III. Debates and Discussion

A great many questions about Tolkien and his books arise repeatedly on the Tolkien newsgroups. The starting point of each debate is the same almost every time, and it takes a long time for the discussion to reach "new ground." In the worst cases, bitter and longstanding arguments about the basics get in the way before new progress can be made at all.

The purpose of a FAQ is to avoid this problem by setting down the basics in a common place so that the discussion can deal with new issues from the start. However, it is very difficult to balance the need for conciseness with the need for completeness: many debates that repeatedly appear on the Tolkien newsgroups have generated very large amounts of "known territory."

Keep in mind that this FAQ provides only summaries of these debates: many of their subtleties are omitted for the sake of brevity. Most of these topics have been discussed at length by many intelligent In these cases, it is extremely unlikely that any unambiguous "proof" of one position exists. With this in mind, try to be respectful toward those who disagree with you. To get more information on the usual content of common discussions, it is often helpful to browse those discussions themselves at the Google Groups Usenet archive (see question IV.A.5 for more information).

Finally, be sure to read question III.A.2, dealing with "canonical" texts. This FAQ addresses only the state of Middle-earth after LotR was written, which corresponds roughly to the material included in the published Silmarillion. Details from earlier versions of the mythology will not be discussed in this document (and are generally given very limited weight in debates about the later state of the mythology).

  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?

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