Is there an elvish working class?

Discussion in '"The Lord of the Rings"' started by Nameless Thing, Jan 10, 2019.

  1. Nameless Thing

    Nameless Thing Member

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    Are there elvish maids or farmers? If not, who waits the table of the elvish aristocracy? Who grows the wheat for their bread? Who washes the dishes? It's somehow hard to imagine Elrond baking his own bread and washing the dishes after the meal.
     
  2. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Skulking near Archet

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    Good question, NT-- and great to see you here again!

    Others may be able to give sources for earlier Ages, but there are a couple of passages in "Farewell to Lorien" that give hints. When Sam examines the rope placed in the boats, an Elf says "Had we known that this craft delighted you, we could have taught you much".

    And earlier, when Pippin asks if the cloaks they are given are "magic", he is told they had been woven by the Lady herself and her maidens.

    Tolkien was writing myth and romance, in which social and economic structure have limited place; as Don Quixote laments, "In a Romance, no one asks who pays for the hero's lodging".

    However, there is a suggestive comment in the passage about the cloaks: "For we put the thought of all that we love into all that we make," says the Elf. I think that expresses an attitude towards work different from the way we mortals regard it.

    Lothlorien is not Eden, where nothing changes, nor no work need be done; but neither is it our low mimetic world of dull tasks and hard labor. The Elves, as Tolkien said in On Fairy Stories, are not "supernatural" but "natural, far more natural than we". They took delight in the things of this world; my impression is that "work" for them, was something like an act of love. Think of cooking, as an example, and contrast the drudgery of "I guess need to make something to eat" with, say, preparing a meal for a lover. The actions may be similar, but the approach is very different.

    Speaking of which, you may remember Aragorn's absence at the feast in Rivendell; the reason given is that he wanted to hear the report from the newly returned sons of Elrond. But in an early draft, it was because of his abilities as a cook, and he'd spent the whole time in the kitchens!

    I hope you will be around more often, NT -- you always make interesting posts. :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019
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  3. Elaini

    Elaini Lost in Eä

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    There is a certain corn (grain) originating from the pastures of Yavanna which is an essential ingredient for the true Lembas. That tells me that they have an agriculture indeed, at least. Just because the working class is seldom mentioned doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

    Here's something I found from HoME:

    Neri meaning the elf lords and nissi meaning the ladies.
     
  4. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Skulking near Archet

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    I'll add that the Elf, in speaking to Sam, says that the ropes are made from hithlain, though as far as I know Tolkien never referred to this elsewhere, or provided an explanation of what it was.
     

  5. Valandil

    Valandil High King at Annuminas

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    I'm sure they existing. My copy of The Hobbit is on loan - but remember the Butler, the Jailer and... who was the other character drinking with the Jailer when the Butler came along? And the (Elvish) guys who tossed the barrels into the stream? They are there - we just don't see them very much - probably because they don't interact with humans so much, or else because they're not as pertinent to the recorded histories. :)
     
  6. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Skulking near Archet

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    True -- but we have to be tentative in expanding the world of The Hobbit into the greater legendarium. Tolkien himself tried a revision bringing it into conformity, and gave it up as a hopeless task.
     
  7. Elaini

    Elaini Lost in Eä

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    Yeah, but probably not in the Peter Jackson way.
     
  8. Galin

    Galin Registered User

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    I think the butler Galion and the chief guard had some wine, and later some Elves came down into the cellars -- having left the feast for their task.

    In a post Lord of the Rings text Tolkien at least refers to Galion (including a parenthetical reference to him as the butler), in an effort to characterize names in print, as far as what language they could be said to hail from.

    As far as that goes anyway :)
     
  9. Nameless Thing

    Nameless Thing Member

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    Very good points. I also thought about the Hobbit, when the Company arrives at Rivendell and silly, playful Elves great them, those could be either children/teenagers, or lower class people.
     
  10. Galin

    Galin Registered User

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    I see those Rivendell Elves in The Hobbit as some merry, playful Elves :)

    "Elves here, and Elves there! Some like kings, terrible and splendid; and some as merry as children." Banazir "Samwise", Many Meetings, The Lord of the Rings
     
  11. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Skulking near Archet

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    Yes, and I think that might have been an attempt to connect the (really pretty silly) elves from The Hobbit to the noble Elves of Middle Earth.

    I suspect the revision, had it been completed, would have seen them acting with a little more dignity!
     
  12. Galin

    Galin Registered User

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    I agree that Tolkien probably would have reduced (but not eliminate, not that SES said eliminate of course) the whimsy and comic touches of the Rivendell encounter. In general, for myself I enjoy seeing some merry, "foolish" Elves -- noting that, despite these songs, the author warns the reader that thinking the Elves foolish is a very foolish thing to think, and that Bilbo was a little frightened of the Elves.

    In The Hobbit, "some Elves" tease the Dwarves and laugh at them, but the Elf that actually meets the company directly, isn't foolish. And in The Lord of the Rings, even the High Elf Gildor arguably teases Frodo and the Hobbits: "But we have no need of other company, and hobbits are so dull", they laughed." Also, in Rivendell, Lindir and some other Elves seem (to me) to be having some lighthearted fun with Bilbo after his chanting.

    Generally speaking, Tolkien can be surprising regarding his revision here: John Rateliff notes:

    "... Tolkien had stated in 1954 that "I might not (if The Hobbit had been more carefully written, and my world so much thought about 20 years ago) have used the expression "poor little blighter", just as I should not have called the troll William (…), yet aside from some additions at the beginning of the encounter the troll's dialogue survived virtually untouched in this extensive 1960 recasting of the chapter, and the now-inappropriate names William (or Bill), Bert and Tom were all retained."

    In any case, in the end, we got very, very close to this Rivendell scene. Tolkien stopped just as Gandalf came to a steep fall and proclaimed "Here it is at last" with a note for the projected contents of the rest of this chapter.

    "CH. III should make clear
    Elrond's care for roads etc. from
    Greyflood to <Mountains>
    Also insert the white horse

    Rohald belonged to Rivendell, & had
    been lent by Elrond to Gandalf"

    I would have loved to see Tolkien go much further, even to the end. But then again, I think he had a few unfinished works already on his desk!

    ;)
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2019
  13. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Skulking near Archet

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    And most stayed that way, unfortunately. :(

    That note you quoted does make me wonder who got stuck doing road work!
     
  14. Galin

    Galin Registered User

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    The Highway Elves of course!

    ;)
     
  15. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Skulking near Archet

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  16. Nameless Thing

    Nameless Thing Member

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    Yes, and I most miss the ending of the Mariner's Wife. Such a great story.
     
  17. Squint-eyed Southerner

    Squint-eyed Southerner Skulking near Archet

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    I agree on that one. :(