Elves, Beards and Cycles of Life

Discussion in 'The Hall of Fire' started by Aragorn, Sep 30, 2008.

  1. Aragorn

    Aragorn Registered User

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    While reading an article about Mahtan (the father of Nerdanel, the wife of Fëanor) I found out :

    “…Mahtan had a beard, which was unusual for an Elf, especially one as young as he. According to Tolkien, most Elves could only grow beards from the "third cycle" of their lives, while Mahtan was an exception in being only early in his second.”

    How could you imagine an elf with a beard? But the most unclear question is:
    What do these “cycles” refer to?
     
  2. Ithrynluin

    Ithrynluin seeker of solace Staff Member

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    Phases in an elf's life. I don't think there are any set boundaries for each phase, but I reckon an elf in his third phase would have to be pretty old, though not necessarily ancient.
     

  3. Galin

    Galin Registered User

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    Círdan had a beard too.

    Anyway, Tolkien does not elaborate on the 'cycles' (that we yet know of, this note was published in Vinyar Tengwar, a linguistic journal), though I suppose one could speculate.
     
  4. YayGollum

    YayGollum Conscience of TTF

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    And didn't Gwindor have a beard, in at least one version of the story? Or mayhaps there was some other deleted elf with a beard? Something about how the fact that he'd been enslaved by Mel made him look like an old human. I totally have a character like that, so I must have been sure when I made him up.

    To answer the questions at the beginning, though --->

    1. With my imagination.
    2. Oh. Dang. That was already answered. My speculation on what the cycles are ---> From infancy to young adulthood, at a little slower rate than a human, very slow (capitalized Ages long, apparently) advancement from young adulthood to geriatrichood, then geriatrichood, which is quite happily without much senility or weakness, except for humans laughing at their pathetically patchy beards.
     

  5. Galin

    Galin Registered User

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    In an early painting Tolkien drew Beleg and Gwindor, but it was Beleg who was bearded there anyway. In any case that was quite early, in 1928, and I'm not sure that later Tolkien would have thought Beleg was in his third cycle of life (and thus perhaps he was going to lose his beard in theory).

    Over the years Tolkien's ideas about Elves changed, as did the terminology he used in reference to them. Examples include the very early notion of Elven faded 'diminutiveness' or their relative tallness in comparison to Men. Possibly JRRT later refined the issue of beards, and certainly he changed the way Elves reincarnated. And again possibly he even changed his idea on the shape of Quendian ears. Or Tolkien expanded or refined something, like Eldarin hair color.

    JRRT actually chose this painting for publication, but characterizing the illustration as Fangorn Forest suggests to me that these beings are 'now' (as far as Tolkien himself publishing a depiction of Elves anyway) not to be considered Beleg and Gwindor at least -- though I'm not sure who they are then supposed to be! if one looks close enough.
     
  6. YayGollum

    YayGollum Conscience of TTF

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    I found the quote. I hate looking those things up. Makes me look like I can't be trusted to know what I'm typing about. :rolleyes: "At first his own people did not know Gwindor, who went out young and strong, and returned now seeming as one of the aged among mortal Men, because of his torments and his labours;" So it doesn't specifically inform that he had a beard. Maybe there's some other quote? I am unsure.

    Towards Beleg having a beard, it could still make sense. A point is made about him not having a father. Why? There should have still been plenty of elves around from Cuivienen, at this time, and it doesn't seem like too common of a title. As well as, he is painted as a decently sized chunk of better than the average elf. I type that he's an Ainur type thing. No father, better than the average elf, and, just like Aule making a mistake with what capitalized Children were supposed to look like, sporting freakish facial hair. *sage nod*
     
  7. Alcuin

    Alcuin Registered User

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    Tolkien Artist & Illustrator, Hammond & Scull, plate 54. I had the old 1974 Tolkien Calendar, where it is labeled “Fangorn Forest.” I missed that: I had always believed it was Merry & Pippin.

    The painting was originally painted in 1928, according to Hammond & Scull. They explain in the text (p 55: plate & page numbers are separate) that the painting was for The Book of Ishness, and that “Gwindor” was then called “Flinding.” Flinding has “a red elvish cap and … one of the ‘little lanterns of lucent crystal / and silver cold’” (probably what is later called a “Fëanorian lamp”). An examination of the plate reveals that he is also face-down beneath the bole of the tree, so we cannot see if Flinding/Gwindor also had a beard in 1928 or not.

    A hunt around the internet for a specific reference to the Vinyar Tengwar article indicated that the material there might have dated from 1960. The article appeared in volume 41 and is entitled “From The Shibboleth of Fëanor,” edited by Carl F. Hostetter.

    Tinfang Gelion, a piper of Doriath who played for Lúthien in Lays of Beleriand, “The Lay of Leithian,” line 503, has a name, “Tinfang,” that might mean “twilight beard.” That doesn’t prove he actually had a beard, though, or that I have correctly interpreted the word Tinfang.
     
  8. Galin

    Galin Registered User

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    I didn't check the Lays, but in the Gnomish Lexicon the name appears to contain timp 'a hoot, a note of a flute or a small bell' (compare his Qenya name). Fang is a word too, for 'long beard', but the Gnomish Lexicon has two forms Tinfing or Tinfang with the words 'the fluter' next to these.

    Hmmm.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2008
  9. Alcuin

    Alcuin Registered User

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    I do not have “Gnomish Lexicon” (from Parma Eldalamberon?)

    “Flutter” would make more sense, since in the text, “Tinfang Gelion” is also called “Tinfang Warbler.”
     
  10. Galin

    Galin Registered User

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    Sorry Alcuin, that should be 'the fluter' rather (not 'flutter'). I will edit this in my previous post too. Not sure how that happened. Oops.

    And yes, the Gnomish Lexicon is published in Parma Eldalamberon No. 11
     
  11. Hobbit-GalRosie

    Hobbit-GalRosie Cowgal Hobbit

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    Thank goodness someone got an answer about this, I've been trying to for a long time with no luck, which makes sense since little or nothing more is known about it.

    I sometimes do picture Tinfang as having a beard, something small and neat...he seems like such a different creature to Tolkien's later Elves...