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Old 08-16-2003, 08:59 AM   #1
Lord of Angmar
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Sting Anomalies

Throughout the history of Mankind, there have been things we could not explain. From UFOs and crop circles, to paranormal psychic powers to freak physical abilities, there are thousands of unexplained events that take place in the world, that humans are constantly striving to understand.

The concept of anomaly seems to be something that JRR Tolkien understood well when he created Middle Earth; entities, beings and events that could not be explained simply by the science, history or religion of the world. This creates the feeling that the world really exists, because there are parameters set within the world and parameters broken throughout the stories. In other words, the rules which Tolkien set for his world in the creationist part of the Silmarillion have been bent and broken throughout his stories (much as rules that we apply to the real world have often been tested by things that were beyond our power to explain).

Examples of anomalous and unexplained entities within Tolkien's world are Tom Bombadil and Goldberry, the Mouth of Sauron and Beorn. None of these figures' existence can be fully explained within the context of the laws of Middle Earth. The Mouth of Sauron is (assumedly) far too old to be a man, yet he is still fully Mannish, in flesh and blood. Beorn the shapeshifter is unaccounted for in the Silmarillion and cannot be fully and comprehensively classified as a member of the original Children of Iluvatar. Tom Bombadil is plainly meant to be an enigma, and his true nature has spawned fierce debate among Tolkienites across the world.

Forgive me if this is a duplicate thread, I did search on the search tool. I do not mean this to be another argument about what Bombadil truly is or a game of estimating the Mouth of Sauron's true age. It is simply meant as a discussion Professor Tolkien's world in the context of the bizarre and the unexplained. Please give me your thoughts on why Tolkien included such anomalies in his world, and feel free to add anything else from any of the Professor's works that you feel has never been adequately explained.

I will be visiting Britain for a week so I will probably be unable to partake in any of the discussion for a while. I shall look forward to seeing all that has been said when I return, and adding onto it.

Cheers!
-Angmar
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Old 08-16-2003, 12:48 PM   #2
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Tolkien

I agree with you Angmar, somethings just cannot be explained by just looking them up in tolkeins books. we will not truly know what beorn is, what the mouth of sauron is, or who really is tom bombadil.

i beleive that the good Professor ment to leave these little questions for his readers to think about. (good thing he did to, or else we would not have this great forum)

Its just like real mythology, you cannot know everything that is the myths, you have to have have things to think about if you are going to believe these things are real.

i believe Tolkein wanted his stories to be actual myths and legends that we can tell our children and grandchidren. he did not want the spirit of myths, and fairy tales to be forgeten. even though tolkein did not realy want his stories to be fairy tales they essentialy are.

if we did not have questions like these, we would not read his books over and over and over again.

my thanks to Professer Tolkein for his excelent works of art. he truly is one of the greatest authers of the century(or rather the century past)

cheers!

[ August 16, 2003: Message edited by: lore_master ]
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Old 08-16-2003, 07:51 PM   #3
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Sting

The thought of "Middle Earth X-Files" just popped into my head. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

You might want to include the Dreudain / watch-stone question, and (maybe) the Barrow-wight.

Those mysteries and anomalies really provoke questions that can never be answered, but they add to the interest of the entire work. The stories, after all, have from the beginning contained a lot of elements that defy the natural as we know it. To be honest, I never really stopped to try to "logicize" Bombadil, Beorn, et. al.; I just took them as they were and enjoyed.
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Old 08-16-2003, 08:12 PM   #4
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Sting

I've never really stopped to try to make sense of them either, Kaiserin, but it is great fun to do so. The anomalies provide extra flavour to the books, giving the reader premonitions of caution, comedy, or fear. And their presense is enjoyable (especially good old Tom's), because in the end what fun would the books be without them?


Iarwain

[ August 16, 2003: Message edited by: Iarwain ]
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Old 08-17-2003, 02:36 AM   #5
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Sting

Quite right, these things do add still more interest to JRRT's world. Still, infinitely more important are the rules themselves when they are not broken; since the rules are very extensive, this is what makes the mythology real.
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Old 08-17-2003, 05:09 AM   #6
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Sting

On Beorn, in Of Dwarves and Men(HoME 12) we learn that a lot of the Marachain tribes dedcided to remain in Mirkwood or in between the River Carnen and the Sea of Rhun, where in the Problem of Ros(HoME 12)we learn that many men, of whom the Edain are descended from made a camp, on opposite sides of the water. So evidently, Beorn is a Mandescended from the Marachian tribes who entered Mirkwood during the Mannish march to Beleriand. In The Hobbitwe learn

Quote:
If you must know more, his name is Beorn. He is very strong, and he is a skin-changer
So he is a skin-changer, but later on Gandalf mentions some 'confusion'abotu what people thought Beorn was;

Quote:
I cannot tell you much more, though that ought to be enough. Some say that he is a bear descended from the great and ancient bears of the mountains that lived there before the giants came. Others say that he is a man descended from the first men who lived before Smaug or the other dragons came into this part of the world, and before the goblins came into the hills out of the North. I cannot say, though I fancy the last is the true tale. He is not the sort of person to ask questions of.
So Beorn was evidently a anamolie, people(Who were these people I don't know, perhaps the Woodmen and the Elves of Thrnaduil) were unsure as to what Beorn was, a man or a bear. He has several 'animal like' characteristics he can converse with them for example and is evidently a shape-shifter. But Celegorm knew all the tounges of animals-does that make him a animal? No, this was a special skill of Beorn.

Gandalf also stipulates;

Quote:
At any rate he is under no enchantment but his own
Quote:
Beorn is dead- He appeared in The Hobbit. It was then the year Third Age 2940 (Shire-reckoning 1340). We are now in the years 3018-19 (1418-19). Though a skin-changer and no doubt a bit of a magician, Beorn was a Man
Letter #141; Letters of Tolkien

So Beorn was a man, but a magician, who may have gathered information on shape-shifting from Radgast who was a 'changer of hues' and who Beorn knew well, or maybe through his own experiments or knowledge of magic.

Aslo on anamolies/enigmas in general, Tolkien says:
Quote:
Many readers have, for instance, rather stuck at the Council of Elrond. And even in a mythical Age there must be some enigmas, as there always are. Tom Bombadil is one (intentionally).
Letter #141; Letters of Tolkien

Also in the Adventures of Tom Bombadilwe hear about how Tom 'wooed' (or kidnapped, as the case was) Goldberry from her mother the 'river-woman' (hence iver-womans daughter') claiming she would find no lover in the murky depths of the River.

[ August 17, 2003: Message edited by: Inderjit Sanghera ]
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Old 08-17-2003, 08:26 AM   #7
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Sting

*cough*
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Old 08-17-2003, 09:30 AM   #8
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Sting

Certainly, the enigmas of Middle Earth give the whole tale a different flavor. Before I repeat anyone else's ideas, I would like to point out the Pukel-men, the forerunners of the Druedain, also a bit of a mystery. I do not think Tolkien ever excessively mentioned them in any of his writings, although I may be wrong.

-Aredhel
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Old 08-17-2003, 02:20 PM   #9
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Sting

Quote:
The thought of "Middle Earth X-Files" just popped into my head
Wow! I'm in heaven! [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img]
In LOTR, I think Tolkien made use of the unexplained (or unexplainable, if we're speaking of Tom Bombadil) to remind us that despite the general 'epic tone' and historical complexity, we are after all reading a fairy tale, and its basic role is to enchant and bewilder and, occasionaly, give you chills. (it's always the unexplained that you find most frightening). What we cannot grasp with our rational mind and yet fascinates us appeals to our unconscious which feeds on myths and fantasy.
In an older post,( I forget which, but it would be great if someone dug it up) there was discussed the difference between what the author called the '2 parts' of the book: the first being the hobbit's journey to Bree (the second being the rest). The difference was that the first reads more like a fairy tale and the second more like an epic. And it seems to me that the first part seems much more rich in these 'anomalies' than the 'second', things that neither the hobbit heroes nor us as readers can at the time explain: we have Tom Bombadil, Goldberry, the unknown threats of the Old Forest, the Old Man Willow - whose story keeps being postponed by Tom, the Barrow Downs where the wights cast a spell on the hobbits which is too strange for me to comprehend even now, after I know their full story.
Another unexplained thing would be the reason why the Dead Marshes is riddled with corpses of the long-gone dead. This chilly tale told but in part serves rather to augment than to alleviate any fears.

[ August 17, 2003: Message edited by: Evisse the Blue ]
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Old 08-18-2003, 01:50 AM   #10
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Sting

Hmmm, a were-bear as that article says, Sharku; but how did he get this way? Personally, I would say that it's probably more than likely that Radagast had something to do with it. Beorn seems to be friends with him -- although he won't say much about him in the Hobbit -- and as Inderjit points out, the brown-wizard may have possessed adequate powers for this type of thing.

Obviously, Evisse, Tolkien's world permits for more of what we, were they to take place today, would call 'Mysteries of the Unexplained'; acordingly, things like the Dead Marshes -- while an exact definition of the powers behind it does not exist -- can exist in Middle-Earth. In our world, such things -- as far as we know or think, anyway -- always have some sort of scientific explanation; in the mythology, they do not, and really, when you think about it, this actually fits in with the over-rules of the invented world. They are not fully scientific.

The Music of the Ainur is, in all probability, the source of most such anomalies. The incredible complexity of the world is supposedly still unravelling, a complexity layered on by the multitudes of the Choir of the Ainur. And then, of course, there is the presence of the Ainur themselves (i.e. the Valar and Maiar) as well as the power and influence that other, more mysterious spirits have on the world. After all this, there is Illuvatar.

In all this complexity, there are consistent rules -- but there must always be the odd difference. Through this view, you are right, the invented world is augmented by these things and, trusting in the above-mentioned sources for their origins (although we don't actually know what they may be), there is a sense that indeed it does all fit.

------

Just on the subject of the Druedain;
Quote:
I do not think Tolkien ever excessively mentioned them in any of his writings, although I may be wrong.
They are pretty well explained in UT, actually. They are simply another tribe of Men, coming Westward into Beleriand with the Haladin. There is nothing particularly 'magical' about them (unless you want to believe the story of the watch stone (to my opinion, intentionally written as a superstious story oft he time), but they have a strange culture and strange ways.
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Old 08-18-2003, 05:04 AM   #11
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Sting

Quote:
They are pretty well explained in UT, actually. They are simply another tribe of Men, coming Westward into Beleriand with the Haladin
I think she was reffering to the 'Woses' the 'Southernly Branch' of the Druedain, who were held to be the first Men to cross the Anduin. The only reference I can find is in Tal-Elmar (HoME 12) where Elmar talks about Buldar's people driving away some Men that seem to match the description of the Druedaain. Though we are left puzzled as to where that actually took place though Tolkien does mention at one point at it being at Langstarnd, which lies close to Dol Amroth and is where Golsgail and various other hunters and fishers came to assist Minas Tirith. The Dreudain of Numenor, who began to leave Numenor after Tar-Aldaion's voyages may have moved with their kin to, and the two may have been merged into one group.
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Old 08-19-2003, 05:15 AM   #12
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Such things are also somewhat of a result of an inherent problem with the writing process for the books: there was little or no planning in the construction, merely a great deal of raw material from which to work.
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Old 08-19-2003, 11:18 AM   #13
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Sting

Interesting point, there, Rimbaud, to acknowledge Tolkien's writing habits and processes.

Umberto Eco has an article on popular culture, translated from an Italian newpaper, about this very kind of narrative gap or inconsistency.

Eco's point, and he is talking specifically about "Casablanca", is that it is this kind of art, narrative with holes and gaps and inconsistencies, which make for "cult art", the very anomalies themselves drawing widespread reader interest, in fact enabling extensive supposition and endless speculation.

Other examples would be Malory's 'Morte d'Arthur' and the entire plethora of Arthurian legend. In our own day, X Files.

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Old 08-20-2003, 02:23 AM   #14
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I agree and indeed further, I take back the phrase 'problem with' in my preceding post, and posit that 'chaos in' would be a better fit for my meaning.
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Old 08-20-2003, 01:23 PM   #15
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I agree that anomalies are vital to any story(especially fantasies). The thought of the unknown brings many questions to mind. One very huge anomaly that I have not seen mentioned is Ungoliant. The knowledge of beings on the rim of the earth with enough power to contend even with a Valar(Melkor) is disturbing and intriguing. Elrond also states in the FotR that even the sea may hold unknown creatures of evil. Without these anomalies, the LotR might have turned out quite differently.(But much less exciting)
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Old 08-21-2003, 02:35 AM   #16
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Sting

Quote:
I think she was reffering to the 'Woses' the 'Southernly Branch' of the Druedain, who were held to be the first Men to cross the Anduin.
Indeed, I had assumed that the Woses were the descendants (as UT suggests) of the Druedain of Numenor. The time frame was long enough.

Not that it's really that different, as the Druedain/Woses were not an 'anomaly'; simply a little-known, ill-documented race of rather mysterious and odd Men.

(Ungoliant is undoubtedly an interesting subject. If anyone's interested, there's an excellent discussion about her and her anomalous properties in sections of this thread.)

[ August 21, 2003: Message edited by: Gwaihir the Windlord ]
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