of Dunland. And Eomer stated that the Rohirrim had lent him a horse (which he lost at Tharbad, and later came back riderless). As for Sauron, 1.) he's still just one traveller, and 2.) All of Sauron's attention at this point is on the Shire and the Ring.
      • Except we know that all his attention wasn't on the Shire and the Ring: he was also watching the Gladden Fields, and preparing to invade Gondor, and conspiring with Saruman, and governing Mordor, and who knows what other tasks. Are you telling me that, on the eve of his long-planned invasion of his ancient enemy Gondor, he can't spare any attention to what Gondor's leadership is doing? You said it yourself: Boromir is riding alone. Why would Sauron give up such a perfect opportunity to capture a the heir to the Stewardship of Gondor? Or, if he wants to tie it into his efforts to reclaim the Ring, why not take this opportunity, while Boromir was by himself, to subvert Boromir? Send someone to meet him to tempt him to Sauron's side?
        • Sauron can't watch everything at once, and one horseman heading northeast into the wilderness is probably something that doesn't concern him at all. Even if he knows that that horseman is the heir to the steward (and it's not like he's carrying a driver's license, or that Sauron has a book of Minas Tirith Police Department mug shots to flip through) and one of their top captains, what does it matter? He's not trying to sideline Gondor's captains; he's got the numbers to crush Gondor underfoot barring supernatural influence or sudden outbreaks of Plot.
        • IIRC Sauron doesn't even know who Aragorn is, or where he is, until the latter gets his attention by besting him (an almost-god) in a battle of wills over the Palantir. Sauron isn't omniscient, the way he sees things seems to be tied to the power of individual places, people, and activities: he almost sees Frodo on Amon Hen when he puts on the Ring; he can see Gandalf but only when he does something impressive, as on Carathras when he summons fire; and he's constantly striving with Galadriel. Boromir claiming the Ring would immediately get his attention, Boromir on a vague mission to Rivendell wouldn't.
        • Sauron couldn't care less about what Boromir is doing. He might simply assume that the Council of Elrond is a desperate attempt by his enemies to unite in the face of impending military doom, and that Boromir is going there to plead Gondor’s case to no avail (considering how distrustful the Free Peoples are towards each other). Remember that Sauron couldn’t even imagine the true purpose of the Council, which is to work out a plan to destroy the Ring. Come to think about it, Sauron may well benefit from Boromir’s absence because it means that Gondor cannot rely on Boromir’s talents as a warrior when Sauron lands his blow. If Sauron is in fact paying attention to Gondor’s leadership he will factor this in, knowing that Denethor and Faramir do not get on very well.

The Hobbit and Gandalf's epic Quest of Erebor-gambit

  • If Gandalf is one of the wisest and most powerful people on Middle-earth, someone who's basically needed to keep things running as they should, why exactly does he spend so much time in The Hobbit just hanging around with a bunch of dwarves? Doesn't he have better things to do than find them a burglar and periodically rescue them from the trouble they get into? It's not so blatant in The Hobbit proper but once you start reading the other books you really start to wonder.
    • See above regarding the vital strategic necessity of making sure that Smaug is dead before Sauron can recruit him. Remember that by the chronology the events of the The Hobbit occur almost immediately after Gandalf has just finished confirming that 'The Necromancer of Dol Guldur' is in fact Sauron, and not some lesser evil.
      • Didn't a simple hobbit kill Smaug?
        • Nope. Smaug was killed by Bard, a guardsman from Esgaroth who just happened to descend from the King of Dale. All Bilbo did was flatter Smaug until he stupidly showed off the weak point he didn't know he had, information that reached Bard at the 11th hour.
        • And both the simple hobbit being in position to speak to Smaug and Smaug's follow-up attack on Esgaroth, where he died, were both a direct result of Gandalf helping manipulate Thorin's expedition into existence in the first place. Left to their own devices, Smaug would have spent the next several decades peacefully sleeping on his pile of gold, until the War of the Ring started and Sauron made him an offer.
    • In one of the Unfinished Talesof Numenor and Middleearth, it's stated that Gandalf had two reasons for helping Thorin on this quest. First, he knew Smaug needed to be dealt with lest Sauron come up with a way to use him. Second, he wanted to re-establish a Dwarf kingdom at the Lonely Mountain. He was afraid that Sauron would use the same route that Bilbo and the Dwarves used in order to attack Rivendell, and that without the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain and the men of Dale, there weren't enough "good" people in the North to stop him. Finally, it's also implied that on some level, Gandalf had retained enough of his divine knowledge to have an inkling that something else important was going to happen if Bilbo came on this quest.
    • Also, as to the "something more important to do", he did, in fact several times after getting over the Misty Mountains he tells the Dwarves he has pressing matters elsewhere, is already running late, and has to go, till finally he does leave them before entering Mirkwood. The pressing buisness he was hurrying off to? Driving Sauron out of Dol Guldor with the rest of the White Council.
    • This is actually covered in the appendices to LotR, where Gandalf mentions how Thorin just happened to show up grumbling about the dragon in Bree while the wizard was thinking about how to deal with the Smaug problem. It wouldn't take a genius to go "Hey! I bet the dwarves who are holding an epic grudge can kill my dragon problem!" That way he would be free to deal with Sauron on his own.
    • Outside the story, Tolkein, from what I understand, wrote the hobbit separately from the Lord of the Rings world, and only later put the two together.
  • Why did the Necromancer, who was of course really Sauron, imprison and torture Thrain, Thorin's father? What was he hoping to achieve? He took Thrain's ring of power, the last of the dwarven rings, but then never did anything with it. And he hardly had to imprison Thrain for any great length of time or torture him just to get his ring. Why not try to subvert Thrain? Why not offer to help him defeat Smaug and get his treasure and his kingdom back in exchange for his ring and his fealty?
    • Revenge, for the rings not being able to corrupt the dwarves.
      • If that's true, then Sauron was an idiot. What does that actually achieve? And he misses a huge opportunity.
      • Opportunity for what? Dwarves aren't short humans with beards; they're stated as having been made in the beginning to withstand the domination of others (which, of course, is why the rings did little more than make them greedy). Even in the pits of Dol Guldur, Thrain would in all likelihood tell Sauron to go fuck himself before agreeing to serve him. Look at Fellowship; Sauron promises Dain the three taken dwarf-rings and the Mines of Moria in exchange for one measly hobbit; Dain sends Gloin and Gimli to Rivendell to warn Bilbo and takes up his axe.
        • Just because one dwarf, who was already the ruler of a wealthy kingdom, resisted temptation, does not mean that any and all dwarves will resist temptation. Thrain was, after all, in much more desperate circumstances. And even if Thrain refused to be bribed, what did holding him and torturing him accomplish, once Sauron had his ring? It just seems pointless.
      • When did Sauron become the paragon of Pragmatic Villainy?
        • To elaborate, Sauron hates anyone and anything he can't control. Though we know very little about what actually went down between him and Thrain, one would assume that if he made such an offer and Thrain threw it in his face (and remember that though the dwarves as a whole tend to stay out of wars with whoever the current Dark Lord is, Durin's Folk have traditionally opposed Sauron, so their king- even a king in exile- certainly wouldn't bow down to an ancestral enemy for any reason) Sauron would easily be angry enough to have him tortured.
  • Okay, so Gandalf engineered the quest to kill off Smaug so that Sauron couldn't recruit him later. What made Gandalf think that the dwarves plus Bilbo would be able to do away with Smaug? The dwarves had been no match for Smaug when he had first attacked, even though they were stronger and more numerous then, and Smaug was weaker. Okay, yes, it all worked out in the end, through a process Gandalf really could not have foreseen, but wouldn't Gandalf have thought at the beginning that he was sending these people to their deaths?
    • It seems likely that Gandalf originally had a plan in place, but it required him to be in the neighborhood - he may have had some dragon-slaying weapon or secret all lined up, but when he abruptly had to go deal with the Dol Guldur situation, he simply had to hope that things would not come to a head until he had a chance to get back.
  • Why are dragons so poorly adapted physically? Specifically, why are they armored on their backs, but not on their bellies? How does it make sense to give a flying creature an armored back but not an armored underside? Who or what is going to attack a dragon from above?
    • This is pretty easy, actually. The first dragons weren't flyers- they were basically huge snakes with legs, and their bodies were so low to the ground that the odds of someone attacking their bellies was miniscule (Turin in The Silmarillion had to attack the dragon Glaurung while he was crossing a gorge in order to even have a shot at attacking him from below). Winged dragons were a later "model", and nobody ever called Morgoth the most practical or thorough of engineers- he probably just figured out how to slap wings on the basic creatures he already had and declared it "good enough".
    • Smaug at least is fully armored, except for one missing scale (presumably they molt?). Is there some other dragon in the series with an unarmored underside?
      • Smaug armored himself with jewels; he explicitly has no natural scales on his underside. In his own words "I am armored above and below with iron scales and hard gems." (emphasis mine)

Tom Bombadil "And even in a mythical Age there must be some enigmas, as there always are. Tom Bombadil is one (intentionally)." (Letters, # 144)

  • Tom Bombadil. Just Tom Bombadil. I have listened to all the theories, but still, the guy makes no sense what so ever. I've read the books, and he is the worst part of all the books, and the only thing I was glad to be cut from the movies. Biggest problem: Why doesn't Tom help with the quest besides with equipment, when he is described to be almost all powerful? Even if he will be affected if Sauron gets the ring, unless he really is "God." Anyone have any defense of Tom? And, why include him in the first place? Even if he is "not important to the narrative" and "a mystery, even to the maker," then he still shouldn't influence the plot that much.
    • Tom Bombadil doesn't need a reason to be exactly there, in that exact moment. He simply is. Makes sense, like 75% of all things mentioned in Lo TR, if you take the whole legendarium into consideration and not just the events in the book. In this troper's understanding, Bombadil is one of the "spirit which inhabited the Earth" (I don't remember the exact words, but they are mentioned many times in the Silmarillion) before the coming of the Ainur/Valar, a direct creation of the Music. Remember Ungoliant? They are not Valar nor Maiar, they were in Ea before them. Bombadil is another of them: events in Middle Earth, even happening right under his nose, are of no concern to him. He could choose to actively fight for the Free People, but he simply doesn't. Gandalf very explicitly states this. And yes, he indeed is relevant to the plot because 1) He gives the Hobbits Numénorean blades and 2) Gives the Hobbits, especially to Frodo, useful insights on what they should and what they shouldn't do with the Ring. Long story short, I always thought Bombadil makes great sense in the book. It would be incomplete without him.
    • Tom Bombadil was originally the main narrator of the stories that Tolkien told his children, that eventually evolved into the Middle-Earth legendarium. Tom isn't "all-powerful", he's got great power within the limits he has set himself. He can't help the Fellowship with the quest of the Ring, because his way isn't direct confrontation. They spell this out very clearly in one chapter.
      • Struck out portion of above comment is incorrect. The character Bombadil existed before the LotR and there are several stories with him, but he was not part of the Middle-earth universe.
      • This is the key to the reason Bombadil Just Bugs so many LotR fans. He wasn't designed to belong in Middle-earth. He is from an entirely separate set of stories written by Tolkien long before LotR, and shoehorned in for reasons Tolkien himself doesn't really understand. In The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, the first things he does are fight Old Man Willow, fight the Barrow-Wights, and meet Goldberry, who is explicitly a river-nymph.
    • He clearly is extremely powerful, seeing as Gandalf says "Sauron wouldn't want to meet Tom in a back alley." The point is, why include someone so powerful, so mysterious, when you don't reveal him?! It would be as if Merry and Pippin went and found an Entwife, but nothing was revealed about them. If you include all poweful charecters who don't care about the fate of the world, at least give an explenation for them, don't just have them "be."
      • No, if the character's limitations are made clear, then you don't have to provide an explanation, especially in this case, where it's a stylistic choice. There are dozens of beings in the legendarium that Sauron wouldn't be able to defeat. There are good reasons why they don't just show up and put the beatdown on him as well. In this case, Tom isn't a guided weapon system. He has power over a limited area, and even that would fail if Sauron gained supremacy.
        • Yes, but there are reasons why the Valar and others would not interfere. Also, (more importantly) they have a backstory, and are not randomly written in, (even Tolkien himself says he does not know who Tom is.) The whole thing comes of as a Big Lipped Alligator Moment, and doesn't seem to fit the tone or style of the rest of the book, and seems like something out of the Hobbit.
    • Personally, I think that Tom Bombadil would be more tolerable if Tolkien had done a better job of incorporating the idea of nature spirits into his overall mythos. Maybe if he had mentioned similar enigmatic beings in the rest of the stories, Tom would be more plausible.
      • Very, very much agreed.
    • Tom didn't help them out cause he's a Cloudcuckoolander. He just doesn't get what the big deal with the One Ring and Sauron is. They actually said at the Council, if entrusted with guarding the Ring, he'd probably throw it away and forget about it. If sent to fight Sauron, he'd probably get distracted by something along the way and never even make it to Mordor.
      • And also that just hiding the Ring from Sauron wouldn't be enough to stop him conquering the world. Tom's country might be the last to fall, but it would fall.
    • Bombadil is a remnant of the early phase of writing the book, when it was intended to be another book like The Hobbit; hobbits just having one adventure after another. But Tolkien said he left him in because he wanted a True Neutral character to give a third point of view besides Good and Evil: don't get involved. Tolkien made it clear he thought this view was wrong. "It is a natural pacifist view, which always arises in the mind when there is a war. But [...] ultimately only the victory of the West will allow Bombadil to continue, or even survive. Nothing would be left for him in the world of Sauron."
    • It seems pretty clear to me: Tom is Nature itself, given form and will. Neither good nor evil; random, unpredictable, inscrutable; subject to no one save Eru himself, most likely; can be helpful, but ultimately cares for nothing save himself and his own and it's continuation, and cannot be counted on to actually accomplish anything for anyone. He's a force of Nature, to coin a phrase; he does as he pleases. I've always imagined his little routine with the Ring being his figuratively flipping the bird at Sauron and it just because he can, to prove that there are some Things they ultimately will never and can never have dominion over.

The stories as fictional documents and the Literary Agent Hypothesis

What is up with The Red Book, anyway?

  • We know that Professor Tolkien supposedly didn't invent any of it, it all came from the Red Book of Westmarch, which contained There and Back Again, The Downfall of the Lord of the Rings and the Return of the King (split by modern publishers into three books), and The "Translations from the Elvish". The first two components alone would put it beyond most concievable books in size. The last bit adds on the entire Silmarillion, the Narn i Hin Hurin, the lay of Beren and Luthien, and a story about Queen Beruthiel's cats. How big was this book, exactly? The same stuff can take up the better part of a small shelf on a bookshelf.
    • Tolkien's inspiration was the Red Book of Hergest, which is 724 pages long (362 sheets of vellum), each roughly 2.5 times the size of a modern trade paperback page, so it would take up about 1800 pages if printed in paperback. My copies of The Hobbit (400 pages), Lord of the Rings (1200 pages) and The Silmarillion (500 pages) add up to about 2100 paperback pages. That would make a book a little bigger than the Red Book of Hergest, but not enormous.
      • Also, it would have been written in Tengwar, which are more compact than our alphabet. (No distinct letters for vowels, for instance, and certain phonemes like "th" get one letter instead of two.) It might actually have fitted into 1800 pages.
        • Small correction concerning the Tengwar: The use of full letters for vowels or vowel signs depends on the Tengwar modus used, but both existed.
  • The copy that was supposedly found was copied at the behest of Pippin's grandson. Even allowing for 70 years or so that this gives, it was still printed at least five thousand years ago, and kept in the damp climate of Western Europe- probably somewhere in either Britain or France, neither of which are exactly ideal for preserving paper that long-term (the only place on earth that WOULD be ideal for such preservation is the inside of a desert tomb, notably lacking in Britain and France). How the smeg did the book not disinitigrate and rot to nothing over the millennia?
    • Gandalf did it.
      • Either Radagast or one of the blue guys, not Gandalf. Gandalf went home about 69 years before the copy Professor Tolkien found was copied.
    • Really awesome elf paper.
    • It wouldn't have been printed on paper, but on vellum -- i.e., sheepskin. Vellum is extremely durable. If the book was in active use and exposed to the environment, it would have been recopied; if it was forgotten somewhere in Western Europe (and somewhere sufficiently obscure that no one before Tolkien ran into this mammoth pre-Indo-European book in an unknown script, from an era which was supposed to have been the Late Stone Age), it would not have been exposed to the elements much at all.
    • The book was copied a few times. Do we have the original manuscripts of The Bible?
  • The parts of Red Book that form The Lord of the Rings are supposedly written by Frodo, except for the very last pages, right? But the actual story is told from the point of view of multiple different characters, so how could Frodo know what each of them was doing and thinking when he was not around? Okay, with the members of the Fellowship, he could have asked about the events later on. But what about the characters that died during the story (Boromir, Gollum, Sauron, etc), or various incidental characters he never met, or only met once? For example, how could Frodo know what Boromir's last stand was like? I guess he could've just made up the story based on what was likely to have happened, but that seems kinda disrespectful towards a dead comrade...
    • In the case of Boromir's last stand, we never actually see it in the books. Aragorn finds the dying Boromir, who tells him what happened, and then later we have Pippin remembering the parts he saw. Frodo could have easily asked both of them, and no invention on his part was neccessary. Sauron's last thoughts were probably easy enough to extrapolate, based on how he reacted (and the only time we see his thoughts is immediately after Frodo put on the Ring). With Gollum, Frodo had all the information he'd need to work out the gist of his deal with Shelob; the only part he couldn't have known it all was the bit at Cirith Ungol where Gollum nearly repents before Sam wakes up and yells at him for "pawing at Frodo"- and we could go so far as to say that Frodo put that bit in to reflect his own pity/sympathy/forgiveness towards Gollum.
  • If we accept the theory that Tolkien found a copy of the Red Book and based his stories on it, how was he ever able to translate it? It was written in a language that had been dead for millennia, so Tolkien would have had no other contextual clues to base his translation on. Even if the book had some illustrations (and I'm not sure if it did) which would 've helped Tolkien guess some of the words, a full translation would've been nigh impossible based on the Book alone. Yet according to the appendixes Tolkien had a very good understading of the language, which seems highly unlikely if all he had was that one book.


Separate the Saucer Section

  • Denethor sends the women and children of Minas Tirith to "safety" in the villsges of Lebennin. Then he drafts the men of South Gondor to come and defend the city. Then Tirithites whinge that the draft only raises 3k soldiers.
    • If Sauron had signed the Geneva Convention, then the families would be safer in unprotected villages.
    • The draft was so small because some of the men had to stay at home to protect their families and even more men had to stay at home to protect the families of the Tirithites.
    • Also, if you let the civilians stay in Minas Tirith then you have to feed them. Clearing the city of everything but your soldiers and minimum necessary support staff is the best way to stretch your available supplies for maximum siege duration.


General Worldbuilding

  • This kind of sums up a lot of Just Bugs Me points, but it just bugs me how so many "important" things in the story are only All There in the Manual. Any outsider who picks up the three main books and nothing else will have an entirely different vision of Middle-earth from the average member of the Tolkien in-crowd. The Tolkien fan community uses things like letters and books that Tolkien never finished or published during his lifetime (like the Silmarillion), not just as Word of God, but as actual parts of the story.
    • Well, that's what Tolkien was shooting for when he wrote The Lord of the Rings. He was really big on letting the readers have their own unique vision of Middle-earth.
      • Then it's the hardcore fans and the "canonists" who are going about it the wrong way and need a dose of the MST3K Mantra?
    • In all fairness, when asked a question about Lord of the Rings, such as, why didn't the wizards do this or that, if you want to actually answer the question, you need to delve into all this extra stuff. This troper admits that it would be unnecessary to demean a person for ignorance of Tolkien's letters and the like, but if someone asks a question that Tolkien already answered in his unfinished works, one can't be blamed for citing them.
    • Tolkien was trying to create an entire world, not just a single story about a ring. The three main books are long enough without including the rest of the history he imagined for Middle-earth. The Lord of the Rings was just the tip of the Middle-earth iceberg. If he'd lived longer, presumably he would have written other stories for it. After some final editing the letters and books would have become part of the story, too. Unfortunately, fans aren't ever going to get that editing, so they just go with what Tolkien left.
  • One thing that really, really bugs me is how tobacco is native to the Shire. Here we have a story that's largely about how the Good Old Days were better and industrialization tends to ruin things, and also a story that's supposed to be an alternate prehistory of Europe, and everybody smokes something that was only introduced to Europe because of colonialism, much later than the Middle Ages. Bloody hell. I bet the Shire has tea, too, which would be even worse.
    • Reckless industrialism. Gimli's speech about respecting the rock and the discussion of human engineering feats in their heyday suggests that not all technology is bad.
    • The tobacco the hobbits smoke is made from the plant galenas (which the hobbits call "pipe-weed"). Galenas is not native to the continent Middle-earth, but, like many other things, was brought there from the western island of Númenor by the Númenóreans sometime during the Second Age. It is therefore also found in the area of the kingdoms founded by the Númenóreans, Arnor and Gondor. The hobbits had apparently already been smoking other plants, before they discovered that galenas could be uses this way. (For a full account, read the section Concerning Pipe-weed in the Prologue of the LotR.)
    • Tobacco isn't native to the Shire. It's native to an area in Gondor. (wrong, see above) And Middle-earth isn't explicitly Europe, so it's alright if they have tobacco. Remember, "alternate prehistory", not our prehistory. If it doesn't ruin Suspension of Disbelief, (like the mammoth mumak) it's fine. (Tolkien noted that the geology was wrong too, but he crafted his universe around his languages and the culture needed to produce them; he was a linguist, not a climatologist.)
      • It still feels kind of hypocritical that Tolkien makes special exceptions for the material comforts that he himself enjoys, all while decrying the systems and practices that brought them to him. Can you imagine a Gondor East Rhun Company, exploiting the Easterlings for the sake of bringing massive amounts of tea into the West? Or tobacco-growing hobbit colonies in... I guess it would have to be Valinor? Heh, maybe they can steal some land from the Valar in exchange for a handful of beads.
        • That's a wee bit odd choice to call hypocrisy. By that logic you shouldn't be enjoying your own comforts because the economic situation that allows you to enjoy them only exists on top of a history of ruthless colonialism and native exploitation.
        • The key is that I'm not writing a book about a world of black-and-white morality where all the things I like miraculously fall into the "white" category. Say what you will about the unrepentantly wicked, but at least we have integrity.
        • The message of the Lord of the Rings (if there is one) is that evil must always be fought and defeated at whatever cost, you cannot hope to bargain with or use it to your own ends. I can't see from that how you derive 'Tolkein was attacking colonialism except for all the things he liked'.
        • No, you don't.
    • And yet no one is complaining about the 'taters'.
      • What's..."taters", precious? What's taters, eh?
      • Po-tay-toes.
    • Or the rabbit, for that matter - rabbits were introduced to England by the Normans. OK, so the hobbits were well out of the Shire by that time...
  • If the LotR takes place 3000 years after the first War of the Ring, why is gunpowder the only advancement? This bugged me from the first moment I heard about it. After THREE THOUSAND YEARS nothing has been accomplished and no advancements have been made save for the discovery of gunpowder or at least a similar substance by Saruman. In three thousand years, the earth went from fighting with spears and swords to using nuclear bombs. Additionally, the population of Middle Earth, especially of humans and elves seems so tiny and limited compared to the newly formed population of Orcs which makes absolutely no sense when you realize most characters in the novels are hundreds of years old, in some cases thousands. Was no one doing the horizontal shuffle? The population should have been in the millions, if not low billions by the time the trilogy began.
    • Err, first off, gunpowder does not equal nuclear bombs. Secondly, there is no population number mentioned at all in canon, but take into consideration that in this 3000 year time span, Gondor is constantly in war (from Easterlings, orcs, themselves during the civil war of the Kin-strife, Umbar after it splits away), not to mention plague, not to mention, of course, normal diseases considering there is no evidence of antibiotics- and this is only one country. Arnor had it's own set of problems, as did Rohan when it became established. All of this- just like in early Real Life human history- keeps populations with various ups and downs, but relatively stable. The reason for the elves' stable population is also further explained, one reason being that elves aren't really having kids in Middle-earth that often due to its instability.
      • In fact, population - of humans anyway; orcs and such are probably increasing with Sauron's power - seems to be declining at the end of the Third Age: 'the lands have not become less wild with the passing of time, rather the reverse'.
    • 1) Technological development does not work that way. And even so, the further you usually go back, the longer a technological standard held. Genus Homo made do with stone and wood for over a million years, while metal has been in use for only about five thousand years. 2) High reproduction rate does not equal a higher increase in population. H. sapiens has been around for some time, but large populations have been a comparatively recent thing arising in set circumstances. Even then that could and did change drastically through oeconomics, plague, and war. Both population and technical development do not go in a straight and ever-increasing line, but fluctuate and change.
    • I believe there's a trope name for this, it's certainly a scientific observation but: Just because history has progressed in a certain way does not mean it has to progress in that way. The ancient Incas built elaborate civilization with roads, skilled stonework, large cities, and postal services without steel weapons, writing or the wheel. Technology has only progressed exponentially because of knock-on effects stemming from a large, hegemonic world power. But even the Greeks invented rudimentary computers and steam engines. Who's to say what the Romans would have done with gunpowder? Had they done so, we'd be laughing at stories of sword-fighting barbarians.
      • The trope you're looking for is Medieval Stasis, and technology in the LOTR-verse is actually progressing backwards, slowing becoming less advanced. In the Second Age, when Sauron was in exile in Numenor, he gave them technology that suspiciously resembled modern firearms, ironclads, airships, and artillery. In the First Age technology was not as far ahead but certainly better then in the Third Age. Seeing as Tolkien was deliberately writing a mythic prehistory, Lost Technology only makes sense.
    • In 3000 years, humanity also went from using sharpened rocks to still using sharpened rocks.
      • Pah, even better: Pre-humanity moved from using stone tools to humanity using stone tools in two million years. And one of humanity's longest-serving tool type, the handaxe, was in use for a million years.
    • About the population size, I think it's written somewhere (Morgoth's Ring, maybe?) that elves don't have many children, like they're just biologically less likely to conceive.
  • Is there ever some kind of explanation for the total lack of organized religion among Men in Middle-earth? The church was a fundamental part of the medieval European cultures that much of Middle-earth is based on, and things wouldn't have gone down in the same way without it. Any kind of religious impulse seems to be based on actual contact with beings like Sauron and the Valar, and Men in the absence of such contact don't make up deities who don't really exist, the way real people do.
    • Yes, in his Letters. Apparently, the impulse to organised religion is absent in the presence of supernatural and eternal spirits who directly commune with God Iluvatar. You just don't feel like it when you can just walk up to Manwe and hear him talk about how he used to play drums in Iluvatar's band back in the day. The only hints of religious observance in the Middle-earth are by humans for whom immortals of any sort are largely legend: (1) facing west before eating, practised by Faramir and Co, and (2) human sacrifice in the silver-domed temple in Numenor before the downfall, orchestrated by Sauron as a deliberate blasphemy. (Also, it seems that the Eldar call upon Iluvatar in their marriage ceremony. We don't see it in the novels, since we don't see an all-Eldar marriage, but it's stated in one of the essays published in The History of Middle-Earth by Tolkien fils.)
    • Also, seeing as the story is, among other things, a representation of Tolkien's real-life Catholic beliefs, he intentionally omitted all obvious religious elements from Middle-Earth. It's all supposed to be in the symbolism.
  • Religion and mythology do exist, they're just not as formalized as in Real Life. The myths and legends found in The Silmarillion serve the same purpose as the stories of The Bible or the ancient Greeks do for us.
  • Another thing - whenever a myth or tale is presented in the story, with the exception of the song Bilbo made up about the moon coming to earth and getting drunk, it's treated as a completely faithful depiction of historical events. It's sort of an in-universe version of All Myths Are True. Real myths contradict themselves and change a bit with each telling. Even the elves, who experienced all these events personally, you'd expect to also have fictional stories and differing interpretations of the past.
    • Alternate versions of many myths are present in the History of Middle-Earth series. Most of the myths told in Lot R proper are hacked-down bare bones versions as well (i.e., many details on the life of Hercules changed with the telling, but how many authors screw up the Twelve Labors?). Finally, considering the Literary Agent Hypothesis, the same person (or someone very close, writing in the same style) is writing both the story proper and the appendices.
    • This might partially be a case of Reality Is Unrealistic. Premodern cultures don't have a very strong sense of what "fiction" means. Peoples with no printing presses tend not to preserve a story unless they think it has some basis in fact. These peoples find nonsense verse (like Bilbo's song) amusing and fascinating, not just because of any jokes or wordplay contained within the work itself, but because of the novelty of the idea of a story that clearly isn't true.
  • The whole story features a weird, contradictory set of morals. War and industrialization are bad (which are natural opinions of someone who's experienced World War I,) and evil can't be fixed by force, but pacifism is bad, too, and so is attempting to compromise with the enemy or see things from his point of view. The only acceptable course of action is dependent on the existence of magical artifacts.
    • Missing the point, much? War and industrialization, bad, but being heroic and fighting for your country and for the innocent, good. Compromising good for peace with evil also bad. What saves them is not the magical artifacts, but virtue: courage, hope, and mercy. Above all, it is Bilbo's mercy on Gollum -- (as well as later, Frodo's mercy), that allows for the wretched creature to do what Frodo could not. Sam's Hope and Frodo's courage (as well as the hope and courage of all their friends) allows them to survive the day. Basically, you do the right thing not because it is expedient or because it will get you the right results (against utilitarianism). You do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, and hope for the Eucatastrophe.
    • Man, I am getting kinda tired of people trying to see a "moral" in every little bit that happens in a story. Not everything is an Aesop, people! Tolkien wasn't writing, "Here's how the world has to work, does work, and should work, today and in all instances." He was writing, "This is what happened in my fantasy land this one time. Also, trees and my made up languages, aren't they neat?"
    • Not everything is an Aesop in, for example, Conan, but Lord of the Rings basically created the genre of High Fantasy, in which everything *is* morally charged. Even the trees and the languages.
    • You do know that Tolkien hated allegory, right? While there are certainly strong moral elements present in the book, it wasn't intended to teach any single Aesop or be a representation of a given Real Life conflict. The Lord of the Rings is a single story about a particular (if fictional) event (namely the destruction of the One Ring, the Downfall of Sauron, and the War of the Ring), not an absolute guide to how Tolkien thought you should live day-by-day.

Additional Comments -- General Discussion

  • Okay, there was a whole hell of a lot to read through across this whole page just to post one question and I haven't seen most of the rest yet, so feel free to edit this out if the question's already been addressed, but one thing I have never understood is why, when Gandalf reveals himself to be the guy in the gray robes and not Saruman, the others instantly believe that it's him and he's back from the dead, and not Saruman pulling a shapeshifting or illusory magic on them. They know that Saruman has great magical powers, the scope of which is not clear to them; they know this guy is wearing white; they know Gandalf is dead: why don't they put two and two together? Why do they immediately trust him? "What veil was over my sight" my ass. How do you know it's not veiled now?!
    • Considering the depiction of the scene both in the book and in the movie, it seems they felt deep in themselves that it was actually Gandalf that was back from the dead. Something along the lines of light and power that could not be masked by Saruman. But taking in consideration Gandalf came back more powerfull than Saruman it is possible he made them believe in him much like Saruman would have made them believe his lie.
  • Why weren't Gandalf and the others allowed to have a direct confrontation with Sauron? Why would the Valar forbid them from beating the shit out of Sauron, bringing him back in chains, and tossin' him in the ol' Void, like the did Morgoth?
    • Out of worry the power would corrupt them like Sauron and Morgoth were corrupted. Incidentally, the last time the Valar directly intervened in a gods' war the collateral damage took out entire continents, so they're quite understandably reluctant to ever authorize such action again. Also, it's not clear if the five wizards combined could take on Sauron at his peak.
    • There's also this little problem that Radagast the Brown has forgotten his mission from the Valar and turned all his attention to the creatures, Saruman wants the ring for himself, and the two blue wizards have wandered off somewhere to the South; we don't really know what they're doing. Maybe this would have been different if they had taken on Sauron as soon as they came, but they came in the year 1000 of the Third Age, and I believe that's between his original downfall and his return to power. I'll have to check, though. I'll come back and edit this if I'm wrong. Or someone else can correct me.
  • What was Gandalf's original plan for getting the Ring into Mordor? As far as we know, there are only two ways in: The Black Gate and Cirith Ungol. Did Gandalf count on everybody climbing up those stairs right under the nose of the Witch-king at Minas Morgul? And why didn't he let everybody else in on the plan before they left Rivendell?
    • Aragorn was of the opinion that Gandalf didn't have a specific plan beyond Lorien - he was intending to talk to Galadriel and possibly take a gander in her mirror, and see if he could cook up a plan on the way.
    • There's also that Aragorn himself is the one person other than Gollum to have successfully snuck into Mordor and back via Cirith Ungol -- its mentioned in the ROTK appendices. Gandalf had a reasonable presumption of being able to duplicate that feat with the full Fellowship, especially given that the Witch-king would be leaving Minas Morgul at some point... or, if not, Gandalf could easily decoy him away with a show of power.
      • A suicide mission is sometimes the only option. Put the ring-bearer in back and shove everyone else into the meat grinder until it clogs. 100,000 dead soldiers is better than Sauron destroying the world.
        • Nice idea, but you would need 100,000 life soldiers first. And they don't have them. We're not in the First or Second Age with its huge Elven and Human realms anymore. When marching on the Morannon, Gondor and Rohan had less than 7000 men.
    • Maybe he wasn't going to take the path at Cirith Ungol at all. Mordor isn't completely surrounded by mountains.
      • Like Aragorn's player said in DM of the Rings, "I'm entering a country. You can't put a door on a country."
      • Also, the 'pass' at Cirith Ungol wasn't just the winding staiway cut into the mountain on a sheer vertical face, there was a rather wide pass that lead up through the mountains from Minas Morgul to Cirith Ungol, it just would have made no sense for the Hobbitts to take an extremely well-traveled, militarily strategic pass.
    • Gandalf apparently wanted to send the two decoy hobbits west all along and make Sauron think that the armies of Rohan and Gondor had the Ring, since Sauron would not imagine they would use a hobbit in posession of the Ring as anything other than a prisoner or a prop. He was pleasantly surprised that the Nazgul thought Saruman had imprisoned Frodo, and recommended that Aragorn challenge Sauron to make him think he had taken the Ring from Frodo like Isildur would have; but when Pippin looked into the Palantir he nearly gave up the whole game, which is why Gandalf took Pippin to Minas Tirith, where there were many spies, to draw Sauron's eye.
    • Gandalf believed that Eru was intervening directly (if subtly) in events. He believed that Frodo was "meant" (by Eru) to bear the Ring. And he believed that the only viable long-term solution for Middle-Earth was for the Ring to be destroyed, and he knew that there was only one place on Middle-Earth that it COULD be destroyed. So he didn't have a "plan" as such: he simply decided to get Frodo moving in the general direction of his ultimate goal and trust in Eru to make sure that a way would open itself up for him. Call it an Indy Ploy if you must, but it worked, didn't it? It's entirely possible that if Gollum hadn't stopped Frodo from walking up to the Black Gate and knocking politely on Mordor's front door, something else would've happened after he was captured to give him another chance to complete the mission.
  • Why exactly did Saruman decide to steal the Ring for himself?
    • Study of the Ring and the 'arts of the Enemy' apparently corrupted him. Gaze too long into the abyss and all that- and Saruman's one big flaw always was pride.
      • Plus jealousy towards Gandalf. Saruman always knew that Gandalf was mightier of the two, although Gandalf didn't and wouldn't have cared if he did. As a result Sharky was always demeaning Gandalf with his words, while imitating him in secret.
    • Everyone who has anything to do with the Ring wants to steal it for him- or herself. That's what it does.
  • Staying with Bree, Aragorn knows the Nazgul have pursued the Frodo there, so he moves Frodo... to another room in the inn - or possibly to a room in a different inn, but all of about fifty feet away. He certainly doesn't take the hobbits out of the town, or even pick a particularly well-hidden nook within it. The Nazgul must have been informed, presumably, that their prey was in a particular room. But when he's not there, they just... go away, leaving Aragorn and the hobbits to wander off into the wild at their leisure? Why don't they tear the town apart? Threaten to kill people until someone talks? I can't remember if it's any different in the book, but I rather think it's pretty much the same.
    • In the book, Aragorn discusses why the Nazgûl won't attack in Bree ("That is not their way. In dark and loneliness they are strongest; they will not openly attack a house where there are lights and many people �not until they are desperate, not while all the long leagues of Eriador lie before us.") However, they're not above putting people in Bree who are working for them (Bill Ferny, for one) up to a little mischief �sacking rooms, loosing ponies� which has the dual benefit of being intimidating and making the journey to Rivendell that much more dangerous.
  • I never read LotR, and only read the beginning of The Hobbit, so I'm curious. In The Hobbit, trolls turn to stone when exposed to sunlight. Yet in the movies of the trilogy, trolls move around freely in the sunlight. Are they just different types of trolls? If so, what happened to all the stone by day trolls? Did they go extinct by all turning to stone?
    • There are different breeds of troll, only the weaker varieties of which turn to stone. The ones in Sauron's armies are the much-improved Olog-hai, who (like orcs) dislike sunlight but are not harmed by it. (Incidentally, you can see the three stoned trolls from The Hobbit in the Fellowship movie.)
        • "stoned trolls" conjures up an entirely different scenario, albeit one I'd love to see!
      • Also, in the books, Sauron begins his assault on Gondor by clouding the skies such that there really isn't any sun. The only trolls mentioned at the siege of Gondor that I recall are those that wielded Grond, and no mention is made of if they turn to stone when the clouds are driven away or if they're killed by Imrahil & Co.
      • The three stone trolls appear in the Fellowship book, too.
    • Also, The Hobbit was not originally part of the Middle-earth setting when it was published. Tolkien only moved the Hobbit to his (already existing) Middle-earth legendarium when he began writing The Lord of the Rings, which is the reason for inconsistensies in plot and style between the Hobbit and the other Middle-earth works.
      • Including some things so plot breaking (like Gollum willingly giving up the ring) that the original had to be altered.
  • How exactly did Morgoth make dragons? We're told he cannot create anything, only corrupt and alter existing works (incidentally, making the weaker in the process). He made orcs by corrupting elves; trolls were likewise once ents. So, where do dragons come from? They're much too large and powerful to have been made from eagles, and we know that they're not corrupted Maiar like the Balrogs if there was a "father of dragons".
    • Tolkien himself never really decided. It's not inconceivable that Glaurung was an incarnated Maia, and that the race of Dragons was bred from his physical body, though that brings up questions about whether dragons have souls and where they come from. In Morgoth's Ring, there are essays about the origins of Orcs that relate to this. (Note that Melian, an incarnated Maia, was able to conceive and have a child with an Elf-King.)
    • Maybe they were from the Eagles. While they are much bigger and powerful, that could be chalked up to them growing Drunk on the Dark Side, or something like that.
      • The first dragons didn't have wings, though. Mutant lizards, maybe?
  • I know they didn't want to just leave the guy's dead body for the Orcs to mutilate or whatever, but does it irritate anyone else that after Boromir's death they make it first priority to give the guy a Viking funeral, including Aragorn taking time out to sing a new song he thought up about his heroism, before they go off in pursuit of Merry and Pippin who are being dragged away to torment and death by a horde of Orcs? Afterwards, Gimli even has the gall to complain that they've lost precious hours in the pursuit. Here's a thought, guys: why not devote all your attention to rescuing your friends who are still alive and in danger first, while the Orcs are still close by, then double-back for a moment to give Boromir his funeral?
    • This is an understandable question, but one must realize how much importance medieval societies placed on proper burials. Some societies believed that one would not be able to be accepted into the afterlife without it.
    • In the movie, this scene is depicted as shorter, so it's more believable: they put him in the boat with his weapons and send him over the falls. Nothing else is shown.
  • The Easterlings and Haradrim allied with Sauron. In a world in which the sides of good and evil are very obvious, and in which evil's ultimate goal is blatantly to enslave the entire world, and in which Sauron has shown himself over the course of many, many centuries to be treacherous and only out for his own power, what country made up of free-willed people chooses to fight for Mordor? It's not like even Sauron's human allies would benefit in the event of his victory, and unless they were all completely idiotic it's not like that fact wouldn't be very, very obvious from the start.
    • We the readers, and the protagonists know of Sauron's treachery and malice because the characters in question are the descendants of elf-friends, having learned Truth and bearing the knowledge of Numenor and the elder races. Not all men are so fortunate to have such teachers. Men who are not descended of the Edain, living far from the northwestern coast, have only their own experiences to go by. They were seduced into the service of Morgoth in the first age, and never if they ever received any instruction from the Ainur after the War of Wrath, it was forgotten to the years. Sauron is the greatest Power they know of, and has likely lied to them to convince them that he is the only great Power that exists, and as their God-King, they have no choice but to obey him. Sam himself wonders at one point what lies they had been told to take them so far from their homes to die in battle- so even the characters know that the "evil" men are merely being deceived on a national scale.
    • Every temptation in the book is stronger to the characters than it would be to real people. Without being able to feel the supernatural forces behind them, the allure of the One Ring seems easy to ignore, and the voice of Saruman as he tries to convince Theoden to switch sides again just sounds silly.
    • Also, note that at least some of the human allies of Sauron had really big trouble with the "good" nations, especially Numenoreans and their descendants, due to the colonialist arrogance of the latter. Remember for example Dunlendings that were driven off their lands by the Rohirrim. So, in the opinion of the Haradrim, joining evil Sauron was the least evil - think Finland in WWII or the numerous volunteers from Ukraine who fought alongside Nazis even though they knew that the Nazis considered Slavic peoples as inferior to Aryans.
  • The elves gave Frodo, Bilbo, and Gimli permission to go over the Sea with them. But was permission really theirs to give? The Valar get really snippy about Men coming over to see them, and hobbits are basically Men by lineage. They might have been in for an unpleasant surprise when they arrived.
    • In the case of Bilbo and Frodo, don't forget Gandalf was there too and he may have already known exception had been granted for the Ring Bearers, he may have even been informed of such when going back to get his new body and becoming Gandalf the White.
    • Also, there's no indication that Frodo, Bilbo, Sam and Gimli were given the gift of immortal life like Tuor was. Most likely they were allowed to live out their days in the closest thing Middle-Earth has to Heaven as a reward for their service to Eru/the Valar.
    • Tolkien explicitly states that Frodo and Bilbo died. I'm not sure about Gimli. Plus, they never actualy went to the Undying Lands themselves, but the island just outside, so immortality wasn't necessary. And I'm pretty sure that it is implied that Arwen gave up her place for Frodo, and Gandalf then interceded on his behalf.
  • The Valar either can't grant immortality to mortals or choose not to. Setting foot in the Undying Lands doesn't actually let you cheat death, but mortals are nevertheless still not allowed in.
  • Why are the Numenoreans considered so special? I mean, the original reason for this was because they were descended from Elf and human royalty, and their kings were blessed with long lives by Eru or something, but that was thousands of years ago. Simple genetics would show that by the time of The Lord of the Rings, every Man alive would be descended from the Numenoreans, so having Dunedain ancestry shouldn't be at all remarkable. Elros was essentially the Middle-earth equivalent of Y-Chromosomal Adam. Shouldn't all Men have centuries-long lifespans and friendship with Elves by this point?
    • Extended lifespans and physical hardiness are things you only get if you've got very pure Dunedain blood (and wisdom and knowledge are probably a function of the longer lifespans and greater experience, rather than something purely inborn)- Aragorn's got it, and some of the noble houses of Gondor, but otherwise, while you're right that there probably are lots and lots of Men with some Dunedain ancestry, there are maybe a couple hundred at most actual Dunedain left by the time of LOTR. And friendship with Elves isn't genetic- there've been plenty of Dunedain who envied the Elves and didn't get along with them at all (looking at you, Ar-Pharazon...)
    • Not all Numenoreans were descended from the royal line (although the royals lived quite a bit longer than the "normal" Numenoreans). The long lifespan is essentially a gift from the Valar for supporting the Elves in the war against Morgoth. The reduction in lifespan wasn't a simple matter of genetics (in the Appendix, it's mentioned that a civil war was fought in Gondor over a "half-breed" king who lived about as long as his ancestors, indicating in part what Tolkien thought of the matter), but rather it's just the "changiness" of Middle-Earth. The tragedy of the Valar is that Morgoth has "marred" Arda from the beginning, so all of their works will fail in some manner or another (although the failure itself might be much more wondrous than the initial plan); this was no exception.
      • All Nùmenoreans had far longer lives than ordinary Men, just the royal clan (descendants of Elros and so having a significant percent of Elven genes) lived up to 300-400 years, while commoners only lived a bit more than 200 years. It's in the Literature/{{Unfinished Tales, the story of King Aldarion and Erendis: he lived to be 398 years old and reigned for 192 of them, while she, as a commoner, lived only 214 years. Their daughter, Queen Ancalimë (half-Elrosian by genes), lived 412 years.
    • Nùmenorean royalty has actual divine blood. They're descended from Thingol and Melian, who begat Lùthien, who married Beren, they begat Dior, who begat Elwing, who married Earendil, son of Tuor and Idril. THEIR sons were Elrond (whom you know) and Elros (first King of Nùmenor).

So, yeah, they're special. They're descended from third-rank deities. (Eru > Valar > Maiar) And also from half the named characters in the Silmarillion. That special enough? (Okay, I hate the trope of "everyone who's involved in the writing of History comes from the same, unbroken line of descent". But it wasn't trite when Tolkien did it, and moreover he did it well. Mythology and all that. Still, Unfortunate Implications that you can only be important by birth or association with someone who is.)

  • The palantiri. No, nothing about their actual use is bugging me, just the ultimate fate of one of them. To recap, the palantiri were placed at: Minas Ithil (captured by Sauron, presumably lost in the destruction of Barad-Dur), Osgiliath (lost during the Gondorian Kin-Strife), Minas Anor (intact, but with a bad case of "burn-in"), Orthanc (intact), two in Arnor (lost during the downfall of same), and the last was in the Tower Hills west of the Shire, presumably in the hands of the Elves. When the keepers of the Three Rings and the ringbearers of the One Ring set sail at the end of the story, they take the Tower Hills palantir with them. Why would they do that? The palantiri weren't made with the now-powerless Three Rings, and we see every indication that the stones still work. We know that Aragorn is in possession of the Orthanc stone. You'd think he would have use for a palantir in the newly-reestablished realm of Arnor, to facilitate easier communication between the distant kingdoms. But no, the Elves decide to be dicks, and take away the one other intact and fully-functional stone! And if Valinor really was "removed beyond the cirlces of the Earth," it's not like they could've used the Tower Hills stone where they were going, anyway.
    • The Tower Hills stone was permanently affixed westward, towards Valinor and Numenor (i.e., the "straight road"). It was a reminder to the Dunedain of what they had lost in the Downfall. With the Age of Men at hand, no one remaining had any need for it.
  • What was Sauron planning to do if he won the war? Seriously, then what? Was he planning to eventually just kill everyone? Was he just doing it For the Evulz? What was his next step?
    • To rule the world after conquering it. Sauron was not an Omnicidal Maniac (though his predecessor, Morgoth, was), nor was he doing it For the Evulz. His desires are for power, control, and an ordered system with himself at the pinnacle. Might as well ask what any human dictator would do in the same situation.
      • But that's just it: most of the really evil human dictators of history (your Lenins, Stalins, Hitlers, Maos, etc.) were driven by some ideology that generally informed their drives for power. If you had asked Mao why he was killing tens of millions of Chinese people, he would have been able to give you an answer about building the Communist future, the need to remake Chinese culture, create the new Socialist Man, etc. In other words, most of the great monsters of history believed in something. Conquerors like Napoleon Bonaparte, Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, or Cyrus the Great were all driven by colossal ambition and lust for power, and they certainly killed a lot of people, and harmed many more, in the course of building their respective empires, but they also did a lot of good things too. After all, once you rule a country, even, or rather especially, if you rule it as an absolute dictator, its interests become your interests: you want the empire you rule to be peaceful (at least internally) and prosperous. If Sauron is just an ordinary empire-builder like Alexander the Great, that doesn't really fit well with the whole Dark Lord, altogether evil, Devil-Expy image that the novels are clearly trying to create for him. What does Sauron believe in?
      • What does Sauron believe in? Per Word of God, order and himself. He plays a longer game than a human dictator would (on account of being immortal and all) and on a broader scope than most, but he does have an ideology, albeit a fairly straigtfoward one. To Sauron's mind, order is good, an ordered world is desirable, and he alone is fit to bring it about. Of course, he's extreme enough that if he won, it would pretty much mean the elimination of free will for everyone else- note that his most favored servants, the Nazgul, had been turned into little more than extensions of his own will and you have some idea of what his ideal follower is like. Also, he's not Middle-Earth's devil, though he did work for him to advance his own ends- the "devil imagery" is partly inhereted from Morgoth, and partly a function of the fact that he is, effectively, a Fallen Angel.
        • That's a perfectly reasonable answer, but it does lead to a paradoxical outcome. You appear to be suggesting that Sauron wants to eliminate free will because he believes that that is the only way to eliminate evil. In Sauron's world, everyone would presumably be all good all the time, because they would have no choice in the matter. In this conception, Sauron is actually a Knight Templar, and is not altogether evil. (That would actually fit with Tolkien's religious beliefs, since Catholics, following Augustine and Aquinas, generally do not believe that anything that exists could ever be totally evil.)
        • Tolkien didn't believe Sauron was purely evil, though he did believe he was about as close to it as a thinking being can be. To Tolkien, evil isn't a "thing" so much as it is the absence of a thing (like darkness is the absence of light, or cold the absence of heat- evil would therefore be the absence of good, and therefore of God). Pure evil, in Tolkien's mind, would be a void- Sauron has very, very little good left in him, and what is there is warped, but as a rational, thinking being, even he can't be completely corrupted. "Nothing is evil in the beginning- even Sauron was not so".
      • Also, a key point that seperates Sauron from human dictators- many of history's worst tyrants (Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot all come to mind) were on some level patriots whose obsessive love for their countries was a motivator for their atrocities- but Sauron does not love Mordor. He is older by far than Mordor as a nation is, and he has no empathy whatsoever for his subjects. He is a calculated, largely rational evil with specific goals, but he would gladly sacrifice any of his servants if he knew that was what would take to reach his goals. Even Hitler was a human ruling over other humans, but Sauron is an immortal and, to his own mind, a god ruling over lesser beings- no matter what atrocities he has to commit, no matter how many of his worshippers or followers die, he'd think it was worth it if it brought him closer to reshaping the world in his own image. That's why this guy is evil.
        • What you are saying is technically true, but only technically. The individuals in question were so lacking in empathy for others, including their own followers, that they never had any qualms about sacrificing them in unspeakably large numbers in order to accomplish their political goals. And most of them were arrogant to the point that it would not be inaccurate to say that they believed themselves to be gods ruling over lesser beings.
        • Sauron, though, doesn't even have the illusions in those regards- to him, mortal lives would exist in an eyeblink even without his interference. There's a difference, I think, between a mortal megalomaniac who believes himself godlike and a semidivine immortal who knows full well he is a different order of being from his minions and can convince them he is God with minimal effort. It's not so much a difference of type, though, as it is of degree- Sauron is Hitler, or Stalin, or Mao with immortality, magic, and absolutely no illusions about the effects of what he does (at least regarding how his actions effect others). He's the archetypical, mythic, "pure" conqueror and tyrant as it were.
  • Aragorn: Lived in the uber-privileged realm of elves and out in the woods for 87 years, then won some battles with the help of ghosts and magic. Faramir: Raised in the ruling family of Gondor, knows the ins and outs of the country, ties by marriage to the ruling family of Rohan, also won battles with actual armies, rather than special circumstances. Who do you want running your country? Oh, I forgot, Aragorn has an old sword and his ancestor of 3,000 years ago was king. Clearly he deserves it. Royalty: Straight up bullshit.
    • Read the appendices. Aragorn has plenty of practical command experience (in a lot of different nations and settings!), a good chunk of it in Gondor (as Thorongil) and has in fact been trained to be a king for most of his life- and he has much more life experience than Faramir (remember, he's about the same age as Faramir's father). He's also a very powerful symbol. And don't forget that Faramir doesn't just evaporate- he's still the Steward, in other words the second-most-powerful person in Gondor. Aragorn gets the throne largely because of genre conventions, true enough, but it's made clear he has the practical skills and public support he needs to be a good king.
      • I often amuse myself with the thought of Faramir inheriting the position of Steward at the exact moment its practical powers are curtailed substantially.
  • Why on Middle-Earth did Saruman reveal his betrayal to Gandalf? Even assuming that Gandalf didn't escape from the roof of Orthanc, what would this achieve? Why not feign continued friendship and loyalty to the Istari and the White Council and go with Gandalf to Rivendell? Then he can join the fellowship and say 'Hey, we can cross the Misty Mountains most easily at the Gap of Rohan, and while we're there, we can stop at Isengard to rest and refit.' The Ring would have fallen into his hands like a ripe apple. How does imprisoning Gandalf bring Saruman any closer to getting the Ring?
    • Saruman did not know they were going to form a fellowship and try and get the Ring to Mordor. The whole plot rests on the idea that the bad guys do not even consider this. As for why he reveals it to Gandalf? I don't know if they changed it from the books, but in the movies, Saruman is explicitly trying to get Gandalf on his side.
    • In both books and films, Saruman plainly wants Gandalf to join him, presumably as his Dragon. Gandalf would obviously need to know the general shape of Saruman's schemes to become a willing participant in them. It's only when Gandalf refuses that Saruman imprisons him, in both versions, since he can't have him wandering around and telling everyone that Saruman's a traitor. And as stated above, it's absolutely central to both the plot and the themes that the bad guys could never concieve of anyone willingly trying to destroy the Ring. As far as Saruman knows, he's already been privy to the most important plans of the Wise and has no need to go to Rivendell to learn more.
      • Even if you are both right that it couldn't possibly have occurred to Saruman that they might have tried to destroy the Ring, it surely occurred to him that the Ring would be on its way to Rivendell! Going there gives him the chance to get near the Ring and possibly engineer the circumstances by which it would fall into his hands. He can always try to subvert Gandalf after he has the Ring.
    • While no one's figured out Saruman's motives until he reveals them to Gandalf, going to Rivendell in person means that the disjointed parts and pieces (his dealings in the Shire and Bree, his misleading of the White Council, his actions towards Gondor and Rohan) have a chance to show his treachery in full (and in a town full of people powerful enough to oppose him). In addition, things are moving quickly, and a soujourn to Rivendell would leave a strong chance of him being cut off from the base of his power in Isengard.
    • To put it in perspective, Gandalf by his lonesome Saruman can handle (at least before Gandalf's rebirth as the White). But at Rivendell he's exposing himself to Gandalf and Elrond and Glorfindel and the possibility that someone else like Galadriel might decide to put in a showing- and that's just talking the mystical heavyweights, not ordinary warriors like Aragorn. If Saruman's treachery comes out in that company, he's toast, and he knows it.
      • Again, even if you are both right, why would anyone suspect Saruman at that point? Gandalf goes to Isengard trusting him implicitly and thinks of him as a good friend. Neither Elrond nor Galadriel nor anyone else is likely to accuse him of treason without ironclad proof, of which there was none. We know, having read the novels and all the background materials, that there were already signs of Saruman's betrayal, but really they didn't know. All he had to do was say the right things about how Sauron had to be defeated and that the only way to do that was to destroy the Ring, which was a vital necessity. If Galadriel had shown up, and had started making accusations, she would have looked like the bad one. As it is, what was Saruman's plan, exactly:

 1. Attack Rohan.

2. ????

3. Get Ring.

      • You're missing one key thing: He was trying to bring Gandalf in as an ally. He thought he could get Gandalf on his side before all that. That's why he reveals it at all--when Gandalf first refuses, then escapes, then he has to modify his plans. His original plan was

 1. Get Gandalf on my side

2. Get Gandalf to retrieve the ring and bring it to me directly

        • But why would he think that would work? He knows perfectly well that Gandalf is coming to him for help in stopping Sauron. Why would he expect that Gandalf would betray everything he stands for all of a sudden, out of nowhere? On top of which, it's a huge gamble: he's staking everything on Gandalf behaving in a way that is completely out of character. What's his backup plan for getting the Ring if Gandalf says no? Plus which, what if Gandalf does agree to retrieve the Ring and bring it to Saruman? Such an agreement could never be trusted, because once the Gandalf has the Ring he'd never give it up: that's the whole point of the Ring. Saruman, expert on the subject that he is, has to know that. And with the Ring, Gandalf would almost certainly be more powerful than Saruman. The only person Saruman can trust to retrieve the Ring and bring it to him is he himself.
      • Listen to the dialogue: Saruman starts out by saying it's later, and the situation more dire, than Gandalf thought it was. His argument was along the lines of, "Look, it's too late. Sauron's going to win whatever we do, so we should just join up with him." And don't forget that Saruman has been Palantiring with Sauron--something that's been shown to drive people a little batty and screw with their heads (see Denethor). Simply put? Saruman is no longer playing with a full deck.
        • Yes, I know what Saruman's argument to Gandalf was. But that doesn't really answer my questions: why would Saruman really have believed that would work and what was his back-up plan if it didn't, and if it did work, how could he trust Gandalf to bring him the Ring instead of keeping it for himself. Your real argument is that Saruman was just stupid (which was my point) from palantiring with Sauron. The problem with saying that, well, yes, Saruman was just stupid is that he's also the major antagonist from the time the Fellowship leaves Rivendell until the end of The Two Towers.
      • What do you want? If Saruman and Sauron had developed back-up plan after back-up plan, and had contingencies for everything, they would have won. At some point, the villains have to have significant flaws or else there's no story. In this case, the major flaw of the villains is they do not understand the heroes and their motivations, and this is exactly an example of that: Saruman thinks he can get Gandalf on his side with offers of power.


  • The mithril shirt. It is described as "lose-woven of many rings, as supple almost as linen, cold as ice, and harder than steel." Key descriptor here: "as supple almost as linen." So, it is flexible, and apparently thin enough to be worn under clothes without adding much bulk (in the film adaptation it was basically a light t-shirt, which he wore under his entirely unremarkable clothing.) Now, the problem with this is that, no matter how steel-hard the individual rings in the chain mail are, something that supple and that thin is only going to wrap around weapons, blunting their sharp edges but doing nothing to the force behind them. And even a blunted spear, with sufficient weight behind it, can run through skin and muscle tissue and break bones. While the mithril shirt itself wouldn't be pierced by the orc spear in the battle of Balin's Tomb, a "cloth" of metal as light and flexible as linen would still be pushed into Frodo's body --the heavy blow of the spear should have burst his internal organs at best, or it should have run him through (with the un-pierced front of the shirt meeting the back) at worst. But all Frodo got was the wind knocked out of him. Chain mail is designed to stop attacks with blades, and any arrows fired at Frodo would lose their momentum upon striking it; for that matter, an orc slashing at it would probably knock Frodo aside. But the shirt doesn't have the rigidity to deflect, or the padding to absorb, so much blunt force applied to such a tiny surface. So how exactly does mithril chain mail work, that it can reduce blunt force so drastically? Does it instantaneously generate tension at the point of impact to prevent wrapping around the weapon?
    • Good point, but one thing I will point out is that when Frodo is hit by the spear, he does not just have "the wind knocked out of him". It's made clear that the rings were pushed into him, causing severe bruising that was "sore to the touch for many days" and requiring that Frodo be carried for a while. Tolkien realized that the shirt wouldn't make Frodo invulnerable, but as for why the injury was not worse, call it elven magic.


Travel route

  • Ok, so this troper is re-reading LOTR for the first time in several years, and has noticed something: There are several passes explicitly mentioned in Fellowship through the Misty Mountains- there's the High Pass (Caradhas), Moria, and the Gap of Rohan. However, looking at the helpful map in the front, I notice there's another way- the Old Forest Road, east of Rivendell. Now, it may have been stated or implied in the text and I missed it (though I read through the chapter on the Council of Elrond like three times looking for reference), but why didn't they take that road and avoid the rather perilous Caradhas/Moria? Did they just want to stay away from Mirkwood as possible?
    • The High Pass isn't Caradhas, it's the one taken in The Hobbit, leading to the Old Forest Road. On that route, there's still a risk of orc ambush in the mountains, though it's safer than Moria, but if they go through the forest, they miss out Lothlorien, then have to travel several hundred miles through the open country east of Mirkwood, an area under Sauron's effective control. They could turn south as soon as they cross the mountains, but the range bends south-west. Moria isn't far off due south of Rivendell, but on the east side of the mountains they'd need to head slightly westwards to reach Lothlorien, adding days to their journey.
    • Also, if they were to head over that pass but then turn south and follow the river, you come to the Gladden Fields, which was being watched by Sauron because that was where Isildur was slain and the Ring lost. That route would have alerted the enemy to their prescence.

Beorn

How is it that Gandalf emphatically warns Biblo and the dwarves not to mention skins or any other animal product around Beorn, yet later the book casually mentions that Beorn provided them with water skins? Were they made from goblin skin?



Adaptations of The Lord of the Rings:


Animated Adaptations

  • In the 1980 The Hobbit movie, in the song where the party is captured by goblins, why the fuck do they all run right into the exact cave that the ponies just got dragged into? They clearly realized from the start that it was goblins at work. Seems like the only sensible thing to do would be to get the hell away from that cave, not run right into it, regardless of the ponies. Here's a link to the song if you've never seen it.
    • Weren't all their supplies on those ponies? They were a little too far up in the mountains to make it back without any food. Not to mention that Thorin the exile and his compatriots could only afford to fund one expedition. If they lose all their resources, then even if they avoid starvation on the trip back they've still failed in their quest.
      • On closer inspection, Thorin actually shouts something like protect the ponies, it's just really badly muffled by the music.
        • He says "The goblins are upon us! Save the ponies from the goblins!"
  • Why do Goblins have two throats? Does it have something to do with their singing ability?

Peter Jackson's Adaptation of The Lord of the Rings

The Opening Scene

Sauron clearly bashes Isildor's dad into a cliff, and that is where he gets his finger cut off and subsequently explodes. But, when they show the explosion, the two are clearly in the middle of a mob of Orcs, and there's not a cliff in sight.

I do remember there's a more or less decent explanation in the book as Frodo's first brush with the ring happens differently, but in the film, do the patrons of the Prancing Pony have short attention spans or what? The ring falls onto Frodo's outstretched finger. Everyone reacts with the sort of shock you'd expect and stare down at the empty space. He's invisible for no more than about ten seconds. Yet by the time he takes the thing off everyone's forgotten all about it and is chatting mildly as if nothing has happened.

    • The patrons of the (movie) Prancing Pony are drinking copious amounts of beer of the Prancing Pony. Would you care about such trivial a thing as a vanishing midget if your tankard was running empty ? Priorities, man. Priorities.
      • Maybe they were at stage that he didn't vanished but changed into white mouse?
    • We're seen that all sorts of folks come into the pracing pony (the bartender knows Gandalf and he's a wizard), what's to say that the people in there haven't seen something like a vanishing person before? They might be surprised that someone decided to up and vanish but once he has they would be like "Oh, ok, he's just ones of THOSE folks. Back to the drinks!"

Two things bugged me about the entry to Moria. One, why didn't Gandalf tell the Fellowship 'oh hey, I've heard Khazad-dûm isn't exactly a swinging place these days? They could still have chosen it as the least treacherous route, but it seems somehow cruel to let Gimli build up their expectations of feasting and fun for no good reason. And two, how did Gimli not realize something was up a lot sooner? Okay, maybe the lighting was bad and they didn't see the dwarven bones, but shouldn't he have noticed it was awfully quiet?

    • The dwarf who attempted to retake Khazad-dum was a family friend. Gimli was far too optimistic about it. In the books, the entire Fellowship was aware that Moria was a hellhole, but it was literally their only route.
    • Balin was Gimli's cousin, and in the books he states that part of the reason he wants to go through Moria is to find out what happened to Balin and the others who tried to retake the place.

After the victory on the Pelennor Fields, they hold a council to decide what to do next. Present are Gandalf and his cronies (Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, Pippin) and King �omer. No-one is there to represent Gondor or Minas Tirith (surely Denethor had deputies beyond Faramir?)

It's just not believable that a city that was taught to see "Gandalf Stormcrow" as an untrustworthy villain would all of sudden accept him and his protégé as their leaders, and follow them on a suicide mission, the purpose of which was not explained to them.

    • Which is why some of us believe the entire War of the Ring was a fairy tale cooked up by Manipulative Bastard Gandalf in order to effect regime change across Western Middle Earth while siezing control of the pipeweed trade. And it worked!
    • In the original the city is under the command of another Gondorian noble (Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth). Considering the movies seem to mess up any social hierarchy and relationships, taking away the reasons for some and making up other things, this is one among many. "Why don't the elves come to help us Rohirrim?"/"yadda-honor-Last Alliance-yadda" Remember that to you elves are fearsome mythical creatures you better stay away from? The ancestors of the people that would eventually become the Rohirrim had no part whatsoever in the Last Alliance? Damn, the conscious memory of your nation has things half a millenia ago filed under "ancient times, mists of", and the Last Alliance was over three thousand years ago! "Why should we help Gondor?" Oh, perhaps because that is the rent you pay for living in the Gondorian province Calenardhon?
      • In an interview, Peter Jackson and the writers talk about how they wanted to add in Imrahil, but it seemed like too late in the game to add in another main character.
      • They also claimed that they wanted Imrahil to be played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
    • The stage version resolve the Council of the Captains of the West scene.

 Aragorn: Hey! Who are you?

Imrahil: I am Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth.

Are you important enough to be in the movie?

Imrahil: No.

Aragorn: Fuck off then.

        • Really technically, Imrahil is in the movie but never named and never given his due, he's that unnamed guy who seems like a sergeant at times and as a whiny fairy at others (he says "It is as the Lord Denethor predicted! Long has he foreseen this Doom!") who survives far longer than an unnamed character has any right to.
        • No, that's Irolas, an original character. He was going to be Beregond, but they decided he wasn't worthy of the character.


What is Merry doing at the battle at the Black Gate towards the end? I mean, I get how affecting it is to have the remaining members of the Fellowship there and all. Just a nitpick that if Eowyn is stuck in the Houses of Healing, Merry should be too.

    • Merry didn't get his arm broken, just magically burned/shocked and a little bit squashed. He would have been fine after a day or two rest.
    • Hmm, not in the book he wasn't. I think it would have preserved the tension if Merry had stayed behind and Pippin, not Aragorn, fight the troll. But PJ loves his Big Damn Heroes so...
    • Maybe after the stunt Eowyn pulled at Pelennor, Eomer told her she was under no circumstances going to go out fighting, and she decided to stay because hey, someones' got to keep Faramir company.

What is up with the moth?

Seriously. It's this random moth that is somehow connected to the Eagles? What?

  • It was basically an Ass Pull by PJ to give some reason for the Eagle coming to save Gandalf from Orthanc with out having to include Radagast.
    • It's a way for Gandalf to communicate with Gwaihir. Dur.

What idiot designed the fortress of Hornburg?

A long wall that forces the defenders to spread their forces thin while protecting...nothing at all. Flimsy gates that open inwards. No moat. No second line of fortifications. No war machines. No boiling tar. No people assigned with pushing ladders off the wall. A HUGE opening in the wall (what was its purpose anyway? Because if it as a water way, its the dumbest idea ever since it's just asking the invaders to block or poison it). I could go on.

  • The opening is necessary because if you built a big wall there without any drainage, you'd get a dam. The lack of war machines or boiling tar is a side effect of Rohan not having prepared for war until the last second, due to Theoden's Saruman-induced "inactivity". The other objections are valid.
    • Well, I do not know is there is an individual designer or group of designers known, but it was very probably somebody at WETA. (In case you didn't just refer to the film: The fortess itself and its sister-fortress Isengard, each guarding one side of the Gap of Calenardhon (later Rohan), were built by the Gondorians. Also its build and the battle itself work a bit different in the original.)
    • A long wall that forces the defenders to spread their forces thin while protecting...nothing at all. The wall prevents attackers from surrounding the keep and attacking it from multiple directions. The area beyond the wall also likely serves as a mustering point for massing troops; there doesn't appear to be much room inside the keep for horsemen or camping troops. The wall also provides a wide firing point for archers to rain arrows on attackers; if they'd all been restricted to the keep there wouldn't have been enough room on the walls for all of their archers to fire down at the enemy. Also, it allows for a greater concentration of ranged fire against any attacker. It's quite clear that the Hornburg was intended to be defended by a far larger force than the one the Rohirrim was able to muster - especially considering it was built by Gondor originally, who could easily muster the manpower to defend it.
    • Flimsy gates that open inwards. The gates didn't seem that flimsy, considering they held up for what appears to be hours of constant hammering by rams and Uruk swords. They only broke inwards because the Uruks pounded them in.
    • No moat. No moat in the book either. The lower area beneath the wall could probably be flooded if the fortress' garrison had considered it or had time to divert enough water to it. That said, fortresses don't require moats and a lot of historical ones didn't. This, like the bit below about war machines/tar, can be chalked up to Rohan being sabotaged by Saruman's meddling with Theoden's mind.
    • No second line of fortifications. The keep is the second line of fortifications. The long wall is the first, and there's an inner keep as well. They probably could have built additional lines and walls along the valley, and IIRC there was a palisade or dirt wall at the entrance to the valley in the books.
      • Besides, even with PJ's elf army that arrived in the movie, they barely had enough men to set up a first line of fortifications.
    • No war machines. No boiling tar. The fortress, along with Rohan in general, was not in any shape to fight in general thanks to Saruman mucking with Theoden's head. It's also questionable if Rohan has the technology to field catapults, ballistae, etc, considering their tech base. It is also notable that the Rohan army in the book didn't have these war machines or tar either, and that Jackson clearly did consider whether or not the defenders should have war machines, considering that Gondor had an array of trebuchets.
    • No people assigned with pushing ladders off the wall. Pushing the ladders off the wall would be hard when you've got giant berserkers wielding enormous greatswords that are killing a half-dozen troops with a single swing of their weapons who are clearing away everyone from the tops of the ladders, and the individual Uruk-Hai infantry are an even match for the defenders. They're having trouble simply getting to the ladders in the first place, let alone pushing them over.
    • A HUGE opening in the wall (what was its purpose anyway? Because if it as a water way, its the dumbest idea ever since it's just asking the invaders to block or poison it). It was a grating to let water drain out. Otherwise your fort gets flooded.
    • That 'long wall that doesn't protect anything' seals off the box canyon above the fortress. These are the Riders of Rohan, who love their horses second only to their kin. And horses need pasturage and running water.
    • Also: Didn't Saruman only just invent gunpowder to exploit that specific weakness? Before then, a small tight solid iron grating wouldn't have been so easy to breach. You'd have to go in with a saw, taking ages to get all the bars cut, by which time you could have been shot or stabbed to death from defenders on the other side.
      • Yes he did. In the books and in the movies it is clear that Grima Wormtongue had never seen anything like gunpowder before in his life. Rohan's tech base had nothing like it for them to even know to defend against. For all they knew it was a very well defended weakness in their otherwise impenetrable wall.

How did Gandalf get Glamdring and his staff back?

Saruman clearly took the staff and presumably took the sword, and Gandalf clearly flew straight away, so how did he get them back?

    • Gandalf could easily get a new Staff, probably from Galadriel or so. The Staff itself is not so important on it's own, as it's more of a Symbol of a Wizard's power then anything else. As for the sword, I got no idea. Maybe Saruman didn't even know Gandalf had it, and he kept it hidden.
    • The making of shows that Gandalf the Grey has two staffs- the one with the pipe which fits in the top and the one with the crystal at the top which we see close up in Moria. And I think that Gandalf hiding his sword from Saruman is probably the most likely explanation.
      • Agreed. As for the sword, I think we see it once on his horse that he takes to Isengard. If it ran off after Saruman's betrayal, Gandalf could retrieve it later.
    • Gandalf isn't show wearing his sword when he fights Saruman, is he?
      • Nope
    • Let's not forget The Return of the King's extended edition, which shows the Witch King destroying Gandalf's staff. He then gets it back during the battle in front of Mordor's gates.
      • No, he doesn't. He's conspicuously without his staff during that scene.

Why on Middle-Earth, in the extended editions, is Boromir the only one who doesn't get a gift from Galadriel? I know that they changed some of the other gifts, but just to completely ignore any gift for him seems to make it as though he is a less worthy member of the fellowship. Poor Boromir.

  • Because it's totally irrelevant to the plot? I don't even remember what he got in the book.
    • He got a golden belt. It played a semi-semi-major role when Faramir had that vision-thing where he saw Boromir dead. He only believed that it was true when he saw the belt on him. PJ cut out a lot of Galadriel-relevant scenes anyway, so it's not such a big deal, but it would have been a nice bit of continuity. Plot-wise, it does less than the other gifts anyway, what with Faramir's altered personality and scenes.
  • But they changed half the gifts anyway (Sam, Merry, Pippin, Aragorn). Why not give Boromir something that he can use in his remaining screentime?


How could Wormtongue not know about the 10,000 orcs at Isengard? I mean, he's already inside the tower, and he tells Saruman "hey we don't have a lot of orcs" and Saruman shows him the big army. How did Wormtongue miss that when he first arrived at Isengard? Were the orcs all hiding or something?

  • They were probably all housed in the caverns under the courtyard while Wormy stayed on the surface and went straight into Orthanc.
  • You see him gallop into Orthanc and there are no Orcs there at that time, so they must have assembled after that. He probably knew of Saruman's designs, but had no idea of the number that had been bred. Plus he had been away from Isengard for a while, and we know that the majority of Orcs were bred a few days before we see them.

"The Uruks turn northeast. They're taking the hobbits to Isengard!"

Where the hell are they, that Isengard is to the northeast? Why did they go so far south or west to begin with? What did Legolas expect on this side of the Anduin? Aaaaarrrgghh.

  • They're downstream of Anduin, on the western bank. They were trying to reach Mordor when they were intercepted by the Uruk-hai, remember? And it was the Uruk-hai that Legolas was afraid of on the western bank. Like all the elves he has occasional foresights to things to come, but unlike big names like Elrond, he can't get anything but vague feelings.
    • The original poster has a problem with the geography being wrong. Isengard is west (and slightly north) of the Rauros. If the orcs had turned northeast at any point, they would be heading away from Isengard and towards great (mostly-)empty Rhovanion. To reach Isengard while heading northeast you would have to be west of Isengard, aka west of the Misty and White Mountains, while the characters are currently east of it. (But, after all, this film does not care for in-universe logic.)
  • Alternatively, we can explain this by saying that the Uruks turned north-east to get around a large lake, marshland or rocky hills, and that happens to be the best route to Isengard.
  • The simple answer is that Orlando Bloom messed up his line, and nobody realised in time -- he should've said "northwest".

Doesn't anybody know geography in Middle-earth?

  • When Frodo, Sam and Gollum get to the Black Gate, we see an army of Easterlings marching towards it. They are coming in from the south... what the hell? First of all, they should have been coming in from the east, obviously. They actually didn't even need to march all the way to the Black Gate, because you can easily get into Mordor from the east, due to a lack of mountains on that side. But instead they apparently went around Mordor, through Ithilien, which is populated by Faramir and his Merry Men which doesn't really seem like a good way to not get killed.
    • The book doesn't actually say the Easterlings came from the south. It lists three roads converging on the gate, from north, east and south, then says the Easterlings were arriving, but doesn't mention which road they took. It would be perfectly reasonable to assume they took the last named road if there were no evidence to the contrary, but there is. Slightly later, people are described as arriving at the black gate from the south, but this group is not identified with the Easterlings by anything beyond juxtaposition, somewhat less than conclusive.
      • I meant the scene in the movie. They are coming from the south, which as I described, is really quaint. Then again, as stated earlier, Legolas also has difficulties with geography...
  • Faramir and his band of Merry Men aren't exactly up to taking out any force of any size. Sure, they can harrass small companies here and there, but if they could automatically defeat everything that passed through Ithillien, they would have been able to prevent the whole attack on Gondor.

"A wizard is always on time."

  • Really, Gandalf? You could've been a little earlier, don't you think? And saved a metric shit tonne of lives? Honest to god, that's just a bit of a dickish thing to say to a bunch of people who have just seen friends and family killed because you weren't there very early.
    • Said only by people that are ungrateful for having their rears pulled out of the fire by Gandalf's reinforcements. If they could have gotten there any early, they would have.
    • "A wizard is never late, Frodo Baggins. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to."
    • Or it's just a saying and not an absolute truth. It's part of the running joke that wizards are busy people (or that Gandalf ironically comes off as a grumpy grandpa to most hobbits) so stop being nosy and get them their pack of smokes and slippers, you young whippersnappers.
    • No, he DID arrive precisely when he meant to (on the dawn of the third day, was it?). He IS a wizard, but he was still limited to travellng by horseback, to find a group of people who were in exile. I must say, he made decent enough time as it was.

Isildur and Elrond in the Crack of Doom

  • Why didn't Elrond force Isildur to throw the ring into the fire? "Evil was allowed to endure", indeed!
    • Pehaps the Ring itself subtly influenced him not to? It's at its most powerful within Mt. Doom, where no one has the strength of will to destroy it- Elrond could concievably have pushed Isildur in with the Ring, but even that likely wouldn't have worked, and he would have been reluctant to murder a friend in cold blood anyway. In the book, of course, there's no indication that either of them actually went inside the mountain, so the opportunity for Elrond to do anything beyond talking to Isildur never really came up.
      • It just needs to be mentioned publicly that "cold blood" doesn't mean what everybody seems to think it means. A "cold-blooded" murder is one done logically, with time and preparation. Elrond pushing Isildur off the cliff as a spur of the moment response to Isildur not destroying the Ring would be "hot-blooded" - Check it and see.
    • Tolkien specifically addressed this -- attempting to seize the Ring in an act of force (or push Isildur in) would have corrupted Elrond much quicker than Isildur. Tolkien says this is why Bilbo wasn't corrupted as easily as Gollum, who stole the Ring and killed his cousin after being tempted by it.

Massive Idiot Balls for Sauron and the Witch-King

In the opening scene of the first movie Sauron had Isildur at his mercy - downed and unarmed, but for a broken sword. All he had to do was swing his mace one more time and the human was finished. What did he do instead? He put the mace away and reached for Isildur with his bare hand. Why? To grab him? To strangle him? To help him get up? WHY?!

During the Pelennor Battle in the third movie the Witch-King had Eowyn at his mercy - downed, crippled and unarmed. All he had to do was swing his Epic Flail one more time and the humie was finished. What did he do instead? He put the flail away and grabbed Eowyn with his bare hand. WHAT'S. THE. POINT?!!! Couldn't he deliver his punchline without bringing her close to him?

  • Well, per the books, Sauron's flesh is hot enough to be fatal- he's supposed to have killed Gil-Galad simply by his own inner fire. He presumably intended to do the same to Isildur. As for the Witch-King, he simply believed he was invincible and that he could afford to pull stunts like that. Obviously, he was wrong.
    • They both had perfectly functional weapons with which they had already casually killed tons of enemies by their responsive moments. Why suddenly try to be creative with "pathetic human # 3082"?
      • Think of it as a fighting game in which you're almost completely invincible (and your one weakness hasn't even occurred to you). You could win by spamming the same attack until you've won the whole game, but it would be boring, so you try for variety, only to find out that the game can actually kill you in real life. If they knew their peril, they would indeed stay safe, but I think that if a villain truly considers himself invincible, he would see even the War of the Ring like a game.
        • While it does sound plausible for Sauron, the Witch-King is an undead. Do you honestly think he was even capable of enjoying what he did whatsoever? I always saw the Nazgul as fantazy counterparts of the Terminator - cold, determined, emotionless and efficient. When Eowyn faces him, what does he say? "Never stand between the Nazgul and his prey". He doesn't even seem to regard her as an opponent as much as a nuisance. And, well, she kind of is - he defeats her in several swings. It just doesn't run well with me that he SUDDENLY feels sadistic and playful when all his previous behaviour spoke against that kind of act.
        • Both are meant to pad scenes from the book into something filmable. Sauron is effectively killed by Elendil and Gil-galad before Isildur reaches him, and the whole Eowyn/WK/Merry thing occurs in like a split second on the battlefield.
        • As for the Witch-King, I thought he was only devoid of positive emotions such as happiness, compassion, and so on. He could still feel anger, hate, malice and other bad emotions. As for Eowyn, I'm sure she was of interest to the WK because she was the only soldier to openly challenge him without fear or hesitation. Curiosity and amusement would make him draw out her death to see how much she can take.
        • Moreover, killing the opposing army's leader with your bare hands is a great way to break the morale of the rest of the Last Alliance troops. Sauron didn't just want to kill Isildur, he wanted to rip him apart where all of Gondor's soldiers could see him do it. Likewise, the Witch-King wanted to make an example of Eowyn, to show how futile it was for any of Rohan's troops to stand against the Nazgul, who know all about terror as a battlefield weapon. And if she hadn't secretly been female, it would have been a very nasty example, indeed.
        • I read somewhere that Sauron killed Gil-galad by picking him up and burning him alive. Adding on to what the previous post said about morale, it would be in keeping with Sauron's nature to inflict more gruesome deaths upon the leaders of his enemies. He probably intended to finish Isildur off in the same way as Gil-galad.

Just a niggling thing, but during the attack on Weathertop, Sam bravely challenges the Ringwraiths and slashes at them twice, both attacks being blocked. We see one of them swing his sword, we hear a slashing sound, and Sam is hurled aside. Where's the big gaping wound?

  • Actually, if you look closely, it appears that the Ringwraith in question batted Sam aside with the flatof his blade while countering his swings.
    • Fine, but what's with the slashing sound?

This particular one has been the ire of fans for years; Gandalf is a Maia/Angel, correct? And the Witch-King is basically just a corrupted undead Human, right? Then how in all the seven Hells is the Witch-King able to shatter Gandalf's staff?! Does not compute!!

  • In the book, it's heavily implied that the Ringwraiths can draw on some degree of Sauron's power ("the power of their Master is in them..."), and Gandalf pretty much says that the Witch-king would be a tough fight even for him. But you're right- the kind of curbstomping the WK dishes out in the movie shouldn't have happened, and Gandalf would (especially as the White) almost certainly win any conflict between them, though WK would doubtless make him work for it.
  • The Wizards are pretty much forbidden to match power with power. Remember, they're not there to beat down Sauron or the Ringwraiths; they're there to convince the Free Peoples of Middle-Earth to work together to beat down Sauron and the Ringwraiths. Unfinished Talesof Numenor and Middleearth also shows that Olorin/Gandalf is one of the weaker (but wiser) Maiar, and that he fears Sauron.
  • Gandalf all but says that he did intend to fight the Witch-King at the Pelennor Fields, but was distracted by having to save Faramir from Denethor. It's distinctly possible that he just intended to keep WK tied up and out of the main battle, however, rather than actually going in for the "kill". Also, the prohibition about meeting force with force doesn't seem completely absolute- it's doubtful Gandalf killed the Balrog in direct combat using just the abilitiies of an old man. In any case, while Gandalf might not have been willing or able to defeat the WK directly, it's also very unlikely that the WK could curbstomp Gandalf so effortlessly.
  • One thing I would point out is that Gandalf does take on the Nazgul once in the book - at Weathertop before Strider and the Hobbits get there. He mentions that their battle caused a lot of flashes of light, so we can assume he's not afraid to show his true power in the face of danger. It may be that the ringwraiths were not so powerful by that point. Personally, I wouldn't accept the WK alone treading water against Gandalf, but I could accept him channelling Sauron to give pause to a lesser Maiar.
    • The battle was against Four Nazgul, not all nine. They were probably the weaker ones, as the Witch King and the Number 2 were chasing Frodo at the moment. Gandalf eventually had to retreat and the Nazgul were none the worse for wear. Of course, the White Wizard is more powerful, but it seems Corrupted Undead are dangerous enough to give him pause. He does admit that "Black is Greater still", and he said that after hailed as the White Rider. I mean, Wargs almost killed him once. The Nazgul are essentially compared to being an extension of Sauron's Will more then individual beings. And this isn't the ONLY upset that has happened....a Man has also killed quite a few Dragons, and they were said to be more powerful then Balrogs even. Of course, how it was a CURB STOMP battle is abit odd. It does make sense because Sauron is unwilling or unable to appear himself, he has to project his power through the Nine who are tied to his Will. And in terms of combat skill, the Leader of the Nazgul has a fairly good track record in the backstory. Destroying Arnor, requiring what was essentially the second greatest battle of an age to bring him down at last, THEN surviving and conquering Minas Ithil a few years later.
      • In all likelihood, if Gandalf really wants to "win" he might have to overclock his body and die. Again. Otherwise, he'll be too strained by the limitations the Valar placed on him.
      • Gandalf actually was facing all nine Nazgul on Weathertop. He escaped, and four of them went after him.
    • This is a little wanky, but I assumed Sauron had given him a tailor made 'kick Gandalf's ass' spell and training in how to best handle him. Gandalf is the single most powerful combatant on the field, it would make sense to have a plan to take him down.
  • Neither the movies nor the Lo TR books ever say Gandalf is a Maia; they don't even mention the Maiar. Even Silmarillion, where Valar and Maiar are introduced, doesn't say wizards are Maiar. That idea comes from a text that was only published after Tolkien's death. We may never know whether he even wanted it to be published. So, if we leave out this extratextual information, nothing in the text itself (the movies or the books) suggests Gandalf is way more powerful than the Witch King.
    • He mentions to Faramir in a flashback that his name in the East was Olorin, and the Silmarillion describes a Maia by that name. So while he doesn't spell it out in six-foot high letters across the front cover, the intent is obviously there. Not to mention that if he comes from the West, isn't an elf, and wields the Secret Fire, if he isn't a Vala or Maia, then just what the fuck is he?

"In place of a Dark Lord, you would have a queen! Not dark, but beautiful and terrible as the dawn!" Since when is the dawn considered terrible?

  • Elves like the moon and stars more than the sun, and due to their acute eyesight, don't fear the night. Dawn probably has the same poetic connotations for them that nightfall does for us.
    • For the Elves, dawn and the appearance of the Sun represent the appearance of Men (who came into the world at the first sunrise).
    • Remember, the Sun was set in the sky as a herald of the coming of Men and the beginning of the diminishment of the Quendi: "...and Anar the Fire-golden, fruit of Laurelin, they named the Sun. But the Noldor named [it] Vasa, the Heart of Fire, that awakens and consumes; for the Sun was set as a sign for the awakening of Men and the waning of the Elves..." Dawn more likely has the same connotations for them as dusk does for us: fading and diminishment, both of which the Elves are big on stopping; indeed, the warding off of decay and preservation of what was loved was part of the power of the Three Rings.

The elven rope. It can be any size you need it to be, so at the scene in the second movie where they are on the mountain and looking over to Mordor why don't they just make a lasso and throw it all the way to a ledge in mordor, get a twig and zip line across? It would have saved about 4 hours of movie time.

  • Are you suggesting that a pair of hobbits throw a rope hundreds of miles? Seriously? Just wow.
  • To put a slightly more explanatory answer on the comment above, there are several reasons. Firstly, outside of the Middle Earth universe, there would be no story. Secondly, Hobbits are small and somewhat lacking in physical strength. Even if they tried, do you really think the rope would fly that far thrown by a hobbit? Even thrown by an Ent it wouldn't go any more than a mile. Third, even if they succeeded in getting enough strength to throw it that far, there's any number of obstacles the rope might encounter on its way to Mordor which would stop its course. Fourth and finally, How is Sauron not going to notice a magical artifact made by the Elves that is flying extremely conspicuously through his domain?
  • There is nothing to suggest that the elven rope can change size/length; no idea where you got that from. The only thing 'abnormal' with it was that it unknotted itself, and Sam was of the opinion that it 'magically' knew when to do so.

What happened when Treebeard brought Merry and Pippin to see Gandalf in The Two Towers?

Treebeard is unconvinced that they're not orcs, so he takes them to "the white wizard" to make sure. They're tossed at Gandalf's feet, but to preserve the mystery he's shown from behind and the scene ends before we see their reaction. The next time we see Gandalf, he's on his own again, and Merry and Pippin are back with Treebeard who is still unclear on the orc/hobbit issue. It's as though they never met with Gandalf at all.

  • I've always pictured it happening like this: Treebeard takes hobbits to Gandalf, who assures him that they are not orcs. Gandalf asks Treebeard to keep an eye on the hobbits a little longer (Gandalf knows the affect the hobbits will have). Treebeard calls the entmoot to decide if the ents should go to war, but first he has to convince the other ents that the hobbits aren't orcs. Because entish is such a slow language, it takes forever to explain and allow the others to decide whether to believe him or not.

What's the password, cousin?

  • Okay, so Gandalf was too clever by half in trying to figure out the password to get into Moria. But why didn't Gimli know it? I mean, it's his cousin's place, and he was expecting a "royal welcome," so shouldn't he at least know how to knock on the door?
    • Several reasons, Gimli never visited Khazad-dûm beforehand. Also worth remembering that Balin went on the expedition against the wishes of his kindred, it's also reasonable to assume that because of Durin's Bane most of the Dwarven folk deliberately forgot the password to ensure no one would stupidly go in and try to destroy it themselves. Gandalf also directly implied that forgetting such passwords is common amongst the Dwarves so thats another factor. Finally, consider that by the end of the Third Age, the Dwarves were living in the Lonely Mountain and the Iron Hills, which are north east of Khazad-dûm. So Balin would logically have gone through the eastern gate, but we don't know if that gate needed a password to get in to it.
    • Another Headscratcher from that scene: How likely is it that, of all the hundreds of other passwords that Gandalf knows and tries, in various dialects of Elvish and dozens of other languages, not even one of them would incorporate the Elvish word for "friend", or a homonym of that word in some other tongue?
    • Exact Words.

Why wait to toss Frodo?

  • In Moria, when they're jumping over the shattered stairs, why do they wait to get Frodo across last? He should have been second, after there was someone on the other end to catch him. He's got the ring. You've got a balrog chasing you. A balrog getting the ring is the second-worst thing that could happen after Sauron getting the ring.
    • They didn't exactly have a lot of time to plan, or much room to maneuver. It's a narrow stairway and they're being shot at and chased. At that point, you go in whatever order you ended up in when you got there.

How come Gandalf knows what happened down in the mines of Moria yet Gimli doesn't?

  • Sarumon says that Gandalf knows the Dwarves Dug Too Deep and unleashed the Balrog. If Gandalf has heard about this, how come Gimli never heard anything about what happened to his own cousin?
    • Going by the books, the Balrog was released centuries ago. Gimli's cousin Balin was leader of an expedition that was trying to resettle Moria, not the original inhabitants who were killed and/or driven off by the Balrog and his minions. Everyone, Gimli included, knew what happened to the original inhabitants (though the book gives the impression that it wasn't common knowledge that the monster of Moria was a Balrog- the dwarves just called him Durin's Bane- it was pretty clear that anyone who'd heard of Moria by this point knew that there was something bad lurking down there). Gimli's excitement was mostly him getting his hopes up unrealistically high.
    • (Also only in the book:) Gandalf and Aragorn have both been inside Moria before (apparently before Balin attempted to re-colonize the place.) They know its general history - but not the nature of Durin's Bane.

  Aragorn: "I, too, have been in Moria. And although I, too, came out again, the memory is very dark. I do not wish to enter there again."

How did Shelob's stinger penetrate Frodo's mithril armor?

  • The cave troll's spear failed to injure Frodo, and that was made of metal. I don't know how hard Shelob's stinger is, but I doubt it's stronger than whatever the Cave Troll's spear was made of.
    • She hit him in the neck. It's a chainmail shirt, not a forcefield.
    • He's talking about the movie, where she clearly hits him somewhere in the stomach.
    • Perhaps the tip of Shelob's stinger is thin enough to get between the links of the shirt.
      • It isn't. We see it, the stinger is about the size of an adult male's forearm and the tip isn't that sharp.
      • The shirt isn't very long. Possibly Shelob managed to stab Frodo right under it. Or else, it might simply be because she's Shelob! The last daughter of Ungoliant who made Morgoth Bauglir cry like little girl. If any creature can corrode even mithril with its poison, it's Shelob.
    • It's because, if you look closely, Frodo's shirt was unbuttoned near the collar, leaving plenty of flesh exposed for Shelob to stab.
    • Shelob's stinger is nowhere near his collar. He's very clearly stabbed in the stomach.
      • She struck low and her stinger went under the mithril. It's a shirt, not a full suit of armor.
      • So she stung him in the crotch? ouch.

How did Aragorn learn the name of the Uruk-Hai?

In the first film we see Saruman naming his new creation, but at no point do any of the good guys hear the name during the movie, and they seem to consider them just another breed of orc. But in Two Towers Aragorn, when confronted by Eómer, tells him that: "We were tracking a band of Uruk-Hai westward across the plain". Where on earth did he hear the name in between the two movies?

  • My guess is Gandalf overheard it while he was a prisoner of Saruman, and told the others about it at some point during the trip before faced the Balrog.
  • Uruk-hai simply is "Orc-folk" in Black Speech. The name has also been already used decades before as a term for a similar big breed of Mordor-serving orcs.


Arwen, Elrond, and the last ship out.

So, Elrond wanted Arwen to go to the Undying Lands so she wouldn't have to face the pain of watching the man she loved grow old and die and subsequently die herself of brokenheartedness, right? So he sends her off with the boarding party to go to the ship and . . . he doesn't go himself? He stays behind to die and leave his daughter alone for the rest of eternity? Or have I grossly misinterpreted something?

  • It wasn't the last ship. Where do you think the ship that Frodo sailed off in came from?

The final splitting of the group.

Two questions -- one, why were the remaining Hobbits not given invitations to join Frodo on the last ship out? Was this not possible, or was there no room? Two, did Frodo just not care about anything but his own self-interest when he saw how much grief and agony his leaving would cause his friends, especially poor Sam?

  • Frodo was only offered the spot because he was a Ringbearer, and in the books, Sam does join him later on (after he's done living his life with his family), because he bore the ring temporarily. Merry and Pippin never bore the Ring, so they don't get the invite. Frodo left because he simply didn't fit in the Shire anymore.
    • It was more that Frodo left because he hoped that, in the Undying Lands, he might find some peace from the injury that he recieved from the Witch King, along with an escape from the memories of carrying the ring.

How big are orcs exactly?

In The Return of the King, orcs are the same size as Men during the battle of Minas Tirith and the Black Gate, yet they are also the same size as Frodo and Sam after the scene with Shelob and when they Dress As The Enemy near the end. Did Peter Jackson simply forget to change their sizes?

  • There are different breeds of orc. Orc soldiers, like you'd see at major battles such as the Pelennor Fields, are human-sized or slightly shorter, but there are other breeds (like trackers, one of which is described at one point in the book of ROTK) which are quite a bit smaller. Frodo and Sam would still be on the small end for orcs, but not so much as to instantly arouse suspicion.
    • Smallest Orcs (Moria Goblins) were even shorter than Hobbits and very monkey-like in appearance. It's the scene in the first film, before the Balrog comes, when Goblins climb desperately the pillars. They look much shorter than Men and slightly shorter than Gimli or the Hobbits.

Did Arwen lose her immortality or not?

It seems that Arwen gave up her immortality to stay in Middle-Earth and marry Aragorn. But in The Two Towers, Elrond tells her that Aragorn will die from old age while she lives on. What?

  • Arwen did give up her immortality; however, the Appendix of Return of the King establishes that she did indeed outlive Aragorn, and since he lived to be over 200, she must have still had a longer-than-human lifespan. Also, keep in mind that Elrond's foresight isn't perfect.
    • It's inferred she died of grief - Tolkien is not very explicit in the book on how she died after Aragorn lied down forever, and as an Elf she is supposed to have an immensely long life, but the good Professor never forgets to mention how vulnerable psychologically are the Elves and how grief can make them grow weary and die. (It's a way of telling the difference between Elf and Man - Men cling to life and are ready to make superhuman efforts to preserve it when facing hardships.)

Scale in the Shire

After watching the start of the first movie again, I suddenly noticed - everything in the Shire is to scale. So a Shire dog seems just as large to a hobbit as a Gondorian one would to a human. But hobbits are explicitly likened to children in terms of size when compared to Men. So, really, a full-grown hound or freshly harvested ear of corn in the Shire is going to be considered rather puny beyond its borders. Do the hobbits have a whole mess of miniaturized animals and produce? Is there something in the water there that stunts everything’s growth?

  • There is only the same thing in the water that stunts our human dog's growth: Why don't you go and buy a dog that's up to your shoulder, as those can be and are bred after all? Answer: Size of domestic plants and animals is mostly the result of how it's been bred to be, and you breed and keep animals/plants to whichever specifications you need. So why would they want a monster dog bigger than themselves if we humans (usually) don't want one either? And more besides that: keep in mind that those over-bred huge-ass livestock breeds in use nowadays are a pretty much recent modern invention, and the livestock/plants traditional for most of the history of agriculture were significantly smaller.
  • It's also mentioned in the DVD commentary that building everything in two scales is difficult, so any excuse to use a "normal" sized object in a scene that is only just going to have hobbits is easier. I doubt a hobbit would complain about food twice as big anyway. maybe they're just eating three normal Man-sized meals a day.

Unicorns? In my Mordor?

If you look closely at the Battle of Minas Tirith, when the enormous wolf-headed battering ram is brought out, it's pulled by what look like two enormous one-horned rhinoceroses. Are those creatures ever elaborated on?

  • The book says that "great beasts" drew Grond and nothing more. Sauron has Middle-Earthian pterodactyl-substitutes, it's not much of a stretch to assume he has Middle-Earthian dinosaur-substitutes as well.

Gandalf vs the Balrog

Gandalf fights the Balrog on the bridge until collpasing it. He falls into the great chasm. Then in andalf's flashback, they're back at the top of a mountain (I'm just gonna chalk the falling into an underground lake up to Frodo's imaination, since that was a dream). Still, how did he end up on top of a mountain after falling into the abyss?

    • Endless Stair.

Terrible strategy that actually turns out to be intelligent?

In The Two Towers Gandalf is angry that Theoden isn't taking the field against the Uruk-hai and Dunlanders but is instead taking his people to Helm's Deep. The only problem? Not only does Grima point out to Saruman that it's the best move Theoden can make it's also the same one that Gandalf suggests in the books. To make it more irritating, Theoden was completely correct. With so few soldiers they would have been cut to pieces if they had tried to fight Saruman on the fields. It hurts Gandalf's image as a wise man when everything we see afterwards suggests that his advice would have gotten everyone killed.

  • Gandalf is weed-smoking beatnik who loves to hang in the countryside with peace-loving, half-pint BoHos. It makes sense he wouldn't know that much about proper military strategy.
    • The problem is that Aragorn also seems to consider it a bad idea and Gandalf has been in Middle Earth explicitly for the purpose of opposing Sauron. You expect a bit more from both of them.
    • This happened in the films because it makes a good story. It's more of Jackson's "character growth" idea. This is also why Aragorn doesn't want to be king (in the book he does); Anduril doesn't get reforged until Film III (in the book it's fixed in Book I); Theoden is possessed by Saruman (in the book he's just depressed); the Ents don't do anything until Pippin tricks Treebeard into seeing what Saruman's been doing to his tree friends; Pippin and Merry are more like Moxie and Pepsi from Bored of the Rings (in the book they're mature, responsible young men), etc.

Notes

  1. Tolkien says he never did and was merely supposed to get it into position. Gollum was the agent of the Ring's destruction. But everyone else would have long ago siezed the ring for himself
  2. who in all likelihood hold that Balrogs are Mostly Harmless not to mention sexy
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