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Silmarillion - To be taken as authority?

Alcuin

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I have to work: I can’t stay and comment, though I’d love to chime in on “Who would win between Olorin and Sauron?” at this point to post on the Barrow-blade: I think Tolkien made the unique nature of the Dúnedain blades and their similarity to the Morgul-blades clear; but I don’t have time for it.

On The Silmarillion: Silmarillion is by far a vaster, more comprehensive tale than The Lord of the Rings. Any one of the long stories – The Children of Húrin, Beren and Lúthien, The Fall of Gondolin – deserves treatment as in-depth and voluminous as The Lord of the Rings, and besides these “Three Great Stories” in Silmarillion, there are many more (such as the Rebellion of the Noldor, the tale of Nargothrond, the tale of Húrin after his release by Morgoth, the Ruin of Doriath, the Voyage of Eärendil, and still many others) not just the one in The Lord of the Rings, which by itself took twelve years. Tolkien simply did not have the time to beat these stories into shape for publication.

Christopher Tolkien makes this clear in his work on the corpus of his father’s writings. No doubt he knows the stories as well as anyone alive, as well as anyone other than his father himself. Now in his mid-nineties and finally retired, he labored decades to read and study and notate all his father’s notes and jottings, travelling frequently between Oxford and Marquette to compare the various stores of materials. At the end of his labors he has produced, as best as he is able, comprehensive retellings of the “Three Great Stories” of The Silmarillion: The Children of Húrin, Beren and Lúthien, and The Fall of Gondolin. Even so, with all his effort and after all his study and work, he is still unable to remove all the contradictions between the three tales, and the contradictions that must also arise between The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings; nor is he able to completely tell the stories in their fullness, but only as he knows them, however intimately: he is repeating for the rest of us the stories he learned from his father. Dangweth Pengoloð, who quoted Rúmil the Sage of the Noldor for the Númenóreans so that they learned the tales of the Noldor; dangweth Christopher Tolkien, who quotes JRR Tolkien so that we learn the tales he heard from his father.

There was no way that JRR Tolkien could, in what remained of the last twenty years of his life, hammer The Silmarillion into a format as smooth and accessible as his masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings. Christopher, his son and heir, has carefully pieced together as much as he has been able over the past 46 years, and that is what we have.

The “canon”, if you want to call it that, is what JRR Tolkien published during his lifetime. His son’s work is near unto it, but Christopher Tolkien often concedes there are discrepancies and contradictions. It is literature, a story: the shortcomings of mortal story-tellers are unavoidable. But the tales are beautiful all the same.

And now I must return to my labors in the salt mines.
 

Miguel

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There are things from previous versions of TS that i just like too much to ignore them so for me they're still canon in a blurry/dreamy way.
 

Olorgando

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There are things from previous versions of TS that i just like too much to ignore them so for me they're still canon in a blurry/dreamy way.
I think I know some cat-owners (a contradiction in terms) on another site who may have been sad that Tevildo got replaced by some jewelry-obsessed Maia. ;)
 

Lych92

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In the movie forum, there was a huge discussion concerning taking only LoTr and The Hobbit as standard. Some felt that only these writings could be trusted and that all post-Tolkien works were interesting at best....

I did read somewhere that before Tolkien did LoTR he tried to get Silmarillion published, but to no avail, so he set it aside and started LoTR. After LoTR was published he turned his eyes to the Elder days of ME.

My point is, is that I think (though edited by Christopher Tolkien) the Silmarillion was pretty definitive on what Tolkien felt and agreed on concerning other matters. I think that Sil can be trusted as a definitive source along side Hobbit and LoTR.

Any comments?
I always refer to Silmarillion if I ever need any background reading and understanding of all things ME 😆
 

Olorgando

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I always refer to Silmarillion if I ever need any background reading and understanding of all things ME 😆
To repeat an opinion - perhaps "heretical" :eek: - that I dared to post elsewhere (not on this site yet, I believe), everything Christopher has published since his father's death has been an enormous expansion of the appendices found in RoTK: Silmarillion, UT, twelve HoMe volumes, Children of Húrin, Beren and Lúthien, Fall of Gondolin … and never mind his The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, The Fall of Arthur, and Beowulf, or for that matter Verlyn Flieger's The Story of Kullervo and The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun. JRRT would certainly seriously rebel against my downgrading the Sil in this way, but with LoTR outselling the Sil by a factor of about 100 (and zillions of authors would just love to reach the at least 2 million sales of the difficult Sil!!!), he might very grudgingly concede. "The Hobbit" was a children's book; the Sil is - well, the Sil; but the combination of the two was the book of the 20th century, end of message!
 

Squint-eyed Southerner

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: I think Tolkien made the unique nature of the Dúnedain blades and their similarity to the Morgul-blades clear;
Please come back soon, and expand on this! I hadn't considered it before, but the possible symmetries are tantalizing:

'There are evil things written on this hilt,' he said; 'though maybe your eyes cannot see them.'
 

Alcuin

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Please come back soon, and expand on this! I hadn't considered it before, but the possible symmetries are tantalizing:

'There are evil things written on this hilt,' he said; 'though maybe your eyes cannot see them.'
Working backwards, the first pertinent passage is in Reader’s Companion at the end of the chapter for “Knife in the Dark”. Hammond and Scull recite Tolkien’s notes on the chapter:
It is a strange thing that the camp was not watched while darkness lasted of the night Oct. 6-7, … so that [the Witch-king] … lost track of the Ring. … [The Witch-king] … had been shaken by the fire of Gandalf, and began to perceive that the mission on which Sauron had sent him was one of great peril to himself both by the way, and on his return to his Master (if unsuccessful);… [A]bove all the timid and terrified Bearer had resisted him, had dared to strike at him with an enchanted sword made by his own enemies long ago for his destruction. Narrowly it had missed him. How he had come by it – save in the Barrows of Cardolan. Then he was in some way mightier than the B[arrow]-wight…

Escaping a wound that would have been as deadly to him as the Mordor-knife to Frodo (as was proved at the end), he withdrew and hid for a while…
So from this passage we learn that

(1) the barrow-blade is indeed an “enchanted sword made by [the Dúnedain] for [the Witch-king’s] destruction,” and
(2) “a wound [from] that [sword] would have been as deadly [to the Witch-king] as the Mordor-knife was to Frodo (as was proved at the end).”​

Hold onto those two ideas and consider what Gandalf told Frodo when he awoke in Rivendell.
You were beginning to fade. … The wound was overcoming you at last. A few more hours and you would have been beyond our aid. … [T]here was some fragment of the blade still in the closed wound. But it could not be found until last night. Then Elrond removed a splinter. … It has been melted. [I]t seems that Hobbits fade very reluctantly. I have known strong warriors of the Big People who would quickly have been overcome by that splinter… They tried to pierce your heart with a Morgul-knife which remains in the wound. If they had succeeded, you would have become like they are, only weaker and under their command. You would have become a wraith…
So here are some more ideas to hold onto.

(3) The Morgul-knife is meant to cause regular people to fade, to enter into the Unseen world. In other words, it’s necromancy, sorcery.(Necromancy is magic concerning the dead. Sorcery is what we call commonly “Black magic,” what Tolkien calls Morgul in Sindarin.) Remember, Sauron is the Necromancer, and the Witch-king his chief servant was “a great king and sorcerer … of old.”
(4) At the end of the fading process, mortals become wraiths.
(5) Hobbits resist fading.​

Now let’s go back further to Gandalf’s first discussion with Frodo about the Ring.
A mortal … who keeps one of the Great Rings does not die, but he does not grow or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last every minute is a weariness. And if he often uses the Ring to make himself invisible, he fades: he becomes in the end invisible permanently, and walks in the twilight under the eye of the dark power that rules the Rings. Yes, sooner or later – later, if he is strong or well-meaning to begin with, but neither strength nor good purpose will last – sooner or later the dark power will devour him.
So here’s another idea:

(6) The Great Rings do the same thing to mortals as the Morgul-knife: it makes them fade.​

Let’s gather another important point:

(7) Aragorn tells the Hobbits that “all blades perish that pierce that dreadful King.”​

Now let’s jump ahead to the Witch-king’s confrontation with Éowyn and Merry and examine the oft-quoted passage of much interest:
[G]lad would he have been to know [the] fate [of the sword of the Barrow-downs] who wrought it slowly long ago in the North-kingdom when the Dúnedain were young, and chief among their foes was the dread realm of Angmar and its sorcerer king. No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will.
So here’s the last little tidbit:

(8) The Barrow-blade undid the fading process by “breaking the spell”, making the Witch-king vulnerable to a blow by Éowyn’s sword, which doesn’t seem to be magic, just a normal sword.​

One of the primary original purposes of the Great Rings, from point of view of the Elves who forged them, was at least in part to prevent their fading while they remained in Middle-earth. The effect on Men, however, was to make them fade. The Witch-king used a Morgul-knife on Boromir I, Steward of Gondor, and though he mostly recovered from the wound, he died young for a Dúnadan of that time. There can be little doubt that the Witch-king also used Morgul-knives in his long war to destroy what remained of Arnor: hence Elrond’s and Aragorn’s knowledge of the blades, as well as Aragorn’s knowledge that “all blades perish that pierce that dreadful King.” In the Second Age, Elrond led the surviving Mírdain, the Elven-smiths, of Eregion to safety in the Mountains and founded Rivendell. It seems that at least one of the Dúnedain learned what was happening to his fellows because of the dreadful weapons, and he fashioned a counter-weapon: something that would undo the necromantic spells of the Great Rings sufficient to render a Ringwraith vulnerable to normal weaponry, to unfade it; that may or may not have required the assistance of or knowledge from the surviving Mírdain in Rivendell: it is probably inconsequential to the story, but they were available. (These are probably the same Elven-smiths who reforged Narsil into Andúril.) The Witch-king could not unmake these weapons, so he gathered them together and put them in a great barrow (the tomb of the last Prince of Cardolan) guarded by a barrow-wight. But he either never knew about or forgot about Tom Bombadil, who did know about the swords (or daggers), opened the barrow, and drove out the barrow-wight. So when Merry struck the Witch-king with his barrow-blade, the effect of the blade was to unfade him sufficiently that Éowyn could kill him: just the opposite of the effect of the Morgul-knife on Frodo.

A few loose ends. Bilbo felt all thin and stretched: Gandalf said that was a sign the Ring was getting control of him. Gollum was altogether thin and stretched even down to his cackling laugh, but he had never yet become a wraith. Another loose end: “all blades perish that pierce that dreadful King.” That seems to be an effect of either the Witch-king’s Ring or his sorcery, or some combination of the two. It was still in effect even after Merry stabbed him: Éowyn’s sword disintegrated when she struck him, but only after delivering a “mortal” wound to his faded body. And Nazgûl were exceedingly tough: Legolas shot one out of the sky along the Anduin, and though it fell quite a distance, it wasn’t killed. (Nazgûl didn’t like fire, but that might be because it was not only painful, but it may have taken them some time to recover from the effects of burns.) And finally, Frodo used one of these blades on the barrow-wight, severing its hand, breaking the blade up to the hilt, but its effect on the barrow-wight seems to have been to injure it and make it angry (it snarled at him): the effect on the Witch-king was rather more dramatic.

At the end, I think we can definitely say that
  • the barrow-blade was made by Dúnedain, and
  • the barrow-blade was, in fact, “enchanted”.
  • If we take Tolkien’s word for it, the effect on the Witch-king was very like the effect of his Morgul-knife on Frodo.
The fading/unfading is obviously speculative on my part, but if we want to speculate on a mechanism for how this might happen, it fits with what we know from the story.

That leaves the question of how the Dúnadan smith learned how to accomplish this. To answer that, I propose that
  • the Dúnedain of Arnor had unfortunately experienced Morgul-knives and their effects, possibly obtaining one or more examples.
  • They had access to any surviving Mírdain in Rivendell.
  • Saruman was not always an enemy. Like Sauron, he was one of the folk of Aulë the Smith, and might have lent the Dúnedain some assistance.
  • And finally, let’s face it: the Dúnedain were pretty smart on their own account.
I’ve really got to get back to the salt mines.
 

Squint-eyed Southerner

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Thanks, Alcuin. I'd seen most of these points elsewhere, but scattered; it's good to have them clearly set out in one place.

On one point, I'd offer, not a quibble, exactly, but a possible alternate idea: that the Dunedain of Cardolan, facing utter defeat, and what looked like extinction, but knowing the Witch-King and other Ringwraiths would "live" on, interred the Barrow-blades themselves, in fear of their being lost or destroyed, and in hopes that they would someday be recovered by enemies of Mordor. It would then make sense for the Witch-King to send the wights to guard against this.

And he would have gotten away with it, if it hadn't been for those meddling kids! :)
 

Olorgando

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Sorry, O -- American pop culture reference!
View attachment 6028

Ah yes, dear ol' Scooby Doo. Started back in 1969, when my family and I moved into the house on Long Island.
And more to the point, it was the end of two years of my spending Saturday mornings at the Goethe Institute in Manhattan to get my German beyond the fourth-grade level.
I always got back just as the Saturday morning cartoons were over! 😭
But from 1969 Saturday mornings were cartoon time! 😛
 

Alcuin

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On one point, I'd offer, not a quibble, exactly, but a possible alternate idea: that the Dunedain of Cardolan, facing utter defeat, and what looked like extinction, but knowing the Witch-King and other Ringwraiths would "live" on, interred the Barrow-blades themselves, in fear of their being lost or destroyed, and in hopes that they would someday be recovered by enemies of Mordor. It would then make sense for the Witch-King to send the wights to guard against this.
That’s an interesting notion. I had always assumed the wights were there to prevent the Dúnedain of Cardolan from using the barrows as defensive positions, as they did during Angmar’s first invasion in Third Age 1409. And I assumed the Witch-king had gathered and deposited the blades in the tomb himself. I wonder if there’s any way to clarify matters?
 

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I'm aware of that note as well ("deadly") through H&S's Companion, and not that Alcuin claimed otherwise, but to my mind, Tolkien doesn't really explain much there.

I think any theory has to go beyond that a spell was broken, and incorporate the description that Merry's blade broke the spell that knit WK's unseen sinews to his will. Also, a few more words on fading: Gandalf explains to Frodo (The Shadow of the Past): "A mortal Frodo ( . . .) And if he often uses the Ring to make himself invisible, he fades: he becomes invisible permanently, and walks in the twilight under the eye of the Dark Power that rules the Rings."

Ring-wraiths. This is a translation of the Black Speech Nazgûl, from nazg 'ring' and gûl, any one of the major invisible servants of Sauron dominated entirely by his will. A compound must be made out of suitable elements in the language of translation that has the sense of 'ring-wraith' as nearly as possible.
JRRT, Nomenclature

I note also the description of the Nine in Of The Rings Of Power And The Third Age, basically they could walk unseen, could see things invisible to men (but too often were shown phantoms and delusions), but one by one they fell under the domination of Sauron, and became forever invisible save to him that wore the One. And Merry's blade hit "unseen" sinews.

I would say that the wraiths were already faded well before they met Frodo and Merry: permanently invisible and under Sauron's will. We see that they fear fire, or water
* takes them out. Of course Gandalf says that their cloaks give shape to their "nothingness", but they can't truly be nothing in any case, and to my mind they are like ghosts in notable enough ways to be called "wraiths" (again, in that they are invisible and instill fear). I think Tolkien makes an interesting statement concerning the Dead who followed Aragorn, that it was not known if their weapons would "bite", or touch anything. They were ghosts, invisible, instilling fear was all they needed.

And Boromir: why should the Witch-king fear him. Did WK know that Boromir had an unfading blade? I think it's simpler, and explained in the very next sentence: he was a man
"strong of body and in will" And in will. I'll bet there were plenty of strong bodies in Gondor, but this Boromir would not lose his wits to unreasoning fear, and thus was a man to be feared in battle. Tolkien must have known how valuable it was in war to have a strong will. To not give into fear before the enemy even strikes.

__________

*I find it interesting that Gandalf makes so little of legolas' shot, as when Tolkien arrived at the point in which the Nazgul Lord was to be taken out by Eowyn, at one point he imagines that the wraith was "killed" not by swords but by being smashed in a fall! Possibly some external detail helps explain things here (at least for me), but I can't recall at the moment, and am too lazy to check in any case.
 
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Squint-eyed Southerner

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On that last bit, Galin -- is that in one of the drafts? I must have forgotten it. I'd appreciate a reference, if and when you have time -- and energy. Away from my library again, so can't look.
 

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