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Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings

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     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 Manwë 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).
    • To be more precise, he expected to meet his opposing forces in the field of battle and for the life of him he would never had thought that someone would even try to sneak into Mordor willingly for any reason whatsoever (which is a fair thing to assume, seeing that it's Hell on Earth). Considering that the One Ring would corrupt all sentient races to bring it to him, Sauron did not think that anyone would be above the black influence of carrying it.
    • 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? 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-dûr, 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 Nazgûl steeds. They couldn't have crossed the mountains without being bothered 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 Nazgûl 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 Nazgûl 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 Mount 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 notably 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 and Sam back out of Mordor. It's ludicrous to assume J.R.R. didn't get the idea to fly them in. My personal Fan Wank is that the Eagles were simply too high profile and would have been spotted, then attacked by the Nazgûls 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 ;)
    • Word of God is that he didn't get the idea to fly them in.
    • He didn't get the idea to fly them in, but he did get the idea to fly them out? There's not THAT much difference between the two.
    • 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.
    • My take is that the Eagles weren't considered, as they were already known to be committed elsewhere (as in the Battle of the Five Armies in The Hobbit). The majority of the Eagles were later involved in the battles at Dale and Lothlórien, 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 Lothlórien 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.
    • That argument loses credibility once you consider that these Eagles spent a good part of the first age nesting right there in front of Morgoth's nose and the dark lord (which commanded a LOT more of power and war assets than Sauron) seemd unable to do anything about it, and of course they also helepd Eärendil to fight tons of flying dragons (including one the size of a mountain), and in all that time there was no mention of any fatalities among them. It could be argued that the Eagles in the third age perhaps weren't that good anymore, but they were key to the victory in the Battle of the Five Armies, and later had no problems fighting the airborne Nazgûl, and again no mention of any casualties within their ranks. Dangerous machines indeed!
    • 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 Nazgûl 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 palantírs 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 Nazgûl 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 Nazgûl had time to react.
    • Per the above, it doesn't matter in my 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-dûr.

  • 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 Nazgûl 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,note  it would have taken some time for him to do it. The Nazgûl 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 Nazgûl 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 Nazgûl, 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 Nazgûl, 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 Nazgûl, 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.
    • Precisely. The way I see it, a good author doesn't need to mend every possible plot-hole himself; he let's the world he created do that for him. Given that Tolkien put great emphasis on the corrupting presence of the Ring, it's hardly a stretch to think it would have affected the eagles as well. Given that Tolkien saw fit to give Mordor flying units, it's hardly a stretch to think that said flying units would have been utilised against the eagles. And so on. Sure, all of these could arguably qualify as "excuses", but they're still excuses directly based on what Tolkien said; It's not just drawn out of thin air. Tolkien's extensive world-building and attention to detail gives us the answer, even if the professor himself did not.
  • 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. Wraith King: I sense something...up there! ATTACK!!! 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 Manwë 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 smart and big, these are the Eagles of Manwë, they answer only to Manwë himself and are essentially an extension of his will into Middle-Earth. They would never agree to do this unless Manwë himself allowed it, and doing so would be involving 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 Manwë; 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, Lothlórien 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 Nazgûl 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 Manwë) to help in the first place. Note the plot does depend on the door to Mount Doom being unlocked!
    • It's a volcano, not a castle, you can't just 'lock the door'. For that matter, it's a volcano that is in a constant state of eruption during the time of the novels, so any door you did put up would be destroyed. It's stated outright that the road the hobbits follow to the Crack of Doom has to be continuously rebuilt due to being buried in lava. And even if there had been a locked door on the crack, there's all those other vents with lava flowing out that would have worked just as well.

  • 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 Manwë 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 Nazgûl 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, I have 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.

  • I 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 Nazgûl 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.
  • Quick note from The Hobbit on what the eagles will and won't do too: "The Lord of Eagles would not take them anywhere near where men lived 'They would shoot at us with their great bows of yew,' he said, 'for they would think we were after their sheep. And at other times they would be right. No! we are glad to cheat the goblins of their sport, and glad to repay our thanks to you, but we will not risk outselves for dwarves on the southward plains.'" The 'fully fledged' reason (if you'll excuse the pun) in the fully integrated version of the legendarium is of course that they are servants of the Valar and like the Istari banned from interfering directly (even in the first age they mainly mooched around the mountains surrounding Gondolin dissuading people who were getting too close for comfort). I'm not entirely sure why they were allowed to intervene in the battles they did, but certainly their rescue mission for Frodo and Sam is explainable — after all, the quest was done, the people of Middle-Earth had managed to do it all by themselves — they flew to rescue Frodo and Sam merely as a courteousy (saving two broken lives is not saving the earth after all)
  • The Eagles generally refuse to fly people for long distances, for any reason. Even though Gandalf was busy to get to Shire, they wouldn't take him farther than Rohan to find his own way from there. Most likely, as big as they are, they really aren't suited for steeds, and are quickly tired by a person sitting on their back.
  • The exact mechanic of how the Ring binds people to its thrall is never explored, but it's been theorized that it would make sense at every step of the story if the Ring exploits pride: Boromir thinks quite highly of himself and falls quickly, Frodo fails only when it dawns on him that he's about to single-handedly save the world, etc. And we're told the eagles are the proudest of all creatures. It could hardly fit together better if Tolkien had done it on purpose.
  • There is an another important angle that hasn’t really be mentioned above. The appeal of the eagles argument is that it is strategically superior to overland travel as a means of getting the Ring to Mount Doom so the Ring can be destroyed. The problem is that, strategically, the quest to destroy the Ring was doomed in any case. The Ring can’t be thrown into the fire. Isildur couldn’t throw it in, Frodo couldn’t throw it in, and the eagles couldn’t throw it in either. Using the eagles just causes the plan to fail more quickly. Gandalf knew (or guessed) this, he never really expected the plan to succeed on its strategic merits. His plan was for the free peoples of the West to show their worthiness and virtue by resisting Sauron and doing everything in their power to stop him, knowing it was hopeless, and trusting in divine providence to make things turn out right. The quest was essentially a show of faith. Trying to air-mail the Ring to Mordor by eagle would not have given divine providence enough time to kick in, so to speak. From one angle, I’m not sure the Fellowship had proven its “worthiness to be saved” until the events of the story kicked Gondor and Rohan from complacency into heroism, made the elves show their willingness to give up the stasis of the Three Rings, showed the courage of the hobbits, and so on. From a more practical angle, there would have been no Gollum and thus no victory. Gandalf didn’t know any of this specifically, but was wise about these things and had a lot of faith. Also, Gandalf’s mission was specifically to help people help themselves. For the free people of Middle-Earth to ask the servants of Manwë to solve the problem of the Ring would have been the exact opposite of this. I think it would have been viewed as morally questionable, the equivalent of telling the Valar “We have a big problem but it is really hard and we are lazy and unwilling to do dangerous things. You are better at solving it than we are. Please solve it for us and report back on the results.” Not a good way to get divine providence on your side.
  • Below is a summary to questions raised above, and answers givennote  (please feel free to edit/add/remove at leisure):
    • Why didn't the Fellowship use the eagles to fly to Mordor?
    • 1) Eagles flying in the sky would be noticed (rather easily) and targeted by Sauron (considering how easily Sauron once noticed Frodo when he stood on a tall hill), forcing the full bore of his will and the Nazgûl onto them (and probably some other creatures as well). It would ruin the idea of secrecy, exposing their plans to Sauron etc. (And no, Gandalf would not have been able to protect them and the Witch-King of Angmar would have the advantage).note 
    • 2) The eagles were Manwë's creatures and hence were tied to his will. They were not an all-purpose taxi service.
    • 3) The force of Sauron's will and border control would not have allowed creatures of Manwë into his domain (and Manwë isn't allowed to force the issue, being a Valar).
    • 4) The power of the Ring influences all living creatures, bending them to its will. It isn't entirely unlikely that it could nudge one of the eagles to drop Frodo or the Ring at the wrong time.
    • 5) Manwë is not allowed to influence the struggle for dominion over Middle-Earth in such a direct way (no Valar is, as otherwise it would just become an issue of who has the biggest stick, ahem)
    • 6) The eagles weren't obedient servants — they were fairly intelligent and had minds of their own — to be used for long journeys (even just taking the Fellowship to Lothlórien or Minas Tirith and not into Mordor itself would have been a problemnote ). See the above two comments for a quote from The Hobbit that elucidates things a little.
    • 7) Flying over Mordor would have posed a problem (even if you circumvented the entire country and came at Mordor from the west you would still be flying into the heart of Sauron's occupancy), and just "dropping the Ring in" wouldn't have been that simple (considering Nazgûl, the will of the Ring bending two creatures to its will in order to not be destroyed, and the likelihood of Sauron allowing an enemies' servants to fly over Barad-dûr uninterrupted is low)
    • 8) Sauron would have been either directly or indirectly been able to manufacture horrible weather conditions, and flying through a magically-induced thunderstorm would have caused...issues. (There's also the idea of using seige weapons, and causing Barad-dûr to errupt at an inconvenient time).
    • 9) The eagles, being the proudest of all creatures, just might be extremely susceptible to the Ring's spell.
    • I always figured this. The Eagles weren't just birds, they were powerful creatures and epic-scaled enough (the greatest had a 180'/55m wingspan) that they were quite possibly Maiar (like non-evil versions of the Balrogs or the Spiders) and wouldn't knowingly carry the Ring for the exactly same reason Gandalf and Galadrial wouldn't: The corruption of another powerful being would be a huge blow to Middle-Earth.
    • Why did the eagles come to get Frodo and Sam when they were lying on Mount Doom after destroying the Ring? Isn't that just a sappy Deus ex Machina?
    • 1) The eagles came in after Sauron was defeated and the Nazgûl were no longer in play. Hence there was no one to stop them from entering Mordor, while there would have been before. Also, Gandalf was the one who pushed them to go into Mordor to pick up Frodo and Sam after the Eagles came in to lend a last minute helping hand (in small numbers) — a desperate Gandalf is not someone you want to say no to for a five-minute pick up.
    • 2) The battle for Middle-Earth was over, so Manwë would have been allowed to intervene in helping tie up loose ends, as it were — (Manwë essentially being an Outside Context Character) — (note: or whoever influenced Manwë to lend a helping hand).
    • 3) The eagles themselves, unimpeded by Sauron's will, could have decided to help and save Frodo and Sam, and would have now be allowed to do so by Manwë (see point 2).
    • 4) Yes.note 
    • Did Tolkien just not think of the idea of using the Eagles, and was caught out when someone pointed out the idea to him?
    • 1) No, the idea of using creatures from a past age (the Eagles, Tom Bombadil) was explored at the Council of Elrond, and Gandalf did point out why it wouldn't be a good idea. The whole "secrecy, avoiding the attention of a powerful Evil Lord" problem was the reason in the case of not using the Eagles (if memory serves).
    • 2) No, he mentioned in a letter that the eagles were, like the Valar, an Outside Context Consideration, where, like Manwë just interfering, grabbing the Ring himself and throwing it into Mount Doom before Sauron even realised what was happening, was never going to happen (to paraphrase with my own example), neither was using Manwë's creatures. They were a Storybreaker idea, and he wanted to use them sparingly.
    • 3) Maybe, and he just made up a reason on the spot to fool us all into thinking that he had all angles covered. Could happen. Considering the ridiculous amount of care, depth and intricacy of all his work, this is probably not very likely though. There is the folder quote as well.'
  • Re: "Middle-Earth's Taxi Service." Can we at least retire forever the excuse: "Gandalf ain't the boss of the eagles. They can say no"? Yes, the eagles have free will (according to this argument), but if they won't deign to use that will to stop the enslavement, torture and death of millions of sentient creatures when they could easily prevent it, then they are such utter sociopaths as to be little better than Melkor himself and Gandalf is tainted in his association with them. And let's say that they are as evil as this would imply, is it not in their interest at all to stop Sauron? Their lives would be a lot more difficult with the Dark Lord in charge and he's probably not going to go easy on them after they helped Gandalf. (Unless the eagles are going to flatter their new boss in hopes of getting favors which, again, implies they are feathered devils.) But this contradicts the other eagle excuse that they can't intervene because they work for Manwë. Why would the head god/angel have such fell beasts as his messengers? (Also: "That is indeed the command of the Lady Galadriel who sent me to look for you, he answered." They clearly don't mind being bossed around by Elf-women.)
    • Considering the role of the eagles and Manwë in the legendarium (more or less, messengers of God), the question essentially reduces down to "Why does a all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good God allow suffering and evil in the world?" People way above the paygrade of bored tropers and bored Oxford linguistics professors have been debating this for ages with no clear consensus.
    • I actually think that the eagles not helping because Manwë said "no" is one of the better explanations, but what I meant is that there are two mutually exclusive eagle excuses employed by apologists (sometimes at the same time.) The first is that the eagles aren't under any orders and just can't be arsed to help prevent genocide. This excuse relies on them having free will but being evil. The second is that Manwë is stopping them from helping. This one relies on them NOT having free will (as they can't do anything without the boss's permission) but certainly wanting to help as any being of sufficient moral fiber to serve Manwë would want to do anything they could. (You can see people on this page switching back and forth between the two arguments.)
  • Even disregarding all of the above, the whole idea rests on the premise that the Ring could be destroyed by dropping it in the caldera of Mount Doom. But this is totally wrong. The Ring had to be destroyed in the specific place that it was created, which is the Crack of Doom, which is a cave inside the mountain. Note that Sam and Frodo don't hike all the way up to the top of the mountain, they go through a door on the mountainside and through a passageway into a cave. Dropping the Ring into the caldera wouldn't destroy it any more than dropping it into the caldera of a normal active volcano would. And the passage was way too small for a giant eagle to fly through. So at best the eagles could have dropped a rider off by the entrance. But the eagles would certainly be spotted as they were approaching, and even if an eagle did get to the mountain it and the rider would surely be met by a bunch of guards, or at least a rain of arrows.
    • They wouldn't have to actually go into Morder. Just drop the Company off at the border or at Lothlórien or somewhere. There were many ways they could have been useful besides actually flying Frodo to Doom.
      • Exactly. The thing most people who ask about this seem to miss is that getting the Fellowship to Mordor and maybe dropping the One Ring into Mount Doom isn't necessary for this to be a problem. However busy or stuck up the Eagles might be there's no reason they can't spare just a few of their number, spend say a week or so just picking the Fellowship up at Rivendel and then dropping them off as close to Mordor as they could safely get, thus cutting years off the journey which by itself would reduce the entire trilogy down to one book at best. This would kill most if not all the justifications for the Eagles not being involved. That, and WE may know that the One Ring can never intentionally be destroyed by anyone, but the characters don't, so it's no justification for it not so much as being brought up. The sole reason the Eagles aren't involved is exactly what Tolkien's letter stated it to be, because otherwise there would hardly be any story. Besides, the Eagles solely exist as a plot device to get the protagonists out of situations that Tolkien put them in that they couldn't get out of otherwise and are functionally nonexistent at any other time.
  • An overlooked fact is Mount Doom itself. The volcano is regularly spewing ash and poisonous volcanic gas into the air from the caldera. If the eagles tried to fly over the caldera, they and their riders would have been blinded. Then they would die from suffocating by the ash clouds, inhaling the poisonous volcanic gases or both; remember Boromir's quote "The very air you breathe is a poisonous fume..."
  • I don’t think it can be made more clear than the simple numbered points above.
But the eagles aren’t a taxi service because LOTR isn’t a video game for 12 year olds. It’s a tale of mythos and morality. Gwaihir won’t bear the ring bearer because he would be corrupted by the proximity of the ring. Gwaihir explicitly says he would be happy to fly Gandalf anywhere, anytime even if Gandalf were made of stone. But he won’t go to Mordor, or fly the ring around otherwise he risks corruption. Which means he is acting on behalf of middle earth. His orders from Manwe are to act as reconnaissance and communications. They do fight, but only at dire need. Why would you have creatures that can see through solid stone from 1000 miles off wasting their time ferrying people around? It’s like demanding $500 million observation satellites carry passengers instead of spending their time keeping an eye on enemy movements.It’s not a cheap storytelling trick, it’s what they are. If they change what they are then why not join, or try to supplant, Sauron? That’s the core of the story. What is it that makes them good? Because they’re nice? No, the eagles aren’t nice at all. They’re good because they don’t impose themselves on middle earth. They eat the occasional sheep and keep watch on the enemy. They don’t make people depend on them.Gandalf, or any of the powers on the good side could use the ring to ensure strategic victory: "War is upon us and all our friends, a war in which only the use of the Ring could give us surety of victory."Why didn’t they take that path? The same reason that if the eagles were at the beck and call of mortals they would make mortals dependent on them, and then the eagles become tyrants. Give us more sheep or we’ll stop flying you around. And if mortals didn’t like that but wanted them to keep flying them around they could threaten each other. Shoot down eagles that won’t be tamed. And wouldn’t that be a nice set of circumstances for Sauron?People keep saying “Have Gandalf make the eagles…” Well, how? How does he make them? They’re doing him a favor after all. If talking doesn’t work, we convince them by shooting them?Meanwhile how many people were involved in attacking Mordor? Plenty of humans, elves, dwarves, hobbits, etc. just sat on their fat asses while others risked their lives. Why do the eagles have to make the big sacrifices? Especially when people shoot them down with poisoned arrows when they’re just trying to eat lunch.The entire story concerns the difference between raw power and compassionate leadership. All the “make the eagles…” talk is all on the side of Sauron’s method.
  • What makes it odd is that the Eagles apparently were on their way into Mordor, since they were able to pick Sam and Frodo up so soon after the Ring was destroyed. The Eagles may be fast, but they're not fast enough to get from their homes in the Misty Mountains to the heart of Mordor that quickly. So the Eagles were apparently hanging around and able to fly into Mordor this whole time (or at least they were for the closing parts of the War) but didn't get involved in any way until it was all over.
  • There is one article in Russian discussing the subject, and it notes the following: Aside from one boast by Gwaihir, there is no mention of the Eagles being capable of carring people truly long distances, like from Rivendell to Mordor. As such, it is likely they could only have helped in part of the journey. And what is the most likely part where such help would have been critical? To Walk into Mordor. From Mordor's borders to Orodruin. The problem is, only Gandalf can possibly call for the Eagles, and by the time Mordor was reached, he was unavailable.
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     Balrog Wings 
"And the shadow spread out like two vast wings..."
  • The original Internet flame-war. Needless to say, Balrogs do not actually have wings.
    • Not only were they incapable of flight, but being creatures of flame and smoke, the reference to "wings", "winged speed" and the like, is a clear simile, as the quote above demonstrates.
  • On the other hand, some have argued that "...and the wings spread from wall to wall" is not a mixed metaphor but an actual canonical proof that wings existed. Those people would be right.
  • Then there are those who take a middle path and assert that wings and not-wings can coexist equally in a constant state of indeterminacy on a creature of insubstantial smoke depending on how you define your terms. These peace-loving peoplenote  are of course universally held in hatred and contempt; and in that conflict they would not long survive even as slaves.
  • There are many people who saw the film before they read the book. Word Of Jackson is that he was originally a wingman (who suggested — horrors! — a Balrog flying through the mines) only to be informed of the uncertainty by writers who worried any choice would ignite the simmering conflict and throw all the Internet into a second darkness. So the film-Balrog was deliberately portrayed with indeterminate status as to whether it has wings, or two vast wing-shaped smoky things. The games have interestingly picked up on this, with Balrogs that are capable of hopping, like flightless velociraptors (see flight capability question, below).

  • 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 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.

  • It's worth observing, in all the known cases in the Legendarium of Balrogs actually being killed, the leading cause of death (in fact 3 out of 3 cases) is plummeting - not what one would expect from creatures capable of flight.

  • Never mind the wings, did they wear bedroom slippers?
  • Guys, guys. what if Balrog wings are made from their shadows?

  • Mr Thorfan 64 will attempt to answer this. Maybe the wings have limited power and are more for gliding. It could be that to fly the Balrog needs a run-up. Therefore it couldn't fly when it was falling. Perhaps Gandalf's power prevented the Balrog from flying past him. Maybe the Balrog could have gained the strength to fly up again and Gandalf fighting it on the way down prevented this. Which makes it Fridge Brilliance that Gandalf falls despite hanging on in the Peter Jackson Fellowship of the Ring. His sword and staff had fallen after the Balrog. Without them he didn't think the Balrog could be defeated if it flew back up. Gandalf decided to just fall and stop the Balrog, making his fall in that film a deliberate Heroic Sacrifice.

    Eru aka God, the Ainur, and Divine Intervention 
  • 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.
      • I would add to this that sorrow is what often breeds beauty and wisdom. During the music, sorrow was from where it's beauty "chiefly came". Gandalf learns great wisdom from the Valar of sorrow and pity. Strife and conflict, in the end, only add to what Eru was trying to create.
    • 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.
    • Gandalf is explicitly thinking that Eru's hand is guiding the events of the War of The Rings.

  • 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 Númenóreans. 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.
    • You're right, they did intervene against Morgoth. And you know what happened when they did that? The power they summoned to defeat him was so great it shattered a continent and annihilated the same kingdoms they'd come to help. That's why they're not interfering directly anymore: if they got involved, so much destruction would ensue that it would be a Pyrrhic Victory at best.
    • They simply couldn't. Remember when the Valar called upon Eru and renounced their guardianship of the world? Most likely this meant that not only were mortals barred from finding the "straight road" to Valinor (unlike Elves who still could, but for them it usually was a one way-ticket), but also that they themselves couldn't return on a whim. Apart from the repercussions their first intenvention had, it was most likely too risky for them. Consider what Gandalf, Saruman etc. were reduced too; IIRC at some points it's mentioned that Gandalf's memories of his life as Olorín were somewhat blurred. And they also couldn't just waltz back into Middle-Earth, but had to tread ever so lightly. Odds are that a demysticised world couldn't support their collective awesomeness any longer.
    • Uh huh. That worked out great for Ar-Pharazôn the Golden. (See also: Fall of Númenor.)
    • 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?
    • It's also worth noting that even in the War of Wrath which destroyed Beleriand, the Valar were not necessarily even present - they sent armies of the Vanyar and Noldor, and eagles, and likely some Maiar (their host was commanded by Eönwë). The last time the Valar had unambiguously intervened in anything beyond Valinor was when they sacked Utumno and imprisoned Melkor, shortly after the Elves had awakened.
    • 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 menor.)
    • 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 Ehis 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 because 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 Aulë'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 Númenorians, 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.
    • Just to clarify, Sauron during the War of the Ring is actually stronger than Morgoth was during the War of Wrath. Morgoth had vented his powers into the fabric of creation in general and his minions in particular whereas Sauron have focused his into the One Ring. Because of this, and the very nature of Sauron's ringcraft, him wearing the One Ring makes him as strong as a Valar, which would require continent shattering combat to bring down.
    • At some point, you've got to let the kids solve their own problems. Otherwise, they'll just stay dependent on you.
      • Or resent you and become rebellious, which is what the Elves did with the whole Fëanor escapade. The Valar were explicitly trying not to repeat their mistakes from the Elder Days.

  • Why, at no point during the entire story, do either the Valar or Istari consider just physically dogpiling Sauron and dragging him off to face trial? "They destroyed a continent last time" is no excuse, Sauron with the Ring is totally incapable of any continent-cracking shenanigans or else he would have used them and won in the Second Age, without it he's barely capable of personally putting up a fight at all. Certainly not a match for even one Vala. His menace comes entirely from armies and strategy. He is, fundamentally, a traitor from their ranks and therefore their obligation to deal with.

    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.
    • On top of that, the lesser Rings of Power were not just mind control-devices, but also provided their wearers with power of their own. It's mentioned more than once that the Elven Rings were fueling the splendor of their realms in Middle-Earth, and that the Dwarven Rings were what helped them amassing the vast wealth of their kingdoms. Probably something likewise goes for the Human Rings. So the One Ring not only made the guy wearing it having the 19 most powerful individuals of the world at their balls, but also in some weird fate-bound way all but guaranteed that these individuals were actually going to become the most powerful individuals (or at least that was his plans). Apart from that, it's also implied somewhere in the background material that the Ring transferred some power on the wearer depending on his personal might; Sauron was genuinely afraid that Aragorn would claim the Ring, curb-stomp him with his powers as a Ring Lord and usurp his power as dark master.
    • 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.
      • Not at all, the fading of Magic and Elves had been scheduled since before they even appeared in Middle-Earth, with the eventual dominion of Men over the world being a necessary step in it's development established during it's very creation. Stuff Morgoth, not Sauron, did to Arda hastened the fading of Elves, and the effect of the Rings on the remaining powerful Elf realms might have done so as well, but it did not cause magic and elves to fade away. In fact, given that both Lothlorien and, to a much lesser degree, Rivendel are presented as time capsules of eras long ago, it could be speculated that those places only existed in their "magical", "otherworldly" state in the Third Age because of the rings and Sauron...Without the rings the Elves would probably have had a slower, more gradual decline during the duration of the Third Age, rather than the sudden fading and leaving at the end of the books, but it would have happened anyway.
    • 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 Númenor was broken when the Númenorians 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", I 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 a One Ring fits all"), where it wouldn't be found so easily. There's the possibility that the sympathetic magic required him to wear it like the other Ring-bearers 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, especially when I'm trying to 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 me 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-dûr 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-dûr 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 palantír. 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 palantír 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 palantír's powers, combined with Sauron's own. It's the filmmakers' 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!
    • Yes, they do.
    • 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 wander 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-dûr 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-dûr 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 Idiot Ball
      • While Sauron was wrong about nobody even thinking about destroying the Ring, he was absolutely right that nobody would be able to follow through on it. If he was holding the Idiot Ball for not predicting the quirk of fate that led to the destruction of the One Ring, then so was everyone except Eru. "Even the very wise cannot see all ends," after all.

  • 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.
    • My 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 selfish 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 Nazgûl, 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 invisible, 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 visible 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)?
    • That was just a dramatic convention of the movie. In the books, the Last Alliance laid siege to Barad-dûr for seven years, and Sauron only came out to personally lead his army out of desperation since they were winning.
    • Even in the movie, it was outright stated that for the Last Alliance, "Victory was near." Sauron's forces were losing the battle big time, he had to go out there and fight because the enemy was already in his metaphorical living room and about to break down the bedroom door.
    • As stated, this is entirely a movie invention. In the books Sauron is just beaten. The Last Alliance destroys his armies, and Elendil and Gil-Galad kill Sauron. There was no luck or trickery. He just loses even with the Ring. The movie changed it for the obvious reason of not wanting to spend forever to explain the dwindling of power in the world, etc, and to head off the audience wondering why the heroes don't just kick his ass again.

  • 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?

    • We don't know how far East or South they went. Given there's lots of Númenóreans who settled well south of Gondor (Umbar is the northernmost of the Kings' Men's cities), and "Easterlings" settled as far west as Dunland (ie they're white Europeans), they could be well into Sauron's domains and still within mostly European-looking populations. Tanned, black-haired, light-eyed Caucasians occur in the real world intermittently from northwestern Europe to northern India (alongside fairer and darker phenotypes as appropriate geographically). As I recall, the only explicitly non-white people we see are one unit of black soldiers from the far South on the Pelennor Fields. Or they went further, into areas with very distinct populations, but presented themselves as foreign travelers or mystics.
    • Maybe they did. Tolkien, as far as I know, never actually provided physical descriptions of Aladar or Pallandro.

  • 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 didn't even have to order Gollum to let go. He had already pronounced his geas.
    • 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.
    • It's likely that Frodo was simply giving Gollum an empty threat to get Gollum to back off, not that he was actually able to use the Ring to dominate Gollum.
      • Frodo made two different threats: "If I, wearing the Ring, were to command you, you would obey," and "If you touch me again, you will be cast into the fire." Either Frodo thought that the second threat was sufficient, and thus it wasn't necessary to fulfill the first threat, or he just wasn't considering that possibility. But since it turned out that the second threat was sufficient (Gollum having fallen into the fire after touching Frodo again, exactly as Frodo threatened), this is mostly academic. But the second threat certainly wasn't empty, whether Frodo realized that or not.
    • Alternatively, according to the book, the second threat comes from a wheel of fire, which could mean it wasn't Frodo who told Gollum he'd be thrown into the fire if he touched him; it was the Ring.

  • 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 Ring "grants power according to its bearer's stature". In other words, the more powerful you are to begin with, the more power it grants you. Hobbits aren't very powerful at all, hence why invisibility is the only thing the Ring does for them. If someone more powerful (Aragorn, a Balrog, Gandalf, Elrond, etc.) were to get a hold of it and use it, we'd see more powers that it possessed.
    • Fridge Brilliance, Hobbits have the innate ability to sneak past others "to pass unnoticed by most if they choose" as Gandalf put it. Therefore, it's this particular ability out of everything that the One Ring enhances in the hands of a Hobbit, just as it would enhance the magic power of a Wizard. It would also explain why both Frodo and Bilbo happen to become fairly competent at fighting when need be despite neither having actual training or combat experience, the One Ring is enhancing their pretty pitiful strength, speed, and stamina to a level where they can actually fight.

  • Is there actually a reason why the Ring can only be unmade in Mount Doom? Was Sauron unable to circumvent it being unmade in such a manner?
    • Hottest place on Middle-Earth. The general idea with metal is that the higher the temperature used for heat-treating, the higher the temperature would need to be to un-treat it. No other source of heat would even come close to damaging it.
    • Google the magical 'Law of Contagion'. These rules are what 'feels right' both to real-life humans who believe in magic, and to writers who create fantasy settings. By the 'Law' of Contagion ('voodoo doll rules'), anything/anyone an object touches maintains a mystical connection to it. Sammath Naur is the most symbolically significant location in all of Middle-Earth for the Ring - the equivalent of standing in the very spot someone was born in order to place a death curse on them.
    • Simple, The One Ring is in reality just a simple ring made out of gold or some similar substance, it's the MAGIC that Sauron put upon it when forging it that gives it it's unusual properties including what makes it impossible to destroy the Ring by any other means other than the place it was originally forged, namely Mount Doom. In other words, A Wizard Did It.

  • It seems to be an ironclad assumption that Sauron could never even conceive of someone opting to destroy the One Ring rather than keep it. Yes, the idea of destroying something that powerful would, logically, be anathema to a being as power-mad as Sauron: doing so out of selflessness, heroism, or idealism would be beyond his capacity to accept. But isn't there actually one reason to destroy the Ring that would make perfect sense even to Sauron ... namely, the coldly-intellectual realization that keeping it was, in itself, guaranteed to either get the bearer killed messily by others striving to possess it, or else transformed into something horrible (a Ringwraith, another Gollum, dragon-chow), like everyone else who'd ever worn it or its corrupted counterparts? Sauron may not comprehend good, but surely he can comprehend self-preservation.
    • No. Because in Sauron's mind, obviously someone that has the Ring would attempt to make use of its power to protect himself from such threats. That's precisely why Aragorn's gambit in The Return of the King works: Because he's playing to Sauron's belief that anyone who claimed the Ring would attempt to use it for their own ends.
    • The Ring isn't impossible to master for sufficiently powerful individuals. Yes, they will be twisted and turned to evil, but they won't automatically reduced to Sauron's minions. Sauron was genuinely afraid that someone else was going to do what he would have done without flinching.
    • Once you have the Ring in your hand, enlightened cynical self-preservation just doesn't enter your mind. The Ring becomes your answer to everything. You just stop thinking logically.

  • Why didn't someone suggest for Isildur to heat treat the Ring in Mount Doom than pour his own blood along with the blood of multiple Elf Lords into the Ring so that his will and theirs would be tied to it? That's how Sauron turned the Ring he created into his Soul Jar so why couldn't someone suggest for Isildur to strengthen the Ring!?! The Isildur most likely would be too afraid of damaging the Ring to listen to such a suggestion yet why haven't we heard of anyone making the suggestion in the first place!?!
    • What makes you think that would work? Sauron is one of the most skilled craftsmen (crafstmaiar?) to have ever lived; I doubt anyone short of Aule or Feanor (the former of whom is a hands-off divinity, the latter is dead) would be able to modify his masterwork. In any case, even if it was that easy, tying your own life-force to the Ring sounds like a great way to put yourself under the Ring's control all the faster, and does absolutely nothing to prevent Sauron from coming back, so I'm not even entirely sure what the benefit is - you seriously think Isildur's will is a match for Sauron's? If you just want to make Isildur immortal, that's also a really bad idea, as the race of Men are not meant to be immortal and their bodies and souls can't handle it - case in point, the Nazgul.
  • Tolkien explicitly said that no mortal could use The One Ring against Sauron:
    In any case a confrontation of Frodo and Sauron would soon have taken place, if the Ring was intact. Its result was inevitable. Frodo would have been utterly overthrown: crushed to dust, or preserved in torment as a gibbering slave. Sauron would not have feared the Ring! It was his own and under his will. Even from afar he had an effect upon it, to make it work for its return to himself. In his actual presence none but very few of equal stature could have hoped to withhold it from him. Of mortals no one, not even Aragorn. In the contest with the Palantír Aragorn was the rightful owner. Also the contest took place at a distance, and in a tale which allows the incarnation of great spirits in a physical and destructible form their power must be far greater when actually physically present.

  • I would imagine that Sauron knows of the plan to sneak the Ring into Mordor and destroy it at Mount Doom at least by the time he has formed a solid alliance with Saruman (who certainly knew this). What reason, apart from your garden variety villain overconfidence, would Sauron have not to have round-the-clock guard at the entrance to the cavern into Mount Doom? Maybe have a nice solid locked iron gate built there while you are at it. Having, say, twenty orcs guarding the site wouldn't be too much of a drain on his attack forces.
    • Because Sauron did not know of the plan to destroy the Ring (and, so far as I'm aware, neither did Saruman, who defected prior to the Council of Elrond). In fact, the book explicitly makes the point that Sauron could never imagine why someone would want to destroy the Ring, since throwing away such a tremendous source of power is so completely antithetical to the way he views the world (and note that he's not entirely wrong — at the Crack of Doom, with the Ring's power at its height, it seems that no one could work up the will to deliberately destroy it — Frodo certainly couldn't). When Frodo puts the Ring on in Sammath Naur and Sauron realizes both that he's there and the only possible reason for it, he freaks out, because it's a danger that would never have occurred to him. So far as he'd been aware up to that point, either Aragorn or Gandalf had (and was using) the Ring.
    • Indeed, Gandalf outright says they were very lucky that Sauron never imagined they would try to destroy the ring. Otherwise, Sauron would focus all his efforts on locking down the Cracks of Doom, which would doom the Free Peoples completely.
    • Sauron does certainly display "garden variety villain overconfidence" though, in a related matter: his failure to adequately respond to the reports from Cirith Ungol. For all the Mouth of Sauron's gloating at the Black Gate, Sauron nevertheless knows that whatever the infiltrators' plan might have been, it has not failed - he has captured one hobbit's equipment, but the hobbit himself has got away again, and the other guy was never captured at all. He has nothing to give any indication as to whether they then abandoned their mission or carried on with it, and until he can confirm that they have abandoned it he should assume that they haven't. It is, after all, a pretty serious border infraction, looking at what Sauron does know:
    • Someone has defeated Shelob - the first time anyone has done so.
    • Someone has defeated the Watchers - again, not the sort of thing your common or garden warrior is capable of.
    • The one they captured was a hobbit. OK so they didn't find the Ring on him, but Sauron does know that hobbits are deeply involved and the mere presence of one is suspicious.
    • Especially as the hobbit they captured was evidently a pretty important guy, since he was wearing a mail shirt worth enough to buy an entire province.
    • Someone then busted him out of the tower. At the same time, the entire garrison was wiped out. We as readers know the infiltrators didn't do it, but anyone without reader privileges would reasonably consider that they more than likely played at least some part.
    • Within a minute of their escape from the tower, a Nazgul was on the scene, yet they had already vanished without trace.
    • So from Sauron's point of view, one hobbit and at least one other person capable of extreme levels of badass are now loose within his realm, on some covert mission which he has no idea of the purpose of. This should raise his suspicions: he has no idea what they are trying to do, but they evidently considered it worth doing and by all the evidence put someone extremely capable on the job. Any commander worth his salt would surely give some consideration to the idea that this unknown purpose could be of great importance and the force marching on the Black Gate in such an ostentatious manner is actually a diversion. Yet Sauron's only response is to send out a distinctly half-arsed search party which gives up in a couple of days without finding anything. He knows that he has a vast advantage in numbers, and he could easily spare a few thousand orcs to comb the area without affecting his ability to walk over Aragorn's contemptibly small army. And he does not know for certain that Aragorn has the ring; it is merely a strong probability. Sauron's exclusive concentration on that probability and consequent failure to effectively cover his arse despite having ample resources to do so does rather bespeak overconfidence, and indeed proves to be his undoing.
      • Information delay. The escape was going on while the battle at Minas Tirith had Sauron's attention, and he didn't learn about it until Shagrat reached Barad-dur two days later.note . As far as he was concerned Frodo was a lone spy, and the "great Elf warrior" Shagrat's self-serving lie to cover up the Orcs' internecine fight (for which he promptly had him executed, per Word of God). To weigh the situation even more heavily against Shagrat's account, the mass murder at Cirith Ungol was the result of infighting by the orcs. Tolkien, a former Army signals officer, was well aware that information usually arrives late and garbled, something that is hard to remember in the Internet age. Besides, Sauron already "knew" that Aragorn had the Ring.....
    • Sauron probably assumed that whoever broke through Cirith Ungol was sent there as a Gondorian spy. As for it being a hobbit, well, that actually makes some sense: hobbits are well-known to be good at disappearing, which combined with their small stature would make them excellent spies. The presence of the mithril shirt also makes sense in that case: it's a light, easily concealable armor that provides excellent protection, exactly the kind of armor you'd put on a spy infiltrating the most dangerous place in Middle-Earth, and Gondor has the economic and industrial power to provide that armor. So from Sauron's perspective you have a couple of spies wandering around Mordor, evidently some tough warriors, but two very powerful warriors are still no match for an army of orcs, not to mention the Nazgul. As far as he's concerned, these spies aren't a very big threat at all. Also, Aragon's army didn't march on the Black Gate until many days after they entered the realm, so it's likely they were spying for the army that is now marching on the Gate. Again, he doesn't suspect that they have the Ring because why would anyone risk entering Mordor alone and in secret if they had such power in their grasp? Whatever the spies' mission is, it pales before this army lead by a guy who is apparently overconfident and certain in his strength, which is indicative of having the Ring from Sauron's point of view.

    The Rings of Power 
  • (Having not read the books) We know the Rings of Men turned them into Nazgûl, 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 three by the start of Fellowship, including the one taken from Thráin in Dol Guldur. The other four 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 Círdan 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.
    • And the One is basically the operating system all those programs run under - hence they lose all their efficiency when it's brought down.
  • 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 Lórien'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 Lothlórien.
    • 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 Nazgûl.
    • 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 Fëanor and Aulë are said to be skilled enough. Neither of them were available to help the Fellowship, and I wouldn't trust Fëanor anywhere near the One Ring, anyway.
    • Mind what you say. Fëanor 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!
    • I'm not so sure. Someone above said something to the effect of "wearing the Ring basically gives you Valar-level Reality Warping powers", which is in line with what the Ring itself inspires its bearers to think it can do. Now imagine Fëanor, the Ultimate (mortal) Crafter, getting his hands on that...
    • 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 Fëanor is less that the Ring would enslave him and more that he'd reverse-engineer the thing, and Fëanor 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 Aulë 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 Aulë 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 Aulë 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 Aulë is Tom Bombadil...
    • Plus, the dragon would have to actually be willing to destroy the Ring (or tricked in some way). However, the dragons we see in canon seem much more likely to outsmart the bearer and take the Ring for themself. Some of them might even have the smarts and force of personality to give Sauron a run for his money. Could you imagine how destructive a dragon v. Sauron war would be? Now, to give you nightmares, Bilbo wears the Ring in the same room as Smaug.

  • 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.
    • The only volcano a Maia is currently using as a forge, and maintaining foot access into the magma chamber (and no, I don't know how that works). Most volcanos don't have superhot lava lying round in pools you can just walk up to — either the stuff at the surface is relatively cool (and may be solidified, blocking the pipes), or there's an actual eruption taking place right now, which means you can't get near it.
    • And not simply "using", but exploiting and modifying. Sauron didn't simply plop an anvil down in Mount Doom and call it a day; he used his powers to enhance and emphasize the natural properties of the volcano, until it could do what he needed it to do. The fact that it's protected by several near-impassable mountain ranges, giving it a natural strategic location, just made it all the more ideal.
    • Middle-Earth is supposed to be fantasy pre-history western Europe. The Shire is in roughly the same place as England, and the distances given put Mordor roughly where Italy is. Without crossing the sea, Italy really does contain the closest active volcanoes to the British Isles.

  • 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 Nazgûl under Sauron's influence, and Gollum had gradually changed from the hobbit-like Sméagol 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 Ringwraith (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.
    • We're told that Gollum stopped wearing the Ring (except when he needed to be invisible), and that's why he didn't become a wraith. That's presumably why Sauron couldn't directly control him, either: the Ring spent most of its time on that little rocky island, not Gollum's finger.

  • What happened to the Nine Rings that the Nazgûl 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 Nazgûl 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 Nazgûl keep." Having them attached to the spirits of the Nazgûl 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.
    • The Nazgûl had worn their rings for so long and had become so dominated by them (and the One) that they no longer had to wear them for Sauron to enslave them. Sauron removed their rings and kept them at Barad-dur "So it is now: the Nine he has gathered to himself; the Seven also, or else they are destroyed." With the destruction of the One, the Nine would ultimately be rendered powerless, and were probably buried in the destruction of Barad-dur.
    • Word of God: Once the Nazgûl were thoroughly dominated, Sauron took their Rings back and kept them, ensuring that they were permanently, irrevocably enslaved to his will. Naturally, once the One was destroyed they just became ordinary bits of jewelry and probably were destroyed in the fall of Barad-dûr.

  • 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 cowable, 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 Dáin II Ironfoot, via a Nazgûl messenger, if he could find AND return the One Ring to Sauron. The messenger did not identify the One Ring as such, simply saying a hobbit, who Dáin and his friends once knew, had stolen "a trifle that Sauron fancies", and Dáin would be greatly rewarded if he helped Sauron get it back. He refused.
  • 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 Nazgûl 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 (Sméagol, 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 Nazgûl 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 opportunity 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 then went on a long, dangerous quest to destroy 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 Nazgûl.

  • An obvious question that just occurred to me: The Rings of Power were actually made by the great Elven smith Celebrimbor, using lore that Sauron gave him in the guise of Annatar. So Celebrimbor made the other rings, while Sauron forged the One Ring himself in secret. But...why? If Sauron had the knowledge and the ability to make the rings, why outsource the job to the Elves? And not just any Elves, but an entire nation of Noldoran craftsmen led by the grandson of Feanor, the immensely-powerful Knight Templar enemy of the Forces of Evil in Middle-Earth? The argument could be made that the Rings of Power would only work if they were made by the races they were meant to control, but Sauron gives them away to both Dwarves and Men, who had no direct part in their making. Why did he need the Elves at all? Was there some exchange of knowledge going on? Did Celebrimbor have some lore that even Sauron didn't have? Was Sauron just reveling in the irony of having his mortal enemies doing his dirty work unawares?
    • The Rings of Power were made in cooperation between Sauron, who taught them the technique, Celebrimbor and other, unnamed, Elven smiths. Celebrimbor only made the Three Rings on his own, using the knowledge that he had accumulated in making the other Rings. As for why, Sauron was trying to gain the loyalty and trust of the most powerful Elves left in the Middle-Earth in order to control them. They would have been far less likely to trust in gifts that they didn't understand, being great craftsmen and having survived for millennia of war against Morgoth's deceptions. Also, since the purpose of the Rings was ostensibly to permanently tie down the connections to the things that the Elves loved about Middle-Earth, it made much more sense for them to decide for themselves what kinds of properties they wanted the Rings to have. Incidentally, the Rings were originally specifically meant for the Elves, Sauron only gave the Seven and Nine away to Dwarves and Men once his original scheme failed.
    • I believe it's mentioned somewhere in Tolkien's notes that Sauron did not have the knowledge and information to make the rings. To bind his own essence into the Rings, Sauron needed the secrets of binding that Feanor had discovered in binding the Light of the Trees into the Silmarils and passed on to Celerimbor and the other elf-smiths.

  • Also, Tolkien makes an explicit point that the three Elven Rings were untouched by Sauron: Celebrimbor used the techniques he learned from Sauron to make them, but Sauron had no direct hand in their creation. So Sauron clearly wasn't there all the time, watching what the Elves were doing with his knowledge. How was that even possible? It seems out of character for a Control Freak Chessmaster like Sauron to have so little control over the direction of his Master Plan. Not much published material exists on Celebrimbor's personality, but as an ostentatious master craftsman from a long line of ostentatious master craftsmen, he doesn't seem like the type who could keep that big of a secret for very long...
    • Sauron had to go back to Mordor to work on the One Ring. He couldn't be everywhere at once. It's also possible that he didn't expect that anyone would have the means to create new Great Rings without his help — arrogance is one of his defining character traits, after all.
  • If Sauron got three of the Dwarf Rings back, why didn't he use them to make more Nazgûl?
    • Too many unknowns to say for sure. It's possible that the Dwarves' possession and use of their rings could have changed their functioning on a basic level, and they simply couldn't be used for something else. It could have been that they were damaged in the process of retrieving them. Or perhaps there simply wasn't enough time: It takes centuries of living with a Ring of Power to turn a Mortal Man into a Nazgûl, and Sauron couldn't afford to wait around that long.
    • Sauron made the original nine Nazgul when he had the One, dominating their minds once and forever. If Sauron would distribute the remaining Dwarf-rings among Men while not having the One, the result would be... free-willed Nazgul. And free-willed Nazgul are the last thing Sauron needs.

    Nazgûl 
  • If the Nazgûl 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 Nazgûl 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 Nazgûl did very little physical fighting. That just isn't their forte; their greatest power is always fear.
    • The Nazgûl are incorporeal beings. If a Nazgûl 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 Nazgûl 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 Nazgûl are whatever Black Númenóreans 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-dûr.
    • 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 Nazgûl were pretty boss.
  • Why did Sauron enchant nine of the Rings to transform their wearers into Nazgûl, 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.
    • If the Witch-King is any indication of the general evilness of rule of the nine kings, getting a wraith for king would probably make little difference for most of the subjects concerned.
  • Weathertop. I'm somewhat confused as to just how capable the Nazgûl 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 Númenórean 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 simply 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 nearly worked, and I guess the Nazgûl 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 tried 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-Nazgûl Blade (Which one of them lead to the Nazgûl 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.
    • The point in the book that the Witch-King retreats after wounding him is when Frodo prays to Elbereth. Even if they don't seriously expect her to help, they're not going to risk the 1% chance when they can just back off and wait.
    • 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 Ring-bearer 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 Nazgûl'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 Nazgûls 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 Nazgûl. The horses are explicitly said to be normal horses that were simply raised around the Nazgûl so they wouldn't react violently to them the way ordinary animals do.
    • If I recall correctly, one reader during Tolkien's time wrote a letter to him asking if the fell-beasts were pterosaurs, based on their description (the films leave out the beaks that they have in the books), and Tolkien wrote back that he had never considered them as being similar to pterosaurs while writing but admitted that they were very "pterodactyllic" and may have been descended from a relict population of pterosaurs. Personally, I am of the opinion that they are, indeed, the last living pterosaurs and, like many other creatures, have been enslaved by Sauron.
    • No. They're all that remains of the ancient vampires in their might. Yes, you read that right. Vampires. They looked like giant, batlike creatures, and were actually minor Maia in that shape. There are no records of them by that name after the First Age, but there are still evil, blood drinking bats that accompany Sauron's forces. And when Sauron himself took vampire shape in the Lay of lethian ,the description is strikingly similar to that of a fell beast...
  • Now, there was only one Nazgûl that we ever learned his name, and that was Khamûl the Black Easternling, ruler of both Rhûn 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 Rhûn 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 Khamûl as a Angel, and be more willing to fight for him if he's directly leading them, right?
  • Did the Witch-King really die when Éowyn stabbed him? Gandalf states earlier in the book that the Ringwraiths can't truly die while Sauron lives. Was the Witch-King truly gone, or only disembodied, so he had to return to Sauron where he could have been restored later, if the Ring hadn't been destroyed and Sauron killed?
    • There's some evidence that the Witch-King did somehow endure, since his destruction ends with a line about his voice "never again being heard in that age of the world." Although between the specific spells laid on Merry's blade, Sauron's reduction to impotence, and the destruction of the Nine Rings, the odds are that he'd never be able to recover the powers he had when he was - well, not 'alive'... Less dead?
    • I take the "that age" phrase as a hint to Dagor Dagorath, not some prior resurrection. Though it is possible some men will start to worship him at some point - just like Morgoth and Sauron came to be worshipped.
    • Tolkien explicitly states in one of his letters that Sauron could have restored the Witch-King given time.
  • From an in-universe perspective, the whole idea of the Nazgul's identities being a mystery. Among the people of Middle Earth, their origin as kings of men seems to be common knowledge, yet no-one seems to be able to recall something as simple as their names. Surely, if nothing else, their identities would have been recorded by the elven smiths who originally forged the rings, right?
    • Literature/Eragon has a magic "damnatio memoriae" maybe something of the sorts is going on here?
    • Why would the smiths remember? Besides all being dead (Sauron made sure of that), the Elven-smiths made the Rings for themselves. It was Sauron who distributed the Sixteen to Dwarves and Men. As to not being remembered- how many kings of petty kingdoms from 4500 years ago are remembered today?
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    Orcs and the nature of Evil 
  • What exactly is it that makes Orcs irredeemably evil?
    • Orcs were made by 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 theories out there are that the dragons ARE lesser maia that Morgoth crammed into that form and put in Shapeshifter Mode Lock
    • Eru 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 Númenóreans 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."
    • Orcs aren't irredeemably evil, just very very hard to bring to a Heel–Face Turn. So much so that the easiest way is to kill their bodies, sending their spirits to the Halls of Mandos so that he can deal with it. It's his job.
    • In fact, one way that Sauraman might have gotten involved with orcs is by attempting (out of pride and a desire to do good) to redeem them - and failing.
    • At least one adaptation showed dissent among orcs as to their willingness to fight implying many were slaves to sauron and would rather be left alone. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdXQJS3Yv0Y

  • 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 separate and only get together with the males for the purpose of reproduction.
    • We only see orcs in (apparently) all-male war situations, and humans in that situation become unusually violent. Furthermore, the violence we do see is mostly between ethnic groups or units answering to different officers, rather than within them. The exceptions are enforcing military discipline a long way from home, and fighting over illegal loot: neither of these are circumstances where modern militaries shine, never mind orcs! There could well be less intra-group violence in non-combat situations.
    • And, in fact? that would also explain their Always Chaotic Evil nature: the only orcs we see are either soldiers of evil overlords, who are probably brainwashed from early age or savage warriors who are simply proud warrior race guys.
    • "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." ~J. R. R. 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 LoTR 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 Tolkien 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?
    • Uruks are a specific "race" of Orcs, the product of centuries of selective breeding by Sauron. Whereas Morgoth was perfectly happy with the Orcs being this chaotic rabble of nightmares destroying everything, Sauron wanted total control and order of Middle-Earth, and the Orcs as they were weren't very useful for that purpose. So he went about "improving" them, selecting for strength and intelligence, until he basically had a race of Super Soldiers to do his bidding. These are the Uruk-Hai. Saruman did something similar to breed his army, but it's only ever vaguely implied what he did. The whole Man-Orc Hybrid theory is put forth by Treebeard, because there's something different about Saruman's Orcs that no one can quite put their finger on, but it's never explicitly confirmed. It's not impossible for an Uruk-like Orc to be born naturally, since Uruk-ness comes out of natural traits Sauron selected for, but a true Uruk-Hai is not a natural creature.
    • Just to confuse matters, they may not be natural distinctions at all: Orc is a translation into English of Uruk; and Uruk-Hai (if I have my black Speech correct) means something like orc-folk, orc people. Saruman's lot use Uruk-Hai to exclude others, which suggests they may not view them as proper orcs at all - suborcish, rather than subhuman, and as with human races and racists, the differences may be more of population genetics and cultural stereotypes than essential types. This doesn't preclude Saruman crossing in occasional human bloodlines, either, into some of his stock (I'm probably carrying Neanderthal genetic material, which doesn't affect my species status!). There do seem to be significant phenotypic differences between "breeds" of orcs, but this could either be founder effect or recent selection for the jobs at hand. It's even possible that it's not genetic at all: developmental plasticity (the same genes being expressed differently as a response to external stimuli) could account for the differences we see.

  • 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 Collector's Ultimate Edition was, in my opinion, a step too far. Magic in Middle-Earth should be subtle.
    • Gandalf's magic wasn't exactly subtle when he fought the Nazgûl 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 Back Story.
    • 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 Lúthien 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.
    • She probably did something like cause a forest's worth of trees to grow up and undermine it's foundations (Magrat does something similar on a smaller scale in Weird Sisters).
    • 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 Lúthien 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.
    • The Three Rings are said to allow their wearers to make areas basically immune to the passage of time. What if they can also do the reverse? "Dol Guldur, have 2000 years of erosion in one nanosecond!"
    • Galadriel and Lúthien certainly had incredible powers, but all magic worked in more subtle ways in the books than depicted in most media. When Sauron battled Lúthien, he was defeated in wolf-form by Huan and Lúthien 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.
    • There's the very interesting passage after the Chamber of Mazarbul. Gandalf first of all tried to "put a shutting spell on the door ... but to things of that kind rightly requires time, and even then the door can be broken by force". Then the Balrog notices him, and starts using a counterspell to force the door open against Gandalf's hold; Gandalf panics: "I had to speak a word of Command. That proved too great a strain. The door burst in pieces ... and I was thrown backwards down the stairs. All the wall gave way, and the roof of the chamber as well." From an earlier description, there was also a "stab of white light". It seems from this that initially the magic used is just a tug of war. Once Gandalf speaks the word of command, either he can't control the forces he's using, or the physical door and wall can't; hence the explosion. It doesn't seem like a deliberate use of magic to blow things up, and neither he nor the Balrog tries it again.
  • 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=1258
    • 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 worshiped as a god by those very same ghosts... strikes me 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 Nazgûl rode, who were conditioned to the mind numbing fear from birth, with nearly every other horse who meets a Nazgûl. 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.
    • Specifically, when Aragorn recruits the dead he says "Now I go to Pelargir upon Anduin, and ye shall come after me. And when all this land is clean of the servants of Sauron, I will hold the oath fulfilled, and ye shall have peace and depart for ever." So by releasing them after taking the coast he was fulfilling his promise to them.

    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. Lúthien 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 preservation", 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 (Fëanor).
    • 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), very few were actually born in Middle-Earth (Maeglin, Finduilas, Gil-galad, Voronwë).
    • Elves get to have natural in-built birth control: as soon as an elf stops wanting more children, BAM! menopause. Probably painless, easy, no-hassle menopause, too.
    • Possible Fridge Brilliance: Elves are completely 'of this world', that is, their souls are bound to Middle-Earth and they don't pass into another world upon death like Men. That means there is no outside source of Elven souls, instead, Elven parents put a piece of their own spirits into their children. This is why the only one Elven couple had seven children, Féanor and Nerdanel, who was almost utterly exhausted by this. It's not balance of nature, since Tolkien's Elves aren't all the typical 'one with nature' kind. It's just that Elven souls are a very limited resource.
  • 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.
    • Judging from the description of Elrond as looking neither old nor young, they probably actually do look like hybrids. As for not choosing, they apparently end up mortal by default.
    • There are several occasions where people can't tell the difference between elves and (young, good-looking) humans — even Aragorn, who's grown up in Rivendell, falls for this. And Elrond's family at least are explicitly allowed to live as elves until they decide once-and-for-all. About Elrond's appearance in The Hobbit, apparent agelessness seems to be a characteristic of powerful elves (cf Galadriel and Celeborn).
    • Usually Half-Elven DON'T get to choose which Kindred to belong to. In the full account of Eärendil reaching Valinor and speaking with the Valar, Mandos states that possession of any "human" blood makes one mortal (from "The Lost Road"; sadly no later text exists). The default state of Half-Elves is mortality (like the children of Mithrellas and Imrazôr of Dol Amroth). It's supported by the fact that Dior, Eärendil, and Elwing all grow up at the same rate as mortal children rather than Elves. However, in the case of Eärendil and Elwing, and their children, Manwë was given special license by Eru to decree their fates and said that they could choose. Elrond's choice was passed down to his own children; it's not stated whether Elros's children had the same option, although it would appear not, as all of them died mortal. An interesting extra fact is that Elros didn't age — he had the same physical capacity for life as Elrond, but his soul eventually yearned for release from Middle-Earth, leading to his laying down his life at age 500.
  • 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.
    • Men of Gondor and Rohan wear their hair long or middling, too: the Rohirrim favour long plaits; Boromir's is "shorn about his shoulders"; Faramir's is long enough to blow in the wind. You could argue that the Dúnedain are imitating elven culture, but the Rohirrim are not. Also, the Southron that Sam sees killed has braided hair.
    • They all wear their hair long for practical purposes, maybe? Hair braided and tucked under a helmet provides an extra layer of padding in the event of a head strike. This would be especially important for the Rohirrim, as battle for them involves potentially falling off their horse.
    • Among the ancient Germanic Tribes (on of which Tolkien based most of Middle Earth's culture)long hair among men was a symbol of strength and virility. In his extended notes Tolkien also mentions that long hair was a ideal of beauty among the Elves.
  • 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 Lothlórien'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-dûm 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 Eregion. 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" (which, to be fair, was never implied to be anything more than a translation of the Khuzdul "Balin Fundinul Uzbad Khazaddûmu") Gimli's song has the line "In Moria, in Khazad-dûm." In Appendix A, Khazad-dûm is also referred to as Moria even before Eregion was destroyed. Given that it was written using the Fëanorian 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.
    • They're dwarves. Passageways that lead downwards are their normal route home. Why would they consider "pit" a pejorative title? As for "black", maybe the rock it was carved out of happened to be black in color.
  • 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 explains after he figures it out, it was a bad translation. Instead of saying speak friend and enter it should have said SAY friend and enter. The years of Moria being abandoned and old alliances fading meant that what should have been simple intructions to visitors became a riddle to anyone who came to Moria due to them not knowing the translation error.
    • Gandalf was expecting some cunning password, which dwarves are notorious for by the way, instead of something so simple.
    • It's 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 password was just a ritualistic frivolity. The doors already had guards on it. If the Dwarves ever were besieged from that direction they would have put stronger passwords. Once they had fled Moria because of the balrog, they were in to much of a hurry to see to such things and in any case anyone who broke in from that side would probably be the balrog's enemy; in which case good luck to them. This is especially the case when you remember that facing that door when it was made were Noldor friendly to them. The only reason to have a gate at all would be to assure the dwarves privacy and perhaps to tax any goods coming through.
    • Personally I blame the Quenya... for not inventing quotation marks. Quotation marks would have made the whole thing clear. Silly elves.
    • Come to think of it, why is the password in Quenya to begin with? Anyone reading the inscription aloud in its original language (instead of translating it into Common for our convenience) would have said the password by complete accident. Even if you wanted to keep the wordplay, wouldn't it make more sense for the password to be the Dwarvish word for "friend," which would be closely guarded along with the rest of the language among Durin's folk (and still wouldn't inconvenience the Fellowship since Gimli can speak it)?
    • No, because the door wasn't intended for the use of dwarves, but of elves who at the time lived in the region and traded actively with the dwarves. The door was a collaborative work between a dwarven and elven smith, for crying out loud.
    • Also, "mellon" is Sindarin, not Quenya. By the time the Doors of Durin were made, Thingol's ban of Quenya throughout his realms had helped to make Sindarin the lingua franca of Middle-earth Elves, and Quenya was now a lore-language used more by the remaining Noldor than anything else. The Quenya for friend is "meldo/melde", depending on noun gender.
  • 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, super-elves. 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.
      • It absolutely is the same Glorfindel. Early notes planning how to write the Council of Elrond even mention that Glorfindel would tell about his past in Gondolin. When Tolkien first gave the character the name, he was just re-using it, but once he realized the name he'd re-used, he decided it should be the same character returned from the uttermost West.
    • 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.
    • Legolas certainly seemed terrified of the Balrog, and the guy wasn't exactly an easily scared fellow.
    • 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 Eärendil 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.
    • That is why he had his slippers on.
    • 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.
    • Maybe Durin's Bane IS serving Sauron. He is the last of Morgoth's captains after all, and was already in charge when Morgoth was imprisoned for three thousand years. From a strategic viewpoint the Balrog is right where Sauron would need him : close enough to Lothlorien or Rivendell to launch a surprise attack and/or join forces with the Easterling army coming to the North, with Dol Guldur's Nazgûl as a messenger they could have completely wrecked the North before anyone realized it was to late. The fact that there were black Uruk-Haï of Mordor inside Moria and that Sauron had shown a willingness to let other powerful beings, like Saruman, do his work for him before and that Gandalf feared that precised scenario and had Smaug killed to prevent it support this theory.
      • Why on earth would a Balrog serve Sauron? As far as the badass Valaraukar were concerned, Sauron was just that weaselly suckup secretary guy who was always hanging around Morgoth's elbow. Oh, except for that one time he set up on his own on an island, only to come flying home like a little bitch after getting his ass kicked by a girl and a dog.

  • What I have 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 the 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!
  • I've never understood the conflicting opinions about Moria that are held by Gimli and Gandalf. Gimli seems to think entering Moria would be a great idea, that they would receive a "royal welcome" but Gandalf wants to avoid it like the plague. Did Gimli not know that the dwarves of Moria had unearthed a Balrog several hundred years ago? If the dwarves have been fighting or holding off a Balrog for centuries then surely they're not going to give a royal welcome to a Fellowship toting the One Ring into the place, regardless of Gimli's relation to their leader. Plus, Moria has been completely ruined by orcs/goblins by the time the Fellowship does enter, something that appears to have taken a while to accomplish; how did this go unnoticed by the other dwarven nations? Did nobody wonder why they haven't heard from a single dwarf from Moria for the last several years?
    • For one thing, Gimli only things entering Moria would be a "swell" idea in the movies; in the books, everyone is apprehensive about it, Gimli is just the least apprehensive. For another, everyone who is familiar at all with Moria knows that the original dwarven inhabitants stirred up something in the depths centuries that destroyed their kingdom and drove them out (based on Gandalf's reaction to seeing the thing and Celeborn and Galadriel's to hearing it decribed, however, it does not appear to have been common knowledge that Durin's Bane was a Balrog); they also know that orc subjects of the something have taken up residence. Gimli is hopeful of meeting an expedition lead by his cousin Balin that went to reclaim Moria, and hasn't been heard from in several year — Gimli is being unrealisticaly optimistic here, and everyone else seems to at least suspect that something bad happened to Balin and co. So yes, in the books, everyone knew that entering Moria was a bad idea, it just happened at the time to be the least bad of their feasible options, and Gimli's expectations were based on hope rather than objective reality.
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    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 RotK, 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 originally BUILT to be a military depot and the rest of the city grew up around it. Naturally, it would put military 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.
    • Bloodline, and the throne itself, are not necessarily as powerful as we might think: this is a feudal kingdom that's undergone an incredibly destructive civil war over the royal succession. Arvedui of Arnor had his claim to the throne refused on the grounds that it was through Isildur, not Meneldil (who was Isildur's nephew and the first king of Gondor), and via his wife (who was the daughter of the previous king). Instead, the throne went to Eärnil (who was a minor royal himself, in the southern line). We don't know if there were any other potential claimants after Eärnur went MIA, but it's a good chance that there were too many and that maintaining the Stewardship was a good way to avoid a civil war. Even after 500 years, the nobility of Gondor seems a fairly loosely-held group, and the legitimacy of being the (legally emplaced) Steward rather than a king-pretender in your own right could be a useful tool to gain support.

  • Denethor sends the women and children of Minas Tirith to "safety" in the villages 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.
    • Aside from logistics (and thousands of extra mouths to feed in a siege is a nightmare problem), they probably are safer in the villages, even if Sauron wins. Enslaved, maybe, but that's better than being in a city while it's sacked. Also, there's a good chance that some of them will be able to take to the mountains (most of central Gondor is hill country of some sort), where they'll be able to make Sauron's administrators' lives hell on earth. The Edain were very good at that in the first age, even if most of them died eventually.
    • Sauron also has a logistics problem. If he leaves a siege-camp on the Pellenor, and then pushes parties south and west to loot Lebennin, his supply lines get horribly overstretched, through hill-country with a hostile population. Also, if he does attempt genocide of a dispersed rural population, he's going to have to divert a lot of troops and materials away from holding the siege and dealing with the southern levies. The main reason the southern fiefs are witholding their troops is because they're expecting a second invasion from the coast, not because they need to defend the central regions. The same problems apply from the other direction to the Corsairs: they need to deal with Angbor at Linhir (and defeat any other regional armies) before they can start to ravage the inland regions. Basically, Gondor doesn't have the manpower to defend both fronts simultaneously.

    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.
    • Indeed, there's some Fridge Brilliance involved with Nurn, the "breadbasket" of Mordor. Nurn is downwind of Mount Doom, so there's plenty of volcanic ash mixed into the soil. Volanic soil is highly fertile. There's also a nearby inland sea, no doubt used for fishing and/or aquaculture. Given that, combined with Sauron's fanatical love of order and efficiency, Nurn is probably extremely productive, which explains how Sauron can keep fed armies of both Orcs and Men that number in the hundreds of thousands.
    • 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.
    • Yup. There is a practicable pass there, so it must be fortified. Imagine if orcs could do an end-run on Minas Ithil. Even if they didn't think a significant army could come over the pass, small looting parties and saboteurs certainly could, and get into the civilian population of Ithilien.
    • The stairs form a natural bottleneck. Any sizeable group of orcs would have to cross them single-file, either slowing them down or causing some to fall to their deaths. Not only that, but if the stairs are anything like the movie version, then they're exposed to archery fire from below. A garrison of Gondorian archers could turn the stairs into a shooting gallery.

    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 [[{Franchise/{Dune}} 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. I am 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 Dúnedain 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 Dúnedain 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: Dúnedain 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 neighbors. I don't recall that Tolkien ever said the Shire was the best farmland 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 Tolkien never bothered putting them on the map, or were wilderness dwelling Lawful Good Heroes like Aragorn's 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, including 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, anyways) 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, Lothlórien, 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, as far as we know it 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?
  • 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.
    • This. Who, exactly, is going to be in a position to do any hypothetical invasion of the Shire? The Bree-men? They're a tiny nation of villagers and farmers with no demonstrated military strength or strong centralized government, and get along decently with the hobbits, anyway'. Dwarves in the Blue Mountains? What would they even want with that much open farmland; dwarves prefer caves and mountains. It's much more beneficial to them to trade with the Shire, selling their metalwork and buying food or the like. Elves of the Grey Havens or Rivendell? The elves in general aren't in much of a position to expand their territory in the Third Age under the best of circumstances, and the ones at the Havens in particular are mostly concerned with building ships to sail West. Orcs of Mount Gram? Tried it, and earned themselves a humiliating defeat for their troubles. Dúnedain of the North? No longer have an organized nation, and for the most part the Rangers were concerned with quietly helping and protecting other people rather than trying to take their stuff. About the only nation with significant power to actually conquer the Shire that is in range for a military strike that I can see is Dunland, and even that seems extremely unlikely, seeing as the Dunlendings were mostly interested in pursuing their ongoing rivalry with Rohan and a Dunland war-leader who proposed a "let's go march northwest to take over a bunch of midgets who might or might not actually exist on the off-chance they have really great farmland" would probably get laughed out of the room. Basically, until Saruman, I don't think there was anyone who had the right combination of power, knowledge, and motivation to attempt a serious take-over of the Shire.
  • Pewp. How do barefoot little people who raise livestock avoid stepping in the brown landmines that come from said livestock's rear ends?
    • They probably have different standards about cleanliness than humans. Plus, they can always just wash their feet. I'm sure people don't like stepping in poop while wearing shoes, anyways.
    • Hobbits are sneaky, and being sneaky especially in the forest means an acute sense of where you're stepping.
    • In the course of their travels, they also walked through marshes, forests, a blizzard, climbed mountains, and walked into an volcanic chamber without any concern. Hobbit feet are clearly very different from human feet.
  • 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 Éomer 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 palantír. 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.
    • Sauron is supposed to be interested in the fact that a Gondorian prince pays a goodwill tour to Rivendell, probably stopping by Théoden's court along the way? He probably thought it was just Denethor tidying up his diplomatic loose ends and exchanging intel while he had the chance before Sauron's invasion started. And in fact that was what Boromir was doing. It was just neither Sauron nor Denethor knew how hot the intel really was.
    • In Gandalf's words: "When you came north, Boromir, you were in the Enemy's eyes only one stray wanderer from the South and a matter of small concern to him: his mind was busy with the pursuit of the Ring."
    • I think that modern readers in the age of television, cellphones and the internet, and especially those influenced by the movies, overestimate what Sauron knew or could have known at any particular time. Tolkien, on the other hand, had been a signals officer at the Somme and was well aware that with early- and pre- industrial communications, most of the time nobody knew what the hell was going on beyond their range of vision, until too late to do anything about it. Heck, a whole battle of the War of 1812 was fought after the peace treaty had been signed, because it took weeks for the news to cross the ocean. Yes, Sauron had a palantír; but like a very powerful telescope, it's only useful if you know what you're looking for and where to look for it. It was also useless for communication except with Saruman. It's striking when you read Tolkien's working time-schemes, where he kept track of what the Bad Guys were up to offstage, how little Sauron actually knew and how late he learned it. For example, he knew nothing of the Ring at all until after the defeated Nazgûl had made their slow way back to Mordor from the Bruinen, and he didn't get another "fix" until his orc-agents in Moria reported the Fellowship's passing through: a message by bird that took 4 days to reach Barad-dûr. Therefore his only practical response was to order out Grishnakh's company and have them wait beside the Anduin... and since the original ambush failed, he heard nothing back from Grishnakh until G. reported (by Nazgûl) the capture of two hobbits, who were of course the wrong hobbits. Who promptly dropped off the radar, except for a Palantír contact which served further to mislead him. And on and on- Sauron was only getting a few datapoints after the fact and trying to construct a pattern from them. He certainly didn't have a spy-thriller trace on Boromir's movements, son of the Steward or not; and he knew nothing of the Council of Elrond or its attendees, since it was long over before the first news of Bree, Weathertop and the Bruinen ever reached him.

    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 LotR, if you take the whole legendarium into consideration and not just the events in the book. In my 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 powerful characters who don't care about the fate of the world, at least give an explanation 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 isn't the only enigmatic being in the mythos. Much like Tom, Ungoliant was also an huge unknown and seemed to be already there when the Vala and the Maia entered Arda. Also, there are those "Nameless Things" Gandalf found deep beneath the earth, and of course the Watcher in the Water is also another enigma. Even Beorn could be argued to be as such, since the apparently was a human that possesed mysterious abilities unlike anybody else during the Third Age.
    • The mountain Caradhras is also such an enigma. It seems to deliberately attack the Fellowship when they try to go over the pass. In the movies it was all Saruman's work, but in the book Gimli says Caradhras was called "the cruel" long before Sauron showed up.
      • Of course, that particular detail might have something to do with the Balrog sleeping directly under it...
    • You also have Goldberry, of course, "the River-woman's Daughter", and Old Man Willow, and the stone giants from the Hobbit. There are lots of unexplained creatures that might be nature spirits of a sort, if you look closely.
    • Tom didn't help them out cause he's a Cloud Cuckoo Lander. 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.
    • Tom and the Ents function well as opposites. They're very similar in many ways, but Tom won't go outside his self-imposed limits — he can't understand (or isn't affected by) the stakes. The Ents think themselves to be uninvolved, but eventually conclude that they must either act or be acted upon. It could also be considered important for Merry and Pippin's character arc — they can't convince the first Wacky Wayside Tribe to join them, so they try harder on the next one after they, themselves, start to realize what's at stake. I'm not saying this doesn't make Tom a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: just that his presence makes the later, successful recruitment of the Ents a little more impressive.
    • Okay, valid point there. The fact that Tom can't be convinced to give a damn does make it more impressive when Merry and Pippin convince Treebeard to give one.
    • I like Tom. He serves another purpose, besides adding mystery. He's a tension-breaker. Tolkien had a very good sense of dramatic timing. You can't just wind people up with dramatic scene after dramatic scene. It's uncomfortable and leaves your readers drained at the end. You have to have quiet scenes in between, to break the tension; you can get the tension a lot higher by the end of the story, that way. The scenes with Tom serve that purpose.

    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 Húrin, the lay of Beren and Lúthien, and a story about Queen Berúthiel'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 understanding of the language, which seems highly unlikely if all he had was that one book.
    • He probably had more sources. It's unlikely that the Red Book was the only thing to survive from a time evidently full of scribes and whatnot.
    • But those other sources from the time would've been written in the same dead language(s), so that still doesn't answer the question.
    • It's a rather obscure point of the legendarium, but some of those "other sources" at least in the early writings came from historical-period sailors who had found the "straight road" to Valinor. Assuming Tolkien also found one of Ælfwine's writings, he'd have a Rosetta Stone translating the Elven languages into Anglo-Saxon, which conveniently was a language he'd studied...
    • Or, being a philologist, he managed to decipher the languages. Given the hugenormous amount of text he had, much more than many linguists have when deciphering ancient texts in unknown languages, it isn't beyond the realm of thought.
    • Perhaps Tolkien was just that damn good of a linguist.

     Reed Richards and the Secret Art of Lembas-Baking 
  • Melian teaches the art of baking lembas, a super-food that stays good indefinitely and can sustain a traveler or laborer far better than mundane foodstuffs, to a handful of High Elves, most notably Galadriel. And Galadriel teaches the art to... no one, giving the stuff out only to a handful of her closest personal friends and keeping the method of its production a closely-guarded secret. So every time a dwarven, human, or hobbit traveler has died of starvation throughout the entire history of the Second and Third Ages, they might have lived if Galadriel weren't so stingy with her recipe book. Food for thought.
    • Lembas isn't exactly a super-food. It's more the Middle-Earth equivalent of a Powerbar: gives you quick nutrition and energy for physical activity, but it's not "proper" food. That's remarked upon by Sam: subsisting solely on it through Mordor just barely kept them going. Additionally, we don't know what the exact process is for making lembas; it could be so labor-intensive that few people have the capability to manufacture it. Or it could involve the use of some High Elven magic that is only genuinely known to a few people in Middle-Earth by the Third Age. There have attempts to duplicate it: Dwarves have something called cram, and it's apparently just as effective as the name implies. It could only be made by Elves for whatever reason.
    • It doesn't stay good indefinitely, it stays fresh for several months and only if the wafer is intact and still wrapped in Mallorn leaves. The wrapper requirement is the key here, as Mallorn only grow in Lorien, save the one Sam plants in the Shire. The poor starving dwarves and humans couldn't have made it unless they already lived in Lorien with Galadriel.
    • In Tolkien's extended notes he writes that Lembas was made from a special, silver-coloured kind of corn (the medieval/European definition of corn, namely wheat) that, along with the art of lembas making was closely guarded by a an-female Elven guild called the Ivandilli of which Galadriel was simply the last, high ranking member at the end of the Third Age. Said corn was difficult to grow in Middle Earth (it didn't grow in the shade of other plants) and kept out o sight to prevent it from falling into the hands of the enemy. Really, the bigger question is where Galadriel grew all that corn in her closed-off forest.It's even perfectly possible that end the end of the Third Age the corn wasn't grown at all anymore and Lothlorien was working off a finite supply of Lembas Flour that was kept from spoiling by the power of Nenya alone.
    • There is a joke among Tolkien fans that Lembas is actually still around. Think about it: a delicious golden cake with a long shelf-life that gives you energy and fills you up? Are we talking about Lembas or Twinkees?

     General Worldbuilding 
  • 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 Manwë 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 Númenor 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.
    • What Tolkien was re-awakening (not creating) was High Fantasy, but that doesn't imply An Aesop or 'set of morals'. But if you have to have one to help you sleep nights, try this on for size.
      Faramir: ...War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, or the arrow for its swiftness, or the warrior for his glory. I love only what they defend...
  • How did the Hobbits have potatoes? Tolkien intended LotR and the Silmarillion to be a history of England and Europe. But the potato is a New World food. I can sort of fudge it, but if I do, it doesn't sort of fit.
    • Same way they got tobacco and pipeweed, Tolkien took an Acceptable Break from Reality because he felt potatoes and pipesmoking were so integral to his vision of English character that he couldn't not include it in some form. If it helps any he took care in his books to call them "taters" rather than potatoes per se, so just tell yourself that since the books we got were supposed "translations" of "The Red Book Of Westmarch" into English that "taters" is a Translation Convention for some unspecified starchy vegetable. That's the best I got. Or elves did it somehow...
    • It's most likely the result of Pop-Cultural Osmosis: Potatoes are popularly associated with Ireland since it became the major food source among the poor Irish in the 18th and 19th centuries, and failure of the potato crop was a major contributing factor of the Great Famine of 1845-1852. Tolkien may not have realized the potato was not originally native to Ireland, but was introduced in the 17th century. However this is no less odd considering the perfectionist Tolkien originally had the hobbits cooking the similarly introduced tomato in one scene, before recognizing his mistake and rewriting it to remove them.
    • Unlikely, Tolkien was a historian and a linguist who studied the history of languages. As you say, he noted and corrected the usage of tomatoes (from tomatoes to pickles) from the original version of The Hobbit and he purposefully altered tobacco into "pipeweed" to avoid the same problem. There was no way he would not have known the origin of potatoes, especially since it is part and parcel of the mythology of Sir Walter Raleigh whose adventures are taught in every British elementary school and was famous for pretty much two things "introducing potatoes" and that business with the cape and the puddle.
    • He explains tobacco in the Prologue, section 2 "Concerning Pipe-weed". First of all, it's described as "a variety probably of Nicotiana", ie tobacco, not cannabis (also, pot on sentry duty would not be a good idea, Gandalf). He may be choosing to avoid the word "tobacco" because it's a borrowing from an American language that doesn't have cognates in ME. Merry says, of the origins of the plant "is not native to our part of the world, but came northward from the lower Anduin [ie Gondor], whither it was, I suspect, originally brought over the sea by the men of Westernesse". He notes it grows wild in Gondor (unlike further north), and is valued as a sweet-scented flower; he speculates it reached Arnor with the Dunedain as well. Potatoes could travel by the same route. As to why tobacco and spuds but not tomatoes? I don't know. Potatoes are a very useful staple crop, and much easier to manage in cool, wet climates (since they don't need to set seed to survive). Luxury crops may just be a bit more random in what ends up where. Possibly, tomatoes were seen as too big a risk in the climate: they need a large investment of rich soil to crop well, and assuming a climate like Cornwall's, can fail one year in two. Although there's no suggestion of it in canon, nicotine is a very effective insecticide: it's possible the northern Dunedain were cultivating it as a poisonous herb, or even as a medicine, and since the leaves are the part you want, you don't need to ripen seed very often. That might match well with the hobbits starting to smoke it, too.
    • The odd part is that The Annotated Hobbit points out he deliberately removed tomatoes between the first and second draft of The Hobbit because he knew they were a New World crop, and yet...
    • The only British signature dish that features tomatoes is the Full English Breakfast, and even then not always. His vision of the Shire was an idealised rural Britain, and he could live with that idealised version not including tomatoes, but potatoes and tobacco were essential. Had Tolkein been Italian then he very likely would have kept the tomatoes.
    • Tolkien very consciously based the Shire on late-Victorian rural England, and didn't mind the resultant anachronism stew unless it was very obvious (umbrellas and hedge-shears were OK, but no railways or steam engines). But he drew the line at words, linguist that he was. He could cover up the New World origin of potatoes and tobacco by substituting taters and pipe-weed, but there simply wasn't a good sub for tomatoes, and since it only occurred one time it was easier just to swap in the very English pickles.

     Might vs. Might 
  • 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 and East; 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.
    • Even if all the Istari fought against Sauron, Tolkien mentioned that at his height of power during the War of the Ring, his power was greater than Morgoth's, which would likely rank him above the Istari power level.

     Gandalf's Original Plan 
  • 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 Lórien — 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 — it's 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 stairway 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 Hobbits 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 Nazgûl 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 palantír 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.
    • Getting into Mordor: the Black Gate is clearly out of the question, going round by the East involves a very long journey in hostile territory with no supplies and also means having to go past Barad-dur to get to Mount Doom, and from the way Gandalf is almost ready to give up on the spot when he learns that the hobbits have gone over Cirith Ungol, it seems most unlikely that he would have planned to take them that way himself. But Cirith Ungol is not the only way over the mountains from Imlad Morgul. There is a second pass, the principal pass, at a lower level - at one point Frodo looks over the edge and sees the road leading to it. There is no mention of any defensive works along that route other than Minas Morgul itself, and with the Nazgul living there that is probably quite enough. But after the Nazgul empty Minas Morgul to attack Minas Tirith, it seems essentially unguarded except by the ingrained horror of the place, with no actual physical barriers. It at least bears thinking about that Gandalf could have had the idea of waiting for the army to depart Minas Morgul and then sneaking in via the low pass behind everyone's backs. Sure, it's kind of a long shot, but no more and quite possibly less so than any other option.

    Prancing Pony Security 
  • Staying with Bree, Aragorn knows the Nazgûl 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 Nazgûl 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.
      • Also, remember that Aragorn is of the direct royal line of Numenor, and was raised in Rivendell. That gives him considerable power on the spiritual plane, which the Nazgul would have been able to sense. They wouldn't want to confront him until they could manipulate things to stack the deck in their favor.
    • It's a common misconception, amplified by the movies, that the Ringwraiths burgled the hobbits' room at the Pony. They didn't: they put Bill Ferny, Harry Goatleaf and the "squint-eyed Southerner" up to it. They themselves waited in the shadows.

    Trolls that Don't Turn to Stone in Sunlight 
  • 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!
    • there is a card in the munchkins card game that is a "stoned golem" it has a bong. not exactly the same thing but close enough,
    • 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.

    Origins of Dragons 
  • 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?
    • The Hobbits do have fairy tales including the "wereworms", some kind of gigantic worm creature who hail from the Last Desert. It's possible these wereworms were the primordial form of dragons and after being either seduced or corrupted by Morgoth, acquired the firebreating capabilities and larger size of the likes of Glaurung.

    Allies of Mordor 
  • 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 Númenor 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 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 Théoden 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 Númenóreans 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 Men of the East in particular have an excellent excuse to side with Sauron: Númenorian treachery during its height, as it is said men of Númenor sacrificed Easterlings in great number in the sacred name of Morgoth. No wonder they're still pissed.
    • There's also the point that Sauron is the greatest Power still active in Middle-Earth, even without the Ring in his possession, and the East in particular is his territory, with nothing that can even challenge him. Even if the Men of the East knew Sauron for what he was, they might well have decided it was better to live as Sauron's slaves than die (and condemn their families to death) by defying him.
    • "It's not like even Sauron's human allies would benefit in the event of his victory." Actually, they probably would. Sauron doesn't want to destroy the world, he wants to rule it. And he can't be everywhere at once. He's going to need lieutenants, kings and lords and princes under him to rule over his various territories, and they would probably enjoy a decent level of power and a fairly good standard of living.

    Sauron's Ultimate Goal 
  • 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 Nazgûl, 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 inherited 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 separates 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 semi-divine 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.
    • There's one passage in which Frodo sees a moth in Mordor, and it has the Great Eye of Sauron basically imbued on its skin. That may be a hint of Sauron's plans: to remake Arda in his own image, corrupting everything within it until it's His alone.

    Númenórean Genetics 
  • Why are the Númenóreans 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 Númenóreans, so having Dúnedain 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 Dúnedain 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 Dúnedain ancestry, there are maybe a couple hundred at most actual Dúnedain left by the time of LOTR. And friendship with Elves isn't genetic — there've been plenty of Dúnedain who envied the Elves and didn't get along with them at all (looking at you, Ar-Pharazôn...)
    • Not all Númenóreans were descended from the royal line (although the royals lived quite a bit longer than the "normal" Númenóreans). 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 Númenóreans 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.
    • Númenórean 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 Eärendil, 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.)
    • It's not unfortunate implications. It has been simple reality within many cultures in history. Look at historical monarchies, for example. Many people weren't considered important, unless they happened to be born into the family line in power. That's not Tolkien saying it's morally correct. It's simply how many cultures have worked. Only the rich being educated and only those educated know how to document history. In fact, there's quite a significant subversion of this trope you hate in LOTR. Frodo isn't royalty or from any powerful bloodline and, yet, he's the one who wrote down the account of much of the events that leads to us reading about it.
    • Actually, a class system in the Shire, with the Bagginses as members of its gentry, is made pretty clear in the books. For starters, according to the “Concerning Hobbits” part of the prologue of Fellowship, it was “only the richest and poorest hobbits that maintained the old custom” of hole-dwelling. Bilbo’s father, Bungo, built Bag End, which probably cost a pretty penny (or farthing, what have you). As well, the Gamgees are servants to them, with Samwise often addressing Frodo formally or referring to him as his master. There’s also the fact that Bilbo is considerably wealthy after his return from Erebor, which may have meant Frodo experienced a life of privilege as his adopted heir (we certainly don’t ever hear of him working in the fields like plenty of other hobbits do). However, the norm in the Shire concerning education is unclear, so it may be that Bilbo and Frodo received no more than would anyone else. For instance, after Frodo departs to the Undying Lands, Sam easily takes it upon himself to continue writing in the Red Book, so even he, a gardener’s son, is certainly literate. OTOH, it's worth noting that the other two hobbits on the journey to destroy the One Ring, Merry and Pippin, are both heirs to the very prominent Brandybuck and Took families.
    • Re-subverted when you consider that Tolkien thought Samwise was the real hero of the story, and he was the son of a gardener.
    • It is noted that Bilbo taught Sam to read and that this was considered somewhat unusual. Old Gaffer comments in the pub that he didn't do it with ill intent and hopes that no ill comes of it; pretty clearly demonstrating that lower class hobbits have some degree of distrust towards education. Bilbo himself is unusually learned, and was even before his adventure. He knows several languages, is familiar with many obscure elvish legends and is an enthusiastic poet and philologist, not unlike Tolkien, himself.
    • Elros (founder of Númenorian royal line, Elrond's brother) was not Y-chromosomal Adam, he was the equivalent of King Alfred the Great of England. There were three entire tribes of Elf-Friendly or enlightened Men in the First Age who had come from the East and fought in the war against Morgoth. Many were killed in doing so. Elros and Elrond were the descendents of the leaders of these branches, as well as of the Maia Melian, the leaders of the elves who never went to the promised land, and at least one branch of the elves who went to the promised land but came back. Also, remember that in the semi-medieval world that Tolkien created (where Eru takes a subtle but active hand in the world), the Divine Right of Kings is a real thing. The Kings are the wisest, most able, literally God-gifted amongst their people. This is not to say that there still weren't many people who the Kings, you know, ruled over. Elros and Elrond were the descendents of nearly all the greatest beings of the First Age on elven and mannish sides and were given the choice of their fate, and were very wise and good beings themselves. Elros chose Men and was therefore made King of the remnants of the three branches of Men that had fought in the War. After the innumerable tragedies of the War and the loss of most of the developed continent, the Valar wanted to reward the surviving Men but couldn't because they are mortal, so they made an island half way to the promised land for Men to live on. These men are the Númenorians. There were other Men who did not fight in the war or did not go to the island, and those are the other Men in Middle-Earth. So the line of Elros was just the royal line, not the entirety of the Númenorian people. It's in the Silmarillion.

    Ticket to the Undying Lands 
  • 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. It's unclear about Gimli. Plus, they never actualy went to the Undying Lands themselves, but the island just outside, so immortality wasn't necessary. Arwen claimed to give 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.
    • Leave us not forget the Gift of Men, that allows men to die and leave Arda. For a mortal to travel to the Undying Lands is to give in to Morgoth's perversion of the Gift, and fear the right to leave the world at death. Aragorn rightly receives his Gift at the end of his life as a reward earned, not a doom inflicted. Why would the Elves allow any of the Fellowship to refuse the greatest gift Ilúvatar could grant? As I recall, the Elves/Maia/etc were jealous that the souls of men were not tied to Arda for all time. (An extremely special "Well then I'm not going!" exception was granted in Beren and Lúthien's case.)
    • Beren did eventually leave, with Lúthien. They just were allowed to delay it for a while, since they had never had more than a moment or two together when they weren't facing deadly peril.
  • The elves who were trying to dissuade the Númenóreans from invading the undying lands point out that it's not the land that makes them immortal, and that any humans who were permitted to go there would actually shorten their lifespan, since the sheer glory of the place basically burns mortal bodies out all the more quickly.

    Fate of the Palantíri 
  • The palantíri. What was the ultimate fate of the last one? To recap, the palantíri were placed at: Minas Ithil (captured by Sauron, presumably lost in the destruction of Barad-dûr), 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 Ring-bearers of the One Ring set sail at the end of the story, they take the Tower Hills palantír with them. Why would they do that? The palantíri 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 palantír 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 Númenor (i.e., the "straight road"). It was a reminder to the Dúnedain of what they had lost in the Downfall. With the Age of Men at hand, no one remaining had any need for it.

    Saruman's Goals 
  • 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.
    • Sauron was able to mentally dominate him through prolonged mental dueling via palantir.
  • 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 palantíring 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 palantíring 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.
    • There is a backup plan: torture Gandalf for information about the Ring's location. Also, bear in mind that Saruman is doing a rush-job: he knows that the Nazgûl are hunting for the Ring (they turn up at Isengard soon after Gandalf escapes).
    • Why would Saruman know that the Ring is being moved? It's still in the Shire at that point, and the plan to leave that autumn was kept pretty secret. It's possible (maybe even probable, depending how often he's getting reports) that he doesn't even know Frodo's planning to move to Buckland. Remember that Gandalf arrives to ask his advice about what to do about the Ring. If he can threaten Gandalf into helping or giving intelligence, his agents can grab the Ring easily. If not, he's still in a good position compared to the Nazgûl (he knows where the Shire is, has people on the ground, and is much nearer) — he's really worried when they do turn up at Isengard, because they're now heading in the right direction.
    • Another point: in the book, Gandalf didn't just rock up at Isengard thinking to ask for help. Saruman used Radagast to lure Gandalf there, so that he could (a) make his offer of alliance, and (b) lock him up if and when he refused. And even though he ultimately failed to keep Gandalf captive, he still did plenty of damage: Gandalf could neither hang about to help Frodo with his preparations, nor come back in time to depart with him. (Saruman would not have known that this would be the exact outcome, but he certainly knew that meddlesome Gandalf had some Ring-related scheme bubbling away, which he could ill afford to be kept away from.)
    • Another thing to remember is that we never 'see' the conversation between Saruman and Gandalf. Gandalf's describing what happened at the Council of Elrond. He's editing for time (and probably not mentioning anything that he's supposed to keep quiet, such as the Wizards' true nature or identity.) The attempt at temptation may have gone on for days...
    Chibi Saruman: C'mon lets be evil! lol
    Chibi Gandalf: Noes!
    Chibi Saruman: You're no fun :(

    • Furthermore, it's a running theme in Tolkien's work that Evil Cannot Comprehend Good. Saruman thinks it's a convincing argument; he might think Gandalf would see it that way too.
  • Why does Saruman deem it wise to keep prisoners on top of his tower? Wouldn't it be more secure to hide his captives deep within the caves that run under Isengard, where there certainly are more than enough locked doors, maze-like tunnels and hordes of Uruk-Hai to see that the prisoner stays put? Sure, the tower lacks a door, but it's still exposed to the surrounding environment. What's keeping his prisoners from receiving an airborne rescue like Gandalf, or in a more darker tone, falling to their deaths if they're desperate enough? What if they fall sick, or freeze to death? And if Saruman is the only one who can teleport to the rooftop, wouldn't the prisoner starve if he'd have to leave Isengard for more pressing matters for more than few days at the most?
    • The threat of death by starvation, thirst, or exposure is precisely the point of such imprisonment. It's meant to break prisoners' wills so they'd be more easily swayed over by Saruman's compelling voice the next time he visits. As for airborne rescues, the Eagles aren't exactly at Gandalf's beck and call, and since very few people on Middle-Earth even KNOW they exist, let alone how to summon them, such escapes are a virtual impossibility.
    • There are a few more issues to consider - first of all, it's only Gandalf that Saruman imprisons there. His more garden-variety prisoners probably go into the dungeons. Secondly - Saruman wants Gandalf to see how powerful he is, with the hope that Gandalf may eventually either decide to join him after all or despair and give up his knowledge of the Ring. The top of Orthanc gives Gandalf an excellent view of the might of Isengard for that purpose.
    • This was simply an oversight on Saruman's part - he told Radagast to tell Gandalf to make haste to Isengard, but he didn't account for Gandalf telling Radagast to have all of the beings he was in contact with (including giant eagles) bring messages to Isengard. Giant Eagles flying captives away from the rooftop was not a possibility Saruman had accounted for. Otherwise, it's a perfectly secure location.

     Aragorn banishes Beregond on pain of death — the man is a hero 
  • Aragorn banishes Beregond from Gondor at the end of the story. Beregond technically violated a long-standing law against abandoning one's post, but King Aragorn "graciously" pardons the man and allows for exile instead. You could say that Beregond is a hero for what he did. He breaks an ancient law of a world on the brink of total domination by an absolutely evil force, and saves a very important man from being burned to death. Could King Aragorn not make an exception for Beregond? This is the dawn of a new age, it seems inappropriate to me that a law from an old and corrupt one is upheld, when it is clear even to the King that what he is doing is unfair.
    • While you do want your soldiers to be able to disobey illegal and criminal orders, you don't want a free-for-all. Also, the laws Beregond broke were not trivial or obscure. He clearly commits desertion from his assigned post, murder, and treason against the throne, even if his motives were excellent. Offering a pardon because he helped out someone important is a bad legal precedent; and allowing spur-of-the-moment removal of an officer for mental incompetence by any rank-and-file is a recipe for mayhem. The combination of punishing him with a technicality (because of the mitigating circumstances), and reassigning him to Faramir's care, is about the best he could manage, really.
    • Aragorn ordered Beregond to continue to serve Faramir. Faramir was made Prince of Ithilien. Therefore, if Beregond were to leave Ithilien and return to Gondor he would be abandoning his post, AKA desertion. He was rewarding Beregond in a rather circuitous manner (for comparison, consider Kirk's demotion to captain at the end of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: While technically he was being punished, Kirk and pretty much every other person in the room knew the Federation President was actually rewarding him by giving him back command of a starship, after how unhappy he was shown in his higher rank in the previous two films).
    • Aragorn has a vile sense of humour. He's trolling Beregond: you're sacked, and you'll have to leave the city, because we're giving you a promotion in Ithilien.
    • The old law said that Beregond should be killed for having deserted his post and killing (even in defense of others) in the Hallows. Aragorn doesn't banish him - he explicitly pardons him. He says "all penalty is remitted for your valour in battle, and still more because all that you did was for the love of the Lord Faramir." The bit about "still you must leave the city," though, is indeed a little trolling on Aragorn's part.

     Why Caradhras? 
  • 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 Lothlórien, 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 Lothlórien, 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.December. They expect the pass at Caradhras to be far enough south to be clear of snow, which implies that the northern passes will not be. Imagine the drifts on Caradhras going on for miles, and you'll get some idea of why it's not an option. And they daren't wait for spring, because the snow is at its most dangerous for avalanches and such once the thaw starts: it may be April or May before the High Pass is safe again.

     Supple as linen but able to stop a spear? 
  • 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 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.
    • He's explicitly wearing leather under the mail to spread the force of blows, and the rings are still driven through into his skin. He's incredibly lucky not to break ribs, though.
    • Oobleck.

     Anti-stealth Weapons? 
  • Are weapons that turn blue when orcs are around all that desirable? Under some circumstances, yes, but couldn't they in fact prove counterproductive, giving your location away in the darkness?
    • Nobody in their right mind would delve into an orc-infested cave with such a sword. Or into any orc den in general. I always got the impression that the swords were meant to be used on the surface where daylight or any possible encampments would already give your position away to the oncoming orcs, and the elves who carried them always had a non-magical spare, or avoided the thickest hordes all together.
    • Remember that these swords were forged in Gondolin, an Elven nation of the First Age, which was hidden in a deep mountain valley and only accessible by hidden undergound passageways. The Elves of Gondolin rarely left their hidden valley, so most of their conflicts would have been defensive in nature. They would fight against raiding parties, but they wouldn't proactively go hunting Orcs. Swords that glow as Orcs approach could be a very valuable early-warning system in those situations. Also, glowing wasn't the only things the swords did; the light also produced a subtle magical effect which would instill any Orc who saw it with tremendous, often-paralyzing fear. Finally, since Gondolin was one of the most powerful nations of the First Age, and knew it, it could also be a nod to the suicidal overconfidence of Elves in battle. "Screw staying hidden; we're the freaking Firstborn! Die, Goblin Scum!"
    • I think the above troper hit on the real answer, but included it almost as an afterthought, so let me reiterate it. The glowing itself hurts and terrifies Orcs. To one Orc that Sam faces in the Tower of Cirith Ungol, "the very light of [Sting] was a bitter pain".
    • Only the blades light up, and they are, naturally, hidden by the scabbard. Perhaps you can draw the blade out a little for a peek, if you want to check on the orc situation. And when you're already fighting, it's too late for stealth.

     No Title for Gimli? 
  • I can understand why Legolas is never referred to as a prince (beyond being named once or twice as 'the son of Thranduil') — as the Elves are immortal, Legolas would most likely not be expected to become King for thousands of years, if at all. However, it bugs me a little that Gimli is never referred to as anything close to royalty. At the time of the War of the Ring, he's sixth in line to the throne (fourth discounting Balin and Óin, who no one at this point knew to be dead). It stands to reason Gimli would be extremely important, yet the books and films never imply he's anything more than an ordinary Dwarf. Did this bug anyone else?
    • 1) We only even see or hear Prince used in its older sense of ruler of a (semi-)independant principality. Prince for the sons of kings is a relatively modern courtesy title. And, at least for the dwarves, if you're going to allow nephews and cousins, half the cast of The Hobbit should get courtesy titles of some sort.
    • 2) There's a recurrent theme that good guys don't make too much of a fuss about titles. Elrond and Celeborn both have rock-solid claims to call themselves kings (and Galadriel can make a claim for Queen regnant as well as consort). Even Lord is often restricted to rulers, or to people the speaker is sucking up to (Éomer, Faramir, and Boromir are all often addressed without titles by subordinates or in formal situations).
  • Titles in general are not a big deal in Middle Earth. Compared to our world, Middle Earth is extremely underpopulated. There are huge swaths of unclaimed wild out there, and nations are comparatively small and limited in influence (the vast empire of Gondor is the exception, which is what makes it so impressive in-universe). It is not an uncommon practice for a bunch of adventurous souls to leave their native land, venture out into the wild, and just plop down stakes and declare themselves a new country. The world is big enough and empty enough to accommodate many kings and lords; hereditary nobility just isn't as important.

     Taunting the Mouth of Sauron 
  • Why did no one taunt the Mouth of Sauron when he mentioned only one prisoner? They could have boasted:"You have only one prisoner!?! And since you showed us the Mithril coat that means if he had the Elven Blade Sting you would have showed that and Phial as well! Sounds like the other Assassin got through and took the Hobbit's favorite sword Sting and his Phial and left him for your agents to find and sped straight off to Barad-dûr to assassinate and is now halfway between Mount Doom and Barad-dûr. Let me repeat already half way between it. better yet closer to Barad-dûr than he is to Mount Doom. You brought the armies of Mordor here I'm assuming and left your precious master's Dark Tower undefended? You're even stupider than I thought! Better get your entire armies to Barad-dûr and start searching for the Assassin because by the time you get there he'll be almost within shooting distance from your Dark Tower!"
    • There's a trope called Just Between You and Me for when the villain stupidly gloats about the genius of their plan and how the heroes never saw it coming, as well as all the intricate steps and subtle manipulations. This inevitably ends with the hero realizing the danger they're in and foiling the villain's plan. Just switch the words "villain" and "hero" for the above and that's what would have happened if the heroes taunted.
    • Plus, taunting a foe is more of a villain thing, or Chaotic Good. Neither of which describe any of the main heroes of this story.
    • Also telling him all that would be really stupid, considering the whole point of the attack on the Black Gates was to draw Sauron's attention away from the Hobbits. Telling them, "One of them is still alive in there!" is the complete and exact opposite of the whole point of the expedition. It's like doing a magic trick and "taunting" your audience by saying, "Ah, but you're not looking at how I'm palming the ball in my other hand!"
    • Because he doesn't know what the plan actually is, the Mouth of Sauron is in effect unwittingly confirming that it has not failed. While the dark forces may have captured some of Frodo's stuff, Frodo himself and the Ring are evidently still at large - otherwise the Mouth of Sauron would have a whole truck load more to gloat about. Gandalf, at least, more than likely realises this pretty fast, and sends the Mouth of Sauron away pronto with a flea in his ear before anything has a chance to happen such as, for example, Pippin working it out too and giving the game away by his expression.

     The Weaponless Ranger 
  • So Aragorn is a Badass Heir To The Throne Ranger who has spent entire decades wandering the Wild, defending the helpless from forces of evil beyond understanding. So shouldn't he at least carry more than the broken shards of his ancestor's sword in his sheath? He even lampshades it to Sam in the inn when they first meet ("Not much use, eh, Sam?"). How did he live this long without a functioning weapon? Or does he carry another sword in his pack that we never get to read about?
    • Aragorn spent some years in the armies of Gondor and Rohan under a pseudonym, where he presumably was issued weapons. When he was taking Frodo to Rivendell, he probably had a knife on him, since he said he could hunt game if needed. As to whether he carried the broken sword at all other times... the text doesn't really say if he did or didn't. But it may be worth noting that even after his sword is repaired, Aragorn is said to be lightly equipped like a typical Ranger, until before the siege of Helm's Deep where he borrowed some armor. When some other Rangers appear before the siege of Gondor, they're also heavily armed and armored. It may be that the Rangers usually engaged in scouting and spying and only "suited up" in their hideouts to fight the occasional goblin or troll band that ventured within their areas. This is in contrast to the Rangers of Gondor led by Faramir, who appeared to be a unit of the standing army.
    • I had always assumed he was carrying a (King David style) rock sling. they're a useful, versatile weapon, and almost impossible to spot. Unless he actually took it out and used it, Bilbo and Frodo would probably not even have realized he had it.
    • When they are camped at Weathertop Aragorn says he can supplement their rations by hunting, so he must be carrying something that he can hunt with.

     Who did Éowyn Leave in Charge? 
  • After Théoden leaves control of Rohan with Éowyn, she just leaves, too. So, who was left in charge?
    • Presumably she left a note with instructions, to be found once she'd got far enough away that no-one would be able to catch up with the army. Or perhaps she just did a bunk, and trusted that one of her subordinates would take over once they realised she wasn't coming back. There must have been senior servants (ie administrators and managers) and minor nobility left with the garrison, who were competent to do her job, if not as good for morale. She's lucky to avoid a court martial for desertion, though: being the King's beloved sister may have come in handy. (cf Beregond, and desertion with mitigating circumstances.)
    • Rohan being a feudal society without a standing army, the concept of a formal court martial might not even exist. And yes, she's royalty, so really any punishment above a stern talking-to is probably not likely.
    • Not to mention the positive press from killing the Witch-King.

     Sour Grapes from Saruman 
  • Something that bugs me from Return of the King. When the Hobbits, Gandalf, and Galadriel encounter Saruman and Wormtongue, why does Saruman act like they've ensured their doom? Didn't he get the memo that the good guys won?
    • Because when the One Ring was destroyed, the Three Rings also lost their power, and the time of the elves (and of magic in general) was over, giving way to the Dominion of Men. As far as Saruman was concerned, what the good guys lost outweighed what they'd won, and he was certainly pleased to rub it in.

     Gandalf keeps Isengard's true state a secret 
  • After the Battle of the Hornburg, the heroes travel to Isengard to talk to Saruman. None of the Rohirrim are pleased with the idea, and during the journey, they wonder if bad things are waiting for them. Why does Gandalf draw out this tension, something these veterans really don't need in the wake of that battle, when he knows perfectly well that Saruman's power base has been destroyed? While he doesn't know exactly what the situation at Isengard is, he could have made everyone happier just by saying "Actually, Isengard is probably still being controlled by the Ents. That's where the trees that killed the Uruk-Hai came from. Keep your wits about you at all times of course, but we're probably not facing another army today".
    • Gandalf didn't know for sure that Isengard had been obliterated by the Ents, though he thought it very likely. Also consider that the Rohirrim are not just scared of Isengard's orc armies but of Saruman himself. He's a wizard, and a very powerful one. They are worried about facing dark magics that they would have little to no defense against, even with a wizard of their own on their side. Saruman doesn't actually seem to have the power to rain fireballs of destruction down on them (the movie's depiction notwithstanding), but the Rohirrim don't know that: they know very little about what kinds of power Saruman wields, and because of that they are afraid.
    • Thing is, in the book, Gandalf got the huorns to go to Helm's Deep after he reached Isengard. This was after the Ents had not only torn it down, but flooded it. You're right about Saruman, but Isengard was in no state to do anything, and Gandalf could at least have mentioned that.
    • Gandalf likes to spring surprises, but he does tell them that they are going to a parley rather than a fight.

    Trust him, He's really back 
  • 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 ro in every little bit that happens in a story. Not everything is an Aesop, people! Tolkien wasn't writing, bes 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 powerful than Saruman it is possible he made them believe in him much like Saruman would have made them believe his lie.
    • Also consider that Gandalf is wearing a Ring of Power that specifically kindles hope in other beings. Revealing himself to Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli may well have been an exercise of that power.

     Hobbits created as Anti-Ring Measure? 
  • Were Hobbits introduced to Middle Earth with the express purpose of having a sentient race capable of keeping the One Ring as far from Sauron's sight and reach as possible? I mean, as it says in the books, Sauron wasn't even aware of the existence of "Hobbits" in the world until he captured Gollum (who was a Hobbit once and kept the ring for centuries without raising awareness from the Dark Lord); the Ents themselves don't seem to have seen Hobbits before Merry and Pippin and they are about the oldest creatures in Middle Earth (save from Tom Bombadil); so, by looking at this, can one conclude that the relatively recent appearance of the Hobbits compared to the rest of the sentient races (them being an offshoot of the human race) had an ultimate purpose, and that the most possible purpose was to hide the One Ring?
    • Sure, it's possible - assuming you're talking about Eru acting in mysterious ways. Written records in the Shire don't go much further back than 1400 years, Gollum's origin is closer to 2000 years before the War of the Ring, and the end of the Second Age was a thousand years before that. Seems like a roundabout way to go about it, but that's often the case with In Mysterious Ways.
    • The Hobbits do play a sort of Butterfly of Doom role in Sauron's plans for Middle-Earth, actually. Apparently they trace their origins back to the hilly country up near the headwaters of the Anduin River. They were driven out of that area by the Easterling invasions in the middle of the Third Age, becoming a wandering people for many years until finally settling in the Shire (Gollum's people were an offshoot that had migrated further south down the Anduin). After a few centuries of good Shire living, the Hobbits developed into simple, honest, peaceable folk...the perfect people to be trusted to safeguard an Artifact of Doom. So by sending his Human minions to conquer and subjugate the West, Sauron actually sowed the seeds of his own destruction some 1500 years later.

     Gandalf the Grey's staff 
  • After Gandalf fled Orthanc, how did he get his staff back?
    • In the books Gandalf's account of his captivity doesn't include Saruman taking his staff from him. In fact, Frodo's dream in Bombadil's house of Gandalf being rescued by Gwaihir has Gandalf using his staff on the pinnacle of Orthanc: "The figure lifted his arms and a light flashed from the staff that he wielded. A mighty eagle swept down and bore him away." So in the books Gandalf never lost his staff at Orthanc in the first place.

     "Say 'friend' and enter." 
  • Not to criticize the security practices of the residents of the mines of Moria, but isn't it kind of dumb to write the password to your stronghold on the door that the password is meant to open? What's to stop some powerful and unsavory character who is fluent in Elvish from gaining entry and slaughtering you? Particularly if they don't mistranslate the runes, as Gandalf did.
    • As Gandalf says "In the days of Durin they were not secret. They usually stood open and doorwards sat here. But if they were shut, any who knew the opening word could speak it and pass in...Those were happier times." The Hollin gate is kind of like the public entrance, and was usually open. Still, it takes days for the Fellowship to reach the "habitable parts" from that gate, and they pass guard rooms on the way, so there are some defenses before anyone who came in that gate would get to the main living areas of the dwarves.
    • Moria didn't live in fear. Come in! If you're a friend, we'll welcome you in the traditional Dwarvish way! (And if you're an enemy, we'll welcome you in the other traditional Dwarvish way.)
    • It's likely that those gates were never intended to keep intruders out, just to stop dangerous animals from getting into the tunnels during the night and blundering around making a mess. Wild animals can't speak or read.
    • "What's to stop some powerful and unsavory character who is fluent in Elvish from gaining entry and slaughtering you?" The elves of Hollin, pretty much. The Gate was smack-dab in the middle of their territory, and if they were powerful enough that even the millennia-old remnants of their magic make the area unwelcome to creatures of darkness, then in their prime it would have been near impossible for anything evil to penetrate as far as the Gates.
    • There's also the point that we've repeatedly seen just hearing words in High Elven cause pain to creatures of evil. It's possible that anything too far corrupted literally could not speak the password.

     Arachnophobia, anyone? 
  • This may be Fridge Horror, but is it ever made clear how Shelob's feeding habits work? We know from the orcs that the victim isn't dead when the feeding process begins, but what state are they in? Are they unconscious throughout the whole thing (best case scenario) or do they become conscious midway through and have to be sedated again, or do they regain consciousness before they regain use of their limbs? The spiders in Mirkwood which may be her children seemingly kill you with their venom before they eat younote , but unless "not drinking cold blood" is relative, either she eats really fast or her victims are Eaten Alive in some fashion. Whatever fashion...Brrrr.

     "And the shape of all lands has been changed" 
  • This is what Tolkien said about how the map of Middle-earth is different than that of Europe, and that he was "inspired dramatically, rather than geologically or palaentologically."
    What I'm wondering is what caused these geological upheavals, when, and why, in-universe. In-universe, the shapes of the lands were relatively stable for several thousand years, why would they suddenly change so much at the transition between myth and real history? Anyone have any ideas? And how did the Red Book survive this? How did anyone survive for that matter?
    Out of universe, we know that Tolkien was creating/reconstructing/replacing ancient England's lost mythology. Why would he reinvent the geography instead of using the real map, as the actual lost myths probably would have?
    • This is a universe where the world went from flat to round, and it didn't kill anybody except the people on Numenor. A similar reshaping of the world at the end of the Fourth Age or during any of the other intervening ages may have occurred, with just as few casualties.
    • Why did Tolkien create his own map rather than just using the real Europe? Probably for two reasons: First, he was writing a sequel to The Hobbit, and had to incorporate the map of Wilderland, which doesn't fit any European map. Second it gave him more freedom in plotting the story. If he needed a volcanic plain surrounded by mountains on three sides he could put it there, without trying to find somewhere in Europe that would fit.
    • What about the why and how in-universe? All the previous land changes of that scale were the result of cataclysmic wars involving the Valar and/or Divine Intervention. Both of those things were no longer supposed to happen (on such a large scale at least) during/after the Fourth Age until Dagor Dagorath, which certainly hasn't happened yet.
      • Tolkien's world is, despite all the fantastical elements, a deeply Christian universe (at one point he was even considering implementing a prophecy of the Coming of Christ into the Silmarillion, but decided it would be hamming it up to much). Taking that into context, if you wanted to put Middle Earth as the prehistory of our world there would be at least one global flood between then and now. Interestingly the very first versions of the Book of Lost Tales (later becoming the Silmarillion)still mention Europe, England and Ireland as well as several cities of classical antiquity such as Rome and Troy.
      • There is a possibility that the geography simply shifted (peacefully) some time after The Magic Goes Away into our current geographical status. Magic is shown to have space-and-time warping abilities in Tolkien's universe pretty often: Rivendell, due the influence of Elrond's ring of power (Vilya), is a place outside of space and time in several ways, and the same goes for Lóthlorien (due Galadrial's Neya ring) and in some ways, Mordor and Dol Guldur (due Sauron's dark powers). Magic often stalls time and space in this world, as Frodo keeps observing how those magical places are always somewhat "removed" from our regular world. So with the loss of magic, geography may have just shifted, collapsing into our geographical configuration via No Ontological Inertia.

     Keeping the Ring of Doom easily accessible 
  • Why don't the Elves seal the Ring inside a mithril box, and weld it shut? It might not take the Ring out of commission forever, but it might keep the Ringbearer from trying it on all the time.
    • Something tells me that voluntarily sealing the One Ring inside of a box that can't be opened would require truly herculean levels of Heroic Willpower and would be much, much harder than it sounds. And even then, I don't think that would stop its effects; Gandalf warned Denethor that the Ring could still poison his mind even if he locked it in a vault, and so even if you could seal the ring in a box the end result would be something along the lines of "at some point in the Quest, Frodo goes mad while trying to break the box open". And I mean, Frodo only wore the Ring twice after leaving Rivendell, and the first of those times he did it to save himself from a maddened Boromir, not because the Ring's power forced him to (unlike the second time...)
    • It is implied that the ring has some low level of sentience. It wants to return to its master, has the ability to "choose" when to desert its current owner, is able to influence potential new owners, and has at least some awareness of its surrounds. Chances are if the council chose the Mithril box option then the ring would start influencing either the boxsmith or the guardian to just try it on or imagine what it could do with it rather than just seal it away. Taking it to Mount Doom was really the only option and possibly the only reason for Frodo remaining its owner for so long was that Frodo was heading back towards Mordor and its original master and creator for so much of the journey.
    • Casting the Ring into the sea is discussed at the Council of Elrond. Gandalf vetoes this idea by saying it wouldn't permanently remove the threat. Sealing it up somewhere is the same idea, basically.
  • Also, even without the Ring, Sauron still has a gigantic army and is poised to conquer Middle-Earth. Last time, it took a huge alliance of Elves, Dwarves, and Humans to stop him, and it's doubtful that they could manage to do that again. They need a way to get rid of him entirely, and to do that, they need to destroy the Ring.

     Did the Ring Forget Something? 
  • When the Ring tempts Sam to claim it, he has a vision of himself as "Samwise the Strong", rallying armies to him and marching on Barad-dûr. Admittedly, this could be taken as implied in the vision, but given that Sam's immediate mission consists of rescuing Frodo from the enemy and that shortly beforehand, he's afraid that he might be too late to protect his master from the orcs' malice, wouldn't that have been specifically a feature of the temptation? It can't simply be a matter of "the Ring can't appeal to good desires", because it's a major plot point that it can. (In Sam's temptation alone, getting rid of Sauron would typically be seen as a good motive, and making a gigantic garden out of Mordor would seem neutral at worst.)
    • The Ring was trying to fill his head with inane visions of glory just to get him to put the Ring on. All it wanted was for Sam to put it on, reveal itself to Sauron, and end the quest then and there. Any thought of Frodo would keep Sam rooted in reality and keep him bound to his mission, and that's what happened.
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