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"Riddles in the Dark" Creatures nosing about - Older than Orcs and Goblins?

CirdanLinweilin

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So, this tidbit of information is both mystifying, satisfying (in a way) and already got me curious.

So when Bilbo takes a plunge to Gollum's domain under the mountain, the narrator talks about creatures older than orcs in some corners of the mountain.

Could these be the same "Nameless things" that Gandalf mentions in Fellowship of the Ring?
Creatures, just watching, waiting, peering, and scoping out a poor little hobbit, and some wretched creature once a Hobbit, and miserable Goblins.


Any ideas? What are these creatures older than orcs and goblins?

CL
 

TrickOrTreat

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I've just reread Riddles in the dark, and after looking specifically for the mention of these "old creatures" have found nothing, could you perhaps find the passage and chapter in which it's mentioned and also the passage and chapter where Gandalf mentions "nameless things" (I assume it's in Moira). The "nameless things" are most likely a reference to the Balrog and other creatures of Melkor.
 
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Squint-eyed Southerner

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I can help with the latter reference:

'Far, far below the deepest delving of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Sauron knows them not. They are older than he.'

The Two Towers, Chapter 5, The White Rider

I'll have to look for the other one.

And welcome to the forum, TrickOrTreat!

EDIT: The other reference is indeed from "Riddles in the Dark":

Even in the tunnels and caves the goblins have made for themselves there are other things living unbeknown to them that have sneaked in from outside to lie up in the dark. Some of these caves, too, go back in their beginnings to ages before the goblins, who only widened them and joined them up with passages, and the original owners are still there in odd corners, slinking and nosing about.
 
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TrickOrTreat

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Hmmm, this is actually quite interesting. Well what I think the creatures Tolkien is referencing are servents of Melkor because in The Silmarillion Tolkien writes
"But the mountains were the Hithaeglir, the Towers of Mist upon the borders of Eriador; yet they were taller and more terrible in those days, and were reared by Melkor to hinder the riding of Oromë.".
I do think that Gandalf is most likely referencing the same creatures that were written about in the Hobbit.
We know that Tolkien had put thought to the wider world even while writing The Hobbit because in the foreword of The Fellowship of The Ring
"The process had begun in the writing of The Hobbit, in which there were already some references to the older matter: Elrond, Gondolin, the High-elves, and the orcs, as well as glimpses that had arisen unbidden of things higher or deeper or darker than its surface: Durin, Moria, Gandalf, the Necromancer, the Ring. The discovery of the significance of these glimpses and of their relation to the ancient histories revealed the Third Age and its culmination in the War of the Ring.".
I actually really find this interesting, it's always fun to find references to the wider world in The Hobbit.
Thanks for the welcome! :D
 

Squint-eyed Southerner

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I think the creatures Tolkien is referencing are servents of Melkor
That could well be; however, I'd leave open two other possibilities: one, that they are datable to Melkor's tampering with Middle Earth, but rather than being "his" creatures, are a product, or byproduct, of the general poisoning that occurred in its attempted transformation into "Morgoth's Ring". In which case, he, like Sauron, may not even have been aware of their existence.

The other possibility is that they pre-date Morgoth's entry. It's difficult to imagine these things being a part of Eru's plan, but the existence of evil things wholly apart from Melkor is hinted at in various places, Ungoliant being the prime example. They could, like her, be creatures from the Outer Darkness, which somehow got into Arda, and "sneaked in" to the Misty Mountains after their raising by Melkor.

And there is in fact a third possibility: though we very naturally associate underground "nameless things" that "gnaw the world" with horror and evil, neither of the quotes above actually make that moral judgment. Gandalf does, in the passage quoted, go on to say:

'Now I have walked there, but I will bring no report to darken the light of day.'

This would appear to form a "moral" judgement, reinforced by the light/darkness opposition, which is normally equated with good/evil. But the passage continues:

'In that despair my enemy was my only hope, and I pursued him, clutching at his heel. Thus he brought me back at last to the secret ways of Khazad-dum. . .'

This, it seems to me, indicates that the danger to Gandalf lay, not in the "nameless things", but the possibility of becoming lost in the dark tunnels they had made. That would fit the Ironic fictional mode which forms this part of Gandalf's story-arc, and of which a sense of lost direction is an important aspect.

I raise this as a possibility because in romance, though the black/white, evil/good polarization of characters comes to the fore, there is another category of characters who, in critic Northrop Frye's words:

. . .elude the moral antithesis of heroism and villainy [and] generally are or suggest spirits of nature. They represent partly the moral neutrality of the intermediate world of nature and partly a world of mystery which is glimpsed but never seen, and which retreats when approached.

This description certainly seems to apply to the creatures, whatever they are, in both The Hobbit and LOTR. They may be frightful to us, as they would have been to Bilbo, had he actually encountered them in other than his fears, but they are not described as innately evil.

And in fact, some of the "spirits of nature" which go on to prove helpful to the "good" characters are initially, or originally, feared: Treebeard and the Druedain, for example. Even the Silvan elves of Lorien have this effect on the hobbits, at least. Frye gives, as the reason for this, that

Such characters are, more or less, children of nature, who can be brought to serve the hero, like Crusoe's Friday, but retain the inscrutability of their origin. As servants or friends of the hero, they impart the mysterious rapport with nature that so often marks the central figure of romance.

That very well describes Tom Bombadil, perhaps the foremost character of this kind in the story, but it applies to the others as well; as Treebeard says:

'I am not altogether on anybody's side, because nobody is altogether on my side, if you understand me.'

I'd suggest a range of characters who "elude the moral antithesis" to a greater or lesser extent, from Bombadil, who, though we would have to place him on the "good" end of the scale, would be, as Gandalf says, a very dangerous guardian for the Ring, through the Druedain, who, despite their hatred of orcs, are feared and hunted by men, to (possibly) include even the "nameless things".
 
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Merroe

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This brings to my mind some more references to unknown creatures mentioned in vague terms.

There is the discussion at the Green Dragon:

Those whose business took them to the borders saw strange things. [...] ‘Queer things you do hear these days, to be sure,’ said Sam.

... and an expression from Aragorn at the Council:

“Strider” I am to one fat man who lives within a day’s march of foes that would freeze his heart, or lay his little town in ruin, if he were not guarded ceaselessly.

Remember, there's also this:

the world being after all full of strange creatures beyond count

Not to mention Shelob... complex fauna, no doubt! :)
 

TrickOrTreat

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That could well be; however, I'd leave open two other possibilities: one, that they are datable to Melkor's tampering with Middle Earth, but rather than being "his" creatures, are a product, or byproduct, of the general poisoning that occurred in its attempted transformation into "Morgoth's Ring". In which case, he, like Sauron, may not even have been aware of their existence.

The other possibility is that they pre-date Morgoth's entry. It's difficult to imagine these things being a part of Eru's plan, but the existence of evil things wholly apart from Melkor is hinted at in various places, Ungoliant being the prime example. They could, like her, be creatures from the Outer Darkness, which somehow got into Arda, and "sneaked in" to the Misty Mountains after their raising by Melkor.

And there is in fact a third possibility: though we very naturally associate underground "nameless things" that "gnaw the world" with horror and evil, neither of the quotes above actually make that moral judgment. Gandalf does, in the passage quoted, go on to say:

'Now I have walked there, but I will bring no report to darken the light of day.'

This would appear to form a "moral" judgement, reinforced by the light/darkness opposition, which is normally equated with good/evil. But the passage continues:

'In that despair my enemy was my only hope, and I pursued him, clutching at his heel. Thus he brought me back at last to the secret ways of Khazad-dum. . .'

This, it seems to me, indicates that the danger to Gandalf lay, not in the "nameless things", but the possibility of becoming lost in the dark tunnels they had made. That would fit the Ironic fictional mode which forms this part of Gandalf's story-arc, and of which a sense of lost direction is an important aspect.

I raise this as a possibility because in romance, though the black/white, evil/good polarization of characters comes to the fore, there is another category of characters who, in critic Northrop Frye's words:

. . .elude the moral antithesis of heroism and villainy [and] generally are or suggest spirits of nature. They represent partly the moral neutrality of the intermediate world of nature and partly a world of mystery which is glimpsed but never seen, and which retreats when approached.

This description certainly seems to apply to the creatures, whatever they are, in both The Hobbit and LOTR. They may be frightful to us, as they would have been to Bilbo, had he actually encountered them in other than his fears, but they are not described as innately evil.

And in fact, some of the "spirits of nature" which go on to prove helpful to the "good" characters are initially, or originally, feared: Treebeard and the Druedain, for example. Even the Silvan elves of Lorien have this effect on the hobbits, at least. Frye gives, as the reason for this, that

Such characters are, more or less, children of nature, who can be brought to serve the hero, like Crusoe's Friday, but retain the inscrutability of their origin. As servants or friends of the hero, they impart the mysterious rapport with nature that so often marks the central figure of romance.

That very well describes Tom Bombadil, perhaps the foremost character of this kind in the story, but it applies to the others as well; as Treebeard says:

'I am not altogether on anybody's side, because nobody is altogether on my side, if you understand me.'

I'd suggest a range of characters who "elude the moral antithesis" to a greater or lesser extent, from Bombadil, who, though we would have to place him on the "good" end of the scale, would be, as Gandalf says, a very dangerous guardian for the Ring, through the Druedain, who, despite their hatred of orcs, are feared and hunted by men, to (possibly) include even the "nameless things".
What actually interests me is Gandalf's quote saying "They are older than he", referencing Sauron. Sauron was a Maiar created along side the Ainur. The only thing that predates the Ainur and Maiar is Eru. I think this lends credence to your second theory that these creatures actually predate Melkor.
 

Miguel

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What actually interests me is Gandalf's quote saying "They are older than he", referencing Sauron. Sauron was a Maiar created along side the Ainur. The only thing that predates the Ainur and Maiar is Eru. I think this lends credence to your second theory that these creatures actually predate Melkor.
Ungoliant may belong in this group of "Nameless things".

 
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Kinofnerdanel

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I took a university class on Tolkien's mythology, and the teacher was the leader and one of the founders of the Hungarian Tolkien Society, taking part in the international academical dialogue discussing the author, that is why I evoke him as a somewhat reliable source. He stated the Ainulindale broutht order into chaos, that Eru had shaped and arranged and structured something out of the volatile void that predated existence. Ungoliant emerged from this void, this is why she wasn't darkness, but nothing - she was non-existence itself, thus capable of not merely transforming or corrupting light, but devouring it entirely.

He also said that from a philosophical point of view this wasn't entirely the battle of good and evil, but that of order and chaos. Likewise, Melkor couldn't accept the subtle presence of his voice resulting in the harmony of the choir, and cacophony, disarrangement, Arda Marred followed. That is what we call evil.

My point is: those beings (along with Ungoliant) can very well be from the void, the chaos which is abhorred compared to the "artificially" arranged structure of existence. Their presence surely wasn't part of Illuvatar's plan.
 

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Miguel

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Who is "the hunter/dark rider" and "the shadow-shapes that walked in the hills above Cuiviénen, or would pass suddenly over the stars" ?.
 
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Miguel

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"and the Quendi said that the Hunter had caught them, and they were afraid."
"and of the dark Rider upon his wild horse that pursued those that wandered to take them and devour them."
It seems like it's an actual fiend who "appears" to be riding a horse. It is unclear if those two quotes refer to the same being tho. Looks like these shadow shapes could fly, probably a variety of em?.
 

Miguel

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It was him all along!.




Taking this into consideration, it could have been a mixture of things here:
"and either he sent indeed his dark servants as riders, or he set lying whispers abroad, for the purpose that the Quendi should shun Oromë, if ever they should meet."

Those shades that fly kinda remind me a little of that Gong creature concept that was abandoned.
 

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