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Discussion in '"The Lord of the Rings"' started by host of eldar, Apr 9, 2012.

  1. host of eldar

    host of eldar for mirkwood!

    I don't exactly know if this is the proper place but I want to ask it. What would be the appearance of a child whom parents are from different races? will Aragorn and Arwen's child have pointy ears? or be immortal?
  2. Troll

    Troll Lorekeeper of Nardor

    Are pointy ears a canonical feature of Elves? ;)

    The mechanics of the Choice of the Half-Elven are unclear and internally inconsistent, considering such unions were never 'supposed' to take place anyway. While none of Elros' children were able to choose anything other than mortality, even though they also were Half-elven (or quarter, or sixteenth, etc), Dior may have been able to choose immortality despite Beren and Luthien's choice of mortality. At any rate it's fairly certain that Elwing ended up immortal either way - though the intervention of the Valar in her and Earendil's case makes it impossible to draw any conclusions.

    Common sense, though, dictates that it's a heckuva lot simpler to go from being immortal to mortal than to go from being mortal to immortal, so my gut tells me Eldarion will live and die as a Man, especially considering the Fourth Age is the age of Man, not Men ruled by Elves.
  3. Galin

    Galin Registered User

    That might depend upon what one finds canonical, but there is nothing published by Tolkien himself that describes the Elves as having pointed ears; and as far as posthumously published texts -- post dating The Lord of the Rings I mean -- we have this bit of description...

    'Q lasse 'leaf (S las); pl. lassi (S lais). It is only applied to certain kinds of leaves, especially those of trees, and would not e.g. be used of leaf of a hyacinth (linque). It is thus possibly related to LAS 'listen', and S-LAS stem of Elvish words for 'ear'; Q hlas, dual hlaru. Sindarin dual lhaw, singular lhewig.' JRRTWords, Phrases and Passages, Parma Eldalamberon 17

    Earlier citations (also posthumously published) aside here... for the moment.
  4. Bucky

    Bucky Registered User

    Pointed ears = Mr. Spock, aka PJ invented them.
  5. HLGStrider

    HLGStrider All Knowing Magic Cat

    I believe that, if we are dealing specifically with Arwen and Aragorn's children, since she was given the choice to be Man or Elf and chose the fate of men, her children would be more human than not, and therefore mortal. This doesn't mean, I guess, that they wouldn't have any Elvish traits at all. Imrahil had an Elvish ancestor way back but Legolas was still able to recognize the "Elvish Blood" in him, which to me would suggest there are some external traits that do not fade when the blood mixes, so to speak.
  6. Galin

    Galin Registered User

    By the way, I do think that around 1938-ish or earlier, Tolkien did think of his Elves as having more pointed and leaf-shaped ears than Men, and there is posthumously published material to be raised for that argument (notably from Etymologies)...

    ... however since the quote I provided above arguably supersedes the earlier text from Etymologies, I think what Tolkien 'ultimately' intended should be gleaned from this later text -- written sometime after The Lord of the Rings was published, so no earlier than 1954, 1955 -- rather than Etymologies (or a letter also dated around 1938).
  7. Prince of Cats

    Prince of Cats Among the Trees

    Galin, could you elaborate please? I don't see how the etymology passage you kindly provided us earlier relates to the anatomy of Elvish ears
  8. Galin

    Galin Registered User

    Ah but that's the question Prince of Cats :*)

    Why is lasse 'leaf' (being a word referring to only certain kinds of leaves, especially those of trees) possibly related to LAS 'listen' and SLAS -- this latter root from which Elvish words for 'ear' derive?

    I would like to hear Jallan's interpretation of this actually -- but interpreting only what is related in the citation already in the thread -- not as it might be coloured by what had been written in 1938 (or roughly around this time), which admittedly is hard to do once one knows what the older text states.

    To my mind one will come to a 'purer' opinion based only on this later version (which is why I'm purposely not posting the older text), even though I know many people, inculding Jallan, are already aware of the older Etymologies quote.
  9. Bucky

    Bucky Registered User

    No pointed ears on elves..

    Mr Spock has pointed ears.

    ..And PJ's revisionist nonsense.
  10. Bucky

    Bucky Registered User

    No, Eldarion would have no more choice to be an Elf than the descendants of Elros did...

    Following generations don't get to 'rechoose' being an Elf once an Elven ancestor chooses to become Mortal.
  11. HLGStrider

    HLGStrider All Knowing Magic Cat

    I just want to point out that PJ really isn't at fault for the pointy ears because they predate him. Remember this guy? hobbit_1977_elrond1.jpg
    I imagined Elves with pointy ears long before I saw the movie simply because I have never seen Elves portrayed without pointy ears, just generally speaking in movies and books. I know there is a big leap between The Elves and Shoe-Maker and Tolkien, but seriously, when a first time reader sees the word "Elf" they go straight to pretty, lithe, pointy eared folk. I don't see proof anywhere that Elves had pointy ears, but I never see it stated that they didn't, from which we could draw two opposite conclusions.
    A That by excluding this information Tolkien was assuming that we'd fill in the obvious ears (whether in his brain this would be the culturally common pointy or the every day ears of you and I, I know not)
    B That by excluding this information Tolkien was allowing us to form our own image of what Elves look like (Kind of unlikely for someone as detailed as him).

    I know it isn't cannon, but what do the Elf ears look like in the Father Christmas Letters? My copy is in an overseas shipment some where right now, so I can't check. I know the Father Christmas Elves are tiny little non-Eldar Elves, but outside any other proof, I think their ears might give us a glance into Tolkien's mindset.
  12. jallan

    jallan Registered User

    Galin wants some response from me.

    I only note that Tolkien never indicated in his writing that Hobbits had pointed ears, but he drew Bilbo with pointed ears in his illustrations to The Hobbit.

    That suggests to me that if Hobbits who from anything said about them need not have Elvish ears, but do, it seems somewhat unlikely to me that Tolkien imagined that Elves didn’t have traditional Elvish ears, especially given the hints in the linguistic material.

    See http://tolkien.slimy.com/essays/Ears.html for a very good discussion on the matter.

    Elves. by the way, are not said in traditional tales to have pointed ears. Nothing is said one way or the other on the matter. That elves are illustrated with pointed ears I believe to date to Victorian times, and the pointed ears are borrowed from the goat ears given to devils, fauns, and satyrs, as an indication of the uncanny nature of Elvish wights.
  13. Galin

    Galin Registered User

    Thanks Jallan, and not that you have to answer of course, but I was hoping you might give your opinion on whether or not the quote above -- as it stands, without being coloured by Etymologies -- need necessarily mean that Elves have more leaf-shaped ears, or more pointed ears, than Men do.

    I ask because in my opinion Tolkien, in Words Phrases and Passages, has essentially revised the famed Etymologies quote -- and in doing so he 'leaves out' the fairly directly stated reason (back in Etymologies) as to why LAS1 and LAS2 are possibly related. Has JRRT changed his mind in the 1950s or later? It would not be the only time he revised something about his Elves of course; how tall they were compared to Men for instance.

    Yet this was in 1938-ish or earlier, when I think it's arguable that JRRT did think of both Hobbits and (his) Elves as having leaf-shaped and more pointed ears than Men (noting Tolkien's letter here too, written at about this time, concerning how he pictures Hobbits or Bilbo).

    I've always wondered when the pointed-eared Elf image arrived. If this was a Victorian addition, I would have guessed that Tolkien would rather 'rebel' against it -- although obviously not necessarily, and even seemingly not, at least early on.

    Perhaps around the...

    1940s or earlier: Tolkien has leaf and listen words 'possibly' related, imagining that Elves and even Hobbits have leaf-shaped ears (noting Etymologies and Letters), thus giving a reason for the seeming linguistic connection in the Elvish tongues.

    1950s or later: Tolkien possibly changes his mind? however Elvish listen-words (and ear-words) and leaf-words are already in print, so JRRT states that there is a possible 'relationship' but does not now state that Elves have leaf-shaped ears, more pointed than humans. Maybe (within the consideration that there is a relationship)...

    ... Elves saw a similarity between certain shapes of leaves and the ears of: themselves, beasts, and later even Men. Elvish ears did not differ from those of Men however, since ear-shape in general was leaf-like enough to them, although certain beasts had rather more pointed ears in any case.

    And this linguistic detail led to the incorrect (Fourth Age) 'later Gondorian' view that Elves had more pointed ears than Men -- these later Men of Gondor having had no first-hand contact with Elves are yet considering the 'possible' relationship from the linguistic evidence -- which was lost to history for a long while; but in any case the idea of pointy-eared Elves returns much later, in the Victorian image.

    In other words (in this theory) the conceit is that Tolkien explains the real truth (or at least the older truth) behind the misconception! The Victorian image is wrong, but the real beginning of the misconception lies much further back, as certain Mannish scribes and artists tried to interpret what the Quendi looked like -- injecting a slight confusion into the scenario -- perhaps along the lines of Tolkien's idea that some later incorrectly thought the name Galadriel contained a 'tree-word' for example.

    Or too strained? :*D
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2012
  14. jallan

    jallan Registered User

    Yes, Galin, I think your interpretation is too strained.

    Not too strained to be a quite possible interpretation, but too strained to be convincing to me.

    It is somewhat like trying to dig out of Tolkien his opinion on Legolas’ hair color. The data is just not there, it seems to me.
  15. Galin

    Galin Registered User

    Thanks. Of course it's my interpretation in that I raised it, but for clarity (for the thread) it's not really my interpretation in any firm sense, but more me wondering about a 'what if' possibility I had thought of. And I wondered if a linguist would find this reason (regular ears and certain leaves are close enough in shape to account for such a connection) plausible enough in general.

    Is there any such (even arguably) similar linguistic connection found in Primary World languages? I'm inclined to think not, or someone would have 'pointed' it out by now, I'm guessing. Pun not intended.

    But I agree, attributing this theory to Tolkien however, is a different animal. That said, why not simply note why these stems and words are possibly related, as JRRT had done back in the late 1930s early 1940s? And how far does the new quote get to actually implying that Elves had leaf-shaped ears?

    In a sense we only have a happenstance with respect to the order in which these two texts were posthumously published, meaning that Etymologies just happened to be published well before the much later (in Tolkien's life) WPP version, and thus the former is far more well known, and often raised to support the idea that the Quendi had leaf-shaped, more pointed ears than Men; and some seem to raise it as if it rather answers the issue quite directly and without question.

    But how direct is the 'revised quote' by itself (as Tolkien himself very arguably would not have published both, if he might publish one)?

    'Possibly' makes it a bit unsure from the start of course -- although the reader will know that Tolkien himself should know, or at least could know, if we have a true relationship, and why, as JRRT as author is obviously the creator of his Secondary World. Tolkien rather chooses to 'guess' in a sense, either from his fictive guise as translator, or from another fictive point of view, but once one considers the possibility of a true relationship, will one surely think that the reason must be that the Quendi had leaf-shaped ears, more pointed than human ears?

    Tolkien knows that the reader is likely aware of the 'popular' image of Elves in any case, and the shape of some leaves is arguably in play here, in some way -- or at least I can't think of something else with respect to why leaves, listening, and ears, 'might' be related linguistically...

    ... more than shape I mean. But again the new commentary on LAS and SLAS appears to stop short of what Etymologies had noted more plainly, making me wonder if JRRT, now in the 1950s or later, at least thought it better to leave the matter somewhat more vague than he had in the late 1930s or early 1940s.
  16. Bucky

    Bucky Registered User

    here's some, I think:


    Turin: "Was LaLaith indeed like an Elf-child, as my father said?"
    Sador: "Very like." "For in their first youth the children of Men & Elves seem close kin. ,"
  17. HLGStrider

    HLGStrider All Knowing Magic Cat

    I personally don't feel that resembling humans totally disqualifies Elves from having pointy ears. My brother-in-law has said several times that my daughter has pointed ears (I hadn't noticed until he said something, but once he called my attention to it, he's right, my infant's ears are slightly pointed). It isn't completely unheard of for ears to have a slight peak at the top. I just always imagined that it would be more distinct in Elves. Even a very distinct point (a la Spock) I think wouldn't disqualify an Elf from looking Human at first glance, especially considering most people would have long hair and ears would not always be visible.
  18. Galin

    Galin Registered User

    I agree that a general resemblance need not rule out slightly more pointed or leaf-shaped ears. Even when Tuor is known to be mortal by his eyes (revised Fall of Gondolin, Unfinished Tales), we don't know if his ears were visible enough, or if mannish ears were always notably different enough to be a sure distinction (within the assumption that they were generally different from Quendian ears in the first place).

    And I agree that some humans have more 'pointed' ears than others, which I think lends a bit of support to my theory earlier about ears in general and (certain kinds of) leaves.
  19. HLGStrider

    HLGStrider All Knowing Magic Cat

    We sort of hijacked this thread with the ear discussion because it really was asking about general appearance, rather than just ears. What are the general traits that set Elves apart from Humans? Is it as subtle as race? I'm personally really bad at guessing ethnicity. For instance, I recently found out my pastor's wife was half Korean and I just assumed she was of maybe Latin descent because she had really dark hair and eyes. . .but I have known people who can tell the difference between Japanese and Korean at a glance. If the difference between Human and Elf is that subtle (ie as subtle as the difference between certain "races" of humans), then I still don't think it rules out pointed ears (Weird example, but all cats are basically the same species but that doesn't stop the Scottish Fold from having very distinct ears) but it does bring up an interesting discussion:

    What exactly are the differences between Human and Elf?

    I have noted that Elves in Tolkien's world seem to be taller and that the taller lines of human (Numenorean) seem to be the ones descended in part from Elvish blood.
    I have always assumed that Elves were a little paler of complexion than Humans.
    I also have always assumed that Elves were a little more willowy of build as opposed to humans who tend to have more bulk to them.

    I am using the term assume because these are just the impressions I've gathered. I don't actually have a copy of the books handy to look up all these things (middle of a move here).
  20. jallan

    jallan Registered User

    I do not know what “a” linguist might say. This amateur linguist is not convinced at all. Your theory is a possible one, I think, but no more.

    Repeating the theory again and again in different words does not make it more convincing to me.

    Possibly, and possibly not. Wonder away.

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