V. F. Dwarves

  1. What were the origins of the Dwarves?

    They were made by Aule, the smith and craftmaster of the Valar. This was against Eru's Plan: Aule had neither the authority nor indeed the power to create other souls (the result of his efforts was a group of what amounted to puppets). However, because he repented his folly at once and because his motives had been good (he desired children to teach, not slaves to command) Eru gave the Dwarves life and made them part of the Plan. The Elves were still to be the "Firstborn", though, so the Dwarves had to sleep until after the Elves awoke.

  2. If, as has been told, only Seven Fathers of the Dwarves were created, how did the race procreate?

    In the Silmarillion account of the making of the Dwarves, only the Seven Fathers are mentioned. In Letter no. 212 (p 287), however, Tolkien speaks of thirteen dwarves being initially created: "One, the eldest, alone, and six more with six mates." Thus, it seems that Durin really did "walk alone" as Gimli's song said.

V. G. Enemies

  1. What was the origin of the Orcs?

    [Question III.B.14 of the Tolkien Newsgroups FAQ contains updated information on this issue.]

    Tolkien stated explicitly in that letter (and several other places) that the Orcs are indeed "a race of rational incarnate creatures, though horribly corrupted". Also that "In the legends of the Elder Days it is suggested that the Diabolus subjugated and corrupted some of the earliest Elves, before they had ever heard of the 'gods', let alone of God." (Letters, p. 191). In fact, The Silmarillion does state that Orcs were Avari (Dark Elves) captured by Morgoth (p. 50, 94), though strictly speaking, the idea is presented as the best guess of the Eldar, no more. Some have rejected the statements on those grounds, that the Elvish compilers of The Silmarillion didn't actually know the truth but were merely speculating. But since Tolkien himself, speaking as author and sub-creator, more-or-less verified this idea, it's probably safe to accept it, as far as it goes.

    It has been widely noted that this conception leaves several questions unresolved. 1) Re: procreation, The Silmarillion says that "the Orcs had life and multiplied after the manner of the Children of Iluvatar" (p. 50), but nevertheless people continue to raise questions. For one thing, there was never any hint that female Orcs exist (there were two apparent references to Orc children, but both were from The Hobbit, and therefore may be considered suspect). 2) There is the question of why, if Orcs were corrupted Elves, their offspring would also be Orcs (rather than Elves -- a somewhat horrifying thought). This question leads to discussions of brainwashing vs. genetics, which are not altogether appropriate to the world of Middle-earth. 3) Finally there is the question of whether Orcs, being fundamentally Elves, go to the Halls of Mandos when they are slain, and whether, like Elves, they are reincarnated. (This last would explain how they managed to replenish their numbers so quickly all the time.) There is also some reason to think that Orcs, like Elves, are immortal. (Gorbag and Shagrat, during the conversation which Sam overheard, mention the "Great Siege", which presumably refers to the Last Alliance; it is possible to interpret this reference to mean that they were there and actually remembered it themselves.)

  2. What was the origin of the Trolls?

    [Question III.B.18 of the Tolkien Newsgroups FAQ contains updated information on this issue.]

    No one seems to know. Apparently, though, they were "made" (as opposed to "created" -- see LFAQ, Enemies, 1) by Melkor. Said Tolkien: "I am not sure about Trolls. I think they are mere 'counterfeits', and hence ... they return to mere stone images when not in the dark. But there are other sorts of Trolls, beside these rather ridiculous, if brutal, Stone-trolls, for which other origins are suggested." (Letters, p. 191) "Counterfeits" here means more-or-less that the Trolls have no independent life of their own but are puppets animated in some way by an external Evil Will. As for the other kind of Troll, the Olog-hai, no reference to their origin has been found, except for Appendix F: "That Sauron bred them none doubted, though from what stock was not known." However, they were definitely true Trolls, not large Orcs.

    The Troll adventure in The Hobbit should probably not be taken too literally as a source of Troll-lore -- it seems clear that it was much modified by the translator's desire to create familiarity. Thus, it seems unlikely that Trolls in Middle-earth spoke with Cockney accents, just as it seems unlikely that one of them would have been named "William".

V. H. Miscellaneous

  1. Who was Queen Beruthiel (who was mentioned by Aragorn during the journey through Moria)?

    The reference is to Book II, Ch 4 "A Journey in the Dark": " 'Do not be afraid!' said Aragorn. There was a pause longer than usual, and Gandalf and Gimli were whispering together; ... 'Do not be afraid! I have been with him on many a journey, if never on one so dark; ... He is surer of finding the way home in a blind night than the cats of Queen Beruthiel.' " (FR p. 325).

    This is a striking case of Tolkien's creative process. It seems that the name meant nothing when it first appeared: it just "came" as he was writing the first draft of the chapter. Later, however, he "found out" whom she "actually" was, his conclusions being reported in UT.

    She was the wife of King Tarannon of Gondor (Third Age 830-913), and was described as "nefarious, solitary, and loveless" (Tarannon's childlessness was mentioned without explanation in the annals). "She had nine black cats and one white, her slaves, with whom she conversed, or read their memories, setting them to discover all the dark secrets of Gondor,... setting the white cat to spy upon the black, and tormenting them. No man in Gondor dared touch them; all were afraid of them, and cursed when they saw them pass." Her eventual fate was to be set adrift in a boat with her cats: "The ship was last seen flying past Umbar under a sickle moon, with a cat at the masthead and another as a figure-head on the prow." It is also told that "her name was erased from the Book of the Kings (`but the memory of men is not wholly shut in books, and the cats of Queen Beruthiel never passed wholly out of men's speech')." (UT, pp 401-402)

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