V. C. Hobbits
- Did Frodo and the others (Bilbo, Sam, and Gimli) who passed over the Sea eventually die, or had they become immortal?
They remained mortal. Tolkien's conception was that a creature's natural lifespan was intrinsic to its spiritual and biological nature, and that this could not be altered save by a direct intervention of the Creator. There were three occasions when this did happen (Luthien, Tuor, Arwen), but it did not in the cases of Frodo & Co. Tolkien stated explicitly in more than one letter that Frodo's journey over the Sea was only a temporary healing, and that when the time came he and the others would die of their own free will.
- In The Hobbit, Bilbo called the spiders Attercop, Lazy Lob, Crazy Cob, and Old Tomnoddy. What do the words mean?
Notes in The Annotated Hobbit identify Attercop, Lob, and Cob as being taken from similar words in Old and Middle English for "spider" (indeed, the word for "spider" in modern Norwegian is "edderkopp"). The Oxford English Dictionary definition of Tomnoddy is given as "a foolish or stupid person." (Annotated Hobbit, 170-171)
As is well known, Tolkien used "Lob" again later. During the writing of Book IV he wrote to Christopher: "Do you think Shelob is a good name for a monstrous spider creature? It is of course only 'she + lob' ( == 'spider' ), but written as one, it seems to be quite noisome..." Letters, 81 (#70)
References: Hobbit, Ch VIII; Annotated Hobbit, 170-171 (Ch VIII, notes 8,9,10); Letters, 81 (#70).
Contributors: WDBL, Paul Adams, Simen Gaure
V. D. Elves
- Were Elves reincarnated after they were slain?
Yes. In addition to a number of general statements to this effect at least two Elves are specifically said to have been "re-embodied" after being slain: Finrod Felagund and Glorfindel (see LFAQ, Elves, 2). ("Re-embodied" is used rather than "reincarnated" because in the case of Elves (unlike what's usually meant in a human context) the spirit was reborn in a body resembling the original and furthermore all its former memories would be substantially intact).
- Was Glorfindel of Rivendell (whom Frodo met) the same as Glorfindel of Gondolin, who was slain fighting a Balrog?
This has been a matter of great controversy. It was unplanned by Tolkien, and therefore was something he had to decide after the fact. The only direct information in any of the books is a comment by Christopher in The Return of the Shadow (HoMe VI):
Some notes that were scribbled down at Sidmouth in Devon in the late summer of 1938 (see Carpenter, Biography, p. 187) on a page of doodles evidently represent my father's thoughts for the next stages of the story at this time:
Consultation. Over M[isty] M[ountains]. Down Great River to Mordor. Dark Tower. Beyond(?) which is the Fiery Hill. Story of Gilgalald told by Elrond? Who is Trotter? Glorfindel tells of his ancestry in Gondolin.
... Very notable is "Glorfindel tells of his ancestry in Gondolin". Years later, long after the publication of The Lord of the Rings, my father gave a great deal of thought to the matter of Glorfindel, and at that time he wrote: "[The use of Glorfindel] in LotR is one of the cases of the somewhat random use of the names found in the older legends, now referred to as The Silmarillion, which escaped reconsideration in the final published form of The Lord of the Rings." He came to the conclusion that Glorfindel of Gondolin, who fell to his death in combat with a Balrog after the sack of the city (II. 192-4, IV.145), and Glorfindel of Rivendell were one and the same: he was released from Mandos and returned to Middle-earth in the Second Age.
The Return of the Shadow, 214-215
["Trotter" was the original name of the mysterious stranger later called "Strider" (who at this stage of the composition was a hobbit); II and IV refer to other volumes in the HoMe series.]
A number of reasons have been advanced for not taking this at face value. Since Christopher's report of Tolkien's conclusion was not part of the rough drafts, the question of whether rough drafts can be canonical does not arise in this case. The suggestion that lack of premeditation is grounds for rejection also seems inadequate, since many elements were introduced with little thought of future consequences yet later became important parts of the mythos.
It is true that we have no examples of any other elf journeying eastwards to Middle-earth during the Second Age (though some did visit Numenor), but this is not enough to disprove the possibility of Glorfindel's having done so. There were in fact no direct statements either way, which means that Tolkien could have established whatever background he wanted to any story he might have written. The previous lack of specific information on this matter was no constraint.
The strongest objection is that the way Christopher presents this inspires less confidence than it might because he doesn't provide any direct quotes -- rather, he merely describes a "conclusion" that his father eventually "came to". Evidently, Tolkien never actually wrote his conclusion down. The matter therefore reduces to a question of how much one trusts Christopher, and whether one supposes that he might attach too much importance to a casual statement. The majority of readers appear to accept that this was indeed a thoughtful conclusion that Tolkien reached only after long deliberation (we do know that he and Christopher discussed the matter of Middle-earth often). A significant minority continue to reject it.
In the last analysis, of course, certainty either way is impossible, since no evidence beyond the above exists. On the one hand, we can at least say that Tolkien apparently saw no objection to the idea that a re-embodied Glorfindel could have returned. On the other hand, the usual caveats concerning unpublished material are even stronger than usual in this case, since he not only might have changed his mind before publishing but also might have done so before he wrote the story, or while he wrote it (not an unusual occurrence). Still, there seems a good chance that he would have stuck to the one Glorfindel idea, since he seems not to have come to the decision lightly.
References: Return of the Shadow (HoMe VI), 214-215 (First Phase, XII).
Contributors: WDBL, Robert Rosenbaum
- How were Eldar in Valinor named?
They had two given names ('essi'), one bestowed at birth by the father, the other later by the mother:
... and these mother-names had great significance, for the mothers of the Eldar had insight into the characters and abilities of their children, and many also had the gift of prophetic foresight. In addition, any of the Eldar might acquire epesse ('after-name'), not necessarily given by their own kin, a nickname -- mostly given as a title of admiration or honour; and an epesse might become the name generally used and recognised in later song and history (as was the case, for instance, with Ereinion, always known by his epesse Gil-galad).
On why 'Ereinion' ('Scion of Kings' (UT, 436)) was given this epesse:
It is recorded that Ereinion was given the name Gil-galad 'Star of Radiance' 'because his helm and mail, and his shield overlaid with silver and set with a device of white stars, shone from afar like a star in sunlight or moonlight, and could be seen by Elvish eyes at a great distance if he stood upon a height'.
[Gil-galad's "device of white stars" is shown in entry 47 of Pictures.]
The other epesse most familiar to readers of LotR was 'Galadriel', whose father-name was 'Artanis' ('noble woman') and mother-name 'Nerwen' ('man-maiden') (UT 229, 231). As for 'Galadriel', which was the Sindarin form of 'Altariel' (Quenya) and 'Alatariel' (Telerin) (UT, 266):
In the High-elven speech her name was Al(a)tariel, derived from alata 'radience' (Sindarin galad) and riel 'garlanded maiden' (from a root rig- 'twine, wreathe'): the whole meaning 'maiden crowned with a radiant garland', referring to her hair.
References: UT, 217, 229, 231, 266 (all Two, II), 436 (Index); Silm, 360 (Appendix, root -kal); Pictures, entry 47.
Contributors: WDBL, Paul Adams