For many years, the Tolkien Usenet newsgroups have been home to a pair of excellent Frequently Asked Questions lists about Tolkien and Middle-earth, compiled by William D. B. Loos. These sources contain a wealth of information, but are no longer maintained (the last update seems to have been in July 1996). This means that quite a few issues of current interest to the groups are not fully addressed in those documents.

This FAQ supplements, updates, and expands on the earlier ones, though it is not meant to replace them entirely. It includes new and corrected information on some of the old discussions, numerous entries on topics not covered in the older FAQs, and a broad discussion of the Tolkien newsgroups and common standards of netiquette. This FAQ is intended both as an introduction for newcomers to the newsgroups and as a source of information for anyone exploring Middle-earth.

The official HTML version of the FAQ is on the web at

(you are probably already viewing this page). The plain text version is posted to Usenet on the 22nd of each month and is also available on the web, at

For a unified and easy to use interface to this FAQ, the Loos FAQs, and others, consider visiting the Tolkien Meta-FAQ, at

I would like to give my sincere thanks to the many, many people on the newsgroups and elsewhere who have given criticism, suggestions, and encouragement as I wrote this FAQ. This project would never have succeeded without their wonderful support.

Steuard Jensen

Table of Contents

Sections/questions marked as follows:
* have been revised since the last release
** are new since the last release

  1. Changes Since the Last Release *

  2. Newsgroups and Netiquette

    1. Information on the Tolkien Newsgroups

      1. What newsgroups are we talking about again?
      2. Why are there two groups?
      3. Do I have to have a Ph.D. in Tolkienology to post?
      4. What questions and topics are appropriate?
      5. What does a tilde (~) in the subject mean? and
        Is it acceptable to post messages with sexual content?
      6. What common mistakes should I try to avoid?
      7. What do all the abbreviations used on the groups mean?
    2. The Basics of Netiquette

      1. What is the proper subject line for my post?
      2. What should I do when replying to an earlier article?
        For example, should I "top post" or "bottom post"?
      3. When should I "cross-post" to multiple newsgroups?
      4. I am able to post my messages with HTML formatting. Should I?
      5. If someone insults me or otherwise makes me upset, should I flame them back?
      6. Even if my reputation and honor are at stake?
      7. Where can I go for more information on netiquette, and on Usenet in general?
  3. Debates and Discussion

    1. Story External Questions

      1. What is the best order in which to read the books?
      2. What books about Middle-earth are considered "canonical"?
      3. How does The Silmarillion as published differ from what Tolkien intended?
      4. Which are "The Two Towers"?
      5. Which books about Tolkien are good, and which aren't?
      6. Is Middle-earth Medieval?
      7. Was Tolkien racist? Were his works?
      8. Are there electronic versions of Tolkien's books?
      9. Where can I report copyright violations that I observe?
    2. Story Internal Questions: Creatures and Characters

      1. Did Balrogs have wings?
      2. Could Balrogs fly?
      3. What was Tom Bombadil?
      4. Did Elves have pointed ears?
      5. Did Elves have beards?
      6. What happened to Elves after they died?
      7. Was Glorfindel of Rivendell the same as Glorfindel of Gondolin?
      8. Who was Gil-galad's father?
      9. Did Dwarf women have beards?
      10. Was there "telepathy" in Middle-earth?
      11. Did Sauron have a physical form during The Lord of the Rings? *
      12. What were the names of the Nazgul?
      13. What was Gothmog (the lieutenant of Morgul)?
      14. What was the origin of Orcs?
      15. Were Orcs immortal, and what happened to them after death?
      16. What was the relationship between Orcs and Goblins?
      17. What was the origin of Saruman's Uruk-hai?
      18. What was the origin of Trolls?
      19. What were the giants (seen by Bilbo in The Hobbit)?
    3. Story Internal Questions: History and Happenings

      1. Why didn't they just have an Eagle fly the Ring to Mt. Doom?
      2. Were the barrow blades magical? In what way?
      3. Why didn't the Nazgul take the Ring at Weathertop?
      4. Who killed the Witch-king, Merry or Eowyn?
      5. Did Frodo and the other mortals who passed over the Sea eventually die?
      6. Did Sam follow Frodo into the West?
      7. What is known about the Blue Wizards?
      8. Who was aware that a Balrog lived in Moria?
      9. Did Elves and Dwarves generally get along?
      10. Where was the Ring when Numenor was destroyed?
      11. Who was the oldest inhabitant of Middle-earth?
  4. External Resources

    1. Where else can I find general information about Middle-earth?

      1. The Tolkien Meta-FAQ
      2. The Tolkien FAQ and LessFAQ
      3. The "FAQ of the Rings"
      4. The Letters FAQ
      5. Google's Usenet archive
    2. Where can I learn more about Tolkien's languages?

    3. Stories of Middle-earth in many forms

      1. What editions of Tolkien's books are best?
      2. What audio versions of Tolkien's books are available?
      3. What is the groups' view of the recent Lord of the Rings movies?
      4. Where can I find out about music related to Middle-earth?

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This document copyright © 1999-2012 by Steuard Jensen.

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