In my personal universe winter is closely associated with the development of my fascination with Tolkien. It was in December that I first picked up The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, with the latter sitting on my bookshelf for several years after the purchase, untouched and unopened, biding its time to storm into my life precisely when it meant to. I spent the whole last month of the year with my nose buried in the books, unable to part with the stories. However, no matter how much I loved The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, it was my January dive into The Silmarillion that sealed my respect and love of Tolkien’s books and turned me from just a reader into the student of his works.
In many ways Elvish immortality in Tolkien’s Legendarium is more like a doom for its bearers, rather than a blessing: being not permanent living per se, it is rather the state of an immensely long life until the end of Arda without any knowledge of what comes afterwards. Thus, alongside moments of joy, Elves carry great burdens of battles lost, dear ones dead and sorrows experienced over the courses of their really long lives, and the burden becomes only heavier with years. As Men are growing stronger and more powerful, Elves are waning and fading gradually. In Tolkien’s own words, they “are concerned rather with the griefs and burdens of deathlessness in time and change, than with death” (Letters, № 131).
Over the course of Middle-earth history its villains have always been inventive in hiding the places of their habitation as much as they possibly could so that nothing and nobody could interfere with their evil deeds. Various camouflage devices have been applied, beginning with going deep underground to veiling tall towers in shadows and deceits. Unsurprisingly, the first bad boy to go subterranean was Melkor: he had set the trend for living below ground level way before the counting of time even started.
Sauron should be thought of as very terrible. The form that he took was
that of a man of more than human stature, but not gigantic.
In his earlier incarnation he was able to veil his power
(as Gandalf did) and could appear as a commanding
figure of great strength of body and supremely
royal demeanour and countenance.
(Letters, № 246)
Readers of The Lord of the Rings are well aware of Sauron’s being the chief menace of the Second and Third Ages after the capture of Morgoth and the War of Wrath. What is rather obscure, though, is what the great Middle-earth adversary looked like. In his writings and letters Tolkien gave a few clues concerning the looks of Sauron, leaving all the rest to his readers’ imagination.
Professor Tolkien was a great lover of nature: he was keenly aware of the flora around him, loved trees profoundly and respected them. Thus, trees and various plants appear in his books extensively, and are far from being in the background of events.
In Tolkien’s universe various notions can have special significance, which sometimes shows in small details and aspects. The concepts of light and darkness are deep and far-reaching: sometimes they are not a mere background for a story, but a very important player in the events of Middle-earth. In the present reflection I am going to look into the matter of sunlight and its influence on the dark powers of Middle-earth.
Those who read Tolkien deeply and wish to discover more about his Legendarium could have noticed the word Gnomes in the early versions of the tales that the Professor used to refer to the Elves known as the Noldor. Later, though, he abandoned the term opting only for the Quenya word Noldor instead. This change has a history.
Unions between immortal Elves and mortal Men were rare in Middle-earth: the fates of these two kindreds are very different to be interwoven easily. When Elves and Men did intermarry, it was usually for a high, noble purpose, but had a sorrowful end.
Interrupted feasts make a recurring theme in Tolkien. Some of these are minor interruptions, like Dwarvish intrusions into Elvish merrymakings in Mirkwood: they cause mostly annoyance to the Elves, rather than present a serious threat. Other feast interruptions to be found in Tolkien’s tales are far from being annoying trifles and have serious social implications.